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The average church member has an inaccurate understanding of why people leave the church. So I decided to ask the ExMormon subreddit why they began doubting their faith. Of course, this is just a small convenience sample and is probably not representative of everything, but it does illustrate some of the main reasons people begin questioning that aren’t simply “didn’t read their scriptures”.

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“I wasn’t “questioning” until I asked google about a building near the Jordan River Parkway: AUB Headquarters.”

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“I found out that Joseph was arrested for destroying a printing press. That is what started the reading.”

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“My bishop telling the congregation not to watch a PBS documentary because it wasn’t faith promoting.”

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“Wondering why Joseph broke the rules of polygamy laid out in D&C 132.”

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“Evolution.”

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“TL;DR When they wouldn’t let me choose NOT to get baptized when I turned 8.

I remember being in primary and something about the parables like hummingbird suicide and the primary songs felt wrong. I stopped singing them so I could listen to the words and got in trouble. I felt like primary was less about the gospel than about doing what I was told, that truth wasn’t to be understood but to be obeyed.

Getting closer to 8 years old, I was taught that baptism would wash my sins away. But I didn’t feel like a sinner … I felt like a good person. When I told my teacher I didn’t have any sins, she said I had the sin of pride, and that lying to myself was a sin too.

The concept of atonement didn’t make sense to me either. I couldn’t understand how a loving father in heaven would have to torture and kill his own son before he could forgive someone else.

But the kicker was when I prayed and received no confirmation that it was true. Even worse, I actually felt sick inside when I thought about church and baptism. I was so conflicted. I didn’t want to make a lifelong commitment to something I didn’t know was ‘true’, but I didn’t know how to tell my parents I didn’t want to be baptized.

When I finally found the courage to speak up, they made me talk to the bishop and gave me two more weeks to think it over and pray about it. But it still felt wrong. My father then promised that my testimony would come after the act of faith, and that I couldn’t wait any longer. He was going to baptize me and he set the date.

I remember changing slowly into my white jumpsuit before the baptism, delaying the inevitable. I remember slow steps into the water, wetness creeping up my clothes, the staring eyes of the crowd, my father’s firm grip.

Then a gulp of air, my father pushing me down, slipping feet, heavy clothes, then back on my feet, gasping breath, eyes stinging from chlorine and tears.

I couldn’t stop crying in the changing room, silently, while my father changed in the next booth. I felt forced, violated, trapped in a covenant I didn’t want to make and unable to speak.

They had to send someone back in to get me for the confirmation. I walked out still crying while the crowd sighed at how spiritual I must feel. As my father laid heavy hands on my head to confirm me a member of the LDS church, I watched the door to my choices close.

I hadn’t found the strength to refuse, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave for a long time. And the seeds of self-doubt had been firmly planted … what if I was wrong … what could an 8-year-old know?

I knew enough.”

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“In 1995 I got a new computer that had Microsoft Encarta with it. (For you youngsters out there, Encarta was a combination Encyclopedia, thesaurus, dictionary etc. on CD.) I started looking up Utah history and found out about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Could not believe it! So I asked my family what they knew of it. Their reaction? They asked if it were actually true. So I went to the library and read about it which led to many other questions. I was 22 at the time and had been inactive since high school. This really was the deal breaker though.”

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“It was a TIL (Today I Learned) post on Reddit about the differing first vision accounts. I looked at the linked Joseph Smith Papers account. Although it didn’t kill my testimony, it showed to me that the church hid its true history. What killed my testimony was studying the Book of Abraham problems.”

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“Just reading the Book of Mormon. Sometimes I had spiritual experiences with it, especially on my mission. But 90% of my time I couldn’t get past how ridiculous most of it sounded or felt.”

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“When the church was pushing Proposition 8. No prophet could be that reactionary and shortsighted.”

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“Wondering why Thomas S. Monson and other recent church presidents never prophesied.”

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“Sad to say it wasn’t until I became a HP group leader at the age of 37. I think was just really conditioned as a young man to believe in all of the weird Mormon stuff by a loving but very misguided mother. I was very devout and militant in my Mormon beliefs and in defense of the religion.

