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An End to Cognitive Dissonance - A Leaving Story
 
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[Note: This post is now old and has been replaced by a newer version at http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/20990/ . Please download the document from that location. Thanks!] 

 

Hi, all:

This is my first major posting here. My family and I willingly left the LDS Church this past March, and I received confirmation last month that our resignation (name removal) was processed to completion.

I was raised in the Church--served a mission, graduated from BYU at the top of my class, married in the temple, and so on. I've had doubts about the Church's truthfulness for a long time, though, and I finally decided to leave this year. Thankfully, my wife decided to follow me.

For everyone's enjoyment, attached at the small link below is a copy of my rather elaborate leaving letter, which details my story and reasons for leaving. As of today, the letter has been used to notify my extended family members, various ward members (including the bishop), and also friends and acquaintances.

Any comments or feedback are welcome either here or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Thanks, and I look forward to becoming a part of the active post-Mormon community. We would especially like to get involved in the various events that periodically take place.

"Shiggy"
 

 



Story Updates

* The Saga Continues #1 - A Reply to My Former Bishop
http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/2670/

* The Saga Continues #2 - A Reply from My Former Elders Quorum President
http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/2793/

* The Saga Continues #3 - A Reply to My Former Elders Quorum President
http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/2849/

* The Saga Continues #4 - A Reply from My Former Boss
http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/3095/

 

* Updated Letter with Additions and Pictures

http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/discussions/viewthread/20990/
 

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Welcome to the community/family of postmos Shiggy, we bolted about two years aga and couldn't be happier.  Yes, it is indeed a very good thing that your wife decided to leave with you.  Congrats to you both.

Harry

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Welcome Shiggy



Now that is what I like to see. A question mark cast in stone!!  


ft
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Welcome Shiggy!  I'm so glad your wife left with you.  Many are not as fortunate.
 
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Congratulations, Shiggy!

 

-- Fleur 

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Good heavens! Leaving the church is becoming more popular than climbing Mt. Everest.
 
Shiggy's letter reminds me of how much energy I myself spent over at least a decade trying to make sense of it and eventually the Herculean effort I put forth in the end to conquer the mountain that the myth has become.

Shiggy, what has been the reaction to your letter? How did your local ward and leaders react?

 
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Welcome to the Post-Mormon community. I look forward to reading your letter when I'm...well...sober. The glass of wine for dinner, turned into a bottle. Oh well. Welcome aboard and best wishes!
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I read the letter and enjoyed it very much. You communicated many of the same thoughts that are running around in my head.

I've written a similar letter to my wife. I think she read it, but she didn't take it very seriously. So far, no one in my family knows where I stand on the church (except my wife, of course). I think that if she agreed with me, it would be easy for me to turn around and walk away. As it stands, however, my wife and, therefore, my daughter (who's only 1 1/2) are mormons. It's impossible for me to remove it from my daily life. We pray over dinner and before the baby goes to bed. Well, my wife does 90% of the praying.

Anyway, I thought it was well written and I appreciate the effort. I'm saddened that your family refused to take it seriously. Not surprised, though.

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Shiggy-- you are brilliant!

You described what finally clicked in my brain about 2 years ago thus enabling me to connect the dots that Mormonism is not what it claims.  I had all the info in my head, all the data, the stats, the contradictions but I just could not get it to snap into place.  You wrote on page 7: 

*All organized religions, to one extent or another, make certain claims about their own truthfulness, and they then use such claims to promulgate their own dogma.


*All religions cannot simultaneously be true due to incompatible and contradicting dogma. Therefore, the likelihood is that none or only one of the religions is true.


*If no religions are true, then the question is a mute point. If only one religion is true
out of the many hundreds or thousands that currently exist and have existed on the earth, then what is the chance that a given random individual belongs to the true religion? The answer: slim to none.


Then your observations about feelings testifying what is true at Jesus camp resonated:

People of all religions claim to have experiences just as powerful and convincing as the LDS concept of a testimony. One of the recent turning points for me with this spiritual pillar that I speak of was watching a documentary called Jesus Camp. The film provides an inside look at the religious convictions of devout Christian conservatives in America, particularly children. During some of the scenes, the children and adults seem to be so possessed of something that it is difficult for the viewer to deny the authenticity of the experiences, at least as they are perceived by the people having them. People cry, flop around on the ground, and speak in tongues (i.e., complete gibberish). If anything, they seemed to be having more definitive spiritual experiences than most Latter-day Saints



And thank you for this gem on page 17:

Okay, so we have one prophet who teaches that Adam is God, something “which God revealed to [him],” as well as that his teachings are scripture. Then we have another prophet who condemns the doctrine that Adam is God. Finally, we have an apostle who feels that the prophets can be unreliable sources of doctrine. Therefore, says he, we should rely on the Scriptures, which themselves originate from—drum roll please—prophets and apostles.



I am currently on page 25 and find your analysis provoking and well presented.  I highly recommend this as a must read.  I am delighted to finish this piece asap.

Noggin

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Welcome to the board, Shiggy. Thanks for sharing! I haven't read it yet, but I will. I appreciate your openess, and if you impressed Nog so much, I'm sure it's great.
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Welcome to postmo Shiggy!!!

Excellent letter. Very well thought out and well-written. I absolutely agree most people will not face the truth dispite claims to the contrary. Thank you so much more sharing your thoughts with us.
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free thinker:Welcome Shiggy

Now that is what I like to see. A question mark cast in stone!!  



