We (Gordon and Tricia) left the Mormon church in March 1996. Gordon was an 8th generation member (his 5th great grandfather, Thomas Hancock, was taught by Parley P. Pratt and was baptized the same day in the fall of 1830 see Levi Hancock journal at http://www.math.byu.edu/~smithw/Lds/LDS/Early-Saints/hancock,l). Tricia's family began to join the church in the late 1960's.
For us, the most difficult process in leaving the church was telling our families. Gordon's parents were on a mission in Salt Lake City and we knew his mother would be devastated. Although we had a clear watershed moment when we knew we could no longer remain in the church, we spent several days deciding how to tell our families. It was during these few days in mid-March that we appreciated reading the experiences of others on this site (http://caladan.chattanooga.net./~erickett/). We felt incredibly isolated for we had no close, non-member friends with whom we could talk. We hope by posting our experience that we can be of help to someone else considering leaving or who has left the church. We can be reached at. email@example.com
In telling our families we hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. We prepared letters to our families (see below) announcing and clearly explaining our decision. Although a letter might seem impersonal, we knew we would have difficulty orally explaining our reasons to our family members given the deep emotions involved. Additionally, personal meetings under such stressful circumstances had the possibility of generating angry words that could sour relationships. We requested a few days breathing space to let us all have some 'cool-down' time before talking about our decision.
When reading the letters below, don't expect Shakespeare as we wrote the letters and released them over two intense days. We have removed the names of family members, church officials, and our children and request that anyone who reads this not harass or commiserate with our families. We have made a few minor modifications so the letters will read better to a non-family member but have not changed the content. Please overlook the differences between Canadian and US spellings, Eh!
Prior to mailing and delivering the letters to our family members, we delivered the letter requesting our records be removed (see below) to our Bishop. We hand delivered the sealed letter to the Bishop given we had assignments that needed to be reassigned for Sunday. As we had a long-term positive relationship with the Bishop and respected him personally, we did not become threatening in our letter. However, we were prepared in our minds to go the distance (legal action and publicity) if our request was not addressed promptly.
Many people in this site have expressed that they did not want to meet with anyone in authority from the church as that might indicate they implicitly had some authority over the former member. We do not disagree with that approach for many circumstances; however, in our case we choose to meet with him a week later. Gordon had lived in this ward all of his life (except for mission/BYU) and we greatly respected the current Bishop. By meeting with him we felt a sense of control over the process of leaving the church as we were able to ensure he clearly understood our reasons (such as no sexual sin, no indoctrination by anti-Mormons, church doctrine, upholding our personal integrity, etc.). As the Bishop had known Gordon and Gordon s family for many years, he was able to understand why Gordon could not sit on the fence and raise our children in the deceptions of the church even though the Bishop admitted that he, like many others we have met over the years, ignored the problem areas of the church because he more highly valued the structure the church provided his children. The meeting went as well as could be expected and served as a good closing chapter for our life in the church as we walked out the standard issue aluminum doors knowing that we would not be going back.
Our families were shocked, of course, upon reading our letters. They respected our wishes and waited a few days before contacting us. The most common question our families asked was "Why we simply did not go inactive for a few years instead of taking such an extreme step?"
Had our process for leaving the church not had deep roots, then perhaps we might have formally requested no contact and gone inactive for a while to allow some time for our thoughts to settle. However, we knew what we were doing and were committed individuals who could not live a lie no matter how difficult the consequences of following our conscience. To go inactive would indicate to our families and church members that we were unsure. Undoubtedly they would spend a lot of time thinking of ways to reactivate us. Also, by completely severing all ties with the church we helped ensure that we would not take the path of least resistance in the future and slip back into activity. If we someday were to believe that the church was true (never say never), then we would want to have every possible obstacle in front of us before rejoining.
