WHY SHOULD A MORMON BOTHER TO PRAY?
I have considered writing my thoughts and feelings regarding the LDS faith for a very long time. After I stumbled across this web page I have felt an overwhelming desire to put my feelings down on paper. So I have decided to follow the feeling, maybe more to organize my own thoughts than anything else, but I also believe it is important for others who are considering the decision to leave the LDS church to know that they are not alone. 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 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.
BRAD HUDSON LEFT MORMONISM WHILE ON HIS MISSION FOR THE MORMON CHURCH
I was born and raised in the LDS church. I was a pretty typical "good" Mormon kid -- very active in the ward and in the young people's organizations. I had a very strong testimony, which I shared often.
I entered BYU as a freshman in 1976. I was accepted into a new, experimental program called the honors colloquium. It was an interdisciplinary approach to education, combining subjects that were traditionally taught separately. The professors were definitely "liberal" by LDS standards. One of the first books we read was Juanita Brooks' book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The atmosphere was very open, and no subject seemed off limits for critical analysis or discussion.
As part of the colloquium, we were required to prepare a paper as part of a major project. I had heard something about controversies surrounding the Book of Abraham. I wanted to do a paper on the Book of Abraham, and my roommate and best friend agreed to work with me on the project.
To research the paper, I went to the special collections in the BYU library. That was where they kept the "anti-Mormon" literature. Students could not check the material out, probably out of concern that zealous students would destroy it. I also read everything in print by LDS authors on the subject that I could find. I even tried to interview Hugh Nibley, the LDS "expert" on the Book of Abraham, but was rebuffed in a terse conversation in which he told me I shouldn't bother with such things.
We organized the paper by first describing all the criticisms that had been made of the book. We then summarized all the possible explanations and solutions that had been offered by LDS authors. We did no original research -- just summarized everything that we had found.
As we were preparing the paper, my roommate told me that he thought it was very important that we include our testimony that we knew that the LDS church was God's true church and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I felt funny doing this, because I wasn't sure it represented a very scholarly approach to our subject, but I agreed. After all, I didn't want anybody to think we were implying that Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet, did I?
As part of the assignment, we gave an oral presentation to our instructors and fellow students. We did it in two parts -- I think the two parts were on consecutive days. The first session laid out the various criticisms and problems. At the end of the first session, the other students were dumb struck. A few were in tears. After the second, in which we presented the possible "solutions" people were more talkative and seemed to feel better. Our basic conclusion was: we know the truth, there are lots of different explanations to choose from, and we are sure there is an explanation out there somewhere.
At the end of the whole exercise, I felt dishonest. It felt wrong to write a scholarly paper based on the assumption that we already knew the answers. In hindsight, our instructors should have called us on the carpet for our approach. If I recall correctly, we received an excellent grade.
In the fall of 1977, I was called to a mission on the Navajo reservation. My best friend received his call at about the same time. We went to Provo together to go through the temple. I was shocked. Nothing had prepared me for the endowment ceremony. This was in the bad old days before the blood oaths were removed. Did my eternal salvation really hinge on knowing some secret handshakes and phrases? Did my church really believe that all other churches were of the devil? I had lots of questions and doubts, but since we were instructed never to discuss the ceremony outside of the temple, I never voiced them. I just clung to the belief that God must know what he is doing, and trusted him.
I spent several weeks in the Language Training Mission studying Navajo. During this time, I struggled with my testimony. I wanted desperately to believe, but found that my doubts crowded in time and time again. Just when I felt I had taken a step forward, I slid two steps back.
I arrived on the reservation at the start of winter. My mission president was George P. Lee, a Navajo who had been appointed as one of the church's "General Authorities." He was very dynamic and inspirational. He constantly pushed us to do our best for God and for the Navajo people. I was thrilled to have such an inspired man as a mission president. I had one personal interview with him that put me on a spiritual high for days.
Being a missionary to the Navajos was often discouraging to me. They treated us politely, would invite us in, would listen to our lessons, and would send us on our way. Even when someone agreed to be baptized, they seemed to drift away into inactivity in a short while. Our records were full of inactive Navajo members. We baptized a few young children and one of my companion's parents. But the conditions on the reservation were very depressing, and I constantly struggled with the question of whether we were doing any good for the people.
In my second area, we lived in a small apartment in the back of a laundromat behind a trading post. The trading post was run by church members, who were very kind to and supporting of the missionaries. They also had a copy of the documentary history of the church, which they lent to me. I started reading it during my scripture study time. I made it through the first five volumes.
The more I read, the more problems I found with the church. I began to realize that the church of which I was a member bore little resemblance to the organization founded by Joseph Smith.
As winter turned to spring, our efforts turned to "placement baptisms." At that time, the placement program was the LDS church's major effort to bring Lamanites (the LDS term for Native Americans) into the church. Children were taken from the reservation into LDS family homes throughout the country to attend school. Many Navajo parents wanted their children to participate as a means of getting them away from reservation and into what they perceived to be a better environment.
There was one catch......to participate, you had to be a church member. So, every spring, lots of children would be baptized so that they could participate in the program. We were told that the previous year there had been 900 placement baptisms. The mission was very gung ho with this program, but there was little discussion of the impact of separating children from their families and their cultural heritage for three fourths of every year.
President Lee gave us a stirring speech on placement. He stressed to us that conversion continues during placement, so we should not hold people out of the program because they weren't really converted. We shouldn't worry about whether they really have a testimony before baptizing them. If they applied and were doing well in school, our orders were to baptize them. If we pushed the program, we would help fulfill the promise in the Book of Mormon that the Lamanite people would "blossom like a rose."
The more I read from the church history, the worse I felt. The more I studied, thought and prayed, the more problems I found with the church and what it claimed to be. I started compiling a list of problems. It became harder and harder for me to go out and teach. When I got to the part of a lesson where I had to bear my testimony (even memorized in Navajo), my stomach would tighten into a knot. I became physically ill and couldn't go out to teach.
Finally, I realized that I couldn't do it anymore -- tell people that I knew the church was true when I had such serious doubts. I felt like I was in a fog, and I didn't know what to do. I wrote this in my Missionary Journal:
I took Wednesday for a huge personal inventory. I went across the little footbridge that spans the San Juan River, took my "problem list" of things that I had found out about the church that disturbed me. I wanted to come to a decision. I was tired of putting up a front. I was teaching things, not only that I didn't know were true, but even had serious doubts about. I was lying to myself, the people and God. That's a crummy way to live.
I had, many times, when I reached the testimony bearing part of a discussion, gritted my teeth and said to myself "Here goes another lie." I was a good actor in high school -- I think the training helped. I could fool everyone -- almost all of the missionaries thought I was strong. Yet I couldn't fool two important people -- myself and God. So -- something had to change -- I couldn't keep going like that anymore.
I sat out in the bright sun, by the river, with the biggest, hardest, and most significant decision of my life before me. One the one side was staying -- a good life in the church, a chance to serve, almost all of my friends, [my girlfriend], the respect of my home ward, my grandparents, BYU, the church values and standards. Then there was leaving -- a loss of all those things, an insecure future ... but also a facing up to all of those questions, doubts and fears and a renewal of integrity that I hadn't experienced in a long time.
I took my list -- prayed hard to God for wisdom, guidance, and courage, and looked carefully at each item. I said to myself "Is this basis enough to discard friends, values, a whole way of life?" I had, I think, 27 items on the list. After three I knew the answer -- I had to go. I laughed and almost cried as the relief and peace flooded into my soul. I stood on the bridge, staring up the river, knowing I was going home, knowing that God would take care of me.
In practice, leaving my mission wasn't quite that simple. I was lucky because my parents were also having their doubts about the church. I called my Dad and told him about my problems. He told me "Just be honest with yourself, do what you know is right." I was getting cold feet and told him I wasn't sure what I would do and told him I didn't need him to do anything yet. After a couple of days I realized that I was just stalling, and called to ask him to drive out from California to pick me up. When I called, I learned that he had left two days before and would be there that night. My mom said that he "just knew to come."