Fast forward 15 years and now I’m an excited HP GL. Super cool, right? I get to hang out with the old guys who have all this great wisdom like former bishops, SPs, high counselors, etc… All really good guys who I admired and thought of as better men than myself. Here is where my questions started to creep in. All these old men would do in HP group is discuss how much better Mormons were than other Christians. It was a constant discussion of how great we are and how bad or stupid they are and how we are going to rule in the celestial kingdom as Gods. That and do home teaching or you will go to hell. Twice I stood in front of the group over the year and chastised them for being prideful, for looking down on others, for not being Christlike and they would be good for a few weeks or just talk in private when I was around. It became this really bad situation where a lot of the old guys started to get a little wearisome of me not getting on board with the program if you catch my drift.

I spoke extensively with the bishop about it (who was at the time and remains a good friend of mine) and I became much more disappointed in my service to the church and the old guys of the ward. Finally the shelf breaking moment is when I went to an area leadership gathering where Neal A Anderson spoke with us for about 3 hrs which I was really excited about. So I go to this gathering and I sit through what boils down to a blatant display alpha male domination psychology and pridefulness 101. And it hit me right there that the reason these old guys are the way that they are is due to modeling the behavior of those above them. I know I’m naive but like I said I was devout so stuff like that didn’t register with me as a younger man. Plus I was in the military and was used to far greater acts of alpha male domination than what an apostle can put out right? Wrong, this guy spiritually whipped the shit out of the area authority, the area mission leader, and the local temple leader as he stared down his nose ordered them around the stage for 3 hrs. It was like he was pissed at them and was punishing them. That was when I first started to question the church.”

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“I lived in California during prop 8. And every week instead of a lesson in EQ for weeks and weeks they would have someone from the stake come in and rabble rouse the group to get donations, sign holders and door to door canvassers.

During the rabble rousing there were many hateful things said by the other men in the EQ and “jokes”. Honestly at that point in my life I had never really given the topic much thought, but I felt like the people in there were being hateful and it felt wrong. After the vote was overturned I was shocked, because how could the church ask all the members so aggressively for donations for it to be overturned. Where was the inspiration? That was my first crack in my shelf.”

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“Rock in a hat and Polyandry is what brought me out. But when I really think about it, I think the first little crack that I didn’t even know was a crack at the time was simple – when I stumbled on youtube videos of the Temple Endowment. I was so confused. Because surely God wouldn’t allow that to happen. He was God and he would have stopped it!

I saw that about a year and a half before I heard about the rock in the hat and polyandry. And once I saw those I was out!”

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“When I was 14 my buddy and I led a dumb youthful rebellion against a decision to send us to a certain scout camp. It was pretty insignificant – we typed up some “anonymous” critical letters and slipped them under the door of the bishop’s office. And of course everyone knew it was us.

In the (many) lectures we had to sit through after this incident, one theme emerged: no matter how accurate any of our criticisms were, they were evil simply by the fact that we were “speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed.” We were told to follow our leaders even when we knew they were wrong.”

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“I was a missionary at a time when the internet was off limits. Still, the members of my district would go to the college in our area to email or, I’m not really sure what they were doing. I decided I would look up Joseph Smith so that I wouldn’t be breaking the rules too much. I read the 1832 version of the First Vision. I knew that either this was true or the church was true but it couldn’t be both. Then I read about Lot and his daughters in the Bible and I knew there was no way that was actual history. These items were on my shelf for about 7 years before I finally read “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.”

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“I started to question the church about the 4th or 5th time I heard a talk about how “families can be together forever.” My father never came to church, but he is the best man I know. I couldn’t understand why just because he chose not to go to church, we would never be heaven together. My dad was nicer, and kinder then some of my friends dads who were active. I was only 8 or 9, and I would cry for hours about my dad not being aloud into heaven because he never went to church. I started to think how ridiculous it was to have almost a “checklist” of requirements in order to get into the best of 3 types of heaven….”

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“I read Early Mormonism and the Magic World View about a decade ago. It was recommended to me by a TBM friend who read it. He said to me at the time, “Make sure your testimony is rock solid before you read this.” While reading it, I took pride that I still believed, that my testimony was still strong. But cracks were forming and my cognitive dissonance grew.

A few years later, a different friend and I were talking about the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean and killed 300k+ people. He was having a hard time making sense why God would let this happen. My defense of God was lame, no matter how hard I tried to rationalize it. That conversation forced me to rethink my view of the world. It put me on a path that led me to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist and the church is not true.”

