I am an Agnostic Atheist who up until October 7, 2012 was Mormon. How did I go from being an active, faithful, believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon or LDS) to having no belief in God or supernatural powers beyond The X-Men? I’ll give an overview of my faith crisis and then throughout this blog, I’ll expound on key events and topics.
I am the middle of 5 kids. Born and raised Mormon. My whole family is still LDS. You could say I was a fairly well behaved High School Mormon kid, never having had alcohol, tobacco or drugs. I rarely dated so sexual activity wasn’t a concern, much to my teenage disappointment. One could say this was because I was 6’4″, 155 lbs and had no game… but you know what, I’ve gotten into this trend of blaming Mormonism and I think I’ll stick to that. Actually, this story my wife loves to tell will describe how I easily kept my virginity in High School.
My wife and I knew each other through church events but we were never really friends, let alone dated. I was waaay too Dorky, according to her. You see, we were at a church dance and I asked her to dance during a Boyz II Men song. The way she tells it, I didn’t bother to talk to her at all, as I was too busy singing the song at the top of my lungs. In my defense, it was Boyz II Freaking Men and I had a pretty damn good voice back then, if I do say so myself. I thought she would rather hear me sing. Guess I was wrong. It’s a good thing I picked up some “moves” later in life or she’s just attracted to dorks with great voices who happen to rock her world.
After High School, I served a two year Mormon mission in Las Vegas, NV from 1997 – 1999 and was quite successful in both baptizing people into the LDS Church and rising to leadership positions within the Mission.
My family/friends anxiously waited my return from the mission but I’m not sure how thrilled they were to see what I became, at least in some respects. My mission was treated like a sales job, in that I was given a goal of baptizing at least one person each week. We kept track of everything we did. Every person we spoke with, each lesson we taught and people’s progress towards baptism. Every 30 minutes of every day was literally planned out on a piece of paper during the two years. All these stats were then reported to mission leadership each week and accountability meetings held regularly. My Mission President taught us that we were selling The Lord’s One True Gospel and gave us the techniques to be successful door to door salesmen… and Sell, I did.
I had the ultimate truth and all the answers to the questions in the Universe and I had the authority from God to share that message and bring people into His Church. Those who rejected my message were either not ready or have given into the temptations or lies of Satan. This is what was drilled into my head for two straight years. To call me self righteous or arrogant would be a little bit of an understatement, even though I thought I was just a humble servant of The Lord.
I was taught to “find the elect” or in other words, people who would listen and accept our message. That caused me to only care for those individuals who accepted us into their homes, fulfilled the commitments we gave them and were baptized into the LDS Church. While some young men and women come off their mission talking of the love they have for the people in the area they served, I came home talking about the love I had for the people who accepted my message and completely ignored all the others. Might not seem like a big deal, except that I carried that ideology into my personal life. Prior to my mission, I was a nurturing, sensitive and caring individual, almost to a fault. After my mission, I was callous, cocky and pompous; only showing my “sweet side” to a select few.
I was married to my gorgeous wife, Bonnie, on December 15, 2000 in the Houston Texas LDS Temple. Yes, the same woman who tells everyone I had a huge fro and was dorky in High School. I guess I became amazingly cool or my wife really lowered her standards. Let’s hope for the former. Life begins to get interesting here, as my parents were in a heated battle with their local Mormon leadership over a Boy Scout issue involving my younger brother that escalated from there. I’ll save you the details, at this time, but just know that due to the fight still going on at the time of my Marriage, neither of my parents were “worthy of entering the Temple.” In spite of my parents being right and were being persecuted by lies and horrible accusations. The local Mormon leaders would apologize years later; unfortunately, not in time for my wedding. So they didn’t see me get married, along with all my friends, as none of them were Mormon. To explain, Mormons get married in a Temple for Time and Eternity and only Mormons who meet certain standards set by the church are able to enter these temples. If you fail to meet these criteria, you are not allowed in the temple. Even for a monumental event like your child’s wedding.
