I grew up in Seneca County New York (birth place of the Church). When I was four years old, my parents converted from Judaism to Mormonism. Though I was on the surface a typical good Mormon girl (Mia Maid president, Laurel president, etc.) I had many questions about the Church. I was in junior high school when I was first exposed to the truth about Joseph Smith and his many (and young) wives. As I encountered more and more problematic things with the Church I tried to reassure myself that for now I just needed to rely on faith and then God would tell me everything when I reached the Celestial Kingdom.
Like a good girl, I went to BYU. This was the biggest eye-opener of my life. I was exposed to doctrine that shocked me, and very often this doctrine was being preached from one of our religion courses. Some examples of the trash I had to hear: Mother Teresa is not going to the Celestial Kingdom because she hasn't married, and no woman can get into heaven without a husband; The reason blacks got the priesthood in the '70s was because in the preexistence whites were more valiant than non-whites, but God ran out of white "molds" and had to put righteous spirits in black bodies; German Mormons who supported Hitler were righteous, because they were following the Articles of Faith--supporting the laws of their land; God had sex with Mary to produce Jesus (and in heaven all the men get multiple wives--the more the merrier); God gave men the priesthood and women the ability to give birth (the same way he did to female rats, cats, skunks, etc.). I could go on and on for hours about the horrible things I heard.
Then there was the atmosphere at BYU itself. I was very ill physically and had to undergo several surgeries. Needless to say, I couldn't always attend Church. I received many notices that this lack of attendance was jeopardizing my ability to remain a BYU student. When I explained my health problems, I was told that if I had enough faith, I could go to Church anyway.
I was full of a great deal of confusion after my freshman year, but I returned for my sophomore year determined that I could keep my faith until I solved all these hypocrisies in the Church.
By then (1995) BYU was becoming more and more of a police state. I had decided to become a physician after my health problems and I was taking some third year level microbiology courses. The first day of school, I walked in and sat down in the lecture hall. All of a sudden, I felt eyes on me. I looked around and realized I was the only woman in the class. Then, the professor walked in. He glared at me and loudly demanded to know what I was doing there. I told him I was there for Microbiology 3--. He demanded to know if I had taken the prerequisite courses. I assured him I had. He then asked if I knew that the class was supposed to be for pre-med students. I said yes, and I was pre-med. He gave me a glare and told the class "Well, I guess she can be here, then". The guys began laughing and saying that I was just there to catch a husband who was going to be a doctor, and therefore rich. I was able to hold back my tears until I got home. Things went from bad to worse. I was actually threatened by students in my Chemistry lab when they found out I had the second highest grade. They said that it was wrong for a girl to screw up their curve. A guy I had been dating occasionally gave me a note saying he could no longer date me after he found out I had gotten a higher grade on a chem test than he had--it was against God's plan.
Then, BYU began to crack down even more. They announced that beginning in April '96 people would have to sign a form indicating that they would turn people in who were violating the so-called Honor Code. Some of my family escaped (and some were not so lucky) from Hitler during the War, so I was no stranger to the effects of Nazi-Gestapo tactics. I knew that I would never sign such a thing. I began applying to other schools to transfer as soon as possible. Meanwhile, a person I knew had her first taste of the Gestapo atmosphere: She was a typical naive Utah Mormon, all excited because a GUY had come up to her on campus. He said "Hi" and asked her where she was going. She told him and he said he'd walk her to class. On the way he asked her what her name was, where she was from, where she lived, her major, and her phone #. When they reached her class he stopped and said "I just wanted to let you know--I'm a member of the Honor Code committee and you've given me all the information I need to turn you in--your skirt is too short."
A roommate of mine was assaulted by our Elder's Quorum president. But she was the one considered to be at fault, because at BYU everyone knows no woman has a sex drive, and so if anything happens she must have seduced the guy.
I don't want to keep going on and on, because the horrors about BYU would take up volumes and volumes.