But I was pretty well conditioned by authority, so I was determined to leave through official channels. I called my zone leaders and told them I was leaving and that I wanted to see President Lee. They said to drive down to meet with them, as President Lee was in Salt Lake for General Conference. The mission assistants also drove up to meet with me. I spent two hours talking to them. They tried to persuade me to stay.
They told me that I was going off blindly, that I had no plan. They had a plan. I would be transferred to the mission home, where I would study the Book of Mormon and try to regain a testimony. I couldn't explain all my doubts to them, but simply told them I didn't believe and I couldn't be a missionary any more. They didn't understand.
We returned the next day because President Lee wanted to speak with me on the telephone. The missionaries that had been friendly and cajoling the day before were stone faced and tense.
A definite wall had gone up between us. President Lee called, and my diary records what happened next:
He started with reminding me all that Jesus Christ had done for me, he lived and died for me -- and now I was turning my back on him, and kicking dust in his face. That's what he kept saying over and over -- that I was kicking dust in the face of Jesus Christ. That hurt -- but what could I say?
First, he said he would come right down. Then he wanted me to wait until Wednesday so he could give me a priesthood blessing.
He asked me why I was leaving -- and I told him. He didn't believe me -- told me that that was just an excuse. Wanted to know why. He couldn't accept that I just didn't believe in what I was doing. He said that Satan had led my father away, and through my father was leading me away.
He told my that I was making things worse. He warned me against planning on repenting later, that I was almost throwing away my chance to go to the Celestial Kingdom and become a God.
He offered me every out: a new area, a transfer to the English side [of the mission], a respite in the mission home, a different mission. I turned them all down.
He said "Do you want to talk to President Kimball? Would it help?"
I said that I would -- but it probably would not help.
He asked me if it would help to talk to him. I said that it probably wouldn't (after all, we were talking then).
Events took a definite turn for the worse.
He said "It sounds like your mind is already made up -- before you even talked to me."
I said "I think it is President."
He then said something that still rings in my head -- and will for a long time.
"Elder Hudson, by the authority of the Melchezedic Priesthood, and in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you not to leave the mission. [pause] "And if you do, something will happen."
Stunned, I flatly said "What?"
"I'm not telling you Elder, and I say it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen"
My brain exploded and my soul cried out that this was wrong. This shouldn't be happening. The only things this man of God had used to "persuade" me to stay were guilt and fear. I told the assistants what had happened, and they were stunned. They said I must have misunderstood.
They called President Lee back. I did something he had asked me to do -- I prayed. It only took a couple of minutes, and any lingering hesitation or doubt fled. I was leaving, and there was no question about it.
The assistants came back in and told me that President Lee had instructed them to go on about their work and not attempt to counsel me anymore. We did have a last prayer, and I said a tearful goodbye. My father asked me if I was sure that I wanted to leave, warning me that I would probably be excommunicated. I told them it didn't matter.
President Lee was right -- something did happen.
The last thing in my missionary diary is a newspaper article titled "Mormon Elder Excommunicated." The funny thing is, the article isn't about me. It is about George P. Lee. It says he was excommunicated for "apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church."
A couple of years ago I drove past the trading post. Well, now it's just a gas station and the laundromat has been torn down. The footbridge is still there, although there are a few planks missing. I looked up the river, and could still feel the peacefulness that filled me when I realized that the church was not teaching the truth, that I didn't believe, and that I had the courage to face the truth no matter what the consequences. The most important lesson I learned from the LDS church is that living a lie is actually a slow, painful spiritual death. It is much better to face the truth and live.
EX LDS JULIE ABUSED BY A MORMON BISHOP
My name is Julie. At the time of this writing I am 34 years old. I was born and raised in Utah within the Mormon church. I come from a multi-generational family with deep roots in Mormonism. Most of my family joined at the very beginnings of the church under Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. My husband comes from the same kind of background (TBM) and was raised in the same town as I. We are the only members of our families to leave the mormon church. We have been married for almost 15 years and have a 10 year old son.
I have been "out" of the church for almost 4 years now. Sometimes (for some unknown reason) I want to go back. There is no rhyme or reason to this except that perhaps it's the only religious experience I've ever known or been part of. I know in my head that Mormonism is a cult and is abusive. I need to make sure that my heart realizes that.
There are a couple of things that I would like to share -- to GET OUT of my mind and share with someone so that perhaps I can go on and resolve my conflicts within the church.
The first experience began when I was 7 years old. I lived in Nephi, Utah across from the church. My father was in jail for several DWI's and for domestic abuse against my mother. My mother turned to the church for financial help because she was trying to raise me, my sister, and my brother on her own.
She did have a job at a nursing home, but it wasn't quite enough to cover food. The Bishop agreed to help her, providing that she would clean the church. Just a few light duties: washing the windows and vacuuming, mostly. I was in charge of vacuuming. My mom had a key to the church and I would go over there when she was at work and make sure that it was all vacuumed every Saturday so that it would be ready for Sunday. (Remember, I was only 7 years old.)
My experience all started when I ran into a counselor in the bishopric. On that particular day, I remember being very upset because I was constantly being teased by the other kids because my dad was in jail. The counselor sat me down on his lap in the chapel and asked me to tell him why I was crying. He was so kind! So wonderful! This was a man of God wanting to know about ME! I told him everything. I trusted him and was really happy for the attention! I went home that day very happy and grateful for my new friend.
The next time I went to the church to vacuum, the counselor in the bishopric was already there. He asked me if things were better and I told him they were. He asked me if the children were still bothering me, and I told him they were, but it was okay. He took me again on his lap as if to comfort me, but this time his hand rested inside my shorts. As he kept talking to me (I don't even remember what about) his hand kept snaking up toward my private area inside my shorts. He acted like this was very natural, and although I remember feeling anxious, I did not stop him. He touched me where no adult should touch a child that day. I went home feeling confused this time, but I didn't really understand or question it, because, after all -- he was a member of the bishopric.
Each time I went to the church to vacuum for my Mom, my involvement with this man became deeper and took longer. It got to the point where I couldn't finish my job and was always afraid my mom would be angry with me. And she often was! After a few weeks, he was touching my genitals as if it were second nature to him and kissing me often. He also would touch my little girl chest and had me massaging his genitals as well. I was extremely uncomfortable with this behavior, but he always told me that I was "special." And that he loved me like I was his own little girl. I should never tell, because that would break the promises we had made to each other in the church. I remember each time going home and taking long baths until my mother would get home from work. I was constantly getting into trouble with her because she relied on me to babysit my younger siblings as well. They were left to fend for themselves during those hours. Once when I told my mom that I didn't want to clean the church anymore, she told me that if I didn't then I would be responsible for the church taking food away from our family. Did I really want to do that? NO. I couldn't handle it. (I WAS ONLY SEVEN YEARS OLD!)
Shortly after the counselor began "molesting" me, he brought a camera with him (one of those old "Polaroid" cameras) and would take pictures of me in several different ways of undress. Sometimes I would hold my shirt up, sometimes my pants would be down and my bottom would be facing the camera. Several times I was nude. I just kept thinking it MUST be okay because come Sunday, he would be sitting up there on the stand and wink at me once in awhile, or lead the opening remarks and after all, this was a man called of God. If God thought that it was okay, then it must be okay.
Then came the day that I was naked in the Sunday School classroom. I was sitting on his lap and his pants were down around his ankles. He started to push his penis into my vagina. I started to cry. He told me that it wouldn't hurt if I could just relax. He made me feel as if it were my fault that it was hurting because I didn't relax good enough. I don't remember how often this happened, but I do know it was more than 3 times.
