Saturday, December 22, 2012

Learned Arrogance

I want to talk about learned arrogance.  What I mean by this is that many members of the church get an attitude where they will act as if they have it all figured out.  They will act like they have the answers, and unless you agree with them you are someone to be pitied.  They have the "truth," and they are just waiting until you humble yourself to see it.  There are several things wrong with this.  One, it is the wrong attitude to have, even if you do have all the answers, no one will listen to you if you take this arrogant attitude.  Second, once you have an attitude of knowing everything, you are not likely to ever learn anything more.  Third, even if Mormonism were truth, no one would have sufficient understanding to be able to take this position with anyone else.  Finally, it is completely out of line to assume a teacher/mentor position with someone else without prior consent or position of authority to do so.

I want to take each of these in turn.

First, no one will listen to someone with this attitude.  If I act like I am better than you because I have all the answers, that I have things figured out and you just need to get on board with the program, or that I have some privileged knowledge or position that you are completely missing, then you almost automatically assume that I am wrong.  You have no reason to trust my position, and my attitude would just be poisoning any benefit you get from my position.  In actuality, my arrogance has no bearing on the truthfulness of anything I say, but people will automatically distrust because they will dislike my attitude.  I am, of course, using the "I" only metaphorically.

Second, you are not likely to learn anything anymore.  You have all the answers, what more could you hope to learn?  You already know it, nobody else can tell you anything.  This is essentially what many of these people will communicate implicitly.  How do you expect to learn anything, even about your own religion, if you are so cock that you think everyone else doesn't have it quite as figured out as you do?  This brand of arrogance leaves me disgusted.  They are so sure of what they know that they don't leave any room for error, to the point of treating other people poorly (perhaps not intentionally) just because they disagree.

Third, no one knows enough to be rightfully this certain.  There are these elements of faith that Mormons talk about, but when it comes down to it, there is no way for them to truly know.  I know most of them will argue this, but when it comes down to it it simply just doesn't work out quite that way.  To be able to appropriately take this stance with someone, you would have to have a similar situation as a parent with a toddler.  The toddler thinks they know the way the world works, and the parent just kind of knowingly says "haha, you will learn someday."  To have one adult take that stance with another?  That is ridiculous.

Finally, to assume a teacher/mentor role with someone without permission is the height of arrogance.  There are times when we relinquish this role to others, such as a professor when we are taking a class, a parent, or even ecclesiastical leadership, but it is an invasion of personal space to have someone simply take this role on themselves.  However, it is practically encouraged for church members to do this with non-believers.  "Teach them the gospel, tell them how it is, bring them to Jesus."  This is inappropriate and distasteful.  If you are Mormon and reading this, please don't do it, if you have done this in the past, please stop.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fake, False, and Phony

Why are people so fake?  Everyone in the church seems so concerned with putting on this air of perfection that they don't seem to be concerned at all with actually living their religion.  They are so concerned with looking like they live their religion that they don't actually do it.  They take the adage "avoid the appearance of evil" that they don't actually concern themselves with not being evil.  When visible defects or sins become less socially acceptable than more deep seated character flaws then something is definitely wrong.

Socially it is unacceptable to appear flawed.  If you aren't always smiling that plasticy smile, then people get all freaked out and avoid you.  If you don't have every sinful behavior under control, then people start to talk about you behind your back and assume that you are "going off the deep end."  If you have any emotions aside from joy, that obviously means that you are sinning or doing something wrong.

What does this end up coming down to?  People will beat themselves up if they don't do everything perfectly.  If they aren't reading their scriptures every day, they feel guilty.  If they have to miss out on a single week of church or any church activity, even if it is due to sickness, travel, or any other reasonable reason, then it is a huge guilt trip for themselves.  If they can't go to the temple every week, then all of the sudden they are the worst person in the world.  However, if they are judgmental, cruel, gossiping, and holier than thou, then it isn't that big of a deal, no one sees or asks about these things.  I have met way too many many hypocritical people that will crucify you for not studying your scriptures for at least 30 minutes a day and will make be disgusted at anything remotely suggestive, but they will turn around and make their roommates' lives hell, they will be racist, sexist, and bigoted in every way possible, and they will never let anything short of perfection go.