Some might ask why I proceeded to get married in the Mormon Temple, when my parents and friends weren’t able to attend. Well, that’s how indoctrinated I was. I thought it was essential to the eternal happiness of me and my family, as that’s what the LDS church teaches. “You make sacrifices for happiness” and mine was not having my closest loved ones in the temple that day. This will be one of my biggest regrets; one that still brings me pain today.
I began to live my life as an active, faithful, worthy LDS married man. Living the dream. Well, sorta. You see, I was so focused on obeying rules and only caring about the select few people that I chose to have in my life, I became more and more detached with each passing year. I loved my wife and we had a wonderful marriage but I simply didn’t care about many people outside of her. The best way to describe my general attitude is to quote Rob Bell from his book “Love Wins.”
“It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing heaven to earth right now.
“At the same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die.”
That was me. I wasn’t worried about the environment, homeless people, genocide in other parts of the world or even those suffering in my own neighborhood. Oh sure, I’d tell myself I care and give a homeless person a few bucks every now and then or help a friend move and I considered myself extremely charitable because I gave 10% of my income to the LDS Church. I was so wrong, as I was extremely selfish. However, I was also an obedient Mormon, being worthy to enter the temple. So I was on track to reach heaven and that made me an awesome human being…… so I thought.
The LDS church is extremely patriarchal, where white men dominate the leadership (women are not allowed to hold those positions) and alpha males succeed, much like our society. This is significant because as I learned how to be more of an alpha male on my mission and carried that behavior into the business world, I started to rise to the top. With each new job, I observed how the successful men behaved and picked up many of those characteristics. This turned me into a bigger asshole, but my increasing success drove me further down the insensitive rabbit hole of pricks, suppressing many of the nurturing instincts I had.
Meanwhile, I also struggled to form meaningful relationships with Mormons at church. Obviously, I didn’t care about them, as I was selfish, but I also didn’t like the culture they were a part of. I have a natural healthy disdain for authority, which was confirmed by the ordeal my family went through, and Mormonism is extremely authoritarian. Also, I openly watched Rated R movies and cussed on occasion (something that would increase through this process). This didn’t sit well with many members of the LDS church.
When Bonnie and I were newlyweds we were at a Mormon party with other young couples. We were playing that game Catch Phrase. The word to be guessed was Playboy. The person trying to get us to guess, a single non-mormon man, simply said, Hugh Hefner. I immediately yelled, “PLAYBOY!” I was happy that we got it but the crowd stopped and as I looked around the room I was getting some strange looks. Some women gave my wife that “I’m sorry” look. The other men in the room, stayed quiet, some of them even acting equally appalled. How the hell do you not know who Hugh Hefner is??? Either they knew and no one wanted to admit it because playboy = porn, which is one of the biggest no no’s in Mormondom or they were so incredibly sheltered that they really had no clue. Yeah, that was the last “party” we attended while in that area. I just couldn’t relate. I mean, if you don’t know playboy, you no friend of mine.
Yet, we still attended and attempted to make friends over the years because we believed the church was the only true church on the earth, as we had been taught our whole lives. We’ve made some friends but they are few and far between. There are plenty of great people in the LDS church but I just can’t be my true self around many of them. I’m a little too raw, real or offensive.
The Mormon Church is heavily influenced through emotion, as feelings of peace or happiness are identified as “The Spirit,” per Galatians 5:22-23:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
“The Spirit” equals Truth.
Mormons look for answers to prayers through these feelings. I searched my whole life for the “answers” from God. I finished reading The Book of Mormon (BoM) on my mission and when I knelt down to pray and ask God if it was true (the promise contained in the BoM), I didn’t feel anything. I sat there for quite a while… waiting. Finally I told myself that I already knew it was true and God wasn’t going to tell me something I already knew. I got up and went out in to world to testify that I had received a witness of the truthfulness of this book and gospel directly from God, having never actually received anything of the sort.
