My name is Jeff. Last year  I came upon the Recovery From Mormonism web site and submitted my own story to be included with the others. When I first submitted my story to Eric, I was still a little hot under the collar about my experiences with Mormonism. Since then, more things have happened to me concerning the Mormon Church. In particular; my attempt to have my name removed from the membership records of the church. The stories of other former Mormons on this web site have also helped me better understand what I went through. I see some things differently now.
I happen to be an artist, and as with every artist, my paintings are never finished. I'm never satisfied with anything I do. Perhaps never being satisfied with myself-never being good enough-contributed to my acceptance of and departure from Mormonism. I have decided to add somewhat more to my original Mormonism story, and I would like to ask Eric to add it to his web site in place of my original story. For one thing, I'm a bit envious of the literary skills of others on this web site and I've always felt that I'm somewhat lacking in that category. But more importantly, there's more I'd like to share, and more has happened after I thought my story had ended. Some of it a result of having this story posted on this web site.
I wonder if my story will every truly end.
So, here we go....
1. First, a little preface.
I have written the story of my conversion to and subsequent departure from Mormonism. I have done so mostly for myself, so that I can better understand that part of my life. Here, I have written my personal opinions on Mormonism and Christianity along with actual experiences with Mormonism that have helped forge my character today. I was only an active Mormon for about one year in which I received the Aaronic priesthood. I never went to the temple or received my endowments, but since leaving the Mormon Church it has become very evident that I know more about Mormonism than many Mormons who have faithfully practiced their religion for years. In the year that I was an active Mormon, I knew much more about the church than anyone would expect of a new convert. I read as much information on Mormonism that was available to me at the time. Including official LDS History from the church library that very few Mormons ever read. So, even though I was only active in the church for about a year, I'm no dummy on the subject.
I have received numerous E-mails from Mormons as a result of having my story on this web site. Nearly all the E-mails from Mormons assume I never really understood Mormonism nor had a testimony and left in ignorance of the true doctrines of the Church. That's a very typical defense. Just take a look at the section of this web site where Eric posts replies from Mormons. I get the same stuff. I will suffice to say that I understand the doctrines of Mormonism in great detail. I take my beliefs very seriously. I would not change my beliefs in ignorance, but only after turning every stone. Especially something as important as my religion.
It is not my intent to bring indifference to Mormons. I find most Mormons to be very nice people. I respect their "free agency" to practice their religious beliefs. So, if you are a Mormon who is reading this and looking for a fight -- go somewhere else. My story can no more convince you that your religion is wrong than your testimony can convince me that you're right. This story is written for me and others who might be recovering from Mormonism. One of the most arrogant characteristics of Mormons (or any religious zealot) is their belief that they can change other peoples' opinions based on their personal testimonies. Their testimonies are for them. Not for me. I certainly don't assume I can change the opinions of Mormons based on my story.
I found it impossible to write of my experience with Mormonism in a brief format. There was just so much that I saw and learned in such a short time. If someone reads my story and then says to himself/herself , "Now I know it's not just me. Other's feel the way I do and have experienced the same things I have.", my typing cramp will have been well worth the pain. And according to some of the E-mails I have received from recovering Mormons, it was.
During my conversion I wrote letters home to my mother about Mormonism. She and two bothers shortly converted to Mormonism after I did. Since then, they, too, have become inactive and no longer believe in Mormonism. Their reasons for leaving are various and personal. It is not my purview to write about their own experiences with Mormonism. I will say however, that the straw that broke the camel's back with my mother was when she was ordered by her bishop to provide her annual income records and then chastised because she was spending tithing money trying to feed and clothe three fatherless sons on a modest income instead of giving that money to the Church. What a selfish bitch she must have been to the bishop. There's a lot more to that story, but that's Mom's to tell.
Now that the preface had been written....
2. Influences which led me to Mormonism.
I grew up in a stereotypical "dysfunctional" family in the American Mid-West. My father was an alcoholic. My mother divorced him in my teens. At an early age I lost an infant brother in an accident. Because of that, I learned about death at the age of six. As a teenager, I uncharacteristically never felt immortal. I respected death and it's tendency to sneak up on you. It made me very spiritual. My mother made sure my brothers and I had religious values in our upbringing, so we attended a mainstream Protestant church on and off throughout my childhood. That church was typical of many Protestant sects. The Church had no well defined belief structure. Just believing was the main requirement. "Raise your hand and say amen".
Okay, I know some of you will take issue with some of things in the next paragraph. I'm simply going to write my conclusions based on what I was taught in school....
A very influential high school philosophy teacher taught me about the history of Christianity. I learned history that was never brought up in Sunday School class. Such as the early Christian Church being persecuted and nearly erased by the Roman Empire; the Romans converting to Christianity for political-not religious-reasons, which was more accurately Christianity converting to Rome. Had that not happened, I believe Christianity would have vanished much like Zoroastianism. I learned about the Protestant Reformation, and how after 1,000 years of Catholic domination (church-state control), the Western World broke loose from the Dark Ages (500 ad - 1500 ad). I learned how Protestant churches, after initially "protesting" the abuses of the Catholic Church, broke away and attempted to get back to the early teachings of the first Christians. How was that to be done after so many centuries of spiritual darkness? "How can live branches grow from a dead trunk?", my teacher once asked. I was troubled because I saw his point. I was raised with Christianity, and I had no answer. I again heard those same teachings and that same question later when I began learning about Mormonism.
I realize all of that sounds just like one of the lessons from a Mormon missionary. "The Great Apostasy!" Therein lies a truth about Joseph Smith, the "unlearned farm boy". Joseph Smith knew about the evolution of Christianity just as I learned it in a Philosophy class in 1985. Joseph Smith exploited history to his own benefit. Joseph Smith used the history of Western Religion to set the stage for his "Restoration" once the Book of Mormon caught on. Lies are often surrounded by many truths. Why were so many religious people ready to leave their sects and follow Joseph Smith? Maybe they thought he was on to something. Maybe they thought history supported him.
After graduating high school I joined the United States Navy. I was sent to Japan. Shortly after arriving in Tokyo I was "Dear John'd" by my high school sweetheart. (Proof that there is a God.) This, combined with my youth and being all alone in a strange country, devastated me. On a few occasions I had encountered Mormon missionaries in the suburbs outside Tokyo. One day two missionaries sat down to talk with me and asked me what I thought about God. I was all ears. I needed something in my life, and I concluded that God was starting to show me what it was. Basically, I was a sitting duck for Mormonism, or "golden" as the missionaries would say. Emotionally, I was very immature and heartbroken. I was alone in a strange country. I had come from a broken home and was very spiritual. I wanted to find something that would prevent me from turning out like my dad. Philosophically, I was open minded enough based on what I had learned in school to explore the possibility of God's true church being restored in the latter days.
Yep, I was a convert waiting to happen.
3. My conversion.
I became fast friends with the missionaries. I would hang out with them at the church gym and bring them American products like toiletries, root beer and candy from the base PX. During this time I began reading the Book of Mormon. I decided it was true upon reading the first page. It was so full of adventure. It made me feel good. It glowed brightly of goodness. I kept asking myself how something like this could not be true. In hindsight, I really never asked God if the Book of Mormon was true (a.k.a. Moroni's Promise). I wanted it to be true, and that was that. I felt that God had just shown me the truth and I didn't need to ask. If I were to question Him about it, it would be pure defiance. God knew that I already knew it was true. So why even ask?
I even interpreted dreams I had throughout my life as divine guidance to the LDS Church. As a teenager, I once dreamt that Satan attacked me in my sleep-choking me into darkness -- and Jesus fended him off by appearing at my bed side. A few days before that dream I had listened to a radio program exposing Satanic backward masking messages on Rock records. It scared the hell out of me and I had the heebie-jeebies every time I turned off the bedroom light. No wonder I had such a dream. Now that I was investigating Mormonism, I thought my dream was very similar to the events in Joseph Smith's "First Vision". I felt that my dream and my high school philosophy class had been an instrument in God's hands, leading me to Mormonism. Arrows leading me to the target. That's why I felt that trying Moroni's Promise was unnecessary. I was being given the answer without asking. In hind site, I can now see that I was in a perfect state of mind to accept Mormonism. I was also in the right environment. There is very little alternative information about Mormonism in Japan. And even if there was, I probably would have ignored it and made my decision to join Mormonism based on desire, my philosophy class and my dream-which is exactly what I did.