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“I was always a skeptic, even as a child. But the fear of demonic possession and the devil kept me mostly believing. One I got over the fear of reading “anti” material, the Book of Abraham, and Joseph’s life in general were all it took to nail the coffin shut.”

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“There were a number of things that paved the way for my questioning prior to my first overt, conscious question of the church.

  • I came of age on the east coast and was somewhat of a liberal (more like moderate) mormon. I had a problem with all the rampant homophobia and zealotry at the MTC, but I was able to chalk that up to “the church is perfect but the people aren’t.” Item shelved.
  • The endowment ceremony was pretty creepy and why the hell is Satan used as a scare tactic to keep my covenants? Item shelved.
  • I thought it was weird that Abinadi seemed to be preaching a trinitarian-ish god to the evil king Noah. Item shelved.
  • I occasionally saw mission leadership abusing their positions. Again, people aren’t perfect so: item shelved.
  • I found out that the temple used to have death oaths attached to the signs and tokens of the priesthood. Item…… barely shelved.
  • I found out the cost and opulence of the City Creek Mall and how it eclipsed 20+ years worth of humanitarian aid donated by the church. WTF?

TL;DR Questions built up for some time, but it was the particulars of City Creek that really started my questioning of the church.”

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“It was such a simple thing that caused me to first start to question everything. I was chatting with a coworker. Somehow the topic of “silly” religions came up, after which I commented how, “Unlike other religions, I really like how everything in mine just makes sense”. His response was, “Oh, I gotta hear this”. And the funny thing is, one of us had to run and that was the end of the conversation.

But it started me thinking about how I would have responded to him. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it actually doesn’t make any more sense than any other religion. Seven years later I read the “Letter to a CES Director” and I’m done.”

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“President Hinkley falling for the neocons shock and awe in Iraq. No president, it was not a war with great armies lined up in battle. No, soldiers are not contractually bound to obey any order from a superior. No, God will not hold people opposing the war accountable.

How could a prophet fall for something so obviously a con job by Bush, Blair and pals?

And then giving Dick Cheney an honorary doctorate at BYU, and the giving him the patriarchal grip handshake when he received it (it’s on Daily Motion. Monson also did one with Bush. Sell their tokens I knew they were no longer prophets)

City Creek, “who has means”, Tom Phillips Second Anointing, The Late War and we were all out.”

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“Watching gay members being treated like crap and talked about rudely behind their backs. For Jesus’s church that’s not very Jesus like.”

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“The temple. Being a fairly devout Christian before and after being Mormon, I found the complete lack of Christ in the Temple to be incredibly unsettling. I justified it mightily, even turning into a mini-Temple-apologist, but it was always there…”

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“I remember sitting in Zone Conference on my mission as one of the Seventy was talking during a visit to our mission. At the time I was feeling pretty darn good, I had the spirit feeling going on and was pretty excited by what he was saying. After a bit I got a little bored and with out really trying I thought about something really ridiculous (don’t remember what the first thing was) and immediately felt that warming spirit feeling… I found that strange so I started testing it. …. “Cheese” I thought in my mind, and that feeling came again. I realized the somehow I had figured out how to trigger that feeling really easy, based on almost anything as long as I was calm and relaxed or very emotional (I know those are opposites but it is just what I noticed.)

This made me wonder about my faith… It made me wonder about my choices… Could trust my spiritual testimony? I stuck it out though, I decided that I can have both feelings, I just have to use common sense to decide if it’s from God. That worked for a long time. …. Years later, the church released it’s essay on the Book of Abraham and that made a huge crack in my “shelf”. So I made up my mind, I quit my job as a software developer for the Temple Department in ICS, and got a new one working elsewhere (for much more money I might add) and I haven’t really looked back. There is more to the story of course. However, it really did all start with that day in Zone Conference, listening to that Seventy speaking, where I felt the spirit confirm to me the ” truth” of Cheese… :)”

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“I was uncomfortable throughout my entire endowment ceremony, and I remember sitting there thinking “I finally understand why people call us a cult.”