Mormon men have the Priesthood. It’s the power to act in the name of God. Women are not permitted to have the Priesthood. Men are able to give blessings of health or comfort and perform ordinances like baptisms, sealings (weddings), blessing of babies and such. Men are told they’ll be prompted by “The Spirit” during these blessings and the Holy Ghost will communicate to you what needs to be said, if you are worthy. Everything in Mormonism is predicated on worthiness.
I’ve given countless blessings and never felt inspired or directed in any way. I struggled giving them at first because of this but later just decided I’d give basic, generic blessings unless I felt moved by the spirit to say something specific. It never happened. Bonnie has even commented that all my priesthood blessings sounded almost identical and were void of specificity. Well, I never received any actual direction.
The most frustrating “lack of spiritual experience” I had was when I blessed my newborn children. When I held Jordan in my hands, in front of the entire congregation and began giving him a blessing, I was expecting some inspiration. I mean, I was blessing my son, for crying out loud! You’d think God would speak to me at that moment! Instead, I got nothing. I stumbled through the blessing itself and it was quite clear that I was struggling with it. I gave him some very basic blessings and closed it. On our way home from church that day, I told Bonnie the experience I had and how discouraging it was. She told me she could tell something was wrong. Her Mom recorded it and gave it to us later. I couldn’t even bring myself to read or listen to it again. Still haven’t. It was heartbreaking to me that my kids blessings were that type of negative experience for me. My daughter Samantha’s blessing wasn’t any better.
Part of me thought I wasn’t righteous enough. However, I was temple worthy so that couldn’t have been it. I just kept moving on with my life, thinking eventually something would happen that would have a spiritual impact on me. This isn’t to say I haven’t felt the spirit the way the LDS church describes it, through those emotions, when hearing a moving story or something like that. However, I found that I had the same feelings when I watched an emotionally charged movie or read a book. Yet, in those moments that I needed the guidance, like a blessing or answer to a prayer, I simply never got that feeling or felt any guidance at all. It was very confusing for me but something that I just put on my shelf of questions and concerns until later.
Seven years ago, a coworker had a copy of Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. He wanted one of the Mormons to read it so we could separate truth from fiction for him. There were over 10 Mormons in my office of 20 and I was the only one willing to read it.
I have never understood the fear of knowledge or information outside of what the LDS church publishes. Although this fear comes directly from the church leaders who warn against such activity. I’ve always believed you can objectively read things and determine for yourself what’s factual and what’s not. Some would point at what I’ve done and say, “That’s why you don’t read that stuff.” However, I’m thrilled that I have. I believe people should want to hear the truth, whether it’s good or bad. We have an intellect and should be expected to use it. Trust in yourself, become informed and I believe you’ll figure out the path you should take.
Anyways, I read Under the Banner of Heaven and it was the first time I read Mormon history from someone outside of the church. It opened my eyes in two ways. First, I knew Joseph Smith practiced polygamy but I didn’t know the true extent. It caused me to do my first research into church history outside of LDS publications.
Second, it was the perspective and viewpoint of an “outsider” that I really enjoyed; new and original. My life had been so white washed and sheltered. Reading this one book broke down a tremendous barrier. It had a wonderful impact on me and propelled me into a different way of thinking, as I started to make a concerted effort to see things from other people’s viewpoints and then decided what I actually believed. I applied this to everything, especially politics. I started to realize that I was raised a certain way and had certain beliefs because that’s what I was taught. I began to throw out my family of origin doctrines, when they didn’t fit my new perspective, opinions and beliefs. I went through this process over the next 6 years.
I started to read things in Mormon and Christian doctrine and realized that I don’t believe in it. Stuff as simple as Noah’s Ark and the belief that the world was “baptized” (Mormons believe the earth was literally baptized during the flood, as the earth has a soul that will be glorified) to the story of David and Goliath to Joseph Smith and polygamy to my social views on abortion and gay marriage and etc. The list could go on and on.
