I was a closeted non-believer for several years. I attended only because I didn’t want my wife to be exposed to the kind of treatment I’ve seen other have when a sister comes to church leaving their non-believing husband behind. Eventually she told me that she could deal with it and I didn’t need to keep coming. Sure enough they started treating her exactly like I’d feared. Our last bishop told her that she needed to “get off the fence” and decide whether she was gonna let my then 12 year-old son get ordained. In my experience when you push somebody off a fence they end up on the other side. That’s exactly what happened. She kept attending because she enjoyed her calling with the YW but never went back once they released her.
I stayed for 17 years after I first realized I had been sold a bill of goods. I resigned membership once, stayed away for a few months, then went back and was re-baptized. Mormonism is really good at not only isolating you from the outside world and from forming any deep social connections, but also by the explicit threats (“Where will you go if you leave? What will you do?”) that general authorities repeat over and over again. Both the subtle and the overt psychological manipulation convinced me that I had no choice but to go back. It wasn’t until my ex-wife and I finally divorced my that I resigned once and for all. It took relocating and forming a new circle of friends and a few years of therapy to realize how much I had been manipulated into staying. I heard someone once compare the “where will you go if you leave?” trope to what an abusive husband will say to his victimized wife. The implication is that the wife will answer “nowhere.” That’s probably the most accurate analogy I can think of. Once you’re victimized you tend to repeat the pattern of being victimized over and over again because you’ve internalized what the abuser says. People stay in abusive situations because they don’t believe they have an option, or because they don’t believe they’re truly worthy of love, belonging, and connection.
I would describe myself in my 30s as a progressive Mormon feminist who desperately wanted the church to be true. Hope made want to stay but fear kept me from leaving.