I will give you a little of my background, my conversion to Mormonism, my leaving the church, my re-baptism, and lastly, my searching out the facts. Personal experiences in the LDS Church have demonstrated to me both subtle, and overt forms of mental control. Searching out the facts has led me to witness one of the greatest cover-ups of all time. Searching out the facts has led me to this forum, and to the compassionate support of others who have had/are dealing with similar wounds. But I am also sensing some mental shifts in people in this group who are wanting to go beyond the support mode, into a mode of activism.
As I write about this part of my life, I do so with the desire that those who are contemplating joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; will read this story, along with countless others, and search out more than what the missionaries are presenting to you.
The presentation of the missionaries is one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever witnessed. The problem with their presentation, and a major reason why thousands and thousands of members have left the church; is that it is not complete. What is being presented and offered to you today, is very different than what it was at its inception. If what the missionaries are telling you feels good today, it will feel good six months from now, and it will feel good one year from now. When the missionaries challenge you to baptism, and a baptism date, take your time. Think of joining the church in much the same way you would enter into marriage. Take your time and search out other references. It takes time to sort out the facts you will find in your research, just as it takes time dating, and sorting out the one to whom you want to be married. Joining and being active in the church is much like being married. In fact, there are some in this group who have the opinion that the LDS church can become more important than marriage; if you let it.
I grew up in the Northeast, and I had a very strict upbringing. In my adolescence, I was very active in the American Baptist Church (more liberal theology than most Baptists, Martin Luther King was AB) and seriously considered the ministry. I can remember being in a sixth grade Sunday School class and wondering why Christ never came to this continent. By time I was a sophomore in high school, I knew all there was to know about religion; and became inactive. (Typical teen) Our minister (who had been on Iwo Jima with the marines) would come by, talk with the family, and let me know he cared and was interested in me. But he was old, and old people didn't have a clue.
I turned 18 my senior year in high school and registered for the draft.
Viet Nam was going very strong, and we could watch the news reports as we ate our evening meal. Everyone in our family, going back to the time of the Revolution, had served our country, so following tradition, I just thought it was my patriotic duty to do so. Deep down inside, I wanted to go into the Peace Corps and be a part of that humanitarian effort.
After high school graduation, I enlisted in the Navy, and ultimately became part of the amphibious forces. I volunteered for Viet Nam three times, and on the third time, my wishes were granted. I received my orders to a river boat squadron in Da Nang. Now I was really in a pickle, river boat squadrons typically ran 60-80% mortality rate for a tour of duty. I did not expect to come home, so I did the next best thing I could think of; I got married.
I was married on May 4, 1970, those of you old enough, will remember, that was the day of the Kent State massacre, when National Guard troops opened fire on students; killing four of them. By September, I was in Viet Nam. However, it was Nixon (thank his corrupt heart) who had changed the focus of the U.S. involvement. I was fixing river boats instead of riding them. Stationed on the West coast of Viet Nam, I saw enough action to know that I hate war. I will refer back to an incident later on in the story.
For some reason, I made it back to the states. We (my wife and I) traveled all over the U.S. and parts of Canada. We ran out of money in Utah, settled there and started a family. In 1975, I learned of some infidelities, and we separated for awhile. We talked; my wife did the tear thing, the promises and so forth, so we reconciled.
Right after that, we started taking the missionary (Seventies) discussions. I really liked what I heard, especially the part about a 10% divorce rate for those who marry in the temple. I focused on that part of the discussions more than any other. We had an 18 month old daughter, and she was a very significant part of my life. The thought of being together forever was very appealing to me. However, I had questions, specifically regarding Joseph Smith and the spirit world; pre- and after. I was told, "if this part is true, and you believe it, then the rest of it will come to you in the future. Just have faith, and it will be 'born' to you." Somewhere in here, the Seventies told stories of people who went their entire lives before they learned the completeness of the gospel. All I had to do was be patient. The Seventies were mature men and seemed very credible.
My wife and I were basically wined and dined (without the spirits).
Reading my journal tells of playing basketball with the men, people stopping by, bringing food, etc., etc. There was also some subtle peer pressure, like this entry in my journal dated Sunday, January 18, 1976.