Mormons believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and Noah’s Ark took place around 4,500 years ago. (I realize some Christians believe this too) Thus, the theory of evolution is virtually impossible. I quickly dismissed Noah’s Ark as anything more than fiction or at most a regional flood as I started studying evolution. I didn’t pay attention in school because I was taught creationism, so I just tuned out the teacher. However, Evolution quickly made sense to me, as it should. To maintain my faith, I adopted a form of Intelligent Design that meant God used the laws of nature to create the world. I jumped through some other incredible mental hoops to justify many other doctrines and scriptural stories like The Tower of Babel and so forth. Again, this took years to overcome.
Mormon prophets and apostles teach the scriptures and their stories to be very literal and have built doctrine around those events, like the world being baptized and then will have the baptism by fire during the apocalypse. The LDS belief is that these men talk to God and receive revelations from Him like ancient prophets like Moses. That was key to my Mormon undoing, if you will. I could accept that local leaders weren’t necessarily directed by God but I HAD to believe The Prophet and Apostles were. Modern Revelation is the core of Mormon theology and doctrine. When given the choice to believe in science or a man claiming to talk to God…. Eventually, science won that fight. Cognitive dissonance is powerful.
I turned my research to Joseph Smith. I could write a book about my opinions on this man. I discovered he was married to at least 33 confirmed wives, some as young as 14 years old. He kept many of them secret from his wife, Emma. 11 of them were married to other men, at the time of his marriage to them, a practice called polyandry; even sending some men on missions to Europe and then marrying their wives, without notification, in at least one case. A minimum of 12 of those relationships are documented to have been sexual, as some Mormon apologists admit. Joseph used incredibly manipulative tactics to get these women to marry him, promising eternal life or saying an Angel will smite him dead with a flaming sword, if the woman doesn’t accept his proposal. The women who did deny him were vilified and reputations often ruined, if they spoke out. I decided after reading these things, that he was simply a fallen prophet near the end of his life, thus he was killed in Carthage Jail. Mormonism teaches that a prophet will never lead them astray or God will take the prophet from the earth. Plus, I hadn’t done any research on his first vision, his other angelic visitations, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Word of Wisdom, the Council of 50, views on race and so on. So I was content to simply believe he was a fallen prophet…. for a while.
Eventually, I couldn’t go on with this view of believing Joseph was simply a fallen prophet who gave into his natural man because of the high esteem the church holds him,
“No man has done more for the salvation of mankind than Joseph Smith, save Jesus Christ.”
Another reason the idea of Joseph being a fallen prophet wasn’t sustainable is due to the fact that members are held to a much higher standard today. Correction, a much much higher standard than in the 1800′s or even early 1900′s. One could say it’s because of society. Going from the Wild West Frontier to what we are today but that doesn’t sit well with me because if the man who was receiving such revelations like the Word of Wisdom (The Mormon law of health prohibiting them from having tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea or harmful drugs) directly from God himself couldn’t follow it and was still temple worthy and able to receive prophetic counsel directly from God himself…. why do I have to abstain from tea and alcohol to enter the temple? That’s not to say I wanted to drink those things, at that time. Plus, that’s not even bringing up the other things Joseph and Brigham Young did in terms of sexual sins and far worse. I was being held to a much higher standard than “The Lord’s Divine Prophets.” I couldn’t wrap my heard around that logic.
Another belief that never set well with me is that we all lived prior to coming to earth in The Preexistence. We were all spirits and judged by our actions then, prior to coming to earth. The best way to describe what I was taught about this doctrine is to quote the Mormon prophet George Albert Smith’s First Presidency statement in 1949. I’ll quote directly from FAIR’s website (a Mormon apologist site):
“The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.
—First Presidency statement, August 17, 1949
“The First Presidency went on to state that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate.”
While this is about blacks in the priesthood, that’s not my only focus. This states that we were judged in our pre-mortal life and it had an effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which we came to earth. I had been taught that due to my righteousness and high potential, I was born to a white Mormon family. This always bothered me; and not just on the racist aspect, although that alone is deplorable. I can’t fathom a God who is racist or uses skin color to discern righteousness. I now see this particular doctrine as simple as Mormonism was created by white men, thus white skin was better. By the way, the LDS church has recently agreed with me and many others in saying that keeping the priesthood from people with black skin was just Brigham Young exerting his personal and cultural (umm… racist) views, as evident in the latest updates to the LDS scriptures.
