I am not writing this post to try to dissuade anyone from believing in the LDS church. I am writing this so that people can know why I am leaving; I feel a need for closure on the subject as it is hardly ever openly discussed amongst members of the church, and so anyone else having doubts or has come to not believe anymore may have someone else to talk to. I think that offering myself as a person to talk to is really important because for the last 4 years I have tried to come to terms with losing my core beliefs and it has been an extremely lonely journey. I succumbed to severe depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts, and didn’t know who I could talk to since often the subject of doubt or disbelief in the church seems to be answered with silence/dismissal or outright hostility. I also did not want to present information to anyone about the church that would cause them to disbelieve as well and fall into a state of depression as I had because it really has been hard. I still worry about that now—I would ideally like people to do research and find out the truth for themselves and have me as someone to talk to if they wish for emotional support, but I will be sharing some of my main concerns anyways. I will attempt to treat this subject with some sensitivity since I know it is generally shocking to hear some of this stuff and can feel like an attack against you and your faith (if you are LDS) (this post is not meant to be an attack at all, I am simply sharing with you what I believe to be true).
So you know where I am coming from on all of this, over the past 4 years I have read hundreds, probably thousands of pages of information on various websites including original documents such as journals, letters, etc. I have looked at websites that argue in favor of the church’s position, those that claim objectivity, and some that are against it. I avoided any websites that obviously were making up lies (there are some that do this, mostly by other religions) and I read the arguments on both sides of various issues to make sure that I could get down to the original sources as best as possible. One website that seems more objective than most others is mormonthink.com. Personally, however, I almost always started by looking through articles on fairlds.org or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (maxwellinstitute.byu.edu). These two sources are the primary sources I used for the pro-LDS viewpoint on issues. These websites are where I first became educated on some troubling issues such as polygamy (marrying already married women, young teen girls, the manner in which the marriage was proposed, hiding it from Emma Smith, etc.), the goals of the early church, the translation of the Book of Mormon and its relation to Joseph Smith’s character and past, destruction of the printing press in Nauvoo, the church’s treatment of sexuality (especially homosexuality and masturbation), racism (http://thoughtsonthingsandstuff.com/?p=152), Book of Mormon archaeology/genetics, the Book of Abraham translation, evolution versus Adam and Eve, etc. These two websites are where I did most of my reading. Unfortunately for the church, the evidences and arguments against it and the weakness of arguments for it have led me to believe that it is not true. Church leaders have set a very high standard for the church truth-wise and, though I give credit to my teachers in the church for instilling a strong duty to seeking out and valuing truth, the claimed truth of the church does not stand up to the test. I often found that arguments for the church were unnecessarily complex, like bending over backwards and tying oneself in a knot to make it all work and sound right. When you think you know something and have little evidence for it, you are prone to making absurd connections between unrelated things. Occam’s razor often cuts down the arguments in favor of the positions apologists take on issues. And although super-complex answers are certainly a possibility, I don’t think Occam’s razor is wrong that often. The gospel and its coming forth should be simple, right? That is what I was always told growing up. In this post I will not argue the specifics of any historical argument for or against the church however since, well, a lot of people will argue it all in circles and there are other significant problems I have with the church that are very current and are immediately affecting a lot of people even as we speak (not to diminish the importance of the historicity of the claims of the church because the church bases the legitimacy of its restoration on historical events). I want you to know the steps I have taken to come to my conclusion so there is no room for doubt that I have not left the church because I was lazy, ignorant, offended, wanting to sin, etc. President Uchtdorf himself said in the last general conference in his talk “Come join With Us,” “One might ask, ‘If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?’ Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.” I can attest to there being very legitimate reasons for people to lose faith in the church. During the past 4 years I have studied the history extensively, I have thought long and hard about current social issues that are problematic for the church, I have had to come to terms with one of the most important things in my life not being true and the hole that it left, feelings of betrayal and hatred (towards the church) (look up “grieving process”) (this is something that most people who leave Mormonism go through, which is why you may come upon very hateful posts on forums and other places about the church), and finally acceptance of my life as it is now and rebuilding. And I am pleased to say that the rebuilding effort which has only started recently has been going really well and I am beginning to feel real happiness again. That is why I am writing this now since I feel the depression and anxiety falling away and my true self and power finally coming back—and I am certain that my new discovery of myself will yield a much happier and more fulfilling existence for me (I do also know however that I will always have a part of me that is “Mormon,” but I am not afraid of that. There is no way to reverse 24 or so years of living according to one specific life paradigm, but it will not control me any longer).