"S.H. (my daughter) is feeling a little better and C.L. (my wife) is feeling lousy. L.C. (70) and his wife stopped by briefly this evening and she brought a bowl of soup. L.C. and L.N. (the other 70) had stopped by earlier saying that we wouldn't be able to meet at S....'s on Thursday and I told them that they could come here. I believe that S....'s think we are wasting everyone's time as she told C.L. and me that she and G... don't think we will be baptized." (This is the family that was sponsoring us) (Then there is an important entry) "At the Super Bowl in Miami, Pittsburgh beat Dallas in a good physical game 21-17." ;-)
On Sunday, February 22, 1976 I wrote:
"Yesterday I decided I would be baptized. Went to the Music Hall this morning with ..... and Ezra Taft Benson was the featured speaker....", so we joined Feb. 1976. They didn't waste any time in getting the baptismal font ready for us, because on February 25 we were baptized. My wife had decided to be baptized at the last moment.
I would ultimately become a priest, then elder, and in March, 1977, we were sealed in the SL temple with our two daughters. There were some entries about my home teaching partner wanting me to come to Salt Lake with him so he could show me something that was more "beautiful than I could imagine". Since he was involved with Amway, I kept putting him off. Then one day I had a new home teaching partner, and Hank, his wife and another couple, (he was a Bountiful policeman) were ex-communicated for polygamy. Then I knew it wasn't an Amway meeting he wanted to take me too, boy did I miss my chance. ;-)
I have an entry in June, 1978, and then my next entry is August 1979.
Major doctrinal questions were developing in my mind, but there was no one I could talk to, so I kept quiet. I was having a difficult time reconciling the Christianity I remembered being taught in my youth, with what I felt obligated to practice as an LDS member. I also remember seeing a picture of Joseph Smith in a general's uniform, and wondering, why is a prophet of God wearing a military uniform? During this time, I continued to go to church, as I was secretary in the Elder's Quorum presidency. One of my greatest recollections is that totally, about 35% of the Elder's did not attend any meetings. I always wondered why so many returned missionaries would be completely inactive. But then, didn't Satan take one-third of the hosts of heaven with him? I was not having good feelings about being a member in the church, but I surely didn't want to be a part of that third either.
I went to the bishop, and he would give me the faith spiel. I thought it was only me who was having this type of problem. From my upbringing, I was very prone to internalizing guilt, and I was pretty good at doing it. I wanted to believe it so bad, and it had become my security. It also became a major reason for me to move from the area in Oct. `79. This way I didn't have to meet face-to-face with my bishop and tell him that I was having a REAL hard time with everything; but I still didn't have enough facts to leave the church.
After the move, I became totally inactive, even drafted a letter resigning my membership around November. Then we received a letter from our former bishop, and I held off again. I really hated hurting people's feelings who are close to me, it's like I'm not living up to their expectations and I have that role to fulfill.
This next part is significant, and I will refer back to it in a few moments. C.L. had missed three of her periods. We came to Davis County (from Southern Utah) to visit my parents just before Christmas. She stated she was going into the city to meet with some friends. I didn't recollect her having any friends in the city, so I asked her about them. She told me I didn't know them etc. I replied that I wasn't doing anything, and I would like to go with her and meet them. Her answer was they weren't my type and I would be bored with them, and she didn't know how long she was going to be etc. Later that night she told me she had "spotted" that day and therefore, wasn't pregnant.
About a year later, we moved back into the same ward, and the bishop wanted me to be one of his counselors. There was no way I could do that, but I did get active again, and actually helped C.L. do some sealings for her deceased relatives. That was the last time I went to the Temple.
There were so many times when I would have to rationalize things/theology, that it felt like a war going on in my brain. There were so many things that didn't make sense to me with the church, and there was no one I could talk to about it. I was feeling like I had to constantly prove to other members that I loved my Creator, but my efforts were never enough to be satisfactory. It was very similar in my attempts to get praise and or recognition from my father. But these feelings were on a church level, I was feeling I had to do more to please the Lord and that He was unhappy with me in my present state. Anything short of perfection was not good enough. But the feelings became too overwhelming within me and the time had come for me to make a decision.