This was always an issue I’ve had with the Book of Mormon and the tales of Cain and dark skin. The Book of Mormon even says the dark skinned Lamanites will have their skin lightened, as they become righteous. Not to mention the multiple things previous prophets like Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith and others have said in relation to this topic. However, I’m getting away from my main objective in this section….
I also can’t fathom a God who judges so harshly in the pre-mortal life and says, “You have not been as faithful as others, so I’m sending you to a third world country that is infested with violence, disease and lack of food or water OR you get to go to a father who will both sexually and physically abuse you OR you will be born black prior to the civil rights movement OR even the civil war and you’ll end up being a slave or lynched just because of your skin color. Hey, you should have been more diligent and obeyed in this pre-existence. You did this to yourself.”
I can’t believe in that God. I won’t believe in that God. I’ve never been able to rectify this concern. Not until I left Mormonism and simply discarded the doctrine all together.
On to my political views, as I was once extremely conservative. When I say extremely conservative, I mean I used to DVR Glen Beck (A Modern Mormon Hero). Keep in mind, after reading Under the Banner of Heaven, I became fascinated with viewing opinions and beliefs from the “other” perspective. I had a conversation with a friend 6 years ago in which she explained to me that she would never have an abortion but she respected other people’s beliefs and wanted the procedure to be regulated and kept safe. She said, “Barry, pro-choice is just what it says…. Pro-Choice. It’s not pro-abortion.” That really hit me, as I’ve always believed it was pretty much pro-abortion. Damn you conservative spin doctors! This helped open my mind and I changed my stance to Pro-Choice – Safe, rare and legal. Well, for this and other reasons, including the economical advantages. So what does that mean about my views on conception and life? I didn’t know…..
Understand that while I was going through this whole evolution of beliefs and opinions, I was doing everything possible to stay true to my LDS faith. I made incredible rationalizations, which were completely irrational in some respects. I spent most of the past 6 years in complete denial that I was even going through a faith crisis. Bonnie asked me more than a few times over that period, “Do you even have a testimony of The Church???” To which I responded in a defensive manner, “Of course I do! Why would you even question?!?” I wasn’t willing to even admit to myself what was happening, although others could see it.
I’ve always highly respected women and actually got along with them better than men. I started studying women’s rights issues, although I’ve only recently really delved into the whole feminist world. I became very uncomfortable with LDS doctrine and the place of women. Bonnie and I made a pact years ago that we only wanted to get to the first level of the celestial kingdom, as we don’t want anything to do with polygamy; as funny as that sounds, we were serious.
Explanation – Mormons believe that Heaven is comprised of three degrees of glory or three levels of Heaven. (diagram below) The top being the Celestial, then Terrestrial and finally Telestial Kingdom. The Telestial Kingdom is essentially “hell,” although Joseph Smith said it is so beautiful and amazing that one would commit suicide to get there. Well, Outer Darkness is true Hell but that’s reserved for either the worse of the worse or people who have denied the Holy Ghost (there is a debate about whether people like me, who have been to the temple and left the church, would go there). The Celestial Kingdom, the top level and ultimate Heaven, is segregated into 3 levels of its own. The top is where polygamy is practiced and you can become a God of your own planets. I mean, in order to create spirit babies you have to have celestial sex and you need zillions of spirits to populate a world, so that’s a whole lotta sex with a whole lotta women! Yes, this is true doctrine. Bonnie and I had no interest in this idea of eternal progression into godhood and me having multiple wives, thus our agreement to only progress far enough to reach the lowest level of the Celestial Kingdom. Oh, you can still have celestial sex there, just can’t make spirit babies… I guess. That’s never been clearly defined. Although a common joke among Mormon men is, “Hey, if you want to have sex after this life, you better get to the Celestial Kingdom!” Awesome, I know.
