002 Charting the Path

Many and varied are the Ways

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.
— Cynthia Occelli


The paths away from Mormonism are as different as the people taking them, and no two stories are likely to be exactly the same. But can we identify common experiences and milestones that many people encounter along the way?

In this episode, we sketch out what that path might look like, asking questions like, what are the big decision points you may encounter? How long can you expect this to last? Are there transitions or phases common to most experiences? We explore both the differences and similarities of our individual experiences and work out a rough framework to think about our transitions.

We then compare the timing and difficulty or ease of the specific milestones for each of us, such as church attendance, telling family and friends, dealing with garments, trying formerly taboo activities and that terrifying first picture of bare shoulders on social media.

We also find out who found it easy to stop wearing garments and who found it more difficult to stop attending Sunday meetings. Spoiler: we all found it easy to stop paying tithing.


  • We identified three general phases common to each of our experiences in leaving Mormonism: Discomfort, Deconstruction, and Reconstruction, marked by transition points we called The Point of No Return and The Done-Done Moment.

  • Discomfort: the period when there are some things about Mormonism that a person is uncomfortable with, but they are generally believing and making it work. For many people, this lasts for years.

  • Deconstruction: a period marked by intense emotions, bargaining, and study, as one wrestles with and reconsiders their belief, identity, and loyalty. People in this phase often don’t consider themselves to be leaving the church, but rather trying to find a way to stay. This phase can be very short.

  • Reconstruction: the phase of rebuilding one’s worldview, morality, rituals, and identity.

  • The Point of No Return: when one’s perspective changes and they know they will never look at Mormonism the same way again. Some people call this their shelf breaking. This is not necessarily the moment of disbelief.

  • The Done-Done Moment: the decision point (or lengthy process) when one decides to actually leave the church.

  • We also identified a Point of Permission, in which some people break free from the authoritative thinking and grant themselves the permission to think critically.

  • The timing, duration, and difficulty of each phase will be unique to each person. Sometimes they might overlap; other people might experience them more distinctly. And common milestones most people face can be experienced at any point along the way.


  • There is no one right way or even universal way to travel the path away from Mormonism, and sometimes it can feel winding, scary, and lonely. We’re here to show you the guideposts we found along the way in the hope that the next steps forward won’t seem so uncertain.

  • Just know that we have all been there and done that...and, in a lot of ways, are still doing it. Looking back, we can clearly see the positive outcomes and lessons learned. Growth is hard, but worth it.

Thanks for listening!

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Oliver ChristensenComment