Life after leaving the Mormon Church

Rachel Velamur

Rachel Velamur
February 15
Born and raised in a strict Mormon family. I write about what life was like as a Mormon and what my life is like after leaving.


OCTOBER 18, 2012 4:14PM

Grieving A Lost Community

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                I lost my faith when I was sixteen.  I lived in secret for a full year, afraid of the consequences of leaving.  When I did muster the courage to leave Mormonism, the fall-out was even worse than I feared.  The activities and obligations of Mormonism are all-consuming; between the restrictions that publicly marked me as Mormon and the time-intensive church activities, Mormonism was an identity, a community, and a way of life.  Where I grew up, Mormons were a minority; at school, I was the non-drinking, non-swearing Mormon girl who woke up at 5:30 every morning to attend an early-morning seminary class.

                Then I left and the community I was raised in crumbled around me.  I grew up with Mormons; they were my family friends, my school-mates, and comrades.  I saw them on a daily or weekly basis; we shared the common bond of being a minority group.  I knew that leaving would cause a rift but little did I know just how consuming the rift would be.  My conversations with people I had known for a lifetime suddenly became missionary-based.  In spite of a lifetime of faithful church attendance – and being respected as a good teenager – the conversations became about assessing my level of knowledge and my worthiness.  The perception is that members only leave because they are sinful, prideful, deluded by Satan, or ignorant of the Gospel.  After leaving, the questions I was asked indicated that members were trying to assess which category I fit into. 

                Sometimes I miss being a part of a community.  Mormonism, for all of its flaws, has the benefit of being a strong community.  Members look after each other; if someone is in trouble, people will volunteer their time and effort to help out.  When my brother was building a house, the missionaries and members were there every Saturday, volunteering their time to help out.  I have seen my brothers volunteer their time to help members move.  I have a lot of respect for the hard-work and dedication of Mormons. 

But leaving – and dealing with the associated consequences – has left me with a slew of trust issues.  I never dreamed that I would lose lifelong relationships so quickly after leaving.  I never dreamed that the people who had known me a life-time would make such quick assumptions about my character, simply because I left.  I never dreamed that I would lose the respect of my parents so quickly, in spite of an abundance of evidence that indicated I was a good kid.  Mormonism is an all-consuming identity; you are either all-in or all-out.  Issues are phrased in black and white – you are either pro-Mormon or anti-Mormon.  By crossing that divide, I was forced to abandon Mormonism altogether.  This experience has left me skittish about communities at large.  Perhaps this fear is logical.  Perhaps it isn’t.  Either way, the fear is still there. 

There is a grieving process associated with losing a community.  At first I was angry.  On some level, I still am, as Mormon teachings have an “us versus them” mentality that makes interfaith relationships tricky, if not impossible.  But most of all, I am sad.  I am sad that I no longer have anything in common with the people I grew up with.  I grieve that there is a divide between us that I cannot seem to cross.  

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I grew up in a religious community as well, and although I've been able to maintain a relationship with a few close friends, for a long time after I left, and maybe this will always be the case, I miss that community feeling as well. There are new ways of community building wherever you are, though, and although it can take time, I hope you can work through your feelings of mistrust and find a supportive and more accepting new community.
Thank you so much Laura - I'm glad you were able to maintain some friendships. For the time being, I'm mainly focusing on personal relationships and repairing family ties, although maybe one day I'll jump back into a larger community. :)
Make friends in your new world. You gave them up for the truth and find your own tribe.
Make friends in your new world. You gave them up for the truth and find your own tribe.
Make friends in your new world. You gave them up for the truth and find your own tribe.
gal u in a whole new community now. the community of
this pathetic ramshackle site
where we stand in the Promised Land
wet in the Garden with rain
and curse the ...dampness..

"Sometimes I miss being a part of a community. "

the community you have joined is the eternal Palace of the Human Mind,
no us v. them, no trickiness.

and so so much open to you now.
only the f-ing wisdom of the ages, and i am not
being figurative.

a few humble examples of the wonders of this palace:

wm blake (whom i hope u someday read):
"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. "

"Eternity is in love with the productions of time. "


"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's;
I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create. "

go into the place, the magic kingdom, that always was yours.
silly protective damn fools
kept you from there.

now it is wide open.

a.n whitehead, another heretic of all that ever was opined:

"A race preserves its vigour so long as it harbours a real contrast between what has been and what may be, and so long as it is nerved by the vigour to adventure beyond the safeties of the past. Without adventure, civilization is in full decay. "

The essence of education is that it be religious.
Pray, what is religious education?
A religious education
is an education
which inculcates duty and reverence.
Duty arises from our potential control
over the course of events.

Where attainable knowledge could have changed the issue,

ignorance has the guilt of vice.

And the foundation of reverence is
this perception,

that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence,

backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time,

which is eternity."

yikes. this place, this palace? an uncanny arena.
CatholicGirl: Honestly, in the years since, I've made some pretty good friends. But getting burned at such a young age does make it hard to trust again, which is something I have had to work through.

James: This is a very good community. I just wish that it weren't all online. :)
Families, communities and religions are social tools that help us identify those we can trust. Leaving a community or a religion may be a necessity or a choice to those who depart, but for those who remain it can seem to be a betrayal. Leaving a family is a much more complex proposition and leaving a family who remain in their religious community compounds that complexity. I'm 63 and in my life I've left many places and people behind for all kinds of reasons. I've managed to reconcile with those who were most important to me, but to this day I can count my friends on one hand. In the the community of our friends may be our most important relationships.
you describe freedom to find your own happiness, not a thing guaranteed. I read of a Mormon historian who labored much of his life to find historical evidence to support his "Smithsonian" teachings (a terrible pun) and, admitted they were false but continued in the church as "its the greatest social club in the world."
as i am certain you know, we only lose until we lose this kind of anger (it's why i wrote the piece i did this morning!) and why it's good of and for you to excorcise in this way here

jmac: It's always hard losing people, whether due to ideological differences or simply geographic constraints. I guess - and maybe I didn't make this clear - that I just wanted to articulate what it feels like to have this happen at a pretty young age and in such a dramatic fashion. (Most of the time the process is more gradual and a mutual decision.)

kenneth: I have heard stories like that - also stories of biologists trying to find genetic proof for the Book of Mormon only to fail. And it's heart-breaking.

Jonathan: Thank you.