Fuck RfM’s stupid fucking automated filter. Original title of this post would have been, “I don’t have anything left in me to finish even 14 credits.”

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t have any more fight left in me to keep up this facade of a believer at a church school.

You’d think I could clench my teeth and white-knuckle a ‘fake it till you make it’ for just a single semester, maybe two, and it’s all I would need for that stupid degree that I’ve toiled through three years of social anxiety and clinical depression in Rexburg followed up most recently with a faith crisis and a diagnosis of ADD to boot.

My life makes more sense to me now than it ever did before. I’m glad for the fact, but now what? Looking forward, I don’t see any light. My GPA has plummeted at this school. You’d think I would have tasted the social environment day one and gone elsewhere, but where else did I have to go? That first semester was terrible, and every semester since has been worse somehow.

I’ve kept to myself as much as I could. I know I have severe social anxiety, and I need to remember that before I read too hostile of a spirit into my neighbors, but come on, it’s not like this place would be just dandy if it weren’t for my mental illness. It wouldn’t be simply ‘quirky’ either. There are so many people here who seem shy or afraid until they open up about some anxiety or depression problem that has been tormenting them. Some person says its “just me” and chalks up all his/her problems to his/her own sins. Other people admit that Mormon culture is a fallen, shabby mess of pharisees, but save face by saying that “the church is true, even when the people aren’t.” These last must be thinking they are above error and unwarranted prejudice in their convictions without realizing that there must be someone somewhere, acquainted with them, that thinks that they are part of the problem. To make a long story short, Mormons torment themselves and make sure, through endless meetings, reassurances, and reinforcements of the common correlated religious narrative of the restored gospel, that the misery is common to all and kept in place as much as possible by threats of even greater miseries should the religious pretend be abandoned –– or even talked about being abandoned.

So here I am. I am a twenty-seven year old RM, the oldest of his family of three other brothers. I am BIC. My heritage goes back, as so many white TBMs’ do, to the proudest heritage a young Mormon male could want his other TBM neighbors to know about him. My father is well-known and well-loved in our stake. My mother nearly equally so. I was a straight-A student in high school, a white-bible thumping missionary, and the kid with the smarts and the cleanest record you could ever want to see in a kid. I’ve never been in a fight once. I think I got detention once in my life for having my cell phone out in high school. I’ve lived what some would call an exemplary life, because not only do I have a predisposition for social anxiety, but Mormonism and the circumstances of my life, all shaped by Mormonism, have had me obsessed with my appearance and stuck in a near fight-or-flight state of emotion since before puberty struck me. Before this last year and half (when I found out the church was not true and figured I had permission to stop tormenting myself so much), I have had few moments of genuine peace, and then none that lasted very long before the anxiety and the depression from being unable to meet the many things demanded of me except only barely, and then usually only in appearance (or that’s how it felt anyway), came to haunt me again.

The Holy Ghost and the fruit therefore have NOT been my constant companions from my perspective (I chalked it up to a masturbating habit that I figured was out of control, but I was operating under misinformed and insular ideas of what other people’s experience in that department was), but then I get other people telling me all the time what a wonderful example I am and how they feel the spirit when I testify of the gospel. I know longer believe in any of it, neither do I hold out any hope of any part of it being true (I’m damned glad to know the whole damned thing is an unsalvageable farce of a religion: this knowledge brings me a measure of peace that no amount of dedication to the prosperity gospel in the book of mormon ever did or ever could), but I can still incite these kinds of comments when I have to give an obligatory talk or prayer or what-have-you.

As anxious as I have been of other people throughout my life, I have been equally and genuinely concerned with and dedicated to honesty and integrity. Perhaps it’s because of my anxiety that I have cared so much. Perhaps it’s because of my ADHD that I have been as interested. But whatever the reason (maybe I just care), I have cared and care to be honest. I care what the truth is. I’ve always cared. I’ve never born my testimony in a way (deliberately, anyway: I am guilty of mormonspeak, for example: saying “I know” too often without realizing those words mean something beyond what I meant to convey with them) that would lead someone on to believe that I had less doubts about my convictions than I really had.

At one point, I really did think I had it all figured out. I had the testimony from the holy ghost. I communed with God daily in my head through my thoughts and emotions, and I really thought that all my intelligence and any “aha!” moments I had were ‘quickened,’ or enhanced by the gifts of God that my testimony brought me. This was a happy thought when my testimony was knew and I thought I would soon be basking in a forgiveness of my sins, but on the middle of my mission when I realized I couldn’t stop sinning (masturbating) through the most stressful and even traumatic episodes of that experience, I figured I was just a lost cause. Maybe it sounds stupid to say I wanted to kill myself rather than go home and explain to my family what an unworthy failure I was as a missionary, but especially as a person, but those were my feelings as my mission came to a close.

I went home anyway and got help (from LDS therapists only), but nothing was the same. I wanted my testimony to get better, but it just felt contrived. I learned things on my mission about the church that I wish I had never learned, like polyandry. I could defend Joseph Smith as far as polygamy, but when I figured from a FAIR article’s dodginess that the evidence for said behavior was undeniable, I knew I could never defend Joseph Smith’s reputation again with the same confidence with which I used to try. During my homecoming talk, I could almost convince myself the church was still true, but then I remembered polyandry and felt guilty for testifying of the church at all as if I knew it was true.

It’s been a slow and painful road of self-rediscovery that eventually found a confidence to think about the restored gospel in unorthodox ways (and, thankfully, eventually the ability to reject it because I had a more sound and independent self-view developing which I could switch to). All my pain and my struggles and my journey have been internal. I cannot show you the scars or point to a perpetrator to convince you of my trauma, but I do think I have been a victim of the church, not of only of religious mind control that brought me to believe in silly nonsense, but psychological trauma brought on my self-torment, poor self-esteem, constant stress, etc.

I have tried explaining as much of myself as I had figured out at any given time to my parents, as fast as I was figuring it out. I hesitated on the atheism thing, because I knew how it would go over. I love my parents. They are and have ever been kind to me, and I never want my rants or knowledge of who I am to give any kind of indication that they abused me as a kid. They did not. I was never abused by them or anyone else, but I do feel like I was abused in a very real way. I don’t say it to play a victim card for pity’s sake only. I say it because I’m still reeling from the emotional history of my life and trying to figure it all out. I understand that no one ever truly gets to the bottom of the human condition, but we can make headwind and have greater success at being satisfied or contented more often than not and for longer each time too. Well, I feel so far behind compared to what others around me seem able to pull off at life’s success.

I think the myth of the pathology of pornography keeps guys like me with similar problems from thinking to question the church or seek their fortunes in other culture. It’s a mixture of witch-hunting and systematic victim-blaming. We’ll treat a distraught guy like all his misfortunes are brought upon him by his habits. I used to believe this, until I read enough statements by the brethren to the end that sin or addiction is the automatic response of a psyche under too much stress to deal with in a healthy way except to indulge in a behavior that brings a sense of the feel-good that is lacking. So, if I did have some kind of abnormal sexual compulsive behavior, I could ask why those good feelings were lacking. I at last came to the conclusion that a belief in the orthodox Mormon atonement and good mental health/what can be reasonably expected of human beings/what is reasonable to aim for in terms of a standard of morality that we can shamelessly use social shame to enforce, were mutually exclusive. In fact, the whole gospel didn’t make any sense, and I was tired as a constant thinker (thank you, ADD) of trying to dismiss the mass amounts of evidence for evolution and the other evidences against genesis and the nature of reality as painted by the scriptures in general. Imagine what the world could accomplish if people treated the idea of God and religious ideas in general as skeptically as they treated their critics’ ideas, especially when those ideas specifically criticize a certain dogma.

