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What Does it all Mean?

October 15, 2011

Starting ten years ago as I discovered things about the church that bothered me, I somewhat subconsciously put them on a shelf in my mind to ignore.  I suspect that this was to minimize the impact of cognitive dissonance.  Regardless, over time the number of bothersome things on that shelf became very perplexing to me.  I couldn’t make sense of how the church could be true if all those things existed.  I thought there must be explanations for each, but I just didn’t know what those explanations were.

It wasn’t until I made that mental leap to wonder “What if the church isn’t 100% true?” that I started to finally understand.  Everything immediately fit together like a puzzle.  It fit together so perfectly that I was startled.

What do I believe in now?

I believe in God.  I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe in what He taught.  I believe He suffered and died for our sins.  I believe He was resurrected.  I believe in the Bible, though I think there have been significant scribal and translational errors.  I also believe that the Bible is difficult to understand for a reason: we shouldn’t have guidance in all things because it effectively inhibits our free agency.

I believe the Mormon church teaches many great and wonderful things.  I have a very deep respect for most Mormons that I know.  But I don’t believe it is the “one and only true church”.  It kind of goes back to Elder Poelman’s General Conference address: the church is hindering me from making what I believe to be correct moral choices.  I had to come to the very difficult realization that just because something is good, or mostly good, does not mean it is necessarily true.

At the end of the day, even if all the historical, doctrinal and policy problems didn’t exist, I would still have a major issue.  I have been a part of the church for 30 years, served faithfully in countless tasks and callings.  And despite praying earnestly, studying the scriptures, and having faith and hope, I never received a spiritual witness that it was true.  I can’t hang on any longer to the testimony of my family and friends.  I can’t simply hope it is true because I like how eternal families sound.  I have to admit to myself that my journey for finding truth is taking me elsewhere.

And yet even if I had that spiritual witness, how could I possibly trust it when logic and reason tells me the church is false?

When I try to explain this all to active, believing Mormons, they can’t understand one simple truth:  I cannot, in good conscience, continue in the church if I truly believe it is not true.  I would be dishonest with myself and my convictions.

What now?

I am absolutely not an anti-Mormon.  I am an ex-Mormon and there is a big difference.

For the time being, I still plan on attending church meetings, though perhaps not as frequently.  I feel like the increasing focus of the modern LDS church to remove free agency from its teachings and practices is limiting my own spiritual growth.  The church seems to have had a classic BITE control over me and I desperately want to figure what I really believe and what has been forced on me.

I feel very much at peace with my decision.  Whatever anyone else thinks, I know this was the right thing for me to do.  It was far from easy and it likely will continue to be difficult for a long time.  But never in my life have I felt so free to thoroughly examine who I am and who I believe God is.

Elder Poelman originally stated:

“When we understand the difference between the gospel and the Church and the appropriate function of each in our daily lives, we are much more likely to do the right things for the right reasons. Institutional discipline is replaced by self discipline. Supervision is replaced by righteous initiative and a sense of divine accountability.”

Instead of feeling smothered by an organization telling me what is right and wrong, I have to figure it out.  Instead of depending on rituals and ordinances to have hope of arriving at the right destination after this life, I will adhere more to a quote commonly misattributed to Marcus Aurelius:

“Live a good life.  If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.  If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them.  If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

What about my wife?

Although I wrote this blog in the first person, my wife has been my constant companion with it.  She has edited, written parts, made suggestions and additions, and corrected me frequently.  Though we sometimes agree, her views are her views and she also sometimes disagrees.  Whichever path we each take with our beliefs, we are more than just tolerant of each other: we are completely supportive.

My smarter, better-spoken, non-identical twin

This guy expressed my sentiments far better than I possibly could.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nj9uLK-Z1MM#!

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