Twins: A Case Study in Apostasy

In my last post, I made the rather unremarkable suggestion that it is investment in a religion and the costs of leaving that make it more likely for groups of former believers to arise in support of each other. Thus, we see support groups for former Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, FLDS, Church of Christ, and other highly demanding religions with high costs of leaving. In response, I have been told I’m just bitter and resentful and have an unhealthy obsession with my former religion. My favorite comment is this rather mean-spirited gem:

Runtu is in the position of someone who has a gay child, but then goes out and condemns homosexuality, creates a blog about how terrible homosexuality is, and does not stop.

And, I’m told, it’s rarely painful for people to leave Mormonism.

A good friend (I’ll call him Steve) called me earlier this evening to talk about my post and the responses to it. He’s an identical twin, and an ex-Mormon. He and his twin brother (whom I’ll call Dave) were raised in the same LDS family, with a father in the military, so they traveled around a lot and never lived in the “Mormon Corridor” of Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada. He and his brother were baptized the same day, were ordained to the priesthood the same day, and entered the MTC the same day before serving in adjacent South American missions. On returning from their missions, Steve attended BYU, married in the temple, and got a professional postgraduate degree and is a successful businessman in the Midwest. Dave followed in his father’s path and joined the US Army, married in the temple, and has made a successful career as an officer, recently doing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Around the same time I left the church, Steve was serving in a bishopric and as a veil coordinator at his local LDS temple. He too discovered that the LDS church wasn’t exactly what he had believed it to be, and he had a major crisis of faith. His marriage nearly broke up, and at one point his own mother urged his wife to divorce him simply because he had lost his faith. Fortunately for him, his wife decided to do her own homework and reached the same conclusions he had. Even so, he suffered through an agonizing period of about 3 years when his whole life seemed to be teetering on the brink of disaster. He was asked to leave his all-LDS firm because the partners “did not feel comfortable” having an apostate working for them, so in mid-career he essentially started over and began his own business. His LDS friends and neighbors spread terrible rumors about him, such as saying that he had started a polygamous cult, was engaging in drunken orgies, and was trying to destroy the church. And all the while Steve had done nothing but quietly leave the church without telling anyone but his bishop why he was leaving.

Steve mentioned to me that his brother, Dave, had a much different experience leaving the church. Dave simply walked away and never talks about Mormonism. When people bring it up, he gets very defensive and stressed and doesn’t want to talk about it. He has put Mormonism behind him and doesn’t feel like revisiting it, ever.

Steve sought out support from ex-Mormon support groups, whereas Dave never had any interest. Steve struggled for a few years to get over the feelings of betrayal and hurt, but Dave never gave it a second thought.

I asked Steve what the difference was, and he was quick to say it was the level of commitment. The difference between him and his brother is that Steve was devout and committed; he was what we might call a true believer. Dave, on the other hand, never took the church very seriously, so when he walked away, it wasn’t that big of a deal but was just another change in his life.

I bring this up because these two men are good examples of what I have been talking about: Leaving is easy when you haven’t invested much in your religion; it’s excruciating if you have.


49 Responses to Twins: A Case Study in Apostasy

  1. Camille Biexei says:

    Excellent post, as usual. Thanks.

  2. Allan says:

    I have difficulty taking a person seriously if they claim that leaving its easy. I experienced a lot of the same things as Steve. Others have documented what the church teaches about apostates. It is a caricature that completely discounts the humanity of the apostate. In some ways they are correct though. It is easier to live without the church once you have left and given yup the irrational rules and expectations (coffee?). But making that change is excruciating.

    • runtu says:

      Allan, thank you for that. I know our experiences haven’t been exactly the same, but I’d say they’ve been pretty close. Part of the problem, as you say, is that since the days of Joseph Smith, the church has taught that apostates are bitter, evil people who kick against the pricks and want to kill the prophets and destroy the church. Uchtdorf’s recent conference talk is the first time anyone in the church leadership has ever said that there might be semi-legitimate reasons for people to leave, but even then it was cast as our being unable to get past “mistakes” made in the past. The bottom line is that leaving the church is wrong, period, so those who leave must have done so for bad reasons. I don’t think I have mentioned this to you, but not long before we left Utah, my wife ran into our mission president at Costco. She told him about my disaffection, and he asked what my reasons were. Now, I don’t expect my wife to understand my position exactly, but when she mentioned a few things, he said, “Well, that’s just silly. Tell him to call me, and I’ll straighten him out.” Needless to say, I have no desire to discuss my issues with someone who thinks they’re silly. But I suppose it’s better than the condemnation I get from other people.