I don't think most people even realize how deep this behavior goes.  However, it is everywhere.  When people try so hard to "do what is right" without actually trying to follow the savior that they claim to believe in, it isn't hard to see why most of the world has a hard time calling Mormons Christians.

It is really frustrating to see the fakeness everywhere.  Everyone is false, they don't have a real personality, they don't really share their true feelings, and they try and control themselves in every aspect possible.  This goes to the point of suppression.  This all becomes, in many ways, psychologically damaging.

The craziest part of it all, is that there are actually people that don't feel this way in the middle of the culture, but they are afraid of speaking up and finding others like themselves because they are afraid of being judged.  Others will give them crap if they drop the phony and start being real.

Any group that encourages phony (whether actively or implicitly) has serious issues, and can't be considered a good thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Priesthood, Feminism, and Inspiration

The priesthood is an interesting thing.  What was crazy for me was to realize that all of my special moments connected with the priesthood had more to do with emotionality than with spirituality.  When I was feeling "spiritual" it was really just emotional.  The moments that were for me most spiritual were the emotionally meaningful moments.  When emotionality and spirituality get so confounded, it is hard to tell when the priesthood ordinances are truly accomplishing anything.

To think that only certain men that follow certain guidelines are given God's power is a little crazy idea.  Even worse, is the concept that you have this almighty power, but it only works when it is God's will that it works.  This is basically code for "don't lose your faith if it doesn't work," which is complete nonsense.  If you can't rely on a tool to consistently get a job done, what is the purpose of having the tool at all?  The tool might as well not even exist.

There are a lot more problems when we are talking about "priesthood authority."  Supposedly, your bishop has the power of discernment, meaning he can tell what the right thing is for you, tell when you are lying, and he can tell what sins you are committing.  Now, reality is that, of course, he can't.  I can't count the number of times that I, or friends (as they later tell me), will go into a bishop's office and he will either entirely miss the point about what I was doing, will give me terrible advice, or will not have some revelation about something that I am not telling him.  I know my Mormon friends will probably say that it is because they weren't being worthy of inspiration or something like that, but these were all good men and model Mormons, so there is no excuse.

It is very apparent that there are many men in the priesthood that flaunt their gift.  They wield it like a weapon and use it to coerce people into certain behaviors.  Priesthood becomes a control mechanism.  I knew a family growing up without a father in the home, but the one son that was active in the church turned into the head of the household because he had the priesthood.  The family deferred to him in many ways.  This just seems wrong that the youngest in the family becomes the most important, just because he is a man.

Why are men so important in the church?  Why is it that women are so unimportant?  The church treats women as if the only thing they can do is make babies and keep a house.  The church teaches that the highest calling for a woman is to be a mother.  You have no other future.  You need to drop every plan and desire in your life and become a mother as soon as possible.  There is also the teaching that the women don't need the priesthood because of how much more spiritual they are, and that women are the gatekeepers of virtue because men are just completely out of control sex machines, I guess.  These doctrines are completely degrading both to men and women.  Why can't men and women be treated as equals?  Is the church really still stuck in the 1800's?

Anyway, a few random topics that have been sitting on my mind.  Feels good to vent.

Monday, November 19, 2012

And the truth shall set you free

I am having a bad day.  I admit it.  There are times when I am just terrified that bad things are happening to me because I am "sinning" and have lost the "protection of god."  I realize this is total crap, and I will explain why.  Simply put, conditioning will cause you to see things that aren't really there.  It is easy to pick up meaning from randomness, we were taught to do it all the time in the LDS church.  It is called "following the spirit," and those that were really good it were though to be especially spiritual.  Let me explain this more scientifically.  If you take a random number generator and generate two different sequences of numbers you can run a statistical analysis on them.  Theoretically, since both sequences came from the same distribution there should be no significant difference.  However, there are times when a standard student-t test will show that the two sequences are significantly different.  This is, of course, total bullcrap, but this shows that you can find meaning in randomness.

I mean, why would God come out and punish people the second they do anything wrong?  Doesn't the LDS faith believe in a loving God?  A loving God wouldn't say "oh, so you weren't perfect?  Well, try having a living hell for a life, BLAM."  It also seems ridiculous to think that God is punishing someone for not believing, when believers keep asking the question "why do bad things happen to good people?"  If God were really punishing bad people and rewarding good people (this whole argument is pretty close to the argument "This good thing is happening to me, must be because I am doing what is right!") then things wouldn't be so random.  You wouldn't have good things happening so often to "bad" people and bad things happening so often to "good" people.  Let's be serious here, bad and good things happen, at will, to both the good and the bad.  That is life, deal with it.