Except for Tricia's paternal grandmother, all living members of our families are fairly to extremely active in the church. As Gordon's extended family frequently had church-focused gatherings we had a frank discussion with his family that we wanted to be careful in what activities and lessons we exposed our daughters. As they are 5 and 4 years old, they had enough exposure (indoctrination) in Primary that we have to be careful for several years.
For our families it will be difficult to accept that the family has changed. Things that used to be taken for granted or considered acceptable when all were members of the church can no longer be taken for granted
A few weeks after sending our original letter to the Bishop we received the following letter confirming our names had been removed.
April 6, 1996
Dear Gordon & Patricia
We have reviewed your letter dated March 19, 1996. A copy of your letter is in the hands of President __________ and at his request he has instructed me to write this letter to you.
With heavy hearts we wish to inform you that as per your request both of your names and your childrens [sic] names have been removed from the records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day [sic] Saints.
However, as a church policy we inform you that this action can be rescinded if a written request to do so is received by President __________ within 30 days of the date of this letter.
Our prayers and love go out to you as you consider your paths here in mortality.
Bishop _____ ________
______ _____ Ward
In the subsequent six months we have had occasional cordial interaction with members (piano lesson instructor, politics, baby-sitter, etc.) but have not yet had to deal with non-family church members about our decision to leave.
On the family front, Gordon's parents recently returned from their mission and thus family gatherings will likely be more frequent. At family gatherings on both sides it has been interesting to notice how the church consumes at least 90% of the conversion amongst family members and in conversation our family members sometime seem to forget that we are no longer members. So far we have not had any major interference problems with our daughters. We will have to keep an open dialogue with our family members as we work through the challenges of our changed relationship.
We have begun to address the vacuum left after leaving the church. The values we each were raised with were fundamentally tied to the church. The core values (honesty, integrity, golden rule, etc.) have not changed but the reasons behind our acceptance of those values are now more personal given we do not have a handy dandy handbook that tells us what to believe.
We have no doubt in our minds that Mormons are Christians in the broad sense of the word. Certainly, many "Christian" organizations have narrowly defined Christianity such that Mormons, Catholics, etc. do not meet their definition and are thus called cults or pseudo-Christian cults. The LDS church and Watchtower Society are quasi-cults (not quite the extreme of Solar Temple, David Koresh, etc. but not too far removed) along the same lines as many fundamentalist Christian sects (Pentecostal, Baptist, and other Born Again movements) when one uses commonly held interpretations of cult: very authoritarian, heavy indoctrination of young children, repression of critical examination of their beliefs, claim to have a monopoly on the truth, siege mentality, extensive time and financial commitments, etc.
The strength of Mormonism is that it effectively exploits the doctrinal weaknesses of mainstream and fundamentalist Christianity. It is encouraging to see the explosion of free-thinking former Mormon's on the Internet. The well-financed, fundamentalist anti-Mormon movements (The God Makers, cult experts, etc.) is easy for Mormons and former Mormons alike to discredit. These movements, in their attempts to "save" the Mormon soul, often misrepresent the truth about Mormonism and are usually casting rocks from the comfort of their fragile glass houses. The Internet explosion has allowed free-thinking Mormons and former Mormons to effectively investigate and share the truth of church without having to link up with the fundamentalist anti-Mormon distribution network. As free-thinking former Mormons we hope that church members and potential members will seriously consider the facts of the Mormon church but can accept that members may decide to continue with the church.
The challenge for the free-thinkers is that Mormons (and members of other fundamentalist/quasi-cult groups), unless they seriously pushed Mormon philosophy to its intellectual limits (i.e. creation vs. Evolution), are used to having someone else provide answers to the basic questions of life and may have difficulty dealing with a distinct lack of answers beyond the current realm of science and nature.
Tricia has had difficulty dealing with the void created by leaving the faith of her upbringing. She is gradually working through a broader understanding of life that extends beyond the scope of traditional Christianity. Gordon considers himself an agnostic at this moment drawing upon his study of world cultures, philosophies, and religions as the basis of a philosophy that, at this time, can accept the possible existence of a God without being hung up about the nature or existence of God. We both do not intend to join an organized religion and are working through the self-evaluation necessary to deal with life's challenges and raise our children to be responsible citizens in the world community. We particularly look forward to talking to other free thinkers in this regard.
