I started having the lessons (six discussions) and attending sacrament meetings. I really struggled with the discussions and had many of them several times. I was not convinced that Joseph Smith was a prophet and I did not believe the Book of Mormon. I told the missionaries I followed the instructions of Moroni as suggested in Moroni 10:3-5 but I did not receive any answer one way or the other. They told me I needed to pray more and to be sincere. I felt embarrassed that they were telling me I was not sincere in my prayers because the Book of Mormon was true and I could know. I prayed some more and still nothing.
I told the missionaries that I did not want to be baptized. They were relentless; they phoned every day, they showed up at the dorm and at school. I was really feeling pressured but continued to tell them I did not know the church was true, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that the Book of Mormon was true. Again I had the six discussions. I told them that since they believe that people are taught the gospel on the other side after they die that I would wait and be taught on the other side rather than join now. They said, "But you have already been taught the gospel and you will not have another opportunity to be taught, and therefore you will not be granted the fullest blessings of eternity."
I was buckling to the pressure. I had also met a Mormon family that took me under their wing, they were loving and kind, and I experienced family like I had not known before. I thought, well if they are Mormon, maybe it's okay. Besides I don't want to not get to the Celestial Kingdom since I'd now been taught the gospel. So I joined the Church as an insurance policy; I was afraid not to. Back then I felt trapped; today I call it manipulation.
After baptism I continued to ask questions and of course continued to study the Mormon religion. I was curious about the teaching that said some people were more valiant than others in the pre-existence and therefore were born into better life experiences. They used underdeveloped countries as their example of the less valiant. Without telling the missionaries the circumstances of my birth I asked them about illegitimate orphans. They said that orphans were less valiant in the pre-existence. They were not born into homes where they would have parents and it was because of how they lived in the pre-existence.
I felt sick to my stomach. I knew that if I had been taught that belief before baptism I would never have joined the church. Now that I was a member I figured that if I became the very best Mormon I could be I would win God's favour and He would forgive me for being less valiant in the pre-existence. I hoped I could clean the slate for I never wanted to come face to face with God and feel His disappointment because I had been less valiant in the pre-existence. I was always afraid to ask if God had forgiven me for what I had done in the pre-existence and how I could ask for forgiveness when I didn't know what it was I did. Or was I suppose to be asking for forgiveness for not being valiant but valiant in what? How could I know? So I just kept trying to be a good Mormon.
After graduation I moved to Salt Lake City and worked at Primary Children's Hospital. I thought maybe moving to "Zion" would help me live a better Mormon life. I continued to struggle with my beliefs but went to church and kept hoping that someday I would KNOW the church was true like every other Mormon. I lived the letter of the law, even bore my testimony but felt within myself the Church was not true. The stigma I felt because of having been born an illegitimate orphan for being less valiant always haunted me. I "played the game" even to getting my endowment and trying to earn every brownie point I could. I was still trying to make up for not being valiant.
I met my husband in SLC when he was a student at the University of Utah. He joined the church and we were married and sealed. We both had questions and concerns about the church but continued to be active members and our daughter was born in the covenant.
We lost our first baby when I was four months pregnant and it would be another five years before our daughter was born. I never told a soul but secretly I believed that maybe God didn't want me to have children because of my not being valiant in the pre-existence. Anyway, one beautiful October morning in Salt Lake City my husband and a friend of ours who happened to be a General Authority gave me a blessing. The GA ended the blessing with, "May the baby be normal and healthy." And yes we had our daughter. For the first time I thought maybe God had indeed forgiven me for my behaviour in the pre-existence.
But we still had questions about the church. We could not accept the doctrine of polygamy or the doctrine that African Americans could not be members of God's church. These two beliefs were abhorrent to us. What was upsetting to us was that we did not discover/learn these doctrines until after we had been baptized. When we asked questions about these doctrines and asked why we were not taught these prior to baptism we got the usual rationale that "milk before meat" is needed which to us now translates, the Mormon Church controls what they want you to know. We believe that as investigators had we known just these two doctrines we would never have joined the church.
We are ashamed that we could ever have belonged to a church that taught and practiced something as heinous as racism and polygamy. We wonder now why we allowed ourselves to remain in the church as long as we did but the important thing is that we never condoned polygamy or the racist attitude and doctrine even when we found out about it. We wish we had had the courage to leave the moment we discovered that doctrine. The turning point for us came when our daughter was three. We could not bring her up in a church that had doctrine that was against any sense of decency when it came to the doctrine about Blacks and polygamy and we were not going to teach those beliefs to our daughter nor were we going to allow the church to teach them to her. We had to make a decision and we knew we could no longer in good conscience remain members of a church that practiced and condoned such mistreatment to any of God's children.
It has been nineteen years since we attended the Mormon Church and we have no regrets. We didn't leave the church because of sin in our lives; we left because we could no longer believe, support, or condone the doctrine, the policies, and the practices of the Mormon Church.
Our lives have been full and rewarding contrary to what the Church teaches about all the bad things that will happen if a member leaves the Church. Our daughter was three when we left the Church but we have never kept that part of our lives from her; we have been honest and open with her. You don't have to be a Mormon to teach a child right from wrong, teach a child unconditional love, teach a child honesty, self-respect, and respect for others. She is now a mature, wonderful, caring, intelligent woman and is married to a kind, sensitive, intelligent man. They take personal responsibility for their choices and behaviours and they are a credit to the planet.
My husband and I left the church together but I had more fear and more guilt about leaving that was related to what I had been taught about my being less valiant in the pre-existence and because of the special blessing to have our daughter.
How does one recover from the indoctrination of the Mormon Church? Learning to trust again was the first essential step for me in my recovery.
What was difficult was trying to figure out who was trustworthy. I mean, how do you figure it out, i.e. who is, who isn't? I look back now and see how many times I blindly trusted. Over and over as Mormons we are told to "Trust the brethren," and how many times I stuffed my doubts and my questions - kept right on trusting. After all the brethren were chosen men of God and surely God only wanted was best for me.
Well trust is like respect, it is earned and it is deserved. Once I discovered "Mormongate" I had to decide what I was going to do about the lies, the doctored doctrine, their historical cover-up. So it became necessary for me that trust was the first step. I had to begin trusting myself, trust that I had the right to find my own answers. Did I want my answers or was I going to allow the brethren to placate my doubts, my need for answers?
I had allowed the Church to control my life so the first step for me was taking control of my own life, trusting myself. It was a scary proposition considering most of my choices up to that point were usually made to please the Church, win approval, and get brownie points that would take me right into the Celestial Kingdom.
Today the best brownie points are from myself, knowing I have intrinsic worth and value without needing the approval of the Mormon Church. I am allowed to find my own answers. Recovery begins with one step.
Has it been easy? - No.
Has it been worth it? - Yes.
I have chosen not to follow any other religion since I left the Mormon Church. My code of conduct today is quite simplistic, I never have the right to hurt another human being. The question I ask myself with each new day is, do I have a good heart and do I do what I do in love and with compassion?
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