I also look at the fact that a man can marry multiple women in the temple and have them sealed to him (married) for the afterlife but women can only be sealed to one man. It demonstrated that the doctrine of polygamy is still alive and well in Mormonism. It’s simply dormant because it’s illegal. It’s an eternal doctrine. This seriously disturbed me. So in Mormon theology, women are to bear spirit children, along with other wives and men are to have sex with multiple women and govern worlds? That’s simplistic but also true. I know there are modern Mormons who believe that God is both Man and Woman, a partnership, and I like that idea. However, when you bring polygamy into it, which is a real eternal doctrine (D&C 132), it doesn’t mesh with that theory. There are plenty of other aspects about the role of women in the church that bother me a great deal, as the LDS Church is extremely patriarchal. It’s damaging to women and their self worth but I’ll save this discussion for other posts.
Now we come to Gay Marriage. I had been pro civil unions for years. Well, I became pro Gay Marriage about four years ago after realizing civil unions would never happen and it was either they are allowed to marry and get the rights or they won’t. This year, I did more studying on the scientific data on how LGBT people were born with that specific attraction. Once I believed the science, I couldn’t believe in a God that would allow someone to be born that way and yet call their natural tendencies a sin. Thus, never allowing them to experience true love, passion and companionship, if they wanted to be faithful and obedient. This past summer I changed my view and no longer considered being Gay or acting on it, a sin. Well, that caused me to look at the Proclamation to the World that hung on my wall, which said Marriage is only between a man and woman and goes on to define their roles. I had to decide if I believed in a modern prophet, since I totally disagreed with that document and it came from a “prophet.” Plus, I am a feminist and want my daughter to be raised knowing she can accomplish anything she wants and she can choose to be a stay at home Mother or have a career. Again, not what that document teaches, only mentioning exceptions when circumstances dictate. This was an almost fatal blow to my armor.
Another landmark experience I had this past summer was when I was sitting in Sunday school and the lesson was on Alma Chapter 30. The basic story is that a man named Korihor was telling the people there is no proof of God and they don’t need that belief to be good people, as we have laws and consequence. He was brought to the leader, Alma, who told him he was wrong. Feel free to read the chapter, if you would like, as it’s linked. I found myself agreeing with Korihor, the anti-Christ, in that he has a right to be agnostic and I even agreed with what he was saying. I was thinking, “Does that make me an anti-Christ?” Also, I agreed with him in that one can have good morals without a belief in Christ or God. Many of my closest friends are agnostic or atheist and they are wonderful people, as good as any Mormon, better than most I know, actually. In fact, one of them I call my Moral Compass and literally consult him when I have an ethical dilemma Yet, this dude is agnostic, and does not live up to “Mormon Standards.” He’s just a man of truly high moral character, in that he’s honest, full of integrity, generous and so forth. Meanwhile, I know plenty of Mormons that I can’t give that same endorsement too. That doesn’t really work with Alma’s charge in Alma 30.
Plus, read Alma 30:44. But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Alma literally tells us that we should rely on the testimonies of our brethren and “holy prophets” to have our testimony. I completely disagree. Yet to back up the doctrine, my Bishop and countless other people tell me the same thing. My Bishop even said, “Henry B. Eyring (a Mormon apostle) is a scientist, if he can believe, who am I to question.” WHAT? NO! You have no idea what rationalizations that man has made to maintain his faith and those rationalizations might not work for you. That comment, along with several more I won’t bore you with, blew me away.
Well, it all makes sense now. The LDS Church is built on the fact that one must believe the story and testimony of a single man. You must believe that Joseph Smith had the first vision and saw God and Jesus Christ, then divinely translated the BoM or else it’s a complete fraud, as LDS prophets and apostles have told us repeatedly. That’s my issue. That may have been the actual fatal blow to the armor that was protecting me from Mormon disbelief. My walls began crumbling down faster than I could have ever imagined.
There are many other teachings in the Book of Mormon that I don’t agree with but we won’t get into here.
