Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why I Left the Church

Why I Left the Church
By: Heather B.
Originally posted here.
Reposted here with her permission

I have debated whether or not I should write this post. Should I post it here, on another blog, or even at all? With a recent and very unpleasant encounter with a close family member I realized that anyone who knows about Kenny and I leaving the church does not understand why. We have never been asked as to why and the assumptions and rumors are starting to get rather entertaining. Hurtful- but entertaining. I have also been accused of writing ani -mormon things on my blog. Really? Where? I feel that I have been very respectful both on my blog and on Facebook as to keep my new un-belief to myself. But not anymore. I am tired of catering to everyones feelings when mine are completely stomped on. I never jump on a persons post when a testimony is shared, but I get put through the ringer when I post something, anything at all. So since nobody is asking why I now believe the way I do I decided I will take this opportunity and give those of you who decide to read this post- MY version. You can now put the assumptions and rumors aside. I also decided to write this post because there isn't a lot of conversation about this in our families. Nobody wants to hear Kenny or I talk about it. Its as if he and I have "0" credibility now and everything we say will be automatically anti mormon. This is not true either. I need to write this to clear the air and to start a conversation.

I will start from the beginning.

I was born in Boise, Idaho and my parents moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho two years later. I was born and raised a member of the LDS church. I was raised in a very active and strict home. My first memory of church is when I was 8 and I was being interviewed for my baptism. My parents were with me and I handed the bishop my tithing envelope. It was my first payment, and couldn't have been more then a dollar in change. He asked me what the tithing money was used for and I told him "to feed poor kids." Even back then I had a tender heart for the less fortunate. The bishop responded with a "no, it is used to build temples." He was actually very nice about it, but I felt so stupid. I gave the wrong answer. I was also disappointed that my few pennies weren't going to help hungry kids, but it was Gods way I guess.

I started seminary in the 9th grade and loved every minute of seminary for the next 4 years. I never had a bad teacher or experience. It was a break during the day that I actually looked forward to. Funny story...one of my high school seminary teachers ended up being my future brother- in -law. When I was dating my husband he asked if I had ever had this particular teacher. I said yes and he mostly taught by reading right out of the manuel and was one of my least favorites. So my future husband told me that he was his brother- in- law. I changed my answer real fast- he was the BEST teacher ever!!!!!! That brother- in-law is now out of the church. He said that teaching seminary helped to pull him out. But that is his story to tell.

After graduating Idaho Falls High School in 1997, I went to a vocational school to study dental assisting. I was also on the Institute Council and a member of the Singles Ward. I was on the dance committee for the singles ward and loved meeting people. This is where I met my husband. I was 18 and very upset I was not married yet. I dated so many RM's and none of them were interested in me. I had pretty much given up on it (I know- so YOUNG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) when I met my husband. He had jut come home from his 3 day mission (yes , only 3 days) a few months before and had decided to brave a singles ward dance. We met, dated one month and were married 9 months later in the Idaho Falls temple on January 9,1999.

I was so very much a member through and through. I lived it, breathed it, payed into it, and would have died for it. I was the ideal Mormon girl, and I had the ideal Mormon life.

In the early years of my marriage, I distinctly recall a conversation my husband and I had. I told him if he ever questioned the church at all that I would be done. End of marriage. End of us.

8 years later...

I remember the day so vividly. It was December 2007 and my little family and I were driving to my aunts house for a Christmas dinner. My husband turned to me and told me he didn't believe the LDS church was true. My world changed from that second on. I could tell he was so scared about talking to me about it. He remembered my statement from years before and brought it up. I remember thinking there was no way I could ever leave him now. By this time we had 4 kids together and I loved him beyond myself. But still...

I felt like my world, everything I had known, was taken out from under me. Everything I had worked for, for 29 years, was worthless. I couldn't believe my husband felt this way. How could anyone who had been through the temple say it wasn't true? I tried to not "freak out" but I also had to understand where he was coming from in order for me to help him regain his testimony. If I didn't understand it ALL, and figure out a way for him to see the light again, I would fail as a wife.

So my journey to bring him back started. The first 6 months after he told me, I occasionally asked questions regarding his doubts. He would in turn tell me a snippet of history and I would "look into it" or justify and rationalize. Then after another 6 months, I told him to just lay out every, EVERY single reason. I remember this moment so well. I was sitting on our bed in our bedroom and he turned to me saying "I won't sugar coat anything." I told him that was fine. For me, I had to see where he was coming from, get all the ugly so we could find the real truth and get back to living as the perfect LDS couple and raise the perfect LDS kids.

