I guess it is important to give a little history of myself. I am 25 years old, I am a multi-generational Mormon. I served a 2 year mission, I served in the mission office as an assistant to the president, I was married in the Salt Lake temple, I am still married. I have held numerous church callings throughout my life, and until recently always paid a full tithing. This is not to say that I have always been a "perfect child". I went through a "phase" as a teenager where I had severe questions as to the reality of God. I questioned all authority. For a short time in high school I would have even described myself as an atheist.
Then I met my current wife. In typical Mormon girl fashion she notified me after a year or so of serious dating, that I had to either straighten up or ship out. She needed to be married in the temple, and if I wasn't going to live my life worthy to go there with her she needed to move on to greener pastures. Well we had a fight over this issue because I was upset that she could not just love me for who I was. After we fought that night I had what I would still consider to be a spiritual experience. She was sitting in my truck crying as I drove her home, and I looked over at her and something hit me, I just had the overwhelming feeling that I was throwing away the best thing that had ever happened to me. By the time we arrived at her house I had decided that I would give her way a try rather than lose her, but I gave her no guarantees. At this time I was drinking quite heavily and smoking cigarettes. (She never had done any of the above, and it is amazing to me that we ever fell in love, but that is another story!)
Well, not surprisingly, as soon as I started going to church and getting more involved with learning more about the "gospel" I felt an acceptance from her family and from my own that I had not felt for a very long time. This felt good, suddenly my parents trusted me again! (All because I attended church.) And her aunt and uncle and grandparents embraced me. I was accepted! Wow, suddenly all these people liked me. I was part of the norm. My partying friends still stuck by me, but thought I was very delusional. I began to pay tithing, and lived the gospel to the best of my ability. Things were going great. I was reading "church approved" books, and was very naive in not even considering any other alternative at this time. I went and got my patriarchal blessing, which is pretty much a fortune telling session. But the blessing was a very moving experience, I was an 18 year old kid searching for answers and meaning, and this blessing promised how successful I would be on the condition that I remained faithful to "the church". It was that very night that I decided I had to serve a mission. I wanted to marry my then girlfriend but felt that I would be cheating God if I did not first serve a mission. I did not feel that I deserved the blessing of temple marriage unless I could first prove my devotion to God.
The next thing I know I was sitting in the MTC. I remember thinking that I would not last a single day on a mission because I may slip up and swear. I was also naive in thinking that very small sins would get one sent home from their mission. (I was way off base there!) Anyway, my mission was overall a very positive experience. The only thing I really regret was not knowing more about the church before I left. I do not feel like I "wasted" two years because I learned a great deal about sales and marketing, and interacting with others, and teaching. I guess I also regret being in the position of "returned missionary" in SLC because it makes it even more difficult to express how I feel about the church now. There is a much higher expectation placed on me now than if I had never served a mission. This is unfortunate in a way because it makes it very difficult to make an honest decision.
The main reason I am grateful for having served a mission is that it made me question what I believed. I sincerely believe that without this experience I may never have looked deeper into church doctrines. I want to relate a pivotal experience for me, this is the experience that I feel caused me to begin to question what I really believed.
My companion and I had been teaching a black man the lessons. He happened to be married to a white LDS woman. We had an extremely good relationship with him. Some of my fondest teaching experiences are from working with John. We were almost through the 6 discussions and things were right on track. He was "golden".
Well one day we showed up to teach John and the mood was quite different. He was laughing and joking as usual but things seemed strained. John said that he had spoken with his mother about the church and that she had told him something ridiculous about the church. He was laughing like he could not even believe what she had told him. Well after a little prodding he came out and said that his mother had informed him that the church had not allowed blacks to hold the priesthood until 1978. He burst out laughing, waiting for us to join in I'm sure. Then he must have seen the serious expressions on our faces. He stopped and asked if that wasn't the most ridiculous thing we had ever heard. Then we dropped the bomb and told him that this was indeed true. He began to cry out of anger and rage. "When were you planning to mention this???" He asked. That phrase is still burned in my mind. Then he shouted "I will never join a church that has been racist!" and left his own home in tears and we were left sitting on his couch with his now hysterical wife.
