Sunday, November 29, 2015

12. This is My Fight Song

Fast forward a few years. This has been too much of a journey to summarize nicely in a single post, and I won't here. My wife and I talked about and have come to an agreement on our many issues with the church. We settled down to a life without the LDS Church in our lives. My wife became an avid tea drinker and I've tried to look at my life differently and I'm chugging along just fine, except I might not find it easy to separate myself from the church because I'm still fascinated by the hold it had on me and why I was so attached to it when I had so many issues with it. Be that as it may, my wife let me know that if we were to resign, she and the kids wanted to do it first. She felt it important to declare that her leaving was her decision and not mine.

One evening, I noticed a post on Facebook and I handed my phone to my wife to read. She read along and then gasped. She sat there on the couch and eventually stated. "I'm done."

Document on Changes to Handbook 1

November 3, 2015
Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a
Same-Gender Relationship
The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation.
 A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
November 3, 2015
 Handbook 1, number 6.7.2 is to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council May Be Necessary
Serious Transgression
. . . It includes (but is not limited to) attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, . . .
Handbook 1, number 6.7.3 is also to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory
As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority. 
4. Are in a same-gender marriage.
5. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.
I took off the next day from work and we discussed the situation. She wanted to resign. I had a link to a sample resignation letter and we reviewed it. We then talked to the kids that evening to let them know what we were doing and that we felt they should also resign. If they wanted to go to church in the future, we weren't going to stop them and that we would be supportive, but right now, we didn't want to be associated with a church that felt this way about anyone. They agreed and we wrote the following note to the bishop.

11/6, 10:01am
Good morning Bishop. I need to tell you that, as of today, November 6, 2015, I resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also need the church membership of my children, (names) terminated as of today. In light of recent changes in church policy I can't, in good conscience continue to associate myself or my children with the LDS church. I fully understand and accept the consequences of my decision and I have the support of my husband. Please let me know if there is anything else I need to do to make this happen. I'm really sorry you're the guy I have to send this to, Bishop.

11/6, 10:01am
Bishop, I want to let you know that this is Wife's decision and that I consent. I am not resigning but I fully support my wife's decision and also the resignation of our children.

11/6, 10:04am
Hi, I'm so sorry to hear that. Can we have the opportunity to discuss it further, at least? Does this mean you want your records completely removed, thus forfeiting all temple blessings unless you're re-baptized? Can we discuss? We love you guys, and certainly hope this isn't the final decision

11/6, 11:12am
I really appreciate you're wanting to discuss my decision is made and final. Having been a temple worker, I truly understand what forfeiting our temple blessings means in the eyes of  the church and having been in leadership positions myself, I also understand how difficult this is for you. But my decision to resign my membership and those of my children is final and will remain so. My decision is completely due to my not being able to support the institution of the church anymore and has nothing to do with any other members in the ward or stake. I have a great deal of love and respect for all of you.

11/6, 11:15am
OK, I understand and respect your decision. Would it be okay with you if I discuss it with Pres before I process the paperwork? I don't want to be too hasty, but I also want to respect your wishes while proceeding with caution, if that makes sense

11/6, 11:19am
I'm fine with that. Thank you for your understanding and heartfelt concern. Can you keep me updated about the process? I think I can expect a written confirmation from Salt Lake when our memberships have been removed?

11/6, 11:21am
Correct. I'll speak with Pres today and keep you posted. Thank you for your patience and for letting me know your thoughts and plans.

November 6
11/6, 3:12pm
Hi, so there are some specific instructions on how to proceed, so I'll copy exactly from the Handbook, and please let me know if you have questions. Since there are more than one of you desiring name removal, one letter is sufficient but it should be signed by all, and also by Husband that he supports the action. If anything doesn't make sense, just let me know. Thanks and I still hope you'll reconsider. Anyway, here you go:

11/6, 3:14pm
"An adult member who wishes to have his name removed from the membership records of the Church must send the bishop a written, signed request. A request that Church representatives not visit a member is not sufficient to initiate this action.
The bishop makes sure that a member who requests name removal understands the consequences: it cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member, and revokes temple blessings. The bishop also explains that a person can be readmitted to the Church by baptism and confirmation only after a thorough interview. A minor who wishes to have his name removed from the records of the Church must follow the same procedure as an adult with one exception: the written request must be signed by the minor (if over the age of 8) and by the parent(s) or guardian(s) who have legal custody of the minor.
If two or more family members want their names removed from the records of the Church, they need to prepare only one written request. However, a Report of Administrative Action form should be completed and signed for each person who has requested name removal.