I never took the structured "flip chart" lessons from the Missionaries. They let me go at my own pace. They said I was so "golden" that the lessons weren't necessary. I would just meet with them and ask questions about the Church. What amazed me most about LDS doctrine-the selective information I was receiving from the missionaries at the time-was how it played so close to what I had learned about the history of Christianity in my high school philosophy class. What I once knew as the "Protestant Reformation" and the "Dark Ages" had become the "Great Apostasy". It was 1987 at the time of my conversion and the tele-evangelist scandals were at their peek. Jim and Tammy. More proof of apostasy.
Not only that, Mormonism was confirming suspicions I already had about the Bible. Many Biblical scriptures contradict one another. The Bible, having been edited and translated scores of times throughout history (something I first learned in my beloved Philosophy class), cannot be the "perfected" instrument of God as many Christians claim. Therefore, I concluded that "the Bible says" could not be a reliable method of proving Mormonism false. Mormons use carefully selected Bible scriptures in attempts to prove the LDS Church's authenticity anyway. I still find scripture based arguments between "born-again" Christians and Mormons futile. One side is just as bad as the other when it comes to that. Like I said before, lies are often surrounded by many truths. I believe Mormonism exploits the truths of History and weaknesses of Christianity and the Bible to promote a lie.
I didn't really try to test Mormonism by disproving it anyway. I tried to look for evidence supporting it instead. I thought my emotions and desire to believe was evidence enough.
Based on the "Great Apostasy" and my genuine desire to believe, I concluded that the only way Christianity could be true were if Christ had indeed set up his church again on the Earth. Continued instruction from God is a good thing, is it not? If God is the same today as he was yesterday and forever, then it is certainly possible that doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-what I knew of them at the time-are true. The Mormons had all the answers (or so I thought) , and I believed every bit of it. Within the scope of my conversion, everything seemed perfectly logical. Obviously because I had no idea what I was not being taught.
I was also amazed at how the LDS Church's version of its own history unfolds like a George Lucas movie. The battle between good and evil; the romantic struggle of the Saints; the return of Old Testament doctrines; the imagery of the visitation of God the Father and Christ to Joseph Smith (as well as subsequent visitations from other divine beings); the drama of the Book of Mormon; and finally, the climactic martyrdom of Joseph Smith. It could have been Star Wars for all I knew, but I wanted to believe it. I took it at face value. I turned off my brain at that point and went hook, line and sinker with emotion as my truth detector. I was disappointed a few years later to gradually learn the true Mormon History, and just like Hollywood, it's all a bunch of special effects. I think the Mormon Church spends more time in the editing room than most movie directors.
Anyway, during my first several months in Japan, I continued reading the Book of Mormon. The local missionaries and I were always together. They became my social circle in Japan and every bit of my free time away from the Navy was spent with them. I enjoyed their friendship immensely and I still reminisce about good times we had together. As I do, I realize that the good times always had to do with just being guys-not so much with the LDS Church, itself. The missionaries finally asked me to be baptized. I agreed that I would do so once I read all of the Book of Mormon. After having read it completely, I committed to baptism. I think I became socially dependent on the missionaries to the extent that I could not say no to baptism anyway.
4. Baptism of fire.
Mormons believe you receive the Holy Spirit via the "laying on of hands" after you have been baptized by someone in authority.
Something strange happened a few hours before my baptism. I was sitting in my barracks room on base awaiting the time to pass before catching the train to the local Mormon ward. I was really nervous and I wondered if I was truly worthy enough to receive the Holy Spirit later that night. Was I truly converted "enough"? Was I truly worthy "enough"? Had I truly repented "enough"? Already, I was thinking like a rank and file Mormon, and I had not even been baptized yet. As I set on the side of my bed in my barracks room contemplating my condition, I reached for a nearby "Captain America" comic book that I had not yet read. I flipped open the cover and received a message from God. The title of that particular issue of Captain America was none other than "Baptism of Fire"! Holy Smokes! God spoke to me through a comic book! It's kind of funny as I look back. I actually thought God had spoken to me through a comic book to let me know I was ready to receive the Holy Spirit later that night. As they say, "God works in mysterious ways." I was golden all right, and very simple minded.
No doubt in my mind. I was going to receive the Holy Spirit at my baptism that night. I even took the comic book with me to the ward and showed some of the missionaries before the service. You should have seen their faces when they saw "Baptism of Fire" in big, colorful letters. "I was worried that I wasn't worthy enough. I flipped open a brand new comic book and saw the words 'Baptism of Fire' on the title page!", I said. "Man, you're not golden. You're platinum!", the missionaries replied.
The service started and I was baptized by one of the missionaries who taught me. After getting into some dry clothes, I was escorted to a chair in front of the assembled congregation for the "laying on of hands"; the part in which newly baptized Mormons receive the Holy Spirit. Previously, I was told by many of the missionaries that I would feel a "burning in my bosom". A "baptism of fire" (only hours before confirmed by Captain America). The missionaries made it clear to me that I would actually feel the Holy Spirit enter my body. They wanted to prepare me for what to expect.
It was during the laying on of hands that I first noticed an emptiness in my new religion. I felt nothing. I cried in anticipation of an overwhelming experience of a holy being entering my newly cleansed body, but as hands were placed on my head, I felt absolutely nothing. I was balling my head off as the Elders were commanding the Holy Spirit to enter me. I kept thinking, "Here it comes...here it comes..." Then suddenly the prayer ended, the hands were removed, and there I sat with a big line of snot hanging from my chin. NOTHING. Where was the cymbal crash? Where was the Holy Spirit?
To everyone in the congregation, it certainly appeared to them that the Holy Spirit had entered my body. I was wiping away the snot and tears as everyone congratulated me. The evidence was running down my face. My appearance seemed to have triggered an emotional response in them. They must have interpreted their emotional response as evidence of the Holy Spirit entering my body. Some of the members of the congregation told me about how strongly they could feel the Holy Spirit in the room, but I felt nothing.
Afterwards, I told some of the missionaries about what had happened during the "laying on of hands". I told them hoping that they would give me the right answer so I would know that I had truly received the Holy Spirit. I then was told that the Holy Spirit sometimes manifests himself in a gentle, quiet way, and that this peaceful silence is certainly much more beautiful than any kind of burning in my bosom, or any other "sign" or "feeling" from God. Besides, "signs", they said, are not necessary for true believers. Since I was truly converted, I didn't need a trumpet blast. I was even told that during the "laying on of hands" the Holy Spirit does not necessarily enter one's body at that time, but may enter only when necessary. That sounded odd to me. After all, "..receive the Holly Spirit..." was said during the blessing. The Elders' hands were shaking like a 6.8 earthquake.
I was even told that though I might not feel the Holy Spirit enter my body, I will certainly feel it leave when I commit sin. (Does anyone sense a cult tactic here?) This was a blatant flip-flop by the missionaries. Why didn't they tell me these things before my baptism? Why did they have to fill my head with a different kind of expectation? Why are they now, minutes after my baptism, whistling a different tune to fit what I actually did experience? But I wanted to believe it. I had come so far and wanted to believe so much. I accepted their explanation. (Boy, was I an idiot!)
5. One of the Brethren.
After my baptism I became a member of a ward made up of U.S. Military personnel and their families located outside the gates of Atsugi Naval Air Base, Japan. Though I was welcomed by some of the members who already knew me through my job on base, the other members of the Church were less embracing of me. I was never openly snubbed, but I wasn't ever made to feel accepted by the whole of the congregation. As time went by, I realized that most of the male members were commissioned officers. Married men who had gone on missions and had attended BYU. I was enlisted, single, never had served a mission and never had even been to Utah, let alone BYU. I certainly wasn't considered a good catch for any of the young daughters in the congregation, all though I was, at that time, the only single man in the ward. There weren't many girls in the ward anyway.
I was from the wrong side of the tracks, but it's nice to know the missionaries were doing their jobs.
I took on a calling as a young men's Sunday School teacher after receiving the Aaronic priesthood. (The Bishop's hands were shaking on that blessing, too.) When the Bishop advised me of this calling, he told me that he was giving me the calling over the objections of other members of the church who considered me too new to Mormonism to handle any such responsibility. The Bishop said he kept praying about it and kept getting me as the answer. I took the rejection of some of the church members in stride and poured my all into this new calling.