Why would things hit randomly, months later, when "in the moment" of "sinful" behavior I don't feel any guilt, don't have any problems, no bad things happen, etc.  This seems to defy the mormon reasoning behind "well, bad things are happening to you, when are you coming back to church?"  It is especially annoying when I talk with mormons about my lack of faith and the first thing they ask is "well, have things been going poorly for you lately?"  All assuming that my life must be terrible if I am not a practicing mormon.

I had an interesting thought today while reading a conversion story.  I realized that I felt the exact same way once I left the church.  I have seen and heard of so many people feeling happier than ever once they join the church, that their family can even see the difference in them, everyone notices how much happier they are.  Well, this happened to me in reverse.  I changed a lot for the better, and I felt a lot happier and better, all once I left the church.  Why is this?  I think it has more to do with discovering our true selves, and less with discovering "the truth."  Discovering your true self will set you free.  Burying yourself under falsehoods and half-truths, under compulsions and obligations, will stifle yourself and your personality.  It is really unfair both to you and to the world to do that to yourself.

I am really glad that I am finding myself.  This has been a more meaningful "spiritual" experience than I have ever had in the church.  If only people inside the church would believe that those of us outside could ever be happy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


This post might be bothersome to those that are still heavily religious, as I am pondering on the possibility of moral relativity.  If that is problematic for you, don't keep reading.

First, I am really annoyed by the assumptions people make when I tell them that I don't consider myself to be Mormon anymore.  Mormons will immediately jump to the conclusion that I am sinning and trying to justify my behavior.  I find this highly unfair, but not nearly as unfair as the next jump they make if they determine that you aren't sinning.  They automatically assume that you are doing things the "right way."  That you are not praying right, or reading the scriptures correctly, or going to church with the wrong attitude, or whatever.  Failing this argument, they jump to the conclusion that you must have been offended by someone.  What gets really entertaining is when this argument fails.  The next jump is completely unpredictable, from "I don't know" all the way to "you must be psychologically unstable."  Why can't they just let people have their own freedom to choose?

That aside, I want to talk more about "sinning" and morality.  The assumption that I "left to sin" is simply absurd.  Sure, maybe there are people like that.  I am not one of them.  I left because I could no longer consider the church to be true.  There was no way for me to reconcile what I was hearing and learning about in the church with what I was feeling and understanding to be true.  That being said, I am not still living the "Mormon lifestyle."  Mormons, however, get the causal relationship all wrong.  I didn't leave to do what I want, I started doing what I want after I left.

The notion of sin is an interesting one.  As such, morality and sinfulness are all described more or less in the context of a religious belief system.  Without such a system of beliefs, the reasoning behind behavior changes completely.  This does not imply a hedonistic lifestyle at all.  Look at things from a more scientific perspective.  Hedonism will not keep an organism happy, it leads to an out of balance life, and will rack up problems more quickly than it will pleasure.  You need to work altruistic notions into your model before a good behavioral model will arise.  Why would you work these notions in?  The most succinct reason I can put (you should be able to extrapolate from here and come up with more of your own reasons) is that you won't stay happy long if you keep pissing people off.  If you keep others happy (to a healthy degree) then they will help to keep you happy.  This is, in essence, the way that we learn to cooperate, even in extremely selfish societies.  If you want to learn more about that concept, I recommend the book The evolution of cooperation by Axelrod.

With that in mind, how do I then determine what is "right" and "wrong" behavior?  It has now become an extremely loose concept, and I can see why this makes many people extremely uncomfortable when they find themselves in a similar situation.  Perhaps there isn't really an absolute right or wrong, but situation rights and wrongs.  We need to evaluate in any given situation what should be done.  We can try and rely on magical thinking or higher powers all we want, but I don't think that any intelligent deity would want to create a culture of complete dependence, but would rather want to foster independent thought and action.  You learn by doing, experience being your master.  You learn by recognizing what will cause problems and what will prevent problems, what will make you happy and what will bring you pain.  In this sense this makes life a lot more formulaic, but that doesn't necessarily need to be a problem.