11/6, 3:16pm
I think it's a good opportunity, if you haven't already, to explain to the kids what this means, which is why it's a good idea to have them sign it. Just making sure I'm covering all the bases! Thanks you guys

November 10
11/10, 10:30am
Hi, I received your requests and will process them right away, just one more question: Child also has a record, since he was blessed. I'm assuming you would like his removed as well? I don't think we would need another letter, just your permission. And we're removing all except Husband's, correct?

11/10, 10:31am

11/10, 10:31am
Got it, thanks

The text of our letter, sent Nov. 7th is attached.
November 6, 2015
To Whom It May Concern,
This letter is the formal and final notification to you and to your Church organization that I, have resigned my membership in your organization, specifically, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the support of my husband. As the parents and sole legal guardians of our minor children, it is our right to also, at this time, submit their formal and final notification of resignation as well.
I have given this decision considerable thought and having made my decision, I will not be convinced or dissuaded into changing my mind. I understand that your organization views this action, the voluntary resignation of membership, to be a "serious decision" with potentially "eternal ramifications". I understand that our voluntary resignations for each member of our household listed above will cancel out, in the view of your organization, the effects of baptism, will result in the withdraw of the “power of the priesthood,” and will vacate any “ordinances" and “blessings” that took place in your organization’s temple, to include “endowments" and “sealing" of our marriage. We understand that if at any future time we wish to reestablish membership with your organization, the process would require our meeting with local leadership.
With full understanding of these things, we do, here now, submit our formal, written and final notification of our resignation from your organization.
As this letter includes all the necessary information required to verify our identities and that we are in fact the parties making this notification, you are required to process this notification immediately, without any delays. Despite any internal procedures your organization’s handbook may “require”, you are legally obligated to process this notification of resignation immediately, without delay.
Despite what any instructions regarding the resignation of baptized minor children over the age of eight requiring a signature of the individual child, it is our right, as their parents and sole legal guardians, to submit this resignation on their behalf without need for their consent or signature. It is with this legal backing that we do now submit the formal and final notification of resignation for our minor children.
Our resignation is final as of the date of receipt of this letter. It is now your legal obligation to process these resignations and to provide us with written official notification that this matter has been handled. We expect that there be confirmation of our resignation delivered by the USPS to our home address in regards to this matter.
Thank You

I, Husband, while not resigning my membership at this time, sign in full support of my family members, listed above, who are choosing to resign their membership.
In response to the letter, we received a letter dated November 13, 2015, and copies for each of our children as follows:

Dear Sister -:

This letter is to notify you that, in accordance with your request, your name has been removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Should you desire to become a member of the Church in the future, the local bishop or branch president in your area will be happy to help you.

Confidential Records

For what it is worth, the church did modify their change, pushing the responsibility to the local units. Still, I think they made their statements clear. Link to Letter

First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes
November 13, 2015
To: General Authorities; Area Seventies; General Auxiliary Presidencies; Stake, District, Mission, and Temple Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provides the following guidance in applying provisions on same-gender marriage recently added to Handbook 1:
Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children. The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.
Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment. The provisions ofHandbook 1, Section 16.13, that restrict priesthood ordinances for minors, apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. As always, local leaders may request further guidance in particular instances when they have questions.
When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld. Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child.
All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance.
May the Lord continue to bless you in your ministry.

So, I didn't resign for family reasons, but I'm just as much out as my wife is. I hope we can continue to put this situation in our lives behind us.

