Exit from the Faith

I originally posted this on my Facebook page in October 2016.

The current political climate has inspired me. Strange, I know. With over 7 billion humans on the planet it is inevitable that there will be differences in perspective. No more so than in the current US presidential campaign. Am I right? I have friends and acquaintances on both sides of the aisle. But in my opinion, these differences are a good thing. There is strength and value in diversity of perspectives. If we can have open minds we may just gain helpful insights from each other that may have been missing from our own. Collectively, if we can come to a deeper understanding of life from one another I believe greater unity may be a byproduct. I believe there’s a tendency for humans to zealously advocate the supremacy of their ideals at the expense of others. But this model seems to lead to conflict and coercion.

Perhaps an idyllic desire for more unity has contributed to my self-inflicted censorship over the years as a way to avoid conflict. I also attribute fear of rejection and respect of relationships to avoiding complete transparency. But now I choose to live my truth, come what may. While my family and I consider ourselves Mormon in heritage, we do not consider ourselves Mormon in belief. In fact, it’s been a few years since we stepped away from the LDS church and organized religion. We did not reach this decision easily. It’s been a gut-wrenching process. There are no words to describe the anguish at having your core identity shattered. I’ve hidden deep pain to preserve relationships that are important to me. I’ve surrendered being understood for the sake of connection. So why share our disaffection now? It is NOT, I repeat NOT to de-convert any of our cherished LDS family and friends. The reasons to share our perspectives are as follows:

  1. We extend empathy and compassion to anyone on a similar path of transitioning faith and offer ourselves as a sounding board and a safe place to express doubt.

Doubt is almost a 4-letter word in a faith community. Doubters can be marginalized and criticized. But I believe there must be… “grounds for doubt as well as belief in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore more deliberate and laden with more personal vulnerability and investment.” (Terryl Givens)

During a faith transition most likely you are experiencing feelings of loneliness, betrayal, anger, and grief. Most likely you are coping with loss and fear more losses. You are not alone. Elder Marlin K. Jensen, former Church Historian and General Authority, has said: “Maybe since Kirtland, we’ve never had a period of – I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having now.” Some may refer to this as a “faith crisis” but in my opinion the Mormon Church has been experiencing a truth crisis as well.

I grew up in an era where the Mormon Church still intentionally portrayed the shiny, sparkly parts of historical issues. The information age has exposed the Church’s warts. I acknowledge the recent attempts for more transparency with essays published on lds.org and efforts of education within the youth programs. But for us, it’s too little too late. Apostle Hugh B. Brown said, “The honest investigator must be prepared to follow wherever the search of truth may lead. Truth is often found in the most unexpected places. He must, with fearless and open mind insist that facts are far more important than any cherished, mistaken beliefs.”

  1. We disagree with the negative & inaccurate narrative that is taught regarding brothers and sisters who exercise agency to leave Mormonism.

Twice a year LDS Church leadership addresses world-wide membership via General Conference. Because we have many Mormon family and friends we see memes, quotes, and talk summary links through social media. Elder Ballard’s most recent “To Whom Shall We Go?” speech was directed at those faltering in faith.

“Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching.” (Elder Ballard)

It can easily be deduced that this may be in reference to last November’s policy change banning children of gay couples from being blessed and baptized in the church. The fact is, many Mormons and former Mormons don’t struggle to understand it; we simply think it’s wrong. It has created an unsafe place for LGBT members.

“Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present.” (Elder Ballard)

This is true for many who have distanced themselves from the LDS church. But it is more than just concerns and imperfections. I feel that dismissing historical issues degrades those who have legitimate doubts. Doubt and questioning are not sins. This pushes people to hide behind a thin veil of cheerfulness and wellbeing, where there is secret hurt & doubt of truth claims.

“Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become ‘weary in well-doing.’”

Anyone who knows me or is familiar with my devout service in the LDS church could never accuse me of laziness. I could never be lumped in with inactives. I LOVE & appreciate the sense of purpose and community among the saints. I also love history and doctrine. I believed…"If we have the truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." (J. Reuben Clark) My love for the church compelled me to investigate its truth claims. My exit from the only faith & spiritual home I’ve known had nothing to do with weariness or a desire to sin. Frankly, the church is losing its best and brightest and by inferring slothfulness or reducing our humanity in pursuit of sin is repugnant.

“I’m just so grateful to know that the answers are always there, and if we seek them—really seek with real intent and with full purpose of a prayerful heart—we will eventually find the answers to our questions as we continue on the gospel path.”

There’s an implication here that those who willfully leave didn’t seek that answer with “real intent and full purpose of a prayerful heart.” This is hurtful. Leaving the church is not an easy way out. And implying otherwise drives the wedge further between believing and non-believing relationships.

In conclusion, we’ll always appreciate the good we received from Mormonism, but at this point we’ll leave it at the water’s edge as we continue our journey. We don’t view Mormonism as the one-true all-terrain vehicle for all people. It makes sense and works for some people, and we’re genuinely happy for them.

Over the past couple of years we’ve been picking up the pieces of our shattered core identity. And with a newfound appreciation and belief that our conscience is good and moral we’ve been able to pick up each piece, analyze it and decide what resonates with our souls.

We are not quitters. We are not tares. We are human beings striving to do the best we can. In fact, if you’ve followed us on social media (@drivingdownadream) you know despite our unconventional full-time travel we are an ordinary family – complete with life’s up and downs. We don’t believe Mormonism has a patent on inspiration, spiritual guidance, or happiness. It’s difficult to comprehend anyone finding true happiness outside of their own belief system. But with the Mormon church having less than .2% of the world’s population on its membership records, statistically it’s possible.

Unfortunately, we know what it feels like to be held at arm’s length and accused of being evil by those that should love us unconditionally. Love shouldn’t be contingent upon our relationship with the church. And so our hope is by sharing our perspective there will be increased empathy for those that believe differently. It is daunting to leave a community that cooks you meals, helps you move, and provides a social network wherever you go. But none of us are less worthy of love because of faith or an exit of a faith community. We respect the Mormon journey. We expect respect in return. I’d be happy to cook you a meal too...it’s my heritage.

Additional Resources:

https://mormonluther.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/95latterdaytheses/

http://religionnews.com/2016/07/26/mormons-arent-alone-in-feeling-devastated-when-people-leave/

http://zelphontheshelf.com/beds-bell-curves-why-the-church-cant-believe-unbelievers/

https://mormonbandwagon.com/eric_n/leaving-the-church/

https://cesletter.org/

Too often people believe that faith should not be questioned or examined unless the endgame remains constant = the Church is true. I believe the opposite. An unwillingness to subject one’s beliefs to rigorous scrutiny is a weakness of faith.


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