In August 2012, I was close to admitting to myself that I didn’t have a testimony in the LDS church. I asked myself this question, “If I wasn’t born Mormon and missionaries were teaching me the discussions, how would I go about making this decision to join them?” I can tell you exactly how, as a few years back I became interested in Scientology. I didn’t have an interest to join but I was very curious about their doctrine and teachings. So I went out and bought L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics. I skimmed through it and read some parts that interested me. I then got on the internet and did plenty of research, from various websites. I decided that’s my true process and I should apply that to my quest for the truthfulness of Mormonism. I finally began the in-depth research on church history and doctrine. This was the last hope for my Mormon testimony, if you will.
I had tons of questions and issues but my top three were The First Vision, The Book of Mormon and The Temple. I didn’t think there was anything out there that could possibly give me enough evidence to believe those weren’t really of God, as the LDS church has taught me.
I talked to Bonnie and told her I was going to do exactly what the church tells us NOT too…. Research the history from both Mormon and Non-Mormon sources. I explained that I hoped there was nothing I would find to make me completely lose my faith, as I thought I was very well educated on these issues. I knew the heartache involved with me losing my faith, for both to me and my family, not to mention the whole eternal damnation thing. I had a very large amount of fear, at this time. That was my mindset going into it and Bonnie supported me completely, as I had become a miserable person and she just wanted me to be happy.
Side note here, I was temple worthy throughout this whole process. Many Mormons assume people leave because they are sinning and don’t want to live the standards. This wasn’t the case. I even payed a ridiculous amount of tithing the previous year, given my income and state of belief. Also, now that I’m out of the church and relay this story to people who aren’t Mormon, they can’t fathom why I even had to have this discussion with Bonnie. It’s mind blowing to them that this would even need to take place. They say – “Why not read anything you want too? You should be able to discern truth from fiction, given your knowledge of the topic. My church doesn’t warn against reading books of any kind….”
I was careful about what I read during my research. I read reviews on all books, to ensure I was getting one that had accurate information and was as objective as possible. I was OK with reading some books, articles and blogs from people who were bitter and upset, as I’ve only been surrounded by the “pro-Mormon” stuff my whole life, so why not see the other side a bit. However, when it came to actual historical facts, I checked and referenced everything. I wanted to find the truth, not opinion. I have never read and researched something as thoroughly in my life, as I have Mormonism. Which should be the case, since I’m making a life changing decision and one that could potentially condemn me to hell. I went to the PRO-LDS apologist sites with every concern I had to get their rebuttal and explanation.
Do you know which website upset me the most? The PRO-LDS Apologist site, FAIR. I would read something in a book or website like Mormon Think and say, “No way this is true!” Then I go to FAIR and read what the actual church scholars, prophets and apostles say about that fact. I learned they not only know about it but they admit it’s true! I would then read their explanations as to why it’s OK that this happened or what this horrible or confusing doctrine meant and I just couldn’t get on board with what they were saying.
I saved the research on the temple for last because it was the most sacred thing to me. Once I discovered the full background on the temple, the endowment and sealing, I was extremely emotional and upset. My parents and friends couldn’t see me get married because of my belief in the temple! That’s an enormous sacrifice. I ran upstairs, with tears in my eyes and told Bonnie what I read. I told her we’d renew our vows on one of our upcoming anniversaries and invite everyone! It was the most emotional I got at any point in this process.
That was on Oct 7th, 2012 at midnight. After my conversation with Bonnie, I went back downstairs and thought about everything I had read over the past years and months to make a mental and logical decision. I decided that given the facts I had seen, the LDS Church is the epitome of a man made organization, from it’s creation to the abuse of power, authority, atrocities and deviant acts by some of its leaders, to the ludicrous statements made by “prophets” and to the ever evolving church doctrine and policies, as they give in to societal pressures, tendencies, scientific evidence and the changing of laws. I also firmly believe this when you consider how the church excommunicates and disciplines anyone who is a scholar and writes about the controversial history or anything that is remotely negative or real about the church. Look at the September Six. What a tragedy. The church does not want an open dialogue and they make that clear with each new excommunication due to someone speaking out. I personally know a woman who is currently being threatened with excommunication unless she deletes her Facebook account because she’s posting the same things I posted on mine in the fall of 2012. Ridiculous. Here are some quotes from prophets and apostles that really bothered me.