Thanks, Free Thinker. Yeah, I use the pseudonym Shiggy Diggit here mainly because I don't want my real name coming up in any search engine results. I've heard that stuff like that has come back to haunt people. Otherwise, I'm not that worried about it, especially when talking to people in person.

Shiggy Diggit is a name I made up years ago as a network administrator. I used it--and still do!--to sign up for web pages that I didn't trust with the real information.

As for the question-mark head, I just thought of myself as "Mystery Man," I guess.

Shiggy
 
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Timber:

Good heavens! Leaving the church is becoming more popular than climbing Mt. Everest.


That's what I'm starting to think, too. I believe that a momentum is building that is unprecedented in any other time period since the LDS Church's inception. This is probably largely due to the Internet and readily available access to relevent information.

For instance, I let one of my good friends know last month about my leaving and sent her a copy of my letter. Come to find out that she's been having doubts, too, and has been researching on the Internet. Last I heard, she's trying to start a dialogue with her husband on the matter. I hope it goes well for her.

Shiggy's letter reminds me of how much energy I myself spent over at least a decade trying to make sense of it and eventually the Herculean effort I put forth in the end to conquer the mountain that the myth has become.

Tell me about it. And the sad thing is, in my opinion, once you realize the truth, you want to kick yourself for not realizing it sooner since it's so painfully obvious. The information is all there, and the conclusions are self-evident.

Shiggy, what has been the reaction to your letter? How did your local ward and leaders react?

Actually, that matter is addressed in the letter during the section titled, "Epilogue: The Aftermath." (Go back to my first post in this thread, open the letter, and go to page 47.) You can check there for details.

I will mention one thing that isn't in the letter, though, since it occurred after my last revision. My former Elders Quorum president read my letter and sent me a three-page reply. It was basically nice but fell into the same old traps that active Mormons usually are mired in from a logic-and-reason perspective. One thing I found interesting, however, is that he admitted that he has issues with things, too, and he lives with cognitive dissonance every day of his life. I wanted to say, "So leave then! Trust me, that cognitive dissonance will disappear immediately, buddy." But alas, by the end of his letter, he had reasoned that this is a normal state to live in. What a cop out.

Shiggy

 
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BigWig:I read the letter and enjoyed it very much.


Thanks so much. I really appreciate it when people are thoughtful enough to take the time to read my little (okay, big!) letter. It took me so long to compose it, so I'm always pleased to hear about it getting read--especially since the most important audience (most of my immediate family) declined to read more than a few pages.

You communicated many of the same thoughts that are running around in my head.


Good, I'm glad to hear it. As you can tell, I'm very deliberate and methodical in my reasoning, so I tried to replicate my thought process on paper, even if it's still only a meager summary of what I've really gone through.

I've written a similar letter to my wife. I think she read it, but she didn't take it very seriously.


It sounds like you guys could benefit from having a serious and thoughtful discussion about the subject. You've got to show her how serious you really are, although I understand it can be tough since you only want to rock the boat so much.

If it helps, you're welcome to use my letter with her in any way you see fit. When I talked to my own wife, I actually used many bits and pieces from the leaving stories of others that I found online.

So far, no one in my family knows where I stand on the church (except my wife, of course). I think that if she agreed with me, it would be easy for me to turn around and walk away.


I can understand that, although I was totally prepared to walk away from the LDS Church even if my wife didn't join me. Ultimately, my life and sanity were the most important things, I couldn't keep living a lie, and hey, if there is a God, I didn't want to die knowing the truth but not acting upon it. That's just my take. But again, I understand this is a very complicated and complex issue for many people.

As for my family, while I knew it wouldn't be pleasant, I never cared. The Truth is just too much more important. I'm very close to my family, and I knew they'd still love me, as the old cliche goes. All in all, the whole process was much easier than I thought it would be. Name removal was super fast, probably because the local bish couldn't realistically argue against my gigantic letter. It was probably like, "Well, I guess this guy really wants to leave then."

As it stands, however, my wife and, therefore, my daughter (who's only 1 1/2) are mormons. It's impossible for me to remove it from my daily life.


Like I said, I feel for you. My daughter is 1 1/2, too, and I love her to death. She was, in fact, one of the major factors in my deciding to stop waffling around on this issue. I didn't want her daddy to knowingly teach her anything false under the guise of "keeping up appearances." Since my leaving, one person close to me has already admitted doing this, and he therefore ends up--in my opinion--perjuring himself to his children every day. That's no way to live.

I'm saddened that your family refused to take it seriously. Not surprised, though.


About that, I guess I should count my lucky telestial stars that my family didn't react more negatively like some of the stories I've read online.

Such a tough issue indeed . . .

Shiggy
 
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nogginus skepticalus:Shiggy-- you are brilliant!


Well, thank you for the compliment. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the little people . . . No, wait, wait.

Hey, I'm just like everyone else here: a simple person trying to figure out the truth about what's going on in this crazy thing called life. And, like everyone else here who has come or is coming to the same conclusion about the LDS Church, I am happy to share my experience and fraternize with like-minded individuals--especially now that my LDS social network is shot.

You wrote on page 7:


Thanks for quoting specific portions of the letter like you did. I really like seeing which parts click with people. I know certain passages are not as effective as they could be, too, and I'm looking forward to a third major revision at some point in the future.