11. Sick of It All

In order to set up what my wife’s decision might have included, I need to tell you about my family. My wife converted to the church when she was 15 and after a bad boyfriend experience. She’s been very focused on keeping her family with her forever. We adopted a child who is black. It was through LDS Family Services and from a married couple who didn’t feel they could support another child. They purposefully wanted a white couple to adopt and the church was the only ones to assist them. Shortly after we adopted him, my wife started working for LDSFS as a counselor as she had a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. After a few years, I felt an obligation to help some children from a poorer country and adopt there. We eventually adopted a brother and sister. A few years after that, and after 19 years of trying ourselves, my wife became pregnant and we had one the old fashioned way.

 After I expressed my issues with the church, we had a baptism of my middle son and ordaining my oldest to deal with. It was harder and harder to be a non=believing father. My oldest was inquisitive and asked me a lot of questions about God that I no longer felt qualified to answer. I had more discussions with my wife about how to handle it and my increasing frustration. That made the marriage harder and harder as my wife demanded that I stop creating a bad environment. There came one point when I figured that I was so disruptive that I had better leave. We came to an agreement. My wife would listen so that she could respect my views and that I would talk to her about how I answered the children. I just wanted to be heard and have just a little respect on my views. Not much. I don’t need much. After a few more discussions, I read 2 Nephi 5 to DW about our children being cursed. She was clearly, loudly angry at me for pointing out that our children that we loved more than anything, were disfavored by God. We also had an issue with my oldest, the black child, at church. He was consistently, routinely being bullied at church. Several children were involved and we had made repeated complaints to the Bishopric about it. I was unsure if it was racial. I feel it was more an issue with his being passive and frankly, a darn good kid.

I had also had a few discussions with the bishop, a personal friend of mine, that he was not to ask my children ANY questions of a sexual nature. NONE. My wife was shocked when I told her that every bishop I ever had had asked me about masturbation. I felt that was psychologically damaging and I wasn’t going to put my children through what I went through. I was also highly annoyed by the YM emphasis on missions. I didn’t feel my oldest had the personality to survive a mission. Only a few years before did I finally tell my wife how much I hated mine.

 On Easter, I was home from church tending my youngest who was ill. My wife came home and went into the kitchen and started crying. The bishop’s wife, my oldest’ teacher, had expressed to DW that she essentially didn’t believe us about the bullying. She couldn’t subject our child to 6 more years of abuse from members of the church. She couldn’t let my daughter learn her “proper place” that the church would teach her. She couldn’t handle the stress that she felt for 27 years trying to be perfect. We were out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

10. Turn The Page

I’ve mostly come to terms with all of the changes that have happened in my life the past few years. It honestly has been very enlightening and gut-wrenching at the same time. One additional change that I don’t think I have mentioned yet, is that I’ve evidently tried to purge my life of additional sources of conflict. I used to be a regular listener of talk radio. I found that I rarely consider it an option any longer and seem to have slipped into being apolitical compared to what I was. During my reinvestigation of the church, I found I was listening to podcast after podcast of all things LDS trying to determine what underlying truth there may be. On a few occasions, I listened to talk radio on my way home from work and I got myself worked up to the point where I had to turn it off. I just no longer wanted that in my life.
I also found that I didn’t have a lot in the hobby department to fall back on. The last decade was reading and debating and learning religion and other ideas. How in the world had I missed out on some of those things that I enjoy? That isn’t to say that I didn’t get things. I bought a nice TV. A nice stereo (but not nearly as loud as the one it replaced) and PS3 rounded out some of my entertainment options. I did watch a lot of movies. I became interested in Bollywood because I like the costumes and Indian culture as a whole. Still, the majority of my time seemed a bit obsessed about religion. I figure it was my striving to find order and structure amidst the chaos that I really found mentally. I spent nights staring at the walls at night trying to figure out the bigger things in life. Little did I realize that those things I was wrestling with were really just my own internal war.
I have lots of books. Even the religious ones still hold some interest to me, but it is greatly reduced. On a trip to Utah I stopped at the Krishna temple there in Spanish Fork. I picked up a few t-shirts for Tracy and some books for me. The ones I purchased were small books that combined were called “Krishna” which spoke on some of the highlights of the gods’ life. At one point in my struggles I was reading a section in the book where it spoke about Krishna having multiple incarnations along with his wife and they numbered about 15000 different households. I tossed the book away from me because of it’s pure ridiculousness. I didn’t want to believe in a ridiculous religion. I wanted a religion that was rational, that made sense, not just internally, but within the world. I learned a lot about what I was looking for that night. I’m sorry if I put it in those terms, but that is what I felt.
So I am trying to build up interest in those things that I was interested in before the internet overtook my learning. I have two volumes of Sherlock Holmes that my Mother In Law gave me as a gift, and several hundred other books I inherited when she passed on.  I have books of essays, history, railroading and military interest. I want to become a better writer so I started to read letters from the best writers, Thomas Jefferson and perhaps some Shakespeare. This world is filled with interesting things and interesting people. There is no end to what I can learn. I hope this isn’t just self directed. I want to become closer to the people that matter to me, engage them in thought and find out what they enjoy, and what makes life enjoyable. I want to travel a bit more, spend time with Tracy and do those things that I loved about her when we first wed.
It really is a wonderful life, one that doesn’t have to be filled with endless self-judging and engaged in meaningless contemplation. I want to do, dream, love and fill and be filled with happiness. It has been a rough ten years. I want it to change and I want to change myself.
As part of this introductory section on my own journey, I’ve taken lyrics, scriptures as titles. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to do that, but I do find that rather fun to do. I called this last piece, “Turn The Page” which is a recurring theme in some of Rush’s music. They actually have a song entitled “Turn The Page” and I found it very comforting while preparing to go to BYU, right off my mission. I had to move on from that pain, hurt and confusion that I felt and turn the page to the next part of my life. I feel that once again I have to do that so the song is once again appropriate, although for a different reason.
Truth is after all a moving target
Hairs to split, and pieces that don’t fit.
How can anybody be enlightened?
Truth is, after all, so poorly lit.
It’s just the age
It’s just a stage
We disengage
We turn the page

