What does it feel like to be wrong? Please take 20 minutes and watch this excellent talk by Kathryn Schulz as she dissects what being wrong feels like, and why it’s important to know the answer to that question. And don’t think that reading this post can substitute for watching, because I will be going way off topic. I didn’t see this video until just recently, but I feel it describes well parts of my experiences in the last year. I used to be so sure that God was in his heaven and that I knew who his prophets were. Now, I don’t. My wife, my father-in-law, and many other people have asked me in on one form or another “What if you’re wrong? What if Joseph Smith was right all along? What if Satan has deceived you and is dragging you down to hell?” I think I may have responded with something along the lines of “What if you’re wrong?” If I didn’t, I’m sure whatever I came up with in that moment was equally as compelling. So, how can I be sure that where I stand now is right and where I stood before, where my wife stands, is wrong?
The plain fact is I can’t. That is the great truth here: I don’t know. I didn’t know. I probably will never know. But that’s not a bad thing, and it certainly needn’t be a scary thing. I could dilute myself into thinking I have it all figured out for certain and I am right and my wife is wrong, or I can accept that I don’t know, and just focus on being good and trying to approach an answer.
If I die, and come to stand before a god to be judged, will I regret how I lived my life? I hope not. I hope that a god responsible for the creation of all the universe, who cares for our actions here, will actually care more about how I lived my life than whether or not I offered him my oblations. I do not believe in God any more. So what? I believe in doing good. I believe in honesty and integrity and curiosity and inquest and discovery and improvement and security and human kindness and community. I am opposed to cruelty and arrogance and tyranny and selfish hedonism and complacent ignorance. And I believe in raising my children to believe in all that too. And if there is no God, or if there is but it does not pay much mind to us small bipeds who have lived for a fraction of a moment on a small speck of rock in some small pocket of its creation, then so what? Our live spans are measured in years and our domains are measured in kilometres. Let’s all do the best we can with the time we have and let the chips fall where they may in the end.
But I digressed into a small rant. Please forgive me. Am I right? I don’t know. Do you?
I love this. And it’s how I currently feel about my own faith in the Gospel of Christ as taught through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While my husband has, arguably with very good reason, opted to let go of his faith, I hold onto mine in spite of the bad, the ugly, and the shocking. Because it wouldn’t, technically, be faith otherwise. And that works for me.
All this talk about me, I guess it’s about time I actually spoke up and put up a post. My wife has been receiving a lot of questions about me, about the reasons for my change of faith, and about what I believe now that I no longer believe in Mormonism. And since nobody knows the answers better than me, here I am.
What were your reasons for leaving the church?
I wish that this was a simple answer. If it were something as simple as someone offending me, or never really believing in the first place I’d be finished this post already. It’s hard for me, looking back, to find that one thing that flipped the proverbial switch in my head, from Mormon to non-Mormon. I don’t think there could be one thing alone that could have made me leave. But I do know when I started to really look for answers. It began when I started learning about polygamy in the early church in more detail than I was previously familiar with. Now don’t get me wrong, I was aware of polygamy for a long time. How could I not be? But I was okay with it. There were reasons why the early church practiced it. It was commanded by God. It was to care for the widows of those men who had been murdered by the mobs fighting the church. I went through many such stages of understanding, although full readings of Doctrine and Covenants section 132 never really sat right with many of those stages. But I was okay with it. It just wasn’t relevant, not important to my salvation, and for many other similar reasons, I didn’t look any further into it.
Then, as happens in life, I stumbled onto something unexpected. Polyandry. Early prophets of the church, specifically including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, marrying other men’s wives. That was strange… It must be because they were not able to be sealed to their unworthy husbands… Nope, there’s a husband being sent on a mission to England… Maybe it was just a symbolic union… Nope, there’s a child… It was so out of character with what I knew of the church. I started to research more about what type of polygamy was practiced in the early church, and found secret wives hidden from first wives, teenage brides to old men, and suddenly it wasn’t just something I didn’t understand and could leave alone. It needed to be squared. But it wasn’t polygamy that led me to leaving the church. It started with what happened next. I asked myself one of the most surprising questions I had ever had.
If it wasn’t true, would you want to know?
And I had to answer honestly. Yes. It was important. “Is it good” or “were they justified” were not the right questions. Is it actually, literally, and fundamentally true? If God was what I believed he was, and this was his church, and the prophets are prophets, then “is it good” didn’t really matter. Lots of things are good. More things are relative. Everything that I couldn’t square with my inner moral scale could be safely boxed up and shelved if it was true.
And so I started trying to discover if it was true. Of course, growing up in the church I had already found out it was true. But had I really? I had come to the conclusion that it was true from a confirmation direction only. I hadn’t ever really considered the possibility that it wasn’t true. It’s like I had only ever looked closely at Ford cars, only discussed cars with Ford dealers, only researched cars from official Ford and Ford friendly sources, told other people how awesome Fords are, and then, having decided that I wanted to buy a Ford, tried to decide for myself if Fords really were the best cars. But somebody else similarity immersed in Toyotas would come to vastly opposing conclusions.