I was in another Elder's Quorum presidency now, and I liked Dean (Pres. of the quorum) very much. For the first time I was with someone who understood life, had experienced a lot of it, and chose to be spiritual and active. In spite of my friendship with Dean, I resigned my position. In Oct. 1983, I sent a letter to the church office building resigning my membership in the church, and received a form letter back reminding me of the eternal consequences.
We now had four kids, and the resigning of my membership in the church put a tremendous strain on our marriage. I went back to the Baptist church, and became very active as the chairperson of the evangelical committee.
In April, 1984, my second oldest daughter turned 8 years old, and my wife and I argued over her pending baptism into the LDS faith. (It would be two years and after our divorce before she would be baptized). C.L. came home from church one Sunday and told me she had been talking with some of the ward members, (wouldn't specify who) and had been advised that she should seek out a man who honored the priesthood and could take her and the kids to the celestial kingdom. She talked to me about divorce, later went to an attorney, and for whatever the reasons, decided not to file.
Things just went from bad to worse. I was having an excellent, record breaking year at work, and on my drive home would get tremendous headaches. The headaches progressed to the point that at one time I saw the doctor 7 times in 9 days. I finally received some shots to the back of my head to relieve the tension. The image of having the perfect marriage in the ward had long since eroded.
Some other things started to happen. I started having very strong feelings that C.L. wasn't being completely honest with me. Then one night in the spring of 1985, it finally happened. It must have been the Baptist spirit, or the bacterial STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) I had incurred, but I started asking her a series of questions. (My background was law enforcement, and later executive corporate management). By the time the night was over, I had used every interviewing and interrogation technique I could think of. She finally admitted to a series of affairs over the years. But she promised nothing had happened since our sealing. (I never confronted her with the STD until months later. If you are specific in telling someone what you know, then you are also telling them what you don't know. In this particular case, my wife knew that had learned of an affair, but she didn't know which one.) It was really late, we were tired, and I knew she wasn't telling the total truth, but we went to bed anyway.
The next night, we did the same thing, only this time she admitted to an affair with one of her co-workers in Oct. 1979. She told me about her bishop's court, and that it was all taken care of. I DON'T THINK SO!
I met with her bishop and told him what had happened. I asked him if part of the repentance process was involving the person who was transgressed against, and he replied to the affirmative. I asked him if it was policy to notify the spouse in adultery cases? He told me that he gave the offending party two weeks to notify their spouse. He also told me that my marriage could be saved. I looked at him with what must have been a bewildered expression on my face. "This lady has had more affairs than you have fingers. How many times am I supposed to forgive her?"
His response was, "As many times as it takes."
"I can't mentally handle this anymore!!!" I stated with voice upraised.
"Go home and pray about it, and I'll contact the bishop who held the court. Then we can go from there. Everything will be okay."
Well, addiction to something can come in many different forms, everything was not okay.
The first thing he told me the following week when I walked into his office was, "I've prayed about this, and the Lord has told me He doesn't want you to get a divorce."
"Well, I've prayed about it too, and I AM getting a divorce!!!"
The Bishop replied, "I spent over 10 hours on my knees after fasting, how many hours did you pray about it?" Nothing was resolved, but I doubt he had the stamina to be in the missionary position for 10 hours. ;-)
Then it came time for me to talk to the bishop who held the court on C.L. in Oct., 1979. (Remember her missing her 3 periods?) (The same one who wanted me to be his counselor in 1981). He told me that he had urged C.L. to come clean with the affair as soon as possible, but since we had moved away, he didn't follow-up with it. He also volunteered that C.L. had told him that this was the first time she had done anything like this. If I found out about it, I would divorce her. As I related to him, "the other side of the story," I could see his jaws clench, because then he knew he had been lied to also. Where was the spirit and the special keys he received when he was set apart as bishop, to discern the truth?
End of Part 1
During this time, there was upheaval at the Baptist Church I was attending. There was a group of acknowledged fundamentalists who started to attend, and they were attempting to change what was being taught in the lesson guides. It was a doctrinal struggle that eventually led to the firing of the pastor. I was involved with that termination process. All I could think of during this time was the children of God fighting amongst themselves, and it didn't feel good.