You may be asking yourself why people who leave the church cannot seem to let it alone. Well, one reason can be because it is a part of the grieving process for those who leave the church—to feel betrayal and hatred (due to how you feel like you’ve been lied to your whole life). This is why many people who speak ill of the church are extremely harsh. Others are also harsh because of very negative experiences they have had in the church. Also, one of the main reasons people speak out against the church is because many of us have loved ones and friends who are still in it and we wish for them to not fall victim to any of the negative aspects of it as some of us have. This leads me to the first issue I want to talk about which is the apparent belief in the infallibility of church leaders and their claim to being prophets, seers, and revelators.
The idea of this issue is a pretty simple one, I believe. There are many things church leaders have said in the past that are not in line with what the church claims to believe today (look up Brigham Young and the Adam-God doctrine or his talks on interracial marriage—yes many of these things were said during a general conference), and when this happens members like to say that those leaders were “speaking as men” at the time and not in any official way. Unfortunately this argument falls apart easily and calls into question whether one can believe anything the leaders of the church say today. If church leaders were “speaking as men” at times even during past general conferences then who is to say that at times current LDS leaders are not speaking as men as well? Is the church being more closely guided today than it was in the past? I have never heard such a claim. It is also clear that church leaders have always claimed their words during general conferences to be as divinely inspired as to be on the level of written scripture. Brigham Young said this clearly as can be found in the Journal of Discourses Vol.13, pg. 95 and 264. We know from our own experiences that this is the same thing taught by current church leaders. The problem is how do we know that the leaders today are not speaking as men and that in 50 or 100 years the leaders of the time will not look back and say that what Hinckley or Monson said such and such in a conference but they were speaking as men so it doesn’t count anymore? If we look at it the other way, that God/Jesus/the Holy Ghost have been guiding the leaders the whole time then that unfortunately means that God/Jesus/the Holy Ghost have led church leaders of the past to speak out against interracial marriage, the many controversial things Brigham Young and Joseph Smith have said, among other things no longer in line with current church teachings—this would make God/Jesus/the Holy Ghost not all-good since such teachings have been unjust and caused great pain to many people. So I tend to think that the argument that past leaders were wrong at times is what leaders today would agree with more but this means that today’s leaders may be saying things over the pulpit that are not entirely true or good and could even be damaging. In 100 years will the church claim that the whole fight against gay marriage was leaders acting as men? Looking at the history of church teachings this could be a very real possibility. So if this is how leaders of the church today operate, then how sure are we that we can trust them? And I believe all men are open to criticism. Men are not perfect no matter how high up of a leader they might be—it is okay to think about what they say critically and decide if you really agree with them or not. When you believe that criticism of leaders is never okay, that the words they speak are scripture, and that they cannot lead you or the church astray, then you are suggesting that the leaders are in fact infallible. But deep down I don’t think that most church members actually agree with such an idea. I believe it is in fact dangerous to believe that any man might be infallible and to not be skeptical.