My companion seemed to simply write it off by saying that John did not have the spirit or was unwilling to soften his heart to the spirit. I could not deal with this so easily. I asked myself over and over: When was I planning to mention this important bit of information to him?? After he was baptized?? After he had devoted 10% of his income for a few years?? After he had gone through the temple and made serious commitments to the church?? He was certainly never going to hear about it at church. We had no plan to ever discuss this doctrine with him. Then I pondered the question, if I were a black person, would I accept this gospel?? Would I worship a God who was racist?? Would I worship a God who "punished" or "cursed" people with "skins of darkness"??? It was certainly an easy doctrine to accept if you were white. But I had never considered it from an alternative perspective. I talked to my mission president and accepted his explanation. I don't even recall exactly what it was, something to do with "Gods ways are not the ways of man" and that "after I died these things would be made clear to me."
I went on with my mission, this question buried in the back of my mind. After all there are members of the church who are black. They must be able to deal with it some how, and I was sure I would understand at some point. Well as time went on I must say that I became very proud of my abilities to teach the gospel and to use the Bible against the Protestants in the area. (I served in Indiana) I had a sure testimony of the gospel. I felt that the gospel was bullet proof. Nothing could affect my testimony because I KNEW it was true. I read church books constantly, I truly devoured information about the gospel. I even ended up needing glasses because my eyes became so tired from constant reading! I would wake up an hour early just so I could get more personal study time. I loved learning about the church.
Well at one point we had an investigator who had been given a copy of the infamous "God Makers" book by a friend. I recommended that she let me read it first so that I would be able to show her the errors of the book as she read it. ( I was not afraid to let anyone read anything about the church because I KNEW it was true and I was confident that I could confound any attempts to disprove the church!)
I stayed up all night long reading this book, I was shocked, I had never read literature written against the church. Some of the ideas in that book really hit home! I was scared. Had I been deceived??? I was in tears, I was ready to call my father and ask him to let me come home.
I prayed and prayed for a testimony to know that this book was not true. Nothing came. But the next day I visited a member who had an extensive library of church books and borrowed the book "The Truth About the God Makers" This book pointed out many of the obvious errors in the original book. And I had also realized that many of the things written in the "God Makers" were just outright lies. This immediately turned me off to the book because it was easy to discount the entire book if they were willing to promote lies. But it did plant some seeds of doubt. And I began to read more about controversial subjects from "church approved" books.
I spent the rest of my mission doubting the gospel. I kept this hidden, except for in occasional interviews with my mission president I considered him to be a great man, and I still do. And when he told me that someday I would understand, I believed him. I wanted to believe, after all I had many spiritual experiences. I had felt the spirit. So these nagging doubts were just a test of my faith. I was certain that I would make it through this with my testimony still in tact. So I continued on with my mission. Trying to avoid phrases like "I know this church is true" to keep my integrity.
Well I made it through the full 2 years, and consider my mission a success, if only an outward success. I "converted" people to the gospel. I toured the mission doing zone conferences and teaching the other missionaries how to teach the gospel. And how to get investigators to "commit" to the church.
My girlfriend had waited the whole time. I came home and it was as if I had never left in a lot of ways. We began dating immediately, and we already knew we were going to get married. I still had my doubts about the church, but still felt that I would eventually reach the point that everyone around me seemed to be at. That point were I would understand, or at least be able to better accept that my doubts would never go away.
Well I was shortly engaged to be married, we were afraid that if we waited too long we would surely sin and become unworthy for temple marriage. Besides, what was the point of waiting we were sure we were destined to be together. I again ignored my doubts. I caved into a lot of social pressure and went through with a temple marriage.
The temple had always made me feel uneasy, even from the first time I attended. Even though I had grown up in the church I was in no way prepared for that bizarre ritual. I remember my dad trying to warn me about how strange it was and my mom got pretty mad at him for talking negatively about the experience. Anyway I remember the feeling of how cultish it was in the temple, hand signals, robes, strange vows and symbols. Swearing to never talk about it. But again, I was convinced that the problem lied within me and that one day I would understand. After all, many of the General Authorities of the church are surgeons and attorneys, they would be smart enough to get out if this was really that bad, right?