Between the time my wife and I filed for divorce, and the time it was final, I felt that I had lost everything. (In Davis County at that time, in order for me to get custody of the children, I would have to prove that C.L dealt drugs, or was a lesbian, and then fight a $10,000 court battle.) The covenants she had transgressed against were part of a culture that believed children were best in the custody of the mother. After all the counseling I was receiving from the bishops and the Stake President I was feeling that I was the one who was responsible for the divorce, and the splitting up of the family. If only I would do this, or if only I would do that, then the marriage would be saved. Over and over again I heard, "The Lord doesn't want people who marry in the Temple to get divorced." On and on and on and on!
C.L. and I met with a marriage counselor, and he gave us passages to read from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. I told him I was Baptist and didn't believe in the Book of Mormon. He replied that it was good therapy to read the stories and doctrines he had outlined. I would be a better person if I would only do as he suggested.
Why wasn't anyone listening to what I was saying? There was so much pressure to keep the marriage going, and it was being placed squarely upon my shoulders. Mentally, I could no longer stay in a marriage with a woman who was so unfaithful, and I was being told that is what God wanted me to do.
I had reached the darkest moment of my life. There was no one to turn to, and I had long since passed my emotional limit! So one afternoon, I met with my kids individually, told them of my love for them, gave them all hugs, and wished them the best in life. I left with tears in my eyes, and an immense ache in my heart. No longer did I feel the laughter in my heart riding upon silver-tipped wings. I drove to a secluded area, away from the jurisdiction of my law enforcement friends, and attempted suicide. I was in the hospital for a week, but the emotional and mental damage that occurred during this short time would take years and years to heal.
For the next couple of years, I was pretty much (very) depressed with everything. I did not handle the divorce and being away from my kids at all. During the time of my marriage, I had taken hundreds and hundreds of pictures and slides of my kids, and then it was all over. I became an every other weekend dad to my two year-old son and the rest of the kids. One of the most painful experiences in my life was the day when my four year-old daughter came into the bedroom as I was packing my belongings, and just uncontrollably started crying and sobbing. (This was after my stay in the hospital)
My family had been my life; it was my blood, and for all practical purposes, it had ceased to exist. If there had not been sufficient reasons for me to divorce, I would have been going through this emotional turmoil because I had chosen NOT "to honor the priesthood." What type of person could give that kind of advice, to split up a family because of some ethnocentric doctrine? What type of person would even suggest the splitting of a bond between parents and children? What type of person would equate this type of pain with God's love?
After the divorce, which was final in Sept., 1985, (and remember my disillusionment with the Baptist Church) I met with the Stake Pres. (S.P.) from time-to-time. He did a lot of counseling and coordinating between my ex- and I. The divorce had become extremely bitter (still) and it was best that C.L. and I had a moderator. But the kids still ended up in the middle, and that was a major mistake.
I was still shaken by want had happened with the divorce, as well as what happened with the Baptist church. The Stake President also began asking me some very personal questions. I told him that I had become intimately involved with an LDS lady. I knew he knew about it, because her ex- had gone to his bishop, and that bishop had phoned the Stake Pres. It seemed like our church leaders thought it would be best for the families to get back together again. I was also getting pressure from my girlfriend to get back into the church. Her argument was that I would have better feelings toward the church if I had a worthy mate. I even explained to the Stake President what it felt like to "make love" for the first time in my life. I now knew what it was like; it was a fantastic feeling. But I wasn't married. His response was that I was like a "dog in heat." (That statement was a prelude of things to come). The Stake President talked about the love of God, and the things I needed to do to get to his presence.
Joseph Smith was a major stumbling block for me, and I told the S.P. that I didn't believe in him one way or the other. After a series of sporadic sessions with the S.P., I agreed to a high counsel court on Palm Sunday, 1987. (My mind was still a mess from the events surrounding the attempted suicide. The only counseling I was receiving was from the S.P. and a couple of visits to the LDS Social Services psychiatrist). I was of course, excommunicated by this "court of love" as the S.P. so aptly put it. By going through this process, I would be able to recognize the love my Father-in-Heaven has for me. But why didn't I feel loved by this church body of men? After the court, as I was leaving the building, the S.P. came outside, and told me, "There is no reason why anyone outside that room needs to know what happened." I was called to meet with him two weeks later. To my astonishment, my ex-wife was in his office to help get me back into the church. (By the way, she kept her temple recommend throughout this ordeal). Where was the S.P.'s discernment?