Here are some interesting questions in the context of Mormon morality.  What makes a person inherently more evil for drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol?  And yet, they consistently treat people poorly for such actions.  What makes a person inherently more evil for masturbation, fornication, or homosexuality?  Why is it that once sexuality is involved, all of the sudden everything not completely controlled by the church is evil?  Am I going to start trying to destroy humanity simply because I have a sip of coffee or tea?  Or will it take something "extreme" like not paying tithing or attending church before I will try to destroy others?  Maybe those aren't sinful enough, maybe I have to be so bad as to go to a grocery store on Sunday, or say no to the church to spend more time with my family?  For all of these heinous crimes and more the church will question and belittle you, in addition to denying you the "blessings" in the church.  So, I am only good if I am completely obedient?  Since when is that a virtue?  Should we be teaching children to obey everyone without question?  Why?  It is a virtue, isn't it?

I would submit that all of this "sinful" behavior only becomes bad when it starts to hurt others or hurt yourself.  There is no need to dictate behavior that doesn't cause any problems for anyone.  There is no need to cause an uproar over simple issues of preference.  These are some of the things that caused me to have an issue with the church in the first place.  It is not their place to tell people to do in half of the instances that they choose to do so.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

LDS Church inc.

"The LDS church is a corporation."
"No it isn't, how dare you say such a thing!"
"Well, look at it.  I can't believe they can retain a non-profit status with all of the profit they make."
"But it is a church!  It is God's kingdom on earth.  All of that 'profit' is used to help the needy and build the kingdom, a corporation would do that."

All caricatured discussions aside, I am starting to see the church as more of a business corporation than as a religious institution.  Now, this might be the case with all churches, but my experience happens to be with just this one.  Perhaps religion is a basic human desire, and there is a brand of business that thrives by satisfying those needs and wants.  That is how most businesses work, anyway.

Now let me put it this way.  The church has a high mandatory (Now, whether or not it really is compulsion is an argument in and of itself, but when not paying has such a high social and religious cost, it can hardly be said to be optional.) membership fee - tithing.  You pay 10% of all your income to the church, no questions asked.  The church doesn't even disclose what happens with this money.  They will throw the members a bone every so often at general conference, but nobody really knows what happens with it all.  This tithing goes to pay for their biggest source of income: temples.  Why are temples the biggest source of income?  You have to pay tithing to get in them.  The closer temples are, the more likely members will get a temple recommend and attend the temples.  The more temple recommend holding members, the more tithing coming in to the church.  The more tithing coming in, the more the church can do God knows what.

What other indicators are there that the LDS church is a business?  Well, the church has plenty of investments.  The recently opened mall is a great example.  The church owns tons of land across the world (not all of it has a building on it, or even planned).  This isn't even "hidden" knowledge, most members have heard of some investment or another, especially the high-ticket ones (like said mall).

Whatever else the church has done, the biggest kicker is how it promotes itself.  I was recently attending some meetings for my workplace where they were discussing best practice for the sales industry.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not), all of these best practices would obviously be beneficial to the missionary program.  Some of the best practices were taught to me in the MTC or at zone conferences in the mission field.  Others were practices that the "best" missionaries were performing without being told to do so.  Is it any surprise that the "good" missionaries all are really good at summer sales jobs?  I would venture not...

Look at it this way.  What is the product that the church offers?  The Gospel, eternal happiness, eternal families, peace, forgiveness, these are all product offers that the church is trying to sell.  Ultimately trying to sell its specific form of opiates.  The church also has plenty of education on these offers, through Sunday meetings, missionary discussions, and other church activities.  The church also has membership and loyalty benefits, if you are loyal and follow specific rules, you can be inducted into the "gold membership" club, which offers a better selection and better quality product (this is referencing the temple, if you couldn't tell).  The church also has a referral program, if you refer friends and family to the program, you get extra access to the product line.  Also, like a business the church has a huge focus on expansion and growth.  They are constantly seeking newer and better ways to deliver their product, to an ever expanding market, with the goal of 100% market penetration and market share.  In fact, as a member you can hardly go by a couple of weeks without the church trying to push you out to go do their marketing for them.

