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

I am an apostate

We have received the decision from our Stake Presidency about our disciplinary court and it states that we are apostates.  This is a title we wear with honor!  Yes, we are apostates!  We are proud to have been kicked out of an organization that values obedience over truth finding.  We love our Mormon family and friends and recognize that there are many good things in Mormonism, but if it chooses to value certain things that we are morally opposed to, then yes, we are happy to stand up for those values and be cut out of our tribe.  We are sad that they have chosen to do this, to isolate themselves from those that want to help make it a better place.  Those that choose seeking for truth over protecting their image because in the end, the truth will set us free!

We know it can be hard to take a stand, but many are doing it.  As we unite in our efforts to demand love and understanding over isolation and demonization we will all inspire others to do the same.  No longer are ex-Mormons being seen as people that want to leave to sin or because they were lazy.  More and more good people, wanting to make the world a better place, are leaving and to discard the bad of their religion and moving on to a better place by keeping the good.  Inspire those around you to do the same.  Stand up for truth and righteousness!

See our other post about leaving the Church but not leaving it alone -

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Apostasy Disciplinary Council

Many people have asked why we don't resign instead of going through the disciplinary council for what seems to be a sure conviction of apostasy.  The main reason is that we know a lot of people that don't believe anymore, want to discuss their doubts and problems in public, but don't for fear of apostasy or shaming from family, friends and people at work.  Because we are in a position that we've already been through that by coming out about our disbelief publicly we feel that we can be a voice for them to hopefully create that middle ground in Mormonism that Carson worked for so many years to create from the inside.

So, what am I going to say in my DC?

As I always like to post things in bullet format :-) I'll do that here:
  • I'll give a 2 minute synopsis of my growing up in the church and feeling the feelings of the spirit, but only when people did good things, never when praying about the BOM or the church and the conflict that created, compounded by the fact that I felt those exact same feeling while watching fictional movies, etc.  Finally, after serving an extremely dedicated mission and still not getting a witness I partially gave up the hope that I would receive a testimony in 1997, almost 20 years ago.
  • Since then I've been very sympathetic to others that suffer emotional pain from similar circumstances.  I've tried to mourn with those that morn.  This made me spend lots of time over several years trying to help those that suffered shaming and isolation in Mormonism.  A much bigger problem than you realize if you're not experiencing it, one that has grown tremendously over the past few years as more of the factual church history has come to light with the internet.
  • Similarly, because members too often demonize doubt and doubters I've been very public and open about my doubts to normalize the pain others feel and I've shared some troubling church history facts (very few of the many available) to show those that harshly judge doubters that the issues are legitimate and difficult to resolve.
  • My stake president has said that this is not the way of the church and doing so causes some people to lose their testimony when they see what I write, even though its for good intentions.  Also, since the brethren are encouraging people to deal with doubts in private, not public, I'm going against the brethren in being public with my normalization and help.
  • To prove I should not be excommunicated (and more importantly they shouldn't excommunicate the people that are afraid to speak up) I'll share the following 5 handouts that explain my logic.  Yep, handouts :-)
  1. - This will have a bunch of quotes from prophets and apostles telling us themselves that we can't blindly follow them.
  2. - A list of obvious errors committed by the prophets and apostles showing that we should listen the previous document.  Many of these are not known by the general membership.
  3. - List of more quotes from the prophets and apostles saying that we have to think for ourselves and not let them do all the thinking.
  4. - A list of changes in the church and implementation of various policies and practices which started at the grass roots level and were later adopted by the general church.  As you can see there, almost every program in the church started this way, almost never top down.  Combine that with the recent request from Elder Clayton Christiansen telling members to help make changes so the brethren can see what helps.
  5. With the above stated I hope they'll see that doing what I have done for years (1-search for truth, 2-help others suffering from troubling church history know they are not alone, 3-show those demonizing doubts and doubters that there are legitimate church problems) is not only allowed in Mormon doctrine, but encouraged, and even recently.  To cap that all off, I'll give them my list of top 7 questions about church history that I couldn't solve to show them that these issues are legitimate.  I'll give them only the first two pages, not the several pages of source material
 Hopefully seeing the logic of my argument, the doctrinal support of my argument and my sincere desires to search for truth and alleviate the suffering of those that the general members don't understand, they'll have the courage to do what is right and help create that space.  I'll end with the following three questions:
  1. Does the truth have anything to fear? 
  2. Will the truth not set us free? 
  3. Isn't the glory of God intelligence, or light and truth?
...with a plea to follow the spirit and their hearts and not expected cultural norms.