Ultimately, the guilt of everything drove my girlfriend and I to start dating others. We still are friends to this date, but things were never the same after that ordeal. I rebounded too quickly in a number of ways, and remarried a returned missionary in 1988. It turned out to be a disastrous two year marriage, but something very significant happened during our marriage which led to my re-baptism.
It happened on Labor Day weekend 1988. We had owned some horses.
My son, E.L. (my youngest) was now five years old, and my youngest daughter, C.A., was seven. My next oldest daughter, W.L., was leading the two younger ones around the paddock with just a soft saddle on the horse. They were laughing and giggling and just having a wonderful time being bounced up and down on the horse. Then in slow motion, they tilted to the side and fell off the horse. On the way down, they were laughing and screaming, like kids do on a roller-coaster, but it spooked the horse. The horse (Chassie) pulled the lead rope out of W.L's hands, and reared up and came down on E.L. with her front hoofs, bouncing him off the ground like a rubber ball. We ran up to him; C.A. was okay. As I looked down at him, I wondered if this was what it was like to lose a child. His face was all dirty and purple, his eyes were rolled back and he wasn't breathing. Then an instant later I had a flash-back to Viet Nam and I was wondering if God was punishing me for a little four year-old girl who was killed in a cross-fire from a counter attack. But then I realized that God doesn't punish us. All these thoughts in a flash second.
I had my oldest daughter, S.H. call the paramedics. Everyone had gone to sacrament meeting, and intuitively she went to the only home that had anyone in it. Then, all of a sudden, E.L. took a deep breath and he was in excruciating pain. I started examining as best I could without moving him. As he turned his head toward me, I could see that the down side of his face was a mess. I also noticed that his shoulder didn't move with the rest of his body. All we could do was make him comfortable until the paramedics arrived.
When the paramedics arrived, they determined he had a broken clavicle (you could see where a bone had tried to come through the skin on his back). At the hospital, L.L. (my wife) wanted to call the former bishop, who was now in the stake presidency, to come over and administer to E.L. E.L. was in a lot of pain, but had fallen asleep in the x-ray room. Jim (Stake Pres. counselor) and his son came into the room, administered, and then left. E.L. woke up about the same time the technician told us the x-ray results were negative. As E.L. awakened, he stretched with both arms and rolled over like nothing had happened.
About that point in time, it was like everything I had ever done wrong in my life was pinpointed at my soul, and I just lost it. I felt I had made the wrong decisions and should have been the one who blessed him. Later, as I regained my composure, I thought this priesthood stuff was pretty remarkable, and that God wanted me to get back into the church. I started taking lessons again, was re-baptized in 1990, and a year later had my blessings restored by Adney Komatsu. I was also divorced in 1990. Within a few months of having my blessings restored, I was called to be a stake missionary in our ward. (1991) My partner was a knowledgeable scriptorian, and I was definitely on the street wise side of things, we complimented each other extremely well.
After my divorce, and still as a stake missionary, I developed a friendship with a lady who was in the shared ministries in Utah. To me, I could accept Joseph Smith based upon what happened to my son. It was faith associated by the action of the blessing, and that is how I worded it in my interviews with the priesthood authorities. Anyway, my friend tried to make the distinction between faith, the answer to prayers, and church membership; but I didn't agree with her. I later moved out of the stake and into a residence that was more affordable for me, and was never called to another position.