The other thing I've thought about, as a long-term project, is putting together--in one place--a very simple and straightforward comprehensive list of reasons why the LDS Church could not be of divine origin. It would keep each point basic, no more than a few sentences, but would provide links to additional information for those who wanted to go into more depth. I envision it as some kind of ultimate post-Mormon "missionary tool." I'm just thinking aloud right now, though. There's not enough time in the day . . .

Then your observations about feelings testifying what is true at Jesus camp resonated:


For anyone who hasn't seen it, Jesus Camp is a great movie to help one realize that "feeling the Spirit" is a completely worthless method of determining the ultimate Truth of the universe.


And thank you for this gem on page 17:
Okay, so we have one prophet who teaches that Adam is God, something “which God revealed to [him],” as well as that his teachings are scripture. Then we have another prophet who condemns the doctrine that Adam is God. Finally, we have an apostle who feels that the prophets can be unreliable sources of doctrine. Therefore, says he, we should rely on the Scriptures, which themselves originate from—drum roll please—prophets and apostles.


Ah yes, that's one of my favorites. I didn't plan to write it out like that. I just started reasoning through each step, and it ended with this seemingly circular mathematical proof of Mormonism's utter absurdity. I was quite pleased with the results.

I am currently on page 25 and find your analysis provoking and well presented.  I highly recommend this as a must read.  I am delighted to finish this piece asap.


Again, thanks for the great feedback. I'd love to hear what you think when you're done with the whole beast. The epilogue section was especially fun to write.

Shiggy

 
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Korihor:Welcome to postmo Shiggy!!!

Excellent letter. Very well thought out and well-written. I absolutely agree most people will not face the truth dispite claims to the contrary.


Thanks for the welcome, Korihor, and thanks for reading my letter. Your point is why I continued to drive home that question, always italicized in the letter, would you really want to know?

Dude, people really do not want to know in many cases, and it is disturbing and frustrating as hell to me. Your Carl Sagan quote in your sig sums up my philosophy exactly. Might have to incorporate that into the next revision of the letter . . .

Shiggy
 
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Thanks for sharing your letter with us.  Like you, as I started to question the Church's doctrines, I wrote out what I was thinking into what eventually became a letter.  The written word became an invaluable tool for me for collecting my thoughts.  (I stopped, though, at 8 pages.)

Also like you, I received very few responses from my family when I shared the letter with them.  The subject of my involvement with the Church has become the proverbial elephant in the room at family gatherings but otherwise life goes on much as it did before.  As family reactions go, I understand that's quite mild. 

Of course, the answer to the question your letter poses is no, most people don't really want to know.  That, I think, is the most frightening part of all.

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Wonderful letter, brilliantly done. Thanks. Also, it takes people time, on their own, to decide to honestly reexamine their beliefs. You may think now that your words are wasted on them, but the words will remain. Perhaps when the time is right, you will receive some more positive reactions to the letter.
 
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Excellent letter. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. I read through it quickly once, saved it, and plan on reading it again more slowly and carefully.
 
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Thank you Shiggy for sharing that letter.  It was extremely well done and well worded in explaining the process by which you arrived at your present conclusions and have now left the church. 

Your thought processes seem to mirror mine in so many ways and I envy your ability to write these out into a form that is fairly easy for others to understand.  When one is finally able to look at all the information which you talk about and do it in a critical and rational manner (which is the real obstacle for most TBMs in the church today), it becomes very obvious that the real Truth is that the church just is not what it claims to be and therefore leaving it is a step that seems next in line. 

It is good that you came out of the church with family intact and I envy you for that as well.  This journey out of the church for me with similar thought processes as you stated led to an end of my very long marriage at a late stage in my life.   Going through that process has not been pleasant and in fact has been the most painful experience of my life.  I, however, do not regret discovering the real "Truths", even late in my life,  that caused my exit from the church because discovering and finding real Truth is paramount to me, like it is for you.   I now hope to find things to do and to associate with new like minded people that will help me fill the void I am now experiencing due to a recent divorce and loss of a lifetime religion that I no longer believe in.   I, like you, am now quite agnostic in describing the only way I can now believe in anything. 

I wish you success and happiness now in the rest of your life and I will be striving to find some measure of that myself. 
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Powerful. I was compelled to watch the PBS special on the Mormons again this morning. I recently lost my best friend and have been struggling to find comfort of what life after death holds if anything. I know I no longer believe those things that I was taught for 36 years and ponder what else is out there. However, back to the point--- your letter is powerful and well written. Yes, I read the whole thing. I will share it with my son who recently finished the book Banner Under Heaven. This is a terrific follow up to the discoveries in that book and on the PBS special. You have articulated much of what I have discovered since leaving the church nearly 15 years ago. My leaving was sudden and yet my journey to understanding all the questions I had while still in the church has been similar to yours.

Thank you very much for sharing it with us. Please keep in touch through this site as I will be following your journey with great interest.
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Have you thought about adding this to our postmormon scrapbook? It's a wonderful piece, just finished it. Thanks for sharing. I did have a question for you. Your pillars (spiritual and intellectual), do they still stand as an agnostic? Or have you decided the spiritual doesn't need to be there? Or is there a spirituality to your agnosticism?
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stemmetje: Also like you, I received very few responses from my family when I shared the letter with them.  The subject of my involvement with the Church has become the proverbial elephant in the room at family gatherings. . . .