Then I turned 8 years old and it was time for my baptism. I was afraid. I memorized my "Articles of Faith" like I knew that I should. (I ALWAYS did everything that I should!) It was time for my interview with the Bishop. I was so afraid to go into his office because I knew from what my Primary teacher and Sunday School teacher told me what he would ask. I knew I couldn't lie. I was so afraid that everyone would find out and I would not be able to come to church anymore. I was afraid that the Bishop probably already knew about what was going on because God surely would have let him know!
After I recited my scriptures that I had to memorize and the Articles of Faith, the Bishop started the interview. He asked me if I had been a good girl and if I felt worthy to be baptized. It took me a few seconds to answer. Then I told him, "No." He asked me why. I told him that I couldn't tell him. Perhaps he assumed that I had stolen some candy from a store or something like that because what he said next surprised me. He said, "Julie, when you come up from the waters of baptism, you will be as clean and pure as the white driven snow." (I remember those exact words as if it were just yesterday.) Well, I felt pretty good about that! It almost felt -- actually it DID feel like I had a 'do-over!'
I was baptized on a Saturday. My beloved Grandpa who lived in Payson (20 miles to the north of Nephi and where I had most of my growing up years beginning at 8 and a half) baptized me. When I came up from the waters of baptism, it felt like my bishop was right! I felt so wonderful and sparkly and CLEAN! Not just on the outside, of course, but on the inside! I didn't feel evil or bad anymore.
The next day was Sunday and back in those days they confirmed you in church after all the babies are blessed. I felt so proud walking up the aisle in my new dress and my long, dark hair in curls. The bishop put out the chair and had me sit down. While he was waiting for others to join the circle for my confirmation, he mentioned to the congregation how proud he was of me. I glowed! This was really my day! The men began to surround me. My grandpa (who was to give me the blessing), some of my uncles (my mother's brother's) and a neighbor. I closed my eyes as they put their hands on my head and my Grandpa began to speak. I opened my eyes a little and looked up. To my horror and amazement, I saw the counselor in the bishopric standing off to the side of me with his head bent and his eyes closed. After seeing that, I began to cry. I think everyone assumed that I was crying because the "spirit" was really with me or something. But I was crying because HE was there. I never felt any spirit or felt the holy ghost or anything I was told I would feel. I just felt anxious and dead inside. In my little girl mind, I believed with all of my heart that the baptism never "took." That I never received the "gift of the Holy Ghost" or was worthy of any of the promises that I was supposed to have as a Child of God.
As if that weren't enough, the VERY NEXT SATURDAY I went to vacuum the church again. HE wasn't there at first, but he came in a few minutes after I did. This time I didn't want to do anything he said, but HE FORCED ME! For the first time, I struggled and he was mean and he HURT me more than ever. I tried not to cry, but I couldn't help it. I wasn't really crying so much because of what he was doing to me, but because I felt that if this were a man of God and he could do these things to me, then God must HATE me. It was that day that I realized that I wasn't special or any of those things that I was taught. That God had turned his back on me and I was on my own. I never prayed again. My "do-over" was gone....
We moved back up to Payson soon after that and away from that church. Away from the counselor in the Bishopric. I told myself that I would never, ever go to the church again, ever. But sure enough, the next Sunday I was there. But this time my Grandpa was sitting next to me, proud as could be that his Granddaughter whom he had just a baptized a few weeks earlier was with him. It was fast & testimony meeting that day and he got up and bore his testimony and talked at length about how proud he was of me and the path that I had chosen. I felt like a liar and a cheat. I felt dishonest and dirty. I was dirt before my baptism and I was dirt after my baptism. I wasn't worthy to be sitting there listening to my Grandpa shower his praise on me. It took awhile, but I finally blocked these things from my mind. But the thoughts that I wasn't worthy and was dirty and that God hated me continued to exist in the back of my little girl mind.
In the meantime, around the age of 9, I started being molested by 2 uncles. (My father's brothers.) It just seemed the norm at that time. I never told anyone. Why should I? I was always threatened not to, but since I was always obedient I wouldn't have told anyway.
Until I grew up, that is. When I was 28 years old, I told my Grandmother (my father's mother) about the abuse that had been heaped upon her by her sons. Her reply was, "I didn't know they had 'bothered' you, too." Just like it was the "norm" to have that happen! Apparently she confronted one of her sons about the abuse. His name was Russell. When I was younger, he was especially violent. His favorite game was taking me to the cemetery and having sex with me in front of his friends.... He always told me he'd kill me if I EVER told and that I would die before I was 30 anyway.
After my Grandmother confronted him about my "stories" he came to my home while my husband was out of town. I heard a loud knock at the door. I didn't look through the peephole. (An action that I still feel responsible for to this day.) As soon as the door opened, he came busting through the door.
I had been cutting up some slices of cheese for my (then) two year old son to tide him over until dinner. Russell grabbed the knife, held it to my throat and after a lengthy struggle which entailed him throwing my baby into his room and slamming the door.... he beat me and raped me. I didn't tell anyone until the next day. My next door neighbors had heard noises (we lived in an apartment complex) but didn't report them. It wasn't until they saw my face that they put two and two together. I let them know "kind of" what happened, but instead of going to the police, we went to our Bishop. The police weren't called in until the next day. (I was too ashamed....) The police just simply took my statement and that pretty much was that. It was his word against mine. Oh well....
My husband, son and I moved to Florida in 1990. We were not active in the Mormon church, but were believers at that point. We were visited by missionaries and started going back into activity in 1992. But every time I would go into the chapel, I would have anxiety attacks. I would look up at the Bishop and his counselors on the stand and find myself unable to breathe. 9 times out of 10, I had to leave. I found myself not going to church because I didn't know why I couldn't just sit still and find comfort in the church. Wasn't I supposed to find comfort being in God's true church? Everyone around me did, but I didn't.
So, I started studying at home instead. I read the BOM several times. I read all the books I was supposed to. It was then that I began to find historical discrepancies, prophecy and doctrinal discrepancies, etc.... I became confused about this. It was also at this time that I came across the book "Miracle of Forgiveness" by Spencer W. Kimball. He had been my favorite prophet and I was always in awe of him. But his statement regarding chastity left me feeling like I had been kicked in the stomach:
"Restitution for Loss of Chastity. Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation where there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one's virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle."
All of the past came rushing back to me with such a force that I was in bed for days. I didn't struggle for the most part. I did cooperate in most of the cases of my molestations. I didn't struggle much when my uncle raped me as an adult because I feared for the life of my child. Now I knew for sure, even as an adult, that I truly was not one of God's favorites or even worthy to be a member of HIS True Church.
I made an appointment with my Bishop. I told him of the abuse that my uncles did to me. (I didn't make any mention of my questions regarding church discrepancies at this time.) He said all the right words, "It's okay, You are forgiven..It isn't your fault, etc..." Then I showed him what I had read in "The Miracle of Forgiveness." He told me that the book was "outdated" for today and that those words wouldn't stand in my situation. I was again confused. The prophet of the Lord wrote this book, and it wouldn't stand? It was outdated? But I did find comfort in the fact that this Bishop said he would do anything he could to help me rid myself of my past so that I could go on with my life. He and I had a few more sessions until I felt better about things. He did everything he could to help me and I began to rely on his talks with me a great deal. I felt good about my life.
But the anxiety and panic whenever I would go to church would continue. I thought it must be God's way of telling me I didn't belong. The Bishop would insist that perhaps I wasn't "doing my part" by reading the Book of Mormon. That I should study it more diligently. God would give me comfort if I TRULY seeked it... I finally told the Bishop about my experience with the counselor in the Bishopric between the ages of 7 and 8. (Before and after baptism.) He immediately got a cold look on his face and shut off completely. He told me right then that he was unable to help me any further and that he wouldn't be able to speak to me again until I got professional help. I would try and call him at home and he would refuse my calls. (My calls were always a priority before.) I felt abandoned again. I felt alone and discarded and violated. I had shared things with this Bishop that I hadn't shared with anyone and he just plain didn't care anymore. I was suicidal. I didn't believe that God could or would love me if His Bishop couldn't love and accept me. I truly believed that with all of my heart.