Now, the devil's advocate in me has to come out for a second.  Is this just an overly cynical view on the "way things simply are?"  I don't think so, but let me argue that point for a second and then debunk it.  Perhaps all experience can be reduced to a "business model."  Perhaps I am just viewing the world through a cynical lens, and I could see anything as being this business like, I simply haven't applied the model to everything else in the world.

I don't think that is the right way to look at it.  If the church really were everything it claimed to be, it would be more transparent, less exclusive, less tithing hungry, etc.  I feel like there are and can be more altruistic organizations.  The LDS church simply isn't that organization.  I feel like the LDS church does not truly promote Christ-like behavior, but I will write more about that in a future post.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I was talking to a friend about being bitter about the church.  I realize that I am bitter, perhaps not in an extreme, but I have a lot to resent.  I figure that I need to write about what I am actually bitter about.  It will be easier to deal with if I can let it out and examine it, rather than bury it and ignore it.

Word of warning, this will be more angry sounding than it probably needs be, if you don't like it, deal with it.

What am I bitter about?  Probably more than anything else, the fact that I felt like my personality was suppressed by religion.  The church seemed to prevent me from being able to fully express myself, and I haven't felt able to really get to know myself until I finally let go of the church.  Instead I, like everyone else that is truly faithful, buried my personality and took on the standard Peter priesthood type of behavior.  Knowing that that isn't me, I slowly pulled away from that, but it took a long time to fully break away and discover myself.

Another thing, the fact that the church seems to be filled with lies and deceit.  The many "revelations" and scriptures and teachings, the leaders that, at least the higher ups, have to know that it isn't true on some level.  The fact that everything is more or less a farce.

The guilt and control are things that I have talked about before, but I resent being forced to do so many things that I really didn't need or want to do, the fact that I felt guilty if I didn't go to the temple enough,  pray enough, read my scriptures enough, and then I would feel guilty for not doing things "the right way" because I didn't ever feel what I supposed to, which in retrospect is more indicative of it being hollow, not being my fault.

I also resent the amount of time the church took and still takes.  While my mission was a great experience in some ways, that was two years that I won't get back.  All the hours and pain and work for the church in callings and attendance, at church, activities, and at home.  These things did not necessarily add value to my life, except within the context of church.  It all helped me to "progress" on the gospel, but all of that is now meaningless once I leave it behind.  No wonder so many people don't want to give it up, even if it becomes obvious.  So much is invested in your church membership, that it becomes painful to break away.  However, once you know the truth, it really does set you free. There is no need to hide from the truth, it can only help you to be happier and to grow.

Now, I am really just left with lots of questions, like where am I going, where did I come from,Mehta is the purpose of life.  However, I also know that having and answer just to have an answer will never satisfy me, and I am not greatly perturbed by not having all the answers.  Perhaps that is more of my life's work, to discover the answers to these important questions, to discover it for myself.  I want the truth this time, not something made up and manipulative,

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Control and Diffuse Boundaries

Here is one thing that bothers me about the church.  Diffuse boundaries.  I understand that the "reason" is that people are just concerned neighbors, or brothers and sisters, or priesthood leaders, also that they care about your welfare and well-being.  I know that these are official reasons, but it seems to play into a culture of control and diffuse boundaries.  What do I mean by that?  Let me explain each in turn.

Culture of Control
There is a lot of behavioral control in the church.  Now, let me preface this by saying that I do understand the official reasons.  The church just wants to see people sticking within the rules so that they don't sin.  If people can keep from sinning too much, they can be receptive to the holy ghost.  The holy ghost will purify you and make you eligible for the celestial kingdom.  Which is the end-goal of life.  Never mind that the rules for what is sinful and what is not comes from the church itself.  Never mind that the goal and the path are both created by the church.  The whole situation is circular, the prerequisites, requirements, goals, and solutions all come from the church.  Whether you buy into the circular logic or not is a different story, but you need to realize that this situation exists.

Back to control.  The church has a lot of rules.  The church has a lot of ways to try and enforce its rules.  It starts before baptism even.  "If you don't follow all of our rules, you can't join, you had a strong feeling, so you have to join now."  A need is created ex nihilo.  This need can only be satisfied by the church.  To satisfy this need you have to follow the rules as exactly as possible.  To make sure that you are following the rules exactly (and punishing yourself appropriately for any misstep) the church also subjects you to probing interviews (more on this later).

