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