In the meantime, my husband watched me struggle through a suicide attempt and loss of faith in my Church and myself. It was at this time that the old bishop was replaced by a new one and I felt encouraged to seek his help. Perhaps things would be different. Well, they weren't. Not even close. I felt disfellowshipped. We had no home teachers, no visiting teachers. And since we had no family around us (because they were all in Utah) I felt so alone.
My husband and I became disillusioned with what we had been reading and the experiences we had gone through. We wrote the bishop a letter asking that our names be removed from the records of the church. We never heard back from him. After several attempts and 4 letters later, (he said he had 'lost' the letters) we received a plain white piece of paper (with no letterhead) from the clerk in our ward telling us that we were no longer members. That didn't satisfy me because ANYONE could have written that! I mean, this was not even an official document! We spent the next few years wondering if we were even members or not.
We have suffered so much. I feel I've lost my identity, my God, my legacy, my heritage, my family's respect, etc.
I wrote to my Grandpa on April 23, 1993 telling him of my decision to leave the church and why. (I left out the sexual abuse parts.) My grandfather was the only person in my life that I felt loved me unconditionally. He never responded to my letter. When we would talk by telephone, it was as if my letter never was sent. I still felt the love and joy in his voice when he would hear mine. I asked him at one point if he read the letter, and he told me he did, but that's all that was said. I knew he was disappointed. He told me that he knew I'd come back when I figured things out. Three months to the day I sent that letter (June 23, 1993) my grandpa died. So did a major part of me. I flew back to Utah for the funeral. My Grandmother (even though she knew I had left the church) asked me to speak. I did. It was hard, but so joyous to be able to share my thoughts and feelings about my beloved friend, mentor, father, grandfather. The only rough spot was my Grandmother telling me that my grandpa was disappointed with my decision to leave the church and felt that I had turned my back on the Lord. This made me angry. I never turned my back on the Lord. (Did I?) Wasn't he the one who turned his back on ME? What my Grandmother said to me hurt me more than if she had slapped me as hard as she could.
So now I am back to here. Here and now. I don't consider myself a Mormon. I am learning what it's like to be on the outside looking in. (Because sometimes I still crave the fellowship I had in Utah as a teenager.) I miss my Grandfather giving me a "Father's Blessing" when I was going through a rough time or ill. But I still have the shame. I still carry the burden of what happened in those secret times in the chapel and the sunday school room in Nephi, Utah with a Man of God. I still, even though I am an adult, cannot put it into a perspective that I can deal with. I have sought secular counseling and have been able to put the abuse that my uncles heaped on me into their proper place and go on. And for that I am both proud and thankful.
But this.... this is too big for me to deal with alone. And I don't know how to resolve it.
I realize that Life is a continual process. That maybe someday I will be free. Maybe I will have to die before that takes place. I hope not. In the meantime, I feel like I'm carrying around poison.
That's it. I don't know what else to add. This is a very long letter, but as you can see from reading it, a few sentences wouldn't have helped me or anyone else understand the situation.
I just hope that you can make sense of it.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this. I think the only way that justice can be done (if there is such a thing) and the only way I can feel like my life has been worth something at all is if my story can help someone else.
WOODY'S TESTIMONY - A MORMON FOR 31 YEARS
A Mormon for 31 years
My name is Woody and even though I have been on the net for a while, this is my first entry. I want to thank everyone who has shared their hearts on their exit from Mormonism.
My family joined the church when I was ten & I was a member for 31 years. On my mission in Southern California, while defending the faith & working with some wonderful members, I was exposed to many of the "weird" doctrines I had never heard before. I ignored those doctrines after I had gone to a local institute director at Long Beach State University, and he had minimized those "weird" arguments by saying they were tools of the devil and used frequently by anti-Mormons who misquoted the prophets.
I returned home in 1974, entered college, and got married to Cindy in the LA Temple in November 1975. I was very active in the little church branch where the college was located.
In 1978 I was quite surprised to learn that the brethren had decided to ordain blacks to the priesthood. I was not disturbed that blacks could not serve in the church as priesthood holders, but disturbed because Brigham Young (BY) prophesied that the blacks would never hold the priesthood until after Christ came at His second coming. This was the first evidence to me of conflicting doctrines given by general authorities of the church that were supposedly revelations from God. This also brought to memory those conflicting doctrines that were minimized by the institute director, while on my mission. Even though this bothered me, I stayed active and began to pray and study harder for personal understanding.
The following years were spent in reading church books and the standard works to resolve these conflicts. The more I studied and read, the more questions arose and less answers available. In 1985, I told Cindy there were many issues in the church which concerned me. This upset her greatly because she was taught in Relief Society that doubts could sometimes be the symptom of a greater personal sin such as infidelity. Even though Cindy knew I had always been faithful to her, she was extremely bothered that I questioned the church and lacked a strong testimony . Whenever we argued, it was always about my lukewarm testimony compared to those other "spiritual" priesthood holders in the ward and my own testimony before 1978.
Cindy had grabbed hold of the "romantic" notions of the eternal family doctrine because she was raised in a very bad family and was looking for a method of having a better family of her own. As a convert she was sure the church had the true family system. Consequently, Cindy was not tolerant of my doubts, so once again I suppressed them & plead "insanity". Continuing on, I studied and remained active while serving in various callings such as, the Young Men's program; the Bishopric; Sunday School; assistant institute teacher; seminary teacher; and an advisor to the High Priests. I loved reading everything on Joseph Smith and gave firesides to the youth, giving spiritual and funny events of his life. I even named my first born son after the prophet Joseph.
In 1990 the temple rituals were changed. Now my wife saw the political changes for the first time. Sure I noticed the big changes such as the penalties being dropped etc., but I already knew it was a joke. She noticed the subtleties I would have never noticed without her help. Things like, in the pre -1990 version, Eve always looked to Adam for her guidance. In the 1990 version, Eve looked to heaven also & even spoke more. That alone was a major doctrinal shift if one knew the control the organization exercised over women and still does today with its romantic families are forever nonsense.
In 1992 Cindy went to her alma mater to BYU Education week. I could not go due to work constraints. She attended a variety of lectures and came home uplifted and said what a spiritual experience it was. Cindy went on how she desired me to go the following year because she felt strongly it would have a positive affect on me and my testimony.
So in the summer of 1993, I accepted her challenge and drove to Utah with my two daughters, who were 15 and 17 years old at the time. When I attended a lecture on Joseph Smith (JS), the professor gave an antidote about Joseph's life that disturbed me deeply. The experience was about an entry in Willard Richards diary . Bro. Richards was telling of a time when he and Joseph were leaving the Mansion house to go to the church office. The diary entry stated how Joseph's faithful wife, Emma, asked Joseph if he was practicing Plural Marriage? The diary then told that Joseph answered "no". After they left the Mansion House and walking to their office, Bro. Richards asked Joseph why he had lied to Emma.
Joseph said Emma would never accept polygamy and he would have to go to Hell to save her. The audience was so impressed that Joseph had the power over hell as "The prophet of the restoration", and that he also loved his wife so much as to go to hell to save her soul.
I could not believe my ears! Did I miss something? If I remember correctly, didn't 2Nephi 9:34 say that "Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell." This was the last straw. I had two daughters on this campus and my wife at home, who's own self esteem was becoming co-dependent on the Brethren and the romance of their evil doctrines.