Although we have no doubt we could have dealt with some of the challenges of leaving the church better, we have no regrets with our progression out of Mormonism to date. The only regrets we do have are for subjecting our young daughters to the indoctrination of Primary and for the irreplaceable time we spent under the influence of the church.
As many others leaving Mormonism face family challenges and the belief-system vacuum, we will send an update next year of how we are adapting to life after Mormonism and how our families appear to be adapting to our decision.
Wishing you the best in your journey through life,
Gordon and Tricia
March 20, 1996
Dear [Family Member]:
We realize his will likely come as a shock to you. Attached is a letter we sent to Bishop ________ requesting our names be removed from the records of the church.
We have both spent much time considering our belief in the church and have reached the conclusion that we cannot retain our memberships. We feel great peace with our decision and have each attached a letter outlining our personal reasons.
However, we have agonized and felt great stress in deciding how to tell you and other family members as we do not want to sour our family ties although we realize it may take some time for things to settle.
We request that if any family members in town might want to call [out-of-town family members] that they wait a few days until they have had a chance to receive these letters personally.
We realize this will be very stressful on you. We carefully considered the method and timing of our request in light of your possible reactions. Our options, however, were quite limited given the close proximity of both of our families.
While we differ in our stated religious convictions, we hope we can continue our family relationships under these changed circumstances. As we expect this letter may cause many of you significant stress, we request that you do not try to contact us until this weekend when we will be available. Should a family gathering to discuss our decision be contemplated, we want to let you know that we do not wish to participate as we have already made our decision and such a gathering would potentially lead to bad feelings. We will not try to undermine your beliefs and trust that you will return the same courtesy.
As you will discern from our letters, one of our major concerns involves the teaching of religion to young children. In this regard, we ask that you respect our wishes and not discuss Primary or church matters with [our daughters]. We realize that in their associations the young children in the family will likely mention church themes in their conversations and we do not seek to completely isolate [our daughters] from such interactions. Please do not try to subvert our decision with respect to our children as we have no intention of subverting the decisions made by others in the family with respect to their children.
We do not intend to make any significant changes in our lifestyle as a result of our decision and intend to raise our children accordingly. We do not foresee joining any organized religion in the future and are going through the process of evaluating our own spirituality and our relationship with God and Jesus..
We appreciate that these are sensitive and difficult issues to address. We have tried to be direct as we do not know for sure how you will react and we want to avoid misunderstanding or unnecessary hurt later.
Gordon and Tricia
Having given this matter serious consideration, we request that you remove our names and the names of our daughters, [Complete Name] and [Complete Name], from the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as soon as possible. We have enclosed our temple recommends.
We request a letter signed by yourself and/or the Stake President indicating that our names have been removed from the records of the church and that we requested the removal.
We immediately resign any callings or assignments presently held and request no further church-related contact from members of the church. Tricia was scheduled to give a sharing time this week in Primary and will not be able to complete this assignment or teach her class in good conscience.
The only church-related contact we will accept is contact from yourself necessary to complete the removal of our names from the records of the church.
In brief, we do not have testimonies of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the restoration claimed by Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon and cannot in good conscience continue our membership. Our request does not result from sin, having taken offense from members, from contact with anti-Mormons, or from joining another church.
As we do not want our families to learn of this decision from others, we would like to have the opportunity to inform our families this week. We realize you may need to talk to the Stake President this week but ask that you not discuss our request with anyone else. Specifically, please do not mention this letter to [your Counselor, who is Tricia s father] or the real reason why Tricia cannot fulfill her calling to anyone else until we let you know that we have informed Gordon s parents in Utah.
We appreciate your kindness and wish you well as you follow your personal convictions.
