SoCal Bishop Leaves Mormon Church

bishopatheist Oct. 2013

In early September, my wife and I visited with our stake president and told him that we no longer believed that the church was true, and that our family of seven would be leaving the church. I saw the posts today on this site and on another site. It occurred to me that the church has controlled my story so far. But it's my story, so I posted it on the exit stories board.

I appreciate this website very much. It helps us feel sane during a very difficult, and potentially lonely process. I would be so pleased to think that my story could contribute somewhat.

I think the most interesting part of my story to the board will probably be my visit with a general authority, so I have pasted that here.

My original coming out plan was for stake conference weekend in October. I had wanted to spare my friend, the outgoing stake president, this difficulty. I did not think I would care as much to trouble the new stake president. The bishops, high councilors, and stake presidency had received letters that indicated an interview time with the visiting general authority, along with a survey in which we were asked to describe our family, job, affirm certain worthiness standards, disclose whether we had ever been divorced or subject to church discipline, and what we believe needs to be emphasized in the stake. We were also asked to recommend three men who would serve well as stake president. My plan was to go out of town that weekend, unannounced, then let the new guy know.

When Shayne Bowen of the 1Q70 came to our stake, he visited our home for about an hour with the outgoing stake president. I was not sure whether to expect a kindly man who wanted to have a conversation, or a condescending priesthood holder who knew everything about us because the spirit had already told him everything. The amateur anthropologist in me would not be disappointed either way. I later found out that his career was as an insurance salesman, and he was true to that form. The first thing he told me was, "I want you to know that I love you." Inauthenticity was not the best way to start our meeting.

After "establishing trust", he asked us what he could do to have us return to church. I paused and did not know how to respond. His question is very telling. Maybe he believes in the whole “offended” excuse (I don’t think anybody who believes in the truth claims of the church would leave it for such a comparatively trivial reason). Or maybe he believes that the church is just a social institution and that he could actually do something to get us back.

Eventually, I told him that although there were some true and good principles that the church taught, there were also false and harmful principles. I told him that although I believed that the people were true, I had a strong conviction that the church was not. He asked what principles we appreciated. I responded “love, kindness, friendship, service, and forgiveness.” He then asked what principles were false. I did not discuss them for two reasons: one, I was trying to have a pleasant meeting; and two, I did not want to give him an easy excuse for my disaffection.

Next, he tried to persuade us and find some common ground. He asked how we know right from wrong. I recognize this as the Argument from Morality, which is that if there is objective morality, then god must exist. I explained that we do not need god to tell us right from wrong. And just because the idea of subjective morality scares somebody, it doesn’t mean god exists. He had no idea what the terms “objective morality” and “subjective morality” even meant. He asked, “who gets to decide right from wrong?” I said, “I do.” He seemed puzzled and offended by this personal responsibility.

We also spent some time discussing eternal families. My wife wants to believe in a personal god and an afterlife. He seized on this common ground. He testified that we could not be together forever as a family unless we stayed with the church. I told him that I thought mormons had over-simplified this issue. I said that even the telestial kingdom is supposed to be a kingdom of glory, not a prison. I asked if he thought god would suspend free agency, and physically prevent me and my wife from being together (never mind Joseph Fielding Smith’s crazy teaching that lower kingdom inhabitants would not have their private parts). I asserted that within mormon theology, celestial marriage means something more than just being together. He did not respond, other than to testify that families could be together forever only through priesthood ordinances.

More juvenile discussion proved that everything this man knew about religion and philosophy, he learned in primary. He questioned whether we had been lazy in our praying and scripture study (I certainly became so at some point). He suggested that we were hasty in our decision (took me almost a year of doubting). He appealed to the significant investment we’ve made in mormonism as a reason for us to stay (I wouldn’t expect an insurance salesman to understand the important financial concept of sunk costs). He said that everybody gets exactly what they want in the afterlife, and since mormonism is the only religion to promise eternal families, we should believe in it (apparently, he never heard a non-mormon talk about being reunited with loved ones after death).