I did not attend many more sessions of education week. Instead I went to the BYU bookstore, BYU library, Deseret Bookstores, and the Deseret News. I confronted the BYU History Professor, Susan Easton Black, and asked her about the four versions of J.S. first vision. She said she could not answer it and referred me to Dean Jesse, the Seventy over church history in Salt Lake. I asked her about one of her self professed specialties, which was Mormons and Masonry. Before I asked my questions on Masonry, I asked about her background on the subject. Here I was seeking answers and Susan, the self professed expert, who had written on the subject and Ph.D. in History, said she had only read Mormonism and Masonry by McGavin. She did not know about the Catholic Monastic Templars that had preceded the Free Masons of 1314. She still believed that the temple rituals of Masonry and Mormonism where based on Solomon's Temple. Little did she know that the temple rights were secret codes used during the crusades by those Catholic Templars to determine who was friend or foe. Similarly, military engagement codes are used by today's allies to identify each other during tactical maneuvers. And she is supposed to be the expert of BYU, and the only source she had was reading one book authored by a Mormon. If this is research, give me a break!
Following the advise of Susan (since she couldn't explain why JS had 4 different versions of the first vision), I called Dean Jessee to see if he could give me an answer. He avoided the discussion over the phone, but said he would mail me a pamphlet on the subject. I received the pamphlet, "A SURE FOUNDATION - ANSWERS TO DIFFICULT GOSPEL QUESTIONS". On page 169 it said, the four versions of Joseph Smith's first vision could be compared to the four separate testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Christ. I had been on the debate team in college and had also been to court many times due to my profession, and this was the most stupid analogy I had ever heard in my life.
The Bible had four different individual's testimony , which all agreed on the identity of Jesus Christ, His life and teachings. J.S. gave four different testimonies of the same event that did not agree on any material issue. In fact, any fair court on earth or in heaven , would deem J.S. a liar; wake up Bro. Jessee. What is really interesting on this issue, is that Oliver Cowdery (who had been living with JS and Emma in those early years), had written a letter to encourage Brigham Young and his brothers, to come and meet the prophet. In that letter, Oliver said that JS told him in his "first vision", it was Nephi that delivered the message and told Joseph to join none of the other churches. It wasn't until 1838 (6 years later), that the story had evolved to the point that the "Heavenly Personage" was none other than Christ, and God the Father.
Next my research took me to Deseret News where I obtained a copy from the original newspaper, of many of the Adam-God discourses written by Brigham Young (BY). I was told by my last Bishop and the institute director (on my mission), that B.Y. was misquoted. Now does anyone think B.Y., who had an authoritarian personality like Sudam Hussein, would let his newspaper misquote him. If anyone reads one page of B.Y. in the Journal of Discourses, one would know that nobody crossed Bro. Brigham, so I doubt the newspaper would misquote a hand written document of B.Y; If they had, there would have been some evidence of a retraction by the newspaper shortly thereafter. The reason why there never was any retraction, is because BY loved the Adam-God Doctrine. In the newspaper, a sermon by Brigham Young, dated June 14, 1873, Brigham Young said, (to paraphrase), that God had revealed to him, that Adam was our Father and God, and that he was the literal Father of Jesus Christ.
I had read the book The Great Apostasy by James E. Talmage, while on my mission. As I researched Mormonism it brought back to my mind the discoveries of Talmage about Catholic history; its deceit, its revisions of history, and its control of its ignorant and faithful masses. The very thing Talmage had criticized about Catholicism, the church had been doing since its beginning, too.
Driving home from BYU, I was still studying and pondering the above issues (unknown to my daughters). The girls were oblivious as to what was going on in my heart. They were so excited about BYU education week, the things they had learned, and the boys they had met. We even stopped in Nauvoo.
On the long drive home, I shed many tears as the evidence grew showing the deceit and manipulation of the brethren in Salt Lake. I also worried how Cindy would accept the information I would confront her with and wondered if this would break up our marriage and ruin our family. I could only depend on God because Cindy had known that I was only seeking truth, not power or inactivity. Cindy asked me to do one thing when I left for BYU Education Week and that was not to come home lukewarm about my testimony.
When I arrived home Cindy wanted to know how everything went. I said fine, but I was continuing to read many of the church books I bought at the BYU bookstore while there. The final blow came when I read the life of Orin Porter Rockwell, whom I Loved to read about. In the account, Porter told his wife that he had shot Governor Boggs of Missouri. He told her all the facts and that is why the brethren kept Joseph and Porter confined within the city limits of Nauvoo to protect them from the mobs and extradition to Missouri. Well, I put that book down and went down stairs to my library and took out the book, The Life of Joseph Smith, The Prophet by George Q. Cannon, an "apostle of God". In this book, Bro. Cannon said the accusations from the people of Missouri, that a Mormon had shot Governor Boggs, was not true. Instead, he wrote that it was propaganda and that Gov. Boggs was shot by an enemy of the church to increase the persecution of the saints. Well here is another candidate for hell who was also a "profit", seer, and revelator.
I could not stop there , so I called Sister Susan Easton Black in Utah, to see if this history was correct. I asked her specifically, " Do you think Porter Rockwell shot Gov. Boggs? She said "yes, I believe so." My heart sank. I had been up every night until early hours reading for about two weeks. Cindy was concerned, but was not sure what to think. After the Rockwell issue had surfaced I could not keep it in.
I couldn't understand why my father didn't research before joining the church. He was well liked by the local brethren and people, yet I wondered why I had never seen him in humble prayer. I thought again about the manipulation my daughters would go through when they took the oaths and covenants. I remembered my wife's efforts to relate to God as a second class citizen. Her fate was to be sealed in a group to some man who did not know her heart like I did, if I did not keep straight on the path. This drove her to extreme insecurity as I questioned. All she could remember was Eve looking to Adam for her place in the Celestial Kingdom. She was killing herself to be perfect and to keep me perfect, so I could be worthy to take her and the kids back "To our home in the sky". (Ha!) That alone is why Mormonism is wicked. I did not want this for my girls.
Then I thought about my sons and their desire to be like Dad; to be totally worthy to serve a mission and go marry in the Temple. What about their potential heartache when they returned home after a mission, only to find me inactive. Worse would be the possibility in their adulthood of having a family of their own, and discovering what I knew now, disrupting their own family's life. Finding out the hidden lies and not knowing what to do or where to go because of the guilt one feels for doubting, then leaving when so entrenched in this bizarre "Fraternity" . I could not do to my sons what my father did to me.
I decided to present my case to Cindy and prayed that she would be receptive. I was prepared to leave the church alone, but I did not want to loose her and the children, as threatened twelve years earlier. She could go to church if she was not convinced, but I refused to ever go back since I could not support a lie. I had to do this so my children would see my convictions.
One evening I called Cindy into my study. I began to weep as I presented the awful facts before her. She listened and wept too. It took hours to present. When I was finished, to my dismay, she wanted to talk to the Bishop to try to find answers. Of course being a fair debater, I could only acquiesce.
The Bishop was BIG TIME concerned! Here was his assistant advisor to the High Priests asking questions he could not answer. There were other considerations, too. I was the CPA for many members of the church and long time friends to most of them. One Child had performed as Annie in the Annie Play in Atlanta Theaters, she also sang at the Hawks Games. The other children had performed on radio, and on TV Commercials. In addition, he had set up a youth fireside for me to do a J.S. act. I am sure he was concerned about our salvation most of all. He tried to help answer Cindy questions. He brought up my oldest daughters personal problems to remind Cindy that our daughter's salvation depended on forgiveness by the church. Cindy brought all these issues back with her. She asked me to go with her to talk to the Bishop because she could not remember all the questions. I consented because this was her time to search.
The bishop could not answer the issues so he arranged an interview with the Stake President "Gibby". Gibby was the Bishops senior (x-military) pilot at Delta. He was from Provo and the "anti-mormon nemesis". This encounter was not something I looked forward too. But I was a debater from college so I was confident I could plead my case in a logical manner. If he could help me find truth I was willing. Particularly since Cindy was going to come as was the Bishop.
I was working late so we arranged to meet at the Stake Center at 10 o'clock a.m.. The Bishop escorted Cindy and I to the office. Cindy was nervous as was I. "Gibby" had the Bishop open the meeting with prayer. The Bishop sat to my right and Cindy to my left and "Gibby" in front.
