Taking Off the Nametag: Why Some Missionaries Leave the LDS Church for Good

As a returned missionary, what does it mean to leave the LDS Church? Some struggle to reconcile leaving behind the doctrines of the Church without leaving behind their loved ones. While some family members assume that it’s “a phase” that will pass, others feel a deep sense of loss. Grief is felt on all sides and often contributes to misunderstanding and stigmatization. Disaffiliation with the Church is often a complex journey of holding on and letting go, but some factors make understanding this process difficult. Through interviewing returned missionaries and analyzing previous studies, this study highlights potential problems with how the Church reports membership data, commonly held experiences of those who leave, and how we can promote understanding on all sides.