Posted: 8-06-2006 (last edit in 2016)
By William Kempton
I pulled up to the stake center recalling the Bishop’s words to meet him at 7 pm in his office. “Why did I want to talk to him?” I pondered, “He’s not going to understand. He may even report me for asking too many questions and appearing to lose my testimony.” I believed he would answer my questions and resolve the mountain of doubts and questions accumulated in my mind after two years of intense research and study. So I grabbed my college backpack and headed for the stake center doors.
The stake center was nearly empty as the ward activities were coming to a close. The walls seemed hollow and dark as I began what seemed like a slow walk down death row through the corridor to the bishop’s office. I thought back to his coming to see me at my apartment months prior. He was visiting me on business. He wanted to meet me and welcome me to the ward as I just moved into the area. I remember how nervous I felt as we talked because there was a huge copy of the Tanner’s book Mormonism: Shadow or Reality lying on the coffee table (a shorter, more readable version of this book, is The Changing World of Mormonism). His unexpected visit left me with little time to prepare for his entrance, so there it laid on the coffee table, this huge tome of “so called” anti-Mormon literature sitting in plain sight. I felt like a Catholic who accidentally left out a copy of Playboy magazine for his visit with the priest. Next to the Tanner’s book were a few books written by LDS apologists attempting to refute the Tanner’s research, but the Tanner’s book seemed to stick out more; it seemed to glow and fill up the room with a radiant feel of “look at me, look over here!” I mine as well have left out lines of cocaine for two police officers coming to visit. The book forced me to come clean though, as if I had committed a crime. I confessed to him I had been reading the Tanner's book along with Mormon apologetics. I confessed that I was doing some “thinking.” This felt like a sin in his presence; it felt wrong to be thinking and questioning. I was brought up in the church to believe it was sinful to doubt my religion. He got my information, welcomed me to the ward and scurried off.
A few weeks later I called him in hopes of him resolving my concerns. I was a little uneasy approaching the door of his office. I had been in a bishop’s office many times before over the years growing up in the church. Part of the Mormon program is to be constantly interviewed and “screened” before taking the next step up in the hierarchy of "priesthood authority." There was also that time at age twelve when a bishop asked me if I masturbated and I had to ask him what that meant. A Mormon bishop basically taught me how to masturbate by explaining what the word meant. There was the time I was called on a mission and the time I was called to teach primary. Each bishop over the years had become a surrogate father figure: someone who gave me the green light in my pursuit of self-worth and acceptance. I was approaching the door of his office ready to confess the sin of all sins in Mormondom: I was questioning the Faith once delivered to the (LDS) Saints. I was about to tell my bishop that I was losing my faith in Mormonism. It sounds so dreadful doesn't it, losing one’s faith in their religion? But I wasn’t losing anything, I was gaining knowledge, truth, and insight; what I didn’t know then was that I was about to leave my religion after finding information that disproved the central claims of Mormonism.
I felt confident that night that he would set things straight, that he would resolve my concerns and enable me to return to full activity by making sense of things I had learned about the church. I wanted desperately for him to have clear and reasonable answers. In retrospect, I see that it was inevitable that I would be disappointed, just as BH Roberts was disappointed with the brethren when he approached them with his manuscript titled Studies of the Book of Mormon, where he showed how the Book of Mormon was more than likely written by Joseph Smith himself. BH Roberts presented his manuscript to the General Authorities in private, and after a special meeting to discuss the manuscript he came away disappointed and discouraged. He later wrote that all they did was bear their testimony; he said they “one by one stood up and bore testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. George Albert Smith - in tears - testified that his faith in the Book of Mormon had not been shaken by the questions.” Roberts goes on to say, "I was greatly disappointed over the net results of the discussion. There was so much said that was utterly irrelevant and so little said that was helpful." Just before his death he commented to a friend that the first presidency’s answers to the problems with the Book of Mormon might "satisfy people who didn't think, but (it was) a very inadequate answer for a thinking man."
