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.

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