Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To my Mormon family and friends

I'd like to offer a couple apologies and an explanation to all my active Mormon friends and family. First off, I'm sorry for not clarifying better when I criticize the church that I love my Mormon friends and family but I don't love some things the church does. Even if you support those things I see as bad, I still love you. There is a definite and distinct difference in my view. I do not point out problems with the church to hurt you. I do it to help make the world a better place as I'll explain below. Although I'm not sorry for fighting for justice, equality, transparency, and honesty, I'm sorry that things I've said have hurt you because I don't want you to be sad. I do feel a strong need to fight for those morals and will continue to do so because I believe that doing so important.

An analogy to what I'm apologizing for would be like having a dad (my loved ones) that wanted me to be a part of his diary business (his church) like he and his fathers have been doing for years. Despite loving my dad, I hated how his business bought supplies from known child-labor companies (bad things the church does) and I wanted to be a doctor to save lives for my job instead of working for his company even if it didn't buy from those suppliers. I'd feel sorry for the hurt I caused my dad in wanting to do a different job, but wanting to help save lives and not take advantage of abusive child-labor are more important than going against my morals and life desires to make him happy in that one area. I do what I can to make him happy in other areas because I love him. I'd be sorry for the pain my decision caused him, but I would not be sorry for making the decisions I did.

I think a mutual understanding is beneficial here. You are hurt by the things I say about the organization you love and you feel that is directed at you for belonging to it. Please understand that it is not directed to you, but to the organization. I feel hurt because you can't see me as leaving the church and still be as good of a person. Thinking that the church has the ultimate truth makes it so that no matter what I give as my explanation, you ultimately see me deceived, weak or bad.

Furthermore, understand that my desire to point out the errors is my sharing my truth and is the same thing as you doing your member and full time missionary work. So please don't ask me to leave and leave it alone when you also can't leave the world (all other religions) and leave it alone (doing and supporting LDS missionary work). The double standard isn't fair. I think making an analogy that takes the emotions created by the religion out of the equation can help you understand my passion to speak out (If the analogy offends instead of thinking of ways it is admittedly imperfect, consider reasons why I would use it to understand me)...

Here's my crazy immigrant (leaving the church) story. I was born and grew up in North Korea (inside the church) in a town called Chikhalsi (Sandy), but known to the outside world as Pyongyang (Salt Lake City), our capital. If you know anything about my homeland, they control the media (don't tell the whole story of their history in Sunday School, seminary, institute), and information sources. (manuals, videos) so you only hear on the inside what they want you to hear (discourage learning from outside sources). They told us all growing up that our nation (Mormon lifestyle) was the best (happier, freer, healthier) compared to all others. I always wondered if this were true or not. Occasionally I'd see something (studies showing non-religious kids are kinder, drinking coffee makes you live longer) that made me think the rest of the world was doing better than I was told. More human rights (less racism, less sexism, apologies for past racism/sexism), more intellectual freedom, more equality, less bias against science, etc.

I loved my country (the church)! I learned in school (seminary, institute) the history of my country and my love for it (Mormonism) grew even more despite the fears it wasn't what I was told that were growing. There were some weird things (stories that didn't make sense here and there, but I figured if I learned more I'd eventually understand. I was always told that a feeling of national pride (spirit) would confirm that everything the government (church leadership and scriptures) said was true. While I definitely felt those feelings of national pride (feeling good when I did good) I never felt them when reading that my country was the best country ever (one true church). My feelings not matching with their explanations always bothered me and made me question them at times and feel like I was broken at other times.

Along comes the internet which is mostly filtered inside the country (encouraged to teach from church approved manuals and websites only) but I was able (emotionally willing) to go outside of the government limitations and get unfettered (documented sources, not sensationalized hyperbole) information. At first I thought it must be lies because it went against so much of what I'd learned growing up. I tried to point out these discrepancies and was told I was a liar. I tried to make a place in the country for people that didn't think it was the greatest country ever, but loved the people enough to want to stay but was told I had to be on board 100% . Eventually I suffered isolation and learned enough of the true history that it made me want to move out of the country (leave the church). After mentioning this to my wife who had read the same stuff and came to the same conclusions she agreed it wasn't healthy for us to stay anymore. One day after careful preparation we escaped (left the church)! After we left the country and seeing how happy we were the government took away our citizenship. Even after admitting we had only spoken the truth and had actually helped lessen the suffering of many that were in similar situations to our own. Because we said the government wasn't the greatest in the world (one true church of God) we couldn't be citizens any more.

