The year I lost Mormonism

Or maybe Mormonism lost me.

In 2005 I was living in Texas and working at a job I absolutely hated. But other than my job, life was good. My wife and I were reasonably content and happy, and our children were giving us the normal mix of pride and grief that children do.

At church I was in the high priests group leadership, and I was dedicated to my calling and to the church. At that point in my life (I had just turned 40), I probably had a less literal approach to Mormon history and scripture than most owing to my participation on various pro-LDS message boards over the years (from alt.religion.mormon to the MAD board), but I had a testimony, and I knew the church was God’s kingdom on earth.

A lot of little things nagged at me over the years, but I always subordinated them to my testimony. I was convinced that God had spoken to me, and nothing else mattered.

But on August 8, I was getting ready to go home from work when a good friend called from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake, where he worked and still does work. He sounded distressed.

He had just learned that Joseph Smith had pressured Newel K. Whitney and Heber C. Kimball to give him their teenaged daughters as wives in exchange for the family’s exaltation.

“That can’t be true, can it?” he asked, and I could hear the anguish in his voice.

“Yes, that’s true,” I said. I wished I could have told him it wasn’t, but it was true.

Then he said he had learned that Joseph Smith had sent men away on missions and then taken their wives for his own once the husbands were out of town.

“That isn’t true, is it?” he asked again, this time sounding more desperate.

“Yes, that’s true, too,” I said.

His voice became very serious. “The church is still true, isn’t it, John?”

I thought for a moment. Suddenly I realized that I had been giving Joseph Smith a pass for reprehensible behavior that I wouldn’t excuse in anyone else. I had accepted that, although it wasn’t literally a true history, the Book of Mormon was nevertheless inspired scripture.

Now I was faced with scripture that wasn’t actually true coming from a man who acted just like you would expect a false prophet to act.

“John, it’s still true, isn’t it? You believe it’s true, don’t you?” he asked again.

“That’s something you’ll have to work out on your own,” I said. “I can’t tell you what you should believe.”

In that moment all the excuses I had made for Joseph Smith evaporated. Suddenly I didn’t have to dismiss obvious problems with the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. The rewriting of modern revelation was no longer a mystery. Bank fraud and adultery and cut-rate swindling suddenly came into focus.

I went home that day and said to my wife, “I do not believe in the church anymore.”

She encouraged me to take President Hinckley’s challenge and prayerfully reread the Book of Mormon by year’s end. To make a long story short, rereading it just opened up more problems, which prayer could not resolve. I ended up sitting in a coffee shop in late December, reading Moroni while sipping a rather nice triple espresso.

Life hasn’t always been easy since that day, as many of you know, but I can honestly say that I am more at peace with myself and with the world since I figured out Mormonism

Oh, and my friend still works at the COB. But he doesn’t believe, either. Of course, he never did.

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13 Responses to The year I lost Mormonism

  1. MK says:

    lol i beat you by a couple years dad

  2. Kudos to you for having the stones to tell your wife about it that same day. It took me some time to come clean about my beliefs to the people I love.

  3. Megan says:

    After thinking, like so many others, that no one else really truly found the church didn’t work for them it’s wonderful to read these stories of epiphany.

  4. EJ says:

    Thanks for that. The process was a lot slower for me, but it led to the same place. I’m not sure what you meant by your last sentence. What do you mean he never believed?

  5. K*tty says:

    EJ, I was going to ask the same question. I don’t know how you can work around Mormons when you don’t believe without being a little cynical. I feel I have worked my way through it, but sometimes some of the things “they” say sets me off. I try to be quiet and respectful, but sometimes I think it is asking way too much. So, I just wonder how your friend can keep it in check all day long, day after day. He must have an ulcer or some pretty good pills.

  6. Grégoire says:

    How can you be around Mormons when you don’t believe yourself? A sense of humour is absolutely imperative.

    No reason to be cynical. Just look on it all as cheap but priceless entertainment.

  7. runtu says:

    My friend is just not a believer. For him, there are social and economic benefits to staying within Mormonism. So he stays. He just doesn’t take it particularly seriously.

  8. Chantelle says:

    Hi there!

    I have recently left the Mormon church and followed a link to your blog from exmormon.org…
    I love the way you write, and was wondering if I could add a link to your blog on my website?
    I’ve recently changed it from a “mission prep” blog to a “help I’ve left the church and am feeling very confused/angry/liberated/insert a million other words here… blog” haha. I’m looking to get some good links up there for myself and for anyone that might stumble across it… Would that be OK?

    Regards,
    Chantelle

    • runtu says:

      Chantelle,

      Sure, go ahead and put a link here. Your blog has certainly made a radical change. Just a suggestion: you should leave everything you wrote about missionary prep as it stands and then just go forward with where you are now. That would be fascinating reading. What is the URL for your blog?

  9. Starr says:

    I am going on almost 7 years now when I left the church, name removed and all and I am 29 years old! It’s still hard. My whole family in ingrained in the Mormon faith. I still find it funny the church wants to “seriously” be called the LDS church now, not Mormons. So the BOM is not the BOLDS? anyway, random thought. I will never truly be able to ignore the Mormon world because of my family being deep rooted in it, but my heart is more open now ever since I left. Your blog post is a breath of fresh air. BTW, are you and your wife still together? Are you kids still involved with in church?

  10. Seven says:

    Hi Runtu,
    When did you first learn the stories of Joseph Smith’s polygamy & how did it make you feel? I only ask because your friend’s story is pretty typical for most former LDS getting upset by the new information but did you go through those same emotions? (IIRC, you supported the apologetic explanations before that time) I was so sickened and shocked initially by what I learned that I felt despair, trapped in the church (knowing that my TBM family would never believe what I had learned), and most of all betrayed by some family and the church. I was desperate for any evidence that what I read was false anti Mormon lies and found myself at FARMS/FAIR. To read the apologetic material on polygamy made me really upset and disgusted with my fellow church members. It actually drove me further away from the church.

    I would love to hear your analysis of why there are such stark differences in how critics/former LDS initially react to learning of Joseph’s polygamy vs. the apologists who claim it didn’t bother them, “the church doesn’t hide anything”, etc. etc. I have to believe they are being honest about their feelings on some level, otherwise they would have gone through the same emotions of anger and sickness that I did. They display NO empathy of any kind for members struggling with the issue your friend went through. It’s very interesting.

  11. Grégoire says:

    Oh, and my friend still works at the COB. But he doesn’t believe, either. Of course, he never did.

    Good Hell Almighty!

    I’m sure I missed this last sentence the first time ’round.

    I get annoyed just driving through Cardston or Idaho Falls. I can only imagine how the poor fellow must feel working in the Church Office Building.

    But then again, maybe not? Do you suppose with all the bigwigs and people on the inside the charade isn’t a little more transparent? Do you think they laugh, more or less openly, at the true believers just across the street, doing their temple busywork?

  12. Lone Danite says:

    Don’t give up hope there big guy, what you’ve got to remember is religion is a path to God not the other way around.

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