Some of the greatest critics and persecutors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church” by the media and those of other faiths) are exMormons. ExMormons, as some of them term themselves, are people who have been excommunicated for serious sins or who have, for their own reasons, decided to leave the Church. The Church has only one attitude towards these people: love and forgiveness. If these individuals humble themselves and seek repentance and forgiveness, they are welcomed back into the fold. Too often, however, those who leave the Church become angry and bitter, turning against the Church and striking out at its leaders and members.
Almost since the organization of the Church, exMormons have chosen both paths. Even men who held prominent positions in the Church turned away, often due to trivial occurrences in which they had their feelings hurt. Thomas B. Marsh, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Symonds Ryder are both examples of this. Marsh even signed affidavits swearing falsely that the Mormons were hostile to the state of Missouri, which action was influential in an extermination order being issued from Governor Boggs. This extermination order gave mobs the freedom to drive the Saints out of Missouri. Ryder later led a mob which tarred and feathered Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Yet another angry dissenter, Philastus Hurlbut (excommunicated for immorality) was the instrument in constructing and compiling scores of affidavits slandering Joseph Smith’s character. Hurlbut’s efforts culminated in the publication of Mormonism Unvailed in 1834, which was full of falsehoods and which still affects the public’s views of Mormonism today.
Joseph identified the motives for people who had once been so close to the Church suddenly turning against it:
There is a superior intelligence bestowed upon such as obey the Gospel with full purpose of heart, which, if sinned against, the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned. When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p321).
Renegade ‘Mormon’ dissenters are running through the world and spreading various foul and libelous reports against us, thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world, because they know that we are not of the world, and that the world hates us; therefore they [the world] make a tool of these fellows [the dissenters]; and by them try to do all the injury they can, and after that they hate them worse than they do us, because they find them to be base traitors and sycophants [flatterers] (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p322).
In the early days of the Church, men often wanted more power in the Church and so turned against Joseph. Power in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, comes from the priesthood, which power comes only through God. Therefore, power cannot be sought after and gained; it is extended through callings from God. Those who seek power will never get it, and that desire will only lead to their destruction. For those who have turned away from the Church, a return is always possible and is always desired by Church leaders. Many who turned against the Church in its early days returned at the end of their lives. Thomas B. Marsh and Oliver Cowdery came back and received full fellowship. Anger on an exMormon’s part only hurts the individual but can be eradicated through repentance. The Savior always welcomes those who return to Him in humility.
There are many reasons why a person may choose to leave the Church, though. And certainly not all of them turn into anti-Mormons eager to bring about the destruction of the Church. Some are excommunicated because of serious sin; some simply lose interest; others may be offended by other members or even leaders; some become disillusioned. Still, any and all who humble themselves and repent are welcome to return and partake in full fellowship once more.