Utah Ex-LDS Members Say They Are No Longer Treated as Neighbors
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Worried about what would befall them once word of
their defection spread through their Mormon-dominated town, it took 16
months for Suzy Colver and her husband to work up the courage to
officially quit the Mormon church. They didn't have to wait long, Colver
said. Instantly her family became the neighborhood pariah. She lost
every one of her Mormon friends and she wasn't asked to volunteer at her
kids' elementary school anymore.
Colver was among a group of 60 ex-Mormons who gathered here recently to
wrestle with problems that plague some who leave the Mormon church, but
who remain in Utah and other communities heavily dominated by Mormons.
Rejection from Mormon spouses, children and relatives, the disappearance
of Mormon friends and sidetracked careers are some of the problems ex-
Mormons say they have had to face.
Tales of ostracism are familiar in other close-knit, conservative
religious communities. But only in Utah and pockets of neighboring
states does a single religion have such a dominant hold over nearly
every aspect of society, former members said. Some told stories, often
tearfully, of the prejudice they encountered upon leaving the church.
One recalled not being allowed to say grace at a Thanksgiving dinner,
because family members were afraid of what she would say. Another told
of the pain she felt from her grown children, who believe she's been
influenced by the devil. One woman says her Mormon neighbors--nearly her
entire community--shunned her. When her husband had a grand mal seizure,
she said, a church official passing by warned a neighbor, "Don't enter
that house. The man is possessed by the devil."
Because of family ties, jobs, familiarity or just plain stubbornness,
many of the former Mormons have decided to stay in hostile territory and
try to make friends. Or at least live a peaceful life in a parallel
universe alongside the church.
Critics acknowledge that Mormon leaders have been doing a better
job in recent years of promoting inclusiveness. But nearly all of
the ex-Mormons at the conference said they'd seen no evidence of it.
They said their former ties to the church have put them, in the eyes
of Mormons, in a different category than people of other faiths or
even atheists. They suspect hurt feelings and a fear of associating
with apostates contributed to the shunning.
The church has recently released a "Doctrine of Inclusion," which
implores members to better embrace nonmembers--whether people of other
religions or former Mormons.
The author of the inclusion doctrine, Elder M. Russell Ballard, a
member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, acknowledges that
he occasionally hears "of members offending those of other faiths by
overlooking them and leaving them out." "This can occur especially in
communities where our members are the majority," he said.
Ballard also said he's also heard about "narrow-minded parents"
who won't let their children play with children who aren't in the
church. "I cannot comprehend why any member of our church would allow
these kinds of things to happen," he said.
Losing Faith and Lots More
Los Angeles Times 1Dec01 N2
By William Lobdell: Times Staff Writer
Mormons who quit the church find themselves ostracized by friends, co-
workers and even families. Annual gathering offers support, shared