This has been something I’ve contemplated writing about for several years. It’s not easy for several reasons.
I was an active member for over 25 years but realized even before I gave up attending several years before, I was in the wrong place.
I raised my family as active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believing the best things in life would be in store for them as long as all stayed involved. Over the years, all have left this organization as adults. They too decided it was a religion in which they felt uncomfortable with its teachings.
Those brave enough to leave, usually find it affects friendships in negative ways. It’s especially difficult for those who have family members still involved. For these reasons and others, it’s difficult for many to decide to leave the LDS church. I don’t think this is necessarily unique to this organization. In any religious or strong social order, people build up their lives around a specific social or group setting. Once these ties become a significant part of someone’s life, they’re not likely to want to go out on their own. I know first hand, several men have told me if their wife and or family weren’t part of it, they would have left on their own accord because they too felt it wasn’t what it claims. It’s primary claim is, it’s the only true church on the earth. It’s the only one with authority to act or speak for God. Many millions of Catholics might disagree with that claim, but that’s it in a nutshell.
When I joined the LDS church, I was a young serviceman stationed in California. I was experiencing the world outside of my normal domain. Far from home and the usual people I knew. I found new friends and saw many different lifestyles. I wasn’t connected closely with any religious organization while growing up. My mother was a Lutheran and I attended Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic church on an infrequent basis. My grandfather insisted on me going to Lutheran Catechism but It just wasn’t a big draw for me.
I then met a person in the Marines, about the same age and rank as I, while living in a large barracks sharing living quarters with upwards of 60 men. We got to know each other quite well and understood what some people found interesting during their leisure time. The person I met, was actively involved in the Mormon church as we called it and he got quite a bit of teasing for “being one of those”. This prompted my curiosity and eventually led me to joining the LDS church. It became a central part of my lifestyle. After I was out of the service, a little over 1 year, I married a LDS girl in the temple, which is the thing to do for all active serious Mormons.
Over a period of years and due to the actions of this wife, combined with poor advice from the local minister (called Bishops in this church), I started to examine my involvement and the things I had readily accepted with additional scrutiny. This 1st marriage ended in a divorce after 17 years with 4 children. Without carefully thinking things through, within one year I was remarried to another LDS woman. This marriage lasted 14 years, however during this period of time I had some of the most serious conversations within myself, with God and a few with other trusted people. At the conclusion of this period, I realized I had been duped by an organization built on a foundation of false claims and promises, maintained through participating & associating with many nice people.
What are beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Well, there’s a high level simple set of answers, but beyond those, the specific detailed doctrine of the church starts to unravel. The hierarchy of the church frequently refers to these areas as the “mysteries of the kingdom” and discourages any research into anything beyond proscribed and rehearsed information. As many reasonable and analytical people will learn over time, these are the typical responses by any organization which keeps secrets. They want their members to focus on their feelings more than their intelligence and heightened awareness through experience. If it sounds similar to the slogan of the morally bankrupt of the 1960’s, “If it feels good, just do it“, it’s not by accident. The idea is to reject your scrutiny of things that make little sense, and rely on how you feel by reading their scriptures or listening to church leaders. They especially frown on any information obtained from outside the standard approved resources.
The human mind works this way, when confounded, we seek refuge in recognizable patterns. And for so many of us, trained for generations to studiously avoid confrontation, it solves so many problems, doesn’t it?
So, rather than become upset and risk an actual conflict, we just go along, because that’s how we’ve learned to fit in.
So politely, we listen, pray, sing and work as a group while saying things that are in common with others in the group. A whole vocabulary develops around group buzz words.
Then we repeat what we’ve heard running through our head, “I know this church is true and I know we’re led by a prophet, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, yada – yada – yada“
Sometimes you have to face the fact that as long as you’re human, you’re fallible. Which means it’s easy to be persuaded about the correctness or rightness of an organization if the people themselves are essentially good and honest people. Moreover, similar organizations present information common to people who seek faith, hope, purpose and an understanding to complex issues with seemingly simple answers. When you become part of a group that identifies itself with a common theme or moreover a similar culture, things change in the manner of the way you talk, the way you act around others and how you identify or reinforce those beliefs using the group think as a template for your own analysis. You no longer synthesize anything outside of your specific group as relevant or accurate to your own experience. It’s as though you’re almost a prisoner in a glass bubble.
If you should stray from thinking like your contemporaries in the LDS church, you’re quickly identified as someone who no longer is inspired by the spirit, an apostate thinker and influenced by the world. Another term of rejection is, you’re worldly. The group, especially leadership, work on making you feel guilty or as the word may be used on you, “not worthy”. Eventually if you vocalize your disbelief or you behavior isn’t in line with the group, you become a sinner, an apostate. Those with a significant amount of influence within the LDS organization and are the most vocal will receive communication from their local organization (ward or stake) signifying the need to attend a church court. These are the ultimate Kangaroo courts, which only have authority to discipline by suspension of privileges in participating or remove your name from membership, called excommunication.
If you’re someone who is, a basic honest working person who wants to raise a good family with values supportive to their own well-being as well as the community and have a significant circle of friends within the religion, you lose something more than a religious affiliation. It’s as if your family has kicked you to the curb. You’re often ostracized or at the very least, less trusted by those once considered your friends. It’s worse when there are some family members who are still actively involved and don’t understood your change of mind.
If after a great number of years of self-education on a variety of topics including your own faith, have concluded that some of the doctrine or beliefs are based on fiction or self-deception, it becomes difficult to reconcile this later understanding with your past life. For me, I felt as though I had thrown away many good years living a lie although not knowing it at the time.
