Former members of the Mormon Church, properly named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes call themselves ex-Mormons. People leave the Church for many reasons and end up in different doctrinal (or non-doctrinal) places. Some may no longer believe in God. Some may join other churches. There is no organized “ex-Mormon group” with all former members of the Church. Ex-Mormon, thus, usually refers to people who are former members of the Mormon Church who are actively anti-Mormon, especially on the internet.
Perhaps the most famous of these ex-Mormon, anti-Mormon groups is Ed Decker’s organization, which goes by several names – such as “Recovery from Mormonism,” “Saints Alive,” or “Ex-Mormons for Jesus.” The Mormon Church excommunicated Decker in 1976. His attacks again Mormonism are sensationalist and have been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. Indeed, Decker uses hyperbolic language and unsubstantiated claims to further his cause, and other ex-Mormons and critics of Mormonism have rejected his conclusions and his overblown style, but he still has some influence online.
Many self-described ex-Mormons blogging online today are now secular humanists who’ve rejected belief in God. Their attacks on Mormonism focus on what they perceive as a lack of freedom of thought, or a conformity forced on the members by Mormon leaders. They also attack Mormonism for hypocrisy – some ex-Mormon critics see every individual weakness among leaders or other members as hypocrisy. Every time a Mormon bishop, Mormon missionary, a Relief Society or Primary president, so on, makes a mistake, some critics of the Church will hold it up as proof that Mormons do not practice what they preach. Ex-Mormons may also state that they feel tricked by the Church, or that the culture of the Church is one of lies and outright brainwashing. They may also describe themselves as being too intelligent to believe in the Mormon faith any more and that those who do believe are foolish people unable to deal with reality. Or, they may describe the leaders as lusting after power and may go so far as to define Mormonism as a cult or a conspiracy.
The message of the Mormon Church is not that, upon joining, members become perfect. Or that only perfect people can become leaders – even the leader of the entire Church is not perfect. Failures are inevitable when ideals are so very high. If Mormons are a conspiracy or a cult, they are too individually varied to be a very unified one. They work in thousands of different fields, across many nations. They’re of different political affiliations, they read different books and watch different movies. And no solid proof of conspiracy or dangerous cult-like behaviors has ever been put forth.
Other ex-Mormons frequently accuse Church members or Mormon missionaries of lying to them about “real” Mormon doctrine. Mind, Mormon doctrine is found in many Mormon books (although those officially published by the Church are likely to be more accurate) and people interested in the Church are encouraged to ask questions about their concerns. Also, no one is forced to stay a Mormon after becoming one, which would seem to be obvious. There are, after all, plenty of ex-Mormon groups and blogs out there. If the Mormon Church means to silence its critics, it’s doing a very bad job of it. We have to, therefore, assume that members are allowed to be or not be Mormon as they choose.
Why are ex-Mormons so angry at the Church? It may be that the strong community and the strong families that Mormonism promotes works against members when they leave. Often, to leave the Church is to break or strain ties with families and friends, with traditions and a specific kind of religious culture. This can be a hard transition and leaving Mormonism can leave someone feeling alone and unsupported, as one would when leaving any culture for another. And while Mormons are encouraged to be tolerant of other people, they don’t accept things that they see as sin as not sin, which can cause further discomfort in someone leaving the Church because they want to do things the Church does not allow.
In conclusion, the Church isn’t always comfortable for everyone and there will always be people who leave. They may not agree with Mormon theology, they may be offended by some of the members, they may want to do things the Mormon Church doesn’t allow. However, ex-Mormons often distort the Church and aren’t the best source for information about it.