Now that this need has been created, and you already have subjected yourself to the rules in order to keep getting that need satisfied.  This is accomplished through the sacrament every week.  You need to be worthy to keep taking the sacrament.  A minor slip and you don't take it for a week.  The sacrament is also touted as the most sacred ordinance that happens outside the temple.  Why?  So that you have to keep coming back for more.  Speaking of the temple, that is the last level of control.  Now you not only have to have agreed to it once, and keep self-policing for ever more, now you need to tell the bishop and stake president every single time you slip up a little bit, just so that you can keep going to the temple.  You also have to let him ask you probing questions about what might be wrong or sinful in your life to prevent you from going to the temple.

All of this is bought into and perpetuated by the general membership.  This includes home and visiting teachers, elder's quorums and relief societies, bishoprics, high councils, sunday school presidencies, and any other person on the ward council or any other leadership group in the church.  These are the people that will check up on you to make sure that you continue to perform your duties, keep a strong testimony, and lead a sin-free life.

This also includes tithing.  The church has revealed that this must be 10% of your income, this lets you make the excruciating decision of whether or not this is before or after taxes, or on gifts, or any other nit-picky choice.

Now, you might say you don't absolutely have to follow the rules, but let me remind you that you are part of a group that has instilled in you an artificial need to keep coming back to them for more "spiritual nourishment."  They have made sure that you believe that they are the only source of spiritual nourishment, and that you will never find enough on your own.  So, they give you a need and the capacity to fulfill it, so nice of them.  The only catch is that you have to do exactly as they tell you to in order to continue to be "happy."

Culture of Diffuse Boundaries
This brings me back to diffuse boundaries.  Why is the church so invasive?  Everything is everyone's business.  You don't go to church?  Someone will be assigned to contact you.  Don't perform your calling perfectly?  Bishop will ask you what's wrong.  Don't do your home or visiting teaching?  Don't worry, you will only have about two talks and three lessons this month reaming you for not having done it, or not having done it right.

Not only that, but the bishop and stake president also reserve the right to question you about everything and anything.  This includes all of your behavior.  Whether or not you are drinking alcohol, tea, or coffee; whether or not you are having sex or masturbating; what kind of underwear you are wearing and how; what you do all day on Sunday; who you associate with; and if you are paying the church enough money.  This is all supposedly to help you keep on the track that you want to keep on, but it is invasive into every single aspect of your life.  The weirdest part is that everybody is perfectly okay with this.

Boundaries are a natural part of human existence that the church completely ignores and disrespects.  All of these things have less to do with your relationship to god and more to do with how closely tied you are to the church.  The church will get you involved and do everything it can to keep you.  It ignores the fact that your relationship to god is inherently personal and private and does not need to be dictated by any entity, this includes a church.

Control and boundaries violations do not fly in my book, not anymore.  Nor should they in anyone's book.  Yet members let this happen repeatedly to themselves in their lives.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Story

A question that I asked a friend today: "Why is it that God sees fit to reveal 3 new books during Joseph Smith's lifetime, and yet in the past 180+ years reveals a whopping 3 pages?"

First, let me introduce the blog.  I recently decided that the LDS church was simply not true.  I am currently attending BYU (the heart of Mormonville), and I have little opportunity to express my feelings here.  I figure that finding a healthy way to release all that energy will help me to work hard to finish my schooling, while also bugging my real friends with it less.  I also want to have my entire story written down so that when I "come out" to my family and friends about how I feel, it will all be clearly laid out, and I can direct them here for answers.  As such, I am going to keep this blog anonymous for now.  In other words, this blog is about my exit from the church while still studying at BYU.  I only have 8 months left, so I can't blow it now.

Next, I want to tell my story.  I was always very faithful and devout.  I grew up in the church, my parents are both regular church-going members.  I was always told how to think and behave when it came to religious matters.  Luckily, my parents also instilled in me a deep curiosity about the world, and taught me to question things (as long is it wasn't doubting the church).  Nonetheless, this didn't ever bother me until recently.  I always did as I should without even being asked to when it came to religious matters.  I attended every meeting, participated fully, read my scriptures, said my prayers, etc. etc.  The whole nine yards.  I ended up serving a full-time 2 year mission for the church, during which I met many people that made me think and question on a deeply fundamental level, but I always resolved the resulting cognitive dissonance by appealing to my past experience with feelings (the "gold standard" of the church), rather than to my reason.