6. Emotions are spiritual truth detectors.
Now that I was part of this congregation of U.S. Servicemen and their families in Japan, I had the pleasure of making a new friend. It's been many years ago, but I think his name was Charles. He was the teenage son of a soldier's family on base. None of the other kids in the ward would have anything to do with him. He was a bit of a loner. His family were not Mormons, but Charles had recently been baptized into the Mormon Church a little before I had been. I noticed something different about Charles. He was mentally retarded. He was involved in some kind of accident that left him that way. Charles was a good hearted kid, but he clearly did not know right from wrong. I tried to get to know him. I even took him out to lunch one day. There was no doubt in my mind that Charles was clearly incapable of understanding what Mormonism is all about. I didn't understand how he could have made a rational decision to be baptized into the Mormon Church, but there he was-an Aaronic priesthood holder. I kept my concern about his conversion private, but I did hear some of the more gossipy Mormon families openly criticize the missionaries about it.
I remember an occasion when Charles and I were standing in a hallway of our ward after a Sunday service. Earlier that day, he had kindly refused to pass the sacrament when asked. Something was bothering him. Obviously, he felt he had sinned, and though he was mentally impaired, he had the integrity not to pass the sacrament that day. How many other people would be as honest? There were others in the hall with us. Charles started talking openly to me about whether or not he should confess to the bishop about a "little problem" he was having. I asked him what his little problem was. He elaborated a little more on his little problem. "I try to stop, but sometimes I just can't help it.", he said. It became obvious to everyone in the hall what he was talking about. Particularly me. I was having the same problem. I thought I was the only one. Whew! Anyway, it was quite an embarrassing moment for everyone in the hallway. I tried my best to shut him up without hurting his feelings. As you can see, Charles was very out of touch with the world around him. Yet, this poor kid was mentally stable enough to be taught and accept Mormonism and priesthood duties? About the only thing he really understood was that he's not supposed to play with himself. What were the missionaries thinking with this kid? (Answer: baptism) Not that he should not have been accepted in the church, but there had to have been a better way of going about it.
One day Charles told me something I will never forget. Something that really sums up Mormonism. He said that he had read some "anti-Mormon" literature which caused a lot of doubts to enter his mind. He then visited and sought counsel with the bishop. Surprisingly, the bishop did not tell Charles to stop reading "anti-Mormon" material. Instead, he told Charles to read 15 minutes of "anti-Mormon" material, and then read 15 minutes of the Book of Mormon or other church approved material. After having read both, Charles was to determine which of the two made him "feel" good. Since the "anti-Mormon" material would obviously cause doubt and bad feelings, it was false. Since the "pro-Mormon" material would make Charles feel good, it was true. This was an exercise in "truth detection" as given by our bishop.
Yes, that sums up Mormonism. Discern truth with your feelings, not your mind.
7. Milk before meat.
Along with teaching the young men in Sunday school, I continued to submerge myself in Church History. I love History of any kind and I just couldn't get enough of Mormon History. It was then that I stumbled upon doctrines and parts of Mormon History that I had not yet learned. Doctrines that seemed strange and wrong to me. Official LDS History that seemed contradictory and below-board. Every time I asked church members about these things, they were explained in a combination of attempted logic and half speculation-a way which made them easier to swallow. When I asked why I wasn't told of these things during my conversion, "milk before meat" was the answer. "Pray about it.", I was told. I did pray about it. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed until I convinced myself of their truthfulness. I never received a divine affirmation from God that they were true. Self-inflicted brainwashing is what I did to myself. I had to believe it. I forced myself to believe it.
The hardest doctrine for me to accept was "Blacks and the Priesthood". It didn't matter how much I prayed about that one. It didn't matter how much it was explained by Mormon apologists. I knew deep inside that it was wrong. I buried away my genuine disbelief in that doctrine and embraced the church's teachings with regard to blacks. I'm still deeply ashamed that I was capable of such a fundamentally evil thing.
To this day I will not overly criticize the Mormon Church for having controversial doctrines. I find it hypocritical for "born again" Christians to criticize what Mormons believe, and yet believe in the Star of Bethlehem, the Flood, the Creation, the Immaculate Conception, and most ridiculous of all: a man was swallowed by a whale and lived in its stomach for three days before being regurgitated...and he survived. If Christians can believe those things, why can't they believe Mormon claims of divine events?
It takes as much faith in the unrealistic to believe in the Bible as it does to believe in the Book of Mormon, and maybe a little more for the latter. That was my train of thought when I believed in the miraculous stories of Mormonism. I didn't see much difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Whether you take a story out of the Bible or the Book of Mormon, they're both the same when you hold them up to the mirror. The real question is whether or not you believe they are divine in nature or totally made up by the minds of men, be it Joseph Smith or the Apostle Paul. Since Mormonism is a recent development in History, it's much easier to disprove. The writings of the Bible are so ancient-almost lost in time-that about the only thing you can be sure of is some of the biblical locations and names. The biblical miracles aren't much different than the Mormon miracles in my opinion. The Bible can at least be backed up by some physical evidences, whereas the Book of Mormon is completely unsupported.
I believed deeply in the Book of Mormon and the Bible back when I was in that Mormon ward in Japan, but the milk was drying up and the meat kept getting harder and harder to chew. Particularly the doctrine about "Blacks and the Priesthood". I was once in the ward library going through one of the Church History books. I don't remember what the title of the book was, but it was in the church library and was part of an official volume of LDS Church History. This book contained some writings from Joseph Smith's personal journal. I read, with my own eyes, from Joseph Smith's own journal that he and the church had no official opinion on the plight of the black slaves in America during his time. He wrote in his journal that he did not think the blacks should be freed. I sat back in total disbelief. Up to that point, I was told by church members and church literature that the reason the Mormons were driven out of Missouri was because the Mormons were "anti-slavery", and that the "Gentile" settlers of Missouri wanted to enter the Union as a slave state. "What the hell is going on here?" was my foremost thought as I sat in that library.
As was becoming habit with me, I suppressed this newly learned knowledge and accepted the church's official party line on LDS History and our less worthy black brethren.
8. Signs of a cult.
Other things gradually started to bother me about the Church. Though the Mormon church does not believe in chanting mantras or saying the same prayer over and over again (with the exception of certain prayers read at Sacrament and temple ceremonies, etc.), I did witness mothers and fathers taking their children to the front of the church where they would whisper in their children's ear. "I know the Church is true...I know Joseph Smith is a prophet...I know the Book of Mormon is true". The children would then repeat these words into a microphone for all the congregation to hear. I saw this happen constantly. For some, it was a faith promoting experience to see these darling little four and five year olds delivering their (?) testimonies. To me, it was a never ending mantra; brainwashing of the innocent. I tried to justify it in my mind, but could not. So, like many times before, I sat aside what was an obvious cult characteristic and continued believing what I wanted to believe-that the church is true despite it all.
Some of the missionary activities bothered me. I often heard missionaries complain of the difficulty in finding converts in Japan. A few missionaries told me that they could not bear the thought of returning home to their families only to face them with no converts to their name. Peer pressure within the LDS Church for missionaries is enormous. The missionaries in Japan sponsor English conversation classes (Ekaiwa) as a service to the Japanese community. The method and format of these "English" classes are disturbing. Typically, signs are posted throughout neighborhoods in Japan advertising "Free English Lessons" at the LDS Church. On a good night, a group of fifteen to twenty Japanese show up. Most of them are high school students hoping to brush up on their English skills. By the time the two hour lesson is over, the missionaries have words such as God, Jesus, Book of Mormon, Bible, Baptism, Forgiveness, etc. written on the marker board. Many of the Japanese attendees realize that the "free English lessons" are really poorly calculated attempts at getting converts and never return. Some Japanese tolerate it as long as they can practice their English skills. Seldom a Japanese student will investigate and join the church as a result of attending the English classes, but it does happen from time to time. I guess that makes the missionaries' efforts worth while. Once again, I sat this aside and continued my belief in the Mormon Church. I'm ashamed that I even participated in those "English classes".
In all fairness, I must point out that other Christian churches are guilty of this same tactic in Japan. I have witnessed it several times by a variety of Christian organizations.
9. Slipping away.
Okay, here's the part of my endless ranting where Mormon zealots will find the source of my apostasy and completely ignore every other part of this story...