I stopped believing within a month.

It was easy for me to do the research as my husband had everything on hand. Everything I studied was also church approved. Ironic. I couldn't believe the stuff I was learning. Part of me was enlightened, part of me felt betrayed, and part of me felt so sad. My family would never understand where I was coming from now.

By this time we were still very active but we had stopped paying tithing and wearing our garments. We both had callings and enjoyed the social interaction associated with church.

Then the "event" happened that outed us.

My husband was helping his two brothers fix one of their boats. One of these brothers was an active member in our ward and I was best friends with his wife. Her and I did everything together, spoke several times a day and were like sisters. Anyway, my husband bent over to fix this boat and his "gentile" underwear poked out the top of his shorts. The member brother asked why my husband wasn't wearing his garments and my husband spilled the beans. This brother is also a huge gossip. He went home that night and told his wife, her brother and his co workers. It was only a matter of time before my parents would find out about us. We live in a very small Idaho community and gossip spreads like wildfire. If they heard it from someone else it would be devastating.

My mom called one afternoon in early April 2008. I told her. I told her we no longer believed the church was true. It was awful. The only way I can describe it was as if it were a train wreck. I knew how my parents believed because I had been there once myself. In their eyes I was destroying the forever family. From that moment on things between us have not been the same. They don't want to hear about why I don't believe. I respect this and understand where they are coming from. Its painful for all of us.

After we told my parents, they went and talked to our bishop and told him that we didn't believe anymore. We got a call shortly after that asking us to meet in his office the next Sunday.

The bishop sat there and was actually supportive. He asked us to make a list of all our concerns. The interview ended with him scheduling an interview with him and the stake president in our home a few days later.

The visit with those two men did not go well at all. I guess by this point I was hoping for some sort of heavenly inspiration from these two men. Instead, the stake president was so arrogant and belittled my husband and I, telling us to just have faith, read our scriptures and pray and pay tithing then we would know its all true. How could we have faith if we could clearly see its not all its claimed to be? Thats like saying "you can see 2+2 =4, but have faith that the answer is 5, it will all work out." Our bishop sat there the entire time with his head down, the stake president wouldn't let my husband or I say two words and he left us with an article from the Ensign saying something about "You know enough." He didn't even address one point on our list.
Every person who has left the church has an exit story to tell. With that story they also have their own "final straw," a tipping point. It is different for everyone. With all of the things I found out and researched about Mormonism...

  • polygamy
  • polyandry
  • Joseph Smith marrying 14 year old girls
  • Joseph Smith burning the printing press
  • women in the early days of the church anointing and giving blessings
  • the racist/sexist comments made by leaders of the "true" church
  • the money digging
  • the thousands of changes made to the Book Of Mormon
  • the Book of Abraham, Book of Breathings/ Book of the Dead
  • Kinderhook plates
  • Zelph
  • the changes made to the temple ceremony
  • the Blood Oath Covenant
  • the Mountain Meadows Massacre
  • Adam/ God theory
  • DNA and the Book of Mormon
  • changes made to the First Vision
  • the seer stone in the hat
  • blacks not receiving the priesthood until 1978
  • the Hofmann forgeries
  • the Second Anointing
  • no financial accountability within the church regarding tithing
  • The September Six
  • the 1890 Manifesto
  • horses in the Book of Mormon
  • there is no such language as "reformed Egyptian"
  • the metal issue in the Book of Mormon
  • Journal of Discourses
  • the Book of Mormon written in King James English

just to name a few... my tipping points were different and very personal. It took an "ah ha" moment for me to make the final break from the church. I had three of them. I was now no longer responsible for me but for my 4 children.

After the meeting with the stake president and bishop we were still attending church but my heart was not into it anymore. Like I mentioned, it took three things for me to wash my hands of it, one of which was the Proposition 8 disaster. I have a gay cousin and my husband has a gay niece, so it close to home. I am a very sensitive person when it comes to minorities and when I watched this entire event unfold I couldn't believe my eyes. Even though the Prop 8 issues started before we outed ourselves, and before I was a complete non believer in the church, it sped things up so rapidly for me. The entire way the Church conducted themselves over that proposition made me ill. I could not support an organization that asked its members to spend their time, money and talents to suppress a group of people of their rights. I actually had a couple conversations with some of my family members and they all told me "I will do whatever the prophet asks me to do. I do not question his judgment on this matter." Scary... Even if I thought the church had a shred of truth, I would never go back to it because of the homophobia the church condones and acts out.