Saturday, September 8, 2012

9. Better Now

My discussions with my wife concerning my disaffection with the church are a private issue. My biggest fear was that she would not understand and demand a divorce. I love her more than anything else, more than the church, God, my own life. The feeling that she might not feel the same wasn't a comfortable one. While she was understanding, I can completely understand the difficulty that she had coming to terms with this. She looks at church differently than I do.

I did have a few moments of despair feeling that I couldn't possibly be a good parent without being a priesthood holder, etc. My views of fatherhood were all tied up in church goals and teachings. Quite frankly, I was shocked by how strong those feelings were.

I didn't have much anger. It was more frustration. The church had been kind to me in many regards. I was trained in their schools. I had found my wife there, my kids were facilitated through church programs. Many of the best times of my life were due to the church or the people there. The church was my biggest hobby. I will be eternally grateful for all that it did for me.

But it isn't "true". It has some wonderful people, many of the best friends a person could have.

Do I think the teachings of the church are harmful? To a degree. My teenage years were screwed up enough and my pursuit of perfection was somewhat damaging. I probably wouldn't have gone through the depression I had during the mission years. Those were horrible and I wish I had them back. I feel the need to teach my children, or rather, unteach them some of the things they learn in church. I'm afraid this will set them at odds, the same way it did me. I mean, do I lie to them if they ask me my opinion of something? I think many long talks with my wife are ahead of me. I don't want my daughter to feel like she needs a man to complete her or  that she needs a man at all. I think anything about submissiveness is probably bad.

I'm sure I'll have more later, but I'm through with that list for now.

I do find I am having trouble finding something to replace this. I have trouble finding much joy in the things I normally do. I don't think I'm depressed, as I know full well what that feels like. I'm just finding myself again, and I'm enjoying the trip.

Friday, August 31, 2012

8. I Have Nothing Left

I'll be writing about some things here that some may not want to read. It will change the view you have of the church, even if you still believe in it, unless you just don't believe me. That's okay too.

My re-investigation of the church took several years. I'd been doing quite a bit all along. I wish I told my wife about it during the time, but somethings are learned the hard way. I doubt she would have approved anyway. As I've written before, I have always had some problems with the church. There are a few things that kept me engaged. One is my feeling that the Book of Mormon was a strong testimony of Christ, even though I really wouldn't have recommended it to many as a good read. Second, the dream I had during my mission to "Stay". While I have never felt that it was a testimony of the truth claims of the church, I did have a feeling that God was aware of me. (My bishop once suggested it was a testimony of the truth of the church. I couldn't disagree more. I didn't get a testimony of the church, but a direction for my life to immediately take.) The third was the night I proposed to my future wife. It was a very strange experience, and one I can consider as a rush of endorphins or adrenalin if I chose to.