The next issue that I want to discuss is the attitude towards and teachings on human sexuality in the church. I am sure most of you already know generally where this is going. Out of all of the experiences of others who have left the church that I have read I don’t know that there is any one of them who has not been affected by it. The biggest question I see regarding regulations on sexual conduct is where do we draw the line? “The natural man is an enemy to God.” This is in the Book of Mormon. Now, do we believe that we humans are but humans, or is there more to us? I think most Mormons would say that yes, they believe that we are all more than just human, that we have the potential to become like God. However, I don’t think Mormons like to admit that we all are very much human as well. So, where has the line been drawn? Unfortunately it is clear that the line has been drawn not along the line of moderation, but along the line of abstinence. Abstinence from premarital sex, abstinence from masturbation, abstinence from thinking about the opposite sex for more than a few seconds, etc. I believe that drawing the line in such a way has led Mormons to develop a very negative outlook towards anything sexual and has set us up to fail and to see ourselves as the enemy of God no matter how hard we try. It is important in human society to draw certain moral lines to help maintain stability and peace and avoid hurt/social disruption, but I think that the law of chastity goes too far. It denies the human part of us all and causes us to fail and feel severe guilt and shame. You may say it is a higher law, but I say, is it even possible? I think a lot of you who are not asexual would agree that no, it is not possible. Maybe I don’t understand the Atonement properly then? Well, let’s look at the real world consequences of trying to live life this way, because this is what counts. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
What does it do to a person’s self-worth to believe that they are continuously failing to keep a commandment? That you are causing pain to Jesus retroactively every time? This is a perfect recipe for anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem—that’s what it was for me. As a teenager, other LDS guys would ask me if I had been able to stop masturbating. Why would they ask this? Because like me they believed that maybe it really was possible and they were looking for someone else who might have the secret to actually achieving such a thing. Of course I would respond that, no, I had not been able to quit the so-called sinful habit, and they would say, “Yeah, me neither.” It was an impossible standard for me, and yet the scriptures tell us that with enough faith anything is possible (I tried with all of the strength of my mind and soul for 10 years, it never worked). One of the main reasons I left the church is because I don’t see this commandment or these extremist attitudes towards sex changing any time soon and I absolutely will not subject my children to such ideas and their consequences. If I believed that the church could change more drastically in a shorter amount of time I might work towards that from the inside, but I don’t think it’s possible because it would simply destroy the lofty claims of the church to one-and-only-truth, restoration, prophetic guidance, etc. (and I will talk a little more about this later). Had there been a pill that exterminated all sexual desires, thoughts, and feelings, I would have taken it (yes, this is something I seriously wondered about when I was a teen). There is nothing healthy or holy about this.
Another LDS attitude towards sexuality that needs to change is the fear of sexuality education. Children need to be educated about sex. We all know that humans are imperfect, so why do we not teach them important information that could decrease the chances of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections and diseases? You all know what I am talking about. Why don’t people want their kids to know how to use a condom or other forms of birth control? There is nothing wrong with educating children on how to be more responsible. Do we pretend that kids can be perfect? “Other kids may do that stuff but my kids wouldn’t.” If experience has not taught us how wrong such a statement or point of view is then we are incapable of learning. And don’t tell me you think that kids deserve such things as punishment for transgressing the laws of God. These are kids that we claim to love! Would Jesus say that? Was Jesus pronouncing curses upon all of the sinners? I am barely scratching the surface of the issues caused by a very unhealthy outlook on human sexuality, an anti-human outlook on sexuality. This is especially important considering the stage of brain development teenagers go through when the law of chastity is emphasized most. Their frontal lobe is less developed than an adult’s brain, making it more difficult for them to think about future consequences for their actions, they are more uninhibited, and they are more impulsive. Their brain chemistry is also different from an adult’s. Their brains require more dopamine. This drives teenagers to unwittingly engage in more risky and deviant behaviors in order for their brains to feel “nourished.” With all of this going on, and more, we cannot expect teenagers to be perfect and it makes more sense to teach them about contraception, pregnancy, and STD/STIs alongside teaching abstinence. Many young men and women will not be abstinent no matter how hard you try to teach them to be abstinent.
