Hi Elder Uchtdorf and/or the LDS Church Public Affairs Officer who scans the Internet for this type of thing,
I’m a former Mormon. People inside and outside the church may have other classifications for people like me – disaffected Mormon, inactive Mormon, Jack Mormon, lost sheep – but I prefer former Mormon.
I don’t watch general conference. I stopped watching conference when I realized it stirred up negative emotions in me –anger, frustration, regret, sorrow, hurt, etc. These emotions are hard for me to shake, so I choose to not watch conference in favor of playing with my kids, going to the beach, taking a nap, or reading a book. This choice has greatly improved my quality of life.
But this last Saturday, I started receiving emails, texts, and other communiques URGING me to watch your general conference address.
“It feels like this talk was written just for you,” one person said. “I hope this changes the way you view the church,” said another. “This is proof you are always welcome at church,” gushed a friend.
So I watched your talk. And I was genuinely touched by your talk. Thank you for your heartfelt message.
But I’m not coming back. Here’s why.
I built my life around the church. I got my Eagle Scout award. I served in youth positions. I graduated seminary. I shared the gospel with friends. I served an honorable full-time mission. I went to BYU. I married in the temple. I had kids young. I served in ward and stake callings.
The church gave me the roadmap for life – and it meant everything to me.
After I graduated college I became very interested in my ancestry and church history. Since many of my forbearers are pioneers, I wanted to know more about their lives and experiences.
Imagine my surprise when I learned things like:
Joseph Smith had dozens of wives, many of whom were teenagers. The mob that killed Joseph Smith was angrier about his polyandry, polygamy, and destruction of public property than the religion he founded. Joseph Smith didn’t use the Golden Plates to “translate” the Book of Mormon – the entire story appeared to him in a Seer Stone at the bottom of a hat. The temple ceremony is strikingly similar to Masonic rituals. Brigham Young preached a host of disturbing doctrine including Blood Atonement, and was the driving force behind denying the priesthood to black people. The Word of Wisdom was not a commandment until the Prohibition movement. Etc., etc. ad infinitum.
I was horrified to learn these things, but I continued to attend church and serve in my callings because I still believed that the church was fundamentally “good.”
But it’s hard to pretend something you’re not. And over time my concerns started coming out to family and friends.
When I first voiced my concerns about church history, I was accused of being a pornography addict. Church and family members suggested to my wife that I was being unfaithful, or that I was hiding a sin. Many more suggested that I was lazy and wanted an excuse to leave the church.
I’m sure there are people reading this right now CONVINCED that I’m hiding some kind of awful sin.
In a matter of weeks my entire spiritual, social and family life came apart. And after I saw my life being ripped apart, I become the “angry ex Mormon with an axe to grind” that I never thought I would become.
Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever recover.
But you know what – over the years things (slowly) got better. My wife stuck with me, and our relationship is stronger than ever.
I redefined my life as a former Mormon, retaining things from Mormonism that were helpful, and discarding things that were useless or harmful. And you know what – my life slowly improved.
I lost 50 pounds. I found new friends, hobbies and places to serve. I got happier – and as a result, my family got happier.
And you know what the best part? None of the people in my new life expect me pretend to be something else. They welcome me as I am, and don’t expect me to change. They’re just happy that I’m a part of their lives.
If I were to return to church tomorrow, I’m sure I’d be welcome with open arms. But I’d be expected to suppress my questions. I’d be expected to pretend that my concerns about church history and culture don’t exist. My role would be extremely limited.
In short, I’d definitely have a place in the church – but it would rank slightly above the chapel furniture.
I don’t need or deserve to be treated like that.
I don’t have to pretend the Book of Mormon makes sense in order to serve my community. I don’t have to ignore bigoted and hateful statements from General Authorities to be a good dad. I can contribute to my community without having to deal with the baggage and emotional turmoil that seems to be cost of entry for disaffected members like me.
So while I thank you for extending the olive branch of friendship to this former Mormon, I won’t be coming back.
You’ve been replaced.