So, I knew what that feeling was like, the one LDS attribute to the Holy Ghost. I made a careful note of when they occurred. I also made note of when my mind did little things to alert me to something. Quite regularly, my mind plays tricks on me, like putting the sound of my cell phone in my head to wake me up, for no apparent reason. It seemed that those feelings were distributed throughout my day. I would feel the "spirit" at inappropriate times. I could feel it at church, on the road, and my most consistent was during the start of "For Those About To Rock" by AC/DC. If those feelings were just my own emotions or the "spirit" and I couldn't distinguish, then it wasn't a good source for determining objective truth. Next I had to test other issues. One of the first was that I stopped paying tithing. I was told and have told others that tithing would bring blessings. It has for me, but not directly. Because I was a tithe payer, I could use the church agencies for our adoptions and I could attend the temple. I found peace at the temple, but also frustration which I will go into later. After not paying for some time, all I found was that I was blessed with more money. I felt free to buy what I've wanted for so long, a motorcycle. If tithing brings blessings, then it should be falsifiable. I didn't feel any different after a year. Yes, I should have talked to my wife about it, but then I probably wouldn't have been able to test it. Mixed feelings on that.

I did start listening to Mormon Stories podcasts. I have listened to many of the previously, but I paid more attention to them this time. I tried to stay away from the apologetics this time, because many of them were merely ad hominem attacks against the critics. For example, Grant Palmer was roundly attacked on the boards many years previous because he wrote an "anti" book while working for CES. Well, his interview with John Dehlin was particularly interesting. I didn't care for the man, but I cared about what he said. Many of the things he said I knew from my studies, but I never took them to a logical conclusion. The big issue I had was with polygamy that Joseph practiced. I knew he did it in secret. I knew that he married girls as young as 14. I knew he promised Eternal Life to those who agreed. I knew he married other men's wives. However, I loved his writings. I never put it together that if my bishop ever tried to do this, I would call it abusive, an abuse of authority and felonious. I put what I knew in context to what I would do if this was asked of me now. I wouldn't put up with it. I knew that what William Law published in the Expositor was truthful, that Joseph reacted like a man caught in the act. I knew this for over a decade. I didn't pursue it then because it would be emotionally harmful if I took it to the conclusion it demanded.

While some of these things were new to me, many items weren't and are undisputed by the apologists. We know Joseph did these things. It is well researched and is well attested. The only apologetic answer is that some of these women had spiritual confirmation. Well, some didn't, and rejected Joseph's advances and the church has taken after them. I also read long and hard all of section 132. I have always known that it speaks harshly to Emma. By this time though, my own feminism had come back strong and I just couldn't bear it. Emma was treated too harshly. Also, women are treated as objects to be handed to the faithful. (Joseph was a liar and a horrible husband to Emma exampled how he treated her. He lied about his marriages and closed down the Relief Society when she became a problem to his trysts.) Women are not things that can be traded for good behavior. I don't want to worship a god that treats them so. There is a reason why the last verses of Section 132 are never studied in the church. It is misogynist. I wouldn't want my wife, my friends, my daughter treated as this section describes.

I also contemplated the situation of a close friend. I knew what the promises and curses that were associated with leaving the church. I couldn't bear having this happen to her. I knew she loved her husband and any god that would be so vengeful on a couple, to separate them eternally, because the movings of the spirit are so vague, so subjective... It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. The logic of Doctrine and Covenants 76 was starting to fall apart for me. I found it hard to justify the magic spells that we utter in our chapels and temples as binding of anything. They were words. These are people. They shouldn't be reduced to uttering a few words and towing the line. Obedience started losing it's power over me. Why be in subjugation to men because of their station? One of my random writings started taking apart the priesthood, if it had any power or significance. The things that I once viewed as miracles had disappeared as I gained more experience in the world. If the priesthood held no power, discernible power, then of what use was it? It had been a stumbling block throughout my church experience. We talk about the priesthood being the power that created the worlds. Well, the Krishna's have an analog, and I view that as so much empty words too. Why give these words more power than is demonstrable?