He bore testimony, starting with “as a special witness,” then mentioned the usual items. I asked, “What makes your witness so special?” He said that it was because a prophet had laid hands on his head and set him apart as a special witness. I asked if his witness were stronger or better than the stake president’s. He said, “no, it’s a special witness.” After some more questions, he admitted that he doesn’t HAVE a special witness, but that he IS a special witness. This was the only thing he taught me during our meeting. I did not realize that “special witness” was just the name (a misleading one) of a calling like “sunday school president” or “Saturday morning toilet washing committee member.”

He also asked us what our biggest issues were, guessing polygamy and the BoA. I mentioned something about the BoA being a literal translation of Abraham’s own writings upon papyrus. He incredulously asked, “Have you really been taught that?” I explained that it said so right in the scriptures and JS affirmed it in his journals, to which the stake president nodded.

The meeting then hit a low point. Instead of discussing specific issues like the BoA, my wife mentioned that during the process we had really wished to speak with somebody who understood the issues and still remained faithful. He looked my wife right in the eye and said, "You’re looking at him. I’m that man. I know the issues. Any issue that you’ve studied, I know about it." I responded, “Okay, then, how about a simple test?” I asked why god would mention smashed windows to the brother of Jared while building the barges, when windows would not be invented until thousands of years later. He looked at my wife, and said, "You don't have the faith to hear the answers." She was upset and remarked how disappointed her mother would be. Her mother had prayed that a general authority would answer our questions, and even though he had "all the answers," my wife lacked sufficient faith for him to tell her. Of course, if we had enough faith for him to answer us, we never would have asked the question in the first place – catch 22!

At this point, I started getting a little more aggressive. I asserted that if mormonism were true, then the holy ghost is a poor witness that only leads 0.1% to the truth. He countered that it's because everybody has their agency - as if 99.9% willfully reject the obviously true message. He said that we would never find happiness on our current path. We had already told him that we lived many of the best principles that mormonism teaches. I guess he thinks that living the major principles of "the gospel" only results in happiness if you also go to the mormon church. Or could it be that the spirit told him that we were lying, and that we really just wanted to pursue a life of sin?

Next, he tried to teach us something about faith, but it was a confusing and bizarre lesson. He asked, “If I took you to SLC and put the windows from the barges on a table, would that help you?” My wife said that it wouldn’t help because there were no windows on those barges. He agreed, “You’re right. There weren’t. What if I put the plates on the table?” We told him if we could see the true plates, of course we would believe. I think we must lack the faith to understand this lesson.

As we finished our meeting, I bore a powerful "testimony" to him. I promised him that if he would apply the same skepticism to mormonism that he applies to all other religions, it would not take him five minutes to discover that mormonism is false. He disagreed, but I'd bet quite a lot that he hasn't spent more than five minutes studying any of the non-christian religions that he has already rejected.

As he left, he asked my wife to pray for one thing, “If you pray, pray to father tonight and ask if he sent a special witness to you today.” I found it odd that he did not ask us to pray about something more meaningful, but I guess this request gives us a glimpse into his self-importance.

In case you wonder, the stake president just sat and nodded occasionally. I’m sure he knew his place as a junior companion. I haven’t spoken with him since, but would be interested to hear his perceptions. He is a very good people person who should not have been pleased with the meeting, but he also believes this guy is a “special witness” – so who knows?

Not the girl you used to know
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Bishop atheist,
I wish my grown LDS children could read your account!
Bravo to you and your family.
Please keep us posted!
Pretty soon the ONLY members left in the church will be those who cannot reason or think for themselves.
All the rest of us are leaving.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Allegory of the Cave

I cannot tell you how much respect I have for what you have done. So many people realize that they are involved with something that is not right but just continue to go along because they are so invested. Beyond financial sunk costs, the deep connections both socially and as part of your identity must be significant. Doing what you have done is truly brave. Your description of Shayne Bowen of the 1Q70 is what I believe most come to. It seems that many in leadership know it is wrong and do not care as it is all business. I think you have done a tremendous service to your children.