    • robinobishop says:

      Allan: So you say the change in leaving “irrational rules” (as in keeping the WOW) behind is “excruciating”. Leaving the irrational behind should be naturally easy with every beer or whiskey sour or coffee. My move away would be seen as incredibly easy. We made our own wine, sherry, and dark lager. I won’t elaborate on the revisiting of sexual indiscretions (wow). We were just like our neighbors carefully juggling our priorities everyday except for an hour on Sundays, playing the organ…thinking it a burden also.

      How can you make that process excruciating?

  3. Jeff says:

    When I visit with folks about leaving the Mormon church, I tell them it was like realizing that my wife of 20 years had actually been a man all along. (I may have borrowed this saying from someone along the way, but I can’t remember where it came from). Mormonism was a great deal for my family and me. I loved the Mormon church. My last calling was bishop, and I was all in. Unfortunately, it just turned out to not be true. For me, the only choice where I could keep my integrity was to leave the church. Thankfully, I am married to a very smart woman who also loved me, and my marriage survived. However, there were terrifying moments as we stepped out into the unknown, but we soon found that our fears were unfounded. Life outside of Mormonism has been rich and wonderful, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to make the hard choices so my children would not have to.

    • runtu says:

      So glad to hear that. Thank you for that.

    • robinobishop says:

      “it was like realizing that my wife of 20 years had actually been a man all along”. I am left to believe such a person would not have been invested in the church or the marriage.

      • Jeff says:

        It was an analogy Robino. The idea I was trying to express is the shock and surprise at finding out something so dear to you is actually not true. You question my “investment” in the mormon church which is just attacking the messenger rather than dealing with the message. This is a typical response I see from people who are dogmatic in their beliefs. It reminds me of the other tactic I hear from similar minded folks when they say something like, “Well, I guess you just didn’t have the same level of spiritual experiences as “I” had, or else you would never have left.” They will also say, “You just didn’t have enough faith.” I can only think upon my own personal “spiritual” experiences which to me at the time were significant. My wife is fond of saying you must not put faith where facts belong. In the end, when I discovered that the facts behind the very events upon which I had gained a “testimony” didn’t actually happen the way the mormon church said they did, it mattered to me. I was forced to take a hard look at the forces at work that caused me to even ask in the first place whether the mormon church was all that it claimed to be, and what I found there had very little to do with “spiritual” experiences.

        To get back to the topic of the original post, leaving the church was a very painful experience for me. It was painful because it was something I loved and believed to be absolutely true. I had invested everything into it. My entire life revolved around it. I risked everything that was most dear to me in leaving, and the reason I did it was because I was so absolutely certain that it was not true. I did not want to pass on the poison pill to my children who I love with all my heart. Before leaving, I spent years attempting to prove the information I had learned was NOT true. I found many of the original sources of church documents and attempted to read what the original church founders actually said and did, and what I found there is barely recognizable in today’s church teachings. I think Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he said several years ago that if the first vision and the restoration of the priesthood didn’t occur, then we should leave it. I know I am paraphrasing here, but I agree wholeheartedly, and I guess in the end, I listened and obeyed a “prophets” voice. 😉

      • runtu says:

        Please keep in mind that “Robin” is a troll who is here to get a rise out of you and me and everyone else. It’s a mistake to believe you can engage in civil and rational conversation with him. He’s simply not interested.

      • robinobishop says:

        Jeff writes: “My wife is fond of saying you must not put faith where facts belong. In the end, when I discovered that the facts behind the very events upon which I had gained a “testimony” didn’t actually happen the way the mormon church said they did…”

        I submit, while not knowing about the facts you speak, people can only interpret facts as measured against the experience of their lives. Obvious to me, you do not have first hand witness to these facts that brought you to a measure of horror. After all, you weren’t there, wherever. You must have something quite compelling, or simply think you do. Or, it’s a cover for something else quite personal… being so reluctant to reveal it.