I knew the Book of Mormon to be true by spiritual witness, strong feelings that what I know is true, which feelings I believed to originate from God, after studying its contents; the same way that a Bahá’í knows the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to be true.
Now I’m not going to expound fully on all my reasons I left the church. I don’t think that is what my wife had in mind for this blog, and there are better places to find answers than here. But my wife recently asked me if I had doctrinal reasons, as opposed to historical reasons, that I don’t believe. My first response was asking her to define “doctrinal.” But since it was late, and my filter had already gone to sleep, I sort of kind of brain dumped on her. And that dump contained a virtual cornucopia (Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, yay!) of historical and doctrinal issues I have with the church. The honest outcome of my search for the truth of the Mormon church led me to find, from multiple fronts converging with unity, that it is not true. And if it’s not true, why does it matter whether or not it’s good?
What do you believe in now?
My search for truth, along with leading to my belief that the Mormon church is not true, also led me to a few other findings. Other churches’ claims to truth are generally no better founded than Mormonism. And, surprising as it would have been to myself a year ago, that’s okay. I do not believe in any God. I don’t have some revolutionary proof that God does not exist, I just don’t believe in any given god, and that lack of belief did not leave a god shaped hole in my world begging to be filled. I still have a sense of awe and wonder at the universe. I don’t find death to hold any great fear from the unknown. I have found that I still have the ability to morally reason without fear or hope for eternal consequences. I actually find that I may be happier and more at peace than I was as a Mormon. And both RedKin10 and I agree that our marriage is doing better now than it has been for a long time. Possibly better than it has been in all 10 years. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
We’re working on answering some fantastic questions we’ve gotten – hopefully we’ll have time over Thanksgiving weekend (HOLLAH; WE’RE CANADIAN, YO! …eh!) 😉 but in the meantime… I love this. 🙂
Wow. Wow wow wow.
I felt like we needed to share our experience, and we both took a leap of faith. What an overwhelming response we’ve had.
Thank you all for the kind words, love, and support. For both of us.
We’ve heard from camps on each side of the fence. Whichever side you’re on, I PROMISE you’re not alone. Goodness, me. We aren’t either, apparently. There are so many like us out there, like you. The feeling of isolation and even guilt we sometimes burden ourselves with is completely unnecessary!
Communication is one of the most important things in a marriage, I believe. And in our counselling on and off this past year (therapy is where all the cool kids hang out! Hahaha) we learned about its integral role in marriage intimacy – so much more than just a physical piece of the puzzle.
Recently he was chatting with a friend struggling to understand his own doubts and questions about the doctrines of the Church, and both lamented the difficulty of doing so: it’s so TABOO. When doubts arise and attempts to assuage them with honest searching, reading, and questioning ensues that may bring more unclarity or questions to some, the response from camp-believers is often along the lines of oh-just-don’t-look-at-that; brush it under the rug, forget about it, and it will go away.
But how on EARTH can that be the right answer? If, in the Gospel, we are lovers of a Truth, how can we possibly dissuade someone’s searching to understand just that?
Currently, my search has left me FIRMLY encamped in the beliefs I was raised with. I feel with conviction the truthfulness of Christ’s Gospel and the teachings he has left for us. They bring me peace, hope, clarity, and purpose in my life.
My mister, in his search, has found it necessary to remove himself from my side of the fence. He’s pitched his tent opposite. He believes there may be a Creative force or power, but sees no specific evidence to support that that power is specifically, only, or at all limited to the view and understanding that I have of a Deity.
For me to be able to go through my life openly discussing, being, and immersing myself in my Mormon belief while forcing him to hush up, keep his questions to himself, and deny his feelings and/or his conclusions is ludicrous. And it’s NOT what I believe to be Christian.
We profess in this Church to believe, as listed in the Article of Faith, that all men should be given the same, brilliant, privilege of being able to worship “how, where or what they may.” How can I believe that and not act in such a way as to allow it in my own household?
And so, for now, we agree to disagree. We work to support one another in our sides. We openly discuss new ideas, thoughts, and information we find. We sometimes laugh at each other’s moronic views (me: how can you be so stupid to let the adversary take over your life like that? Him: how can you be so fooled and brainwashed into believing a bunch of warm fuzzy feelings are a special being telling you things and not just indigestion? 😉 ) and we tease.
But we love each other. And we love our girls.
We’ve had some great questions come in – I will do my best to get answers posted quickly! Please, keep them coming!
Thanks for your love and support. We’re both pretty awesome, you know. Even though we may never again agree on this one thing. But we’re made better by our people. That’s where you come in. 🙂