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“I always tried my best to believe, even when I never really felt a testimony. I tried so hard, for years. I am completely invested in the church, but I’ve also always been a progressive. So of course I run around in progressive circles in my online life. I felt so much hope for some of these progressive movements bringing light to issues. I hoped the brethren would consider these things. That they would allow women who wanted to attend priesthood session at least sit in an overflow building. Then they started excommunicating activists. It was then that my shelf began to crack. But I am so deeply invested, I don’t know if it’s possible to get out.”

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“The witch hunt of John Dehlin. I mean, if stopped going by then but I’d never sat down and thought about it. When the news started coming I went and listened to his podcasts and his work inspired me. I thought to myself, how can a man trying to do so much good be evil? How can the one true church hate a good man?”

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“How none of the blessings my mother ever received while fighting cancer ever had more than a placebo effect. I realized that we always had an excuse as to why blessings didn’t work (not the Lord’s will) but then would latch onto the stories of how miraculous recoveries were preceded by a priesthood blessing. Realizing it was all just attribution to statistically possible outcomes cracked my shelf. Thanks Palmer!”

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“After spending almost 12 hours at church one fast Sunday, as a bishopric counselor, counting fast offerings, thinking “day of rest, my ass!”.”

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“Why Lucifer would be condemned to hell for eternity for the crime of wanting his brothers and sisters to achieve exultation. (Or was it that he wanted to be recognized that he had thought up a plan where everyone could win). Obviously if there had to be a test then the only reason Lucifer would suggest otherwise is because he didn’t fully understand. Yet God condemns Lucifer and one third of his children for ETERNITY (I can’t stress this enough, eternal damnation is a punishment nobody would ever deserve, let alone something given out to spirits that God claimed to love) just because God didn’t teach them why the “test” had to happen. According to the plan of salvation, Lucifer wanted me to go to heaven (even if it might not have worked because of some rules God didn’t bother telling anyone), while Jesus wanted only a few to make it back (But hey, at least God gets the “glory” for the plan he didn’t come up with, maybe it was just an appeal to his arrogance). That was when I first started questioning whether God was the perfect and good being he was taught to be. I also realized that the only reason we knew God was perfect was because he told us he was, which isn’t really an unbiased opinion.”

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“Cutting hotel check for drug addicts as an assistant financial clerk while my faithful in-laws were forced to sell the family property without any help from the church.

Then a close friend called asking how I could stay active after the church admitted to their own BS from the essays.”

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“A formerly devout Mormon (devout to the point of near insanity) posted on FB about his disaffection. He emphasized that he had been trying to save a good friend of his who had left the church, and when he confronted his friend’s “anti” material, he realized it was all a lie. He said it was the darkest night of his life.

The fact that this friend, of all people reached the conclusion that TSCC isn’t true, and that he did so while trying to prove the church true and was very upset that it wasn’t true was enough to get me to ask myself the question… What if it all isn’t true?

As soon as I asked it, a million little things fell into place in my head, 30 years of cognitive dissonance just melted away, and I knew that the clear answer is that the church is not true, and that Joseph Smith made it all up (with or without help).”

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“A young men’s lesson when I was a deacon. They played a clip of President Benson talking about how masturbation could lead to group masturbation and eventually gay sex. Even as a thirteen year old he sounded to me like he was trying to scare kids and didn’t actually know what he was talking about.”

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“The very first thing on my shelf was when I learned on my mission that Joseph burnt a printing press to the ground. It bothered me that I had NEVER heard this after two decades in the church. It didn’t take long when I got home to learn A LOT more and get out.”

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“Everything to do with the temple:

1. The first time going through the temple. Felt like a cult.

2. Finding out the temple ordinances had changes numerous times.

3. Hearing from family about how garments have been revamped over the years.

4. Learning about the similarities with the masonic rituals.

5. Seeing people going to the temple who I knew were doing all sorts of ‘extra curricular’ activities with out one ounce of guilt.

When the temple should be the holiest place on earth, full of truth/light/knowledge—why is it constantly evolving with the times?? That opened the doors to my interest and exploration of church history… which led to: THIS IS ALL BULL_ _ _ _!”

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“I cannot remember whether it was “Why is tea against the Word of Wisdom? It is incredibly healthy” or “I have been praying for years to get out of this situation and yet God has done nothing, despite the fact that He seems more than happy to give me very strong but also very ‘wrong’ answers to another prayer I had” (specifically, I prayed as to whether Judas went to Heaven or Hell for what he did and I firmly, 120% got “He is in Heaven, right next to Christ Himself”).”