I spend all this thought analyzing myself, my religion, scripture, literature, poetry, and yet I have little faith in my ability to make it in the world as an adult. Perhaps a little bit of it is learned helplessness. People with any kind of ADHD typically struggle, or so I read, with the kinds of feelings I have had about only just barely keeping up with the expectations imposed on me or with where I think I ought to be, the kinds of things I ought to be able to keep in mind, or the ways my life should be organized by now, etc.

In the meantime, I’m still seeing the people on campus up at the student health center. They aren’t bad or incompetent people, but what they offer does seem to fall short of what I need. It isn’t their fault. It’s the insularity of the collective worldview of Rexburg and the surrounding countryside of the Mormon corridor.

I’m in possession of my rational mind as I say that I’m tired to the point of wanting to give up. Why bust my ass getting a degree that everyone I know will say I lied to get? Why bother finishing my English degree (the most useless of all degrees) with the shitty GPA I have? Why not just go home to Arizona and get a job to work off my student debt, degree or no degree, and send my resignation letter to the church already? At this point, I don’t care what happens to my social life. I never could really call it a social life anyway. I’m not interested in anyone’s friendship (anyone that I used to know, anyway) unless I’m free to tell them who I think I am with a truthfulness and an accuracy that satisfies me and then see what they do. As much warmth and kindness as the Mormon community has offered me besides the coldness, their theology and the pettiness of their society has robbed me of the ability to be satisfied by any of it. So, as long as I am a prisoner of my own mind and cannot speak or act conscionably, I’m just not interested in staying Mormon.

I learned yesterday that Jeremy runnels is up for excommunication. I read this as I was in the middle of a prolonged train of thought trying to justify staying and making the most of it. I cannot. I’m reminded of what I felt when John Dehlin got the ax. I’ve been waiting, I suppose, on how I feel: whether or not my membership in the church is worth working with or if I need to start over, and if so, how? I want to believe the church is more than just a paradise for people who wish their social environment was conducive to the death of logic and reason in all the ways they wish and a hell for everyone else but the truest believers. I cannot. I have a gay (maybe bi?) brother, Chief, and the callousness to which so many things are said about the gay community strike me in my conscience more than they ever did as a believer.

I mourn the years I have wasted as a silent prisoner of my own mind. What would I have said or did different when I watched as a silent witness instead because of my religion and it’s authoritarian place in my mind? What relationships, friendships, or good feelings might I have been able to enjoy if I hadn’t been lulled into a testimony by a mixture of bribery (you are a chosen generation, foreordained from the preexistence and held in reserve) and blackmail (insert everything ever said about apostates here). What bad feelings could I have at least been spared? I will never know. What I do know is that every day observing Mormonism in Rexburg and observing Mormonism in the lives of people I know on my social media accounts, viewing them as an outsider with an insider’s advantage, I am ever more and more convinced that things would not have been worse out of the church than inside it.

The church is a cult. I say it soberly, although I am depressed. It’s a cult by every measuring rod, except the one where you point to a worse kind. It’s a cult because it’s a poisonous and insular environment, an authoritarian environment that does not care about your feelings that hides these parts of its nature from newbies in the faith, be they the youth or the investigators or the recent converts. People have a right to know the critical information of it, because as the church’s newest essays attest, most of it is based in fact, and you must forgive nonmembers whose knowledge of Mormonism is so lean that they skewer these facts only slightly in the gossip mill –– only just slightly.

The things I learned on my mission were so ridiculous when I first heard them, I could never believe that these things had been kept from me successfully my whole life. They were. I guess I should have studied it, but… wait… I was taught never to give the devil stage time too. It’s so confusing.

I’m dropping all my classes. I’m too behind. I can’t save the semester. And I just don’t care to try. They suspended me last semester based on the new academic standards of maintaining a 2.0 semester GPA AND a 2.0 cumulative GPA minimum. I fell short some few hundredths of a point. I should have walked. Instead, I found a teacher who heard me sputter out what was happening to me and understood me through my panic well enough to tell me that this was unnecessary. He helped me get some late work in, and my GPA raised just enough to get to be here this Winter 2016 semester. But the depression is still there and getting worse. I started this semester late due to a hold on my online account. I missed getting a bunch of classes I would have chosen. I’m stuck trying to manufacture enthusiasm for classes and teachers i would NOT have chosen but must bear with if I wanted to take any classes at all this semester. I can’t blame the school directly for my own lack of initiative or direction or what-have-you –– it’s depression — but there are a hundred thousand little things that haven’t helped. It’s hard for my old feelings of being guilty of some great crime (although i’ve never hurt another soul in anyway that I can remember) to resurface as it feels like the school is just trying to wash me out. I have over a 120 credits, plenty to graduate, but I’ve been waiting on all the required classes, which includes many required religious classes that I just can’t give a shit about anymore. Five classes. Can I finish only five more classes? I don’t know.

I’m sorry for this long rant, but I needed to gather my thoughts before I go and do something as drastic as dropping all my credits this semester. I’ll get W’s, and it’ll kick back my progress even more (a depressing thought: being stuck in Rexburg even longer), but I’m self-destructing right now and I’m no good to my own GPA at this point. I need a break and time to think. Professional help would be nice: an ADHD coach as well as someone who specializes in faith crisis counseling. I don’t know what I need though.

Cheers (in spite of my cheerless attitude),
-Cold-Dodger

RE: “History vs Heritage: Maybe We Should Stop Saying That We’ve Been Lied to by the Church”

Original article: http://www.withoutend.org/stop-weve-lied-to-church/

This is a response to an article I read by one Brian Whitney called “History vs Heritage: Maybe We Should Stop Saying That We’ve Been Lied to by the Church.”

Quick summary of his point: No one who led the church in the past intentionally meant to deceive the world or the members. While there is a discrepancy between what we are taught during the Block in correlated materials and what we learn from raw history, this is the result of willful ignorance, not malicious deception. Church leaders heard and refused to believe the things that they heard, and were only guilty of following their conviction of perceived truth, even when they shut down the history department and went after any intellectual in the church who dared preach something that would challenge the faith of many –– the fact that these things were true and could be proven with documentation, notwithstanding. While some a limited right to be angry, and while others can be forgiven for calling it whitewashing, the church, as always, remains blameless –– well, blameless at least in a this-doesn’t-mean-they-still-can’t-be-prophets sort of a way.

This article legitimizes the hurt that many are feeling, but just as quickly turns and tells the faithful that prophets are only prophets when they act as such and otherwise are entitled to make as many human mistakes as anyone. Brother Whitney is trying to find that line where both sides can come together. The truth is, though, we can’t.

