Since leaving Mormonism about five years ago, a number of people have asked me why I decided to leave after four decades of active involvement in the only church I know.
That’s not an easy question to answer. There is no smoking gun. My reasons are complex and may or may not apply to anyone else. But when anyone leaves a high-demand religion like Mormonism, there is a kinship to be found in others who understand what you’re going through. I hope these resources might help someone like me who was searching for help during a traumatic time of my life.
Note: If you are happy with your involvement in the Mormon church, please don’t read any further. I don’t want to drive you away from an organization that adds value to your life.
So who is my intended audience? Those who have questions about the historical truth claims of the church. If you have questions that can’t be answered in Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine class, this post might be for you.
This post is simply a collection of resources that helped me find truth as it pertains to the historical claims of the Mormon church. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of resources. These are the ones I found most helpful, and they greatly influenced my decision to step away from the church. Your mileage may vary.
Gospel Topic Essays
These are topic based essays the Mormon church has created over the past few years to help members better understand some of the more controversial aspects of their heritage. Each essay is posted to the official LDS.org website.
Which essays had the largest impact on me?
- Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo
- Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham
- Race and the Priesthood
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
Books about Mormonism have been a series of hits and misses for me over the years. Some books that came highly recommended to me didn’t hit home, while others had a big impact in my beliefs.
Here are a handful of books that helped me construct (or deconstruct) my beliefs. Some books have hostile sounding names which is unfortunate because it will drive some people away. I didn’t agree 100% any of these books, but they pushed me, made me uncomfortable, and helped me learn about myself and why I belive the way I do.
- The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson
- American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church by Alex Beam
- Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
- Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders (Mark Hofmann) by Sillitoe and Roberts
- Mormon America: The Power and the Promise by Richard & Joan Ostling
As I struggled to come to terms with my beliefs, I listened to dozens of podcasts as I walked around my neighborhood to get some exercise and clear my mind. Of all the resources listed here, these podcasts had the most impact on me. Particularly, the first podcast listed below. I’ve listened to all six episodes multiple times. Brent Metcalfe is one of my heroes and his story brought me to tears each time I listened.
- Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews Brent Metcalfe, who is a former Mormon historian who worked at the church office building in Salt Lake City. He had a front row seat to the horrific Mark Hofmann murders in the mid 80s while working as a researcher for Steve Christensen, who was killed by one of Hofmann’s bombs.
- Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews Dr. Michael Coe, who was a Yale anthropologist who specialized in the Maya and areas of South America where the Book of Mormon claims to have taken place. Coe takes a gentle and respectful approach to the subject.
- Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews John and Brooke Mclay. John worked for the Church Educational System for 14 years. He also served as a counselor in the stake presidency and went through his faith crisis while serving as bishop. I enjoyed every second of this interview.
- Year of Polygamy Series with Lindsey Hansen-Park. The amount of effort Lindsey put into this series of 100 podcasts is astounding. The podcasts focus on the individual wives of Joseph Smith. Many are heart wrenching, but each is fascinating and insightful. As you can tell my now, polygamy was a major stumbling block for me as a Mormon.
- Wardless – This podcast is a recent discovery that I really enjoy. It takes a more nuanced approach to leaving the church and includes a panel of smart people who discuss various topics about Mormonism. Wardless touts itself as a “field guide” to leaving Mormonism, and does so in a respectful manner. I especially enjoyed the episodes about telling your spouse, friends and family about your changing beliefs in the church.
I could list dozens of podcasts from Mormon Stories because Dr. Dehlin interviews so many experts in Mormon history. Plus, he’s been at this for over a decade now so he’s compiled a list of over 1000 podcasts. It’s hard to go wrong with any listed on his Top 25 most popular and important podcasts.
- CES Letter by Jeremy Runnells – Many people who leave Mormonism mention CES Letter as the reason they fell down the rabbit hole of Mormon history. I came across it later in my search for truth. Jeremy compiled a long list of questions he had about Mormon history with the hope that someone from the Church Educational Systems (CES) could answer them directly. Jeremy was interviewed by Dehlin at Mormon Stories if you want to learn more about this amazing man and how the church treated him once he landed on their radar.
- Letter for my Wife tackles many of the same topics as CES Letter, but in a personalized letter format from a man to his spouse.
- MormonThink explores historical facts about the Mormon church and tries to answer Mormon apologists who push back against those with questions.
- FairMormon is the flip side to MormonThink. It’s written by Mormon apologists who try to faithfully answers questions about church history. Many of their answers left me feeling empty and manipulated.
I plan to update this post as I discover content that helps me formulate my beliefs whether they concern Mormonism or not.