All the best to you.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I am so happy to see your post here. I know that your leaving was no small thing. Your courage gives others the courage to ask questions and search out the whole truth.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Huh. I'd always kinda wondered how they went around calling themselves "special witnesses" and managed to keep a straight face.

I guess that clears that up: Its just a title the good ol' boys give each other to make themselves feel more important.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for sharing your story, bishopatheist. It was brave of you and your wife to step away from the church with so many eyes upon you. I understand when you say that you did it for the sake of your children. The nonsense has to stop somewhere.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
This: "The nonsense has to stop somewhere."
Surrender Dorothy
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Very happy to have you here.

Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to hear an exit story where the family leaves together. Stories of shattered families are much more common. The GA excerpt you shared was riveting. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your story.

For others interested in reading it, here's the link for easy access:,1063665

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Now it makes sense! Special witness is just a title. Thank you for your story.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I especially like the part about knowing right from wrong. I was asked this once as a young teenager, my reply, as long as I do the opposite of the examples I've seen around here I'll be in the clear. Smart ass I know but it worked, never saw this guy and his "counsel" again.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I imagine the process of leaving for you was pretty complicated, being hauled in for a meeting with a low level GA and all, and probably emotionally charged.

If you had known the sorts of stuff Elder Insurance A. Salesman would have tossed at you, you would have had an edge up in the game.

Hopefully sharing your story will help other bishop-level folks leaving LDS, Inc. in their exit interviews with big dudes, because they'll know what to expect and be 2 chess moves ahead in the conversation. Lead them into a few little traps, etc. Don't be shocked into a freeze when Elder I.A.Salesman says the BoA wasn't written by Abraham himself, but instead be able to give him an honest "are you really that ignorant about your own scriptures?" stare...

Sounds like the average GA has heard a number of exit stories like yours already. And has their game down.

But, each exiting member is on fresh ground every time. Until you and others get their stories out. Each year, as the terrain will change a bit over time.

Thanks for sharing, best of luck with your future endeavors and pay raise.


Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
"More juvenile discussion proved that everything this man knew about religion and philosophy, he learned in primary."

I had a good laugh at that line for a while. There is not much thought training encouraged in that church. I can almost see the "special witless" lacking the perception of the gravity of the situation.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I just finished reading your full exit story and it was really wonderful to read. I am glad that you have been able to make a good break with the church and taken your wife and kids with you. You've done a very brave thing. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge the scary facts, but you've done it. Good for you!

Now that I'm finally making the emotional break from the church and getting over that nail-biting anxiety I am much happier out of the church than I was in it. I am agnostic/atheist and the world makes sense for the first time in my life.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you the best as you continue your journey.

Cali Sally
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Your "special witness" story reminds me of how I felt when I heard that the prophet doesn't have to receive prophecy to be a prophet. He only holds the title of prophet so that when god sends prophecy we will know it is from god because it will come from only him. Then I read what Joseph Smith wrote about there being no prophet any more on the earth if he is not receiving prophecy. The church cannot have it both ways.

I have a friend who holds sacrament meeting in his home with only his wife and children because he still believes in the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel through Joseph
Smith but believes Joseph to have been a fallen prophet. Therefore, the church was set-up correctly but is no longer a representative of god. Yet, he believes his priesthood power is still authentic. My question would be, "At what point did Joseph become a fallen prophet?" I think many people believe it was when he started practicing polygamy.

I remember thinking just this morning how stupid I still feel for having ever believed any of this hokum.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you very much for sharing your story. Best wishes to you and your family.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you so much for your beautifully written exit story! It really does provide much comfort and inspiration to hear how some one can approach these life altering issues with a kind heart and courage and integrity. You are a real asset to this community and I'm so glad you shared your story!

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I think it would be fun if you could go back in time and answer, we got a better deal from the church down the street. The guy's a salesman. Why do you cancel a service? You can't afford it, you don't need it, you got a better deal elsewhere.

