A JOURNEY OUT OF RELIGION by Brenda Jacqueline Brown (nee Hardaker)
13th February 2010
Brenda's husband's story is at
I’ve read the quote below many, many times in my lifetime. Just a few short years ago, circumstances led me to only have two remaining sureties – that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. I felt that those two ‘truths’ could never be shaken.
“Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver who wilfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrine shown to be false.” Joseph Fielding Smith
In the years since January 2008 my views on Mormonism have changed dramatically. I’ve discovered that Joseph Smith has been shown to be a fraud, but the church cleverly hid this from me. Church leaders excommunicate anyone (e.g .Fawn Brodie), or disfellowship anyone (e.g. Grant Palmer), or slander anyone, (e.g. Simon Southerton), who tries to expose the church for what it is, “one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen.”
This quote meant a lot to me while I was a Mormon. It kept me in the faith, and yet it means even more to me now, it keeps me out.
I now need to share my thoughts, to add my witness to the false doctrines taught by the Mormon Church. The following pages show my journey (and my family’s journey) out of religion.
27th January 2008
I had always loved Joseph Smith, the prophet and founder of the Mormon Church, ever since I first heard about him in 1963 from two American missionaries in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. My elder sister and I were baptised in May, when I was in my thirteenth year. My mother had died the previous year, so my sad little family of father and four children was ripe for the picking. The missionaries answered all my questions and calmed my fears – Was my mother still alive? Did God love his people as much today as he did in Old and New Testament times? If God had prophets in ancient times, why did he not have prophets today? You can see why I joined the church! I was taught the familiar stories about Joseph Smith and thought I knew everything about him after reading all the materials made available to me by the church.
I first read ‘anti-Mormon’ literature in my early teens when I was still a new ‘convert’. I’d bought a book called “The Mormons” in a Christian bookshop, expecting it to educate me even further about my new faith. It called Joseph Smith a ‘visionary old man’ which I knew to be untrue as Joseph died when he was thirty-nine, so it was not difficult for me to understand why the church discouraged its members from reading anti-Mormon literature. I believed the church was true, so anything written against it was from Satan and must be avoided. When I gave the book to the bishop for his perusal, it didn’t surprise me when he failed to return it to me. I think he burned it. Much later on I came across more anti-Mormon books/films, e.g. “The God Makers,” and was very upset that such nasty things could be published. Once again my view of anti-Mormon material was that it was a tool of Satan.
In 1972 I immigrated to Australia with my new husband Terry. We married in the New Zealand temple in June 1974. My husband and I raised our four sons in the church. I had always been a faithful and dutiful wife. When Terry was inactive for several years during the 1980’s, I remained committed to my religion. I grieved sorely during those years, concerned about what would happen to us as a family if Terry didn’t ‘return to the fold.’ I did not want to lose my ‘eternal family’. I feared God. I feared what would happen to us if our family left the church. It was to my great joy that Terry became ‘active’ again in 1986, later to serve as a bishop from 1991-1996 and become known as one of the best that our ward had ever known.
We saw all four of our sons serve missions, a great financial sacrifice for our family, and all four married in the temple. In my forty-five years in the church I had always tried my best to ‘live the gospel’.
In the 1980’s Terry and I were vaguely aware of the “Salamander Letters” scandal that shook a few testimonies, and knew that several staunch members left the church. I didn’t question what they had read, seen or heard so I didn’t understand the full extent of the damage - until 2008. I read about the man responsible for these fraudulent letters, Mark Hofmann. I remembered keeping some old church magazine articles about this man and his documents, and fortunately, after searching through old Ensigns, I found two articles I’d kept because they were exciting to me at that time. (The Ensign June 1980, pages 74-76, News of the Church, Original Copy of Gold Plate Characters Discovered; The Ensign July 1980, pages 69-73, News of the Church, A Look at the Newly Discovered Joseph Smith Manuscript). These articles seemed to prove Joseph Smith was a prophet and could translate ancient records because a Smith family bible had been discovered by Hofmann, a collector of Mormon memorabilia, that had inside it writings by Joseph relating to the characters he’d sent to Professor Charles Anton. The church leaders bought this information from Hofmann for $2500, and their excitement is obvious from the photos in these Ensigns. One photo shows Spencer W. Kimball (church president and prophet) looking at the bible and the letters, along with Hofmann, and church hierarchy - Eldon Tanner, Marion G Romney, Boyd K Packer, and Gordon B Hinckley(prophets, seers and revelators). These letters were eventually proven to be forgeries constructed by Hofmann, and he was later convicted of the murder of two church members, as well as for many other fraudulent documents. Now I find myself thinking, “If President Kimball was a prophet, why did he not discern that the documents were false? Why did Gordon B Hinckley later tell detectives that he did not know Hofmann? Why did he tell them he did not know one of the murdered church members, Bishop Steve Christiansen, who Hinckley had used to buy documents from Hofmann?
