I regularly meet people who are leaving Mormonism – for whatever reason – and who face anxiety and uncertainty about how their families will react to their decision.
I’ve always maintained that Mormonism is far more than just a church affiliation or belief system. It is – for most – a comprehensive cultural identity. As such, leaving Mormonism is not like changing church membership from a Methodist to a Baptist congregation. To leave Mormonism often means severing deep ties to one’s history, heritage, and people.
This is why families may feel very threatened and upset when a child, sibling, or parent leaves the Mormon fold. It may feel like that family member is a traitor to the family unity or that they are turning their back on what it means to be a family.
Beyond this, Latter-day Saints envision the highest level of salvation to be inextricably linked to families. People are not exalted in the highest kingdom of heaven apart from their families. This is why families are sealed together in LDS temples for eternity. When a family member leaves the LDS Church, they threaten this eternal bond.
Consider also what a tight-knit community Mormonism can be on a local level. When a family member leaves, that creates social pressure on that family. They can be stigmatized in the community because they have an apostate child. This social pressure can translate into personal pressure toward the one leaving to come back to the fold.
All of this explains why there can be tremendous pressure on people from their families when they announce that they are no longer practicing the Mormon faith.
Watch for further posts on this subject in days to come:
- Family pressure points in the post-Mormon transition
- Maintaining family relationships while leaving Mormonism