As an aside, as my friend had related her status, I had quite a hard time with the concept on raising my children outside of the church. I had more than a few moments of panic. Of course, billions of children are being raised outside of the church, but this is one of those moments when you realize your thinking has been affected. I have never been a fan of the church's youth program, yet here I was despairing at the thought of not raising them in it. I had this and other thoughts that surprised me in that I actually had them. I found that very educational in what had happened to me, and any indoctrination that I have had.

I still had not found anything other than emotional justification to the Atonement. It was time I be honest with myself. I appreciate Jesus' teachings, but I couldn't find any reason other than an emotional reason to believe in the atonement. I know that shows how faithless I had become, but I was always borderline anyway.

The temple. It was my most beloved institution. I was a temple worker for many years. I had built up many various reasons on why the endowment was the way it was. I always had known it was "borrowed" by JS from the masons. I had looked at many sources that seemed to be ancient descriptions of something similar to the endowment. I had reasons to believe why some things were the way they were. I listened to a Mormon Expressions podcast, several hours, where a mason described what was taken and from where. Much of the endowment was borrowed from an 18th century ceremony instituted by the masons. The blood oaths....why they didn't sicken and repel me when I did my endowments in the '80s, I'll never know. I guess I had too much invested in the church to become disturbed by it. I mean, when I realized that "cupping" was to hold our entrails after we symbolically killed ourselves....that was it. Done. Temple is done for me. If I ever return to it, that will need to be explained away. (BTW, this was more clear in previous versions of the endowment.)

I didn't spend much time on the problems of the Book of Abraham. I never spent any time to criticism of it before even though I knew that JS had gotten the translation wrong on all counts. I like the Book of Abraham (much stolen from masonry) but it isn't a translation. JS clearly proved himself a fraud in being a translator. If that was a fraud, then the Book of Mormon could be a fraud.

My tipping point on the Book of Mormon came from what I already knew of biblical scholarship. Some of the writings of Isaiah simply weren't written by the time Lehi left Jerusalem. Moroni was a rip-off of Paul. I couldn't understand why all the time spent on useless items were engraved on plates. It was quite possible that none of the witnesses actually saw any physical, uncovered plates. The lost 116 pages showed JS's desperation at not being able to rewrite the story. The explanation in the D&C always appeared forced and simple analysis would have shown how silly it was. JS also kept playing Martin Harris, promising to pay for half of the printing and a later revelation made him, Martin Harris pay the entire cost. How convenient. The same trick was played in Nauvoo. "Stop building the temple, Joseph needs his house finished first."

The first vision as we know it was probably lifted from a boy JS visited in Kirtland, at a time when his authority was questioned. The previous versions were significantly different and seemed to be structured towards a con. The restoration of the M. Priesthood was announced years after the fact, again at a time when authority was questioned. (See chapter 7 on this link) It just felt like a con and I had to ask myself, if I would be a member of this church, knowing this now, as a convert. The answer was a simple "No." There are too many questions, history is not clear. The reason I was in it now is because I love my family. I love my family more than anything else. My family is in the church. I no longer believe in it, but I believe in my family.

I had to completely disassemble my faith before I came to any conclusion. Once I reached it, I had the pain of talking to my wife. Many who left the church had their families break up. I would hope my wife loved me more than that.

If the workings of the spirit really are what the LDS Church claims, then I can say, while I was at work one day toiling away mentally on all of this, was struggling coming to terms with all that I knew and debated internally, I asked myself how I can continue believing it. My family, my life was tied into this church and how can I keep belief going with what my study has presented to me, what I think is the truth. I had some words voice themselves in my mind..."You don't have to believe it." If I was to put this to the test in the LDS paradigm, I believe it would pass. I felt an extreme burden lifted off my mind. I didn't need to struggle between two propositions. I could come to the conclusion that the LDS Church isn't what it claimed to be, and that it was alright. I have felt more at peace with my decision. If this was the Lord answering my prayers, then it took me some time to realize it. If it wasn't, then I can still be at peace. I don't need to struggle with this any longer. I wish it was easier, as other issues started coming forward...