Growing up in the church I always felt intimidated by the bishop’s office. When I was young the only time I was called into a bishop’s office was to be interrogated as to my “worthiness” in my rise up the ladder of status in the hierarchy of "priesthood authority." I looked up to my priesthood leaders with fear and respect as I sought to pass each interview on my way up to becoming “worthy” of a mission. This time was different though, for it was not I that was being questioned, but the church was now under the bright spotlight of my conscientious inspection. The bishop of my ward greeted me with a smile and a handshake as he welcomed me into his ecclesiastical domain. After some small talk I went right into my dilemma, the silent mood of the room went from the sound of an empty park on a Tuesday afternoon to the sound of a wild-eyed bull in a china shop. I told him how much I wanted to stay Mormon but how my research into the origins of my LDS Faith was leading me to find out that LDS teachings had many errors. As I talked with the person that I had been taught is the Judge of Israel, the inspired leader of God in my local area, my heart felt heavy as the bishop appeared more and more uncomfortable about the information I was sharing. I felt bad that I was the one to share with him information that challenged the claims of Mormonism. But what was I doing wrong when everything I was saying could be backed up by facts available in verifiable sources?
Underneath his proud body posturing, calculated smile, and repeating the Mormon testimony verbatim I sensed an uneasiness in his voice, a concern in his eyes, and a jitter in his demeanor. Looking back I believe that what I was telling him was quite frankly “scaring the hell out of him,” and he appeared very uncomfortable. I felt like a lawyer presenting evidence that a large company was hiding the fact that toxic chemicals created by the company was damaging the environment and harming nearby residents. I wanted him as the jury to show me how I may have come to misinterpret the evidence. I wanted him to help me reach a "not guilty" verdict.
I had brought with me my college backpack “bearing gifts.” I slid exhibit "A" onto his desk for his perusal. It was a lesser known pamphlet by David Whitmer called An Address to All Believers in Christ. In the pamphlet Whitmer testifies that Utah Mormonism (led by Brigham Young) is false and that God told him to leave the Utah Mormon Church. He reacted to this little pamphlet like a child might react to a tarantula crawling up its arm. He slid it back to me like a dirty sock and said unaprovingly, “I’ve heard of it.” I came to my bishop with an open mind wanting to be set straight. I did not like feeling in limbo regarding my religion. I hoped that he would be able to answer my questions that were leading to my eventual so-called “apostasy.” Instead he gave me a series of memorized lines including, “pray about it,” “some things aren’t meant to be understood,” “that must be taken on faith,” and “we’ll have the answers to that in heaven.” Growing up I had been led to believe that the bishop was my spiritual gateway to God’s loving guidance and truth. Here I was a college student intimidating an older man with facts that he should have known already being in a position of leadership. Instead, he did not know the things I was telling him because he carefully avoided any controversial subject matter and relied completely on his emotions rather than facts and logic.
I could not avoid the observation that it appeared as if he had been trained to not think, question, or ponder anything that might deviate from his culturally conditioned and memorized testimony that members (including I myself grew up doing) repeat over and over like a thought-stopping mantra. I told him about BH Roberts who turned from a defender of the faith to a critic of the Book of Mormon. I handed BH Robert’s book to him and asked if he would read it and tell me what he thinks. He said that he would make a deal with me, he would read the book if I attended church every Sunday for three months. I had been attending my meetings sporadically ever since my wavering faith in Mormonism. We both agreed. I drove home disappointed that he was so ignorant about the information I presented. I later learned that this is a very common thing among LDS church leaders. Yet I was confident that I was doing the right thing by questioning my religion and seeking after the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I attended the LDS church in my area for three months as promised only to learn afterward that he did not keep his end of the agreement. This experience, along with others, helped me realized that LDS leaders generally refuse to examine the opposing viewpoint, and their agenda hindered their ability to be fair and objective. Thus, in my exit letter I tell the bishop that the attitude of the LDS leaders in failing to look at both sides of the coin regarding Mormonism is why he probably will never fully understand my perspective.
