|Ward:||local parish unit of the LDS church|
|Bishop:||lay pastor of a ward|
|BYU:||Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah; the largest of the Mormon church's chain of colleges|
|D&C:||The "Doctrine and Covenants," one of the books Mormons accept as scripture, of equal validity as the Bible|
|Relief Society (also "RS"):||the Mormon women's organization|
|Primary:||a Mormon organization for children under 12 which meets once a week; not the same as "Sunday school"|
References to "this site" and to "Eric" are to the internet web site Recovery From Mormonism, and its subscriber mailing list, operated by former Mormon missionary Eric Kettunen.
I grew up in a extremely fanatic home and IMO my family has suffered a great deal from my father's fanaticism. He would (and still does) bully, manipulate, belittle, tear down and be downright mean in the name of God. He is a very obsessive person. I was also told by my parents I would be a future prophet. I cannot tell you how much pain that has given me, and the reason for feelings of inadequacy I felt growing up (it's very difficult to live up to Nephi's standards. I was told I was nothing without keeping the commandments and at the same time I was told I was worthless because I didn't measure up.
[My wife] just came home from the temple and declared that I must not love her because I wouldn't go to the temple with her and I couldn't possibly love her unless I put the church and the savior first. What a crock. This is killing me. I love her so much that this is truly breaking my heart. I cannot continue to live the lie, though. I continue to hope.
"If you were presented with evidence that proved Joseph Smith was lying, and proved that he did not do the things he said, would you still believe?"[A woman who left the church about a year before commented:]
Her response: "Yes, I would."
Sorry to tell you, but that is the norm for the Mormons. My sister didn't believe I had real facts, she asked to see them. I presented them. She couldn't find the answers. Decided she didn't want to see them anymore. Totally disregarded them.
So, it's unfortunate, but true that some people will believe NO MATTER WHAT. The best you can do is remain supportive and loving, and hopefully she will open her mind and listen.
It was such a difficult job working day in and day out preaching a message which did nothing to help the people with their struggle for daily sustenance. I finally realized that if God really did exist, he did not care for these people. It made me an atheist. I felt so helpless handing people a Book of Mormon and sharing a message about God. Telling them that they would be happy in this life and have eternal life in the world to come seemed so worthless when they had little food to even survive.
A few months ago, I spoke to a fellow apostate concerning his own experience with Guatemala. It seems this guys father-in-law has lived in Guatemala for years and years running some kind of organization to help relieve the poverty. The guy I spoke to and his wife are also involved in this organization. They live in Salt Lake but they collect clothing and cash and head to Guatemala once a year with it all.
As I mentioned, this guy is an apostate from the Mormon church, his wife is an apostate, and his father-in-law (the one in Guatemala) is also an apostate. It seems the common link for their apostasy concerns the Mormon church and its treatment of the poverty stricken members in Guatemala. Apparently, the Mormon church does very little to help relieve the poverty of the people (members and non-members alike). Their really big gripe, however, is that the church has enough money to build fancy church buildings and temples in Guatemala, but not enough to help the people. He cited some specific examples he was familiar with where members had gone to the church for help with some excruciating circumstances but had been turned down. These people would then come to the father-in-law, in complete desperation, for help. This guy was rather bitter.
Anyway, a few months ago the Mormon church received some negative press about how little it spends on humanitarian aid. By the Mormon church's own admission, it only spends about $15 million per year on humanitarian aid. At first that seems like a lot. But, when one considers that the Mormon church takes in $6 billion (with a "B") a year, $15 million is a pittance. I suspect that the rush to send aid to Guatemala last week was in part due to the negative press it received earlier. The Mormon church has made no secret of how much relief it has sent to Guatemala. In fact, one of the local TV stations even has a reporter in Guatemala covering all the wonderful things the Mormon church is doing.
I have a friend who is both Mormon and gay. He recently joined the Mormon church and just everything I hear about seems odd, contradictory to the Bible. It's made him miserable. He complains constantly that gays hate him for being Mormon and Mormons hate him for being gay. He finds the Mormon church to be the true church, and has terrible problems accepting his own sexuality.
I just think for everyone's sake, it would be best for him to learn the truth and leave the church, but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions? I'm open to anything...
I have escaped a false religion and a fake marriage; both gave me some good things to take with me forever: wisdom and sons. I don't regret any part of my life. I have forgiven everyone and I have forgiven life itself. It has taught me deep lessons unfathomable without diving. I dove until I ran out of breath... came up for air... and dove, and dove.....