I can’t speak for the majority of persons disaffected for the church, but I can say a word about how I feel: betrayed, lied to, used, manipulated like a piece of meat, then cast aside the instant I was of no further use in building the kingdom and ruthlessly slandered by my own loved ones, at the Q15’s instance, about my intentions behind my objections.

I will not dispute that the Brethren, insofar as I can tell anyway, sincerely believe the gospel is true and their calling is great, almost too much to bear sometimes. Their mantle is so heavy, and the gospel so precious and so vital, that nothing is more important, and sometimes moral lines will blur in the charge of their duty.

Is it ok to tell a lie in service to a truth?

No?

Is it ok to tell a white lie in service to a truth?

Mmmm… maybe.

Is it ok to omit certain details about the truth –– events in the past, questionable teachings preached, terrible things said, lies told, and victims made –– calling them “meat,” and delay telling our children anything about them, acknowledging them only on a need-to-know basis (like when they heard it from a critic before their own loved ones), so that they grow up under the vice grip of a perception that it is all true and they need to get with the program or be damned?

When we critics say “whitewashed,” I wonder what on earth apologists think we mean. Yes, of course it was whitewashed! The truth was cherry-picked, polished, and presented to the members as THE truth. Furthermore, anyone who spoke a word about the omitted parts was swiftly not only dismissed and discredited but chased out of Mormon society with the severest prejudice.

The September Six (who I didn’t even know about until I was able to break through my fear of the rule of studying the church from critical sources), were not the first ones to be made victims of a “witch hunt.” They were not the first. They won’t be the last. Not one of them was given an apology, ever, and every single one of them still has shame attached to their names when uttered only among believers.

Fawn Brodie, the first to write a complete and critical look into the Prophet Joseph’s life from beginning to end, reintroduced many facts about the man that we as a people had either willfully forgotten and had it decided for us by our leaders that it would be dropped and forgotten.

Of all the reasons to be angry at her, it was Joseph’s polygamy resurfacing –– details that we, the polygamous, peculiar heritage of the Lord used to be proud of –– that earned her the most infamy since she published her book. How could this be? How did the generation of the 1940s just up and forget?

Correlation! It was more than the just the first concerted effort to gather gospel doctrine together in one place. It was a vicious debate about what would stay and what would go and whom would go with it if they didn’t like it.

After the two manifestos that it took to end polygamy, it obviously took a concerted effort to reign in the Latter-day Saints, and it wasn’t a hugely successful one either. The fundamentalist Mormons are the ones still clinging to what Mormonism was rather than give it, and we act like they are the ones gone astray. What can we say? –– the victor gets to tell the history… unless both sides are still around –– in that case, they each make sure to hide the other side’s narrative from the children, or even to keep the secrets of controversy stuffed away in a dead man’s chest where it will never see the light of day as long as all those who knew it, die with it still conceited in their bosom. And thus a whole generation grows up under a very different conception of Mormonism, not realizing it is different from the one their grandparents knew.

Mormon fundamentalism has, of course, morphed as well, but not nearly as much as we make it sound when our kids ask us about them. They are far closer to what Brigham Young’s Mormonism was than we are today, far closer to Joseph’s Mormonism too.

Do you cringe at the stories uncovered when the Feds raided the complex in Texas or when they arrested Warren Jeffs? Do you cringe to hear terrible tales of priesthood totalitarianism and pedophilia? Do you think Warren Jeffs is a terrible man?

If yes to any of those questions, my case it made: former members do have every right to be upset at the facts. The devil is in the details. Joseph Smith is hardly different from Warren Jeffs. Warren Jeffs uses the man as a model and claims to be his successor in prophethood, teaching the same things that he taught, more or less.

It seems to me the truth is not the issue. The issue is a people who derive so much comfort and –– dare I say –– pleasure from the institution of the church and whatever narrative happens to be driving them at the time that when anyone disturbs their comfort bubble, they stop their ears and rush upon the source with one accord.

Is this a matter of heritage verses history or, more to the matter, is it our heritage to suppress history? We do it all the time. The instant we hear something awful, the most simple among us flat out deny it and peg the teller of the tale as an awful liar possessed by Satan going about to the destroy the church as Alma and the sons of Mosiah once did. The more sophisticated among us, the returned missionaries and the bishops and the high priests who feel that they have “heard it all” and must move against the source of disturbing information to protect the simple and fair ones whom it is our job to protect –– we ask for the facts, and then stick our faith wherever we see a gap. If the source starts to get difficult and pretends to be smarter than us, we fall back on anti-mormon lingo. It is an attribution of bigotry that never fails to sway.

Behind all this milk-before-meat behavior is the assumption that the gospel is the holy and sacrosanct Truth, and where we perceive our “critics” to be using satanic devices, how shall it not fall upon us to stoop to the same? At least insofar as we are “wise, yet harmless,” don’t our scriptures say it is ok to use a little guile in service of the truth?

Brother Whitney is very right: this is so much more nuanced than simple nefariousness. But, at the same time, it is far more serious than a shoulder shrug and a pat on the butt.

Let me spell out exactly what makes so many people so angry: we were subjected to authoritarian religion that demanded everything from us and either deliberately withheld or conveniently forgot to tell us things that would give us the idea that the church might not deserve the credibility we perceived it with.

Sure, we certainly don’t make any friends with the believers when we start using “lies,” “delusion,” “false,” and “con” in our diction, but it is well within the purview of the evidence to describe aspects of Mormonism and Mormon history with these words. Yes, people have a right to feel cheated and used.

Those that will yet cling to faith have every right to do so, but until the day comes that they collectively admit that there is enough evidence and fact for any thinking person to reasonably conclude that something smells rotten in up-state New York, they are not blameless and they don’t get to play victim. Every single one of us who has left, has left amid jeers and judgments from our closest relatives because this is a religion that uses our closest relationships as leverage to make us believe and obey. We are told we want to sin. We are told we are possessed by the devil. We are told we are deluded. Some of our friends and family won’t even talk to us, and all this for our new conviction that the church is not true.

We claim the privilege of worshipping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all other men the same privilege, worship how, where, or what they may… unless they happen to be gay… or unless they have made the same covenants we have and have suffered themselves to be taken by the devil. In either of these cases, they deserve no respect and little tolerance.

What lies will a Mormon tell himself in order to keep believing? Whom will he throw under the bus, even if it is only ‘unto himself,’ in order to keep believing? This habit of whitewashing extends to Mormon perception as it occurs in real time. Perhaps the believer does not perceive what he does. The gospel is true –– for the sprit tells me so! –– and so being proven mistaken on a point or two only means that I was mistaken, not the gospel! Thus, he has switched narratives and put the former one behind him never to speak of it again… unless a pesky critic brings it up again, in which case the believer will be positively annoyed.

But the history that has come down to us through our heritage has holes in it, has problems, has immoral things in it –– make no mistake about it. We can only seek to exonerate the church from all blame before enough crap piles so high that it becomes, to us, such a fruitless endeavor to keep defending it against all reason. For many of us, the hurt comes from what we could have been told but were not told. And, oh, I know how easily this can happen. I know what it’s like to struggle with your faith under a consciousness of “the problems” while one very such subject comes up gospel doctrine in the ears of the simple and the newly-converted: you bite your tongue and share only just enough to make the problem go away.

