Monday, November 20, 2006


Yesterday in Sacrament meeting a speaker said the following line regarding doubt:

"Don't doubt, doubt is the tool of Satan".

I wonder where the LDS church would be if Joseph Smith listened to and followed this advice. Not to mention where the world would be if Copernicus, Galileo, Columbus, and other discoverers of truth had adhered to it.

Doubt is a necessary step in discovery of any truth.

Is this is what is meant by a doubt free testimony, a testimony where one shuns doubt because a belief that it is a tool of Satan? I don't think that is what the Brethren meant, but that is just my interpretation.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I found this quote while reading today

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things,” - Rene Decartes

Agnostic Mom

I just wanted to share a link to another blog I found a few weeks ago. It is called Agnostic Mom and she is also someone who left the church. I read her story and I really identified with her, it seems like we shared many similar instances. As it turns out, I have met her. We were at BYU at the same time, lived a few doors down from her and her husband and they even invited us over for dinner once. The link above is to her story about leaving the church, it has 4 parts. I think she is a much better writer than I am which allows her to express things better than I have done. One strange thing is that I am finding more and more people that I knew at BYU that have now left the church, to some degree or another, the number is in double digits now. Not that people leaving has any bearing on whether it is true or not, but nevertheless an interesting and somewhat surprising finding.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Holy Ghost and Partial Truths

The Mormon church professes to be the only true and living church. Joseph Smith claimed that God told him that none of the other churches were correct. Nevertheless, people in other faiths claim to feel the Holy Ghost, which is suppose to be a verifier of truth. How can people in other faiths feel the Holy Ghost if their churches are not true?

One common answer when I ask this question is that they indeed do feel the Holy Ghost but that it is only confirming those partial truths that they do have. This idea is problematic. If the Holy Ghost can confirm partial truths, how does an LDS member know that their beliefs/confirmations do not fall under these partial truths. If they claim to feel the Holy Ghost on a particular subject, isn't the Holy Ghost only confirming that specific subject, or a portion of it. So in essence, and LDS member, in order to believe that their church is the complete truth would have to have confirmation on every LDS principle. This includes having the Holy Ghost verify that polygamy is correct which included marrying women who were already married to other LDS men, that denying the priesthood to blacks was correct, even though they had it under Joseph Smith and then didn't under Brigham Young. I have always had bad feelings about these principles and I can't really imagine having a good feeling about them. If the Holy Ghost can testify to partial truths what makes the LDS faith immune to this?

I have also heard the argument that nonmembers feel the Holy Ghost because they are on a stepping stone to the truth. This theory seems counterproductive. If people in a specific faith are receiving the Holy Ghost, does that not act as a confirmation of their beliefs/actions, if so, then how is that a stepping stone. If a member of the Catholic church routinely feels the Holy Ghost isn't that more likely to confirm their path of Catholicism rather than pushing them towards a true path? Giving people partial confirmations when their beliefs are wrong doesn't seem like a productive way of leading people to truth.

I live in the south, part of the Bible Belt. Many of the people I associate with are saved people, meaning that they have professed a belief in Christ, accepted him, and therefore they are saved from sin. They routinely recall this as a very spiritual moment, confirmed by the Holy Ghost. The LDS church believes that this principle is wrong, we are not saved by grace, but rather by grace coupled with works. So we have a problem with a basic syllogism. The Holy Ghost confirms truth, Certain believers feel the Holy Ghost when they profess their belief in Christ and are saved by his grace, so then it stands to reason in this example that the Holy Ghost is verifying that these people are saved by grace. Likewise, an LDS person feels the Holy Ghost when praying about the Book or Mormon which teaches that grace alone is insufficient, this Holy Ghost is suppose to confirm truth, so it stands to reason that we are not saved by grace.

We cannot have both of these results. What is wrong. Either one or both of these groups is lying and they are not feeling anything, or one or both of these groups are feeling something but it is not the Holy Ghost and therefore not a confirmation of their respective truths.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Finale

After the most recent unanswered prayer experience I told my wife that I was done with the church. This wasn't the answer I wanted and it surely wasn't the answer she wanted. This was hard on the both of us, but we knew we loved each other and that we could overcome religious differences.
Later that week I contacted my Bishop and informed him that I can't honestly be a sustainer of the church and that I wished to be released from my calling. I also informed him that if he wished to discuss this further I would be more than willing, but I didn't feel that it was necessary on my side. He requested that we meet together and the following Sunday we did. I was very impressed with our discussion, he seemed to believe that I was sincere and honest, which is not what I experienced form other LDS members. He reassured me that I could get an answer that was more than a belief that I could actually 'know' that it is true. But I had tried, and I told him that. It didn't make sense to me to knock at a door that I had just knocked at dozens of times and no one ever answered, I used to have faith but that had gone, all I was left with was a hope. He challenged me not to give up and to give it another shot. Wanting an answer so badly I accepted his challenge. That following week was General Conference, a meeting held in Salt Lake City by leaders of the LDS church which is broadcast to members all over the world. I watched every session, which I did with every General Conference, this was 6 hours on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. During the Saturday afternoon session Elder Uchtdorf gave the talk I previously referenced. In that talk he said that it is every member's responsibility to have a doubt free conviction. I dvr'd that talk and watched it probably 4 or 5 times, taking exact notes of the steps he said were needed to get an answer. I even went so far as to create a spreadsheet mapping out the process. If I was going to give this one more chance, I wanted to do it right. Two more weeks went by, I read my scriptures everyday, I prayed regularly, I obeyed all the commandments I could think of. Saturday came and I decided that I was ready for an answer, I began a fast on Saturday about noon to get myself spiritually ready for the answer. After church the next day I tried again, with hope and sincerity, but there was no difference. Again I had received nothing. We went to my parents house that evening for dinner, the whole time I was still waiting for my answer, thinking that I didn't wait long enough. Eventually, by the next morning, I gave up, I was depressed and abandoned, but also frustrated. Frustrated like I had just been made a fool of. I think it was Ben Franklin who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was done, that was it. The following Sunday I stayed home with one of our children who was sick. The Bishop asked my wife if he could speak with her and she informed him that I was done. He handed her some books about prayer that he wanted me to read. I read them, but they did nothing for me, I didn't have the strength to try again, plus even my hope was waning. I met with the Bishop later that week and told him my results. Our meeting was a little different this time, he didn't seem as understanding. Although he was still legitimately concerned with my situation he began telling me that most people who leave the church do so because they are sinning, somewhat insinuating that I had big sins that I hadn't repented of. I told him this was not the case. He continued to ask and even went so far as to directly ask me if I had always remained faithful to my wife. A bit take aback, I said that I had and that I kind of prided myself of still being temple worthy even though I no longer believed. We parted ways, neither satisfied with our experience.
It has been two weeks since that meeting. I still go to church with the family, but mainly to support my wife and kids with what they practice. I still have interest in religion and the church, I am currently reading Rough Stone Rolling (a biography about Joseph Smith), but I can no longer say that I believe. That lack of a belief extends beyond Mormonism, how far beyond I am not sure. The idea of a God is nice, I would like to believe in it, and some days I think that it is likely that there is a god, but I am not sure. I don't know a lot, but I do know that I don't know, and that now I don't even believe.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Deconversion continued some more

