A recent post has gone viral, and while I don’t think the author reveals a very deep or nuanced understanding of why people actually leave the church, I will give him absolute props for letting everyone tell him that in the comments.  Here’s a quick summary of his 5 reasons (but hey, feel free to read his post yourself).  According to the post, he cautions people not to leave due to the following reasons:

  1. Being Offended
  2. Not Understanding the Doctrine
  3. It’s Just Too Hard
  4. Anti-Mormon Literature
  5. Sin

Here’s my take on his five reasons and why I think they are insufficient for you to leave the church:

  1. Don’t leave because you are offended. By all means stay, because if you don’t, then I’m stuck here with all the offensive people! Maybe the trick is how to get the offensive ones to leave.  Just kidding; we all know they aren’t going anywhere.
  2. Not understanding the doctrine. One caveat: unless you are a leader. Then you can just assume your own opinion of what the doctrine is, and it’s binding for everyone else.  But even as a lay member, vague doctrine means you can in fact believe what you think best so long as you keep your trap shut.
  3. It’s just too hard.  Stay and just do a crappy half-hearted job like the rest of us.  Not so hard after all.
  4. Anti-Mormon literature. Like this guy’s blog post implying people only leave for dumb reasons, which casts Mormons in a poor light. I’ll grant this guy that a lot of anti literature is pretty silly, but I won’t go so far as to agree that people should spend as much energy digging around in approved sources because they’re not exactly perfect either.
  5. Sin. Don’t leave to sin. Stay in and sin like everyone else. You’ll just have to do sins like judging people instead, but those types of sins are always welcome.  So long as you look the part, you can really get away with a lot of sinning while remaining an active member.
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Why did you leave?

Whenever I hear someone whipping up the base rather than engaging in self-reflection as a community, I like to imagine how what they are not saying would sound; this is called subtext.  Subtext is content underneath the spoken dialogue. Under dialogue, there can be conflict, anger, competition, pride, showing off, or other implicit ideas and emotions. Subtext is the unspoken thoughts and motives of characters—what they really think and believe. [1]

There’s an implied set of cautions for the church in all this too.  Here are the five things this says about what we as a church should do:

  1. Quit being offensive.
  2. Quit being so vague about the doctrine and conflating policies and practices with doctrine.
  3. Quit making church soul-crushingly boring and difficult to balance with normal life commitments.
  4. Own up to the full picture on tricky issues (this has begun albeit slowly).
  5. Quit favoring sins of hypocrisy over other sins.

Personally, I would generally like more people to stay in the church, too, so on that point, I can certainly agree.  Especially if they are good singers, good cooks, or love to sign up to clean the church. [2] We can always use more of those folks.


[1] Wikipedia, baby.

[2] Ooh, good idea.  Instead of ex’ing people, let’s make them clean the church a certain number of hours, like community service.  Maybe they could also feed the missionaries.  And make food for ward parties.