Generations of this attitude compounded might account for the discrepancy between correlated mormonism and a history that is far more rough-n-tumble than sunday school, but I cannot, for reason’s sake, exonerate the Brethren of all blame –– not when each and every one of them gets up every conference and keeps the plates spinning by telling the believers the portrait of an apostate: everything they need to know to dismiss everything we say, or at least spin it in all the right ways.

Most recently, I have Elder Holland in mind, who my mother was listening to that day when he told whatever recent unbelievers (like me) were crazy enough to be listening to conference on that beautiful autumn weekend that they had broken their mother’s hearts and ought to be ashamed. The same talk legitimized my mother’s feelings that she is a failure for my unbelief. I was seething at the end of that talk.

I couldn’t help but remember the CES “Evening with a General Authority,” where hundreds of seminary and institute teachers were gathered to hear an apostle of God set everything straight, to solve the faith crisis among the youth that the seminary teachers know all too well, since they have to try and answer their questions.

Holland gave them no answers that day, and instead redoubled his focus on spiritual convictions and the dire straits and awful reality of apostates. He told them their questions were legitimate. He made a single reference to the gospel topics essays (which up to that point the church had made no official announcement about it from a pulpit and while looking a congregation in the eyes) and then proceeded an angry rant about people who ask questions that was tantamount to bullying.

This. This is what I can’t stand. Is it the culture that perpetuates the misinformation? I don’t care. The church is not entitled to behave the way that is regularly has and does, and I will not respect it under the empty-headed rule that no religion can be criticized no matter what it does, what it says, or who it hurts. If I could simply disagree and walk away, perhaps I would, but the church won’t let me go with my dignity intact. They have to caricature me on my way out and assassinate my intentions unto themselves so that no one follows suite. Some truth that can’t withstand even the idea of disagreement with it!!!

Dealing with people as though they were idiots who, for their own good, shouldn’t be trusted with all the information at once, is the same as lying. It is manipulative, filthy, and immoral. What’s more, it is a betrayal of the sacred doctrine of agency. Father Lehi taught us plainly that it wasn’t enough to be placed in the garden of Eden and protected from making choices. Adam and Eve had a choice placed before them. They were carefully instructed about exactly what was going on, but they were told it was given unto them to choose for themselves. In no other way can it be said that Adam and Eve were their own agents, acting for themselves and not to be acted upon. Men have to be “sufficiently instructed” that they know good from evil, and manipulating information to control people is the opposite of empowering them as agents to act of their own accord.

The Brethren do manipulate information while sincerely believing in their cause. Why are those two things mutually exclusive? One of the things we learn from the uncorrelated history is how much and how often lies were told in service of the truth of polygamy. Right or wrong aside, was it worth lying? Is it worth the lies about not lying? Is it worth the persecution that brave people have had heaped upon their heads for telling the truth by a devout and obstinate religious society with a huge persecution complex that thought they were doing God service?

No.

Both by the constitution and their own scriptures, Mormons have no justification for mingling religion with civil government

I saw hypocrisy in plenty this last weekend. I hold the following logic up as proof that Mormonism has lost its soul to the Orwellian principles the church leadership calls “correlation.” “Follow the prophet” has become a mantra that means don’t think at all or follow your own conscience, just do as we say.

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” (D&C 134:4)

I used to read D&C 134, and it underwhelmed me. But then, I bought a book at Barnes and Noble with selected writings from the Founding Fathers in it. Some way into the book, I began to realize that I’d heard this stuff before. Then, I realized that any time Joseph Smith ever talked about the constitution, he was only 40ish years removed from the time the constitution was originally written, a time when New England was still as yet steeped in the original revolutionary and patriotic culture of America.

This isn’t to give Smith credit for any of it; it’s only an observation about the times he lived in and the general zeitgeist that found its way into his writings.

There is an important nuance here in D&C 134:4 that our constitutional culture has forgotten. We talk about “what the Founders intended,” but we really have no idea that we have no idea what we are talking about.

Anyone who makes an argument that basically amounts to — the Founders were more concerned about America staying a Christian nation, than retaining its liberty — is full of crap. Anyone who adds — ya, but whether the Founders knew it or not, they were instruments in the hands of God, and that’s why God did it was to make it harder for us to be lead into wickedness by the unchristian laws of our government — is making presuppositions that are very hard to establish using written historical documents alone.

The Founders were lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs and statesmen. They had large estates, many connections and money. What do you suppose their chief concern was — that King George was about to take away their religious liberty?

They were concerned about their rights and their freedom, which in turn secured their economic prosperity. They were capitalists, but they were also Deists and Christians concerned with deep patriotic feelings about laws and liberties.  They wanted their government to have only those powers which the people had willingly granted them for the common defense and maintenance of a just society. The Founders were worried about the usurpation of powers by government, If such happened it would be a breach of a sacred social contract.

See, men like Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson believed that a hypothetical man outside of a society, a man in his “natural state” as they would say it, has all of his unabridged god-given rights and liberties still with him. No man stands above him in authority. There is nothing even remotely Christian in this concept. This is a Deist concept, a product of the Enlightenment. The term “Godgiven” did not mean to them that the Bible had informed them which rights God had given them. It meant everything that a man is born with, i.e. a man in his birthday suit is wearing nothing but his godgiven glory.

In a natural state, men have all their rights and privileges and no one in authority over them telling them what to do. They are their own agents, who may do whatever lies in their power for their own self-preservation. But when a man enters into a society with other human beings, there is social contract made. The social contract is that he will suffer certain rights and freedoms to be abridged or taken away altogether so that this society may have rules and a government for the common defense and protection of the rest of their rights and liberties. The most “equitable” and “just” society was a society that protected and promoted the rights and liberty of the people as equally and fairly as possible.

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson stated that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is what he meant he meant — any freedoms that you have not volunteered or assented to have abridged by the constitution or that the constitution gives the legislature no power to take away, remain rightfully yours. If there is no law against it, you are free to do it, as an agent for yourself. How’s that for a free country?

These are the unalienable rights granted to us by Nature and Nature’s God. These are the rights alluded to in the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

So anyone who says gay marriage is not a right because it’s not in the constitution, in my humble opinion, needs to be waterboarded until they start to gain an appreciation and an appropriate resentment for government abuse of powers that have not been granted it by the consent of the people.

Everything is your right and your freedom until it is taken away by a law, until then, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone — if they want to abridge your freedom and your equal protection, they have to jusitfy it to you. To say that a law is good is to say that it strikes a balance between doing what is necessary and proper to keep the peace and promote the wellbeing of society, on the one hand, and, on the other, protecting and preserving the rights and liberties of the people from restrictions they have not consented to.

The right to enter into marriage regardless of gender, therefore, as well as the right to look gay and act gay and do all the wonderful things gay people can do, all fall under a gay person’s rights to liberty and property, unless someone can think of just reason why it should be denied to them or abridged in any particular where other people’s rights are not. Anti-bullying and hate crime laws are good and fair laws in that they protect the rights to life of gay people, who should have the same rights as everyone else to life and to be secure in their person, from a heightened risk of encroachment by a demonstrably prejudiced society. Unless these things are abridged and regulated for good reasons, then rights and freedoms are being unduly denied to a group of people.