This subject hits home for me so strongly that it is really hard not to write this in an angry and emotional way. For me specifically, well you all know that I have been a pretty quiet person all my life. What if I was to tell you that I embraced shyness as a way to avoid the temptation to interact with women too much? To think about them sexually? To possibly get into a situation where something physical might happen? I had such a strong desire to keep the commandments that I embraced shyness and quietness to help me fight the unwinnable war. I did not realize it until this past year that I had been repenting of me. I was repenting for being Scott. This is severely unhealthy for the human mind. I am not arguing for free love or total unrestraint. I am arguing for moderation in all things. I am arguing for educating children that they might make more responsible choices than they would have had they simply been told, “No, that’s bad, just don’t do it.” I’m sorry if this section is not as well organized or convincing as it is what has affected me most in my life and we tend to get very passionate about the things that directly affect us. Some of you may be saying that you never had such problems with the law of chastity. If that is the case then, in a way, you may be very lucky as long as it has not caused you other problems. Whether you believe what I have said or not I would recommend even a simple perusing of other ex-mormon experiences regarding this subject. They are not hard to find and they will convince you beyond doubt that there are serious problems with the Mormon attitude towards human sexuality (http://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/ and exmormon.org are good sources for this, although be warned, people posting on these forums are often in the discovery and anger phases and you will not find much respect for the LDS faith on them—they can be shocking to read the first time as you most likely are not accustomed to people speaking in a bluntly critical and angry way about the church. However, you can definitely find a lot of real experiences and information on these forums—these are people’s very real feelings. And make sure you check sources for historical discussion threads). Another thing one could mention about this is the ridiculousness of the idea that newlyweds can just cast aside any and all unhealthy feelings they have about sex which they have been fostering according to the teachings of the church their whole lives, and just jump into bed together without restraint. In fact, many LDS people I have heard about have feelings of guilt every time they have sex with their spouse simply because of how deeply ingrained their aversion to it had become. Here is a link to an article from the online news page for KSL News, which is LDS church-owned and was just posted while I was writing this: http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=1010&sid=27617437. In the comments some people claim that back in the 70s they were not taught such a strict regimen for sexual conduct in the church. Either they had more liberal parents and/or teachers, or it is possible that there was a reaction in the church to the sexual liberation movement which lasted until the 1980s. This would mean that my generation was taught something much stricter, even borderline fundamentalist as a guideline to managing our sexuality compared to what used to be taught. If this is the case then it is just another example of how the church changes with the times.
Another issue with human sexuality where the church does harm is the “worthiness” interviews between local leaders and minors. After what has happened with the Catholic Church and the exposure of child abuse which was being enabled, try asking anyone on the street if they think it’s a good idea for adult men to have one-on-one interviews with minors at all. I can guarantee that 95% of them will be shocked that this goes on at all in the LDS church—honestly, very few people outside of the LDS church know much of anything about the church and could care less about it. The LDS church is lucky it has not had these interviews and numerous child abuse cases it has been involved in get picked up by a major news source. As long as these interviews continue in the manner in which they have always been done, there will be more cases of sexual child abuse and any member who is aware of this issue and does nothing about it will be an enabler of it. This is harsh, I know, but it is a fact. I count myself lucky that I did not have to experience anything so horrid for myself. My leaders have seemed to me to be good men and I still look up to many of them for the genuine love and friendship they have showed to me and my family. Unfortunately, and many LDS members like to point this out, the leaders in the church are men and they are not perfect. Therefore it is vital that parents attend such interviews with their children until the practice is changed in a way that will prevent any such possibility of something going wrong again and no one knowing about it. Members will often say that Bishops and other interviewers are not allowed to ask anything more than if a person is living a chaste life according to the teachings of the church. However, I know I have been asked more specific questions and many others have as well. A quick look at experiences on the aforementioned ex-mormon forums online or this Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-More-End-Mormons-Sexually-Invasive-Interviews-of-Children/503622079732706 will quickly confirm that not all leaders adhere to the rules, and some of them grossly abuse their power. I have heard the argument that these are isolated and rare cases. For one, they may not actually be that rare because people have a hard time talking publicly about them. Also, even if it has not happened a lot, there is no excuse to not change the way interviews are done in order to prevent more physical, emotional, and mental harm. And having these sorts of things happen even once is too much, especially when the changes to the interviews required to make them safer are minimal. In my opinion, the close scrutiny by the LDS church of people’s private sexual lives is highly inappropriate and causes untold, unnecessary suffering. Another take on this issue is the lack of professional training Bishops, Branch Presidents, and Stake Presidents have regarding counseling people for addictions, sexuality, depression, etc. There are many stories of people with serious problems who go to their church leaders, and these church leaders try to help them in what way they know best. But sometimes even good intentions are harmful if one does not have the proper professional training to deal with such serious issues, and the person would be far better off seeing a professional. If this is already church policy (which I think it might be), then there needs to be better training and oversight for church leaders so they will actually do what they are supposed to do.