Then he opened with the general question of "what's the problem?" I stated that the issues at hand were:
1) Plural marriage and Joseph's promiscuity before the revelation.
2) The four versions of first vision.
3) The proof that the Book of Abraham was not only translated incorrectly but it was also 2000 years out of sync with actual history.
4)Brigham Young's Adam God doctrine,
and 5)the Blood Atonement doctrine.
I am not going to go into the evidence or arguments except to say #3 was the least researched and "Gibby" shut me down on that one, because he brought up one fellow's (Nelson) credibility issues which I had no counter argument for at the time. I had not read the book "by his own hand upon papyrus" by C.M. Larson at that time. Please remember that all of my research was from material within the church except for item #3, it was only a side issue at the time. It is a primary weakness for the church as I found out later.
During the discussion I asked "Gibby" could I bring out my evidence so we could look at the specifics. To my surprise he said "NO" he said that he did not bring his papers so I could not bring out mine. I said "well, you asked for this meeting do you not care to get to the specific problems and what created them?" He simply said we could discuss them anyway. So we began. We began with plural marriage. My questions were to the point. His answers were directed to my wife. He would never look at me as he answered any question. He went on a diatribe about how he was from a fine Utah Polygamy family and how his grandmother was so faithful even when she was refused a space in the main house by the first wife.
He went on to tell how his grandmother had to get money from her own uncle to feed her children because the first wife would not allow the husband to give money to feed his "illegitimate" children. In spite of those trials the "Gibby" is the best Mormon stock. I was not sure if he was against me or for me. He was not helping his case with my wife because I knew my wife hated polygamy and now he was giving her another reason to hate it.
The discussion went on for about 2 hours. Since he had no facts to confront my questions, he finally looked into my wife's eyes and said "If you continue in this direction then you will loose your family forever and you will be divorced in two years."
I was angry. He had cut me off several times during our discussion telling me not to interrupt him when I was only trying to stay with facts not stories and feelings. I apologized each time to my "superior" to let him talk on as he sank his own ship. But now with His comment to my wife, he had hit her where she was most vulnerable her "eternal" family. I controlled my temper and was polite. I asked no more questions. The rhetoric was winding down for the defense and I was ready to go. He finished as before speaking to Cindy. Then the good old missionary trick "ask the most receptive party on the offense to give a sincere closing prayer and ask God that truth be revealed to each one there". Then he added the final salvo that would eventually seal his case in defeat.
My wife was holding on to an experience that consisted of a shocking feeling she had felt when she was 18 and she had prayed about the church, as the missionaries had asked her to do. Now "Gibby" said looking at Cindy "don't trust your feelings, (yea right) that burning in the bosom in D&C Section 9 is for translation purposes only. Pray for truth". (Boy, even I had not heard that argument before) He was afraid she would be influenced by me and he wanted to nip that problem in the bud, before she prayed. However, he forgot she can read and she can reason without me.
She was still caught in the emotions of the meeting and said a sincere prayer and wept as she exposed her vulnerable heart and the insecurities "Gibby" had laid wide open. I did not cry because I was so angry at the manipulation.
As we left together, Cindy was quiet. I walked her to her car. She had driven from her nursing course at college in a separate car. I said quietly to her, "Cindy I think I lost you in there." She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said "But, it is so beautiful". I said "It seems that way. I wish I had recorded the meeting so you could review it on your own. You could hear that he never answered the facts that were mentioned; such as the doctrinal changes, J.S.'s promiscuity before the Everlasting Covenant of Marriage was revealed. The fact certain sins are not covered by Christ's atonement. The Statement that J.S. said that he was greater than Christ. The fact J.S. sounds more like David Koresh than Samuel, a real prophet. He only spoke to you and pulled your heart strings."
To my surprise she turned to me and said she had taped it. I could not believe it. She had her little recorder she used in college on in her pocket the whole time. I told her I did not want to hear it. I said, however, that she should listen to it by herself and remember the evidence he would not allow me to show and to listen to the answers to the issues he had given or failed to give. She said she had taped it really to use against me to keep me on the "straight path" if the answers from "Gibby" were conclusive. I told her that was O.K. by me if she believed "Gibby" was correct.
I did not talk to Cindy about that night for two weeks. She finally came to me one evening and said , "Bill, I am ready to leave where do we go from here?" I simply said "I don't know, but for now away from Mormonism."
I hope this experience will help anyone like you have helped me. I know it was long but it has been bottled for a long time. I would be glad to tell the excommunication, or post Mormon experience if anyone is interested upon request. I pray for you all and I know it is hard but worth it.
FORMER MORMON MISSIONARY - NOW A CHRISTIAN
A Mormon Convert, BYU Student and Mormon Missionary to France I have since eagerly read and appreciated each story on your site. I only wish this resource had been available to me two years ago, when I was in the painful process of leaving the LDS church. In fact, I was so desperate at that time for any contact with an ex-Mormon who could help me understand what had happened to my life, that I wrote to the author of an anti-Mormon book (a former Mormon himself, now an evangelical Christian.) Although I did not agree with all of his evangelical theology, I felt that since he was currently a pastor out in Utah (I'm from Virginia), that he was probably skilled in helping ex-Mormons come to terms with their past. He was kind enough to write back, and I did eventually meet another ex-Mormon who became a Catholic. Both were able to provide some of the support and encouragement I needed. However, your site is even better because of the wide variety of stories available. I was able to find something in common with almost every entry. Although I consider myself fairly healed from the wounds of my Mormon past, it is still exciting to realize that I am far from alone.
However, I was not convinced that my story would bring anything new or special to your site until I read the entry written by the former French missionary. You see, I also served a mission in southern France (Toulouse) from the summer of 79 to January 81. My name at that time was Sister Hoffman (maiden name). Although I was not able to determine if I personally knew this missionary, we definitely shared the same circle of influences. I took religion courses from George Pace at BYU and well remember his scolding from Elder McConkie. (Even then, in my most indoctrinated phase, I was concerned by the church's stance against emphasizing Christ.) I also vividly remember The missionary from Quebec, Daniel Lemire, since he was possessed of a remarkable deep speaking voice (all the more interesting contrasted with his short stature) and beautiful Quebecois accent. I was touched to realize that this missionary had been suffering from the same spiritual angst which haunted me my entire mission and also led me to consider suicide (which was not an option due to my conviction that God would be so angry at me for ending my life that my suffering would only continue in the next life). It saddens me to realize that throughout my entire journey in Mormonism I was surrounded by others suffering like me. We were all so well cond- itioned in Mormonism that we would not, could not, reveal our doubts to each other, so we all felt alone in our pain. It is for this reason that I have decided to share my own "travelogue", for perhaps there is something in my story that will provide the type of support and encouragement that I so longed for myself.
I was raised as a Methodist, although my parents were never enthusiastic in their faith. By the time I was a teenager, I felt that church was solely a social function which I could do without. When my older sister and her husband were tracted out by Mormon missionaries, they had just had their first baby and were feeling the need to pass on a belief system to him. In spite of her qualms about the priesthood ban to black men and to all women, and the pressure on women to stay at home and have lots of babies, they did join the church. I was also at the point where I felt that I needed resolution concerning my own beliefs and began taking missionary lessons as well. Upon praying about the Book of Mormon as taught, I experienced an emotional thrill new to me. I accepted the missionaries' explanation that this was God answering my prayer, and was baptized at nineteen (in 1976). I immediately transferred to BYU, and later my entire family joined the church. I threw myself into church activity with such intensity and devotion that even my sister (who had encouraged me to join the church) was concerned over the complete change in my personality. In retrospect, it was really a loss of personality rather than a change. I no longer had any ideas or opinions of my own, every thought or belief I allowed myself had to be church approved. For example, although I had never had much interest in marriage and children previously, I now accepted that this would be my main purpose in life. Much to my dismay, after finishing my degree at BYU, although I had valiantly served the Lord in many time consuming callings and studied the scriptures daily, and prayed three times a day for twenty minutes at a time, the Lord did not see fit to bless me with a husband. Perhaps I needed to share my fervent testimony in the mission field first, I reasoned, and sub- mitted my papers.