The instant we realize this, our illusion of being justified and fair is lost for every second that we do not immediately give them their rights back and then protect them from encroachment again.

It doesn’t matter if gay marriage has been illegal for thousands of years. Before civilization, when man was in a “natural state,” gay people most certainly existed and it was in their power to pair off romantically and even form families if they wanted. Therefore, gay marriage is one of the unalienable rights given to us by Nature’s God, even if it be not enumerated in any constitution.

These concepts of natural rights and social contracts were the foundation of our constitutional system. This was the horse it ride in on, not Christianity. If Christianity (even considering it as all its sects) was the foundation of America, the 1st Amendment would have said “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no ther gods before me” instead of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

But Congress shall make no law denying the free exercise of religion, either, nor abridge the freedom to speak or to assemble peaceably and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And this is where we come back to D&C 134:4. What is the proper relationship between people with differences, and the relationship between government and religion?

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” (D&C 134:4)

The freedom of religious exercise does not grant a majority to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others with their religious opinions, especially not by passing laws using their representatives in the legislature — the establishment clause sees to that. A religious majority should be free, however, from having their ways of worship and religious forms in both public and private dictated in ways that attempt to bind their consciences in manners that put them at odds against their God, as they believe in him. These rights end, by the admission of the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where their religious opinions begin to adversely affect the rights and liberties of others.

If the point is still not clear enough, “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” (D&C 134:9)

If this is wrong between religious denominations, then how does it not apply the same to any group who holds any kind of life philosophy or world view, theistic or not? It is wrong for anyone in power to pass laws that foster one group’s religious or philosophical influence to the point where other groups’ beliefs about life are proscribed and their individual rights as citizens denied.

So let’s bring this all home. What is fair? What is constitutional? Mormons have the right to believe that homosexuality is a sin without the fear of the law, though they may have to fear their relations with the public becoming sour, since the public has the right to its opinions too. They have the right to define the rites of marriage within their own church as between a man and a woman and to be free from legal dictation on who they must consider worthy of entering their temples or how they must perform their ceremonies there.

However, they do not have the rights to make laws that foster their own religious opinions while proscribing the point of view of gays and their allies, and denying gays their rights and protections as American citizens. The civil rights act has been law for 50 years. It along with the anti discrimination additions that have accrued since then forbids any business or establishment open to public accommodation from discriminating in the dissemination of their goods to clientele based on race, sex, color, nationality, religion or sexual orientation.

When Mormons wish that gay marriage was illegal again or that they could keep gay people away from them in public at the arm’s distance of the law, they are pissing on both the constitution and their own scriptures. The specific ways that they have failed their constitutional duty as citizens towards their fellow citizens are now the same ways they are afraid of being proscribed in their religious practice.

Such retaliation made by the gay community, their allies or anyone else invoking developments in gay rights to foster their own privileges at the expense of Mormons’ spiritual privileges and denying their rights as equally-protected American citizens would indeed be wrong. It would be as inexcusable and unjustifiable as anything the Mormons have ever done to gay people in private or via legislation. They would lose their moral high ground.

Don’t lose your moral high ground, and you will be able to eviscerate a Mormon’s mingling of religious and political opinion using their own scriptures. All that said, they have no constitutional entitlement for people to hold them in high regard. Ridicule and satire are our legal weapons of free speech to see if we can’t prick people’s consciences to make them reconsider the justice and consistency of their positions.

Agnostic epistemology vs. LDS epistemology

“There are two ways to find truth—both useful, provided we follow the laws upon which they are predicated. The first is the scientific method. It can require analysis of data to confirm a theory or, alternatively, establish a valid principle through experimentation. The scientific method is a valuable way of seeking truth. However, it has two limitations. First, we never can be sure we have identified absolute truth, though we often draw nearer and nearer to it. Second, sometimes, no matter how earnestly we apply the method, we can get the wrong answer.

The best way of finding truth is simply to go to the origin of all truth and ask or respond to inspiration.1 For success, two ingredients are essential: first, unwavering faith in the source of all truth; second, a willingness to keep God’s commandments to keep open spiritual communication with Him.”

––Elder Scott, “Truth the Foundation of Correct Decisions,” November 2007 Ensign

Agnosticism means to disagree with him on there being two channels to get truth. For the agnostic, there is only one way to know truth: empirically. He does not believe in absolute truth. Humanity, he believes, can only hope to get as near to the truth as possible. This is because of human limitation and the impossibility of humans to be able to know some kinds of things with any kind of certainty –– especially not absolute certainty. In the consciousness of the possibility of being wrong about anything, we believe it best to sticking as close as possible to things that we can verify.

The word agnostic means the opposite of gnostic. The Gnostics were an early Christian sect who emphasized the ability to obtain knowledge in a mysterious, spiritual way. Because this way bypassed all the physical senses, which were thought to be imperfect, this way of obtaining knowledge was thought to be perfect.

Agnostics are “not”–gnostics. They don’t believe in a mysterious, spiritual way of obtaining knowledge directly from God. That really is all there is to being agnostic. Whether or not an agnostic believes in God or thinks there can be a god is a different question. Agnosticism emphasizes the importance of verifying their information with empirical evidence, which humans know through their five senses, before they admit that their knowledge is certain. And even then, there is no “absolute” certainty, there is only reasonable certainty.

Agnosticism is the default common ground of the scientific community. It is not a statement at all about whether God exists or whether God can exist. According to agnosticism, no one can say for certain whether or not God exists… unless we find some way to subject God to empirical experimentation.

It doesn’t exclude the possibility that some people really do receive divine communications. What it does say is that unless we figure out how to square this method, the spiritual method, with the other method, which is the empirical method –– unless we are able to verify the one we don’t know with the one we do know –– it is invalid as a means of knowing truth with reasonable certainty.

If you think about it, you will immediately understand why some people would be skeptical of a spiritual method to obtain knowledge. Such a method claims to operate completely independent from our other senses and to only work if you have believe that it works.. Is there some way to prove to people that this is a legitimate way to obtain knowledge? –– is there any way to show that “knowledge” obtained this way isn’t a false certainty?

No, not any that I can think of, anyway. It takes faith. Faith, by LDS definition, “is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21) Or, if I could put that in my own words, faith is to take things which haven’t been verified yet or can’t be verified empirically and to believe them regardless of the possibility of false certainty.

A worst case scenario is that a person of faith is living for a pure placebo.

To be fair, agnostics are the ones the Book of Mormon talks about when it warns the believer of those who say that “a man cannot know of what he cannot see” or “no man can know of things which are to come.” But skepticism is not a new concept. The scientific methodology was born because of skepticism –– the need to know how we know what it is we think we know. The agnostic says things like “if you can’t show it, then you don’t know it” or “claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Surely whomever wrote the book of mormon, ancient or modern, would know approximately what a critic would say. Saying it before the the critic says it is not necessarily an impressive prophecy.

As opposed to the LDS position that there is a being somewhere out there that knows “absolute” truth.  He has all power; therefore, anything this being communicates to you is unapologetically and irrevocably and imminently and unquestionably true. But Elder Scott says you just need to have faith and keep yourself worthy and open to the channels of the holy spirit of revelation.

