I suppose the proper thing here is to list off all the glorious positions I've held, mission I've served, and temple marriage I have in order to give some air of authority to my reply. I really have no desire to continue a facade of authority or "knowledge" that some members credit me with. I detest the title "spiritual giant." I feel unworthy of it... not because I doubt some Mormon creeds, but because I have questions about what is "true" spirituality. I feel like I'm just beginning my personal journey. One thing I do believe, is that spirituality is separate from religion. And when I'm done I may or may not find that being in the Church helps me accomplish that.
Much of my reluctance to discuss my concerns with Mormonism with most members is to avoid being considered "non-faithful." This is selfish and weak. I am just maintaining appearances. I feel two-faced and that is some of the source of my pain. In sharing this I don't want to appear great or honorable...
These are my feelings. I need to be faithful in my journey to a spiritual life, or I am going to tear myself up inside.
I have carried on many discussions with members and non-members (who value objective discussion) about personal concerns. I have healthy skepticism about some "anti" points because of the fanaticism/dogmaticism of many of those assertions--some of which are shared on this site. My feelings have often been "rather than tearing down a position, propose a stronger alternative." The problem lies in that many of the "anti" fanatics think they are offering a better alternative. I find these people as non-persuasive as zealous Church members. .
However, many points are valid. The LDS Church has a complicated history plagued with anomalies. Few members delve into its study. We are no longer a Church where open questioning and argument is welcomed or a part of Church meetings. I mean argument in its literal sense: the open discussion of the logic or non-logic of a certain position.
Argument was once was a part of Mormon spirituality and de riguer for meetings and General Conference. That healthy history is long gone. Most members discount this. They don't know it existed. Our clean PR engine with a one-world gospel has eliminated it. We don't discuss the validity (or non-validity) of little-discussed Mormon doctrine e.g., Adam-God theory, Masonic/Egyptology influences, Polygamy, etc. Because it is discouraged to discuss or question; we need to "stick with the basics". That it is often results with chastisement, Mormonism is starting to sour in my mouth.
Instead we have "pat" answers that satisfy those who want the easy answer. They are spiritually just as hollow. "Pat" answers are seldom based on any official doctrine but on opinion. Of course, all the more persuasive if that person is Bishop, Stake President or Seminary teacher! Bah Humbug.
Unfortunately many leave JUST because anomalies exist. I guess that's ok if you figure there is some Capitol-T Truth out there, and Mormonism isn't it. Unfortunately ALL religion and its history is packed with anomaly. I respect those that confront the issues of study head on. All Church members should respect those who do, even if that leads these members to the conclusion that Mormonism is a hoax. They have truly exercised the often quoted Mormon "Moroni's Promise" to find out "if these things aren't true." Why do we assume that the answer is "Yes" for everyone? Because of our conceit. Our need to fit the world into a nice little heaven-bound package. We have to be "the only true Church--unchanging and constant."
Mormonism has changed. Let's acknowledge that and address its merits (if any). Instead its swept under the rug and replaced with committee-approved lesson manuals that most members think is satisfactory education about one's religion.
What's wrong with changing and evolving? Why can't we admit that much of the screwy "doctrine" to be earthed up is a product of its times, and often the weaknesses/prejudices of men? We have so much pride in believing God doesn't change. Of course to many Mormons God and Church are interchangeable terms. Maybe God hasn't changed but Mormonism HAS.
I for one, have started to study. I am not liking everything I see. But I'm going to study. Give it a fair shake. Why do many opponents to this page assume that those of us who look critically are so wanton about abandoning faith? I'm trying so hard to keep on my faith-glasses. But, I can't ignore those gnawing questions in my gut. When I start to think about them I (at least) start to feel some peace about being true to myself. Is that the spirit talking to me? The spirit of the devil masquerading as an angel of light some would say. God is trying my faith others would say. I'm sick of those pat criticisms that aim to discredit the validity of what I am feeling.
I consider myself a logical man but don't wholly discount the value of faith for both individuals and society. There are many positive aspects of "Mormonism". Or at least these are the most often cited support for the value of Mormonism: stronger families, happiness, spiritual guidance, community strength, direction in life, positive values, good health, good works and service, etc. Open your eyes Church members! These aren't exclusive to Mormonism. They exist all around us in many religions. It's because these aren't of organized religion...they seem to me to be "real" spirituality. These are the traits that get slicked up in commercials to sell Mormonism. It is because it sells. Most of us in organized religion are in it for real-life benefits.
Unfortunately there is that whole after-life issue. This is where things get REALLY sticky. Most of us members (including myself) often do good because of the rewards (the Celestial Kingdom!), not because we sincerely desire to do good. I need to change. But, this is where it gets hard for some to believe Mormonism has the patent on achieving a good after-life.