Before I met with the bishop I had many conversations with stake presidents, BYU professors, and LDS apologists, and I had many more conversations with LDS apologists working in Utah after my visit with the bishop. After about a five year process of intense study, dialogue, and introspection, and about six months after my visit with the bishop in his office, my conscience finally led me to write my resignation letter. This is my story about what happened leading up to that meeting with the bishop and why I chose to resign from the Mormon Church.
Having spent my entire life ingrained in Mormon culture and singing over and over songs like “follow the prophet” and “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then going on a mission, it was not easy to be objective with all that cultural conditioning. I also understand I’m a third generation Mormon with a relative, Jeppa Jeppson, who had a sixteen year old plural wife. So I hope that my reader realizes that I was not quick to leave the religion of my recent bloodline. It is not easy to step back and be objective about the house you grew to love and cherish as righteous and true only to find out that there was a basement of stuff that you were unaware of that calls into question your entire belief system.
I wanted to be an active True Believing Mormon but reality dealt me a hand of cards I could not play. The more I studied the more I learned of facts that conflict with LDS doctrine. Please listen with humility and an open heart before you judge. Allow me to explain to you how it all happened.
The truth is that I liked being a Mormon. The reason I resigned from the LDS church was not because someone offended me, or because I wanted to sin, or because I read the works of Ed Decker; to this day I have never read The God Makers. My story is very similar to others that can be read at exmormon.org and postmormon.org, so I will try to avoid being redundant and attempt to be as brief as possible.
I never had a desire to disprove the LDS church. I did not start out with any intentions to find out what I did. I simply had an itch that needed to be scratched. You can ignore the leaky faucet but it's not going away. The "drip," "drip," "drip" on my conscience began on my mission. The path to my awakening started when I was a missionary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I already knew about the teaching of the LDS church regarding black people being "cursed with a black skin" after reading Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine. When I was in Brazil I had to face the fact that my religion taught that blacks are cursed with a black skin since they are the offspring of Cain in the Bible. Brazilians are multiracial and so I was forced to confront my church's racial teachings everyday. My missionary companions would always reiterate the doctrine of the church that blacks are the cursed seed of Cain, but I could never bring myself to teach that to our investigators. For a long time I simply thought it was only the opinion of a few missionaries. However, when I did my own research by reading LDS books in member’s homes I realized that it was in fact an official doctrine of the church. At the same time I learned about this, my knee was giving me trouble and so I went home on medical leave in 1996.
I decided to return to the mission field about three months later, and was sent to Independence Missouri to complete my two year mission. The reason I returned to the mission field was largely due to social pressure. I was encouraged to read a bunch of Mormon apologetics that attempted to defend the church's racial doctrines. I wanted to believe in it so much that I eventually came to deny the seed of Cain dogma, creating my own theory on why blacks were denied the priesthood. Today I know that my "theory" to justify the church's discrimination policy was false, and the church had no good reason to ban blacks from full fellowship in the church and were wrong for denying them access to the temple endowment rituals. As a missionary I had no idea that before 1978 the LDS church told the missionaries not to proselyte to black people. Today my mother recalls with regret the times on her mission when she wanted to teach some African Americans the gospel, but the church discouraged it, so she obeyed.
The next step that led to my realization that the Mormon Church is not what it claims to be, took place in a small Book of Mormon believing church, located on the site in Missouri where Mormons believe Christ will first return to his temple during the millennium. I listened as an apostle of The Church of Christ Temple Lot expressed his testimony to me that Mormonism in Utah is false, and that his church interpreted the Book of Mormon the correct way. He bore me his testimony that only the doctrines of his church were true. I was impressed by his firm testimony, and I knew that I could not disprove his subjective experience that led him to conclude that Utah Mormonism is false. He felt what he felt; how could I deny that?
If I could not discredit a fellow Book of Mormon believer's testimony that conflicted with my claim to the only true saving dogma, how could I then say with confidence that I knew that my religion is the only true one? It was toward the end of my mission that I learned that feelings do not make any religious claim factually true. Day after day in Missouri I knocked on doors and met people who read the Book of Mormon (from now on BoM) -- sometimes they even claimed to receive a burning in the bosom -- who also rejected Utah Mormonism. As a missionary in Missouri I learned that the method of obtaining a Mormon testimony is based on a faulty epistemology, i.e. it's a fallible truth finding methodology. Feelings are subjective and fallible when it comes to deciphering objective truth.
