Date: December 14, 2017 10:00AM
I know that most people don't read this part of the board, but since submitting my resignation, I've been thinking more and more that I will probably be leaving all things LDS behind in the not-too-distant future. I'd like to put my conversion and eventual exit story into writing while it's still a thing I think about.
I joined the church during my first year of college. It was around this time of year (winter) and just thinking back on it makes me feel nostalgic. Despite my current feelings about the church, I genuinely felt optimistic and at home when I joined the church. My parents had just gotten a divorce and I was feeling lost in the world. The church gave me friends, structure, hell...even a dress code! While I LIKED the Book of Mormon (I still like the idea of it, even if it isn't actually scripture) and liked the watered down version of LDS doctrine the missionaries presented, but I want to let you all in on a secret: I joined to impress a girl. The love of my life was a devout Mormon and was very supportive of my decision to join. She was also VERY MUCH not into me as anything more than a friend. I knew that, but got dunked anyway. Though I joined for her, I quickly fell in love with the church. I loved the people, the global community, the doctrines (or at least the ones that they tell new converts about), everything. I was all in. Even though I have absolutely no love for the church now, I do look back fondly on my first few months as a member - walking to class listening to LDS "hype" music while I walked to class in the snow, hanging out with the missionaries, feeling like "one of the guys" in priesthood, etc.
It didn't take too long before I started reading about LDS doctrines that troubled me - God was once a man with a god over Him, people becoming gods after death, the Pearl of Great Price, and others that I honestly can't remember well enough to list fully. I was able to rationalize all of these and moved on. I knew that even if the church's teachings on some of these things was incorrect, God knew my heart. Many Christians would tell me that I should have left then and there, but I was enjoying myself too much. Respected members of my community wanted to spend time with me and respected me - or at least they seemed to.
To anyone considering joining the LDS church who might be reading this, let me pass this bit of advice: if you are an introvert and the idea of a mission doesn't thrill you, don't join the church when you are mission-aged. I am an introvert and PAINFULLY shy, a mission just isn't right for me and I knew that. I wanted to serve, but not necessarily by knocking on strangers' doors. Add in the fact that I was trying to focus on school (I thought that I wanted to transfer to BYU) and was helping my mom take care of my sick grandparents and things just didn't seem to be lining up for a mission. I prayed about it several times - each time, the answer just seemed to be no. I accepted this, and assumed that my ward family would understand this as well.
A lot of people here have church teachings that have caused them personal pain. Let me share mine: "every WORTHY young man should serve a mission." See, it's no mistake that they drop the "worthy" part in there - this gives them leverage over you. Now, no matter what reason you provide for not serving a mission, it becomes a worthiness/sin issue. I was naive to assume that the people in my ward knew me well enough to know that it wasn't a worthiness issue for me - I would be the exception! Besides, I spent most of my free time with the missionaries in our ward (we were the same age, they were my friends - it was great to hang out with them and I enjoyed helping them every now and then) that I thought they could see that I had a heart for service. Man was I wrong.
It started with the bishop's secretary scheduling a meeting for me (without asking) to meet with the bishop to start on my mission papers. I had no intention of serving a mission, but I also didn't want to let anyone down! I am an anxious person as it is, but this put me into overdrive! Finally, I worked up the courage and told the secretary where I stood, but made sure to let him know that I appreciated his interest in me and that I felt bad about possibly letting him down. I thought we left in a good place and went home feeling great.
Nope. Two weeks later, the missionaries came over to my house looking discouraged and a bit anxious. I asked them what was wrong. "Look, we probably shouldn't tell you this, but you are our friend and we don't feel good about it. Ward council is convinced that you aren't serving a mission because you are sinning and don't want to repent. We honestly tried to stick up for you and tell them that wasn't the case but they shot us down. They asked us to try to find out what it was, but we don't want to." I felt sick. I listened to my friends tell me about people I loved like brothers speculate what my sin of choice was. Word of Wisdom, Sabbath, weak testimony - the most painful was hearing that one of my closest friends in the ward said that the Spirit was testifying to him that I was a porn addict.
I went to church the next Sunday and was surrounded by fake smiles and phony friendship. I couldn't do it anymore - I left right after sacrament meeting, skipping Sunday School and Priesthood. That was the last time I was ever in an LDS building. On my way out the door, one of the old men in the ward that I typically chatted with between blocks asked me if I was feeling ok. I smiled and told him I was under the weather and needed to go home. "Well, don't be a stranger!" That was the last time I ever saw him. He died 5 years later, but our paths just never crossed again.
I decided to take a break from church - I'd use that time to get my head on right, learn more about the doctrines that I was struggling with, and either strengthen my testimony or move on. It wasn't long after that that I found this board - my life as a Mormon was never the same. As hard as everything I went through was on me, I felt comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only one - lots of good people on this board were hurt by the church, just like me. Other people had problems with the same teachings I had. While I still felt anxious, it was a comfort to know that I had found a community of people with similar experiences and feelings. I didn't know where I stood with the church, but I knew I was going to be alright and that this board was a rock I could lean on.
I guess my testimony was weak, because within a month I was attending Mass at local Catholic churches. This was around the time Pope John Paul II passed - the sadness I felt at his passing and the connection I felt to him was stronger than anything I felt in the LDS church. What followed was a 12 year on-and-off love bombing effort to try and get me back - the final chapter of which was when missionaries showed up at the door of my new home - I moved 4 years ago and never gave them a forwarding address. If they could find me after all that, I knew it was time to leave. I resigned in November.
Do you know what the most painful part of all of this was for me? The fact that after I left, not a single one of my "friends" from the ward ever reached out to me to try to talk. They always just sent the missionaries. They never called, wrote me a note, sent an e-mail, instant message, or Facebook post. Always just a visit from the missionaries. I would have done anything for them, but they apparently didn't think enough of me to even ask if I was ok.
Mormons like to talk about how people who leave their church do it because they want to sin or they are offended. Make no mistake, this is just to diminish the person's thoughts and feelings about anything that follows. My exit from the church did NOT start because I was offended. It started because I was absolutely crushed.
I know that from time to time Mormons read this board. If that is the case, let me offer this bit of advice: your obsession with worthiness and gossip is not only going to be your downfall, it is hurtful and damaging to the people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end.
It's been 12 years since my last LDS meeting. I wanted nothing more than to leave the church alone and be left alone in that time. The church had other ideas. I was content to just walk away and let them count me as a number, but they had to keep pushing. Who knew that a church I attended for a year and a half would keep stalking me after 12 years of no activity on my part? Only in Mormonism.