I was delighted to be called to France, as I had studied the french language previously. I threw myself into my studies at the MTC with the same single minded fervor I had approached everything in Mormonism, and soon memorized all the lengthy lessons and was on my way to Toulouse. Perhaps a succesful, spirit filled mission was just the tonic my lack-luster life needed. Although I fulfilled every church requirement with exactness, I always felt an inner emptiness, a silent depression, for I knew I could never be good enough to earn God's stamp of approval. I used to have nightmares about waiting with tension at the end of the world, wondering if my name would be included among those to enter God's glory. I certainly never felt the inner "peace of Christ" we were promised as faithful Mormons. I knew that I was going on a mission for the right reason. I only wanted to share the True Gospel, and was filled with the Book of Mormon stories of faithful missionaries converting thousands. France was known as a difficult mission, but that only strengthened my desire to be a mighty missionary, filled with faith, finding all those special spirits just waiting for us to have enough faith to find them and convert them to Mormonism.
Imagine my dismay when instead, I arrived in France to be told that my obedience was more valued than my faith, and to a senior companion who felt that it was her duty to constantly point out my faults. On top of that, the people of Bordeaux were NOT INTERESTED in our message. I wept every morning and night, and entered into a depression which lasted my entire mission, with varying degrees of severity. I called President Wheelwright and told him I needed to go home (this after 2 weeks in the field!) He convinced me to wait until our visiting General Authority (Brother Hale) came to inspire us with his guidance. My most vivid memory (backed up by my extensive journal entries) of Brother Hale's talk was that he berated us for being poor missionaries. The whole reason we could not convert people was due to our pitiful lack of faith. He berated the elders by insinuating that the sisters were far more faithful than they were (evidently to be compared poorly to a woman was his idea of the ultimate humiliation). I felt like crawling under my chair, for I knew that we could not be any better than the elders, for we were pitiful, too. We spent all day knocking on the doors of strangers, trying to spit out our pre-memorized introduction fast enough to beat the slamming doors. However, I decided to stick it out, even though I felt like the Lord was slaying my spirit. Perhaps this was to be my ultimate trial of faith that would finally earn me the peace of Christ.
I wept through those first few months, eventually being transferred to the beautiful southern city of Perpignan. I settled into the routine of knocking on endless doors, looking forward to any break in the monotony, even if it was just a district meeting with the elders. My inner depression was constant, and I sent home rambling letters expounding on my problems, "how could I earn the peace of Christ", and mentally debated the merits of suicide vs. admitting defeat and returning home. I once even got on the train (dragging along the ever present companion) and traveled to the mission back to the mission headquarters to convince President Wheelwright to let me go home. He assigned me to his wife, and she took two days to convince me that if I went home, I was consigning myself to a lifetime of spiritual failure and inactivity within the church. Ironically, even though my devotion to the LDS faith had thus far only brought me depressions and low self-esteem, I still could not consider that perhapse the church itself was in err. I had built my adult life on the church, and the though of leaving it was too frightening to contemplate. So I stayed on, alternating between resigned depression and inner pep-talks (also based on the little book "Drawing on the Powers of Heaven", popular in the mission at that time). When my mission finally ended, I flew home expecting life to get better, only to drop into another deep depression where I began to consider that there was no God at all (I could not yet conceive of a God outside the realm of Mormonism, God was so tied up in the church, He could not exist outside it). I was counseled by the stake president and told to have stronger faith and everything would work out. I returned to Provo for a year, and finding no happiness there, either, finally came back to Virginia for good.
Within a year I married a recently returned missionary I had known for only three months (we had a feeling we were to be married, even though we barely knew each other). I began teaching and had 3 children in quick succession. He, unlike myself, had a happy mission, largely due to his ability to ignore rules, relax, and have fun. Ironically, he had many baptisms (stateside) vs. my 2 baptisms (which immediately fell away). To my dismay, he continued his nonchalant attitude toward's the church's demands in our marriage (family prayer, home evening, scripture study, etc.). I felt certain he was failing our family as our priesthood leader, and that we would never "make it" to the celestial kingdom. This, combined with other problems due to our vastly different personalities (we had dated such a short time before marrying that we didn't realize we had nothing in common except the church), resulted in such marital stress I finally decided to see a "real" (non-LDS) counselor. Although that was frowned on in the church, I was in such a state of depression and spiritual angst that I felt I had no choice. Three children born within 4 years, teaching full time, numerous church callings, and a frequently absent husband due to his own work and church callings added up to immense stress. My counselor helped me to realize that I was seeing all of our problems through my own filter, and that sometimes reality and change depend on the ability to see clearly, outside of our own preconceptions. I did not stay in counseling long, but I learned enough to begin constantly praying that God would help me to "see things as they truly are, and not just as I believed them to be." I meant this in terms of my marital problems, but, perhaps inevitably, this attitude began to affect how I perceived my spiritual problems as well.
Mormons are so well trained to view any problem they may have with the church as their fault, since it could not possibly be the church's, that it is difficult to ever step out of that self-blame cycle. "If I were just a better person, if I just had more faith, etc. etc. I would have peace, I would be happy, etc. etc." Stepping out of that mindset took me several years.
Coincidently, (or not) at this time I happened upon the book "Emma Hale Smith - Mormon Enigma" in the library. Feeling "safe" since it was written by members, I checked it out. Thus began my long journey out of Mormonism.
I was truly shocked by what I read about Joseph Smith and his polygamous unions, which I had believed had been spiritual unions in name only, out of his respect for Emma's feelings against polygamy. Around the same time, I found Richard Van Wagoner's book "Mormon Polygamy" also in my library. I read each of these books over and over, taking notes and praying. I could not believe that God had sanctioned this mess. For example, did God tell married women to go ahead and marry another man (as a polygamous wife) while retaining the original husband as a cover? Did God tell Brigham Young that it was all right for a woman to leave her husband without a divorce, for a man with a higher calling in the church, since by marrying the man with the higher calling she was assuring for herself a greater degree of glory? Did God sanction the lying that went on to protect polygamy (which I was beginning to suspect had evolved more from Joseph's affection for women than from God's desire for... what? What desire of God could polygamy fulfill? Unlike most members believe, there was never a shortage of men in the LDS church. Even the leaders of the time admitted that.)
I could not yet doubt the truthfulness of the church, but I did begin to wonder if prophets make serious mistakes in guiding the church after all. Through anxious prayer (all of which was met with silence, except for vague feelings which I realized could have been my own, not God's) I finally came to the conclusion that the church was true, but prophets do make mistakes and polygamy was a big one.
However, (and I believe this is why the church teaches "once the prophet has spoken, the thinking is done" - to keep members from seriously analyzing the teachings of the prophets) once you open that door all sorts of other "mistakes" crop up. The Adam- God teaching, blood atonement, and racist teachings to name just a few. I had been in the church long enough and had studied enough to hear all those rumors, but had chosen to believe that they were just rumors based on Satan's lies. However, once I chose to believe that prophets could make mistakes, I began to study out those problems. I discovered that those, and many other outrageous doctrines actually were taught in the LDS church. I discovered the different, and conflicting, versions of the First Vision, as well as the historical problems with the Book of Mormon (which can be summed up shortly as "there ain't no way this stuff happened in real life!").
Shortly, I began to realize that what I was learning was making me seriously doubt that the church was the true church after all. But there could be no turning back. So I kept praying as I kept studying, pleading with God to let me know if indeed the church was true, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I talked with members about their faith, and found that most of the "absolute" testimonies they bear are really based on vague feelings (like mine had been) or on family tradition, or on the fact the church made sense to them (ie, the church as it portrays itself made sense).
After several years of study and prayer, I finally came to the inescapable conclusion that the LDS church was not the one true church at all.