But I know that I am happier. I don't need anyone else to validate my decision. I made the choice to leave, and I know it is the right choice. When we "jumped the Mo- Ship" we lost a center, a core. We became the enemy. An "anti-Mormon" is such an ugly word. It doesn't feel good to be outnumbered. It feels even worse to have your intentions questions. I get so angry at the constant "Well, someone hurt their feelings so they left," or "They sinned so they left." How about: we read, we used OUR BRAINS and we realized how incredibly stupid it all was. Why can't we be given credit for being intelligent? I didn't LEAVE because I was mad at anyone. I left because I couldn't believe that normally intelligent, rational human beings could believe the hogwash being passed off as "HOLY GOSPEL."
And the moments keep coming and I keep taking them one after another. I find that so much better than taking callings, reading the Book of Mormon, the D&C, getting a temple recommend, making bunny rabbits out of Clorox bottles, searching and begging "God" for a testimony of the truthfulness of the Mormon Gospel... perhaps the answer was ,"No, it isn't true," long before I was ready to hear it. Now the awe is that I finally heard it, had that moment when I knew for me it was time to stop trying to make Mormonism true.
Since making the decision to leave the church, I feel better about life, my health has dramatically improved, my relationships with my wife and daughter have improved, I have more confidence in all areas of life, see more color, can breath more deeply, and have a new enthusiasm for life. I feel I now have more integrity, and live a more moral life. I live morally by following my own conscience because I want to, rather than following a list of commandments generated by others as the one-size- fits-all recipe for spirituality. Your first response to this was not to take it as a sign from God that I made the right decision because, "the devil's not that stupid." If I follow the church rather than my own conscience and feel good about it, how will I know those good feelings aren't from the devil? It seems that any feeling, whether good or bad, which leads one into Mormonism is defined as from God, while any feeling, whether good or bad, which leads away from Mormonism is defined as from the devil.
I hunger for the truth. I want truth more than Mormonism. However, the Mormon Church excommunicates people who, even if they do have a testimony that Mormonism is essentially true, are more loyal to truth than to the church. Seminary and Institute teachers are taught not to teach church history as it really happened, but rather, "[the teacher's] objective should be that they [the students] will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now." (Boyd K. Packer)
Here are the reasons for leaving that I put in my exit letter:
1- After being members of the church for a combined 38 years, reading the Book of Mormon 15 times, seriously praying about the church for most of that time, and making a real effort over this length of time to live the way that a good Mormon boy and girl should, neither of us can look in the mirror and honestly say that we believe the church is true.
2- We find no more spirituality within the church than without it. In other words, even if we didn't believe the church was "true" with a capital "T" but still found a high level of spirituality within it, we'd probably retain our memberships. Unfortunately, we find church participation more spirit draining than enhancing.
3- Our own life missions as we interpret them aren't in harmony with the missions of the church. Because we don't believe the church is particularly true or spiritual, we are incapable of enthusiastically and sincerely doing missionary work. Because we think the church is false, we believe redemption work for the dead is ineffectual. We would consider being members of a "mutual improvement club," but the church's vision of a perfected saint is different than our own vision of the way we need to be improving ourselves. President Clawson told me something like this, "Not only do you have to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to know the truth, you also have to obey. The savior said in the book of Luke that 'If you do my will then you shall know the truth.' You have to keep the commandments to earn a testimony." My response was, "THAT IS EXACTLY WHY I WANT TO LOOK ELSEWHERE FOR SPIRITUAL FULFILLMENT; I DID OBEY AND THE PROMISED ANSWERS DIDN'T COME."
If I were to have converted to Mormonism instead of away from Mormonism, and explained to you how I now feel and see things, you would most likely tell me that my feelings indicate that the church is true. If these feelings I have would be enough to show the church to be true if they happened on the way in, then they must be enough to show the church to be false on the way out. I honestly believe that you and others who know their religions to be true have strong, feelings, perhaps feelings unique in ways I never imagined. I don't doubt your sincerity or integrity. The only conclusion that I can come to then, is that feelings can't be trusted to discern truth, because they don't all point to the same conclusion.
Alma 32:32 says, "... if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away." That is my experience with Mormonism. I must follow my own heart, and accept the results of my own experiments with seeds, and live the life that my own spirit compels me to live. I don't expect you to agree with me, and I don't ask you to. I doubt you will even understand. But that is ok with me. I have enough faith that regardless of who we really are or what we are really doing here, that if I follow the yearnings of my own soul then things will turn out all right. If it was noble for Moses and Jesus and Joseph to leave behind the religions they grew up in by following their own hearts to uncharted territory, then it must be all right for me to do the same thing; I am following my heart.
Knowing all the answers, even before your mind asks the questions, is an easier lifestyle, by my estimation. To exist in a warm, safe environment as a part of a loving 'governing' agency, which clearly lays out a road map for their life??? What more could a person ask for? All the way from a "how to" on how to get a career and find a marriage companion, to a "how to" on how to raise children. And the command to only associate with like people.