In November 2001 our third son Paul, against our better judgement, married a Japanese girl, but we supported him in his decision, (he had prayed about it and ‘felt good’ about it). A year later the marriage was over, but unfortunately by then there was a newborn son, Liam, and the involvement of church members in our sad family situation was the beginning of our disillusionment with the church and its leaders. Our family was judged by all who took an interest in what was happening to us, (practically everybody in two wards) – the circle of criticism grew wider as time wore on. Paul was prevented from having contact with his son through of the actions of an arrogant bishop and his domineering, interfering wife, and others who felt duty-bound because they were in the right (they had ‘prayed about it’) and we were in the wrong. Our little grandson, despite our many pleas to the Lord, was taken out of the country (abducted) by his mother in June 2005, aided by these meddlers, and we haven’t seen or heard from him since. Our son became deeply depressed, financially ruined after spending all he had on lawyers in the vain hope they would be of some assistance, and had a breakdown after a few years of not making any progress in locating his son. Liam is now living in Tokyo, Japan. Church leaders failed to help or listen to us, and failed to chastise those who had acted so badly towards us. They told us to ‘leave it to the Lord’, which we foolishly did.
In the years between then and 2008 our eyes were increasingly opened to the lack of inspiration demonstrated by local church leaders, too many instances to bother writing about. We then began to see that lack of inspiration was also evident in all areas of the church. In the end, Terry and I felt that all we had to hang on to and trust was the prophet Joseph Smith, the undisputed truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and our dear president, Gordon B Hinckley.
In 2007 Terry and I were dealt the blow of seeing two of our sons leave the church, mainly we thought because they were sick and tired of it all. One was Paul who was suffering from losing his son. The other was our eldest son Tony, along with his wife Nikki and their three young daughters. They’d had more than their fair share of bad experiences. I was devastated. I was grief stricken. This was just not fair. What had I done to deserve this? I was losing my eternal family. I cried many nights and often through the days as I dwelt on what would become of them and my three lovely granddaughters.
Our second son Jamie, who lived quite a distance from us in Melbourne with his wife and children, was a stalwart member. Terry and I drew some comfort in believing that his faith and testimony (and that of his wife Michelle) was unshakable. Our youngest son Christopher, (not too long home from his mission) and his wife Becky were also a source of strength to us. We decided to concentrate on ‘hanging in there’ and putting our faith in God.
Sometime in June 2007 I phoned Jamie to let him know that his brother Tony and family were not attending church. He expressed understanding and sympathy towards his elder brother. I expected him to be a bit more alarmed! I explained that I was trying not to worry about it, that my eldest son was a man who knew his own mind, and even if we raise children in the church, we shouldn’t expect them to have to believe as we believe. Jamie answered that he was glad I was taking that stance. I was pleased that Jamie was not condemning Tony. Many months later, Tony told us that Jamie had emailed him after my phone call. Tony expected Jamie’s email to be one of encouraging him to return to church. Instead, to Tony’s astonishment, Jamie informed him that he had stopped believing in the church, even though he was still attending. They discussed the situation through emailing each other and discovered that they had each been doing their own research, individually, separately, and had come to the same conclusion – the church could not be true. Terry and I were completely unaware that Tony and Jamie (later we found out that Paul was doing his own research too) were reading as much as they could about the true history of the LDS church.
The following pages are excerpts from the emails Tony and Jamie sent to each other.
... I thought I would just check in to see how you are.......... I have another reason to email you, and I ask that what I am about to tell you is just between you and me for the moment.
I am aware that you and your family are not attending church at the moment. I am not aware of the reasons. You probably wouldn’t want to talk to me about it as you see me as being straight down the line.
Well a lot has changed for me. I wanted to confide in you that I have in fact mentally left the church. I asked to be released two months ago from the High Council. I do not believe in the church or its history. I have been doing a lot of searching for the past twelve months and this is not an easy conclusion to have come to. I tried to tell Mum and Dad a little about how I was feeling when I was there a few weeks ago, but they just can’t cope ..... So I just wanted you to know so that it perhaps opens up communication with each other that maybe we might be a support to each other . I am very sensitive to other people knowing about this as I know how our culture works. I haven’t physically stopped going as frankly I am too scared and I don’t know how to take it from here. Michelle knows how I feel and agrees with me on some of the conclusions that I have come to. For the moment we are living the gospel as practising members, but for me, not as a believing member.
So there you go ..... I hope that maybe this may open up communication between us. I feel I need it at the moment
27th Sept. 2007
..... Mate, you just knocked my socks off! Mum and Dad told me you were struggling but they gave me the impression it was more to do with local church leaders and disagreeing with how they were going about things (therefore a personality issue, not a doctrinal issue). This must be tough on Michelle.....
I sense that some of the issues you have are very similar to mine. It seems that we get to a certain time in life, and what the church outlines just does not make any sense. My problem is trying to differentiate between what people at church do and what the church does (doctrinally and in actions). In other words, I have spent a lot of time looking at what mistakes human beings make and allowing that to take place, and then moving on and seeing what actions those in authority take and what issues transpire from a doctrinal point of view. It probably doesn’t make sense – I need more time to elaborate.
Just be aware that you have someone in the same boat here and I really want to work through it. I am actually on the fence at the moment because I really like the lifestyle taught at church and I love aspects of the gospel. I am determined not to make any hasty decisions and want to look at all avenues and perspectives before I decide for sure that I have had enough. I told this to the stake president – I told him I had had enough and needed a break to settle down, take a step back and gain some perspective. He was pretty understanding but from what he said I got that feeling he was in ‘saving a lost soul’ mode – the scriptures came out, the doctrine expose is orated. It just doesn’t help and they don’t get it. I can figure things out for myself – I can read!!! – I can research!!!
At the moment it is clear to me that church doesn’t fit well with me or my family. But, I am willing to change my view if it becomes clear to me the gospel is the way to go. I’m just trying to take a measured approach.