Accepting this brought a certain amount of peace and relief (I felt relieved of the mental gymnastics I was performing to try to justify the church's history and doctrines). However, I also felt great sorrow and confusion. I had trusted God to lead me, I had built my life on Mormonism, I had spent my youth in its service, and look where it had gotten me. For some reason, I did not abandon my basic belief in God (as I once though I would if I ever discovered that the church wasn't true), so I kept searching , kept trying to make sense out of it all. It was at this point I could have benefited most from your site. I stopped attending the LDS church (my husband had also drifted into inactivity by this time). I felt drawn towards the same protestant churches I had once been taught to demean (regardless of what any Mormon apologist may profess about the church not criticizing other faiths, we ex-Mormons know that the founding tenet of Mormonism is that all other churches are false and do not have the power to save, drawing towards God with their lips only, and may even be, as Elder McConkie taught, the "whore on the water".)
Having been burnt once by authoritarian religion, I steered clear of fundamentalist groups which, to me, seemed as dogmatic as Mormonism. I wanted a church that could help me understand God without seeking to control my beliefs and thoughts through fear and domination. A friend suggested a nearby Episcopal church, and although all the attention to Christ felt strange at first, I quickly warmed to it. My priest constantly spoke of Christ's redemption, with the insinuation that His redemption was a gift given freely, one we could never earn. I began reading the Bible again, trying to understand it with my own mind, not the mind of Mormonism. I have come to believe and accept that grace, though nearly scorned in Mormonism, means more than "everyone resurrecting with a body". It means I can give up trying to make myself "good enough for God" because that is beyond my power. That is exactly why I never felt spiritual peace in all my years as a Mormon. Grace means God will take me as I am, broken and prone to sin, and heal me from the inside out.
I know that not all ex-Mormons agree with my interpretation of grace, but this is what has brought me peace. This is what I see as the greatest danger of Mormonism and other "top-down" authoritarian religions. When an earnest, sincere, God-seeking individual becomes involved with these various doctrines which teach that you have to earn your way to God, all sorts of abuses and mental problems can result. I lost the youthful personality and enjoyment of life I once had because I actually became addicted to religion, to the obsessive need to constantly measure my worth before God according to someone else's vision. I was so concerned about filling every point of the "law" (according to Mormon leaders) that there was no room for spirit. This is why I think it is important for ex-Mormons (and ex-Witnesses, and ex-what-evers) to speak out, particularly as I see the LDS church pouring huge amounts of money into its public relations system. The public will be treated more and more to the sanitized version of Mormonism we see on Homefront commercials. We need to tell our side of the story, too.
I formally requested that my name be removed from the church rolls in the spring of 1995. I made the decision to be confirmed in the Episcopal church, although I have equal respect for those who choose to never join a church again. Any individual church will never have my single minded devotion again. Although my still active family (and my husband's as well) have been very upset over my decision to leave the church and to bring up my children in another faith, I must commend them for still seeking to maintain positive relations with us. I only wish that one day they would be willing to consider Mormonism with an open mind. Although I can not push them in that regard, I must be ready to help them, or any of my former Mormon friends, if they ever come to that point. I am convinced that Mormonism (although I do not believe that its origins are Satanic, like some) is a very unhealthy system which breeds dependence and lack of original thought among its members, and is particularly devastating to women's self esteem. I do sincerely wish Mormons the peace of Christ, though I am convinced that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to experience that peace within the confines of Mormonism.
To those of you currently experiencing the pain of leaving Mormonism, I do want to hold out hope. The pain does recede, your life will regain balance again. One day you will be able to let Mormonism go, one day the bitterness will end, and trust in God can return.
LEAVING THE MORMON CHURCH AFTER YEARS OF BEING A MORMON IS DIFFICULT
I recently needed to know I wasn't alone when my wife and I woke up and realized the LDS church indoctrinates its members with many false teachings. I won't give you another life travel log, but thought I'd instead demonstrate why I think it is so difficult to leave the Mormon faith.
I've been going through a post-Mormon experience with my wife and family for about 4 months now [May 1996] (it was completely unexpected, at least for us). My wife and kids have been able to adjust well to a Christian life during this time. However, I've continued to struggle off-and-on with how I could have such strong beliefs that the LDS church is false yet still have the Church continually on my mind. Ironically, most non-Mormons wonder why my exodus has affected me so deeply. They figure, "If it Mormonism was working for your family, what was the problem?" (A lot of Mormons have said the same thing.) It seems that the former Mormon has very few people who understand.
I wrote down some thoughts about the Mormon perspective. This has helped me see why it's so difficult to leave the LDS church. These points are all official doctrines of the Church and perspectives that are regularly ingrained into the membership. What blows me away now is that maintaining just a couple of these perspectives often keeps a Mormon in the Church. Imagine (I guess you already have) how difficult it is to recover from a few of these faulty perspectives, let alone all of them! As a Mormon you believe that (in no particular order)...
Historical facts and opinions which go contrary to official Mormon teachings are by definition false and unworthy of study because they do not promote the your faith in the Church.
The final test of truthfulness is if you feel good about an issue ("burning in the bosom", warmth, elation). Joseph Smith has done more for you and all of mankind than anyone, except Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and D&C never contradict themselves or the Bible. They are all in perfect agreement. You accept at least one of the various explanations of the Church leaders. The Bible has been altered by evil and inept men and is therefore unreliable (on its own) as the final word on Christian doctrine.
Having been to the temple, you are 95% percent of the way to the Celestial Kingdom and Godhood. You just need to endure to the end.
The secret temple ceremony is the same as was practiced in ancient Israel (and maybe even in the pyramids of Egypt, according to some Mormon apologetics). The Masons received elements of the ceremonies through an uninterrupted chain of masons, beginning with the masons of the temple of Solomon. God told Joseph Smith how to perform the ceremonies after Joseph saw the Masons do something similar. The Church's doctrinal stance of polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and the nature of God haven't changed in any significant way over the years since the Church began. For that matter, not a single significant doctrinal issue has changed.
It's OK for God to encourage man to commit deceit as he did when telling Abraham (in the Mormons' Book of Abraham) to deceive Pharaoh about his wife Sarah. God can do whatever he wants through his servants, even if it involves deceit. Joseph Smith (and more recent Apostles) has said that what is wrong in one circumstance can sometimes be, and often is, right under another. (Note: A very conservative Mormon may even assert that Abraham did not deceive Pharaoh in any way, and thereby brush aside having to deal with the issue.)
Non-Mormons belong to the Church of the Devil as it states in 2 Nephi, even (especially?) those that profess Christianity. When an Apostle or Prophet says something that is accepted to be true, he is directly inspired by God. When he says something that turns out to be false, he was speaking as a man. But either way, it's no matter to you. These men will never lead you astray.
And you believe that...
The Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet, and, since it comes from the Church, the Church and all its doctrines must be true.
The Church must be true because it has had a good influence on your family. This helps you accept its official history and doctrines as being the truth. The unique doctrines and ceremonies that you have as a Mormon are mandatory for the Godhood, to which you aspire. Without these things, you'd be kicking yourself for the eternities saying something like, "If only I had fully accepted the doctrine of the LDS Church, then I could have become a God."
Hypothetically, if the LDS church weren't true, no other organization could possibly have truth since you already believe that they are all false (interesting logic, eh). If the Mormon church is false, then you are convinced that all churches devoid of truth.
Any opposing forces to the Church help prove to you that the Church must be true, especially in light of the Book of Mormon teachings on opposition. Anything written by a former Mormon must be false or, at best, unreliable. Bottom line, you believe that former Mormons have evil intentions.
Former Mormons leave the Church because of serious sin. Those who leave the Church in reality know that the Church is true and are liars just like the Book of Mormon anti-Christs.
You have so many authorized Church books to read and Church jobs to do that you don't have time or inclination to read any information that may go contrary to the Church.
Even if the Mormon church weren't true, it teaches good values to your family and that's good enough.