Within a year's time I started to become inactive. It was a gradual process. I missed a few Sundays here and there and then just stopped going. I didn't stop attending church because I stopped believing in the church. I believed in it with all of my heart. I stopped attending because I was becoming ever so increasingly attracted to the abundance of Japanese girls around me, and yes I did have my "slip-ups". I felt guilty. Guilt contributed to my inactivity and not a lack of faith or belief. I went to confession time and time again. The Bishop warned me of possible disfellowshipping or even excommunication if I were to let my encounters with the opposite sex get out of control. In fact, I was told to cut off all relationships with Japanese females. Being that there wasn't many LDS girls whom I could date, this pretty much left me feeling like a hermit. I did try dating a Japanese Mormon girl, but her bishop told her that the church does not encourage inter-racial relationships, so we stopped seeing each other. So now not only is there the "Blacks and the Priesthood" doctrine that was bothering me-I now learn that the Mormon Church believes birds of a feather should flock together. Whites and Asians are not to mix.
10. Mormon sex counselors. It was at this point that I started to realize that my Bishop was nothing more than an Elder of the Mormon Church taking his turn at being the Bishop. He didn't really seem to be in tune with God-relaying divine guidance to me through his priesthood as the church taught. The best advise the Bishop could give was to hum a hymn the next time I felt sexual temptation come my way. He was no Dr. Ruth. The Bishop really didn't know what to do, but he had to maintain his posture. Hum a hymn? It certainly didn't work. The truth of the matter is that I was a young man full of hormones, and humming "Rock of Ages" pales in comparison to a cute girl with a nice smile and long legs. I couldn't possibly be expected to go through my remaining time in Japan without any female companionship, and the church had none to offer.
I expected the meetings with my bishop to be compassionate and reassuring.
It was more like an IRS audit.
I prayed endlessly to be delivered form those temptations. I felt that there was something wrong with ME. I prayed to be healed of this "affliction". I beat my fists into my pillow in agony. I used every ounce of faith I could muster to overcome this problem. I was puzzled as to why I could not control these natural urges via faith. The church taught that the Holy Spirit could protect you from temptation. With the Holy Spirit and faith, you could caste off the "natural man". "Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil" just didn't seem to be working for me. Of course, I blamed it on myself and thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I was perverted. I felt evil inside. I hated myself.
Now that I have left the church, I can't help but wonder, had I been a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, could I have excused my sexual conduct by pulling a revelation out of my hat and taking on the particular female(s) involved as one of my wives? It certainly worked for Joseph Smith.
I received an E-mail from a Mormon on that last comment. He said it was a low blow. Truth is insensitive. Deal with it.
I have often considered Western Religion's (Christianity and Mormonism in particular) attitudes on sex. I do believe that standards of sexual conduct and responsibility should be set in society. I find it interesting that there is no mention in the Bible of Christ ever having had sexual temptation. Some may argue that he did figuratively. Perhaps during his temptation in the desert. But if Christ were actually the Son of God, in the form of man on Earth, experienced the same temptations of other men, and had the same bodily functions as other men, i.e., sleep, digestive system, etc., then how could he have not experienced sexual temptation? The thought of Christ with an erection is appalling to Christians, and not too particularly attractive to me, but did he go 33 years without one? Perhaps that is why nothing is recorded of his late teen age years in which sexuality is impossible to avoid. Was he not popular with the girls? I believe I have a legitimate question which would not be encouraged in Christianity. I'm not at all trying to excuse my own failings in this subject. I think I just typed what I lot of other people have often privately considered.
I remember the controversy caused by the film "The Last Temptation of Christ" in which Christ experienced sexual temptation on the cross. If Christ were above such temptations, how can he possibly qualify to judge mankind on the grounds of sexual morality? I am in no way trying to make light of this. I am simply trying to point out that sexual stigma created by religion cannot hold up when examined with plain ol' common scenes that God gave us. Basically, apply what is expected of us to our religious figures. On the subject of human sexuality and Christianity/Mormonism, it doesn't work out very well, does it? I have considered the theory that Christ, being God, was not subject to sexual temptation, but was punished for our sexual transgressions on the cross anyway and may therefore qualify to judge us. I find this to be a theory of convenience and rationalization.
I should note that the Mormon Church does teach that either Christ did, or will marry and have children. This, in affect, makes him a sexual being.
I have recently read LDS Church material on controlling masturbation. Where did I get it? On the Internet. Of course! (Some Mormons dispute the authenticity of this material, but the evidence is overwhelming that it did come from the Mormon Church.) I was delighted to find that singing a hymn is listed as one the methods of avoiding temptation (along with getting a snack in the middle of the night and leaving the shower curtain open a bit as not to be completely alone). However, the material comes off as pure propaganda. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Geobbles would be proud. It is only fitting that this kind of brainwashing propaganda be dropped from a conquering nation's air force in the form of leaflets to the defeated populace below. Though this material struck me as somewhat comical, as subjects on sex often are, I was disturbed that the Mormon Church would promote such guilt among its members with the kind of strict enforcement detailed in this material. Evidently, the Mormon Church is incapable of dealing with sexuality by any means other than guilt. The same information also describes "erotic wet dreams" as the only acceptable method of relieving a male body's build-up of semen (outside of marriage, of course). Again, apply this to our religious figures. Perhaps this is the method Christ used, but I doubt that would be an acceptable explanation to the church. Christ having an erotic wet dream?
Was the guilt I experienced that lead me into inactivity caused by my sins, or rather a result of the Mormon Church's selective intolerance of human sexuality and their inadequate ways of dealing with it? I exposed my deepest, most personal sexual desires, acts and temptations to the Bishop -- things that I would never tell anyone. I did so because I had faith that it would bring about spiritual healing and cleansing, thus removing further temptation. Perhaps not completely, but sufficiently so that I could control it. All I got in return for spilling my soul to the Bishop was hum a hymn or get excommunicated.
I am now of the opinion that human sexuality is one of the most common, strongest denominators of us all. If a religious organization can control our sexual behavior, it is one way in which that religious organization can control "us". Within the scope of human beings as biological life forms, we have one supreme function-to procreate. Everything else we do pales in comparison to this purpose. If an institution, whether it be religion or government, can control our sexual behavior, how much easier will it be for that institution to control other aspects of our lives? Our votes, our income, our children...
Like I wrote above, It is at this point were a Mormon, reading my letter, might say, " So that's it! He left because of sin!" Well, go ahead-get out your scissors. Cut out that part and throw away the rest and send me an E-mail to let me know. I don't mind if someone comes to that conclusion. I know in my "heart" (a Mormon phrase) that sin did not lead me to conclude that the Mormon Church is false. Sexual transgression and fear of punishment only led to inactivity. It in no way changed my faith or belief in the Church.
I continued to believe in the Church as much as ever for the next two years of my inactivity. I just thought I was going through a bad period and that someday I would return. To some Mormons, I am already in Satan's clutches -- at the point of no return.
11. Out of reach.
Shortly after my inactivity, my local ward tried to contact me, but I was transferred to another military base in Northern Japan. I left no forwarding address with the church. After arriving at this new base, I encountered some missionaries in a nearby city. I didn't get as close to these missionaries as I previously had with the ones back in Tokyo. I let these new missionaries know (without actually saying it) that I was inactive and that I would someday return to the church.
12. Friendship first.
During this time a fellow sailor, named Mike, started asking me questions about the Mormon Church. I told him from the very start that I was not an active member and had not been living up to church standards, but that I would answer any of his questions. Since I didn't want to be a hypocrite, I was on the level with him. I still believed 100% in Mormonism and I wanted to share it with him. I thought that this would help lead me back to the church. Mike became more and more interested in Mormonism from our discussions. I felt it only proper to introduce him to the missionaries and let the missionaries proceed.
Two missionaries met with Mike. One of these missionaries, Elder Derricott, was very frustrated with his success rate in Japan. He had no converts and he came from a very prominent Mormon family. One of his cousins, Kent Derricott, whom I met on a few occasions, is a famous American television celebrity in Japan and well known to be Mormon. After one lesson with Mike, the missionaries happily reported to me that Mike was scheduled for baptism. I was surprised at this sudden development. Usually several lessons are given before baptism. Mike had barely begun reading the Book of Mormon. I felt that the missionaries were more concerned with placing a number on the score board than with teaching Mike about the church properly. I saw this to be a total lack of respect for Mike as an individual.