By now, I was having serious problems with the Church. After a great deal of scripture reading and heartfelt prayer, I went to my Bishop. I explained my problems with the way things were. He asked if I'd prayed and I told him I had. Then he asked if I'd prayed so that if God said that everything I had questioned (racism, sexism, etc.) was as I had been taught at BYU that I'd stop being disobedient (i.e., pre-med). I said that if God was that nasty and cruel, then I would say to God, "No thank you, I think I'll live in Hell." [Big mistake, Mormons can't stand that word.] The bishop said that was where I was headed and told me to leave and never come back. I listened to him. :)
The Mormon idea of God is a cruel parent who doesn't allow you to think. He smacks his children across the face saying "Believe me, this hurts me more than it does you." He demands total obedience and blind faith. He changes his mind all the time--one day Blacks can't have the priesthood, the next day they can, etc. He demands that people give up their own mind, their own thoughts. The glory of God may be intelligence, but if your intelligence is different from those in Salt Lake, heaven help you. After I left the Church, I returned to Judaism where a personal, intimate relationship with God is allowed. Questions are not only tolerated, they are expected. Look at the Old Testament--Abraham and Moses argue with God. I am not sure of the whole picture of the Cosmos yet. I believe in a higher being who provides different spiritual experiences to people depending on their need. But I do not believe in a being who laughs at his creation and chooses men over women, or whites over blacks, or Americans over Russians, etc.
I know how hard it is to leave the Church. They fill you with fear. I kept expecting lightening bolts to strike me dead the first time I intentionally decided to leave it. Instead, I began to find peace. I had never felt the peace of freedom in the Church. Now I can experience it frequently. I can appreciate the joys of creation, because I can question their design and methods.
I urge anyone troubling with the Church to try to find another path to enlightenment. If you truly believe God is a caring, loving Father in Heaven, get out and find him on your own. A rich Utahn in a business suit does not have the monopoly on God, despite what he'd like you to believe. Blind obedience is not healthy--look at Hitler. No compassionate god requires it and as we learn from Star Trek: "Above all else, a god must have compassion" [episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before"]. To the women and blacks and Asian people especially: Please believe me. You are of equal value to any real God as anyone else. Any religion that teaches otherwise is not one that deserves a second glance.
My "falling away" has been gradual over the years, I've fought it vehemently, explained away or ignored doctrine that bothered me, faulting myself for not being diligent enough in my study of the scriptures, letting "Satan take hold". It started when I learned for the first time, at age 15(my parents joined the church when I was three!) that black men were denied the priesthood. Then a friend told me that Joseph Smith secretly practiced polygamy. I went to the temple to be married at age 24 and thought the whole ceremony was extremely bizarre. Each time I met up with a doctrine or practice that disturbed me and shook my faith, someone managed to explain it in a way to make it palatable, or I would just stuff my worries down deep where they wouldn't interfere with my life as a good LDS woman.
I have been inactive several times in my life, each time being drawn back by the love shown by good friends and by the comfort of the familiarity of the church and all of its programs. I still believe that the people I have known in the LDS Church are some of the best people God has put on this earth and they are sincere in their beliefs and desire to share their joy in the gospel with others. I don't believe, as many anti-Mormons seem to profess, that they seek to trick people into joining by leaving out aspects of the church that others find disturbing. I know, for me, I either was unaware of some of the inconsistencies and historical discrepancies, or they had become so much a part of my everyday life I never thought to bring them up, they seemed insignificant next to the larger "truth".
Strangely enough, the final straw came when I again had a "renewal of faith". I was asked to help prepare the youth in our ward for an upcoming stake event - the performance of "From Cumorah's Hill", a faith promoting musical presentation about the Book of Mormon. Music can move me as nothing else can, and the music was inspiring, beautiful. During this time I resolved to read the Book of Mormon faithfully every day; believe it or not, I had studied it all those years but had never read it cover to cover. As I read, I began to come across things that went against what I had been taught as Mormon doctrine. There was also so much that directly quoted the New Testament; how could this be? The prophet said that this was the most correct book on earth, how could church doctrine not coincide with it? It was then I knew in my heart that it wasn't true, it was such an overwhelmingly sad feeling.
I stopped going to church soon after that, it wasn't the same. I haven't fully pulled away because it is so hard to let go of an organization that has been the source of so many positive experiences in my life. I know I will never lose those, they are mine forever. I am fortunate to live in the "missionary field"(how we eastern Mormons hate that term!) where to be out of the church does not mean you are out of so many community activities as well. Our families are all inactive and/or out of the church so there will be no repercussions for my husband and I there. I know I may lose association with some of my LDS friends, mainly because in the busy LDS life, you spend most of your socializing time at church meetings and activities. And I'm sure when I tell some my reasons for leaving to those friends, some will find it hits a little too close to home and feel unsafe associating with me, it will bring up some of their own doubts. Anyway, thanks for this site. Reading the experiences of others has assured me that there is life after Mormonism and that I don't have to deny the good things about Mormonism in order to move on. I would love to hear from anyone who has gone on to join another church.
Feel free to email the author of this story Deb M.