All of these things were starting to accumulate in my mind and cause me to think outside the box. After my mission I got caught up in the LDS social scene called Young Single Adults. For two years I repressed my doubts, and just enjoyed all the attention of being a return missionary in Mormon culture. But when I turned 23 all my old doubts began to resurface, and I worried that the LDS church might not be what it claims to be. I was an active Mormon that was starting to question things.
Wanting to get more involved in college life, around the age of 24 I joined the once Christian based Sigma Chi fraternity. When I got to the end of the process of becoming a fraternity brother I went through a secret initiation ritual. I was shocked at how close the ritual was to the Mormon temple endowment. Once again I was called upon to question things and I wondered, "why were there similarities?" I eventually found myself in the college library investigating this. I soon learned about the secret fraternity of Freemasonry, upon which all college fraternities are based, and is the same one that Joseph Smith joined just before creating the LDS temple endowment. This explained why my college fraternity ritual reminded me of the LDS temple. Joseph Smith took the ideas of secret handshakes and other things from the Freemason fraternity, and modified them to create the Mormon endowment. Like a detective stumbling upon another clue it was through joining a college fraternity that I found out the temple rituals were based on Freemasonry. Most rank and file LDS members do not know about this. The Mormons I talked to about this who did know about the Freemason connection didn't seem to care much about it.
I was still searching for answers when I turned 25. I wanted to believe in Mormonism even though I found out that Joseph Smith created the temple endowment after joining a secret fraternity. At this point in my journey I had never read a so-called “anti-Mormon” book, and no one was trying to convert me to another church or anything like that. I did not necessarily want to learn what I did, but was led to the facts through circumstance. Eventually I developed a desire to inquire into the origins of Mormonism. I have always believed that truth can withstand scrutiny. I had spent almost five years defending the church and trying to convert people to Mormonism. I decided it was time that I took a critical look at my religion and so I put on my detective hat and went searching for evidence for or against my Faith.
During my investigation in college I made friends with a young black man from Africa in one of my classes. We got to talking and I found out that he was an exmormon. I asked him if the reason he left the church was because of the church's doctrine of him being the cursed seed of Cain. He looked at me with confusion, “what are you talking about?” he asked. As I began to explain it to him I could tell that he was becoming more and more distressed and hurt. He looked at me with sadness and said, “the missionaries never told me anything about that. I was a member for over a year and no one said a thing.” It was then that I began to suspect that the LDS church covers up many things and does not offer any kind of full-disclosure to investigators.
I also discovered the Internet around this time and I wanted to learn more about the issue of blacks and the priesthood. The goal was to sustain my testimony. At first I grappled with whether or not I should read what the critics had to say about the church and the priesthood ban. But in college I learned to be fair and balanced in my research, so I read both Mormon apologetics (LDS defenders), and the work of various former Mormons. After hundreds of hours of study I realized that the church had no good reason to ban blacks from the priesthood and the seed of Cain dogma is false.
At this point I still wondered: how could Joseph have written the BoM when he was just an illiterate farm boy? One day at my college library I decided to browse the Mormon section. I came upon a book titled Studies of the Book of Mormon, that attempted to critically analyze the origins of the Book of Mormon (BoM). At first I was reluctant to even pick up the book, as I had been taught my whole life that such books that turn a critical eye on the church are anti-Mormon lies and evil. However, this book was written by BH Roberts, the same Mormon leader who defended the church for years, and also helped put together the LDS History of the Church. So I felt that it was OK to read this book. I saw no reason to fear reading what an active LDS leader had to say.
As previously mentioned, BH Roberts had submitted his manuscript to the First Presidency in private. He clearly became convinced that Joseph Smith wrote the BoM himself. The LDS leaders ignored his critique of the BoM, and Robert's family kept it a secret after he died. It was just in the last few decades that it was published as a book. Through Robert's work I learned that Joseph was educated by his father who was a teacher, that Smith knew his Bible like the back of his hand, and that he was a brilliant young man with an active imagination. He was not a dumb fourteen-year-old as I was taught growing up in the church. Instead he was a smart, clever young man, and he was around twenty four (the age of many great authors) when he finished the BoM.
