Ex-Mormons and active members say the exact same thing

“Why don’t you just leave?”

When ex-Mormons say, “Why don’t you just leave?” I wonder if their memories are bad. Did they “just” leave? Does anyone “just” leave?

Leaving the church is hard; it’s not something you just do in the same way you might just add salt if your food is bland or just send a text when someone doesn’t answer the phone.

I haven’t left the church, but I have seen many of you walk that path. You didn’t “just leave.” Leaving was a difficult and often painful process. Many of you had to leave a support system you have depended on your whole life, walk away from a lifestyle you’ve built your world around, give up beloved traditions, reassess your belief system and even your own memories. When you left, some loved ones within your circle were devastated. Some relationships had to be rebuilt; others were lost forever.

I deeply respect you for choosing such a challenging path, in spite of the obstacles. I know you had good reasons, whether you did it on principle, for the sake of a loved one, for self-preservation, for a better opportunity or for your own unique reason.

I honor your journey. I have not chosen that path at this time, but I support your choice. I wish you could also support mine. Staying in the church is also hard, but I have my reasons and they are as valid and as personal to me as your reasons for leaving. Why I don’t leave is really none of your business, so don’t expect me to answer that question.

When an ex-Mormon throws some rude, judgmental and dismissive words my way like, “Why don’t you just leave?” I try not to be offended. After all, most of the people who say this are happy with their new lives outside the church, so I can hope they would only say something so hurtful because they sincerely believe leaving will make me happy too.

I cannot assign such good motivations to active church members who say the exact same thing.

When those of you who are active church members say “Why don’t you just leave?” I know that you are actually saying, “Go to hell.” I know your theology. I am still here, sitting beside you in the pews, remember? We are hearing the same sermons. You believe that if I depart from our shared covenant path I will lose my eternal salvation and forfeit my sealing to my family. And you want that for me?

When the active church member who says, “Why don’t you just leave?” is a family member, the words are even more cruel. You want to cast me out of our eternal family?

I get it. You like worshipping with people who agree with you. It’s comfortable. It’s easier than sharing your faith community with someone like me, whose clashing opinions distract you. How can you protect your fragile faith when members of your own church openly share thoughts you are actively trying to avoid thinking?

It’s hard for you. Sometimes it seems that even a global church is not quite big enough for the both of us.

I get it, because worshipping with you is not exactly a walk in the park for me, either.

Let’s open the scriptures we both read, and see if we can find some common ground.

But now are they many members, yet but one body.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 CORINTHIANS 12: 20-21

The next time you feel like saying, “Why don’t you just leave?” why don’t you just hold your tongue?

Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at


  1. I left because I couldn’t condone the evils being done in my name. I assume that anyone who stays has rationalized that away.

    I know some people believe they can change things from within. I assume that anyone who hasn’t been kicked out involuntarily never caused enough change to pose a threat.

    If I were still in, I would leave in solidarity with those who have been treated that way.

  2. Forgive the analogy, but it’s a little like asking a woman if she’s pregnant – just don’t. But also, I feel like a person who asks this question forfeits the right to your confidence. Both roads are difficult to walk and everyone deserves compassion and space for their decisions.

  3. This is a powerful and honest post. Thank you, April Young-Bennett. I straddle two worlds with you. Fortunately, I have found incredible connections with people on both worlds and floating somewhere in between.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I have heard the same hurtful words from current and former members. I wish we could all honor and uplift each other in our spiritual journeys.

  5. “Why don’t you just leave?” may be unwelcome but it’s a healthy question to ask. It acknowledges that our religious affiliations are always voluntary associations.

    As an exmo, I agree that “staying in the church is hard”. Asking why you do is not rude. If you prefer not to answer, that’s OK, too.

    Drawing on an example near at hand…

    When a child innocently asks “Mom, why would you do it if it hurts?” — it’s an honest question. When an exmo asks “Why don’t you just leave?” — it’s equally sincere.

    Ascribing bad motives to those asking them will not make good questions go away.

    • The two questions feel/hit differently because of the ‘just’ in the question about leaving. Asking, “Why do you stay?”/ “Why don’t you leave?” across as sincere while “why don’t you just leave?” comes across as dismissive. There is something about ‘just’ that changes the message behind the question.

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