      • runtu says:

        Please stop attacking people’s character and opining on what personal sins you think they are “covering.” It’s beyond the pale, and I’m tired of you abusing my readers. If nothing else, you just make Mormons look like self-righteous losers; if I really did want to make the church look bad, I’d be encouraging you. Knock it off.

      • robinobishop says:


        That is a curious comment. I was only answering questions proposed directly at me. The ongoing Mormon bashing at this blog over all things evil goes unsupported by fact. I, personally would love, absolutely love, to get my hands on these LDS condemning FACTS that remain a secret to my eyes. But nobody here can support their own assertions. Everyone here pretend to a void of culpability in their own apostasy.

        The fact remains that any man who breaks his Temple covenants with their God also breaks covenant with their wife and brings trauma to their wife and children. There is no regard here for their trauma. And you want me to treat predators with care and gentleness?

        Now rantu, if your intent is to populate this blog only with those who support each other in divorcing themselves from their own profound culpability, than make that clear to everyone here. Under those terms, I will not participate, as to your wishes.

        The women in our lives deserve a great deal more in the way of commitment to covenant than I see reflected here. I say this because the wives and children are the victims here.

      • Jeff says:

        It’s ok guys. I am not offended by Robino’s comments or accusations. I am confident in my position, and my family is doing just fine. I know it is a common retort by faithful LDS people that there must be some “secret sin” that would cause a family like mine to leave. While I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect, I have to say that sometimes Robino, people like me just tell the truth. The facts I discovered were overwhelming, and as a person that considers himself to be a person of integrity, I had to leave. I know others who have read the same materials that I have read, and they choose to stay. Most of them have become what they call “cafeteria Mormons”. They pick and choose what they will or won’t do; however, one thing they all tell me is that they never sit through a sacrament meeting or other church meeting in the same way again. They know too much. They have seen the man behind the curtain, and they know in their heart that the church is not what it claims to be. For me, I could not go on lying to myself and others.

        The mysterious facts that you accuse me of hiding are so easy for you to find. Should you actually be a person who seeks truth, then I would say go forth and learn from the best of books/materials that are available to you. Honest inquiry into facts may lead you on a path you never dreamed you would travel. I can’t promise that it will be easy, but I will be the first to say that it can be worth it! 😉

        I can only take you at your word when you say you are so concerned about my dear, sweet wife. I will let her know of your concern, but I hate to break it to you Robino, she is greatful that we were able to extricate our family from the Mormon church. There is real peace that comes from honest living. For one thing, she got her husband back from all of the myriad of meetings. Secondly, she got a huge pay increase when we quit giving our hard earned dollars to the corporation and put those funds into our family where they belonged. Third, she is just as happy, if not more so, now that she left the church. I could go on and on. Honestly, I was happy IN the Mormon church, and I am happy outside of it, and I would say the same for my dear, sweet wife. I guess it is just the way we are wired. When I began my study of “the information” of which you seem to be so mystified, I was on top of my fictional world in the Mormon church, and at the time, I thought I had everything to lose by leaving it. It reminds me alot of the Matrix film where he learns that upon leaving his make-believe, computer-generated world, there is a hard cruel world out there. Leaving was scary partially because of the unknown. However, I am happy to say that in at least our case, our fears were unfounded. The truth has set us free, and my wife, who incidentally doesn’t feel like I/we broke any covenants with each other, wholeheartedly agrees.

      • robinobishop says:

        ah, the sweet existence of being plugged back into the rantu matrix where mysteriously convincing “facts” go unrevealed and the blue pill nourishes. LOL.

        Let me tell you why you’re being tested. You went to the Temple because you knew something. What you knew you couldn’t explain, but you felt it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world outside those walls. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to the Church. Do you know what I’m talking about?

    • Jeff says:

      LOL Robino. Now that is funny. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  4. robinobishop says:

    My personal experience after being married for 43 years relative to this topic:

    Not one time has anyone been inclined to attribute fault in their divorce to themselves. Each has cast themselves as victims and deceived by their partner. However, it stands to reason as we evaluate one case after another, those least put off by the divorce obviously invested the least energy in maintaining the union (making them the most culpable in its failure). The degree that anyone can own up to their own misbehavior is the degree to which they can leave mistakes behind, no longer find fault “out there” and move on with their life. That is a Christian precept.

    This truth should not come as a surprise to anyone because it is a foregone conclusion about human behavior generally. It is not unique to Church membership anywhere.