BH Robert’s Studies of the Book Mormonhas proven to be a continuous problem for today’s LDS apologists. For while in public Roberts continued to be an LDS member, toward the end of his life, in private, he strongly doubted the divine origins of the BoM. His book persuaded me to realize that not only did Joseph Smith have the necessary imagination to create the BoM, but that he also had both the intellect and source material to do so. It was an LDS leader that was instrumental in showing me that the BoM was more than likely written by someone living during the time Joseph Smith lived, and that Joseph Smith had a fertile imagination and could have written the BoM himself. I've also learned that the BoM could very well be the product of a collaborative effort between Joseph Smith and Sidney Ridgon, and possibly others. Five years later, after investigating a mountain of material on the BoM, today I've come to the conclusion that it is in fact a work of fiction. Yet I still think it is filled with some valuable ethical principles and philosophical concepts, even though it's fiction.
Even though I had begun to seriously question the claims of my family religion at this point, turning the age of twenty six, I was still deeply rooted in the social structure of the church. It was not my intention to leave my religion. I derived both my identity and my purpose in life from the LDS church. All of my friends were Mormon, as well as most of my family. But I also felt a powerful drive to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There was all this evidence showing me that Mormonism was a product of man, and this led me to feel a deep sense of loss. Like many former LDS members who have gone through the same thing, I felt all alone in the world. I needed something to push me into seriously committing myself to the truth, as the social pressure to just give up truth for my comfort zone (the familiarity of Mormon culture) was a strong temptation.
It was at this time that I was allowed to borrow and read an original 1891 Doctrine and Covenants that had been passed down in my family. I cannot explain the excitement I felt reading this book. This was the same book that my Mormon ancestors read. As I turned each page, and my fingers felt the antique texture of the paper, I felt at one with my family members from the past. Then something unexpected happened. Like a detective who finds a piece of evidence that breaks the case, I realized that the family member who owned the LDS book of scripture I held in my hands had a totally different testimony than Mormons do today; for example, their view of the Godhead was completely different from what Mormons believe today!
It was as if an imaginary teleprompter popped up in my head with, “Breaking news, this just in. In the case of Mormonism vs. truth, new evidence has come forth proving to be the smoking gun in the trial of the century." For the little book I held in my hands clearly disproved, beyond any doubt, the LDS claim that Joseph Smith saw two divine personages (gods) of flesh and bone in 1820. Thus the LDS teaching that Smith knew that the Father deity had a body of flesh and bone and taught such ever since 1820 is flat out false. After a lot of study I soon discovered that all Doctrine and Covenants before 1921 contained the doctrine of the Fifth Lecture on Faith that was bound in LDS scripture in 1835 as "the doctrine." The Fifth Lecture basically stated that the Father is only a spirit, that only Jesus has a body, and the Holy Ghost is not a person but the same Mind (or essence) of the Father and the Son; and the Father and the Son are not two gods but one Deity, which is very similar to the Catholic Trinity (go to Google books and search for early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants to see for yourself). How could Joseph Smith bind this doctrine in scripture if he really was inspired by the Holy Ghost and really did see two flesh and bone persons in 1820?
As a missionary I committed to memory the First Vision story published by the LDS church, where Smith says he saw a pillar of light in the woods and then saw two personages, the Father and Jesus Christ. I would then tell investigators that after this vision Smith knew the Father deity had a body of flesh and bone just as I was taught at church. Ironically, the LDS family member who owned the 1891 D&C I had examined was taught to commit the doctrine of the Fifth Lecture to memory, which declared that the Father was a "personage of spirit," and thus did not have a physical body of flesh and bone. I also found out that Mormon historians had discovered in the 1960s that Joseph Smith gave differing versions of his alleged First Vision. The earliest version was written by Joseph Smith himself in 1832. Smith wrote that he went to pray in the woods, not to find out which church was true but to be forgiven of his sins (a common motif of the time). In this 1832 version he only mentions seeing Jesus. This would make sense if he believed in one Deity at that time and only Jesus had an earthly body of flesh and bone that could be seen by humanity. Since he was taught growing up that no one has seen the Father (according to the Bible), it makes perfect sense that the 1832 First Vision version does not mention the Father appearing at all and only mentions Jesus.