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“My first thing was the inequality of the youth programs: Boy Scouts meet weekly, but the girls program meets only every other week. Sounds benign except that I had 4 young girls at the time and was called as 11-yr-old scout leader.

When I protested about the inequality, the leaders didn’t budge. It bugged me more and more and allowed me to see the rampant sexism that pervades the church. I didn’t want my daughters growing up with that sexist paradigm. That was probably the first real issue for me. I thought I might be able to change things. I was wrong. I even worked for the church at the time.”

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“The first thing that really got me thinking was when I watched a show on TV about the Masons. They didn’t mention mormons, but holy crap! I knew a temple session and outfit when I saw one. Wham! Big huge boulder landed on shelf.”

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“After learning about evolution in elementary school, I had difficulty reconciling it with the Garden of Eden story and the church’s proposed age of the Earth. I expressed my concerns with my mother, and she calmly explained to me that God had designed humans from chimpanzees while the proto-Earth was still in orbit around Kolob. I called her out on her bullshit right there, but it’d take another ten years for me to realize it was all bullshit.”

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“Polygamy. I had a Mormon cousin call one of our ancestors a bad man for marrying a young girl in the 1860’s, yet his restoration prophet and Brigham Young were doing the same things. I knew about BY at that time but not JS regarding being polygamists.

So my biggest problem was: Is the way the church operates in the 2000’s the true intent and order of God, or is it the late 1800’s version which was the restored fullness of the gospel. I determined that according to the “gospel”, the latter is the case. I simply can not believe that my wife or mother should be treated like they treated their women at that time.”

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“Getting kicked out of class at the MTC for wearing a bow tie, but being told I could wear it to the temple. It was merely the first time I realized rules and blind obedience were the name of the game for missionaries.”

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“My very first red flag moment was when I noticed the cash registers in the temple on my first visit. I was SHOCKED that money was exchanged in the temple. I even asked about it, concerned. As a newlywed of course I asked my husband (devout Mormon back then) who somehow explained that it was okay. The whole temple ceremony was so underwhelming and I felt like I learned nothing new or useful. I didn’t enjoy the temple even when I was devout. I preferred strolling the grounds to being inside ;)”

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“I think I was pretty lucky. When I was twelve or so I had that stupid question stuck in my head ‘If god is all powerful can he make a rock he cannot lift?’. So simple yet broke religion for me. Too bad I wasn’t able to escape until 18.”

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“1) I never “felt the Spirit”. That’s where it starts, I think. Testimony meetings made me uncomfortable and I wondered if I just couldn’t differentiate feeling emotional and feeling the Spirit. Naturally I just assumed I was devil’s scum and probably wasn’t writing in my journal enough.

2) God changed his mind about black people, still hated gays, but polygamy was okay? Couldn’t swallow that.

3) I intensely disliked how the church treats women, even as a kid. I started going to Relief Society with my mom because I couldn’t sit through Young Women’s lessons without getting angry and tearing up. They honestly teach you that men are superior. I also hated meeting with the bishop alone so he could ask me if I love God, give him my money, touch myself, etc. It made me feel icky, and that should be enough to never let any 12 year old girl in there alone. It seems so obvious to me now.

4) I thought it was suspicious how we weren’t supposed to Google the church. That was an actual thing they told us multiple times. I remember telling my best friend some of the upsetting things I read about Joseph Smith online and she grew extremely angry with me and ended up ostracizing me completely.

5) I grew tired of the endless guilt and self-loathing that plagued me most of my childhood. I honestly thought I was going to hell most of my life. I wanted to like myself and the church wasn’t letting me.

6) Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman were my idols. I thought that as long as they stayed with the church, there was hope. I was devastated when they got picked off one by one by an organization that doesn’t want progress.

7) Hypocrisy. Especially when it came to the church and money. One of the general authorities conned my great-grandpa out of his savings. And what does the church do with so much money? They build a multi-million dollar shopping center. We also had a lot of really wealthy people in my stake who had high positions in the church and literally scammed people for a living. Shady credit card businesses and the like. And they had spiritual authority over hardworking, less wealthy families in the ward. Nope nope nope….