This awakening to reality in my life re-opened one of the areas that had always bothered me about the LDS church and that was the concept of only white people instead of black people could be “called” to leadership positions prior to 1978. If your ancestry was African you couldn’t be a Bishop, Elder or serve sacrament in church. You couldn’t go on a mission nor could you be married in the “Temple”, a key component to the idea that families can be together forever as long as their marriage was officiated by the proper priesthood holder and in the temple. Why would God think that one group of people wasn’t up to becoming responsible members of the church based on ethnicity? Furthermore, before there was DNA testing, there were a lot of people who had no idea of their true ancestors. I had several friends that were black that said they knew eventually they would also be given the priesthood and would receive everything after this life that I would. I never understood their acceptance of the policy. I couldn’t deny their faith but tucked it away as another mystery. This policy has been changed but it’s difficult to believe it ever was right.
Several other things became rather apparent, especially after visiting and learning more about the history of Great Britain. This island nation was invaded and occupied by Romans for a little over 3 centuries. During this time they had no more than approximately 100,000 soldiers reside within its borders, yet we can see all kinds of evidence of their occupation. The Book of Mormon, a central scriptural book of the LDS church, claims two major occupations of the western hemisphere (north or south America) were populated with millions of people over a combined period of about 2000 years. Even if these numbers were wildly exaggerated, up to this point, there’s no archaeological confirmation any group of people came from the middle east area and landed here, and built large cities with roads.
The only thing we’ve been able to scientifically determine was that Native Americans originated from Mongolia, central Asia. The Book of Mormon claims two groups landed and lived somewhere in the western hemisphere. The first group landed about 2700 BC and had a vast civil war around 750 BC. The second group from about 600 BC until around 400 AD. The second group was supposed to be from Israel and their exact location and settlement in the western hemisphere is unknown. The book does indicate the primary family split into two factions. One group that followed God’s word and another group that became bitter enemies. This rebellious group, according to the Book of Mormon became dark-skinned and were later identified, beginning in Joseph Smith’s time as the ancestor of the American Indian. This has been totally debunked by scientific research using DNA. This speaks to the fundamental credibility of the Book of Mormon and integrity of Joseph Smith as a prophet.
Polygamy was a practice long since discarded by the LDS church. Although they abandoned the principle after extreme pressure from the government in the 1890’s the legacy hasn’t been entirely discarded. What I mean by that, for those men who have wives die before them, they can remarry another wife for all eternity in the temple. This means Mormons believe a man and women that are “sealed” to each other will be resurrected as husband and wives. Although the practice of polygamy has been outlawed here, the practice is greeted with open arms in the eternities according to current church doctrine.
Now here’s where it gets a bit ugly. Many Mormons believe polygamy was instituted by the succeeding President of the LDS church, Brigham Young or say it was a practice of very limited scope. Historically Brigham was all for it, but Joseph wasn’t just satisfied with polygamy, he also liked polyandry. He also married 10 women who were married to other active LDS men. Sacrifice in the beginning years of the church, meant you might even have to relinquish your wife to the “prophet” if he so requested. This isn’t hearsay it’s part of official church records. Don’t look down your nose at me, I don’t make this stuff up.
The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the most inspired book and accurate to date of any scripture, however there have been many changes (about 4000) since it was first published. Evidently all the grammatical errors, spelling and even some of the correct names for specific people were wrong in the first place and required editing over the years. It seems that a book so directly authored by God would be accurate in the first place. Even the mistakes of the King James version of the Bible were copied, later found to be incorrect and updated there, but not in the Book of Mormon. Many of the technical advancements, the wheel, steel, silk and some of the animals named, like the horse, weren’t around during the period of time as outlined in the Book of Mormon. You would think God knew the right interpretation, names, devices, animals and correct spellings and help poor Joseph Smith get it right.
I could go on about this and attempt to explain more problems I have with saying, I approve of this church and believe it to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the only true church on the face of the entire planet. You can see the organization adapted to the changing times by eliminating some of the uglier aspects of the religion. Then again, I can just be honest with myself and admit for several years I paid and prayed and was duped by some good people but the originators were charlatans. I’ve played the fool for many years but by the 1990’s I gave it up with a reality check and improved my self-worth.
If you’re a person who has thought about joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or someone who has realized like I did, this just isn’t based on facts, I invite you to watch these videos and evaluate the information yourself. This is the beauty of the information age in which we live. It’s become more difficult to hide behind the curtain, pull levers and suggest to the minions that you’re the all-knowing and all-seeing wizard of an exclusive kingdom.
- Top 10 Mormon Problems Explained
- Is There Scientific Proof Authenticating the Book of Mormon? (Elder M. Russell Ballard – says don’t think, just feel)
- Welcome to Mormon Think (you read & decide)
- Hi, my name is Michelle (I’m an Ex Mormon)
- 35 years of prayer couldn’t get rid of my homosexuality (true Christians would embrace all people)
Even if you aren’t gay, you should watch Steve’s presentation. I agree with him, I’m much happier after I left the LDS church.
Speaking of Race – American Indians
Why did Joseph Smith send missionaries to the “Lamanites” if the American Indians at the time weren’t really “Lamanites”? (D&C 10:48, 28:8, 54:8, etc.) He certainly considered the Indians to be Lamanites (even if the current leaders of the church no longer believe them to be so). “The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians. By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 17).