It wasn't until the years between 1838 and 1844 that Smith began teaching that he saw "two" personages in the First Vision (the Father and the Son). In fact, his growing beliefs about the Godhead differed greatly during each segment of LDS history: just compare the dates of D&C 20, the Fifth Lecture on Faith, D&C 121: 28 and 130: 22 to see Smith's progression in ideas about the Godhead; and then compare this progression to each version of the alleged First Vision, and one will notice how the number of Gods grows from one to many, which coincides with Smith's conception of Deity in the LDS scriptures. One can thus see the evidence right in front of them in official LDS church sources, how Smith's view of the Godhead progressed from a heterodox version of monotheitic Trinitarianism to polytheistic tritheism and the concept of an endless cycle of procreating Gods of flesh and bone in D&C 132.
When LDS members held in their hands the early version of the Doctrine and Covenants, which contained the doctrine of the Fifth Lecture, they believed that only Jesus had a body of flesh and bone, and the Holy Ghost was not a person! That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I had found the murder weapon with finger prints on it, a video of the crime taking place, and a taped confession. It was the final nail that was hammered into the coffin of my Mormon testimony. I learned that the foundational claim of Mormonism, the First Vision, was unfounded. This led me to realize that like a house on a bad foundation, the LDS church was founded on fiction, suspicious hearsay, and supported not by facts but subjective emotionalism.
How could I ignore these facts? The more I tried to defend the church by exploring the church's past, the more I came across evidence that was showing me a different church than the one I was taught growing up. Mormon apologists I read and corresponded with were like a defense attorney making excuses for the video tape, the confession, and the finger prints on the murder weapon that no objective jury would buy. Once I had discovered a large body of evidence showing the church was the work of men, I realized that all this evidence could not be ignored. When I tried to share this information with others I was often attacked as someone trying to prove the church wrong. When all I wanted was to learn the facts, and reveal the truth. After speaking with church leaders (including my bishop) I realized that most of them just didn't want to hear the opposing viewpoint. They were like a juror in court who plugged their ears and closed their eyes whenever the prosecution stood up to present their case. It was then that I realized that I had to resign in order to maintain my integrity, and so around the age of 28, I sent my resignation letter to my bishop. I was finally free from believing in a fantasy that constantly conflicted with reality.
Some people like to do crossword puzzles, others like to take apart car engines and put them back together. I enjoyed investigating the evolution of Mormon theology like a detective investigating a crime scene. I have always been someone who pays attention to details. When I was a young lad I was known for my highly detailed artwork. If I drew a "bee," for example, every feature was drawn, all the way down to the smallest detail. In college I learned to love science and philosophy. I also like to study world religions. I recommend the work of Joseph Campbell, especially the The Power of Myth. Today I continue to be a student of world religion and mythology. One of my favorite shows on T.V. is C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation). It was my innate desire to be honest, my intellectual nature, and analytical skills I learned in college, that led me out of the church. Knowing this about myself, I realize that not everyone is like me, everyone has a different personality. So I understand and accept that not all Mormons are "designed" as analytical and intellectual types, and/or are just not willing to invest the same amount of time and energy it takes to really investigate their religion objectively.
Sometimes I fear that my honesty may cost me certain people’s acceptance. But I know that genuine love is much too grand to only be given to those who believe a certain dogmatic creed (or articles of blind faith). Sometimes I find it difficult to be understood because most people are more interested in accusing me of things rather than listening to what I have to say. I have studied long and hard and have acquired a lot of information, but most devout LDS members do not want to even take a look at it. They are all too ready to condemn me and others before listening. Sometimes I wish I didn't know what I do, as it has cost me some people's acceptance; but that's the price you pay for seeking truth, and I now realize that they were never true friends to begin with.