The next day Mike visited me. He was very distressed. He told me that since agreeing to be baptized the night before, he had learned of some Mormon doctrines that did not sit well with him. He had gotten this information from books, perhaps from the base library. I told Mike that I considered him a friend, and that friendship came first. I promised Mike that I would tell him whatever he wanted to know about the Mormon Church. I still believed in the church. I wasn't afraid of the truth/meat. Mike was afraid that the missionaries weren't being up-front enough. Mike trusted me to help him and I gave him my word. He wanted me to tell him all the things I knew about LDS doctrine that the missionaries had not yet told him. And even if Mike didn't what to know, I felt duty bound to do it over my concern that the missionaries were rushing him to the finish line completely unprepared. I was upset because the same thing happened to me. I had not been given nearly enough information about the church when I joined, though I thought I had at the time. I did not want to see that happen again. Mike wanted to make an informed decision about joining the Mormon Church. I became the informant.
If the Mormon Church is the TRUTH, why be afraid of it? Why not lay the cards on table instead of keeping them up your sleeve? This "milk before meat" and "precept upon precept" excuse is a bunch of bull. It is deceit by any other name.
Mike and I discussed several fundamental and controversial Mormon doctrines that Mike had not yet learned. I could tell he was having a hard time with the "Blacks and the Priesthood" doctrine. I explained the church's teaching that the blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence, etc. He would just stare blankly and shake his head. I, like the church, told Mike to pray about it. That had always been the party line the church gave me. "Pray about it and you will understand." Mike promised he would pray about it. He did.
Mike decided not to join the Church.
The next day, the two missionaries pounded on my barracks room door. I opened it to find them red in the face. Elder Derricott was very confrontational. He yelled at me and told me that I had no business telling Mike about church doctrine. He said that THEY had been set aside as the missionaries -- not me-and it is their place to determine when Mike is ready for baptism. (I thought it was Mike's place to determine.) The missionaries were enraged at me. Obviously, I was to blame. I told them that Mike was my friend. I told them that Mike had questions, and that I gave answers to those questions in line with Mormon doctrine along with telling Mike to pray about it. Elder Derricott slammed the door in my face. I can still hear the crash of the door and feel the wind in my hair today. I found that odd. Usually it's the other way around when it comes to door slamming. I never saw the missionaries again after that. I had the feeling that I had been black-listed among the local missionaries. It was then that I started having serious doubts about the church. I didn't want to hold the church accountable for the actions of a few, but I was starting to see a pattern.
I still believed that I would return someday.
13. Stepping over the line.
I continued to read Mormon History-everything I could find. Not only church approved material, but alternative literature, as well. That was hard to find in Japan. I did read some information from "born again" Christians at the base book store. Pat Robertson, in particular, came off as "anti -Mormon". I decided against reading that kind of biased material and I still try to avoid it today. A lot of "anti-Mormon" material is unfair and has an agenda. I credit Eric with keeping that kind of garbage off the Recovery From Mormonism web site.
I learned about the Kinderhook Plates, Joseph Smith's degree in Free Masonry, the truth about the Book of Abraham papyrus (down right shocking), Smith's adultery that lead to the practice of polygamy and many other Mormon claims of divine authenticity that turned out to be a hoax. I also read weak, apologetic Mormon responses-I wanted to get both sides of the coin.
A real page turner that opened my eyes was an investigative paperback entitled "The Mormon Murders". It told the story of the Salt Lake City bombing scandal in which some of the highest ranking church leaders believed in the authenticity of forged documents about church origins, such as Joseph Smith receiving revelations from a salamander. More disturbingly, the book exposed how the Mormon hierarchy tried to cover it up. Some of these Mormon leaders apparently believed Joseph Smith originated the Mormon Church based on 19th Century American folklore. These leaders were presented with recently discovered documents from early Church History by an expert forger. These documents were such a threat to the church that the leadership tried to hide them by any means necessary. They purchased the documents from the forger for large amounts of money so that the documents would never see the light of day. These Mormon leaders were even allegedly obstructing justice in a murder investigation associated with this scandal. Their behavior rivals Watergate. Prophets of God, huh? Discerners of truth, eh? How about wolves in sheep's clothing? If you don't know what I'm talking about you must read this book.
I had just come face to face with my single most shocking experience as a Mormon: The possibility that my religion might be a fabrication. It was like hearing about the death of a family member. It was devastating. At first, genuine disbelief that any of the information I had just learned could be true, but the news could not be ignored. The evidence against the church seem insurmountable and undeniable. It was sinking in. I had to find out for sure....
14. Moroni's Promise.
I prayed about it. I told God that if all this new information I was learning is true, Mormonism is obviously false. And if Mormonism is false, Christianity is false. (Remember, during my conversion I had concluded that, based on the Apostasy and what I had learned in school, the only way for Christianity to be true is for Mormonism to have restored it.) I told God that I wanted so much to believe in Christ and in the Mormon Church, but I really needed to know if it is true. I told God that I would return to the church. I would make my way back, but I couldn't go back having learned all of these dark secrets of Mormonism. I had to know that the church is true and that the bad things are false. That was the first time that I prayed to God about the Mormon Church, the Book of Mormon and Christ. Sure, I had prayed constantly since joining the church, but those prayers were mostly for deliverance from temptation and understanding of controversial doctrines and Church History that I had already decided to believe - never for the TRUTH about the Mormon Church as a whole. Never for the TRUTH of the Book of Mormon. I prayed with all my heart, and even though I wanted to believe, I told God that I wanted to know, not just believe, but know from Him this time. I had faith that He would tell me. The feeling I got was empty, cold, dark and definite. These weren't emotions. Just a complete lack of everything and anything. It could in no way be confused with a "burning of the bosom".
Note: MORMON SPIN DOCTORING: "Burning of the bosom" is a phrase Mormons use to explain the emotional high you get from praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon (a.k.a. Moroni's Promise) or any other aspect of this religion. Sometimes you get a burning of the bosom when hearing someone bear their testimony. Sometimes you get it while singing a hymn. Some people get it while watching tele-evangelist beg for money. I get it when the Atlanta Braves' bull pin doesn't blow a 3 run lead. If you get that emotional reaction, it is from God. Therefore, it is not a "reaction". Instead, it is an emotionally charged message that originated beyond your neurological pathways and came from the Holy Spirit. If you did not get it, the Mormon Church has a perfectly logical explanation: You weren't really sincere enough; you didn't recognize the answer; the Devil jumped in and threw up a block; you need more time to develop a testimony; you're behind on your tithing; and finally, you don't really need a trumpet blast because the soft whisperings of the Spirit are more beautiful than a clear answer to an earnest prayer. So you should ignore Moroni's Promise and rely upon the testimony of others and follow the Brethren. If you're obedient enough, you might get your burning of the bosom later on down the road. Hopefully, before you die. Better yet, just believe without a burning of the bosom because all the wonderful "evidence" for the Mormon Church will make up for the lack of spiritual affirmation.
Therefore, the next time you see one of the Mormon TV commercials offer you a free Bible (What happened to the Book of Mormon?), the tears rolling down your cheek and the tingle down your spine is actually a message from God to pick up the phone. Please do not confuse this divine message with an emotional reaction caused by the carefully orchestrated music, the soft lighting and the tear jerking commentary written by professional marketing specialists. You are receiving a burning in the bosom. Call now.
Okay, back to the story...
I knew, that having prayed in faith to God the Father in the name of Christ, that I had finally done what the Mormon Church had asked me to do from the beginning. I had tried Moroni's Promise and it failed. If only I had investigated Mormonism more thoroughly when I first began reading the Book of Mormon a few years earlier, I might have avoided one of the most unpleasant and troubling times of my life. How could I have been so blind?
I had to finally accept that I had been duped and mislead, and I had no one but myself to blame. What a humbling experience to one's self esteem that is. I had nothing be sorry for. All I was doing was seeking God. Now, finally, I was using my head about Mormonism. I just didn't let emotion decide for me or the lack thereof. I studied alternative information about Mormonism, compared it with what the church had taught me and found the credibility of Mormonism in deep jeopardy. Setting that aside, I finally tried the emotionally charged "Moroni's Promise" only to find it completely lacking of any emotion or any other kind of confirmation from God.
