“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” –William S. Burroughs
I don’t think most Mormons understand the desperation that drove us to leave the church. Essentially, the core of Mormon faith is the “testimony,” which rests on the idea that, if you pray to know if the church’s claims are true, you will have some sort of good feeling or spiritual impression that confirms the truth of the church.
Desperation comes only when you realize that your testimony conflicts with the facts. For example, you “know” the Book of Mormon is true because you have that good, warm, peaceful feeling when you pray about it, but then you discover that the text is a mess: anachronisms, translation errors, obvious plagiarism, and so on.
Many of us, when first confronted with this “cognitive dissonance,” chose initially to “shelve” the troubling stuff and just keep on believing. I’ve mentioned how my shelf collapsed of its own weight, but I haven’t explained just how devastating it was. Burroughs rightly describes it as “desperation.” I’ve known people who literally wanted to end their lives when they discovered that Mormonism isn’t true.
I remember vividly the day that I went with my wife to the bishop for help in salvaging my destroyed faith. I lay on my bed for a good hour, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling as if everything in my life had been lost.
But it wasn’t the end of the world, just the impetus for “drastic change.” My life is not perfect, but confronting what isn’t true and moving beyond it has really been a “blessing” in my life.