I did not have many of the issues surrounding temple marriage that I have read about on the Internet. My entire family is LDS and my wife's family is also. It probably would have been worse for us the other way around. But again, I did not stop to think about this from the perspective of a father of an only child who cannot attend her wedding because he is not "worthy" or a "member". This now seems very insensitive and insulting to me.
Well my wife and I started out lives here in SLC and attended church and paid tithing and the whole nine yards. I began to have discussions at work and at school with people and found many of my old questions about the church resurfacing. I have always had a bit of the "rebel" in me and often associated myself with "non-members" simply because I was interested in their opinions about life. Not to mention that many of the members I knew were self righteous judgmental and boring. I simply did not care for their company.
Well to make a long story short, I opened my mind and started to sincerely re-evaluate what I believed in. The more I studied about the church, the more I doubted it. (This continues to be the trend!) I came to realize that the things I had a testimony about were not original to the Mormon church. I could still be honest, loving, charitable, kind, industrious, and everything else that was good about the church with out being a Mormon. I then realized that all of the things that bothered me WERE original to the church. Polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the Book of Mormon and the facts that disprove it, Adam God theory, the whole "we are right and everyone else is wrong" attitude, Mormon prophets contradicting each other, the temple ceremony, The Book of Abraham and the list goes on and on.
Towards the beginning of this search I had a temple recommend interview with a member of my ward bishopric. This was really an eye opener! I frankly discussed my feelings regarding the church. He simply told me that I needed to pray about it more. When I explained that I had prayed and fasted regarding these issues, and still felt that God was telling me that certain doctrines were incorrect, he recommended that I pray some more.
So I guess my question is, why should a Mormon even bother to pray? They already have all the answers in the handy dandy lesson books. And if you should choose to pray about an issue, and find that your answer is not in line with what the church teaches, you can rest assured that it is you who is wrong. And that your answer was from Satan and not from God. So again I ask, WHY BOTHER TO PRAY ABOUT ANYTHING??? Remember..."when the brethren speak the thinking has been done". (that little phrase really scares me now)
I finally came to the realization that I could no longer live a lie. This lack of integrity was literally killing me spiritually. I needed freedom from this organization. This has caused a great deal of stress in my life as my wife and family still strongly believe in the church. I am not strongly vocal about my beliefs, but I also do not hide how I feel when asked. I have decided to be honest about this issue and let the chips fall where they may.
I feel a new found freedom, I do not feel that God gave me my intellect for me to ignore it. And when so much of the church caused me to question I knew he/she/it would be disappointed in me for blindly following like a sheep instead getting out of something that I no longer believed true. I don't necessarily think the LDS church is evil, although I am beginning to lean that way, I just do not feel that it is for me. I respect a persons right to believe in whatever they wish. I sincerely believe that if Mormonism makes a person happy they should devote themselves to it, personally it did not make me happy.
Sorry for the rambling nature of this letter, but I felt compelled to write it. I just wanted to share how I feel so that others will know they are not alone. I didn't say much about it but it was a life changing experience when I had a heart to heart with my dad and he admitted many of the same doubts. Without hearing that someone else felt the same way, who was also a Mormon, I am not sure that I would have ever pursued my "quest" to know whether or not the church was really true. I probably would have only continued to doubt my own spirituality and "worthiness". I do know that it is important to know that you are not alone when you are trying to leave an authoritarian organization like the church.
This has been a scary period in my life. I have had to admit that I simply do not KNOW what is true. I am searching. I am willing to look at any alternative. For now, I simply try to follow what is in my heart. I try to treat others with respect, give to charities, love my family and my wife. And above all, I am honest. "Nothing in life is above being honest."-from the band 311.
Eric, I would be happy if you would post this, I choose to remain anonymous simply to protect my family from any undue pain. If anyone would like to correspond or question my beliefs or opinions I would be grateful if you would forward their responses. [Please refer to story #58 in any correspondence]
Thanks again for the outstanding web page!
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