I received an E-mail from a Mormon suggesting that if I tried Moroni's Promise from the beginning, instead of waiting until the end, I would have received an answer via the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true. My answer to that; show me the expiration date in Moroni's Promise.
15. Time to grab the parachute.
Finally, I knew that I would never go back to the Mormon Church. My belief system was in complete disarray. I was hurt and bitter. I was shocked and numb. I was angry at the church and I was angry with myself. I no longer trusted myself to make any important decisions, and I no longer trusted God. I knew in the back of my mind that this was probably a natural thing and that I would get over it someday. I did. It took me a few years to do it. I did it privately. I understand what the term "deprogramming" means. It's pretty hard to do. Especially when you're doing it by yourself because your too damned ashamed to admit it to others and seek their help.
So, What happened next?... Well, I tried to live a life free of Mormonism. I tried to get back to my old self. I didn't want to be an Ex-Mormon. I didn't want a title. My mom upset me about having a "title" once. She wanted me to read a book about children of alcoholics. I told her I didn't want to read it because I didn't want to be a "child of an alcoholic". I wanted to be ME. It wasn't my fault Dad is a drunk. Why do I have to be stuck in a category? Mom replied that there was a chapter in the book describing children of alcoholics with my exact same attitude. I wanted to scream. That's how I felt about Mormonism. Okay. I made a mistake. I just want to close the book and go on with life. I want Mormonism out of my system. Please, whatever you do, don't remind me that I was once a Mormon. You'll make me throw up.
I got out of the Navy after four years service and returned to the States. I joined a multi-national company and have gone back to Japan to work a few times. I married a Japanese gal and we are starting a family in the Atlanta Metro Area. Life was getting back to the way I wanted it. Then, suddenly, I got a computer and found the "Recovery From Mormonism" web site. What a god-send it is! Even though I wanted to bury the Mormon past, I still needed to reconcile with myself. The Recovery From Mormonism web site helped me confront the past and learn from it more that I ever thought possible.
There was just a handful of stories on the Recovery From Mormonism web site. I quickly wrote mine and sent it off to Eric. Mine became Story # 28. The next step was to get my name off the official membership records of the LDS Church. A simple thing, or so I thought.
16. So called "free agency".
So why is getting my name removed so important? Some former Mormons feel it is unnecessary to have this done. Since the authority of the Mormon Church is no longer recognized, why bother? I understand and respect that school of thought. For me, it's different. The Mormon Church claims a membership of over 9 million people. I was counted as one of those 9 million. So are several other millions who are inactive or no longer believe in the church. If the Mormon Church were to boast of its active membership, the numbers would be dramatically less than 9 million. Furthermore, my political philosophy (Libertarian - Conservative) makes me a strong advocate for individuality and personal freedom. Mormonism is a group dynamic. Mormons feel, think and react as a group. I am an individual now. I am no longer a part of a group dynamic. I wanted to exercise my right to be disassociated from and independent of a religion I now longer subscribe to. At the very least, this is an exercise of "free agency" which is a fundamental doctrine of the Mormon Church. You could also argue that I wanted to exercise my First Amendment Rights.
I'm a sucker for principal.
I wasn't sure how to have my name removed, so I E-mailed Eric. He replied that I needed to contact my local bishop. Well, that was going to be a bit tricky. I lived in Japan the last time I was an active Mormon. I now live outside Atlanta and have never been back to church since leaving Japan quite a few years ago. I didn't know who my local bishop was. I found the number of the Atlanta Mission Home in the Yellow Pages. When I called, I told whoever it was I was speaking to where I live. This person gave me the name and address of my local bishop. As it turned out, I was given the wrong information and the process of having my name removed got temporarily derailed because I mailed my request to the wrong bishop. In my letter, I made clear my reasons for leaving and that I would not meet with anyone from the church. I simply wanted written confirmation that my name had been removed from the records. I advised them that I was exercising my "free agency".
I was persistent and finally received a letter from the local church leadership informing me that my request had been passed to the proper bishop. After that, the local church leadership seemed uninterested in my request and completely ignored me. I kept writing more letters-this time to the right bishop. I did receive a written response that my request was being dealt with and that the local bishop had requested my records from Salt Lake City. I called the Records Department in Salt Lake on three occasions and was told that no such request for my records was ever made. I made clear my determination to have my name removed and expressed my disappointment that local church leaders were evidently ignoring and lying to me. Salt Lake assured me that they would immediately send my records to my local bishop.
In my correspondence to the local church leadership, I informed them that I would hire legal counsel and/or seek media attention if my request was not granted. After my deadline of 90 days passed, I contacted a lawyer and a local newspaper reporter.
17. The church in the spotlight.
The reporter showed up at my house for an interview. I also received a call from the newspaper photographer. The photographer wanted me to meet her at the local Mormon ward so that she could take a photo of me with the Mormon chapel building in the background. I refused to do this. I wasn't interested in sensationalism. I didn't want some photo of me, the lone crusader, standing in front of the nutty Mormon compound plastered all over the local paper. This wasn't Waco, Texas. I told her that all I wanted to do was get my name removed. So she reluctantly agreed to have my picture taken with me setting in front of my computer with the Recovery From Mormonism web site on the screen.
The reporter was very interested in my story. I told him about the gridlock I was getting from the local Mormon leadership. I also showed him my stack of correspondence to the church. He asked why I left Mormonism. I shared with him all of my reasons. He seemed most interested in the sexual slip-ups I had. I was honest about it. I thought that me hiding that part of the story would be just as bad as Mormon historians editing LDS History.
After the reporter finished with me, he called the local bishop. The local bishop told him that he had only recently learned of my existence (my correspondence from the church indicates otherwise) and that I'm obviously very disgruntled and had gone about having my name removed incorrectly.
The next day, I received a very sloppy, handwritten letter in my mail box from the church clerk advising me that my name had been removed from the membership records of the Mormon Church several weeks earlier. I called Salt Lake City to verify. Salt Lake told me that my name had only just recently been removed. A few days later I received a form letter from the church in Salt Lake informing me that I had been removed from their membership records and that I had some kind of grace period in case I change my mind. I was also warned about the eternal consequences. A form letter? The Mormon Church needs to have form letters on hand? Geesh! Is it that bad?
The newspaper went ahead and printed the story. The reporter tried to be balanced, but it was clear that he had no idea what Mormonism is about. He got a few things wrong. For the most part, he made the church look like a cult. On one hand, the reporter praised the church for its welfare program. On the other, he examined its control and "darker" side. He really juiced up the story by throwing in the sexual stuff, and somehow found an opportunity to compare Newt Gingrich to a salamander giving revelations to Joseph Smith. Well, it could have been worse, but it served its purpose. It was the trigger that finally got the church to grant me my "free agency".
So, if any of you out there are considering doing what I did, be real careful with those reporters. The facts don't sell papers. Sensationalism does.
18. Ex-Mormons on the Internet.
I started becoming a regular visitor the Recovery From Mormonism web site. I just could not get enough. It was so great to discover that what I went through was not so unique. Also, it was disturbing to read stories of others who went through a lot worse. I consider myself lucky. Those in my family who did join the church got out shortly after I did.
Eric started up the Ex-Mormon E-mail group and I subscribed right away. Soon the E-mails came pouring in. It was wonderful. I really purged a lot of the past thanks to that group. Before too long, the E-mails became overwhelming and I was spending way too much time at my computer. I reluctantly unsubscribed. I had a great time with that E-mail group. Maybe I'll subscribe again when I find more free time. I highly recommend it to anyone. Just be prepared for all the E-mails.
More than anything else, I did not want to get addicted to Ex-Mormonism. Leaving Mormonism was my goal, and constantly dealing with it everyday on the Internet as an Ex-Mormon seems to defeat the goal. The Recovery From Mormonism web site helped me realize that I never really recovered from Mormonism. I just suppressed it. The Recovery From Mormonism web site helped me get on with real recovery. I still check up on the web site at least weekly, and I still try to respond to any E-mails I get as a result of having this story posted.
These days, Mormonism seldom occurs to me unless something on the news sparks it or I get an E-mail. That's good. That's how I want it to be.
19. Reconciliation by proxy.
Several months ago, I got an E-mail from a young American man in Japan. He was investigating the church. He told me that he read my story and felt he has lot of things in common with me. He reminded me of myself several years ago when I was in Japan investigating Mormonism. He had the same open mind and desire for knowledge that I had. The only difference is that he has an Internet connection and I didn't when I was investigating the church. I shared a lot of things about Mormonism with him in our E-mail correspondence. He continued meeting with the missionaries and corresponding with me. I never pushed him. I told him to make up his own mind. He did.