Life in outside of North Korea really is so amazing!! The other day I got a call from my friends back in North Korea. They felt sad for me that I'd left the wonderful country of our heritage and couldn't understand how I could be so much happier with my spiritual, mental and emotional freedoms. They said I must be deceived by the outside world and they wouldn't believe my stories. I tried to explain this but they got very irritated and wouldn't listen, saying I've been fooled by the capitalist (non-Mormon world). They said even though they knew I was always honest, cared about others, did much more research about the country than them, that it didn't matter what I said because they felt good where they were and therefore didn't need to try to see if I was correct about them being happier outside the country. Some admitted that they couldn't try, even though they believed me, because they couldn't handle being rejected by family and friends like I had been rejected. It did made me very sad to be rejected, staying true to my integrity and gaining the other happinesses that I have greatly outweigh that negative!

What surprises me is that people who leave the country because they realize the truth never come back. Yeah, some people leave because they get lost in the woods (choose to leave for sin) and come back, but nobody ever goes back that comes to the same conclusions as me (the church is not true). Out of the thousands of people I know that have escaped, I know of two people that have gone back and both didn't change their mind about the country, they just wanted the community they had despite not agreeing with the country on what it said it was. I was shocked that the people on the outside couldn't see how no one returned as a sign that all of us that escaped were actually telling the truth. We had lived inside and understood them, but they hadn't lived outside and couldn't understand us so making judgments about us was unfair.

Because I love all my North Korean citizens, especially my friends and family that still live there, I occasionally send letters, drop fliers from planes in the air, send radio waves over the border to let them know what life is like on the outside and that they aren't getting the whole story. Hopefully, some of them will let their love for me and their knowledge that I was always an honest, truth seeking, diligently researching person on the inside, motivate them to try and hear my story despite the preconceived notions the country drilled into them about defectors.

Maybe what you should know is that there are a lot of people still inside the country that see what I've said as true but stay silent and remain inside out of fear. They've seen how the country and many citizens have treated me and it scares them to death. They can't imagine going through that pain so they choose silent suffering instead of dealing with the unkind isolation and rejection. Know that the country and many citizens are hurting more than just me.

So, hopefully the above analogy will help you understand why I speak out and not stay silent. Ironically, people often assume that leaving the church means I left my morals behind. My morals are fighting for equality, love, fairness and not hurting others. I will not back down from my morals even if it offends ones that I love. Compromising my integrity to lessen the offense fighting for those morals may cause is something I'm not willing to do. I am sorry that the things I do that hurt you, but please understand I don't do them to hurt you. I've literally had hundreds of people reach out to me and Marisa and say that we've helped them feel less isolated, more understood, less likely to get a divorce, less likely to commit suicide and suffer less in many ways that they have been suffering. Even if you disagree with my conclusions about the church, I hope that you care enough about human suffering to know that what I've done has helped lessen the suffering of thousands of people. Hopefully that will help you respect my desires for a better world even if you disagree on how to get there.

Much love, Carson

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Three wonderful friends

 Looking for the five handouts from my DC? They are here.

We feel extremely blessed to have some amazing friends that have stood by us despite our different conclusions on the church.  The chose love over harsh judgement, inclusion over isolation, even at the unfortunate expense of harsh judgement and isolation from others for doing that for us.  We asked three of them to be witnesses for us in our disciplinary council.  They each spoke in a very moving and authentic way and we'll forever love them for that.  This difficult experience has brought us closer together and is a great example of believers and non-believers working together to make the world a better place.

(Nathan, Carson, Aaron, Jeremy)

They have agreed to share some of what they said in our disciplinary council to add to our Mormon Stories podcast.  Jeremy spoke first for a couple minutes, Nathan second for about 15 and finally Aaron for about 30 minutes.  (Also, link to my five handouts that I gave and the explanation of why I used them is given here Disciplinary Council Plan )

See PDF here

See PDF here

See PDF here

Friday, May 22, 2015

Leave And Leave It Alone

Many times when discussing our thoughts on Mormonism, extended family or friends ask me the often repeated Mormon phrase, "If you left the church, why can't you leave it alone?"  Since now I've both left and been kicked out I thought it would be a good time to detail my explanation and have something to point people to when they ask so I don't have to have the long conversation over and over again.