You’d be relieved to know that Nikki is very supportive. Actually Nikki has had enough – she lives the principles still and likes the family-orientated ideals etc etc – but she has had one too many experience that makes it clear to her that Mormonism is just one of the myriad of religions that have great intentions but are completely destroyed by human nature. So out of all of us Nikki is probably the furthest away from the gospel. I don’t blame her – she has seen enough in her lifetime and has been brave to just hang on as long as she has.....
What I don’t want is any of us convincing each other what is right. I am happy to share thoughts and be supportive but I want to convince myself of what is right. If we all do that and give each other space we can be certain we are all making decisions based on our own reasoning. I’m sure you have that same determination also.
I worry about Mum and Dad. They are so committed ..... but then the church teaches that – to be fully committed, to not look back, otherwise you lack faith. We need to ease them into these problems and again allow them to have their views. But that is probably some time away.
To be honest Jamie, your email was a huge relief .... We will all support one another here and make sure we all feel happy and loved .... I don’t know about Michelle but I sense this would be an awful issue for her .... We love you both and hope all is well ...
Love you mate
Ps. Chris has been down there – did you share any of this with him? Chris is struggling too, but still very committed (he’s generally had good experiences at church so he hasn’t questioned much) .....
I am glad we are able to open up to each other. I feel very suffocated as you can’t express yourself freely in the church if your ideas are contrary to the dogma. I wanted to let you know as I thought you may have felt alone in a struggle with the church.
When I told the counsellor in the stake presidency that I needed to be released I got a very similar response to you. It had taken twelve months of struggle before getting to that point, so I was pretty certain of my decision so I kind of switched off for most of it. Michelle is doing really well with this. We are actually doing very well.
For me it started when the church didn’t match the ideology I was taught. I saw from my own experiences that leaders were not inspired. They are just good men doing their best. I was shattered and annoyed by this at first, as it was contrary to what I had believed very strongly. This led me further to explore the history of the church and its doctrines. This is a perilous path, not for the faint-hearted. This wasn’t anti-stuff either. Cold hard facts. So ........ I came to the conclusion that our church is just another religion, man-made right from the beginning. I am very confident of this position. I actually felt a great relief when I came to these conclusions. I am still reading and learning a lot. It is still a journey for me.
I did share a little with Chris, but held back a little because .... I don’t feel it is my right to shake the faith of others.
I certainly agree about not trying to convince etc. The church we come from doesn’t support open dialogue, which is what I need most.
So you’re not alone brother.
This has been on my mind since I read your email. It is a strange experience discussing this with you – very surreal..... Let me share some short things that can start my perspectives rolling on...........
I think I am like you on this. I just want to be left alone to mull things over and contemplate my life and my direction. I don’t want to lose friends, either from church or outside. Nikki and I are lucky in that we have a group of friends outside of church ... In that respect if Nikki and I ever get unwanted issues from church we have others we depend on and move towards.
I am interested in your comments on leadership...... Nikki and I have always taken church authority with a grain of salt. We have seen their folly many a time. Nikki and I are the first to admit that we have been wrong and made many mistakes and church leaders have advised us of things and they have been right. But just as often they have been seriously wrong. Nikki’s childhood experiences are very alarming in this regard. A number of prominent church leaders told a very young Nikki that she was wrong (about her father) and she had to trust her father. These same people were also turning a blind eye to clear admission and evidence of (her father’s) infidelity. Nikki has since discovered that these men had very good reasons to turn their back on it...... Some have left the church because of it and actually some have continued prominently in the church (which is alarming). You can then add my issues (and Nik’s since marriage) with (Area Authority, Stake President, Bishop), and so on and so on................... Ultimately it became clear that there was no mantle, as you said they are just good men. As a missionary you will be aware how we highlight how to feel the spirit..... Basically my belief....... is that good feelings are there for all people............ The inspiration that leaders have is merely a reflection of this. But through the indoctrination of the church it convinces people that this is the spirit (it may well be) telling them that this is true and that is true and then they are down that path where they are continually being convinced of what they feel. I have felt good many times. I have felt good when performing ordinances. And why not? They are peaceful and productive things. But I have also felt just as good helping a friend out on a Sunday, doing other things..... Good feelings or inspiration I really believe.... are feelings of well-being.
This has been one of the triggers for my doubts about church. Obviously, it is really just that, feelings of wellness.... then you ask serious questions of church leaders further up the line. Yes, apostles and prophets are exceptional men.... they seem to be very wise and prudent men who will more often than not make great decisions... It seems that when they are inspired they too are inspired by good feelings just like all of us...... I believe that as the church has developed, the prophets have been less inclined to announce their visits with angels etc etc. Joseph Smith ... was very keen to announce such things, but not latter prophets. Are they hiding things because of the way people are today or are they, which is more likely, just attuned to good feelings like the rest of us?
Two examples, and they are prominent ones in the church –
Joseph F Smith’s vision as found at the end of the D&C – inspired? Or the dreams of a very old and delirious man? .... when you read around the circumstances of the vision it would seem to me that it was a dream of a very old man and a vision of what he wanted to see and what he wanted to believe.
The other is Lorenzo Snow and tithing. Snow didn’t have a vision. He had inspiration at the pulpit. To me it appears to be good feelings for him confirming his faith that it was the way for the church to go.