Evanescence - Lost in Paradise

I've been denying this feeling of hopelessness
In me, in me

All the promises I made
Just to let you down
You believed in me, but I'm broken

I have nothing left
And all I feel is this cruel wanting

We've been falling for all this time
And now I'm lost in paradise

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

7. Force 10

Facebook Happened. I am not sure how else to put it. I found people that I had been looking for for the last twenty some years. Some were high school classmates, some were from college.

I found the companion on my mission that had the biggest affect on me. I found the girl that I knew from my favorite area whose family helped me overcome my longing to feel normal, wanted and appreciated. She had such an impression on me that I named my daughter after her. I had written a heart-felt letter to her, to try and express how much her friendship had meant to me. I took a trip out East and tried to get in touch with her but our schedules didn't mesh.

The biggest effect was it opened up emotions, feelings that I had held down for so long. I guess it was a life changing moment, facing all these memories, embracing them.

I was at the farm on vacation and I was using the facebook app on my phone, checking my feed and a friend had posted something....and in the comments section was a comment from from my old girlfriend. The rush of emotion hit me like a 2x4 aside the head. There were a few people that I had determined I would have to wait to the afterlife to let them know all that they had done for me, how they had changed my life. Most I had found and let them know. Here was the woman that changed my life the most (aside from my wife), although she probably didn't know it. Her leaving made me change the person I was, to claw my way out of depression with the resolve to be a better person, to never treat anyone like that again; never to treat myself like that again. The need of forgiveness, to talk to the first person I ever opened up to, to be honest with myself, her, my wife...It all struck me with a wave of desperation, wanting. I can't speak to how detached I became from everyone or everything at that point. My life was at a moment of change, and I could feel it. I felt so vulnerable, alone, yet my chance to make my life right, to let go of the burden I had carried so long. How painful it was!

I can't remember how long I ruminated over what I should do. I was besides myself. I wanted to do what was right, and make sure I wanted to do this for the right reasons. How long I wanted to talk to her, to ask her to forgive me for how I had acted, that my life was different and how much it had changed my life. I was still ashamed at what I had done. I had to overcome my pride. I needed to!

One day, on the way home from work, I broke down, crying. I pulled off the road and I needed to get this out of my system. I needed to let her know how sorry I was. I still thought she was mad at me, which is probably silly after such a long time. It was horrible to think that my one-time best friend was mad at me for so long.  Still, it was my most important relationship I had had to that point in my life, and I failed miserably at it. It was unbelievable how much this had affected me, how deep I drove this down because it was so raw. Was my life to this point so empty? Had I been dishonest with my wife? Would she understand? Where will my life be after I let this go?

I composed myself sometime later and wrote a note to our mutual friend. I didn't want this to be misinterpreted. I figured I could ease into this. I'm not sure if anyone really knew how tortured I had been because of this. I opened communication with her, with my wife's knowledge, and I hope that we are continuing a good friendship. I was actually giddy just because of the burden that had been removed from my soul.

It opened a tsunami of other things though. I opened up with the difficulties of my mission. My struggles with the church became more pronounced. My musings on the nature of sin took center stage, because of what I went through I couldn't attribute to Christ, and if we have eternity to forgive each other, why was the atonement needed? Why can't God do what we do every day, meaning, forgive each other? I spoke with my friends, my wife, the internet...I needed to see why the atonement was really necessary, and I wasn't getting an answer. I knew what the scriptures said, but I needed something real, not just conceptual. Since I wanted to become a better writer, I took to several exercises like free form writing. In one exercise, I decided to write those things that I never before gave any voice to. It shocked me the concerns, and thoughts I had. A close friend had confided in me with her church status, and it was someone that I couldn't dismiss. Dismiss is the word I purposefully use. I had dismissed my other friends who had left, and the bitterness that they felt. I couldn't dismiss this friend. She was important to me. I wanted her in my life, in whatever level, and my friendship wasn't founded in church status.