Religion is a delicate subject and everyone has a different perspective. I do not wish to persuade but merely inform others of the facts, that's all. I use to try to persuade and promote my philosophy of life, now I really just ask for understanding. I have listened to Born Again Christians bear me their testimony of the Trinity, and the saved by grace alone doctrine, with tears rolling down their cheeks. I have had Catholic family members on my father's side explain the profound feelings they have for their Mother Church, and around a billion people feel that the Koran is a divine book and Mohammed was the last true prophet on earth. As a missionary I used to boast how right my emotions were and all other religious believers were wrong as they just felt the "light of Christ," were mistaken, or were deceived by the devil. Today I see things differently:
1. Why were they influenced by the devil, or just mistaken, and not me? How was I exempt from human fallibility? Other people's emotions were just as real as mine, so why were my feelings of the Holy Ghost and theirs was only their imagination, or just the spirit of truth or something? Couldn't they say the same things about my feelings?
2. Even if I called their experience "just the light of Christ" to try and ignore or downplay their testimonies, they call it the Holy Ghost; and how could I say what was the Holy Ghost and what was only the "light of Christ?" I can't deny what they felt and what they claim.
3. How could the Holy Ghost give one man a feeling that he believes proves his doctrine and church true, and then give another man, of a different church and doctrine, similar feelings?
I have come to realize that all debate regarding "which dogma is the truest of them all" is futile when this question is shrouded in a fog of conflicting feelings, perceptions, and interpretations; resulting in a barrage of contradictory doctrines that looms in our midst. Thus, perhaps we all see in a mirror dimly and the greatest virtue is love as Paul of Tarsus expressed in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. There are over 6 billion people on this earth believing in different dogmas. I now choose to promote humanitarianism and the Golden Rule. I still believe that many Mormon "teachings" are good and true, but when it comes to LDS dogma I cannot claim it’s true or support it as a whole. The LDS church’s theological claims lack evidence, are often proven wrong, and are often contradictory. I support the family values and ethical teachings of the Mormon Church, but I also support these same things I find in many other churches and spiritual philosophies.
I have spent the last five years discussing doctrine with Mormons, Catholics, and Born Again Christians. I have learned a lot that I don't think most LDS members know about. My study of the variety of religious Faiths has given me a perspective that perhaps most do not have. Yet, I'm still humble and open to input. I welcome all opinions for inspection. Just remember as you read over my web page at https://sites.google.com/site/postmormonism, and my blog at http://postmormon.blogspot.com, that I only wish to be understood as I seek to promote the truth and free intellectual inquiry. I did not take my decision to leave the Mormon Church lightly. I first went to family members, friends, and many LDS leaders with my research seeking answers before I resigned. Today I have reached a conclusion that made me feel very sad for about a year, but once the cloud of despair lifted I learned, as Lincoln once said that "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Leaving the church is like any other major loss in one's life. It took me a long time to get over it. Over time though I grew to embrace life outside of Mormonism. I picked my head up high, began trusting myself and made new friends and formed a new perspective on life. I ventured forward into my post Mormon life with courage and integrity. I am now happy and enjoying every day of my new found freedom with joy. I am so grateful to have seen the light at the end of the Mormon tunnel. I've left the LDS cave and no longer have the cloud of LDS dogma blurring my natural vision.