That is the essential difference: do you believe that this method is a valid and efficacious way of knowing truth, or do you not?

There are certainly a number of obvious issues with believing that it is. For one, how could the Holy Ghost be equal or superior to the usual faculties that we know all humans possess? We don’t know that all humans have the capability to receive spiritual communications and that the ones who don’t must be unworthy or insincere. I have had spiritual experiences, and I’m unsure what they mean now, though once I was very sure.

For many years I was under the impression that I was receiving divine communications via the Holy Ghost. I had the all the symptoms: chills that ran down my spine, “impressions” that consisted of good feelings combined with the and even the occasional burning in the bosom that is attended by immense joy.

People can have spiritual experiences when meditating on certain topics and simmering in certain emotions. I know from experience that profound spiritual experiences can ensue for those that seek them, just as they happened for the people who told you they would happen. But what do these experiences mean? If we can answer that question, then we must ask: how do we know that we know that? What if there is no way to know with any certainty that they mean anything “absolute”?––or that they are not communications from a higher being? Even if they are communications from a higher being, what was the message exactly? Is it appropriate to translate a feeling into a yes or no answer based on the context in which you felt the feeling?

I served a mission stateside. I remember meeting one young woman, single with a kid, who had just recently reactivated before I got to the area. She was enthralled with her reactivation and so shared her new light with everyone. One person happened to be well versed in “anti” and proceeded to share it all with her. She had the good ol’ faith crisis, or, as some of the more faithful call it, “shaken faith syndrome.” She lived out on the edge of our area, so it was tough to get to her. We came to her need as if she was a flatlined patient that needed resuscitating.

She was notably calmer than the hysteric person we had talked to on the phone. We talked with her and she told us her experience. She was praying to God to know if the church was true, or if anything was true, or if he was even there. Then what she described next echoed nearly perfectly an experience that I had had: the experience that convinced me the Book of Mormon was true and represented a divine reality from which I could draw real power. She had a burning in the bosom and an intense pacifying feeling that everything was ok. My companion and I looked at each other and then told her that that was the Holy Ghost telling her the church was true –– that’s how he speaks! But she wasn’t convinced. To her, the experience meant there was a God: God was the only reality that she knew for certain was true. Then she proceeded to add what I would have termed at the time “hippy b.s.”––God was all that existed and this whole universe is like his dream, and one day he will wake up and we will all cease to exist as we now are and be apart of him again. All sorrow and pain will melt away because it’s all an illusion.

At the time, it was a seriously disturbing experience for me. A testimony from the Holy Ghost was stronger than any of our five senses… at least… I thought it was supposed to be. How could this sincere young woman have the faith to get a testimony from the Holy Ghost, while asking all the right questions, get the answer, and then so horribly misconstrue it? My first inklings that it takes faith to believe that such an experience means what we say it means began to take shape. In short, we don’t know that such experiences mean anything aside from being good feelings. There’s certainly no way to prove such a thing. You just have to take it on faith.

But I don’t want to take it on faith anymore, because I have since obtained very strong evidence to suggest that my certainty all these years has been a false certainty. Even if it could still be true is beside the point, because the larger possibility is that my certainty was misplaced.

There’s a hymn I sang in Primary:

Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.

Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.

Faith is like a little seed:

If planted, it will grow.

Faith is a swelling within my heart.

When I do right, I know

Do we know? or do we merely hope that we know? Is knowing things by faith the same as knowing things by the usual empirical means? Is an illusory certainty possible? An illusory certainty would feel no different than a well placed certainty. Wouldn’t we want to check and double check our knowledge before we build our foundation on it?

We’ve Always Been at War with Eurasia.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a problem. It’s a problem that the Internet and the age of social media has made imminent that the church should respond. The problem is many of the church’s truth claims — as it teaches them to its members deliberately and as the members understand them — aren’t true. Overwhelming documented information is now at the fingertips and in the pockets of nearly every person in the 1st world making this abundantly clear. It’s just a matter of getting the actual faithful in the church aware of it.

I must speak fairly about the nature of religious faith. As a once-believer, “antimormon” literature was the black hole I was taught to avoid. I was taught to fear it. No one exposed to it was ever the same again. They became enemies of the church they had before professed to love. They couldn’t help themselves but try to destroy their former friends’ faith. I had no doubt that antimormon literature was Satan’s most virulent weapon for the destruction of many souls and the molestation of the Work.

I understand the fear. I really do. I loved the gospel of Jesus Christ according to Joseph Smith as as understood and taught by the Brethren today as much as anyone. To this day, if I’m surrounded by Mormons, I will broach a topic of deep doctrine with them and we’ll chew the fat just for the interesting dialogue that ensues. Mormonism is a unique and interesting theology — depending on whose Mormonism you are hearing.

Every person has a version of Mormonism in their head that is unique to them, unique to the way they understand it  from its simplest doctrines to its widest implications.  I call this a “head-canon.”

No two people tick the same way. In the church we acknowledge this when we listen to all the diverse thoughts that the members get from the same lesson. We say the Spirit speaks to each person however they need to be to understand a gospel principle. The spirit also will prompt every individual according to his or her differing needs.

No member is reticent to share his or her unique perspective in a good discussion. Almost everyone’s head-canon has great plasticity and amendability. We admit our flawed humanity. We might misunderstand a principle sometimes, or we might be wrong about it altogether.  When we go beyond the simple principles in the correlated manuals into deep doctrine, the further we go the more we readily admit that we are speculating. When someone stands up and shares an awesome insight, many minds privately add it to their head-canon, because they like his insight. When someone stands up in commanding authority and reveals what is perceptively taken as the church’s authoritative stance on an issue, many minds amend their head-canon altogether, deferring to the church’s authority.

Yet all this changing is not viewed by any of us as a bad thing, because we believe we are getting closer to the archetypal Mormonism, which is believed to be the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. It’s every member’s ongoing quest to know the archetype, the pristine truth that exists with God in heaven which He reveals through his Spirit to the meek, meditative and worthy disciple. We only see now through a glass darkly as fallen mortals. Most lifelong Latter-day Saints seem to intuitively understand change and are not offended by it.

This belief in an archetypal Mormonism is where outsiders encounter a discrepancy and see a contradictory belief system, while insiders see that the truth isn’t what they thought it was. But the faithful insider still believes that Truth is out there; they were just mistaken on some points, past or present.

This seems to be the approach taken in one of the church’s new Gospel Topics essays, the one on Race and the Priesthood. It turns out, the essay goes, that Brigham Young was mistaken about black people and the way he and all subsequent leaders barred them from the priesthood and the temple until 1978 was pure cultural bias, aka racism, mistaken for the will of the Lord. Any commanding and authoritive statement he may have put down about black people are mere speculations. Brigham’s head-canon was gravely off course, or so we may deduce from the essay’s logic.

Was racism the will of the Lord or just permitted by the Lord, and what’s the difference? This makes Mormons uncomfortable, as indeed it should. This was a policy that reigned for more than a hundred years that affected minorities in the church and the church’s image abroad.  Its effects still linger in Mormon culture, though the church has done the right thing by decrying Brigham’s racist statements as unauthoritative and non-canonical. That’s a lot of anxiety for black members and friends of black members that can be put to rest.