When I really think about it, I realize that there are lots of people (including mormonism, but not excluding anyone;-) out there who'd like nothing more than to hand me their road map (for my 10%).....Which is why it is vital that I figure out my own.
And you may well say I had a choice to join the church or not and that is true. I was a covert at 19. And yes a choice to leave it. It took me 13 years to leave it and another 20 to ask to have my name officially removed. But when I was in the middle of it, being a good TBM, doing all the right things, every time the doubts would come I'd stuff them, I didn't want the church to be false, I didn't want to leave, I didn't want to jeopardize my soul going to outer darkness, since I'd been to the temple. I certainly didn't want my throat slashed, or be disemboweled. Yes, spiritual abuse. BUT eventually I couldn't stuff my doubts, my questions anymore. I was so tired of praying for answers, a sign, anything, that it REALLY was the TRUE church and nothing, and I'd think it's me, there has got to be something wrong with me. I'd pray and fast some more, still nothing. So I'd play the part and everyone thought I was this great TBM'er. Eventually I was faced with my own sense of integrity, "To Thine Own Self Be True" the light bulb finally went on. I knew I was on my way out.
The greatest tool the church has is manipulation, manipulation through guilt: have to take that calling, have to go to that meeting, have to give that talk, have to teach that lesson, or you don't measure up. Enough was never enough. I was even chastised by the Relief Society President because I didn't want to make those damn bunny rabbits from Clorox bottles. The nerve... as if some bunny rabbit made out of a Clorox bottle was the measuring stick of being a good "Sister." She wanted me to be a good example to those "inactive sisters" who only came to Homemaking Lessons. And when I made a meal for my neighbour and the Visiting Teachers asked, "Is she a member?" and I said "NO," they said that could not be counted as compassionate service. Grr!! But that's another story.
However, I attribute it to the "shit happens" factor.
Miraculous things happen every day with or without the church or its priesthood. In fact there isn't one power that the priesthood lays claim to that isn't also manifest outside the priesthood. Healings happen. Devils are cast out. People are blessed. Revelations happen. Inspiration happens. People feel good.
Good things happen without the priesthood. Did I say that already? If not let me say it again. Good things happen without the priesthood or its sponsoring church.
This leads me to believe that the one sole purpose for the priesthood is for men to take credit for the good things that happen in the world and use that credit to control others. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Anyway I go on too long. Be aware of wolves in sheeps clothing my good and faithful exmo friends lest they tithe you and teach you to value your own life less than that of the church.
I used to think that I had such power. I had truly convinced myself that I was something special, in fact, I used to give the most eloquent blessings. (something my Mormon wife constantly reminds me of). I could go on and on, saying whatever it was the person being administered to wanted to hear. I was unbelievable. I was FANTASTIC!!!!! I WAS THE MOUTHPIECE OF GOD!!!
Another one of the many reason's leaving that church was so hard. Finding out that you are nothing more that an ordinary guy, with an ordinary life, is hard. Finding out that I had to treat my wife as a complete equal, and could not use the power of a Patriarch any more was difficult. But so far, the rewards are immeasurable. And my wife IS BEGINNING TO SEE THAT I AM A BETTER PERSON. I care more for her feelings, I listen to her a lot more. We discuss things such as dicipline, and I admit to her that I am often wrong in the ways I deal with things.
This happened in 1984. Only about a year ago, my wife chatted with another friend of hers who was in the same ward at that time. It turned out that the same bishop had been molesting her 16-year-old daughter, who had been babysitting for the bishop. As is often the case, the girl was too frightened to share the info with anyone. She only told her mother about it after she had spent two years at BYU, served a mission, and had four kids by three different husbands. The bishop had only confessed after his partner, the RS pres, had confessed to stake counselors. He moved away, and I understand was rebaptized a year or two later. The reason I tell this part is that because of the teenage girl's fear, he never "confessed" or was prosecuted for child molestation. He simply moved to another state, presented himself as "repentant," and was brought back into the fold a "worthy brother."
Yes, that great bishop touched the lives of many, including mine.
This would be perfectly acceptable if the LDS claims about divine inspiration for its leaders was correct. Unfortunately I have seen too many instances where this just wasn't so to believe it any more. The church is, in practice, run by men and a few women who are, I am sure, trying to do their best for their fellow-members. Unfortunately, and in some cases disastrously, those men are treated as though their words are divinely inspired when they are not. The damage that this causes in many cases to those they affect, and in many cases to the men themselves, can be very great.
I've never felt better since I let my soul out of Outer Darkness and locked Joe Missionary down there.
I don't mean for my comments to deteriorate into an argument over whose church is better. But you'd be hard-pressed to find another church that is so dishonest about its historic orgins, and so relentless in its control and manipulation of its membership. We're not comparing Lutherans to Unitarians here. There are layers and layers and layers of Mormon-only belief that are a misrepresentation.
© 1999 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included