However, I feel it necessary to tell you of my own experiences and hope that you post it for others to read. My parents converted to the church when I was five. My younger brother and I were both baptized when we were eight years old. I went through the regular routine that we all did as kids. I was called to be president of all three Aaronic Priesthood Quorums. I was a seminary student and received the Outstanding Seminary Student Award for four years straight. Having always done quite well in school, I had the desire to pursue medicine as a career. I, therefore, left to attend Harvard University after my senior year in high school. Although many people speak out against a young Mormon boy attending any other school than BYU, I felt that the preparation I would receive at the world's greatest academic institution would help me to make a greater contribution to the world as a future physician. Anyway, when I was 19, I reluctantly put my education on hold to serve a mission. I was really discouraged to leave since I had a girlfriend at the time and she wasn't Mormon. I left to please my parents, although I never had a really strong testimony of the Gospel. When I entered the MTC [the Mormon run Missionary Training Center] in 1991, I was completely blown away. The rigid structure of things made me crazy at first. Like many others whose stories I have read about, I felt as if my faith was lacking since I didn't feel the way many of the other Utah and Idaho farm boys felt about the church. I thought I was going to die at times. In the MTC, my girlfriend stopped writing me. I tried to hide this fact from the other missionaries whose girlfriends wrote on a bi- or tri-weekly basis. I stuck it out and cried silently in the bathroom at night (the only place I could get away from my companion). I continued to write to her, as I normally did, and also wrote to my parents explaining to them the difficulty of my situation. I did not have a strong testimony of Joseph Smith, nor did I know that the Book of Mormon was true. Anyways, I stuck it out and "endured till the end."
When it came time for me to leave, I felt great that my mission was finally here. I hated the MTC, as many of my companions did, and felt that things would change in the field. At first, things were incredibly difficult. My girlfriend sent me back everything I gave her and said she couldn't bear waiting two years for me. I hated my mission (Osaka, Japan), and the people who rejected us like the plague. But I stuck through it because I loved the Lord, and I knew that I wanted these people to know about Him. I realized that baptisms would not come easily in this 99% Buddhist society, so I focused upon service work. We visited elderly homes, helped farmers plant rice, cleaned local storm drains, etc. I began to love what I was doing, namely, helping others. While preaching the gospel was still my main concern, I knew that service was immediate and that setting an example was more powerful than preaching "fire and brimstone."
I left my mission with good feelings about what I had done. I did not baptize a single soul while I was in Japan. However, I handed out over 1000 copies of the Book of Mormon, blessed the sick, and knocked on thousands of doors (our only means of proselyting since members could not refer us to others in fears of jeopardizing their business relationships).
When I returned to Harvard in 1993, I was very active in the singles' ward activities. I was called to the Sunday School Presidency and was assigned to be the President of the LDSSA. However, the belief that could never escape me was the close-mindedness of the LDS members. I see this especially in reading some the responses to your web-page by members of the church. I couldn't bear the fact that all of my friends were going to be left out of exaltation because they did not go through the repetitions that I did. Many, if not most of the missionaries I encountered on my mission were doing it to "put in their time." This kind of bothered me while I was there. I sincerely believed in what I was doing. I was not doing it so that I could go home and score women at BYU. I was not doing it for my parents who love me regardless of what I do. I was doing it because I felt that the Lord wanted me to do it.
To make a long story short, I stopped going to church exactly a year after I returned from my mission. I could not bear to waste my time with people who regard themselves as superior and self-righteous. Jesus said, "by their fruits, yea shall know them." I did not see any fruits in most of the Mormons I knew, nor did I want to live like them anymore.
Unlike what many may think, I did not make my decisions because I committed some egregious and unpardonable sin. I continue to like the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, and read the Book of Mormon and Bible on a daily basis. I do, however, believe in reason and the fact that the Mormon Church puts this aside really bothers me. Furthermore, the fact that many people in the Church exploit their callings my taking power-trips by stating that their word is the word of god also bothers me. In general, I consider myself a Christian who respects all that is good in the Mormon church, but fails to see results in its members. I feel bad for all those who have been persecuted by Mormons, for I know that I does go on. My parents have been subject to the maladies of gossip that takes place in every ward. My father believes that all humans are imperfect, but that should not discredit the church. I agree!! However, why should I continue to go to church when I feel sick in my stomach to see young adults treating Sacrament Meeting as a meat-market.
I continue to pray daily and strive to draw nearer to god. I want to live a life like the Savior did by healing the sick and afflicted as a physician. I find it impossible to believe that my confusion and disdain for the church puts me in disfavor with the Lord, for I am only trying to live a live like He did. I continue to strive to set a good example, and serve others like I did on my mission. If the fact that I wish to spend Sundays on the beach reflecting on the teachings of the Savior, rather than in church trying to meet girls, or catching up on the latest gossip, condemns me in the next life, than I guess I'd rather not be in whatever place the members imagine heaven to be.
I do believe that Salvation is your own. I have made it my own quest. I know God lives and Jesus is my Savior. I don't need anyone telling me how I should practice this belief. Maybe someday I'll go back to church.. or maybe I won't. I will, however, always have my memories of the good and bad that I have been subjected to as a Mormon, and no one can ever take that from me.
Note: Not all Mormons are as described. I have met many good people in the church, who I feel are good people by nature as are the multitudes of jerks I've come across. They, like myself, do not need a church to live a Christ- like life.