Coming home off my mission, I decided to attend BYU.  Everything worked out smoothly getting in, it had the program I desired, and it seemed like a good fit.  Even coming back, everything seemed to be perfect.  I was continuing to grow more deeply entrenched in the gospel.  I believed more strongly than ever, and I had been able to puzzle out some rather complex answers to complex questions.  I did, however, start to see a lot of hypocritical behavior amongst the people around me.  "No matter," I would always tell myself, "The church is true, even if the people aren't."

Two years into my BYU education, I was becoming less satisfied with my scripture study, prayers, temple worship, and church attendance.  Not that I wasn't doing them, but that I didn't feel like I was getting as much out of them.  In turn, I decided to throw myself with more abandon at the whole "Mormon experience" in order to "rekindle" my spirituality.  Needless to say, this did not really accomplish what I was after.  After three years at BYU, my cognitive dissonance was at a peak, and I was burying an awful lot.  I can see that now, even though it wasn't apparent at the time.

Finally, after a short burst of hypocrisy from my several neighbors and "friends" (several things happening within a day that disgusted me), my cognitive dissonance finally resolved itself.  This time, however, without the self-deceit, without repression, and without burying anything.  I finally let myself ask the questions I had been dying to ask.  I finally let myself feel the feelings I didn't think were right.  I finally let myself put the pieces together that obvious were meant to be together.  At this point, it hit me like a ton of bricks, I asked myself "What if the Mormon church isn't the only true church?"  This is what started it for me.

Soon after that, I started picking up every belief I had held, and examining it, questioning it.  Asking it some questions, interrogating it to see if it was telling me the truth.  I started by throwing away lying beliefs one at a time, but then I progressed into whole-sale abandonment of large swaths of beliefs.  I unraveled every bit of religious education and upbringing within the short space of 3 months.  During this time I talked to several family members, several friends that I could trust, my bishop, and my mission president (who, by now, was home and around BYU campus).  Some people gave me good advice, some people told me I was sinning and should stop, some people told me that I shouldn't have stopped reading, praying, and going to church (I want to reiterate right here that I had been doing all these things devoutly, even attending the temple the week of my epiphany against the church).  I was lucky to have a core group of friends and family members that told me it was okay, that they didn't judge me, that let me talk things out.  I am extremely grateful to have had these people in my life at this time.

In spite of the backlash I received from some angles, I still couldn't simply wish my new beliefs away.  What was truly distressing to me was that I didn't even know if God existed anymore.  I couldn't reconcile the lack of involvement in my personal life and the lack of response to my prayers.  I finally cried out in sheer desperation in prayer "Heavenly Father, are you really there?  Do you hear my prayers?  If you are there, please help me to find you, make yourself known to me."  After praying this way a couple of times, I realized no answer was coming, and I simply gave up.

At this point, I started realizing that anything I did and believed had to come from me.  Not any external source.  If I didn't think it was true, I didn't have to believe it.  If I thought it was a good idea, I should do it.  I realized I needed to come up with my own moral code, and that I can't live on borrowed ethics any longer.

Throughout all of this, it has been a very liberating experience.  I feel that I am more capable and confident.  I feel like I have been more true to myself.  I feel like I am doing the right thing, more so than I ever have in the past.  I realize that this will be a completely alien concept to any Mormon reading this, and they will probably think that I am misguided by satan (or some other such BS) and will completely discredit my feelings, my beliefs, my experiences, and my intellect.  Blaming other people, circumstances, or situations for my loss of faith.

In fact, the only dark cloud in this new found light has come from the church itself.  Now, going to church (and I still need to attend in order to keep my progress at BYU) is a depressing act that reminds me of how much I struggled (and failed) to find the truth and the emotional pain that went along with not receiving anything (not for lack of trying), the pain that came as a result of the cognitive dissonance that was so pronounced.  The fact that I need to lie to myself and others about my beliefs in order to not get into trouble with the school is part of this darkness.  That the church and the school compel me to lie in order to not have wasted the last 3.5 years of my life (not to mention tens of thousands of dollars) is probably the most annoying part looking towards the future.

Other than that, life hasn't ever been better.  I am on a quest to find true light and knowledge, not the false light presented by the church.