Now Joseph and Brigham cause so much angst and I am very torn. One minute you see miracles and believe, the next you read of their activities and say, “What the .. !!!!” - polygamy being the biggest issue – no explaining away by the church can be sufficient on that one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have not completed my answers on these individuals as they are exceptional characters full of myth and lore. ......... Let’s just say I have serious questions about their claims and will one day finalise my conclusions .......... It is clear (their) followers went with (them) for (their) charisma...
There are a lot of questions, aren’t there? .................. Nikki has some interesting theories .... The most interesting are her views on prophets and churches through the ages. Have a look at the story of the prophet Mohammed. Some very interesting similarities to Joseph Smith, also a lot of differences.....Mohammed, like Joseph Smith, wrote a book from God and led people. Mohammed was another charismatic leader and had some good ideas, and look at what they have led to now with the horrible ideals some Muslims have. All very interesting, the paths religions take.
That is my ponderings for today. This might become exhausting, mate.
1st October 2007
It’s funny how members essentially become troubled about the same things. Often we have heard of them before, but swept them under the carpet just have we have been taught and as the church still does i.e. polygamy, Mountain Meadows. I remember coming across some of this stuff for the first time on my mission, but just swept it away and relied a lot upon my Utah born companions to help, as they had of course come across it before. I will share a few thoughts below. I am in no way sharing these to try to convince you of what I am thinking, but to just open up to where I am at.
As I said in my previous email, my doubts began when church leadership didn’t stack up to the ideal I had been taught. We have this amazing ability of claiming divine authority when it suits, and dismissing it when it doesn’t. i.e. How much of what early church leaders taught is dismissed by the current. If a leader needs to they will claim their decisions are inspired. E.g. I was taught to interview someone and tell them that God was calling them to a position, even though that was not my experience in the meeting (both bishopric and high council). If a leader is wrong, they never admit it, and other leaders explain that sometimes the Lord tests us this way. That is pretty sad if the mistake of the leader is to call a person under inspiration to be a primary teacher, only for them to turn out to be a paedophile and sexually molest a child, as happened in the States in one example. How come if our leaders are inspired didn’t God give a great big “NO” to that one, and so on........ My knowledge of psychology started to come in to play. Similar to what you were saying about feeling good about things – well that is a psychological process. It is essentially true, you get what you pray for, you pray for what you want, therefore leaders get answers to what they want to be true, (this concept could also be greatly elaborated upon in terms of spiritual experiences).
My question on leadership, authority, inspiration, led me to the start. God spoke so clearly to Joseph, but we haven’t heard God’s voice since? And that is not because we needed no more direction! It just seemed amazing to me that we had this miraculous beginning which has ended up to be a very corporately run organization. I read a lot on early church history, right up until David O Mackay. I read a biography on David O and the rise of modern Mormonism. An awesome man and an awesome book. Things that became clear to me from reading this book and other things is that man, not God, seems to have been pulling the strings. Changes have occurred because of pressure or necessity rather than foresight and prophecy, i.e. blacks and the priesthood. Amazingly too, church leaders at the highest level disagreed on some very important things. In one instance, David O and a few other apostles accepted the tenets of evolution and our ancient earth, and others such as Joseph Fielding Smith passionately denounced such teachings, (JFS wrote a book ‘Man: Origins and Destiny’ and wanted it taught through CES and BYU – it was brought to the attention of David O and stopped). Now, how can two men, both prophets, have such opposing views, both claiming to be inspired thought? (My psychology steps in and says there is a part of the brain that fires when experiencing original thought – therefore, two people can have opposing views but feel they are right and ‘from God’). So then I began to wonder about how ‘miraculous’ the beginnings were ---------
BOOK OF MORMON
I will be very succinct about this (I have read too much to sum up).
Claimed to be a divine record translated by the power and gift of God.
Record of the ancestors of the American Indians (see title page, JS testimony, D&C 19:27)
To both of these points I simply say, not true. I remember teaching people on my mission that the B of M was the record of the inhabitants of the American continent. Early church leaders taught they landed near Peru and spread from there, and Cumorah (conveniently near JS’s home) is where the final battle occurred. Again, not true. Church scholars themselves acknowledge this. They rest their hopes that the B of M covered a smaller region, perhaps modern day Guatemala and Equador, and perhaps the Mayan people fit the story. Independent experts state clearly that the Mayan ancestry is from Asia, came across the strait between Russia and Alaska, as did 98% of the indigenous people of the American continent. DNA evidence (remember Simon Southerton?) substantiates this, although many church scholars try to explain it away. So where does that leave us? Can the B of M still be true even though the historicity is incorrect? That is what a lot of Mormon apologists are trying to have us swallow. There is strong evidence that it was written by JS (although many church members can’t accept that such a book could be written by JS). I have read a publication by B H Roberts in the late 1920’s where he himself started to come to the conclusion that it was possibly fabricated, (a publication that the church didn’t disseminate freely of course!) B H is considered to be the preeminent intellectual of the church .... of the pre-1930’s. Wrote the entire first history of the church. Many church members find it hard to believe that JS could do such a thing, but he did it with the Book of Abraham. That’s right!