Brother Of Jerry
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
My decision to leave Mormonism was the most traumatic decision of my life, and that includes all the usual life stressors, family member death, divorce, job loss... I was terrified, and I wasn't under near the spotlight you were, nor did I have my reasons for leaving nearly as well sorted out. I was certain that the BoA was a fiction and a fraud, as was the Book of Ether. I had been in a stall with a cranky cow. The thought of turning a boat with livestock upside down without killing the humans and animals in the boat was almost comical.

My leaving felt like it took almost superhuman courage. I can barely imagine what it felt like for you. My hat is off to your wife, and to you.

I only had to deal with a stake president. He also opened with the line "I want you to know how much I love you." Even in my stressed out state, I recognized that as bull.

Fetal Deity
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thanks for sharing your story. I'm happy for you that your whole family was able to leave together--it seems that, for most people, the decision to leave the church usually splits a Mormon family up.

Best of luck to you and your family! (Hope to see you posting on this board frequently.)

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I was excited to hear this story. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. Congratulations! I hope you and yours find happiness in new pursuits, happiness that does not rely on lies pawned off on society by a socio-pathic nutjob.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Congratulations BishopAtheist:

I just read your exit story. We thoroughly need people like you in our lives who value love toward family first and use logic and common sense.

In reading your exit story I was struck by your immediate reply to the relatively common question others have asserted, "But isn't the church really good for your kids?"

Your comments were perfect. . .“No. Being groomed to covenant with the church to sacrifice everything for it, and to place it above everything else is NOT good. Learning to give your money to the church before paying the rent and feeding your family is NOT good. The way the church makes it difficult to leave and alienates some from their families is NOT good. Mindless chanting of "follow the prophet, follow the prophet" is NOT good. Going away for two years as a missionary unwittingly sharing less than the whole truth is NOT a good thing. The primary reason we left the church is for our children. If not for them, we may have been tempted to stay for the social aspect.”

I yelled at the computer screen when I read those words, “God I love this guy.”

I want you to know that although I don’t know you, you are now one of my heroes, akin to Tom Phillips, Grant Palmer, D. Michael Quinn, and the founders of MormonThink. I look forward to your journey and discussions on RFM.

With affection for you, your family, your pursuit of truth and for your disaffection,


“Let your conscience be your guide.”

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for sharing your story bishopathiest.

I agree with the other posters that your story will probably be helpful to a lot of other people in the future because your interactions with the "special witness" and other people demystify their techniques which can be very scary and manipulative when we are facing them unprepared.

The Mormon church is such an emotional church and their techniques play upon our feelings and can pull us out of our logical thinking minds. Once that happens it's difficult to stay on track. On the other hand, staying logical is often the best antidote and they have a hard time dealing with it. It seemed to me that you did a really great job of staying logical and grounded throughout this situation.

I'm happy to hear that your whole family left together, that's awesome.

I look forward to hearing more from you.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Yes you are my hero too! You are so incredibly brave. Warmest wishes for your family's new life of happiness and freedom. :)

charles, buddhist punk
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Happy Freedom Day, bishopatheist!

I got all warm and fuzzy reading your story. Applied Logic is so much more gratifying than "bearing witness" based on a big, fat nothing. He's no special witness, he's scared witless of losing your legal tender and chapel maintenance "responsibilities". Too bad.

Live long, and prosper sir!

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for sharing your story. Your writing style, and also some of the details you've shared in your exit-bio, give the impression that you are an intelligent and caring person. You must have a strong reputation among your local ward and stake members. I'm sure there are people who know you personally that are beginning their own questioning and discovery process right now.

It's wonderful that your family is intact. Like you, my wife and I left together with our kids. We are much stronger as a family now than when we went to church.

Reuben nli
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I loved the guy's divide and conquer approach. He kept trying to split your wife off by appealing to emotional topics hoping to drive a wedge between you.

This cult is so divisive!