After the birth of our second child, I started a new job. It wasn't long before everybody knew me as the Mormon guy, which was fine, I always made it a point to let people know of my religious "convictions" and often used that to start conversations about religion, even going so far as to invite (albeit unsuccessfully) coworkers to meet with the missionaries and reactivate an inactive member once. Although at this time, I had many doubts about one's ability to know the truthfulness of the church, I still believed it, and was going to be a messenger for it. About 10 months after I started this new job I was transferred to Texas, near my family, to start a new position with the company. We were excited about the opportunity to be around my family, but were also sad about leaving my wife's family, even I became really attached to Minnesota. We joined our new ward (congregation) and I was called to be Financial Clerk for the church. We met a few good friends in the ward, but my doubts about the church were increasing. I had a good friend from BYU, who I had considered attending law school with, who left the church. We would occasionally have conversations about this and he would say that he thought I wouldn't be LDS if I wasn't married. I wasn't sure what brought that on, but I assured him that I had a testimony of the church and that I would be a strong member regardless of whether I was married or not.
One day I received an email from another friend from BYU, we exchanged emails back and forth and then decided that IM'ing would be quicker. While at work (I'm bad, I know) we would IM back and forth about music, movies, kids and other things typical to these type of "catching up" conversations. One day we were talking about politics and I asked him what he thought of gay marriage. I could have predicted his answer before he said it, we have always been very polar in our political stances. He told me that he had no problem with gay marriage and I think I may have shocked him when I told him I felt the same way. This ultimately led to us discussing religion and I was shocked to find out that he had a lot of the same doubts as I did. This was totally different from my first friend leaving the church, both are really smart guys, but I never really felt that the first friend was that much into the church, but this second friend was. He was a strong missionary and always impressed my with his testimony. To discover his doubts as well was shocking and comforting at the same time. The somewhat comical part of these conversations was that when either of us would express doubt about certain doctrine, the other would try to explain why that principle was true. It was as if we were both trying to make sure that neither left the church, I guess you can take the man out of the mission field but you can't take the mission out of the man.
Eventually I became more comfortable with my own doubts and started to research more into church history and doctrine. There are areas of church history that I have always had concerns with, but as I searched it seemed like I discovered more and more, and this is not what I wanted. I was in search of resolutions to my doubts not confirmations of them, and certainly not new doubts. But that is what I found. I tried to approach this with the most neutral of stances, I didn't read anything from organizations who would profit from me leaving the church (i.e. other churches) I would only read things from members or former members. If I found something negative, I would research that topic in F.A.R.M.S. or FAIR LDS, pro-LDS sites. I really, really wanted it to be true but at the same time I did not want to be ignorant of everything that this church is or has been about. Unsatisfied, with any of the pro-LDS literature I was reading I decided to put away all research. I decided that people can debate "facts" back and forth all day and end up getting nowhere. I decided that the only thing that would make me believe would be personal revelation about the truthfulness of the church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. That weekend I fasted and prayed. I prayed all weekend that the Lord would soften my heart, help me recognize an answer and would give me a confirmation that what I wanted to believe was true. That Sunday we had a lesson about true intentions, doing good for good's sake, and I felt great, this is what I loved about the gospel, it was truly good and I wanted an answer that it wasn't just good but eternally true. I stayed after church to do the finances but all I could think about was getting home and asking the Lord for an answer. After we were finished, I rushed home, ran upstairs and fell to my knees and prayed. I can honestly say I have never felt more humble and more prepared for divine inspiration than at that point. I committed myself to the Lord and said that I will do all He asks if I could receive an answer. I waited and waited, but it never came. All I received was nothingness. I went downstairs and my wife immediately knew something was wrong, we went into the living room away from the kids and I told her about my fast and prayer. I was in tears, simultaneously sad and mad. Although we had talked about it several times before, I think this is the first time that she understood the internal struggle I was having. In my lowest moment, I did not feel the Lord comforting me, I did however feel my wife comforting and understanding me. This would change my life.

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