Elephant in the room is exactly it. You hit the nail right on the head. As my letter makes clear, my family basically ignores the fact that I left. I've only made one "mistake" during which I began debating my youngest brother on the absurdity of biblical stories that Mormons literally believe to be true, such as Noah's ark and the Tower of Babel.

It started out as an innocent conversation between the two of us, but others in my extended family started listening in, and I guess some people got their panties in a bunch. The lesson I learned from that is that people are accepting of my decision, as long as I'm not out-and-out criticizing their faith right in front of them. I suppose that makes sense, though.

Of course, the answer to the question your letter poses is no, most people don't really want to know.  That, I think, is the most frightening part of all.


I love the way you put this--"That, I think, is the most frightening part of all." Isn't that so true? Latter-day Saints within the cultural and social bubble of their religion love to talk about how open minded they are and about how much they are taught to "search, ponder, and pray." This is really just another aspect of the Mormon thought filter at work. If you search, ponder, and pray only about information supporting a given position or religion, then all that searching, pondering, and praying is for nothing; you'll end up with the same conclusion no matter what.

More than anything, my leaving experience has taught me that it really does disturb me most that ultimately far too many people really do not want to know the Truth. To take some wording from Jerald and Sandra Tanner, they prefer to live in the shadows of reality.

Shiggy
 
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squeal:Also, it takes people time, on their own, to decide to honestly reexamine their beliefs. You may think now that your words are wasted on them, but the words will remain. Perhaps when the time is right, you will receive some more positive reactions to the letter.


Hi, Squeal, thanks for the kind reply. I think you're probably right about this. Although many in my family have chosen to ignore my leaving (and my letter), for many others it has become the genesis of a stimulating dialogue. In some cases, it even seems to be helping some old friends who have been nurturing doubts themselves lately. A couple of weeks ago, I had a two-and-a-half-hour phone conversation with one of the last people I would have ever expected.

If my letter can be of any help to others, then I'll be a happy man. Besides, I've got to undo all the conversions I facilitated during my mission. (Just kidding.)

I will say that one of my banner causes is to convince people who have left to formally request resignation from the LDS Church. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be counted among the "inactive" or "less actiive" members because are not members anymore in any sense of the world. In fact, attached is a copy of the resignation letter I used in template form. It's adapted from the one at MormonNoMore.org. I've already inspired some who left long ago to make it permanent by sending in their resignations.

Shiggy
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XX-Man: Your thought processes seem to mirror mine in so many ways and I envy your ability to write these out into a form that is fairly easy for others to understand.


Thanks for the compliment, XX-Man. I've always had a way with words like that. Unfortunately, I must admit that I'm not nearly so eloquent in person.

When one is finally able to look at all the information which you talk about and do it in a critical and rational manner (which is the real obstacle for most TBMs in the church today), it becomes very obvious that the real Truth is that the church just is not what it claims to be and therefore leaving it is a step that seems next in line. 


That's where I'm kicking myself now for not realizing everything sooner. After becoming--shall we say--enlightened on this matter, I found the whole situation rather surprising due to the obvious nature of the conclusion. It's just so darn clear.

It is good that you came out of the church with family intact and I envy you for that as well.  This journey out of the church for me with similar thought processes as you stated led to an end of my very long marriage at a late stage in my life.


I'm so sorry to hear that. To be sure, I'm so grateful that my wife followed me in my decision. Before she had officially chosen a side, though, she said that she would be fine even if I left and she continued as an active member.

Going through that process has not been pleasant and in fact has been the most painful experience of my life.  I, however, do not regret discovering the real "Truths" . . . and finding real Truth is paramount to me, like it is for you.


I fully agree. If my wife had told me point blank that she would divorce me if I left the LDS Church, I still would have made the decision. It is inherently unnatural and ill-advised, in my opinion, for a person to knowingly function in opposition to Truth for a prolonged period of time. Additionally, assuming that we are judged for our actions when we die, I wouldn't want to pass away in such a state.

I now hope to find things to do and to associate with new like minded people that will help me fill the void I am now experiencing due to a recent divorce and loss of a lifetime religion that I no longer believe in.


That's what I'm hoping in getting involved in the post-Mormon community. I would like to associate with other like-minded individuals to begin rebuilding the social network that I've essentially been cut out of now.

I, like you, am now quite agnostic in describing the only way I can now believe in anything. 


Rock on, brother. There's nothing wrong with being agnostic. Quite the opposite. If there is a god or gods in this universe, I don't think that any of the organized religions are the answer. And, ironically enough, perhaps the real answer is to come to this simple conclusion: that we can all live good and decent lives based on self-evident truths, without the need for a man-made religion that revolves around complex and convoluted rules and commandments.

I like the way someone's sig on here puts it: "Human decency is not derived from religion.  It precedes it." My thoughts exactly.

Shiggy
 
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Shiggy,


Just finished your letter. May I echo everyone's admiration and congratulations.

I am interested in your observation that the LDS church is the "best" of all the organized religions.

While I am a natural pantheist (what Dawkins calls a sexed-up atheist) myself, I can think of a number of organized religions that I think are an improvement on the LDS church, e.g. Universal Unitarianism etc.

I make this observation, not to challenge your current conclusions but to speculate that this sentiment may, for you, change over time the longer you are "out".  I would be interested in hearing your views on this point in the future.

I look forward to you participation here and hope to meet you at some of the get-to-gathers. (Dinner tomorrow night is St. George for example.)

