Attacking the Apostate

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On October 4, 2014, Mormon Apostle Neil L. Andersen said the following, during LDS General Conference:

“We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the prophet. “Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors,” Elder Neil A. Maxwell once said, “is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus.  Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that which they have departed.” 

Read that again…. A Mormon leader just called me Judas, the man who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  One of the worst villains in Christian dogma.  Why am I Judas?  Because I was suffocating in Mormonism?  Should I be compared to Judas because my morals of equality, acceptance and love didn’t match theirs of obedience, conformity and faith in men?   Did I betray God because I used my intelligence and searched diligently for years to find out if Mormonism was really as it claimed, “The One and Only True Church,” and came away with the answer that it definitely wasn’t?  

Apparently the answer to those questions is, “Yes.  I am now like unto Judas.”    

Here, let’s add one more gem to this discussion.  Here is another current Mormon Apostle, Boyd K. Packer:

“Remember: when you see the bitter apostate, you do not see only an absence of light, you see also the presence of darkness. Do not spread disease germs.”
Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” speech given August 1981 at BYU, Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981

In summary, according to current Mormon leaders, those who have left Mormonism are Judas and have a contagious disease that causes bitterness and darkness that consumes their soul.  Got it.
 
QuietPut aside the real damage, pain and misery words like this cause Mormons, like parents who love their children that have left the religion but believe their church leaders are speaking directly for God, so they mourn and grieve the loss of their child’s eternal and temporal “happiness.”  For me, it hurts to know I’ve caused any amount of sorrow to those I love, while merely doing what I believe is right.
Elders Andersen & Packer, my Mom has cried because you’ve said her son is following Satan.  On top of that, other Mormon leaders have also told her that her personal righteousness will dictate whether I return to Mormonism, either in this life of the next, thus adding more pressure on her to be obedient and faithful to your rules because now she’s fighting for her eternal salvation and mine….  What manipulative bullshit.  Oh, and I’m lucky because my parents still love and accept me.  Many parents hear your words and believe any support or acceptance will mean they condone their child’s decision, so they completely or partially shun them.  It’s “Mormon Tough Love.”  Well, more like “Mormon Abandonment.”
 
So yeah, thank you Neil and Boyd….  You’ve definitely “comforted those that stand in need of comfort.” – Mosiah 18:9
Anyways, I got sidetracked.  Sorry.
 
Actually, No.  Allow me one more tangent because this story illustrates the ridiculousness of this doctrine perfectly.  Don’t worry, it won’t take long:
 
There is a Mormon belief that those who leave The Mormon Church will never find true happiness or success.  It derives from scriptures like Alma 30, in The Book of Mormon, and over 180 years of Mormon leaders saying this to their congregations.  They also believe God will humble those who leave, by causing them great pain and misery, in an effort to get them to come back to the religion (Alma The Younger in the Book of Mormon is one example).  This specific belief was a major motivator causing my very Mormon business partners to push me out of our company, just one year after I left Mormonism.  I know this because twice they directly told me it was a reason and I’ve heard from multiple people that once I left the company, they were celebrating because they honestly believed my lack of Mormon Faith was going to bring down their company, through God trying to humble me or punishment or something like that.  How illogical is that?  I left a religion that less than 1% of the world’s population is a part of and my very intelligent business partners believed God would punish me, making them collateral damage.  I guess my lack of faith was stronger than their faith… combined.  Damn, I’m Awesome!  Yup…..  True Story.  That Really Happened.
 
In hindsight, I’m glad it happened.  While I miss some of the incredible perks we had at my former office, like my basketball court, myself and the people who left with me are doing extremely well.  That environment was toxic, obviously.  We are in the process of building a culture we want and really looking forward to the future.
 
OK, back to it.  Reading these quotes caused me to ask, “Why the character assassination by Mormon leaders of those good people who have left Mormonism?  Why is it critical for them to demonize us and put fear in the hearts and minds of their members?”
 
I think back to comments some of our Mormon friends and family have said to us, and this carefully crafted strategy of Mormon leaders becomes clear.  People like us, whom have left Mormonism, can’t have any credibility or integrity.  We have to be following Satan.  Otherwise, other Mormons might want to understand and empathize with our journey, which might cause them to do their own research and self-discovery.  Possibly resulting in them leaving the religion and with it the power the Mormon Leaders have over them, not to mention 10% of their income that goes to the church.
 
For example, here are some of the comments we’ve gotten from those who truly know and love us, in spite of those warnings from “god’s chosen leaders:”

“I’m so confused about why you left.  Your testimony was strong.  Please tell me what happened.”  

“Y’all leaving really shook me.  It made me question things and look closer.  I’ve always had my own doubts.  What were the biggest issues for you?”

“I’ve also been questioning things but no one knows.  Thank you for being so open and public.  It gives me the courage to be more authentic and open.  Can you direct me to the information you’ve read?”

This was my Dad’s immediate response, after telling him that I had left Mormonism:

“Barry, I know you.  I trust you.  I want to understand why you’ve made this choice but I don’t doubt that you’re following your heart, mind and doing what you believe is right.”

These statements lead to wonderful discussions, as many of those who cared about us wanted to understand, empathize and listen to our reasons for leaving.  It was beautiful.

Many Mormons will start out by saying, “I know all the anti-Mormon propaganda, as I’ve heard it my whole life.  There’s nothing new.”  Without fail, every time I’ve heard that phrase, which is often, I’ve shared information with them, usually concerning Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, that they were not aware of, because of the Mormon church’s dishonest historical narrative.  It has happened literally 100% of the time.  (Yes, I know what “literally” means.)

Some of these people have told me this new information has caused them to question their faith and asked me to not share anything more.  I respect it and we continue to discuss the more current issues I have with Mormonism, finding common ground.  These individuals remain faithful Mormons and I love our relationship.

Others followed their curiosity and are now on their own truth seeking journey.  It’s a privilege, albeit heartbreaking at times, to watch people go through this process of discovery and have them confide in me, knowing they can trust the information I share, or the very least, trust my intentions.

Some have left Mormonism, or in the process of doing it, but many still remain active members.  However, those who stay will never have the same “testimony” they once had.  They say things like, “I don’t know or believe the church is the one true church and I’m OK with that” or “I’m going to live this religion by my own terms.  I’ll decide which rules I feel are good and necessary to follow, including laws like tithing, the word of wisdom and chastity.  I believe in equality and love.  I’ll no longer play Follow The Leader.”

They are taking back their agency, integrity, redefining their morals and carving a path through their personal conscience.  They are finding their personal power and authority.  Living their life as they see fit, not to be defined by a strict religious dogma that is becoming antiquated with each new sunrise.  It’s Fucking Beautiful.

I’m always really clear about one thing when a Mormon wants to talk to me.  I tell them, “I’ll respect any decision you make; whether you chose stay or leave Mormonism.  My only goal is to help you find the information you are looking for, enabling you to make the most informed decision possible.  Where that takes you is completely up to you and no one else.  I wouldn’t be any better than the Mormon Leaders who say, I’ve been deceived by Satan, if I didn’t honor and respect your choice.  I’m just grateful to be along for the journey.  I’m humbled by your trust and value our relationship.  Where should we start?”

My wife and I are actively talking to at least 10 Mormons that are questioning and in the varying stages of this wonderful, yet painful, personal discovery.  Imagine how many more Mormons would have felt comfortable reaching out to us, if they didn’t believe we were the dangerous Pawns of Satan……

Smart and Effective Strategy, Mormon Leaders.  Well played.  To this point….

Although, I see cracks in your Weak Foundation.  I think your days are numbered.  Word is spreading and your members are finding the truth.