I don't hear anyone citing doctrinal support for Mormonism that is even persuasive for me beyond "eternal families". Most are in this church because it makes us feel better in THIS life. Certainly flawed ethical doctrine like eternal polygamy, blacks and native Americans "Lamanites" as "cursed," Jews as "the only people in all God's worlds that would have killed Christ", isn't talked about. Because it is WRONG. No ifs, ands or buts. If it was right and "true", missionaries would be preaching it.
Many have left because of the negative society (self righteousness, judgment, bad leadership) in Mormonism. That these things happen is very sad. Abhorable in some instances (sexual abuse unrecognized). These things make me very sad. I wish we as humans weren't so cruel to each other. I still have a long way to go in being the kind, tolerant person I need to be. But I'm not going to leave the Church because they are there. I'll find it on the outside too. I won't even bother listing off my pet peeves because I don't want anyone to think I'd be so casual about leaving a religion that is my life. If I ever leave it will be in spite of these things, not because of them. I can't criticize those who do leave because of such things. Who can blame someone for leaving an emotionally harsh environment?
If I ever leave it won't be because I'm avoiding consequences for "sin" or can't live up to Mormon ideals, except maybe for that over-achiever mentality of doing everything PERFECT! I believe I am responsible for everything I do. Yeah I'm NOT PERFECT, and I've goofed up "sinned" along the way. But I really work on being a good person who works to better myself. I do believe I will have to answer to God but I'm not quite sure if the God I've been taught is who God really is. I'm not even sure if Jesus is the only ticket even though I believe in Jesus' ideals. The problem with Mormons is that many of us are out trying to save ourselves, and only stick Christ in the equation where it's convenient. Don't ask Mormons if we believe we're saved by grace! (Doctrinally, we do, but few acknowledge it.)
If I leave it won't be because I'm a LOSER and can't hold down a job. I make a comfortable life for my family and me. Another one of those pat criticisms to discredit why people are unfulfilled with Mormonism. I even tried out Materialism and, unfulfilled, looked into my roots and have found little unique that I couldn't have found elsewhere.
I believe many "Mormon" ideals can lead to a happy life. But I'm not sure if Mormonism is the "true" way or even the only way. Mormon life (meetings, programs, scouts, tithing, administration, perfection, superiority) personally, has left me unfulfilled. Service, teaching, friendship, raising a good family, etc., HAVE been fulfilling. But as I said, I no longer believe that Mormonism has a patent on these things.
And enough of the "if life is good then you're getting Tithing blessings" or "if it's not then God is chastening, (humbling, testing) your faith." Those SHALLOW pat Church answers to explain away the hardships of life.
I have serious doubts both personally and philosophically with organized religion. Not just Mormonism in specific. I can't ignore them. And I don't know if they are appropriate doubts. But I'm going to start thinking about them and stop denying they exist. I only pray that the ones I love will stick with me if the way is rough. I hope God knows I am sincere. And I hope he even is listening.
As a missionary to Japan, the Japanese would say (as a metaphor for heaven) that there are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji. We would say "Yes, but we're the only religion who can get you from the top of Fuji to Heaven." How conceited and shallow! Who knows, I may have been right, but I don't think I was. At any rate I was trampling on a valid sentiment without even considering its merits. As I start allowing myself to feel, I'm not sure they were wrong.
All I know is I've got to do something. And I don't know where this path will lead. I don't believe my reasons for doubt and questioning are the only "true" and appropriate reasons for one leaving or staying within the Church. But they are MY reasons and I need to address them. I'm thankful there are others like me. I've spent a lot of time (beyond typing this) composing my feelings, and maybe they will comfort someone who might feel the same. Just like some of the other letters I've read.
I am a deep thinker. I worry about things I often can't change. Some of my questions and doubts will go unresolved. Many will say this is my weakness and Satan is using it against me. I disagree. I think God has blessed me with many things, and I refuse to believe having a brain is a curse. I really have tried using just my heart to "take faith and endure to the end", but it isn't enough. Maybe for some, but not for me.
If there are those that want to email me, my address is email@example.com. I would like hearing from those who have suggestions or words of support. Condescending remarks and debate aren't needed. I've structured much of my "testimony" around debate and "proving" things, and in the end doesn't mean much. All that has resulted is a perception of my knowledge in gospel matters. The reality is I feel empty inside. Please DON'T even write me with a cookie-cutter testimony. While I appreciate how you might "know" the Church is true, it isn't any comfort. That type of "evidence" is too personal and (while worthwhile maybe) is of little use to me. I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
- E-Mail: Author - Bryan