Best Wishes

Son of Snort

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I'm so glad you are here. My friend helped me put a name to my believing two things that dont work together and it was cognative dissonance... I have been easing out of lds ways though my husband is still unsur about me leaving as he still believes himself ( he is so sad and lifeless) Actually he is a huge factor in what made me come out of the fog it was almost impossible to stay as we had to hold our lives together and I/We need all of me to do it. 

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Wow!  Excellent, excellent letter.  Took me 45 minutes to read the whole thing but I got through it.  Many of your points really help clarify the nuts and bolts of the thinking process that has got most of us where we are today.

I wish I was as eloquent!  Looking forward to more posts from you in the future.
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nancert:Yes, I read the whole thing. I will share it with my son who recently finished the book Banner Under Heaven.


That's great to hear, Nancert. Many of the leaving stories of others helped me in my own qwest--which is why I quote some in my letter--so I'm always happy to hear that it can be helpful to others, too. You know, it's kind of like giving back to the community to me.


Thank you very much for sharing it with us. Please keep in touch through this site as I will be following your journey with great interest.
 


Thanks again for the kind thoughts. I'll be sure to keep everyone in touch on how things are going.

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beenthere:Have you thought about adding this to our postmormon scrapbook?


Hi, BeenThere. Yeah, I really would like to post it permanently on both this website and the ExMormon.org one, but the main difficulty I've been having is that it works best as a PDF. I could put in into plain text, but it wouldn't be the same. The only problem is that I can't figure out how to add the PDF file to a permanent posting.

I tried creating a scrapbook entry, but it doesn't appear to have an attachments button like the discussion board here does. It does have a file upload link on the left side, but that seems to do something unrelated to the scrapbook page. It's rather confusing, so if anyone knows specific instructions for me to get this letter posted correctly, I'm all ears.

It's a wonderful piece, just finished it. Thanks for sharing.


Thanks for reading. I'm always impressed whenever anyone reads "The Beast" since it's so long, and I know it's taking up precious minutes of people's days.

I did have a question for you. Your pillars (spiritual and intellectual), do they still stand as an agnostic? Or have you decided the spiritual doesn't need to be there? Or is there a spirituality to your agnosticism?


Ah, good question. In my experience, the pillars still stand as an agnostic. They still apply in terms of trying to ferret out bits of truth about the universe. Some of my knowledge is inherently intellectual while other perceived knowledge I have defies intellectualism and falls onto the spiritual side. The main difference is that I don't treat either as concrete evidence anymore (like the whole "only true and living church" deal).

So yes, there is spirituality in my agnosticism. My letter addresses that when I say:

One thing I do wish to make clear, though, is that I do not consider myself an atheist. While I do not know or necessarily believe that God or some form of supreme beings exists, I likewise do not know or believe the opposite. In fact, based on personal experiences, I do have a feeling that there is something more to life and the world around us than meets the eye. I would not at all be surprised if we continue on in some form after we pass away.

However, I only suspect these things and will neither say that I know them to be true nor that I believe them in the religious sense. If anything, as in science, I have made certain observations and have formed tentative conclusions from them. Also like in any good science, those conclusions are open to change based on new information at any time.

One of the major concepts that I hold on to, at this time when I am otherwise stripping away all other religious beliefs from my life, is that of synchronicity. Synchronicities are like those little coincidences that are always occurring in one’s life but that appear to be more than merely coincidences. If acted upon and followed, they even seem to guide one’s life on a path of some sort. The rub is that pretty much all human beings appear to experience them. The flaw is that many people take them as evidence to support their own religions, in most cases the ones they were raised with.

Viewed from this perspective, I see synchronicities as indicative of a higher purpose or power at work in the universe. I have seen this most clearly at certain key points or junctions in my life:


* Regaining a belief in a higher power in the universe (i.e., God), primarily through the concept of synchronicity.

* Reactivating myself in the LDS Church during my teenage years.

* Meeting a young woman who inspired me to serve an LDS mission.

* Serving an LDS mission.

* Choosing to attend Brigham Young University.

* Settling on a career path based on experiences occurring during my mission.

* Selecting a place to live during college, again inspired by that young woman.

* Finding my future wife in the location that I ended up living at during college.

* Deciding to leave the LDS Church.


I do not understand the core source of synchronicities; I only know from personal observation that they have manifested themselves in my life. While I originally took them to indicate that the LDS Church is true, I now feel that they have a broader purpose, such as to guide us along a path of some sort. And for every person that path is different, as evidenced by the fact that powerful spiritual experiences result in conflicting decisions of individuals to adhere to mutually exclusive belief systems.

I suppose what I am saying is that, while I in some ways now feel cheated by my lifelong membership in the LDS Church, perhaps it was just a necessary portion of my life’s path. It needed to happen for a variety of reasons, and it led to other events that would not have occurred otherwise (e.g., meeting my wife and having our daughter). The synchronicities guided me along the way in making many of these key decisions, but they are in no way the exclusive domain of the LDS Church.

To sum it up then, I hope for things now. I do not know them. And to a certain extent, this is a sad statement for me to make, for it means that I am transitioning from a stage of certainty in my life to one of uncertainty. But I can no longer live a lie, and I know this is the right choice for me, right now.

 
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Son of Snort:Shiggy, Just finished your letter. May I echo everyone's admiration and congratulations.


As I've said to others, thanks for the compliment. My main motivation has always been to post my letter with the hopes that it can help others, just as the letters of others helped me.