But how could the Prophet be mistaken? We want to believe that our Prophet has direct access to God: he can see the archetype, and all he need do is merely describe it to us. Can’t he? But here we have an instance of one Prophet making a grave error and all subsequent church presidents perpetuating it because they couldn’t tell the will of the Lord on the matter.

A prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such or speaking in the name of the Lord. What does this mean? Brigham clearly thought he was speaking in the name of the Lord when he was, in fact, not. Example after example can furnish occasions when prophets and apostles were mistaken or otherwise clueless as to what the will of the Lord exactly is. Who, then, knows the Truth? How do prophets tell their own head-cannon from the archetype? How do they tell revelations of God from revelations of men?

Consider for a moment that there is no archetype. There is no Truth on a holy golden pedestal that heaven beams down knowledge of it at its willy-nilly leisure. As far as we can know or tell, there is only the empirical universe and our capability and privledge to make observations about it. We can imagine anything in our heads, but there is no reason to believe it represents anything “out there.”

What if prophets and apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t have any more access to God then the members do? and no more certainty either? We say they have the keys, but they tend to use them only to keep the members in a straight line, not to settle any controversy by revelation, solve any real problems for the church or the world at large. I constantly hear seminary students asking, “how do I tell the Holy Ghost from my own thoughts?” No one of the Brethren has ever answered this question except cryptically. The best answer Neil Anderson has, for instance, is that if it’s a good thing, do it, and it doesn’t matter if it was from God or if you made it up and tricked yourself by some means into thinking it was from God. Is this how Anderson and the other Brethren operate too?

Omission is dishonest just as much as commission is. Every time one of these guys is asked point blank, they respond in no significant detail and speak much about their feelings instead. I think this behavior is consistent and it ought to tell us much about how these prophets, seers and revelators really receive their revelations. It isn’t that mysterious to me.

Anyway, I want to talk about the church essays a little more in depth. I first noticed Race and the Priesthood in early 2014 and thought to myself “where the hell has this been?” It was right there in the gospel topics section of LDS.org but without any author or posted date or anything. Though there was no authoritative signature anywhere on it, it was on LDS.org, there was no author specified, and It appeared to be an official statement.

My shelf of doubts collapsed that summer as I became aware of who Kate Kelly and John Dehlin were. By the fall when the Polygamy essay came out, I watched the bloggernacle’s discourse with open eyes.

Newspapers took it and ran with it. “Mormon church admits founder had 40 wives and child brides.” Mormonessays.com continued to make the essays obvious and easy to find, while at the time the church had filed them away inconspicuously among other gospel topics headings that contained nothing more than simple glossary definitions. It was as if the church wanted as few people as possible to see them but also wanted to be able to say it wasn’t hiding anything either.

Many members were naturally and understandably disturbed as they learned about it on social media. FairMormon’s immediate reaction was, “what did you expect?” They went as far as trying to blame the members for not doing better research. Other members were emerging from the masses and saying they had known about this for a long time, so it wasn’t hidden. Between all the voices, the general tone towards the members who didn’t know seemed to range from “It isn’t the church’s prerogative to tell you every little thing. You should have been more diligent” to “Ya, this is the truth, but so what? Does it change your perspective of Joseph Smith?” The innocent who thought their faith was so simple must have been very confused. One blogger went as far as writing an Article called, “Praise to the Man, even with 40 wives and child brides.”

The whole thing was not very flattering, but it looks like the church did get away with acting above criticism and accountability. They slipped the essays out there and then sunk into the shadows for their sheep to figure it out. The essays went without any official advertisement until the CES fireside with Jeffery Holland in the beginning of 2015. Holland brought them up, and then proceeded to yell at all those seminary teachers for doubting the spiritual experiences of the church over questions of historicity and empirical evidence, questions which he had admitted earlier were perfectly legitimate questions to ask.

That was to a bunch of CES teachers, though, not to the church as a whole. Most members remain ignorant of the essays and the radical ways in which those essays will force them to adjust their head-canons. Radical, because I don’t think any sane person that sit down with those essays, fully deduce and apply their implications on Mormonism, and not have their belief in an archetypal Mormonism shattered. At the very least, the legitimacy of the Brethren should be held highly suspect.

What’s the line between being faith-promoting and white-washing your presentation the church’s history to your members in the correlated, universal messages of General Conference and all the official church literature? The next question, do these essays reveal enough to atone sufficiently for this? Or are the Brethren excused because it was for the greater good of the members?

From the essay on Joseph’s polygamy, we read that when Joseph and the early leaders of the church were accused of polygamy, they issued “carefully worded denials that left open the possibility of it still being true.” Everyone else calls that lying. What other carefully worded denials that leave open the possibility has the church made in the past? What are they doing in the present? Worse, what about carefully worded affirmations that leave open the possibility that the answer to your question being “no, we have not seen the Lord in the way you are asking us.”

It’s all like a sick game. I never thought such a large group of people could be manipulated like this and the perps get away with it, but turns out this happens all the time. Every religion is full of sincere believers in the center, but every one of them is guilty of a bit of theater to make sure everyone stays where they are. Perhaps the Brethren don’t have an ulterior motive, and they really do believe in the gospel or, at least, in the members’ need for the church in general. But they are guilty of using our faith in their authority to toy with us all, great or small, and I, for one, find it insulting.

The Journey, By Mary Oliver, “likened” unto an unbelieving Mormon’s journey.

 http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice––

Breaking out of Mormon groupthink was the hardest thing I have ever done. Though I consider myself an intelligent person and a lover of science, the frame of mind I had, as reinforced by Mormon social proof, was powerful. I learned a thing here and a thing there throughout my life that challenged the doctrines I believed, but I found ways to apologize them away or put them away on the back-shelf of my mind and ignore them to the best of my ability.

Mormon filial and tribal loyalty is intense. To turn your back on the faith is to betray your family and your tribe. It is to give your ears to worldly voices and fall away, or tell your family that you don’t love them anymore. It’s almost unforgivable. Even if you have a good family, there’s a relegation to second class status as the family member that broke the line of faithful discipleship. I have not yet opened my mouth nor picked up my pen to express my feelings save it be anonymously. When I do, it is the end of the illusion of all I was once to my family and the few friends I have had in the church.

My “testimony,” or tenacious conviction, of Mormonism did not go quietly into that good night. It raged and raged against the dying of the light.

But, in the end there were things that could not be reconciled and effects that Mormonism had on my wellbeing that were no good for me, and so backed into a corner between my own happiness and the maintenance of my childhood programming, I chose to begin a new journey.

though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

Mormonism as an institution has many checkpoints for distinguishing the in-group from the out-group. Nothing shocks the Mormon people more than to find a so-called Gentile among their number who was posing as one of their own. Such are marked and avoided at the least. His family cuts off the genuine channels of their affection for him, and he can hear the their murmurings and whisperings about him as he exits the room. But they might just cut all ties altogether and only ever meet again at mom and dad’s funerals where Mormonism will dominate the discourse again. These behaviors are steered and guided by an institution that has had 185 years to streamline it’s purging of apostates and the silencing of dissension by disaccreditation. The only pain felt for an apostate is by the family and friends of the soul lost.