BOOK OF ABRAHAM
Scrolls purchased from antiquities dealer in Kirtland in 1835. JS claimed to be able to translate them, and that they were the writings of Abraham, and Joseph of Egypt. Published as Pearl Of Great Price. Considered scripture. Scrolls went missing (familiar story, i.e. Plates taken back by angel). Found by librarian in Chicago in 1966, with letter accompanying by Emma Smith stating that they were the scrolls translated by JS. Church purchased them and excitedly told everyone of this miraculous find. Funny how not much said since. Why? Because independent scholars and church scholars have confirmed that they are in fact a funeral document for a guy called Horas, wishing him well in the afterlife. I am not kidding. And no, this is not anti stuff. This is real. So if Joseph Smith could manufacture this, then the B of M (with lots of plagiarism) is not so hard to imagine as the work of JS.
We certainly get a polished up view of JS. Certainly he was an amazing, charismatic individual that people loved and believed. I think for many reasons he probably got carried away by how much influence he could have on people. People were looking for the amazing, and miraculous and wanted to believe. He was charged with being a ‘glass looker’ in 1826 – court documents have been found and I have read the transcripts. He convinced people that he could find buried treasure and was payed for it (despite his own testimony, see JS History 1838 version). His own father-in-law confirms this and claims that JS was also claiming to translate the gold plates by the same process (looking into a hat with a ‘seer stone’ in the bottom – interestingly enough there are documents even by Oliver Cowdery where he talks about JS translating by looking into the bottom of a hat, sometimes he didn’t even look at the plates at all).
The problem never seems to go away. It has always been there but I never explored it deeply. I accepted what I was taught. I believed that even one day we would live it. But when you look into it, how could you ever feel comfortable to know that JS married a 14 year old and a 17 year old, and in total married approximately (30+) women (the church’s own web site, Family Search, confirms 24 of them?). And what about the (11) instances where he married women who were already married? The historical details just leave you with a very uncomfortable feeling. And then when we are told that all things had to be restored i.e. as in Old Testament times. ... Well I read the OT with new eyes. Abraham passing off his wife as his sister on two occasions, allowing her to be married off to a pharoah and a king. Hagar wasn’t given to him by God, it was by his wife Saria – and then when she was unhappy about it he kicked Hagar and his son out. And so on. Not exactly great role models for how to treat women. (A side note – how did Jesus Christ go from the jealous, blood thirsty, oppressive, angry God of the OT to the meek, mild, forgiving, merciful God of the NT and even more so now).
Polygamy is the lustful desires of men explained away using power, authority and influence. On many occasions Emma didn’t even know about it, and when she did she was outraged! On a couple of occasions when Emma found out about it, JS ended the marriages with a handshake! Often JS would proposition the women through their father or brother. They were kind of arranged marriages and the people thought it guaranteed them Celestial glory by being sealed to the prophet.
Another line I was sold on that I used on my mission was that polygamy was often a way that the priesthood used to take care of the widows etc. But that is just not true. The women most often were single young women. Utah statistics show there were more men than women throughout the 1800’s so there wasn’t an oversupply of women that needed to be cared for. Often the women lived very unfulfilled lives, that they dutifully thought was God’s will. Often our early church leaders lied or denied polygamy was happening even after the Manifesto. It just doesn’t fit right. It perpetuates the belief that we still see in the church today, that men are more important than women, no matter how they try to spin it in General Conference. (A modern example of this – they’re running cubs again in our stake which the church is funding, costing $22,000 per year which is over half the stake’s budget. So, over half of our stake’s budget is going to 8-11 yr old boys. Now tell me, where is the equivalent program for my two girls when they turn 8? I have questioned this to which I get the blanket response – ‘This is what the brethren want’.)
Tony, I could go on and on. What I have said here is very brief compared to what Michelle has had to deal with. Luckily for me, she is awesome and taking it very well. I feel at times very angry and have no-where that I can safely express my feelings. Certainly church isn’t a good place to talk about such things! So forgive me for going on, but I need to talk this out somehow. .......Funnily, I actually feel very at peace with the whole thing most of the time. The conclusions I have come to make sense and I have felt happier in myself ever since I mentally separated myself. The church is different for us down here than for you. All of our good friends are at church. Michelle in particular is quite dependent on this, so for the moment we are still going. The kids have no idea how I feel. Not sure if I want to bother them with it yet.
How about you? How are you doing?
7th October 2007
Time to share some thoughts with you. You raised some great points Ė Iíd already investigated most of them but some things I hadnít looked into so your insights were great. What I really hate is how torn I am when I read information about the church. There is just a plethora of information. One minute you read one article and you are convinced one way, and then you read an opposing view and youíre back where you started. My research experience at university helps as I have developed a sound ability to read, summarise and departmentalise. The problem I find is as your emotions and life experience is tied to the reading, your heart and soul just take a pounding. I sense strongly how convinced you are, but does that mean when you read all this information you start from the foundation of Ďthe church is wrongí or was the evidence so convincing for you that you had no doubt that the church was false? Next time you write you can provide a background to the process you took. Were you so angry at church leaders that when you went researching, were you trying to confirm your doubts, or were you able to read and slowly develop the understanding you now have? I find that when researching you just canít separate your own feelings and instincts, itís impossible. Thatís why you never believe a writer/researcher who states at any time that their study is fully independent of their own thoughts and is merely a reconstruction of the evidence they have extracted.
Now don’t get me wrong here – I believe you and agree with you on most things – as I have said earlier – there is so much out there of opposing viewpoints, I cannot help but be confused and perplexed. What I find best is to keep it simple. I read so much information, get confused about it all – then sit down and ask myself how I feel, what makes sense to me – from there I am able to wade through the information again and develop my view from there. It’s too complex an issue for me not to try and keep it simple.