I am interested in your observation that the LDS church is the "best" of all the organized religions.
 


Ah yes, this is a good topic. Unfortunately, I'd say it's more suited to a live discussion because I think I could talk about it for hours. Basically it all boils down to the concept of ultimate Truth in my mind. From what I have seen, all organized religions essentially fail on this point by espousing all manner of problematic and contradictory doctrine, almost always unsupported by any verifiable and reliable evidence, whether spiritual or intellectual.

When I say Mormonism is one of the "best," I'm really talking about it from the perspective of internal consistency and properly covering some of the major "red herring" flaws of most organized religions. Just as an example, I believe it is reasonable and philosophically proper to doubt the truthfulness any religion which teaches that all non-believers are automatically doomed to some sort of bad place (hell or whatever). This is because it is difficult to conceptualize that the all-powerful, all-knowing supreme being(s) of this universe are--quite frankly--that stupid and arbitrary.

For instance, I think that Muslims and probably most Christian religions essentially believe that those who die without accepting their religion automatically suffer bad consequences. What about the millions of people who grew up in China or elsewhere and never had a chance to hear the so-called Truth is this version of events? Oh well, they're not part of the faithful, so they're goners.

Then take the situation with Hinduism, which believes that there are many paths to the supreme being(s) and a blessed afterlife, so all religions can essentially get you there. Well, I have to immediately discount that religion too because you can't take seriously a belief system that says all relgions work out in the end. Why? Because all religions together teach mutually exclusive concepts. Crap, Hinduism accepts religions that don't accept it back in return. Hinduism is a cop out on determining truth (not to mention the fact that reincarnation is a fundamentally different system than found in Christianity and Islam).

With Mormonism, it may not be pretty, but it is highly internally consistent as long as you don't look back at early Church leaders' sayings (which most people don't) and as long as you examine only the modern, corporate Church's sanitized and whitewashed doctrine and history (as most people do). In addition to being internally consistent, Mormonism fills in most of the cracks that sink other major religions.

It's the only true church, but what about those who don't believe? Well, they get a chance to accept the Gospel in the next life. If they reject it, they still could go to a lower heaven that is basically a nice place. Few go to outer darkness. This gels with the concept of supreme beings as most people and religions understand them (loving, fair, and just--also, as our heavenly parents who would never want us to rot in hell).

Another example is in explaining other religions; each is inspired by a "portion" of God's light. Yet another is in adequately synthesizing an understanding of how Judaism and Christianity relate to each other, and how the rest of Christianity--which anyone can see is screwed up--fell into apostasy. Mormonism takes the convoluted history of Judaism and Christianity, packages it up, puts in all in context, and places a pretty bow on top.

Anyway, it's hard to explain here, but that maybe gives you a flavor.

While I am a natural pantheist (what Dawkins calls a sexed-up atheist) myself, I can think of a number of organized religions that I think are an improvement on the LDS church, e.g. Universal Unitarianism etc.
 


Universal Unitarianism leaves no reason to believe that it is actually a true representation of reality. It is still a branch of Christianity and involves belief in Jesus Christ and the Bible. In my opinion--which others may respectfully disagree with--Christianity is so obviously false that it's infinitely easier to disprove than Mormonism. Trying to claim the corrupted Bible is the world's holiest book and is the best God can give us is almost a joke and an insult to God.

As for Jesus, there's no reasonable or believable argument for the whole savior story. Jesus may have existed, but there's no reason to say he was anything more than a man. No one living today knows anything about Jesus that is not highly doubtful or based on extremely old and biased historical records (the Bible).

At least Mormonism acknowledged the problems of Christianity from the get go and got around inheriting those problems for itself by claiming to be a restoration. Christianity began with the early Christians and then morphed into the Catholic Church, an institution that most definitely does not hold the ultimate Truth.

All other sects, except the few that claim to be a restoration, are Protestant in nature and broke away from something that was already false. And these groups basically formed as people interpreted the Bible and other Christian teachings using their own minds, not divine power and authority. In general, they didn't even claim to be prophets. They were basically random guys who came up with opinions, which is how Universal Unitarianism really started.

I'm not too familiar with Pantheism. From what I looked at in the Wikipedia article, though, it again makes statements about reality that are not backed up my any verifiable proof or evidence. For instance, take this quote: "Naturalistic pantheism is a form of pantheism that holds that the universe, although unconscious and non-sentient as a whole, is a meaningful focus for mystical fulfillment." Says who? And what does that even mean? I think many would argue that this statement is essentially nonsense, and no one can prove it in any way. Who came up with that belief? I think it's really just some human-originated concept, just like other organized religion essentially is.

I would be interested in hearing your views on this point in the future.
 


Ah yes, I suspect that I will remain firmly in the category of agnosticism. I'm fairly certain that no defined religion on earth can provide adequate spiritual or intellectual indication or evidence that its various statements about this universe and reality in general should be taken as the Truth.

I look forward to you participation here and hope to meet you at some of the get-to-gathers. (Dinner tomorrow night is St. George for example.)
 

Yeah, I'd like to start coming to some (probably not in St. George though since I'm in Salt Lake). ;-)

Shiggy <--Didn't mean for this post to be so long.

 
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lady: I'm so glad you are here.


Thank you, Lady, I'm glad to be here too.

I have been easing out of lds ways though my husband is still unsur about me leaving as he still believes himself ( he is so sad and lifeless)


For some reason that "sad and lifeless" comment just sounds so depressing to me. I hope things go in a better direction for the future.