Calling out the church on its problems

Let's start off with "I'm just doing it to follow the prophets." :-)

Despite the many problems I have with Mormonism, one of the things I love about it was the prophet of my young adulthood, Gordon B. Hinckley.  He was a great man and tried hard to connect and love people.  He famously said, "Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing." (1)  Combine that with what the wonderful J. Rueben Clark said (BYU Law School was named after him), “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (2)  This was my mantra in life, which unfortunately led me out of the church.  The more I investigated it, the more it fell apart until I no longer could believe it was God's one true church anymore.

Taking in all of the above with the strong push we get as Mormons to be member missionaries and share the good word, how could I not want to share what to me is the good word?  Doesn't it also seem a little very hypocritical to send people out on missions, encourage members to share the gospel with their neighbors, even push to do it on social media and then think that I can't do the same?  It would be like a non-member telling a recent Mormon convert, "You can leave the world, but you can't leave it alone."

I have an idea as to why members say this phrase, despite its obvious double standard.  Most members are good people doing good things.  My problems are a lot more with the system than the people.  Everyone I've talked to that will be honest with me admits there are things in the church and its doctrine that bother them.  They choose to put those items on the proverbial shelf and not deal with them.  When someone leaves the church and especially if they point out the problems that made them leave, this brings those items off the shelf and puts it right back in front of them creating cognitive dissonance.  This makes them feel uncomfortable, those issues are on the shelf for a reason.  Rather than deal with them its easier to just vilify the person making you feel that cognitive dissonance and put them back on the shelf.

Talking about the church without attacking it

Beyond that, if you sit back and think about what Mormonism is to a person, especially someone (like myself) who is born in, raised in and almost everyone you know is in the church then it makes up your world view.  The ways you think and act are Mormon.  Finding out the church isn't true, deciding to leave "your tribe" and changing your world view are extremely difficult things to do.  Is it any wonder that people spend some time deconstructing the church?  Many ex-Mormons want very badly to become ex-ex-Mormons, meaning they've moved beyond Mormonism and live a regular life.  This is very hard to do for anyone leaving an extremely dogmatic and conservative religion.  It takes a while to get it out of your system.  Jehovah's Witnesses go through exactly the same thing (if not more) and I don't see Mormons saying that it's proof that church is true as well.

Finding out the church isn't true has been described to be as painful as finding out your spouse is cheating on you with your best friend or losing a child. Many that have experienced either of those and left the church say that the latter is harder.  Experiencing something so traumatic as that is going to make them go through the five stages of grief, one of which is anger.  Of course people are going to spend some time processing such a dramatic change in their life, and yes, some of it is going to be done with anger for most people.  Its really, really hard not to feel powerful anger and lash out.

Mormonism has created a story-telling people.  We dedicate one full worship service a month to getting up and telling our religious stories to each other.  We're asked to share them often in many meetings, even at home.  Humans naturally are story-telling people, and Mormons tend to tell their stories even more.  Deciding the church isn't true is not going to make this long developed personality trait suddenly disappear.

Probably one of the most important reasons why people who leave the church can't leave it alone is because we love you and think you're in a bad system.  We want you to move on to something better, like we have.  Our desire to share our new found happiness motivates us to tell you about it.  My life is so much better in so many ways, but the one way it definitely isn't is in some of my relationships.  Some family and friends who are still members have isolated me, spoken badly about me, and assumed terrible things about me.  That hurts.  We want those relationships back, but for people who won't accept the new, authentic versions of ourselves, it's just not a possibility.  It is our hope that by sharing with you things you most likely don't know, that you'll come to a similar conclusion, and we can all be happier together!


Here are some funny examples of the irony I find in members using this trite phrase on me.  There are so many ways they don't leave ex-Mormons alone, I can't understand how they can say the phrase knowing how much they hound less-active and post-Mormons while keeping a straight face.

I'll make members a promise - when they stop sharing their good word, I'll do the same.  Until then, let's keep searching for the truth because "the truth will set [us] free." (3) and "If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation." (2)
Also see our other post on how we are happy to be branded as apostates -

1-Loyalty, Conference, April 2003.
2-J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24, emphasis added.
3-John 8:23