BYU student who became an atheist

Hi. I am a recovering Mormon. I was born into the church, baptised at eight, received the Aaronic Priesthood at twelve, etc. I became a devout, over-zealous Mormon when I was thirteen. I remained devout for most of my teen years, attending Seminary, administering the Sacrament on Sundays, participating in youth activities, and so forth. But during my first semester of college (at a local university) I began doubting my faith. At first, I struggled to regain my faith. I went to BYU in the hopes of purging myself of doubts. I was doing a tremendous amount of soul searching to see if I really wanted to go on a mission. My father strongly wanted me to, but I wasn't sure if I could preach something I didn't completely believe in. Finally, I decided not to go. My father was disappointed, but he is a kind and understanding man, and he accepted my decision (something I suspect most Mormon fathers would have been unable to do).

During my second semester at BYU, I took an honors Western Civilization class. We were exposed to some great thinkers, and this challenged my faith even more. The last straw, however, was Charles Darwin. I had been exposed to the idea of evolution before, but usually in a negative light. But in this class, we were required to read a lengthy passage from Darwin's Origin Of Species. It detailed the basic arguments of evolution and some of the evidence. It was like a light had gone on in my mind. I began to read everything I could about evolution, and the more I read, the more it made sense to me. And, as every Mormon (and ex-Mormon) knows, Mormon doctrine is quite hostile to the notion of evolution. They are mutually incompatible.

This left me with a painful dilemma. Before Darwin, I had been desperately seeking a way to "return to the fold" and regain my faith. But after Darwin, that was not possible. Once I had accepted the logic of evolution, I could never return to Mormonism.

The remainder of my time at BYU was increasingly unpleasant. Socializing with women had always been difficult, because the first question they ask you is "where did you go on your mission?"! But as I became inactive and got farther away from Mormon doctrine, the harder it was for me to make and maintain friendships. When BYU instituted a policy that all students had to attend a certain number of church services per semester to be readmitted, I decided to return home.

I spent a couple of years as an agnostic, and then became a complete atheist, which is what I am today. A year ago, I began formal steps to have my name removed from church records (to put my money where my mouth is), and they were completed about six months ago. I had to endure two unpleasant meetings with a bishop whose authority I no longer recognized in my life asking me personal questions about my living the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity. I tried to explain to him that I was leaving the church on intellectual grounds, and that the questions were irrelevant. I refused to answer them. So far, no one has tried to persuade me to return to the church (except for my grandmother!), but the same bishop who asked me those offensive questions is trying to contact my brother and sister (both have left the church, but neither has bothered to remove their names from church records), presumably to try to reactivate them. Maybe his ward's tithes are low...

I want to thank you for your website. Even though I had left the church and knew that it could not be true, I didn't really have any hard evidence of inconsistency and doctrinal error. The info on horses and metallurgy ALONE is stunning.

I view the years I spent as a Mormon as a kind of mindrape. Mormonism gave me a terrible self-image (I could not live up to the impossible, "perfect" expectations) that I am only recently recovering from. The farther I get away from that church, the better

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