He decided not to join the Mormon Church. The information he got from me and other sources on the Internet convinced him that the missionaries were not being honest with him about the church. I was profoundly moved by this experience. Not because the Mormons lost a convert. It wasn't that at all. Instead, it was what you might call a selfish reason. I felt that I had traveled back in time to Japan to meet with myself as I was investigating Mormonism. That young man who I only knew through the Internet was my younger self in proxy. Through him, I helped my younger self avoid joining the Mormon Church and subsequently experiencing all the hard times associated with it. It gave me the greatest sense of closure I've had since leaving the church.
20. What I learned about myself from Mormonism.
I learned that turning your life over to a religion is no guarantee of happiness. I grew up thinking that faith and church attendance was the only way to insure happiness. I learned that from my parents when they were married. Every time the family was falling apart because of Dad's drinking, we'd hope in the car and drive off to church hoping that God would bless our family into happiness. It never worked. Maybe a temporary fix from time to time. We have to make it work. Dad had to make it work. Sure, God's help is welcomed, but we can't expect Him to what we're responsible for doing ourselves. I thought Mormonism could replace the broken family in my life. I thought it would keep me from ever becoming like my dad. The truth is I'm nothing like my dad because of me and nothing else.
I learned that I was young, naive, immature, insecure and very impressionable. I wanted adventure like any young man, and the world of Mormonism was full of adventure. I walked right into Mormonism like a lamb to the slaughter. I also learned that I am too inquisitive, to bright, and too independent to tolerate an environment that requires I stop thinking once the Brethren have spoken. I'm too smart to accept apologetics, re-written history, double-talk and mental gymnastics. My conscience would not let me accept racial discrimination within a religion. My love of History kept my nose in books that the church would rather I not read- even the church's own books.
I look back now and see that I was just a kid, trying to do the best I could. I was arrogant to think I could not be duped. I'm proud that I was able to wake up and walk away. In doing so I grew up quickly and became much smarter about the world around me.
21. What I learned about my heart.
More than anything, I learned that my heart-our hearts-are not spiritual truth detectors. Our brains, though imperfect, are much, much better detectors of truth than our hearts. Wanting something to be true doesn't make is so. I wanted Mormonism to be true. To the very ended I wanted it to be true. "I know in my heart that the church is true", Mormons often say. How many times have our hearts lied to us in so many aspects of life?
22. What I learned about truth.
Truth is often insensitive. Truth often hurts our feelings when it does not support our beliefs. We can choose to hide behind our feelings and deny the truth or we can set our emotions aside and accept the truth. Which will ultimately make us happier? Truth won't jump in your lap. You have to go looking for it, and you have to accept what you find.
23. What are my beliefs today?
I still believe in God. More than ever. I'm not so sure you can have a personal relationship with God. I don't feel him walking beside me in the grocery store. I see Him somewhat as a father waiting for his son to come back from the war. I think He understands my hurt and initial distrust of Him when I left Mormonism. I think He loves us. I think He doesn't want us to get so caught up in religion that we miss the most of life. Helping our fellow man and being responsible is more important to Him that showing up for church every Sunday.
I do not believe in organized religion anymore. I first started doubting organized religion, Christianity in particular, in my high school philosophy class. Grabbing hold of Mormonism was a way of hanging on to Christianity for me. I now believe we can do all that God wants of us with or without organized religion. I also think sometimes religion gets in the way of our relationships with God.
Some Christians have E-mailed me contending that Mormonism resulted in me abandoning Christianity. That's simply not the case. I can consider Christianity independent of Mormonism. I do not believe any religion can hold up to the tests of rational scrutiny. I believe religions are products of mankind's struggle to understand the world around him and his own mortality. Christianity is just one of many religions. Your religion was most likely a result of where you were born on the planet and what your parents believe. That certainly doesn't make it true.
I believe families will be together forever without any sealing from the Mormon Church. I believe our Earthly relationships are probably eternal in nature. I just can't see meeting my grandfather in Heaven and calling him Robert. He'll always be Grandpa to me on Earth or in Heaven whether we're "sealed" or not. I believed that before Mormonism, and I still believe it after Mormonism. In leaving Mormonism I realized that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no patent on the afterlife and what my rewards and punishments will be. Perhaps God was showing me through my experience with Mormonism that life is not about finding the "true" church or religion. I don't think God wants us to believe in myths and legends about Him. I don't think God wants us to fear Science and History. He does not require us to surrender our individuality to the group dynamic. I believe that what awaits us in the afterlife is too incredible for us to comprehend. I believe that when we arrive there, the great religions of Earth, including Mormonism and Christianity, will pale in comparison to what we find.
I often tell God that I want to be closer to Him and that I don't want to let my experience with Mormonism make me bitter or untrusting of Him. Though I have not found a defined knowledge of what God is, I have found myself, and it's an ongoing process. My recovery from Mormonism has helped in this. I'm much happier now than I ever was with Mormonism. I find life no more difficult or easier, but happier. When I was a Mormon, I wasn't me. If God is truly a loving father, one of His sons finding himself will be more important to the father than that son loosing himself in trying to find the father. I would feel the same way about my own children.
I've found the most credible evidence of the afterlife to be that of "Near Death Experiences". I read a few books on the subject. I think the stories of people who died, went to the Great Beyond, and returned to tell us about it, are more reliable than the great books of religion. From what I've learned of NDEs, God, or the "Being of Light" as he is often referred to in NDEs, has two instructions He gives to people before they return to life on Earth. (1) Love one another. (2) Seek knowledge. To the best of my knowledge, nothing is ever said of finding the true church or religion. The two instructions God gives are things that can be accomplished with or without religion. I guess I'll know for sure when my time comes to float down the tunnel.
24. What I think about the Mormon Church today.
I think the Mormon Church thinks it is a much bigger part of our world than it actually is. Within the scope of Human History, the Mormon Church is but a foot note. The world at large takes little notice of Mormonism. I think the Mormon Church today is not quite the same as it was in 1830. It's changed quite dramatically even within the last few years.
I think there are several very sincere Mormons who truly believe in their religion. I believe some of the leaders do. I also believe some of the leaders know it's a fabrication. I have often wondered how Mormon leaders who know that the Church is false can stand to look in the mirror at themselves. There has to be some. The Salt Lake City bombing scandal of the 1980s is evidence of that. The only answer I can come up with is that they must somehow feel socially obligated to continue to nurture the big lie. Imagine what would happen to Mormons and their communities if a sufficient number of Mormon leaders were to publicly admit the Mormon Church is not what it claims to be. There would be chaos. Whole families would be devastated and whole Mormon communities would crumble (not to mention the political and economic impact).
Also, when you think God is on your side, your liable to believe and do anything you find necessary to further your cause. Lying and re-writing History is justified by the Almighty.
The Mormon Church is more than a beautifully crafted, modernized, authoritarian religion with 19th Century origins full of wonderful doctrines and splendid imagery. I believe the Mormon Church is as much a corporation as it is a religion. I believe it gets too involved in political activism. I believe it has an agenda to infiltrate our government and the social fabric of our communities. That's nothing new, so does the Christian Coalition and other so called "non-political" organizations. I believe the Mormon Church has far too much influence with our national and world leaders for all the wrong reasons. I don't think the Jesus of the Bible was a politician. He was forced to meet with Pilot before his crucifixion. He wasn't lobbying. The political agenda of the Mormon Church is one of the biggest arguments for the separation of church and state I can think of. And yes, I believe it is a cult with a PR machine that tries to make it appear mainstream. That's why the Book of Mormon has been replaced with the Bible on the TV commercials. Is anyone out there fooled by that?
The Mormon Church and it's members are no longer a 19th century religion isolated in the desert. It is now the age of unprecedented information technologies which make it impossible for the church to continue to hide or manipulate the truth if you're willing to look for it. As long as Mormons are content accepting official, sanitized, faith promoting church versions of its origins and history, the Mormon Church will continue on as it always has; ever changing to accommodate the times and maintain the faithful. When its members seek knowledge and truth beyond the imposed limits of the church, the church will lose members who have the courage to leave.