The next issue I want to discuss is homosexuality. When I found out how many young men and women in the Utah valley corridor have committed suicide because of this, I just wanted to scream. If you refuse to believe that homosexuality is a natural occurrence in nature, especially amongst humans, then I want you to stop reading now. I will not even attempt to explain to you why I want you to stop reading because I will offend you and you will gain nothing from this. Church leaders have made some progress lately in trying to stop radical LDS parents from completely shunning and shaming their homosexual children, but this will take a while to have real effect, unless the leaders are willing to come out and say forcefully that it is unacceptable to treat human beings that way (the leaders have not forcefully done this as of yet). I know this is a product of the times and that times are changing, but wouldn’t you expect a church that is supposedly led by Christ himself to be ahead of the game instead of being so far behind? Imagine that you grew up homosexual in the church. You are pretty much relegated to never fulfilling your sexual desires and you will never find companionship and love with anyone you really want to. In the past, church leaders would suggest that homosexuals do therapy to become un-gay and to marry someone of the opposite sex (I have read multiple personal accounts by former members who have been in this situation). It is not hard to see where severe depression and broken families comes into play here. I cannot write this section well because I am not gay myself, but it is really easy for anyone to see why many homosexual men, women, and youth have committed suicide because of the teachings of the church. I attempted to write a what-if scenario for if you were LGBT, but I have not gone through that and cannot write it in words that would truly show you how difficult it can be. There are countless stories by others who were LGBT and have left the church that you can quickly find on internet forums to confirm my position on the subject. I have the greatest admiration for homosexuals who have found their way out of the church as I am sure it was much more difficult for them, especially with society in general also being against them for so long, and I am sad that I ever supported such an uninspired church that has hurt them so much. Just imagine what it would be like if one of your children was gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual. Would you really put your child through the hell of believing that some of their deepest and most fundamental feelings are an affront to God? LGBTs do no damage to society—there is no logical or scientific argument for such a stance, only a religious one. There must be either full inclusion or the church needs to be frank and say that LGBTs should just go somewhere else. Currently, the church seems to be wavering in between the two and the apparent lack of leadership is causing pain for a lot of members.
The next issue I want to discuss is the marriage culture at BYU (probably all of the BYUs). Missionaries are all under the impression, if not directly taught then indirectly learned, that they should get married soon and that as long as they and their choice in a spouse are both righteous and good that it will all work out. I like how the church teaches people strong marital commitment, but I don’t agree with how we are all rushed into it (at least, mostly at BYU). I mean honestly, if you are a good Mormon and don’t have sex before marriage you will want to get married soon anyways because you have already waited so unbearably long! Don’t even try to deny that this is a factor. A very real problem with this is that you may soon find out that the two of you don’t really know who the other is and neither of you will likely have had significant experience in taking care of yourselves alone, much less enough experience with being in a serious relationship. On top of all of this, LDS people have a belief, whether doctrinal or not (it is mostly based on the words of church leaders in general conferences and BYU devotionals), that they should have children quickly as well. Now, there is no perfect solution to any of this; we know that other Americans have problems keeping marriages and relationships working as well. But at the very least, I think it is important for individuals to discover and understand their own sexuality so they might find a partner who is more along the lines of what they both want, and it is extremely important for people to get at least some experience taking care of themselves before they get married. Especially with the lowering of the missionary age: at 18 a youth will graduate high school, 18-20/19-21 he/she will serve a mission, and at 20-21 he or she will get married. I think a lot of young people will find themselves even less prepared for marriage than they already are. And having kids quickly on top of it all will often lead to debt, stress, and less time for you and your partner to have time together. Can you have children during the ages 25-30 just as well as 20-25? Of course. The mistake a lot of non-LDS people seem to make is to think that they can wait until they’re approaching 40. But once you get around that age the complications of pregnancy and such go up a ton. But this does not mean it has to be done when you’re 18, 19, 20 or so. Is anyone ever really ready for all that marriage and child-bearing entails? No. But there are things that can be done to help you be more ready, and there are things that can make you less ready. I think the church has been leaning more towards the less ready as of late, and this should be reversed.