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for posting! So many of us (pre internet) left all alone, keeping quiet about our knowledge and enduring the judgements of the local ward and stake. Your openness has added to the growing list of stories that justifies our departure and encourages new ones. I am so happy you have your family with you, few are so lucky.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Penn Jillette once described the idea of an unbaptizing ceremony. You find something that is forbidden in your religion, that you have never done before, (or have not ever done with a clear conscience) but that is utterly harmless, and you go out and do that thing with a group of friends, to celebrate your new freedom.

It needn't be a strip club or a night of heavy binge drinking. Penn, in his book, gave an example of a formally Orthodox Jew friend of his, who left his faith, and they all went out to a local steakhouse where they ordered shrimp, pork chops, and a bacon cheeseburger (mixing milk with meat, with a layer of bacon on top). I suggest, if you haven't done so, you go out with your wife and some friends, and have some kind of mixed drink that involves coffee and liqueur. Be sure to get a glass of tea on the side so you can stay properly hydrated. You don't have to get drunk, one would be enough, just celebrate your new found freedom. You deserve it.

Laban's Head
Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you so much for you post. A glimpse at the mental machinations of a "special" witness is so validating and eye-opening.

I wish you and your family peace on the road ahead. I hope you will check in frequently and share your experiences and insights.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
that line, 'he is a special witness' not had one is so insightful.

Another example of lawyer speak, of course a man can testify with conviction 'I am a special witness' and everyone will assume they saw God or had an experience that each of us did not. what a subtle and sneaky form of deception...

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for sharing your experiences in the processing of leaving the church. My husband and children have left the church behind and I'm grateful that we are no longer being duped. It's a painful process realizing the extent of the indoctrination.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I am with the others wishing you Godspeed on this exit from the church. You have stood to lose more than I did when I was at this crossroads. You will love yourself in future for the decision. I am so happy that your wife made it out with you, as that is always easier, I'm sure.

This experience with a GA serves to show what we all pretty much know, that they do not have any answers, and that salesmanship trumps theology and simple patient and loving teaching that is supposed to ooze from a "man of God." Instead, Mormonism is arrogance and ignorance.

You escaped. Be thankful. The world's your oyster now.

You're very courageous
I just read your entire exit story. You are very courageous and your story is, dare I say it, inspirational!

The only sad part, really, is that the members of your ward have lost a leader with great wisdom and integrity, someone they likely relied on for sound judgment and wise counsel. No doubt, you will be replaced with a standard issue "pray and obey" leader.

So be it. You and your wife have set a new path for yourselves and your family. I wish you the very best on your journey.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
So glad to hear someone else say that they left the church FOR their kids too!

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
I just read your exit story and wow!!

I LOLd when I read that 2 of your kids responded to your announcement by wanting being surprised, but just wanting to go back to their tv show.

It sounds like you have a great marriage. I wish you and your wife the best.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
"We have more money, a bit less underwear, and a lot more time. Life is good"


best exit story summary i have ever read

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Congratulations to you and your wife. You two are very impressive. You have your integrity and your family intact, an outcome Moism makes difficult to achieve.

If the rank-and-file could see just how unimpressive many GAs are it would shock them. I wish I was shocked by this GAs statement that he knew the answer to your question but "You don't have the faith to hear the answers." What a manipulative, disengenuous thing to say. Here is my interpretation: the answer is the Book of Mormon is made up BS. But you don't have the faith to ignore reality and believe in something that is complete BS so I won't admit it is BS.

Wishing you much happiness as you move on. Have fun with your amateur anthropology in observing the reactions of Mos you know. Some of their heads will spin when they see that you are genuinely happy and at peace with your decision. Some will expect you to turn into an evil person and your life to fall apart. It may take some of them awhile to realize you are the same person, complete with your integrity.

Re: SoCal Bishop Leaves Church
Thank you for sharing some of your experiences. I think you hit on the frustrating part of so much of the attempts to get some satisfaction and clarity from leaders that, clearly don't have a clue what they are dealing with.

This is a new time for you to create something better for your family. My best wishes!

What is it they say: we teach by example, and example and example!

"Recovery from Mormonism -"