Boyd K. Packer, 1981 - “There is a temptation for the writer or teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”
Boyd K. Packer, May 18, 1993 – “The enemies of The Church are feminist, intellectuals and gays.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, Mar 9, 2006 – “People think in a very critical way before they come into this Church. When they come into this Church they’re expected to conform and they find happiness in that conformity.”
Side note here…. I didn’t find happiness in my conformity. It made me miserable. I’ll expound on that in another post.
My point is, given the evidence, my natural tendencies and beliefs that I described above, I decided the church was not true. However, I wanted to be sure. On Oct 7th at 3:00am I did what I was taught my whole life. I knelt down in prayer and told God that I didn’t believe The LDS Church to be the True church of God. I hoped that if He actually did exist, He would answer this prayer. So I poured my heart out. Detailing everything. I told Him I wanted to leave it and find a way to take my family with me, hoping Bonnie would have an open heart to it and look at it herself with an open heart and mind. I closed my prayed, sat and listened. I didn’t feel a burning in my bosom but remember I didn’t feel that when I prayed about the BoM on my mission either. I’ve never felt that feeling in relation to any direct answer to a prayer. After 30 minutes or so I went to bed.
I woke up 3 hours later with the most amazing feeling. I was HAPPY and felt like a literal weight was lifted off my chest! I’ve never had that experience at any point in my life and it was exhilarating I told Bonnie how I felt a couple of hours later when she woke up. We discussed the ramifications of my decision and came up with a family plan. Some might say this is God answering my prayer. I don’t know. I think it was my heart and mind knowing that I finally rid myself of the chains of Mormonism. Either way, I was absolutely thrilled.
I’ve had my moments of anger, as I’m working through this grieving process. To quote Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” So true. However, since the morning of Oct 7th, I’ve been the happiest and most engaged father and husband. My family life is incredible now, even given the stresses that Bonnie has had to deal with, as ignorant Mormons condemn us. My heart is so open and I’m feeling like the “Old Barry from High School” again. People are even commenting as such, at least those who truly know me. I actually care about people again! In fact, I’ve been on the edge of tears so much; tears of joy and love.
For example, Jordan would only write about me in school when prompted to by his teachers for an assignment. Since I’ve actually been engaging with him he’s writing about how I give him the biggest hugs, play with him and how much he loves me. My daughter is always asking me to come cuddle with her because I’m not giving off negative energy anymore.
The best part… Bonnie has gone through her process in a way that was completely different than mine and she came to the conclusion that she’s out of the Mormon church too. This is incredible since many times this situation leads to stressful family relationships and even divorce. She came to that conclusion while at the LDS Church, in prayer.
I am now an agnostic atheist, while Bonnie is Christian. We attend a nondenominational Christian church. Well, I attend occasionally now that we are becoming comfortable in our beliefs. We give the kids the choice each time Bonnie attends and it’s great to see them exercise that freedom. While leaving Mormonism has created stress that is new to our lives, we are learning to deal with it and how to move on. Our families have been supportive or as supportive as they can be. We know it causes them pain and heartache to see us leave, as they strongly believe it’s the only way to eternal salvation. We respect their beliefs and are grateful they have respected ours. So many families disown family members who leave or their relationship changes to a point beyond repair. This hasn’t been the case with us. It’s made life easier. That said, we’ve lost friends in this process and certain relationships have become quite stressful, as others struggle with our decision. We no longer mourn the lost friendships, as we’ve found out who was really there for us or themselves. We hope through time the stressful relationships can be mended and improved. Mormonism takes a hold of your life and defines every aspect of it. Leaving it is a wonderful feeling but not without extreme challenges. I know this was long and I’m sorry. I left out so much and will give those details through out this blog. Thanks for reading and I hope it helps some of you have a better understanding of my journey.