My second tipping point was the idea that I would have to let my kids be interviewed by a middle aged/older man with "0" counseling skills, and in that interview sexually explicit questions would be asked. In any other context or setting this is NOT ok and would be considered sexual assault. Plus, the church does not do ANY back ground checks on their teachers or leaders. I am the protector of my children and I will have a say as to who is allowed to be around my child. In fact, one of my children had a primary teacher that was way too friendly with her. She would talk about the things he did and I personally saw how he interacted with her. This is in front of everyone, including this teachers wife who sat next to him. It doesn't matter where the child is groomed, and in primary, the abuser has access to many children. I talked to the bishop about this and he said they would release this teacher. So where did they put him? With the oldest primary boys. Inspiration? Not even close. I realized after that incident that the LDS church is not a safe place for my kids.

The last point was studying cult like behavior. After reading and studying up on the church and its history I became aware that many viewed the LDS church as a cult. I wanted to prove this wrong to myself, there was no way I had been in a cult. So I began to research cult tactics and mind control. I soon realized that I had been living a cult like belief my entire life.

  • to disagree with the cult, you disagree with GOD
  • mind control
  • no critical inquiry or free exchange of idea
  • unreasonable fear of the outside world
  • never feeling good enough
  • the prophet is ALWAYS right, what he says is law while members are rebuked
  • the idea that former members are wrong, evil, or were offended for leaving
  • guilt and shame induced feelings in order to control the members
  • blind obedience
  • chanting
  • the leader dictates how the members should think, act, feel, wear, eat, and how to conduct sexual relationships
  • large amounts of time must be spent
  • members are encouraged to spend time with only other members. Anyone outside of the group can be seen as dangerous. (remind you of a temple recommend question?)
  • saying the only way to be saved is through the organization and none other
  • preoccupation with money (another temple recommend question)
  • the members are encouraged to bring in other members
  • any information that is not published by the organization should be feared.
  • "end of the world" pressure
  • secret knowledge that only the elect have and cannot share
  • information shared with the leader is not kept confidential, but shared among others
  • fear of disobedience or disagreeing with the leadership, questioning and doubt can result in excommunication
  • urges to leave family and friends to join the group
  • members are asked to prove their loyalty
  • pressure to confess all sins and misdeeds, thoughts, and temptations
  • martyrdom complex- dying for what you believe

I found every single point above in myself, as well as several other points I did not list. It was immensely hard for me to come to terms with this idea that I had been controlled in this way. How could I not have seen this? That was my last straw. My children would not be brought up in that kind of environment.

We were completely active members until Mother's Day Sunday in 2008. I was tired of living a double life. I was tired of putting on that fake smile to please my neighbors, my friends, and my family. We decided not to go to church and enjoyed a lovely picnic together. We have not been back since. Even though we haven't resigned the ward has left us alone, other then the occasional home teacher visit. Even then, religion is not brought up.

In the church you are taught that you can't be happy without it. As I stand now, two years inactive, I am more happy out of the church then in. My family is happier, my relationship with my husband has become so much deeper and has climbed to a level that I think would have been impossible inside the church.

I am still trying to figure out what I believe in, in terms of God. Right now I see "God" as all things we as humans do not understand. To me he is also the Earth, he is nature, he is the universe. I do not believe in the Christian God, and I do not worship any form. Any God that requires unwavering devotion and worship when he has never proven himself to me is a God I will not worship. I do not believe in religion at all, or the Bible. I see religion as a primitive way of viewing the world, when humanity has clearly moved on from the strange ideals of early civilization. We have moved on from the ideas of human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, genocide, incest, polygamy, abuse of women, cannibalism, slavery and on and on. This is why I am not a Christian. To be a Christian you have to believe in the bible, and to believe in the bible you have to believe in it all. I was taught in seminary to believe all or nothing so I will choose to believe in nothing when it comes to religion.