The do not undertake such behavior because they are terrible people. Such behavior only happens because of love. Mormonism is just so tightly wound around their conception of love, that the ultimate love, the best wish for someone’s wellbeing is to wish for them to be a faithful member of the church forever, who “gets it” and knows Heavenly Father’s plan for them.

It’s a phenomenon of tribal programming that is hard to undermine. I, myself, feel myself slipping back into my Mormon modes of thought concerning this or that or so-and-so. But, as instinctual as my Mormonism is for me, I cannot help but think. Mormonism requires me to turn my back on or willfully ignore facts about science and facts about Mormonism’s less-than-optimal effect on the mental health of tens of thousands of its members including my own. I feel the “old tug,” but my answer is no. I will never forget what I know, nor forget the people I love, but I will not bless this house as it stands ever again.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

Mary Oliver was raised in a broken home, I take, based on what I read in most of her poetry. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a broken home. It doesn’t matter if souls aren’t happy, lip service is paid to the institution. The church isn’t even about Christ anymore, if it ever was. If I were to provide a caricature of an experience of a Mormon worship service, I would have to say there is only one reference to christ for every ten references to the institution headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Loyalty to the institution is put above all: one’s family, one’s dreams, one’s own wellbeing. When I suffered at my worst under theologically-induced depression, all I saw were LDS professionals. I didn’t want to see anyone else. I was scared to see anyone else. These were mistakes. Most LDS counsellors are incapable of any conception of well-being that does not end with faithful, tithe-paying and lifelong discipleship in the church.

I used to explain away the brown edges of Mormonism by dividing the pros and cons of Mormonism between the perfect, idealistic, archetypal church that existed in Heaven’s mind for the Mormon situation and Mormon culture. The mantra goes, “the church is perfect, but the people aren’t.” The institution gets credit for all the pros, but the members and the product of their society with each other, their culture, gets all the cons. It’s almost the same for what Mormonism does inside an individual.

Mormonism, as the indoctrination in an individual’s heart and mind, takes credit for everything they do right and blames them for everything they do wrong. It is here the absence of Jesus, his grace and mercy, is the most apparent in Mormonism. There’s a body of literature amassing by faithful authors trying to change this: The Continuous Atonement, The Infinite Atonement, Believing Christ, among others. These, however, are the culture, which hold no authority over the members and almost certainly will not affect the Brethren in their Ivory Tower of prophet-ship. Neither is it in their interest to put the members’ wellbeing above the doctrine. The members can suffer and die volunteering long hours and making obscene amounts of money to the institution, and it is no immediate consequence to the Brethren whether they are happy, as long as they feel like there are chasing a glorious promise. The Brethren just have to keep them all drinking the kool-aid.

My heart aches for young men and women who had to suffer anything like I did at the church’s indifference to their emotional distress or the incompetence of their local leaders, who pretend to act as therapists though they are not certified or trained in any way. When I think I recognize such a soul in sunday school, I say all I can say, within scripture and without outing myself, to throw them a life-raft: the slightest hope that God still cares or sense of permission to be kinder to themselves.

There are Mormons, like John Dehlin, who take a vested interest in fixing this awful state of affairs. I thank people like Dehlin for trying, but the Saints don’t want to be helped in any way that doesn’t have their leadership’s stamp of approval, and the leadership ostracizes and discredits any threat to their monopoly on the hearts and minds of the Saints. I think we can keep trying, but “you don’t stop.”

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

I think the speaker’s broken family was a codependent and negative one that sucked the life out of any attempt to help the house. The speaker couldn’t get so emotionally attached to those cries that she went back into the house to suffer more abuse. It is a doomed house and no one wishes to be helped, except with “bad advice.”

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
My journey has felt very much like being caught in a storm. It’s a wild night, and the road is full of fallen branches and stones. Mormonism does nothing, raises not a pinky, to help members struggling with its truth claims. They recently threw out a bunch of essays at the members that canonized, or at least represents some official advice, some silly apologetics that FairMormon has been using for years. The leadership refuses to bend on a literalist’s interpretation of scripture. The best they will do is toss out some apologetics to help it go down easier, but they will do nothing to help the culture assimilate its agnostics. Agnostics who speak of their agnosticism are as bad as atheists in their eyes. Anyone who challenges the fundamental faith overtly is a villain.
There is small community of nonbelievers on the net that I don’t know what I would have done without. They helped me navigate a time when I didn’t know what was truth anymore. I had no sense of up or down, or what mattered or why I should care about anything anymore.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
There’s an emotional and intellectual life after mormonism, though, and I find it riveting. A social life is soon to come, I hope. Right now I feel like my genuine self can only be expressed online as ColdDodger.
I couldn’t start my journey with antimormon literature, or even anti religious literature. I couldn’t stomach them, and I feared God. I had to start with just literature. 1984 is the best book that could have found me when it did. It was through Orwell that I started to see all the Orwellian strings Mormonism had on my life. From Orwell, I dared to read Dawkins and then Hitchens, and from them on to Grant Palmer, Fawn Brody and D. Michael Quinn.
Slowly, the books helped me cut some strings and move for what felt like the first time. I had no idea what it was like to be free, a free thinker. I’d spent my whole life trying to ward it off.
It felt so good, I started to entertain sharing it with my family. Surely, they would see my sincerity and understand. Didn’t Joseph Smith tell his mom that he found out presbyterianism wasn’t true, and did she not straightway believe him? Since I was a child, I tried to emulate that: to be so honest and genuine that no one ever need doubt a word that came from my lips.
I decided against telling my family straightaway. It would not have been smart. Does this make me dishonest? I’m living a duplicitous life right now, it’s true. I find myself here of necessity though. I didn’t control the line of events that led me to this spot right here, right now. I’m a student at Brigham Young University.
At what point in a disaffected Mormon’s journey does it become dishonest to answer yes when asked if you believe the Mormon church is the “only true and living church on the face of the earth”? Does disaffection happen all at once? Don’t many disaffected try to save their testimonies? Some can conclude relatively quickly that the church is not true, but others like myself drag it on for years. Perhaps the difference is in how much one has to lose socially. At what point did my doubts become more powerful than my desire to profess the faith in my heart? Am I to be punished for having a change of heart? Is that anything I could have pretended to control without being disenguous with myself?
No, and I had to sever the strings for the sake of my own wellbeing. I don’t know if there is a God; though, I’m certain it’s not the Mormon God. The Book of Mormon speaks of the devil’s “flaxen chords,” and contrasts it the illusion that a Mormon could leave God’s service at any time with ease. God wouldn’t stop him from using his agency, but consequences would surely follow. But, in practice, family members and friends seek to enforce the consequences of leaving. These social bonds are bonds. You can love your bonds, or you can take them off. Mormonism’s chords elsewhere in your life are going to make this process difficult for you. It’s all a dastard illusion of agency.
I have my moral agency, real free will, for the first time. I’m happy like I have not been since I was a young child. I have to seek to save my life. It is not true that I will lose it by seeking it. I’m reclaiming it back little bit by bit. And it is so wonderful to me.