To give you an example – tithing and church funding. I’ve always hated tithing, but paid it to reap the rewards so to speak and have faith. Now of course, good church members would simply advise me I am lacking faith and if I work hard I will have a testimony of tithing. The more I read about it the more confused and angry I become. So I went back to basics, yes, tithing is a tenth – yes, the church deserves financial support to run the organisation BUT it goes way too far. What does the church do with the money? We are the richest church per capita in the world. How does it flow on from there to help others? First principles investigation indicates to me that the money earned by the church does not seem to come back and benefit the basic church member. Where does it go? Into temples – yes, some of it. Into other buildings and materials for wards/branches to use – yes, some of it? But what about the rest? 10% is paid, but I am certain only 1%comes back. It doesn’t take long for me to ascertain that most of the money is invested in church corporations and also non-church corporations. This is that corporate world the church is in that you alluded to. I just try and keep it simple. Does God need the money? NO. Does God deserve us paying his church money? Well yes, but what would he expect the church to do? I’m pretty sure God or Jesus would spend every last cent helping as many people as he could. Yes, the church does help people and they are always printing in the Ensign of the aid work, but, it is clear that it is a very small percentage of what they could contribute. I f Christ was running this church I’m sure he would be telling his followers to keep a small amount (for a rainy day so to speak) but from there, spend it on worthy causes and worthy people. SO – THE CHURCH ACTS AS A CORPORATION AND NOT AS CHRIST’S CHURCH. Temples come into this. Yes, I do get the concept and why the church places importance on them but I can’t morally accept the cost in what we put into building them. How can we build multi-million dollar structures when I know of children in my daughters’ school who do not have enough to eat and are being molested etc? It hurts me to think that a rich organisation like the church, which places such importance on charity, fails in its duty to pass this money back to local groups to feed them and nourish them physically and spiritually. I don’t know if I have explained this well but you get the idea. We are told to follow Christ as described in the NT – the church doesn’t, it’s just a corporate entity.
This was it for us. For many years we explained it away. Nikki had a good theory at one time – Joseph was a prophet but his abilities led him to be distracted towards women etc. Polygamy was never meant to be practiced but after Joseph made his initial mistake, he had to cover for it, hence polygamy. Nikki argued that the Lord let it occur for as long as he could because of his love of Joseph and his work, but the Lord knew he could not let Joseph continue because it would destroy the church so the Lord forgave him and took him from the earth at Carthage. It was a good theory but we quickly dismissed it when we went to Brigham Young because he certainly practiced it well and lived to a good old age! So that theory went. It is the most vivid proof of what Joseph was – a charismatic, charming, inspirational man – who used those abilities for good and bad. Joseph isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Sex is power, men like power. Men like Joseph throughout history have used these tools. All the deception by the church during the 19th Century confirms to me that they were merely men getting caught out rather than spiritual men of God. Look at FANNY ALGER – the first plural wife of Joseph – it is simply a story of a man with power over people wanting more power (and sex).
(Here Tony goes on to use research papers on Fanny Alger to describe her relationship to Joseph. For reference, there are many books on this, one being ‘In Sacred Loneliness, the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith’ by Todd Compton, see Bibliography at end).
Nikki and I have struggled for so long. I have suffered from depression ever since my mission because I felt I had failed because I had questioned, because I could never whole-heartedly get behind the church. I felt it was all my fault, and I was suffering because of my bad decisions. All that guilt and pressure. The programs of the church have a habit of making you feel guilty. I’m not saying that I believe in the ‘do-as-you-and-feel-no-shame’ theory of life but I certainly do not believe that the church has a right to use tactics that burden rather than inspire. They talk about disciplinary councils being a way for people to repent and have burdens lifted – wrong – it is a way of controlling members, of ensuring they tow the line. Now I know the leaders try to be caring and understanding in these (matters) but in many cases, particularly if a person is calling into question church doctrine, I have heard of a few instances where they’ve become forceful and self-righteous. It is just so wrong to place such large spiritual and physical obligations on stake presidents and bishops and so on – these men do not get sufficient training and often cause more harm than good.
As time has continued Nikki and I have been able to find strength in ourselves, to be our own people and be more relaxed in our perspectives of church. One of the reasons I started playing soccer on Sundays three years ago was to balance my life – to give me an outlet away from church. Nikki and I never wanted to have church consume our life – to be one dimensional and be completely consumed with church issues. Rightly or wrongly, as I have felt more comfortable with who I am, and how I feel, things like soccer and other priorities made me realise church just wasn’t for me. All those questions I had always raised became clearer and a lot of my confusion left. Now I’m still not completely comfortable with my path but I do feel I am heading in the right direction and that is very reassuring. Nikki is very happy and comfortable with things. Nikki has the ability to see things for what they are – she looks at issues and can usually make conclusions very quickly. To her, religious groups just don’t make sense, they all provide a moral base for people and a community to attach to for those who want it. Nikki just sees through it all.
(Tony then goes on to comment on leadership, history, Joseph Smith, B of M, Book of Abraham, most of which is well-documented and which I can leave you to research for yourselves, but I’m sure you already have drawn the same conclusions as we have).
