Leaving the Fold is a Big Deal

Poor Wayfaring Man

It is a big deal for a member of the LDS Church to walk away. It’s not like simply changing pastors or switching to a more convenient worship service. The LDS Church is not just a place Mormons go on Sundays. It is the central mechanism by which they regulate, plan, and live their lives. On top of being the place where Mormons go for religious instruction, the Church is also the main source of a Mormon’s social connections; the means by which Mormons perform community service; and even a place where Mormons who are struggling financially can obtain food and monetary assistance.

There are so many programs run by the LDS Church (in other words, run by the people in each LDS Church congregation, using curricula, guidelines, and financing supplied by Church headquarters in Salt Lake City) that full participation can take up a significant amount of a person’s free time, particularly for families with children, which are a key focus of Church programs.

For Mormon families, the Church forms a support system–a virtual village–in which people help each other out with babysitting, nursery school, packing and moving, meal preparation, house cleaning, and other day-to-day activities, as the need arises. In my opinion, this trusting, give-and-take environment makes it possible for Mormons to have bigger families and to otherwise live the lifestyle of conservative values for which Mormons are well known. (It also, in my opinion, enables the questionable multi-level marketing companies and fraud victimization (e.g., THIS, THIS and THIS) that Mormon communities are also increasingly becoming known for. ) The interconnected nature of Mormon communities means that when a family–or even one member of a family–decides to withdraw, it affects (and inconveniences) everybody in the community in some way.

But the “virtual village” aspect of Mormon social life is not the main reason why leaving the fold is such a big deal. The main reason is that Mormons believe that the act of leaving is a sin against God, to whom every baptized Mormon has promised to “mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (in other words, to form and participate in a virtual village). It is morally wrong to sin, and therefore morally wrong to leave. This legalistic concept of promises (or the more common Mormon term “covenants”) made between a person and God is a central motivation for much of what Mormons do and believe. Here, the concept of “covenants with God” changes the choice to stop participating in LDS Church programs from a simple matter of personal taste (or scheduling) into a grave matter of personal morality–effectively raising the stakes for a Mormon who is considering deviating from community norms of participation.


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