So what do I believe in? I believe in thought. I believe in questions and finding the truth, even if its not what we want to hear. I believe science has more answers then the scriptures. I believe in all things good. I believe in embracing individuality. I believe in my family. I believe that we can't study and learn too much. I believe in figuring out for myself what I want to believe in. I believe in living the best life I can. I believe in service. I believe in love and compassion. I believe we are all human beings trying to make our way through life with our own circumstances and doing the best we can with what we have, while helping others as we go. I believe in tolerance. These things are what I teach my children and what I am teaching myself.

Leaving the church was the hardest thing for me to go through. I lost my best friend along with other friendships and close family connections. It was a social suicide to me. But, I was willing to risk that in order to live authentically. I choose family over an organization. I still find myself sometimes wishing it were true, but my life can't be wasted on wishing. I have to live in the now and right now I have all that I need for a great and fulfilling life.

11 comments:

Mormon411 said...

Heather, you have my complete and utter respect. Doing what you did takes real guts and even though leaving the church is "social suicide" it is totally worth it. Just know that there is a whole community of good people out there who have 'been there done that' and they are willing to offer support in place of loved ones who should have been there for you.

Heather B said...

Thank you for posting and for the support.

Keep up the good blog work. I will be back for more...

Valerie said...

Heather,

Thank you for sharing your story. I am still new to not believing in it, which means I am a bit confused still. haha

I, too, wanted to believe it was true. I really did. But it just doesn't add up, like you said.

theagnosticswife said...

Heather,

While I was not Mormon(I was Christian) some of your story is similar to mine. My husband deconverted first and told me he no longer believed. I too was devastated and felt I needed to save him. Then I listened to him and researched on my own and he was right.

Anyway, thanks for the story!

Andy said...

You did the right thing. Kids shouldn't be brainwashed into believing superstitions.

The mom said...

Hi, I just happened upon your blog today. My heart broke at your story, thank you for sharing. I have an Aunt who went through similar struggles and when she turned from the church she fell into a downward spiral of searching for significance in drinking, drugs, shopping and finally leaving in suicide.
I know I can not convince you either way of a one true God. But I would like to comment on something you said. You mentioned that He (God)has never proven himself to you and that you couldn't believe in something that required such worship and devotion. Might I suggest that the still small voice that whispered to you and your husband's hearts about Mormonism and it's deceptiveness may indeed have been God speaking to His beloved children. He knows our hearts and maybe the fact that you were searching to worship the creator and not the church allowed Him to open your eyes to some truths.
Is it wrong to worship a loving creator who wants to bless you with truth, a husband who loves you, children...
I do agree that the man made God of many churches and religions is distant and shallow. But I know that I know there is a personal loving Father in Heaven that speaks truth and gives peace beyond our understanding.
Please don't feel I am being preachy. Just saying.

Mormon411 said...

On the other hand, that "still small voice" might have been your own brain doing what brains are supposed to do... think.

Ana said...

I happened to come upon your blog and I had a similar situation happen to me. I grew up in a very hardcore LDS household and I recently left the church for a lot of the same reasons you listed. I had a massive turning point as you said happens to most people. I felt like the only one that noticed things going on around me that weren't right...but I have started to notice that I am not the only one that is noticing these things.

Tawnya said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, I am so thankful I was able to read your entry about Why you left the LDS.

I am no an LDS but I grew up in a Christian family, My Fiance however, did not and I have been struggling with the pressures from my family and close friends who believe that Christianity is the only way. I, myself do not believe this, but it is impossible to explain this to a Christian. I find they are the most closed-minded and judgmental people (not to generalize)

L Garcia Muro said...

Hi, I just read your blog, it is very interesting to hear your true feelings and beliefs. What I also heard you say, is that you love your husband and children and you are ready to protect them, funny you should say that, The Word Love was created by GOD, He is the creator of Love. So the thought that you do not believe in God, makes me wonder, how do you feel love, and why do you marry if you do not believe? God created woman from man (marriage). "This is my commandmentm that ye love one another, as I have loved you", (St John 15:12) Find God Only

Mormon411 said...

LGM, I know this comment was for Heather, but I had to say something... Are you serious? Do you honestly think that if a person stops believing in god that they become incapable of feeling love? That is ridiculous! Quoting a bunch of scriptures is not going to convince non-believers to suddenly believe either. If I start sharing quotes from a Superman comic book, will you suddenly start believing in Superman? BTW, since you don't really belive in Superman, how are YOU capable of feeling love?

Seriously, this is one of the most absurd comments I have ever read!