Gordon _ ________ Patricia _ ________
March 19, 1996 March 19, 1996
I have attempted to live the life of a Latter-day Saint since my childhood. However, given my strict family upbringing and the extensive reinforcement of church beliefs at church and at home, I felt little choice in exercising my beliefs. The family consequences of not participating in the church were unthinkable. This is not to say I was totally miserable as a child with respect to the church for I did enjoy many of the youth/scouting activities and the opportunity to excel intellectually in seminary and Sunday classes.
I tended to be regarded by other members as a highly active youth, well behaved, and strong in my knowledge of the Gospel. The key word here is knowledge. My knowledge was an intellectual knowledge. I had great difficulty in obtaining the spiritual prompting all members were promised should they ask sincerely and live the teachings. Thus my "testimony" was always based upon a faith supported by some reason. Fortunately for the church, the other religions that challenge the church are on equally shaky ground and thus do not provide good alternatives for members evaluating their beliefs.
I dreaded testimony meetings. They were boring, repetitive, frequently insincere, seldom had the Spirit of God and I could not stand to watch children stand up and recite the coached testimonies from their parents. More significantly, I dreaded the frequent pressure of silence during the meetings. Unfortunately, there were times where I (and I assume others) was "forced" into bearing my testimony. These included being called up in front of a group by name to "share some thoughts and testimony" or more frequently being stuck in small group testimony meetings (i.e. family, class, quorum, mini-missions, mission) where every single person bears their testimony. The pressure to participate is so intense and probably did a lot to turn me off of the church. Why should people have to be pressured into sharing their very personal feelings? I usually tried to be as non-committal as possible although there may have been a few times in my youth when I used the phrase "I know the church is true" to sound good and maintain my "facade" as is so frequently found in the church each week.
I had no desire to attend the local universities and set a goal to win a four-year Kimball scholarship at BYU as this was the best that could be achieved by a LDS youth. I didn't quite reach that goal, but attended BYU on a two-year scholarship. I enjoyed the relative freedom (from home) and challenge offered by BYU in my first three semesters in the mid-80 s. However, in spite of the environment and my efforts, my testimony did not grow. The most enlightening class I attended was my [Honours] Pearl of Great Price class. I was exposed to many doctrines taught by the prophets and apostles that I did not know existed and which troubled me deeply.
At this time I learned that Brigham Young (JD, Vol. 7, p. 285) and Joseph Fielding Smith (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pp. 276-7), among others, taught that Adam and Eve came with bodies from another planet [I think the X-Files could have some real fun with this one.] In my research in the BYU library I learned about some of the private and public bitter fights between the Apostles and the impact these conflicts had on several books that were not published in the early 1900's.
I learned about the challenges to the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. I soon realized that Hugh Nibley's defense of the Book of Abraham, while putting off a few of the critics questions, simply was a bunch a fluff that created many more questions in my mind given that Joseph Smith clearly claimed (and the book heading today still claims) that he translated the actual writings of Abraham written by Abraham s own hand. For example, why did Joseph Smith create an Egyptian alphabet when he first purchased the papyrus and use it for a year in giving translations to many members but then apparently not use it when he did the actual translation, which is the only possible argument to support why his translation of the Cut diagrams are completely inaccurate based upon the papyrus remains obtained by the church in 1967. Also, if the book was written by Abraham, why are the Cut diagrams and fragments owned by the church clearly related to the first to third Century BC when Abraham lived circa 2000 BC. Also, as Joseph Smith claimed the records contained the complete writings of Abraham and Joseph that would be larger than the Bible when he finished his translation, why did Joseph only complete a few chapters of the book of Abraham seven years later? Surely such an important work (for which the revelation in the D&C 5:4 was reworded from its Book of Commandments original amongst other changes) would have been completed.
Finally, I learned that in the first written account of the First Vision, amongst other significant differences from the published version today, that Joseph only claimed to see Jesus Christ. Surely the only man in recorded scripture to have seen God, the Father, would not have forgotten this.