I had to accept that just because a great many people believe something does not necessarily make it true. Yes, a man like Joseph Smith can deceive. There are many men in history who have fooled the masses, and the masses have been wrong more often than they have been right.
I was recently amused by the behavior of current Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley. He was interviewed by Time Magazine a few months ago. Time asked Hinckley about the Mormon doctrine of men becoming gods. Hinkley answered that he didn't know much about the doctrine and that it was not being taught, but he admitted once hearing something about it. Well, that was pretty much a text book definition of a lie. Like Bob Dole says, "You know it. I know it, and the American people know it." A short time later at General Conference, Hinkley tells the Saints that the media "mis-reported" him, and not to rely on the media for spiritual guidance. What was that? Who in their right mind would rely on Time Magazine for spiritual guidance to begin with? I'm willing to bet that the church went into the interview thinking it was a great way to capitalism on some good PR. Now that a prophet of God got caught lying, they're telling everyone to ignore what was said in the interview. Come on! Do you have to be hit on the head with a hammer to see what's happening here? Are you going to fall for the "milk before meat" line again?
When my story was first placed on this web site, I wrote "... there are greater evils in the world than religions that turn out to be cults. If you truly want to take out something bad, go to Baghdad and put a bullet in Saddam Hussein's head. That's were the real evil is. Not in Salt Lake City..." I used to think that, but not anymore. After reading some of the other stories on this web site and learning of the devastating affects of Mormonism on many peoples' lives, I really have to wonder if "evil" just might be an appropriate description of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm certain some of the other people who have posted stories on this web site will not hesitate to use the word evil. Others will not be so harsh. It really depends on your personal perspective.
Evil is a strong word that requires evidence. Is it possible that evil can exist in the Mormon Church? Read the next section in my story and decide for yourself. I must warn you-if I sound angry in the next section it is because I am, and you should be to...
25. The darkest chapter of Mormon History is the least known.
I learned something about the Mormon Church from an Ex-Mormon in Germany that is almost incomprehensible. I wish it were not true.
I had always wondered how the Mormon Church in Germany in the 1930s and 40s survived the Nazi regime. It is well known that Jehovah's Witnesses in occupied Europe were persecuted along with other groups of people by the Nazis and sent to their deaths in the concentration camps. Why haven't I ever heard of the same thing happening to European Mormons? It stands to reason that the Mormons in Europe would have suffered the same fate. Mormonism is an American religion and led by an American prophet. The United States was at war with Germany from 1941 to 1945. Obviously, you would think that the Mormons in Europe would have been seen as a threat to Hitler. The paranoid Nazi government certainly examined Mormonism in great detail as it did everything else. I'm sure that the Mormons in America were against Hitler, but what about the Mormons in Germany and the rest of occupied Europe? Certainly, they did not remain silent while millions perished at the hands of Hitler. Certainly, with the keys of discernment, they were not ignorant to the savage evil of the Nazis. I have never been able to find any information about this episode of Mormon History until recently.
I had my chance to find out after I received an E-mail from an American Ex-Mormon living in Germany married to a German Ex-Mormon. I E-mailed him back and inquired about the church in Germany during W.W.II. I knew it was a sensitive subject, but I just had to know. His reply was shocking.
He replied that the Mormon Church was not only tolerated in Nazi Germany- it was viewed as an acceptable part of Nazi society. On the other hand, the Jehovah's Witnesses refused allegiance to any form of government and refused to participate in the military. Those beliefs sent many of them to the death camps. According to the E-mail I received, the Mormon Church in Germany supported the Nazi government. It is a doctrine of the Mormon Church to uphold and support the government of the country in which it resides. The Mormons were seen as nationalistic in a National Socialistic society. According to the E-mail, Nazi flags were hung in Mormon chapels in Germany. A religion that does not display the cross of Jesus Christ instead displayed the twisted cross of Satan. I was left speechless and sickened by this E-mail. The barbarism of the Nazis has always made me ashamed to be a human being and to be born in the 20th Century. Now, I am just as ashamed to have been a Mormon.
The Catholic Church remained silent while the Jews were slaughtered and have recently officially apologized about it. Too little too late. How can it be that the Mormon Church, the only "true" church of Jesus Christ on Earth, could have swastikas displayed in its German chapels while innocent men, women and children were being gassed to death?
How could the Spirit of the Lord have dwelled in such a place?
How many prayers were said for Hitler?
How many Nazi salutes were given at sacrament meetings?
How many German Mormons bore their testimony of Hitler?
How many German Mormons hid Jews at the risk of their own lives? How could God's true saints in Germany not speak out against the greatest evil mankind has ever known?
How may German Mormons stood up to the Nazis and were subsequently sent to Auschwitz, Buckenvauld, Dachau, Sachenhausen, Gross Hosen, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Dora, Theresienstadt, Flossenburg, Ravensbruck, Mauthausen, Sobibor and other pits of hell?
Where was God's restored church during the darkest chapter of Human History?
AND HOW COME WE KNOW LITTLE OR NOTHING ABOUT IT?
These questions really need examined and I wish I could find more information about this. If you are a Mormon reading this and having doubts about the church, your questions should start here. If ever there was a time for Mormons to rise to the occasion, it was when Hell reigned on Earth. Where the hell were they? Hanging swastikas in German chapels?
If anyone has any information-to prove me wrong or to prove me right- please E-mail it to me. If what I have been told is true, the church's behavior is not only inexcusable, it is evil - absolutely evil considering what the Mormon Church claims to be. That cannot be ignored.
There is a bit of a rivalry between Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. I think the Jehovah's Witnesses won the integrity award 50 years ago.
After typing this section of my story, I checked the Internet one last time to see if I could find any information on this subject. Here's what I found on the "Watchtower Observer" at http://omega.nano.no/~telemark/hitler/awakejan.html:
Faced with reports of violence toward Jews in Nazi Germany, "the Mormon Church did almost nothing," says The Salt Lake Tribune. Some Mormons, along with members of other churches, "were entranced by Hitler and his message of racial purity, and there were those who thought they were obeying their church's teaching to honor state leaders." During the Holocaust the German sector of the Mormons "did what most of the churches did; the leaders went along," said Professor Franklin Littell of Temple University, Philadelphia. Douglas Tobler, professor of history at Brigham Young University, wants to examine "the church's failure to take an institutional stand against Nazism," the paper said. Interestingly, the Tribune observed that historian John S. Conway, of the University of British Columbia, Canada, said that the only religious organization that absolutely refused to follow the Nazis was Jehovah's Witnesses. He added that for this more than half were sent to concentration camps.
What possible spin can the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints put on this? Might the church say that many Mormon American soldiers died fighting the Germans in W.W.II? So what? Might the church say that Mormonism is of God, but that the church is for sinners? Bull! Tell that to the survivors of the Holocaust. Got out and find a senior citizen with a number tattooed on his forearm whom happens to be the only survivor of his family. Look him straight in the eye and tell him that.
Consider what you have just read and consider the two quotes I have written below. You should be able to see how the Mormon Church in Germany went along with the Nazis. After reading the quotes, ask yourself, "Could it happen again?" The only thing History tells is that people and governments fail to learn anything from History. You decide which of the two quotes below is more in line with your beliefs. You decide which of the two men quoted below was really inspired of God.
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." Joseph Smith-The 12th Article of Faith.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." Thomas Jefferson-The Declaration of Independence.
26. Will it ever go away?
"You can leave the church, but the church will never leave you." A missionary once told me that shortly after I joined the Mormon Church. I guess it was some kind of warning of eternal consequences if you leave. You'll be tossed upon the waves. Your conscience will forever haunt you and the church will hang over you like a dark cloud. Satan will forever kick at your heels. Well, it's true that the church has never left me. That's a good thing. The mistakes we make in life and the pain we experience are our best companions. Without them, we would have no character and we would not know who we are. In that sense, I don't want the church to ever "leave" me.
27. I'd like to thank the Academy.
Eric quite possibly will never truly know the impact he has had on me and others who posted their stories on this web site, as well of those have read the stories. What Eric has done takes a lot of guts. I want to thank him and the others who posted their stories and shared their E-mails with me. Without their help, my Mormon past would still be suppressed and un-confronted. Because of this web site, I was better able to dig up the past, look it square in the eye, learn from it, mourn for it, and then finally bury it again.
My Mormon past is now a grave that I occasionally visit and place flowers on.
. E-Mail: The author of this story can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org