The last issue I want to discuss here is the issue of gender equality. I am not a woman so I cannot address this topic anywhere near as fully as a woman could, since they are the ones discriminated against, but I will share what I can because I think it is still a very real problem. One of the last times I sat in a sacrament meeting a few months ago I was sitting next to a young girl who was maybe 5-6 years old. While the sacrament was being passed I heard her ask her dad who was sitting next to her, “Why do only boys get to pass the sacrament?” As soon as I had heard this I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my heart as I knew what her father was about to answer her, which he did, that only boys get the priesthood and that by extension she pretty much would never get to do it. I felt very sick and I am pretty sure I left before the first hour ended. I had seen that at such a young age, before the conditioning set in, that little girls know that they have just as legitimate a claim to holding the priesthood or participating in the ordinances as the boys do. The idea that only boys but not girls get to do something does not register naturally in the minds of children. There are many other ways in which women are made subordinate to men—it is truly a patriarchal culture and church. Just think on the wording of the endowment for women in the temple—how much clearer does it get that women are subordinate to men? It used to be worded even more firmly I am told. I do not think it is really just for things to be organized in such a way, but there is freedom of religion and the church can persist in this fashion if they wish. But it does cause problems for women, and I know that they could lay out in words much more eloquent and full than I ever could. It is honestly difficult for men to see these issues from the perspective of women. So I will leave the rest of this issue to women to tell. I know there are many experiences online that you could read and they can give you a fuller picture of how the patriarchy is harmful.
Some may think that I am very naïve and wish for utopia. I may be somewhat naïve; I will give you that, to some extent. But I do understand that this world is very far from perfect: that there are necessary evils, that bad things happen to good people, that no “solution” will likely ever solve a problem 100%. Where I may be naïve is in my belief that we can do things—that we can make changes—to the long-standing order of things, and that these changes might just make the world a better place for more people than not. I loved the church with all my heart so long as I did not become knowingly subject to any negative consequences from being a part of it. But I have now experienced firsthand how an LDS worldview can leave one grossly unprepared for reality. I have also seen that there have been a lot of other people who have in fact been harmed because of the church as well. I have seen enough to believe that it was created and is being guided by no more than man in all of his imperfections. The history of the church clearly sheds a lot of doubt on the foundational claims of the restoration and the motives of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others. The history is probably an even more convincing argument that the church is not true compared to what I have shared here. But I wanted to write about current social issues as that is what I am more interested in. I have shown but a few of the problems that currently face the church, and as I said before, I don’t think that the church will be changing drastically any time soon to substantially address them. The leadership has only given cursory notice to most of these issues and I don’t think they can without putting into question their supposed divine authority and their supposed special connection to deity that allows them to lead the church beyond what man is capable of. This is why I must leave unless one, some, or all of the leaders declare the truth and cause/allow it to be reformed into something more relevant and healthy to people today.
Once you are on the outside looking in, you suddenly wonder how you could not have seen it all earlier as there are many problems. But I remember what it was like to feel the “spirit” and how I would quickly dismiss anything negative about the church as mere lies or the truth twisted to fit one’s agenda. But I always did wonder about what the “spirit” or “holy ghost” really was. In fact, I think this is a question that a lot of people have because we seem to feel such feelings at times when you wouldn’t think you would feel them. The leadership of the church has made a clear point of telling people that the “spirit” is only legitimate if it is influencing you to do or believe things that have been “pre-approved” by them (if the feeling is in line with LDS “doctrine”). However, we seem to feel those feelings at other times like when listening to really good music, or watching a good movie that emotionally moves us (say like in Braveheart, a rated R movie, but you feel that “spiritual” feeling when Wallace yells “Freedom!” This is just an example. Many of you likely have movies, music, musicals, etc. that are not affiliated with the LDS gospel that give you such feelings). Also, on my mission, some of the times when I felt the spirit strongest was when I was doing service for people like chopping wood or building a house and not caring about trying to shove in some lesson just for a number like how we were trained/told to do. Service to the poor seemed to take a back seat to getting higher numbers of lessons. To this day I have bad dreams about my mission (I found that a lot of other returned missionaries have similar dreams, like a mild form of PTSD—certainly nothing as serious as what former soldiers sometimes get). Some sister missionaries came by my place a little while ago and asked me if I had any stories about how the gospel helped people on my mission. I really surprised myself when I honestly could not remember the gospel having been of great benefit to anyone. I gave an honest answer which was that in my mission people were really poor and the greatest benefit anyone derived from what we were doing was becoming a part of an organized social group—making friends. A lot of the time we tried to help people stop drinking, but without proper training we always had minimal effect. Investigators and church members would often relapse and sometimes be worse off because of guilt, shame, and the new, more powerful church-derived taboo against alcohol.