My instructor, Dr. Robert Millet, was skillful at dealing with the questions and in directing the class discussion. We were so often blown away that we did not know what to say. My mission papers had already been submitted and I was told that I would learn the answers to many of my questions when I went to the temple.
I attended the temple, went to the MTC, and left for a mission in Montreal when I was 19. The feelings when I was called and set apart as a missionary were the same as my previous priesthood ordinations nothing special. I have never gained a testimony of the power of the priesthood. From a doctrinal perspective, the temple teachings did not provide any new information to help me with my relationship with God or to answer the serious questions that I was considering. >From a ceremonial perspective, the temple endowment did not sit well with me, did not inspire me, and did not seem inspired.
The MTC experience was not enjoyable and I felt trapped. Once in the field, I met a lot of really good people working through the challenges in life the best way they knew how and I began to realize that I had difficulty in accepting the notion that my God had established/restored one true church upon the face of the earth. I also found I could not so easily accept the idea that the Spirit of God constrained Nephi to kill Laban when so many other potential alternatives were possible. I now believe the illness that brought me home that year was, as suggested by the doctors, stress-related; my body was not letting me continue to do something that I really did not believe in. When faced with a choice of medical release or continuing, I had an experience in which I foresaw the way I would end up if I continued my mission. My mind then immediately recalled the experience of Wilford Woodruff and the Manifesto concerning Polygamy. If the prophet was able to change a doctrine that was once considered by a former prophet to be an essential requirement for all men to reach the Celestial Kingdom, then I could accept ending my mission on similar terms.
I was expected by my family to be married in the temple. When I seriously considered not getting married in the temple, the immense, but not unexpected, reaction by my family confirmed my worst fears. My family would go to almost any length to keep me on the straight and narrow path. While I appreciate their concern for me, pressuring someone to make a decision they don't believe in doesn't solve a problem it only buries the problem to fester and resurface later. After much tribulation, Tricia and I were eventually married in the temple. To be married outside the temple at this point in time seemed unthinkable.
Soon after we were married, the Temple Endowment was significantly changed. Articles readily available at that time confirmed that other major revisions were also made in the 1920's that altered the oaths of the temple. If the Temple is the only way back to the Celestial Kingdom and the church teaches that the way back has been the same forever, I wonder who is not going to make it post 1990, post 1930, or pre 1930? Why would God change his relationship with the women in the church?
As I had met Tricia prior to returning to BYU, I considered transferring to a local university to complete my degree. However, I was close to finishing at BYU (3.5 semesters to go) and would have needed to complete (5-7) semesters at a local university. By this time BYU was becoming much more conservative and closed. Were it not for the high time cost of transferring to another university (or my enjoyment of US college sports), I would not have returned. I felt as trapped as I always had.
As the influence of Boyd K. Packer at BYU increased, my desire to be there decreased. He single-handedly pronounced closed several important debates. At this time the honour council increased its vigilance (not that I was violating any standards) and professors were coming under increased scrutiny for saying anything that might be considered controversial. The relatively vibrant academic atmosphere (under Jeffrey Holland) I once knew was dying. I was also troubled at this time by the comments of my Doctrines of the Gospel teacher that Negroes had been less valiant in the spirit world and thus grateful to accept any bodies available even if they could not have the priesthood or attend the temple. At this time I wrote his comments off to be only his personal opinion.
A few months after I graduated [Magna Cum Laude]from BYU, the Paul H. Dunn scandal was unveiled. Although I was not surprised that several stories by a well respected G.A. were found to be false, I could not accept the church firing the BYU professor that uncovered the lies. Boyd K. Packer taught that when it comes to the reputation of the church, it is more important that the image be preserved even if history proves that image to be false. This attitude towards church history greatly troubled me.