Today, unfortunately, some LDS members I have known will not even try to hear me out. They won't even visit my web page or blog and take a look. I believe this is because they have been socially conditioned to avoid the perspective of former Mormons. Just think about this: the LDS temple interview even contains the following question that Latter day Saints must answer with a "no," in order to be considered a devout Mormon and enter the temple and earn their "ticket" to heaven:
Do you affiliate [associate] with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
Since I have a web page that opposes the "teaching" of the Mormon Church that blacks are the cursed seed of Cain, that the American Indians are Jews from Jerusalem that were cursed with dark skin, then some (not all) Mormons will refuse to "sympathize" with me, and will not "affiliate" with me either because it's against the rules. The LDS church labels me an “apostate,” which is a label that is meant to stigmatize and warn Mormons to beware. I'm for Mormons what a Muslim would call an infidel, "an unbeliever with respect to a particular religion." I'm condemned for being honest! As Thomas Paine said, "it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe." When some LDS members find out that I oppose certain LDS teachings they tend to run away from trying to understand why I resigned. On the other hand, I can sympathize with the pressure on the devout Mormon not to sympathize with me, as I believe that they have been conditioned by the church to avoid trying to understand people like me. Think about it, if more LDS members tried to understand the former member, they might start to sympathize with them, and affiliate with them, which might lead to them asking questions and thinking objectively outside the "box." So the church leaders were smart in making it a rule for a Temple Worthy Mormon not to associate or sympathize with former Mormons.
Listening to former LDS members criticize the Mormon leaders is also against the rules. Every Mormon makes a covenant to "speak no evil of the Lord's anointed" in the temple ceremony. The Mormon Church demands unquestioning obedience. Mormons are also taught to avoid "anti-Mormon" literature, and my essays and articles on my web page tend to be lumped into that category, even though I am not an anti-Mormon. So if the Mormon won't read my essays (or the work of other former Mormons), they can't receive the opposing viewpoint, and are led to just assume we're the problem instead of listening to what we have to say. Then they are taught that I'm a natural man and an enemy to their deities. Therefore, they tend to assume that everything I say is just considered "man's ways," and is just discarded since it goes against LDS dogma and what the Mormon leaders say. So if an LDS member wishes to investigate the perspective of the former Mormon, they will face a lot of anxiety when breaking away from the mental conditioning. Thus, choosing to critically examine their religion becomes an act of strength and bravery. I consider those who venture forward, and read through my web page to be brave individuals.
When I first dropped the "bomb," telling my Mormon friends and relatives of my awakening, most of them just scattered seeking to protect themselves from the blast, but once the smoke cleared I learned who my genuine friends were. Those who have proven to be my true friends have taken the time to understand me, and have read through my web page because they truly care about me and wanted to fully understand my perspective. Some of my friends even read two or three books I recommended so they could learn more about my perspective. Still, others have just lumped me into a category of someone who is "unworthy, just looks for error, or I'm the problem not LDS dogma." They don't take the time to read my essays, and choose to just form their own opinion of why I resigned before investigating my actual reasons. I'm happy my reader has taken the time to read this far.
I personally believe that human beings are much too complex to be labeled believers and non-believers. I feel that God or Ultimate Reality is greater than what is confined in most creeds, as the creeds are written by fallible human mammals. Sometimes we just don't know much of anything. If the human mind cannot fathom how the Cosmos or Existence is the ALL and is not contained, why boast that we can figure out God or Ultimate Reality? I just wish that most religions didn't divide people up into believers and non-believers when we're all equally fallible and finite creatures. I wish that people cared less about what the other believed and focused more on the person's character and good deeds.
I did not create my web page with the intention of attacking the Mormon religion. My goal is to share knowledge, and inform others of the facts I've learned. I believe in telling the truth and allowing investigators of Mormonism to make an informed decision. I also want to encourage the Mormon leadership to be more upfront and honest by disclosing the whole picture of LDS origins and development. My hope is that other enlightened Mormon insiders will follow in the footsteps of John Dehlin and Grant Palmer who for a long time advocated for a more honest and non-dogmatic form of Mormonism while they were active Mormons. Note, both have since left the church.
To learn more about my reasons for resigning from the Mormon Church and to read my articles see my web page at https://sites.google.com/site/postmormonism. I started compiling the contents of my site at first in order to organize my thoughts and document information I planned on sharing with my family. Since then it has grown into a larger site for the viewing public. You can also check out my blog at http://postmormon.blogspot.com.
After resigning from the LDS church I have since embarked on a journey of intellectual discovery and personal growth, which I share with those who are interested in the following blog at http://cosmicwholeness.blogspot.com.
Thank you for reading and being open minded. I wish you well on your own journey of discovery while experiencing all life has to offer.