    Although you imagine it a startling occurrence to leave something after believing it, I suffer disappointments left and right nearly daily in changing my mind about what I have previously believed. Evaluating those failings, good people offered a great deal of themselves that I might maintain a hopeful and motivated demeanor. The fact that over time I no longer fit in a program, whatever the program, is not the result of deceit. To imagine it and harp on it is a waste of my life and absolutely adds to the sadness of my life all around.

    • runtu says:

      I’m kind of mystified as to your comments about divorce, Robin. As I mentioned, the only person who brought up divorce was their mother, who felt that leaving the LDS church was justification for divorce. Steve’s wife, however, did not agree with that notion. I do, however, completely agree with you that divorce is almost never the fault of just one spouse. If you are comparing leaving the LDS church to a divorce, I would also agree that it’s not all one party’s fault; however, you have made it clear that it’s the fault of the person who leaves, and the church is blameless. That, of course, is silly.

      • robinobishop says:

        I’m not seeing it….that you are “kind of mystified”. Is that something you didn’t get around to?

      • runtu says:

        OK, thanks for reminding me you’re here to spread negativity instead of having actual conversation. I guess I had forgotten that.

      • robinobishop says:

        It is bewildering that people that have their records expunged from among the LDS, knowing all that means in terminating their own eternal covenants, would walk about as victims when their business and personal relationships suffer as well.

      • Allan Carter says:

        First, do you believe a person is concerned with the church’s “covenants” when they no longer believe in the church?

        Second, when the church and it’s members actively vilify apostates then why wouldn’t you consider them victimized? I personally experienced having church members tell my wife that she would be justified in divorcing me because I no longer believed the church’s fairy tales. I feel offended by that and feel that the church shows its colors in these situations. Do I feel a victimized? Yes. It fits the definition. Do I walk around as a victim. Hardly. But I suffer the consequences of my own choices and also the church’s teachings. I’m content with that.

        Your tone makes it sound like being a victim is a problem for the victim. Not very nice. But I guess that happens when you have to justify your own beliefs and world view. One of the reasons why religion and other dogmatism can be so bad.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t think he’s even trying to make sense, Allan. I feel like I need a “campo kit” to clean up with after I read his negative stuff.

      • robinobishop says:

        Why would you expect the eternal covenants you destroy should not reflect on your character? Do you suppose those who depend upon you being a team player on the job might feel rejected by you at some level? And you paint yourself as victim???

  5. robinobishop says:

    “First, do you believe a person is concerned with the church’s “covenants” when they no longer believe in the church?”

    You ask this question from an entirely selfish perspective. You broke your covenant with your wife as well. In your eyes, How stupidly insane is she believing all “those fairy tales” now? You seem oblivious to the hurt you cause her everyday you now live as her husband in a broken covenant. SHE is the victim at your hand. How does she reconcile what you have done to your marriage? So, she solicits some opinions to get a grip on her pain and disastrous loss. So, there are members who feel she is justified to get a civil divorce from you perhaps for “unreconcilable differences” right? That is a CIVIL justification for divorce of a NOW civil marriage. Before you Tell her how you will reconcile what you have done, leave the self pity party behind.

    So, what morning was it that woke up to not believing?

  6. robinobishop says:

    Edit: So, what morning was it that YOU woke up to not believing?

  7. robinobishop says:

    Allan Carter,
    You asked the question of me: “the church and it’s members actively vilify apostates then why wouldn’t you consider them victimized?”

    Clearly, from my view inside, you feel that way because that is what you have been taught after choosing to be plugged back into the Matrix. To enter apostasy is not our doing at the Church. After knowing Him in a revealed and more intimate way, then leaving his temple behind, do you imagine GOD vilifies you because of the decisions you have made locking yourself out of the Temple?

    The door to greater more fulfilling intimacies is simply locked with you holding the key. And because of that you are victim by the hands of all of us within? Silliness.

    Please, the Church does not teach that anyone is victim; it teaches we are all free to act and in so doing we can choose blessings from the windows of Heaven.

    Quite honestly, It is good to hear you enjoy the freedom from called service and the obligations of the tithe; “hakuna matata” (“no worries”). After a time, feeding on spiritual grubs may not be so tasty. I hope you continue to authentically examine those unrevealed “facts” that influenced your decision.