Shiggy
 
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Not-A-Lemming:Wow!  Excellent, excellent letter.  Took me 45 minutes to read the whole thing but I got through it.  Many of your points really help clarify the nuts and bolts of the thinking process that has got most of us where we are today.

I wish I was as eloquent!  Looking forward to more posts from you in the future.


Thanks for the kind comments, and thanks for reading my atrociously long letter. The sad thing is that I would love to lengthen it even more.

I'm not very eloquent in person, speaking verbally, so perhaps I overcompensate in writing.

Cheers,

Shiggy
 
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I am going to print out your letter and share it with my nephew, who has secretly shared his major reasons for leaving the LDS church with me.  I want him to know he is not alone in his journey and he is not alone in his doubts and personal reasons for leaving the only religion he's ever been allowed to learn about as "truth".

I love the way you speak of being born into a faith and never searching in a personal way for a faith which means something to you, the searcher, and how that didn't seem satisfying or possible to just simply accept it as "truth", even if in your heart you felt it was not.  You seem to really struck a cord within me when you talked about Jesus Camp and other fundamentalist type religions such as LDS, making the "I've found the truth" claims as falling short of just that, in a world where truth is really impossible to KNOW and seems to phony and falls flat when based purely on emotional reactions. 

I began thinking about cognitive dissonance and how I can understand it and why I haven't actually experienced it.  I have never been taught dogma that resulted in me feeling conflicted.  I have looked deeply into the credibility of who wrote the bible, the gospels and who Jesus really was or wasn't.  There was never any shame in reading many perspectives and debating such issues and coming to whatever conclusion I chose.  I've had many different conclusions and I have enjoyed exploring such ideas.  I was raised in a VERY LIBERAL christian sect, where I was taught that god is in the "not really knowing" and who am I?  I'm no better than anyone else, no more enlightened, not more blessed, not morally superior, just a humble servant, called to love others more than myself.  I'll leave the rest up to what I believe to be god.  I also don't believe "religion" does a very good job at inspiring people to do good.  Actually, that's an understatement, I think religion does a very POOR job at leading people to good.  I see god far away from the ivory towers, beautiful cathedrals, people dressed up in ties and dresses, monuments built in honor of a greater power.  I see god in simple kindness and our inspiration and ability to comfort the sick, dying, suffering, hungry, lonely, poor, needy and desparate and loving your neighbor, caring for an adopted or abused animal.  To me, that is what spirituality is most about and where ever I see love, I HOPE that is where god resides.  I don't KNOW, but who am I to say? 

thanks for sharing your perspective on your reasons for leaving Mormonism.  It was very beautiful for me to read these very difficult and heart felt convictions.  I KNOW your letter will help many who feel they are walking down a very lonely path, away from Mormonism.  I will give a copy to my nephew, who is planning on announcing to his family before he leaves for college in a couple of weeks that he is also leaving the church and like you say, he doesn't wish to mince words.  it is not being inactive, less active or just a phase.  he says, "It's simply put, AN ELABORATE HOAX and he simply cannot believe or pretend to believe any longer and is ready to step foot into his new life and new journey with his OWN choices about his OWN truth." 

many thanks for sharing your own journey. 
 
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Hello Shiggy,

I have always felt that those who exit the church should really, really know why they leave, and then not only list the reason(s) in a non-emotional manner, but then be proud of it, as evidenced by a willingness to talk about one's exit with family members, peers, and others, rather than hiding, which I do.   I'm a Tom Ferguson sort of guy.  The TSCC should require the same of pre-converts, or pre-mormons.  (I just made those pronouns up, and is in keeping with various church jargon terms such as  "prospective elder" ," less active members".

This is not to say that subjective reasons are not important.  In fact, it's only when my emotional reasons matured that l began to do objective research. 

When reading your letter, I found myself saying, "this is exactly the approach I would take in having my name removed" 

In addition to your reasons for leaving the church, I, in my own letter would likely add:

1.  Kirtland Safety Society fiasco

2.  Joseph Smith's keen ability to avoid financial responsibility every where he went.  (Joseph Smith would be exco'd from his own church, were he alive today.)

3.  Believe in a super, omnipotent conspiracy: that evil men plotted vicariously, throughout time, both BCE and AD, to hide the truth.  And that every scheme concocted to hide the truth not just succeeded, but grandly so.  An equivalent modern belief/conspiracy theory would be that Galileo had penned a fantastically accurate tome on physics which not only explained all that Einstein did, but more, like accurately predict the exact manner and date that a rocket ship from Earth would land on Mars/whatever planeta .  The theory would also have you believe that the Catholics found his text and burned it, and that the Lord was so upset, that he wouldn't  reveal anything on physics until Einstein was born.  Someone in whom the Lord could confide.  Things like this just don't happen.

4.  Abandoning some of the most fertile, productive farm land in Illinois and Missouri to come to the high desert to eek out a subsistance standard of living.  This effectively enslaved every poor soul who came to Utah. They should have abandoned the "doctrines" that naturally caused a conflict with the then in-place culture.  The Mo's  ultimately abandoned such tenets.  Couldn't BY get an earlier revelation? Also, They left the US to do their own thing, only for them to be in the US again after the Mexican War.

I  could go on.

Again, great post.

 Kent

 
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Fantastic letter!!!

It expresses in strong, effective language almost all the items that have been issues for me over the years.