Have you ever wondered if people in other religions or belief systems feel such feelings as well? Well they do, but the LDS church tries to write them off as feeling the “spirit of Christ,” which is different from the “holy ghost.” However, this is a disingenuous assumption and it belittles the “spiritual” experiences of others. Based on my experiences with the feelings that LDS people say is the “spirit” or the “holy ghost” and the fact that all other people the world over feel such feelings, I have come to the conclusion that it is nothing more than natural human feelings without special significance exclusive to the LDS faith. Other people have visions, miraculous healings, overwhelming and subtle spiritual feelings, revelations, near death experiences, etc.
I love all of you, I truly do. Often I think of the good memories I have had growing up in the church and they make me realize that the vast majority of the beauty and happiness to be found in it has been because of the people, not the church. The church did not make you into good people, you simply are good people. I would love to continue to be friends with everyone who I have ever called my friends. I’m sorry I have not been a very good friend since I have not talked to a lot of you for some years since it is in my nature to be more introverted and I have had to struggle with debilitating depression and anxiety. Feel free to message me with any questions you might have, or if you just want to talk about life. I believe that after we die we may all be with the people we love most. I do not believe that I am breaking up a “forever family.” If you think about it, the only ones saying we might not live together for forever as families and friends is the LDS church (and maybe some atheists and some other churches). If you asked the average American if they thought they could be with their loved ones in the next life regardless of religious beliefs and ordinances, I think the majority would say yes, sealing or no sealing. Unfortunately, when many people leave the church this doctrine and the idea that the LDS church is the “one true church” get in the way of loving family relationships. I have read countless stories of ex-mormons being cut off and dismissed by their families. I am lucky that my family has dealt cordially enough with me (I may have my younger brother to thank for softening the blow).
If anyone is having problems with this, think of who Jesus wanted to spend most of his time with. Did anyone upset Jesus more than the Pharisees who demanded total obedience to strict rules? Stay in the church if you wish. It has a good foundation for community, though it is exclusive. But I just want you all to know that there are imminent and important issues that must be dealt with if you do not want to be passively or even directly responsible for the harm that comes from them. The things I have talked about in this post are not things you can ignore or put on a shelf, these are things that are or will affect you and your children. I know without a doubt that I do not want my kids to grow up in such an environment. Many people are becoming aware of these issues now that the internet has made information much more easily accessible. I remember in a class at BYU, a fellow student was giving a presentation that had to do with Brigham Young and race issues and she flat out said with passion and conviction, “Brigham Young was a racist.” And no one said anything against her, no one could say anything against her, because we knew she was right. Prophets of God should not be subject to the whims and wisps of culture. The only obvious conclusion from this is that the prophets of the LDS church have not been guided by an all-powerful, all-good God, and it is definitely not the one and only true church.
This is a long post, but it could be at least 10 times longer if I wanted to write that much. You may think that I am too negative, looking for anything questionable I can pick on. But I think the church has gone far too long without any oversight by regular people, or a way to reset the system. Corruption always fills into places of power and entrenches itself over time. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think that the leaders of the church are diabolically scheming in dark rooms to hurt people. But, as I have witnessed in similar organizations, I believe that they are trying to do whatever it takes to keep the ship afloat, thinking that doing so is the right thing. However, they don’t realize that by doing so they are not seeing and/or don’t have a solution for many of the problems this causes. This is one way corruption may manifest itself. Please everyone; take a stand for what you really believe and what you know to be right. Submit yourself to God if you must but not to man.
If you have read this entire post then I commend you for it and I am glad that you found it interesting enough to do so (If you didn’t have the patience for all of it then that’s okay too, it’s hard for me to get out so many ideas and so much information in a really concise manner).