By this time, Tricia was trying very hard to be active in the church and I had not discussed my doubts with her. I felt trapped again as I had been married in the temple to a now active member and had a young family.
My professional training as a Chartered Accountant (similar to CPA) and an auditor further solidified my skeptical nature for in my earlier years I was much more willing to accept the explanations told to me without obtaining independent verification (i.e. like the traditional myth I was told and accepted as a youth that the reason the temple ceremonies are virtually identical to the Masonic ceremonies was because Masonry could be traced back to Solomon s Temple or that men hold the priesthood to offset the women's role to bear/raise children).
Although Tricia's [development of and recovery from] Hodgkin's Disease had a profound impact on my outlook on life, it did not have a significant impact on my church life for I could accept the fact that bad things happened to very good people like her. She has a gentle and kind nature that is as good as you can find anywhere. I would like to thank our family members who helped us through that year of incredible challenge.
Of more profound influence on my relationship with the church was my callings to work with the Blazers/Scouts, Teachers/Venturers, and Deacons/Scouts respectively over a two year period and in two wards (boundary change and we then moved back into our original ward). For the first time in my life I was able to look back and see the kind of training I received when I grew up. I now saw the constant repetition, the all-encompassing focus on missions and the temple, the directed questions, the carefully crafted lesson plans. I tried to avoid responsibility for quorum teaching and instead focused on the scouting aspects as I could not teach those lessons to the young men in good conscience.
I began to watch closely what was being taught to my young daughters in Primary. I was shocked that children as young as three were being encouraged to memorize some of the 13 Articles of Faith. How can children, required to attend church by their parents who in turn are required to teach their children in this manner by the D&C, endure such carefully crafted and manipulative teaching continuously until they are 18 and then be able to have an independently gained testimony of the church?
Ever since I was a child, I have been bothered by the strong emphasis placed on "Families Are Forever." I remember the FHE manual picture on our refrigerator for all those years. As a child I was very bothered when one of my siblings would lay a guilt trip (sometimes on me) that our family would not be forever if we were disobedient. This bothered me until I later realized that the real doctrine is that only husbands and wives will be together forever and that were I to commit a sin, it would not have an eternal impact on my parents or my siblings. Furthermore, the purpose of sealing children to parents is not so much to generate an eternal "nuclear family" as is always depicted, but is instead to seal every individual on the earth through their parents to Adam in the patriarchal order and then to their Father in Heaven. I have checked this interpretation with senior authorities several times over the years and they agree with my interpretation. However, they cannot explain why the church (through General Conference Talks, Songs, Lessons, Pictures, etc.) continually uses this principle as a means to influence children. Over the past ten years, I have been able to help several members overcome extreme guilt and family conflict concerning sealings by explaining this principle to them.
Approximately six months ago, I began to seriously question, in my mind, my commitment to the church.
As I studied further, I very recently came across some tabernacle discourses from President Brigham Young quoted in a book I selected from [my father] a few years ago (The Vision a compilation of quotes from Prophets and Apostles compiled by N.B. Lundwall). President Young said concerning the Negroes and the priesthood:
"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the priesthood and of coming into the kingdom of God and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity." (JD, Vol. 2, pp. 142-3) and for good measure "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth curse with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain ....@ (JD, Vol. 11, p. 272)
These prophetic explanations were confirmed in the 20th Century by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie among others. In the original 2nd edition of Mormon Doctrine I obtained from [my father] a few years ago, Bruce R. McConkie clearly reiterates President Young s statements and also follows Joseph Fielding Smith s generally accepted explanation that the Negroes were less valiant in the pre-mortal existence and thus took the less desirable bodies on earth. The brethren often extended this logic to other races and status until the most valiant spirits were born into white LDS homes (this brings back bad memories of Saturday's Warrior). I guess my BYU teacher was not expressing his own opinion after all.