About a year or so later, I was dating a Catholic lady; and we were visiting the home of one of her friends. The lady I was dating was a widow, (actually I was set-up by an LDS friend of mine who didn't think I should be dating a Catholic lady) and I was looking for an activity partner to date and go hiking with etc. While at the home of her friend, they were talking about a man in the parish who had been diagnosed with cancer, someplace in the abdominal region as I recollect, and that it was very serious. It was serious enough for the doctor to schedule emergency surgery within a couple of days after it was diagnosed. The lady continued to tell the story of how a group of people in the parish got together and formed a prayer circle for the man. When the surgeons opened him up, they soon closed him up, because they could not find any cancer. Now all of a sudden, things started making sense to me. Now for the first time in my life, I understood that faith in God is more important than what church you belong to. It would still be a long process before I started looking for the truth about the early history of the LDS church.
Basically since `91, I have been inactive within my home ward. If I date an LDS woman, and we happen to go to her ward, then that was okay. I tried to take the positive things and apply them to my life.
I started weekly and bi-weekly counseling from an outside (non-LDS) counselor in `93. I learned many interesting things about myself, maybe I should say, I learned to deal with many interesting things about myself. It may sound strange, but I can now make choices for myself and not have to worry about hurting the feelings of others. Much of what I learned was simply letting go of guilt and making better choices for myself. I have come to realize that I still have more that I must work on as I write this. But mentally, I feel great. It took about two years of counseling to get to the feeling great part.
This year (1996), I finally had to deal with reality and the LDS Church. My 20 year-old daughter W.L., is engaged to this neat returned missionary, and they are getting married in the Bountiful Temple. She wants me to be there, and of course, I want to see her married. But, I also have to be true to myself. I finally needed to research out all those nagging feelings from back in the 1970's.
Around the beginning of July this year, I e-mailed her (she's a nanny and is the Gospel Doctrine teacher in her branch in Long Island) and told her that my thought process was, and still is, very different from the LDS people I know. I told her that I didn't expect that I would be going to her wedding because of what I was feeling, but I was still searching things out for myself.
Then in the middle of July, I went into Yahoo and typed MORMON + MASON, and what I had suspected all along, was true. There, I learned the similarities, nearly verbatim facets, between the Masonic and the pre-1990 LDS Temple rituals. Now I had something concrete to question about Joseph Smith's "divine" powers of revelation. I followed several more links, did more searching, and did a lot of reading about the early history of the LDS Church and the actions of Joseph Smith. I read from authors known for their research preciseness and also from very credible publishers. I became very angry, because someone had to consciously alter the way things really happened to the way things are perceived today by the LDS church members. By logical progression, that altering of early LDS Church history has to be sustained by today's hierarchy in the church. I have this personal thing about being lied to, and it really makes me angry. But then, there is that part inside that also wants to keep the peace.
I'm glad that what I've written is over, well, the major parts at least.
There are parts of this that have brought back some extremely painful memories. I don't talk about Viet Nam to anyone, but that experience was a vital part of what my mind went through at the time of my son's accident. My last bad dream was in 1990. I left Viet Nam in 1971, and I never really had it as bad as many of the other veterans did. The most painful part of writing this story, was recalling the events that led to my stay in the hospital. There have been times when I've had to walk away from writing this story, a couple of days at a time. The sad part of it all is the fact that there are thousands of people like us within the group, who have similar stories to tell, but have no one to share them with. Time will also change that as more and more exmormons start sharing their stories, and the public learns of them.
I think the LDS church can do some wonderful things. There have been times when ward members have helped me out more than I can say, and I am very grateful for those actions. But the time has come in my life where I have to search out the truth, and the truth leads me to a new path. This new path has brought about a peace of mind that I haven't felt in years. This new path is giving me a new definition of what it is like to be loved by God, and not being obligated to prove my love for God before mortals. This path has led me to this forum, where we can share our thoughts, our differences, and know that our love for one another is intrinsic, and not based upon a condition of the meetings we attend, or the church positions we hold in our neighborhood.
One of the common threads I have observed in this group is the vulnerability within ourselves, converts, when we are looking for a church to join. I was extremely vulnerable with trying to hold my marriage together, and dealing with the moral guilt of having participated in a war. It (war) was a time when many of us lost our innocence, and how fantastic it felt to be baptized and forgiven, but it was only an illusion, because it couldn't be forgotten. Things can get pretty confusing when you mix reality with illusion. That experience of reality/illusion is something we all shared when we were members of the LDS Church. It is a fantastic feeling to be a part of this forum, and to finally experience reality.