Well, first, let me make things perfectly clear. I am not leaving the church. I have already left the church.
And the why of it all is an answer so long I felt I needed to create a blog devoted solely to answering it. So one mere post can never be enough. But here I go anyway...
When I joined the church in the first place I had some issues. I was not comfortable with polygamy, the stance on gays, or the history of blacks and the priesthood. But they had to have explanations right?* Someday God would explain why things were the way they were. So I put my concerns on the proverbial shelf and forged ahead, silencing my conscience along the way. Incidentally (or maybe not) it was by ignoring my own sense of right and wrong that made me even more susceptible to the thought-training of the church. The less I trusted my own conscience the more reliant I became on the patriarchy of the church to tell me what to do, think, and feel. How I ever could have thought that was healthy I don't know. Chalk it up to being a dumb teenager?
I was a "good Mormon." I was practically obsessive compulsive about "choosing the right." Of course...I never felt like I was good enough. Yet, I also thought I was better than most everyone else (including many other Mormons). That's the double whammy. Members find themselves thinking they are somehow better than those "of the world" but also find themselves struggling with intense guilt of never being good enough (especially the women). Add to those feelings an intense underlying fear that if one is not perfect she will never make it to the highest degree of heaven and will not be with her family eternally and you end up with an individual who, no matter how happy she looks on the outside, is miserable deep down. How I ever could have thought that was healthy I don't know. Chalk it up to not knowing there was a better way?
I hated the temple. I had looked forward to a temple wedding because I had been taught how wonderful and ultimately important temple weddings are. My wedding was a huge disappointment. Not only was my family automatically excluded because they weren't Mormon, the wedding itself was not special. The only thing special about it was the man I was marrying. But even worse than my wedding was the endowment ceremony. It was a huge let down. I felt like it was contrary to the things taught on Sundays. I didn't "feel the spirit." In fact I felt a bad feeling when I went. And I felt so guilty because of it. I tried to go more often (as instructed) thinking it was my fault I didn't like it. But the more I went the more I hated it. I didn't dare tell anyone how I felt because obviously there had to be something wrong with me, or my testimony, if I didn't like the temple.
There was something wrong, but with the temple, not with me. I was being asked to make some very serious promises (without being given any indication of what they would be beforehand) and I was being put under oath to never, ever tell anyone. Looking back it was very much like an abuser telling his victim that if she tells anyone he'll hurt her or her loved ones. The temple wasn't just weird. It wasn't just exclusive. It wasn't just freaking boring. It was a place of control through fear.
The worst part was learning about the changes the ceremony has gone through. I had been led to believe that the temple ordinances were sacred and revealed to Joseph Smith by God himself. I had been told that sure, the temple ritual was similar to Masonic temple rites but that was because the Masons had a version that had been handed down for centuries so it had some truth but had been changed. Change is a big deal to Mormons. The Bible had been changed, the church Christ supposedly organized had been changed, etc. It was the reason for the "restoration of the Gospel." The Mormon church had the real deal. The Mormon church had it straight from God. Or, so I was told.
Yet, the temple ceremonies, the ultimate sacraments of the church had been changed. I guess I can understand why. Had I been asked to perform the ordinances as they were when they included promises to seek revenge for the death of Joseph Smith, or when they involved blood oaths, or when they required women to promise to obey their husbands, or when they implied that all other Christian churches were in league with the devil, or when they asked patrons to strip down completely and don a single poncho of fabric for the washings and annointings I would have been even more freaked out. Even with the changes I didn't feel good about the temple rites. But I again ignored my intuition and reason. How I ever could have thought that was healthy I don't know. Chalk it up to being scared?
I might have left the church over any number of issues (there were plenty besides those already listed). But I didn't. I kept trying to be a "good Mormon." In fact, as my "testimony" weakened I redoubled my efforts to do things right (say personal and family prayers daily, do personal and family scripture study daily, have "Family Home Evening" weekly, attend church, attend the temple, etc.). Nothing helped. So I did what Mormons (and those thinking about becoming Mormon) are always told to do. I asked God. I prayed. I prayed over and over and over again for him to tell me it was true.
I got my answer (or non-answer to be more accurate).
And that is why I have left the church.
For the first time in approximately eight years I feel a sense of peace, freedom, safety, and self-worth that transcends anything I ever felt in the church. I was led to believe that anyone who left the church would be miserable, that they did it because they were offended by something petty, because they wanted to sin, because they weren't committed enough, etc. I know now that's a load of bull. Breaking free from the fear, guilt, control, self-righteousness, etc. isn't as easy as I'd like. But I am already reaping the rewards. Leaving the church is one of the best things I've ever done. How I ever could have thought the church was healthy I don't know. Chalk it up to being being brain-washed?
For Adam's explanation of why see here.
*There are explanations, but they're not pretty and they're certainly not divine.