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What Do I Do Now?

My testimony was built hand in hand with a narrative about Joseph Smith and the historical events of the church.  When I found out that the narrative itself was very different and more ugly than I had been taught, it put me in a position to re-evaluate my faith.

My entire belief system that I took for granted has crumbled and collapsed.  I’m in the process of figuring out what I do believe and I why I believe it.  For too long I allowed others to dictate my beliefs, unable to allow honest introspection on each pillar and principle.

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”. To go 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?  If prayer is a valid method of determining truth, why do so many different religions claim that it proves their veracity?  And why would I trust a method for determining truth when the source of that method also is the one defining what an answer is and what it means?

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 consider myself an ethnic Mormon.  It’s the culture and religion I understand best, but I don’t believe it is based on truth.

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.  For the time being, I am attending a local Unitarian Universalist branch.  There is no creed being forced on me.  It is teaching me how to think rather than what to think.

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.

What about my children?

There is no doubt the church had a large effect on me growing up.  Taken as a whole, I believe it was detrimental in comparison to many other religions as well as agnosticism and atheism.  This a quick summary of the things I don’t want my children being taught:

  • What to believe
  • Trust everything your leaders say without critical thought
  • Skepticism is bad
  • They are special because of their choices and actions in some pre-Earth life
  • They can only be together with their family after this life if they obey church leaders
  • If they don’t pay 10% of their income to the church they are not worthy
  • Joseph Smith was some nearly flawless example of mankind
  • Terrible stories of God committing genocide like the story of Noah’s Ark
  • Two men or two women who love each other cannot have the same love as a man and a woman
  • Women belong in the home rearing children and should not work unless absolutely necessary
  • Married couples should have as many kids as they can
  • God has a health code, but it’s about obedience and not health
  • Only men can receive revelation for others, handle church finances, and hold God’s authority on Earth

I also don’t ever want my children feeling the completely bogus and unnecessary guilt that comes from not living up to false standards.  Mostly, I want my children to not be force-fed a certain brand of dogma.  I want them to be open-minded, think critically, and make their own decisions about their beliefs.  I died a little inside every time a small child testified that they knew the church was true.

My research has led me to believe the church is false.  Mostly, I don’t want my children being lied to every Sunday like I was.

Next Step: Other Bits

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One Comment
  1. Heather permalink

    I went through a similar trek. I found my “home” in a biblically-based nondenominational Christian Church. There’s a very helpful program for Mormons transitioning to traditional Christianity called Transitions – The Mormon Migration from Religion to Relationship. Their website is http://www.LDSTransitions.com. I know you are still working out what to believe and where to go. Maybe this will be helpful.

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