Open Letter Elder Uchtdorf: Thanks, But No Thanks

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.

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I laughed at a man in fast and testimony meeting

So from time to time I attend sacrament meeting with my wife to help her wrangle the kids.

Generally I’ll pass the time playing iPad games with my son, and occasionally I’ll perk up if someone says something interesting.

Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting, and some tall, handsome, blond-haired bro ambled up to the stand and said (I’m paraphrasing):

Recently I’ve been wondering why it is that I’ve been blessed to have such an incredible life. I have so many spiritual and temporal blessings, and sometimes I wonder why I was selected to receive so much abundance.

Immediately I look up, because I want to determine the source of such douchebaggery. The ward my wife attends has quite a few people who are struggling.  I’m not talking your standard white Mormon problems – there are people struggling with money, health, relationships, etc.  You look around and it’s clear that some of these folks are clearly suffering and in need of some comfort. For that reason I was a little taken back when Brother Bro took to the stand and immediately bore testimony of his rad life.

So I’m sitting pretty much dead center in the chapel, and I look up at this guy and make eye contact with him as he continues to say:

I know that I have received these blessings because of decisions I made in this life, and in the pre-existence.

And I laughed at him. I didn’t even try to restrain it. At that point he kind of trailed off and started to ramble a bit. I’m not even going to pretend I felt bad, because fuck that guy.

The end.

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How I learned to stop hating General Conference

You guys, I just had an epiphany and I wanted to share it with people I haven’t met on the Internet.

Until about five minutes ago, the first Sunday of April and October were weekends to be dreaded. I hate General Conference with the white hot fury of 1,000 suns. And that’s weird, because you’d think a heathen like me would love skipping out on sacrament meeting guilt-free.

It’s no secret amongst church members and family members that I’m a non-believer. I’m not a militant attacker of the Mormon faith or anything, but because I haven’t officiated in any of my kids’ key Mormon faith milestones it’s abundantly clear to everyone that I’m an awful heathen. Everyone’s been civil to me, but family gatherings and church encounters are always kind of terse.

It gets especially awkward during conference, because I get together with my in-laws to watch the Sunday sessions. All the while I know it’s just a matter of time before a general authority makes some snide remark about atheists, secular humanists, or people who don’t make the habit of regularly and publicly stating their belief in magic.

This past weekend was especially bad. Mormon Apostle Quentin L. Cook dedicated his entire talk to disparaging secularists, M. Russell Ballard attributed all of society’s ills to the rise of secularism, and Russell M. Nelson made a really weird crack about evolution and science.

And of course, I felt targeted. I didn’t understand why they felt they needed to make those kinds of comments about people like me. After all, I’m not a horrible guy. I’m a family man at heart. I do everything I can to spend time with my kids and beautiful wife. I volunteer in my community. I donate time and money to worthwhile causes. When I mess up, I try to do better next time. I really don’t think my disbelief in God or religion is leading me to break down society. I think society is great!

So it really hurts my feelings when I hear these remarks, and even more when I see my family nodding in assent when these types of remarks are made.

But about five minutes ago I realized that these comments aren’t being made to hurt my feelings – they’re made to reassure millions of believers around the world who are terrified of the change happening the world over. Civil wars, terror attacks, economic disparity – the world is horrifying. And they need the church to reassure them that everything will be OK in the end.

I always seem to forget that – some people need religion to tell them that things will be alright. Sometimes the possibility that everything won’t be OK is too much to bear.

I’m different from your standard believer in that I am comfortable with random chance. I’m not saying that I’m in any way emotionally or intellectually superior to church-goers, I’m just “built differently.”

And that’s the core of the issue – church, general conference, the whole ball of wax, isn’t meant to attack people built like me – it’s meant to reassure believers.

Just watch the video of Quentin Cook’s address. Look how he beams down at the audience while describing the virtues of the believer. He’s not trying to make me feel bad about myself – he wants believers to feel GREAT about themselves. And good for him. He’s doing a tremendous service for the people who need him most.

And this conference was a great reminder that I don’t need the church anymore, and more importantly, they don’t need me.