However, the Spencer W. Kimball revelation in 1978 totally contradicts President Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie. I have a "new" second edition of Mormon Doctrine, which simply states the new revelation in place of the original information. There is no reference to the former church position or any explanation concerning the change. It's as if the old information never existed. Now I understand why my BYU Honours Pearl of Great Price Class text and discussions did not come close to touching this issue.
Furthermore, in the 1982 edition LDS scriptures, the status of converted Lamanites became "pure and delightsome" (2 Nephi 30:6) replacing the earlier version "white and delightsome" without footnote or other reference. The brethren have tried to explain this change from "white" to "pure" as a simple clarification. Interestingly, "white" was cross-referenced in my 1977 LDS edition to 2 Nephi 5:21 which clearly refers to the colour of skin. Over the past 150 years, I presume not to many LDS Lamanites have had their skin colour change.
In this same period of time, President Kimball renounced the Adam-God doctrine explicitly and authoritatively taught by President Brigham Young. Are our prophets infallible and truth absolute as we are taught? Who was right concerning Negroes? Joseph Smith who brought forth the Book of Abraham verses stating that Negroes could not hold the priesthood, Brigham Young and subsequent Prophets/Apostles who taught that Negroes could hold the priesthood at the end of the Millennium, or Spencer W. Kimball who reversed this revelation (similar to Wilford Woodruff and Polygamy) as the church faced increased pressure from all corners on its Negro position?
Can we rely on the teachings of President Hinkley and our current edition of scriptures as in-errant (remember the prophets have repeatedly said that the Lord will not allow them to mislead the church)? Or will long-standing teachings be adjusted in the future to allow women to hold the priesthood once the political pressure becomes too much to bear? I would not be overly surprised given my current knowledge of the way the church modifies its history (which goes way beyond anything I ve mentioned hear) and the way that prophesies are unfulfilled (D&C 84:4-5/Negroes above) even when they were later clarified by other Apostles such as to leave no doubt as to their meaning.
I am now very clear in my belief that:
- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (formerly in the Church of Latter-day Saints in contradiction to 3 Nephi 27:8) is not the "only true church upon the face of the earth" (I likewise don't believe any other church I am aware of is "the true church");
- the Book of Mormon is not the "most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" particularly considering it does not provide any guidance pertaining to the temple, work for the dead, which are considered essential for exaltation;
- Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God in his restoration of the church, his "translation" of the Book of Mormon, his partial "translation" of the writings of Abraham and Joseph including the priesthood curse on Negroes, his restoration of polygamy, and his restoration of the temple endowment.
- the history of the church as presented to the membership has been carefully skewed and altered over the course of many years to paint the church in favourable light and to support changes in doctrine (First Vision, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants/Book of Commandments, Polygamy, Negroes, official church history etc.);
- the church does not regard the latter-day Apostles and earlier latter-day prophets with same degree of authority as the biblical Apostles and more recent prophets (Journal of Discourses, Negroes, D&C 84:4-5 etc.);
- President Hinkley, while apparently a good man, is not a prophet of God because he claims the same mantle of authority as President Kimball and President Young only one of which could possibly be a prophet given the disagreement over fundamental doctrines such as Adam-God and Negroes.
Given my current understanding and my lack of any spiritual or emotional reasons to accept very flimsy explanations in the face of clear reason, I can no longer remain a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in good conscience nor raise my children in the church. I am presently searching out my own understanding of God and do not anticipate joining another church for their biblical and non-biblical claims are equally unsupported. I appreciate my LDS background for providing me tremendous insight into the human condition that I would not have so easily gained from mainstream Christianity. I do not foresee making significant changes to my lifestyle but I look forward to approaching life without having feelings of guilt imposed each Sunday and without dreading the commandment to baptize my daughters at age eight.
I am grateful that Tricia and I have been able to more recently discuss our feelings on the church and that we have reached, at nearly the same time, similar conclusions from somewhat different paths. I have felt a tremendous peace since realizing that I could no longer sustain my belief in the church.