    • runtu says:

      Belittling other people doesn’t help your cause, Robin.

      • robinobishop says:

        I’m sure your apostate readers don’t need you as the den mother.

        Why don’t we begin finally with the facts supporting this topic. I’d enjoy seeing that.

      • runtu says:

        It’s my blog, so I can do what I wish with it. If you have evidence that the difficulty in leaving the church is unrelated to prior levels of commitment, no one is stopping you. What you have done so far is mock ex-Mormons as victims and condemn them for intentionally turning their backs on God. That’s irrelevant and belittling, and I’d rather not have that on my blog.

      • robinobishop says:

        “If you have evidence that the difficulty in leaving the church is unrelated to prior levels of commitment, no one is stopping you.”

        It remains a complete mystery to me why any of the folks here have truthfully left the church. If you haven’t noticed, they haven’t been forthcoming as the “Facts” supporting their doing it as they accuse the Church. Because I am a rational person, I am left to believe each is personally and primarily culpable in their decision to leave, just as they each deny it, while heaping all manner of evil intentions on the Church.

        So many use fabrication to rationalize away culpability of their own falling. From my view, you enable that behavior by defending it.

        Blaming others for mistreatment AFTER we have fallen provides only a most convenient scapegoat. Don’t shoot the piano player; he is doing the best he can.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t heap evil intentions on the church. I understand why they make it difficult to leave and why they teach that people like us are evil. I’ve also been quite clear about the reasons why I left. That you can’t understand how a person could leave the church in good conscience is not my problem. I left as a matter of conscience. If I had wanted to take the easy way out, I would have stayed. Either way, I know why I left, and my conscience is clear, so I don’t need your approval or understanding. Of course, you will never approve and clearly aren’t interested in understanding.

      • robinobishop says:

        That’s good to hear. Now disband the blog that condemns the Church.

      • runtu says:

        I don’t have a blog like that.

      • robinobishop says:

        Does a challenge regularly gets itself twisted into the shape of a belittlement to you?

  8. robinobishop says:

    Does anyone here after making Temple covenants feel culpable in terminating your own membership or having your membership terminated in the LDS Church?

    • runtu says:

      Depends what you meant by “culpable.” Do I take responsibility for my choices? Absolutely. Do I feel guilty about them? Not at all. Leaving the church was the right thing to do, and I’ve never regretted it.

    • robinobishop says:

      I knew that. You have been clear to that. Singularly, you have admitted culpability. You have written at length on the matter.

      • runtu says:

        What matters isn’t “culpability” but whether the church is true.

      • robinobishop says:

        The Church being True cannot be empirically determined (proven); personal culpability in knowing it and walking away from it clearly can be measured.

      • runtu says:

        What do you mean by “knowing it”? Do you really think people who leave still believe in it anyway?

      • robinobishop says:

        “Please keep in mind that “Robin” is a troll who is here to get a rise out of you and me and everyone else. It’s a mistake to believe you can engage in civil and rational conversation with him. He’s simply not interested,” Keeps ringing in my ears.

        Certainly after being away for so long you have come to believe God plays red light, green light with each of us and we with him. I told you what I know on the subject. If you wanted forward motion to this dialogue, you wouldn’t be asking me what I have clearly just answered.

        I could provide you with some highly revealing insights on the matter. But those other words have a more immediate affect.

  9. robinobishop says:

    This entry may mean nothing to anyone who may have the opportunity to read it

    The notion that a singular church organization is true is only a matter of perception on a personal level, Yet that church may be completely true objectively speaking. The fact that it could be the one true Church of Jesus Christ might escape us for a variety of reasons. In every case we are culpable (responsible) for what we know and do not know. Given what we know to be true is so fleeting, so fragile, even in science, we should be seriously engaged in the way we spend our time choosing what we attend to.

    Without any intrinsically driven acknowledgment of responsibility, we will be found deeply impaired in knowing anything accurately. In that case, we are agreeable to being led around by the nose and told what to believe while happily drinking the Kool-Aid, ready to blame someone else should we survive our own chosen path of drinking.

    This does not mean that being a Mormon does us any good at all necessarily. If I can’t differentiate myself from the Episcopalian down the street, I am living a lie in suggesting to someone else that I know the church’s true.

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