Date: September 21, 2018 04:20AM
Last night I came across Collette Larsen's interview with John Dehlin on youtube and it was one of the most moving exit stories I've heard. It brings to mind the question of the "god gene," the concept that religious belief can influence our genes and pass on through DNA. My life's journey differs from Collette's, but we both grew up around the same time and as products of many generations of devout mormons. There were many times during her story where I could relate to her feelings, and her tears gave me tears. Discovering that COJCOLDS was a scam was freeing, but devastating. To stand on your own in opposition to a cause your family has embraced for generations is excruciatingly painful, isolating, and lonely. But empowering.
To my knowledge, my progenitors didn't attain mormon royalty status along with its fake superiority and power. Despite the fact that they fell for and supported a cult, they were awesome people and I admire them greatly. I include some of their stories here, mostly just for fun, but also to help you understand the degree of responsibility I felt in carrying on the work they helped establish.
I'm a 5th gen descendant of the prominent Joseph Knight, close friend and possibly the first believer and supporter of Joseph Smith's before Cowdery, Whitmer or Harris came along. He reportedly assisted in Smith's courting efforts toward Emma and loaned Smith the wagon used in obtaining the golden plates. He and son Newel (my g-g-g-grandfather) and their families implemented the first United Order community in the church. They started and abandoned 10 settlements, including Nauvoo, as the new church was forced westward. Despite giving up wealth, status, property and their lives for the cause, their faith never faltered. Newel and wife Sally died along the prairie. I believe they were among the first mormon group heading toward Salt Lake.
I'm a proud 4th gen descendant of William Morley Black. Google his autobiography. While a young man on his way to join the gold rush in CA, he took (I think) the same trail the mormons had taken. He passed through an abandoned Nauvoo and stopped in Salt Lake. He was so moved by John Taylor's testimony that he requested baptism almost immediately. He forfeited his gold rush investment and Stayed in Salt Lake. Brigham Young sent him off to build grist mills and help start several mormon communities, including Orderville. His long life is an extraordinary example of mormon dedication and fulfillment. His posterity is in the thousands, and many of them are in Southern Utah today.
My great-great grandmother, Ann Horrocks Marsh, converted to mo-ism in England (1870s), was so smitten that she courageously left her beloved husband behind and took her four daughters to Salt Lake, then settled in Richfield. My grandparents were born and raised in the polygamous mormon community of Colonia Pacheco, Mexico. As a young married couple, with a two-year-old son, they had to flee during the Mormon Exodus. They gave up everything they owned, were allowed to take one suitcase, and never returned to their hometown. Grandpa William Morley Black and family abandoned their 24-acre farm with all of its livestock.
All these people had extraordinary, faith-promoting experiences, had true grit, and were the most devout mormons you could imagine. Several relatives born during the late 19th century were named Joseph Smith ____ or Brigham Young _____ .
And then I came along. There was so much expectation, not said but internalized. "I'm so blessed, so lucky, I'm part of this awesome family legacy, when much is given, much is required, I must carry on this legacy..."
But I'M GAY. Oops.
I have never heard of any gays in my family tree. Statistically speaking there should be quite a few, right? I dealt with all the stages of leaving the church without help from family, mormon friends or leaders. It was gradual.
Obviously I have had different life experiences than Collette's. But I know those feelings of not being worthy enough, being creeped out by death threats in the temple ceremony, not meeting expectations passed down for generations, discovering it's all based on a fraud, and then admitting, accepting and processing that reality.
While serving a mission, I experienced a crisis in faith. My very kind companion gave me time and space to work through it. I poured out my soul to god, trying to gain perspective and assurance. The only feelings I got was that god either wasn't there or didn't care enough to answer. I stayed on, despite suicidal thoughts, and completed missionary service honorably, but felt changed. I felt guilt and shame just for being attracted to men but had not ever acted on that attraction. I ruminated endlessly, asking why was god so cold to me?
I attended BYU right away and at the same time found the then underground gay community in Provo. Here I was, in my 20s, and finally learning about kissing, dating and sex. Luckily I avoided discovery and the genital-torture aversion therapy (which I heard about years later). Now and then I would date coeds just to maintain appearances. Trying to be an orange when you're an apple just doesn't work. I was angry and confused. Soon I dropped out of BYU and the church.
Time passed as I dated and had relationships. Family were kind and mostly accepting. I don't know if any of them have actively supported gay rights, but I never placed that expectation on them. Over time all the weird little mormon discrepancies I'd piled on the shelf added up. I eventually came to believe, without researching or seeking anti-mormon evidence, that it was all man-made B.S.
About 20 years ago I discovered Jerald and Sandra Tanner's research. That was all it took for my belief to permanently disappear. Evidence that strong, when you're ready to receive it, is too obvious to discredit. I feel deep gratitude toward them.
Now there are so many resources available to us. If anyone who reads this feels alone, guilty, or whatever about not believing in mormonism any more, you have an immense community of support that will embrace and strengthen you. If you enjoy being on the mormon path, I accept you and your truth. I went a different way and it was the scariest choice I ever made. To this day I want to believe in mormonism. That desire could well be in my DNA.
I now believe that life is like an infinity of color available to us. The black/white feeling I had within the mormon worldview is long in the rearview mirror. I've recently experienced brief doses of bliss during meditations, and they are the most spiritual of experiences I've had so far in this lifetime. Love and peace to all of you.