I had asked my High Priest Group Leader to be released from any teaching assignments, as I didn't want my views to bother any others, and I felt that it had affected a few of my friends there. I spoke with the bishop and was "dismissed" by him but he agreed that I shouldn't have teaching assignments. I studied, and I did not read any "anti-LDS" materials at this point. LDS sources were troubling enough. In one post on a board, the writer mentioned that we preference our sources. If the sources were correct, what difference does it matter the point of view of the author? I had read "Rough Stone Rolling" and that practically admitted that Joseph Smith was guilty of adultery and that was written by an LDS historian. I decided I wasn't going to preference my thinking. Besides, I needed my rest. My working through this was keeping me up at night, and it was having a bad effect on my relationships.

Monday, August 27, 2012

6. Unwell

I read more and more trying to come to terms with the questions that I had. Some questions I didn't even have the vocabulary for. For my entire career as a christian, I never really did figure out what it meant that "Jesus died for me". I had an emotional response to that. I know that. As I matured in my beliefs I couldn't quite put a finger on what it really meant. I know it meant something because it was the reason I clung to what little faith I had. It had to be more than just the emotion, didn't it?

I read books. Lots of diverse books. I had the emotion, but the rational side of me needed justification. It had to be something other than the feelings. I knew that religion brought out the best and worst of people. I think it brought out the best in me. And lest someone question, I still do think that the theology of the LDS Church is superior than that of the rest of Christianity. My faith in scripture had eroded substantially. The Book of Mormon simply put me off as time went on. The writing was poor and the storyline became more difficult to rationalize. My own beliefs in the scientific method and my own sense of reality had already pushed the Old Testament into nothing but mythology. I found great wisdom in the story of Adam and Eve but I didn't believe that Adam actually existed (but this didn't lead to my discarding the revelations of JS, oddly). I doubt Moses existed and viewed the Pentateuch as more of a tribal history than anything that actually happened. The morality of the OT, the genocide, killing of all but virgins, and the God presented was certainly not something I found worthy of worship. Isaiah still held my interest but very little else did. It seemed more and more the sacrifice of Jesus seemed tied to the killing of animals in the temple. If killing animals couldn't cleans sin, why then would human sacrifice do it? It is only the  scale of it that gave it meaning, and that seemed to be what the BoM was telling me too.

My faith in the New Testament was put into question by "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" by Bart Ehrman. He showed by scholarship how much the scriptures had been manipulated (His study eventually led to his leaving the faith). I also found that the High Christology presented in the NT was of a much later edit and that was a problem with the BoM as the Christology was way too high for the jews of the pre-exile period. The more I read the more the BoM presented itself as a post 6th century document. Even the defenders had issues with it. More and more of my friends on the boards were leaving the church. Little did I realize that if you are an apologist, you are already in stage 4 of Fowler and the cognitive dissonance is manifesting itself. Some sort of resolution needs to be made and most leave the church in order to calm themselves of the conflict. But all that is what I accepted later. At the time, I just wished them well.

Sometime after our adoption of our children from Guatemala (2006), I was turned on to a man named Blake Ostler. His books were incredibly educational. While most of it went over my head, I found some comfort in the philosophical musings on LDS thought. The second book, "The Problems of Theism and the Love of God" was a flood of ideas, language and an epiphany on my thoughts on the atonement. Here was what I was wrestling with, but I didn't have the words. Literally, I didn't have the words. (punny, that). My conflicts were there expressed. My difficulty was made manifest. My Review. I must have tired my wife to no end as I tried to sort out my emotions, excitement, and the theory of the Atonement that Ostler presented. It provided some solace, but eventually, it wasn't enough.

Ostler presented an idea that the atonement was best modeled after the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that the pain of the atonement was based on his resolve, his hope to build a more intimate relationship with us, as the father did in the Prodigal. Forgiveness is pain. It isn't that Sin is pain, but forgiveness is. That is how the Atonement is devoid of time restrictions. That pain transcends time. This did leave an issue with what Sin really consisted of, and eventually that is what I found as being the weakness of the theory. He, Ostler, needed Sin to be meaningful, so he constructed a meaning. I saw it for what it was, a construct for what he needed to shoehorn it into the scriptural record. I soon became disconsolate again.

Then Facebook Happened.