And that’s just fine. In fact, it made me feel wonderful to remember that. I’m happy to be a global Mormon boogeyman for a few minutes so long as it will delay the breakdown of society.

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Priesthood = Penis

In a moment, it all became so clear. The priesthood is a euphemism for penis in Mormon culture. How did I not realize this years ago?

I had this epiphany while I was attending my daughter’s baptism. Because I don’t pay tithing or keep the Word of Wisdom, I wasn’t permitted to take part in the ordinance. My father carried out the baptism, and my father-in-law confirmed her a member of the church.

I didn’t think being shut out of this event would be painful for me. I had months of mental preparation under my belt, I had talked with my daughter in advance about baptism and what it would mean, and my wife was supportive as well.

Yet throughout the entire affair I couldn’t help but feel…emasculated. Here were other men “filling in” for me because I was incapable of performing these duties.

And as I sat there pondering all these feelings, it struck me – the priesthood is the Mormon expression of masculinity. To be unworthy of the priesthood in Mormon culture is eschew manhood, and become something of a child.

Don’t believe what we believe? We’ll go ahead and bar you from exercising your masculine duties in front of everyone you love. Maybe that will give you the “inspiration” to come back.

All at once, everything a general authority has ever said about priesthood made sense to me. And they also became an endless source of amusement. I went to LDS.org and searched for “priesthood,” then replaced every occurrence of the word “priesthood” with “penis.”

“Be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit in the use of that consummate privilege of acting in the name of the Lord through your penis.”
-Richard G. Scott

“The restored Church gives to each home a penis holder with the power of God to bless.”
– Enrique Falabella

“Each of us has duties associated with the sacred penis which we bear.”
– Thomas S. Monson

And then I laughed, and the hurting stopped just enough to enjoy the day. I’m so grateful to have the blessings of the penis in my life.

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boyd k. packer: old man, hypocrite or asshole?

boyd k. packer

so boyd k. packer gave an inflammatory talk at the last general conference in which he said that gay people are dirty, unnatural and should feel unending shame.

here’s my favorite quote. When making his point that homosexuality is not “inborn” he remarked, “Why would our heavenly father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our father.”

The funny thing is, this seems to go against something he said in his October 1993 address “For Time and All Eternity“:

There are what President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., called “pranks” of nature, which cause a variety of abnormalities, deficiencies, and deformities. However unfair they seem to man’s way of reasoning, they somehow suit the purposes of the Lord in the proving of mankind.

So according to elder packer, god loves us enough to give us deformities and other mental and physical handicaps, but he would never EVER make us gay. that would just be cruel.

so does elder packer really believe this? or did he contradict himself? is he just an old man who forgot what spoke about in conference 17 years ago? or is he a vile hypocrite?

or is he just a plain old gay-hating asshole?

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Blogging from church vol. 2

We went out to dinner with friends last night, and I drank a little too much chimay. Today I decided to attend elders quorum for the first time in about 6 months, and I’m slightly hungover. They really need to pick me for the next mormon.org video.

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why i complain about mormonism anonymously

i’ve gotten a couple of messages asking why i blog anonymously. the reason is pretty simple – i remember what it was like to be a believing mormon and how painful it was to have my faith challenged. as much as i would like my friends and loved ones to eventually know the truth about the church, i want to cause them as little pain as possible.

i remember the first time my faith was challenged. i was in an upper level BYU English class, and someone brought up the “DNA and the Book of Mormon” study that had just been published. when someone said that it was proven that no Hebrew DNA was found in the native americans, it felt like someone had kicked me in the chest. it was like someone was trying to purposefully damage my world view, and it was painful.

moments later, someone who was interning at FARMS explained the apologetic response, and it was a welcome relief. all was right with my world.

i’ve explained to family and friends that giving up my faith and distancing myself emotionally from the mormon church was one of the most painful experiences of my life. mormonism was how i framed my entire worldview and was part of my identity. giving up mormonism was emotionally akin to losing an appendage or close relative.

for that reason, i feel like it would be entirely selfish to try and push that experience on people i care about. if someone is actively seeking for critical information about the church and they stumble across this blog, that’s their own business. but i’m not about to tell the fanny alger story on my facebook page.

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