I must congratulate you and feel like this will start many others on the path to expressing their true feelings to their families, friends and local leaders.

Keep up the good work!

 
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Hi Shiggy,
I very much enjoyed your letter and epilogue.  Your letter really resonated with me.  In fact if I were still a TBM I would say I felt the "spirit" several times while reading it.


I do have a question for you;  If you could go back would you again use a letter as a way to inform your family? If not, what other means would you choose?

Most of my family is unaware of my leaving the church and I wonder what is the best way to let them in on the "secret."

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Shiggy Diggit,


I want to commend you on your letter. Extreemly well thought out and referenced. I especially liked how you presented the Mormon filtering way of thinking and the BofA analysis.


I hope you will let us know how your bishop responds if he does and congrads to you on having a wife that is also a free thinker.


Welcome to Postmormon.org I'll be looking forward to your future posts.


All the best- SoUtSkeptic

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Each of us is a prisoner if we live in a world without wonder and curiosity, and we must be willing to explore the world of ideas if we want to be free. Marietta McCarty explaining the meaning of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

 
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pnut:I am going to print out your letter and share it with my nephew, who has secretly shared his major reasons for leaving the LDS church with me.  I want him to know he is not alone in his journey and he is not alone in his doubts and personal reasons for leaving the only religion he's ever been allowed to learn about as "truth".


That sounds cool, and it's totally okay with me. That's what I posted the letter for--to help others. Oh yeah, and I also am grooming myself to be the next Ed Decker. He he he . . .

I love the way you speak of being born into a faith and never searching in a personal way for a faith which means something to you, the searcher, and how that didn't seem satisfying or possible to just simply accept it as "truth", even if in your heart you felt it was not.


I seriously don't understand why people don't grasp the simple concept that they could have been born anywhere, and they may just as well be promoting Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism in place of Christianity. We Americans who have a basic Christian background are so egocentric and small thinking to automatically assume, for example, that Christ is our divine savior and the Bible is anything more than a corrupted book of mythology.

You seem to really struck a cord within me when you talked about Jesus Camp and other fundamentalist type religions such as LDS, making the "I've found the truth" claims as falling short of just that, in a world where truth is really impossible to KNOW and seems to phony and falls flat when based purely on emotional reactions.


I know, everyone makes such incredible claims all based on nothing more than emotional feelings. If that's the basis of knowing the secrets of the universe, then I would rather not live in my afterlife with whatever supreme beings there are.

I also don't believe "religion" does a very good job at inspiring people to do good.  Actually, that's an understatement, I think religion does a very POOR job at leading people to good.


Again, that is a very perceptive observation. We don't need religion to be good, decent people. Furthermore, the principles of living a good life are largely self-evident.

thanks for sharing your perspective on your reasons for leaving Mormonism.  It was very beautiful for me to read these very difficult and heart felt convictions.  I KNOW your letter will help many who feel they are walking down a very lonely path, away from Mormonism.


Thanks for the kind words, and they are very kind. I enjoyed writing my letter, and I'm glad to see so many people enjoying reading it.

Shiggy
 
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Kent Folkstone: I have always felt that those who exit the church should really, really know why they leave, and then not only list the reason(s) in a non-emotional manner, but then be proud of it, as evidenced by a willingness to talk about one's exit with family members, peers, and others, rather than hiding, which I do.


I totally agree. I think it's not so hot when people leave for other reasons, such as "I was offended" or "It was too hard to keep all those commandments." It gives other post-Mo's who have given more thought to the matter a bad name in the eyes of the actives.

I'm a Tom Ferguson sort of guy.


Say it ain't so, Kent! That Tom Ferguson guy bugged me. He squandered such a great opportunity to make a difference but ultimately didn't stand up for what he believed in. Additionally, someone who is a really good contact of mine admitted--after I shared my letter with him/her--that he/she does not believe in the Church literally but still continues to attend for other reasons. That has disappointed me ever since.

When reading your letter, I found myself saying, "this is exactly the approach I would take in having my name removed"


So, are you still actively attending church and putting up a front? If so, what do we have to do to get you into this fine new car today, Mr. Folkstone? She's a real beauty, yes siree! Um, I mean, let's get you out of the Church and into a spiffy new post-Mo' lifestyle, complete with coffee, strippers, and a 10% raise. What's it gonna take, my friend?

3.  Believe in a super, omnipotent conspiracy: that evil men plotted vicariously, throughout time, both BCE and AD, to hide the truth.  And that every scheme concocted to hide the truth not just succeeded, but grandly so.  An equivalent modern belief/conspiracy theory would be that Galileo had penned a fantastically accurate tome on physics which not only explained all that Einstein did, but more, like accurately predict the exact manner and date that a rocket ship from Earth would land on Mars/whatever planeta .  The theory would also have you believe that the Catholics found his text and burned it, and that the Lord was so upset, that he wouldn't  reveal anything on physics until Einstein was born.  Someone in whom the Lord could confide.  Things like this just don't happen.


This was awesome. I loved it.

Shiggy
 
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Mester: I must congratulate you and feel like this will start many others on the path to expressing their true feelings to their families, friends and local leaders.


I really hope so. I submitted it to the Ensign for publication, but they sent me back a form letter instead. Something about "non-faith promoting." I dunno. Maybe I can get it into the New Era instead. It has lower standards from what I've heard.

Shiggy <--Loves sarcasm late at night.
 
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