As I do not intend to try to persuade you in our future relations as to the (un)truthfulness of the gospel, I wanted to lay out to my family why I feel the way I feel, including the basis for my decision, so you can accept me for who I am. I am willing to accept your choice to be a member of the church and will not condemn you for making a choice you honestly believe in.
Although I was baptized at age eight, I was never strong in the church growing up and was inactive for a number of my teenage years. Even when I was "active" we never had much involvement with the church given we lived in remote northern [Canadian] locations. I had not even read the Book of Mormon during my youth.
I met Gordon when I was inactive. We were soon engaged to be married and I made some attempts to learn more about the church. We seriously considered not getting married in the temple as the temple had no significant meaning in my life. The intense pressure from Gordon's family, when we raised this possibility, made it clear that a temple marriage was necessary to avoid a serious family conflict.
As our relationship had its ups and downs I continued to "investigate" the church as I didn t think Gordon would have anything to do with me unless I did. I began to read the Book of Mormon and although I never received a personal witness as to its truth, I was comfortable enough with the church to participate for the sake of my marriage. As I wanted to please everyone (my family, Gordon, his family) and I wanted to marry Gordon, I agreed to go to the temple not out of my own personal conviction.
My initial (and subsequent) experience in the temple was bewildering to say the least. I now know that I was clearly not ready for going to the temple despite my good intentions and the assistance of those around me. Looking back, I doubt I would have been ready for the experience even if I had been active as a youth. The endowment experience is clearly not reflective of the church image outside of the temple and does not reflect my belief in God. I wondered if I was alone in my feelings but felt it was not proper to talk to anyone about my feelings including Gordon.
I strongly resisted going back to the temple and think we only went twice that year in Utah. Since then, I have honestly tried to be a good member of the church but became no less comfortable with the temple experience.
I have discovered over these past six years that my view of God does not agree with church doctrine. I do not accept that the Negroes throughout the history of this world were less valiant in the pre-mortal existence. I do not accept that God focuses on one small group of people to share his truth and knowledge given the large numbers of good people that have lived on the earth and that the good people have to accept the right church to achieve their potential. I also have difficulty accepting many of the other doctrines of the church.
>From my perspective, faith and reason need to work together. I cannot ignore basic reason to accept many of the troubling church doctrines by blind faith. Although I have sincerely tried, I have not received a personal witness that the church is true. We are so tied up in the church that it is difficult to see the doctrines for what they really are. When I took a step back to look at something, the basic doctrines I was trying to learn clearly did not feel right.
Throughout this process I have felt good about myself and have not been influenced by Satan, as many might say. I did not feel the need to read non-church literature as the things I speak of were readily apparent from within the church. Gordon and I did not talk about our individual concerns until recently and I am glad that we have individually reached a similar perspective about the church and life.
In teaching Primary, I began to notice the extent to which the young children are repeatedly taught doctrine or encouraged to meet the ideals of the church such as going on a mission or attending the temple. In particular, children are repeatedly told at a young age that they should make good choices to make Heavenly Father happy. I am troubled that the children are being taught in this manner instead of learning to look inside and make good choices for themselves. There are good reasons for people to do good not only because they want to obey Heavenly Father. I want [my daughters] to be raised in an environment where they truly have the freedom to make their own good choices that reflect personal values.
I really wonder if the active members truly have and exercise free agency particularly if they were brought up in the church? I prefer to be my own person and make decisions in my life on my own without dealing with the guilt and feelings of inadequacy continually reinforced at church. I am now enjoying being a good parent and loving my family without worrying about my shortcomings and inadequacies in meeting every aspect of the church program.
My desire to remain a good person is the same as before I decided to leave the church and is actually more fulfilling because it is a choice I have made myself, not something that I do out of fear of the hereafter or out of a sense of obligation.
I appreciate that others may not share my point of view and I am willing to respect their beliefs. In return, I ask that others respect mine. I hope that the relationships I have developed with each member of my family will continue to grow and this change will not interfere.