Now that I have lost my foundation for life I have to slowly rebuild and establish something else. I am not certain on God any more. I believe there is something more than this life, but what? The God of the church can’t be right. I’m a father, I can’t bear losing my children. It seems that only a small percentage get to the Celestial Kingdom. To me, that means that Crystalyn stays strong and she gets there with me, but say Casey and Caitlyn get a little lost, but they are still very honourable people, well bad luck, not Celestial material. How can someone like Stuart Lowe (a very honourable man) or our Nanna not get Celestial glory because they rejected the church? God cannot be like that – surely he would find the good in anyone to make sure as many of his children can return. Hell, some evil ones would have to stay out but other than that, as a father you are pretty forgiving. (Look at our parents....). I know the church explains it all with respect to everyone going to the place where they will be most happy and the levels of damnation, so to speak, but by heck, I can’t get my head around losing any of my children. Yes, they argue, we can’t understand the mysteries of God and the way he views things, but surely if he loves us more than we love ourselves or our children, it is inconceivable that many of his children won’t return to him. Celestial glory is just a tool by the church to keep the people valiantly holding on hoping like hell they’ll get there.
What are your feelings on God now? Where do you stand?
Finally, Mum and Dad will be there shortly for Cal’s baptism – how are you dealing with this? I know you are going through with it to keep the peace. I don’t blame you. It is very special to have that experience with your child, irrespective of its truthfulness. I loved baptising Crystalyn and Casey, it is a lovely feeling. I wasn’t going to baptise Casey, because by May this year I had already had enough. I stuck with my calling and church up to that point because I didn’t want Casey to feel she wasn’t special enough to baptise (as Crystalyn was). What I found was that although Casey loved the experience with me, it wasn’t a big deal to her whether she was baptised or not. I haven’t been back to church since that time. My girls are happy. A number of times I’ve asked if they would like to go to church to see friends or go to primary but they haven’t wanted to. They enjoy spending time with us and we try to spend some good family time together each week. We have discovered that church just grinds you down and by spending time with each other doing things we want to do together, our family is now closer than ever before. I know it disappoints Mum and Dad, but I can’t live my life for them. They’ll get over it. I’m happy to be the bad son for now. Our whole position to the church is more overt than anyone else at the moment, and I am comfortable with that. We will take whatever flack that comes our way for being more open about our feelings on church ....if I know it helps you guys sort through things with minimal family interference.
I’ll have to leave it at that. Let me know how things are. We will help where we can.
Just a couple of quick thoughts. My research has mainly been through such sources as Sunstone, and Dialogue who have certain academic requirements for publication. I agree, you have to be careful with sources. I don’t bother with anything written from an anti perspective (to me it is a case of glass houses and stone throwing). I do find it really confusing because you can read such opposing views on the one topic. There are certain topics though where there is absolute clarity and those alone are troubling. Polygamy as you point out is one of them. I’ve read some articles on polygamy similar to those you have. From a character assassination point of view they really paint JS in an alarming light. I have read the history of polygamy from Brigham Young to Joseph F Smith and that will only further devastate anyone’s perception of the first five prophets of the church (I have DVD Rom of all Dialogue articles since 1966. The one I am referring to is by Michael Quinn, published in 1984, and his article and what happened to him is very interesting). Clear evidence of the way women were treated like cattle or property. There were blatant lies and deception right to the very top. Very disturbing.
B H Roberts was a (general authority). Died I think in 1933. Very prominent figure. (You can find an article on the Dialogue website).
To be honest at times I am really struggling. I am confident of the knowledge I do have and feel great pain about what to do about it. I also go through in ‘what if?’ periods. I need to search it out more but the early evidence is pretty testimony damaging. I know there are things that are not certain and that I do not know. But with the things I do know, it puts me in a very difficult position.
I appreciate your comments on Calum’s baptism. Hearing how you approached Casey’s really helped me.
Talk to you more soon.
(Here ends the email dialogue)
Jamie flew up to visit us in September 2007, before this conversation took place. We stayed up very late one night talking to him. He didn’t come out with the fact that he had lost his faith, but he did tell us enough for us to realise that he was struggling. We were astounded. We had no answers for him. He mentioned the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Had we heard about it? Very little, except for a recent article that we read in the Ensign. He spoke about Noah. Did we know that there was no evidence to show that there had been a universal flood? He spoke of many things that troubled him, and we felt he’d been reading anti-Mormon literature. “Not so,” he replied, “only church web sites, FARMS, FAIR, BYU, that sort of thing.” When he left us to return home, we felt absolutely bewildered by it all.
Terry and I went to Melbourne to spend the New Year with Jamie and his family. Jamie went to church with us that Sunday, but it was obvious he was not comfortable there. Michelle stayed home. That evening we decided that we needed them to tell us what was troubling them. We thought we’d be able to help. Jamie and Michelle spoke with us well into the early hours of the next morning. They were not going to talk about what had been happening to them unless we asked. We asked.
I was disturbed by what they told us. It was reasonable. I would cry one minute and listen the next. I couldn’t believe they had lost their belief that the church was true, but the more I listened, the more I understood. It shook me to the core. I didn’t sleep that night. The next morning I stayed in bed and said I had a headache (which I did!) and wanted to be alone. I cried, I sobbed. If the church was true, I had lost my eternal family. If the church was not true, I had lost my eternal family. It was a no-win situation. By lunchtime I’d decided to put on a brave face and pretend to be OK. I found Terry reading a lot of print-outs that Jamie and Michelle had researched. I felt angry. I didn’t want to hear any more that the church was not true. We all went out for a swim, then later we went to the movies. In the evening Terry and I stayed home with one of our granddaughters, who was sick, while Jamie, Michelle and their other children went to a New Years Eve party.
I commenced reading the research papers. Some were from FARMS, some were by LDS scholars who were certainly not anti-Mormon. I was absorbed. I had to keep on reading. When Michelle and Jamie arrived home we talked some
more. I was more open-minded and for once in my life, I could start looking at things more objectively. Jamie and Michelle, almost apologetically at the end of our conversation, said, “We don’t believe the church is true,” and we could understand why.
13th February 2010
I have now reached the same conclusions. When we left for home the following morning, 2nd January 2008, I experienced a feeling far stronger than the one I had when I first thought I’d found the ‘true church’ all those years ago. I felt liberated, I felt enlightened, I felt compassion for all my fellow human beings who I now realise are all having the same life experience as I am. We are all equal, all trying to live the best way we know how with the little knowledge we have. The last three years have been traumatic as I have had to adapt to a life not only without my Mormon faith, but now I live without religion. Life is much better. Religion is man-made.
On the 31st August 2008 we received the letter stating that our names had been removed from the records of the church. We were the first in our family to do this. It has caused my sister in England a great deal of pain, but she is unwilling to ‘look’. We have lost a lot of friends, but we have gained so many more from the world that we once thought was wicked. Our family still has to deal with issues that arise from the fact that some extended family members are still Mormons and think we have been deceived. What makes me really angry is that the greatest deceivers are the ones in the upper echelons of the church.
None of my family attends church anymore and I know that my grandchildren will now really be brought up in truth and love.
We are responsible for our own happiness.
Positive thoughts attract pleasant results.
Most misery is self-inflicted.
Most happiness is self-generated.
Our worst enemy is ourself.
We can control our thoughts.
Each day is a fresh new life.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (in alphabetical order) - JOURNEY OUT OF RELIGION
‘Adams v. God’ – Philip Adams (his thoughts)
‘A Friendly Discussion’ - Ed Bliss (questions that Mormons may not be able to answer about their own church)
‘A Gathering of Saints’ - Robert Lindsay (an investigation into the forgeries and murders committed by Mark Hofmann)
‘An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins’ – Grant Palmer (what every Mormon should know and doesn’t know)
‘Breaking the Spell – Religion as a natural phenomenon’ – Daniel C Dennett
‘By His Own Hand upon Papyrus’ – Charles M Larson (the truth behind the Books of Abraham and Moses)
‘Cruel and Usual Punishment – the terrifying global implications of Islamic law’ – Nonie Darwish (by a woman who knows)
‘David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism’ – Gregory A Prince and William Robert Wright (a detailed account of the David O McKay years and how the Mormon church operates)
‘Fawn McKay Brodie – a Biographer’s Life’ – Newell G Bringhurst (an exceptionally intelligent woman, world renowned for her biographies on Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Smith etc)
‘God is not Great’ – Christopher Hitchens (why we should not believe in God)
‘Godless – ‘ Dan Barker (how an evangelical minister became an atheist)
‘Good Without God – (what a billion non-religious people do believe)’ – Greg M Epstein
‘In Sacred Loneliness – The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith’ – Todd Compton (a scholarly research detailing the stories of how and why from the wives perspectives)
‘Jesus for the Non-Religious’ – John Shelby Spong (a realistic look at Jesus)
‘Joseph Smith – Rough Stone Rolling’ Richard Lyman Bushman (church historian tries to give a more detailed accurate account of the real life of Joseph Smith, but still omits a lot)
‘Letter to a Christian Nation’ – Sam Harris (wake up America and other Christians)
‘Living Without God – new directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists and the Undecided’ – Ronald Aronson
‘Losing a Lost Tribe’ – Simon Southerton (DNA proves there is no link between the American Indians and the Hebrew nation)
‘Mormon Polygamy – a history’ – Richard S van Wagoner (the truth behind polygamy)
‘Mormonism Unveiled – The Life and Confession of John D Lee and the Complete Life of Brigham Young’ – John D Lee, (the scapegoat for the Mountain Meadows massacre)
‘No Man Knows My History’ – Fawn Brodie (niece of David O McKay writes an accurate, scholarly, well-researched account of Joseph Smith’s life and gets excommunicated for it)
‘Secrets of the Code’ – Dan Burnstein (the information that led to the writing of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown)
‘Standing for Something More – the Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn (his experiences when finding out the truth about Mormonism)
‘The Greatest Show on Earth – the evidence for Evolution’ – Richard Dawkins
‘The God Delusion’ – Richard Dawkins (there is no God)
‘The God Part of the Brain’ – Matthew Alper (understanding how ‘God’ came to be)
‘The Jesus Family Tomb’ – Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (the evidence is credible – Jesus died and remained in his tomb)
‘The Mormon Hierarchy – Origins of Power’ – D.Michael Quinn (how the priesthood historically and chronologically really came to be)
‘The Mormon Murders’ - Steven Nafeh and Gregory White Smith (a detailed expose of the forgeries and murders by Mark Hofmann and the cover up by the Mormon Church)
‘The Mountain Meadows Massacre’ – Juanita Brooks (what every Mormon should know about the event and doesn’t know)
‘The New Atheism – Taking a stand for Science and Reason’ – Victor J Stenger
‘The Portable Atheist – essential reading’ – selected by Christopher Hitchens (essays on atheism)
‘The Sins of Scripture’ – John Shelby Spong (an excellent understanding of the Bible)
‘The End of Faith’ – Sam Harris
Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church www.exmormon.org