8) The people. I want to treat people right and not be affiliated with people who don’t. 9) What it really comes down to is that I don’t want to raise my kids in the church. People keep saying, “Think about your posterity!” I AM. “How many generations will be raised outside the church because of your decision?” IT’S ACTUALLY THEIR DECISION. If my kids want to be Mormon, fine. I’ll support them no matter what. But it’s a choice they can make as a consenting adult who knows all the facts.

This probably isn’t coherent at all but yeah, all these reasons combined started me on the hopeful search for evidence against the church. And guess what! It exists. I read the CES Letter at 18 and thought, “Oh. I guess that’s it, then.” Thanks, Google.”

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“I stumbled upon the Book of Abraham essay and thought: “What are they even talking about? What brought this up and who is it supposed to be addressed to?”

And then I found out.”

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“Finding out about blacks and the priesthood when I was twelve really was the opening to it all. Then I began more critical question like why does God want to control everything anyone does and suppress natural urges although still considering myself Mormon at the time this opened me up to a world of other things and I eventually got to the point slowly where I was able to objectively look at the church and after I realized people left for these logical reasons I began to research and that is never good for one in the Mormon faith”

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“For me, it was getting called as ward clerk and handling tithing. I saw how much we brought in versus how little actually stayed in the ward. I wondered where the rest went, so I started googling. Found exmormon forums, and down the rabbit hole I went.

For my wife, it was the sexism in the endowment and Kate Kelly’s excommunication. That and being told by leaders that she shouldn’t be pursuing a medical degree because she wouldn’t be able to be an effective wife and mother.”

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“Going through the temple. I was taught that it would be this amazing spiritual experience but I just found it to be creepy. Getting nickel and dimed to rent the white garb after all the money I’d given in tithing. The secret handshakes that I thought were just anti-Mormon myths. The creepy oaths of secrecy. The tacky movie. The stranger who married me to my wife and the way he talked more about money than love during the ceremony. The fact that all of my family was excluded from the wedding because they weren’t Mormon. Etc…. This caused a bunch of red flags to go off in my head. Then I started reading about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They seemed more like con men, egomaniacs, and philanderers than Christians. I sort of knew about polygamy but it was much worse than I imagined (polyandry, sister sets, mother/daughter sets, young girls). All I could think at this point was, “Wow, so this is why Jesus warned us about false prophets.”

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“THE south park episode. Rock in a hat, what? It didn’t happen like that……Oh.”

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“My first skeptical thought was when I was young, maybe deacon I thought that it was strange that there were so many religions and churches.

First time I outright didn’t believe something was the Zelph story. My brother told me that one and I thought that it was so absurd.

Started questioning the church as I progressed more in my biology degree and watching videos on the universe.”

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“Book of Abraham and Native American DNA”

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“Age 4: primary teacher taught story about Joseph Smith being tarred and feathered which was an example of LDS religious persecution. Fast forward to 2008 and reading RSR where I learned the JS had made sexual advances to Nancy Marinda which prompted her older brother to gather a mob and attack JS.

Age 5: befriended a 5 year old black girl and knew that I was being taught racist teachings that were just wrong.

Age 16: ERA movement. Church was wrong again.

Age 48: GC Hinkley said it is either true or a fraud. I thought “it is a fraud.”

Age 53: prop 8. Church was so wrong again. I walked away and took my family with me.”

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“Illogical conclusions and reasoning in Sunday school, testimonies sounding too prideful and conceited, church acting more like a business than church, how evolution, plate tectonics and astronomy all line up neatly on geological timescales…”

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“The creation story and the age of the earth were very important parts of the gospel in my family when I grew up. We had books on our library shelves like “The First Thousand Years” and “The Second Thousand Years”, etc. up to 6,000, purporting to be a history of the earth up to the present day.

When I went to BYU, I was shocked that biology professors had no problem with evolution. In fact, they showed us ape skulls and human skulls, and then showed us a progression of hominid skulls and let us decide if we believed they were human or ape. When I realized that an honest truth-seeker like myself had to admit there were in-between stages and that evolution was not only a plausible theory but the best possible explanation among the explanations I had available, the first cracks on my shelf formed.

It was about 4 years later that the Book of Hagoth, failed personal revelation, my younger brother’s suicide, and a failed priesthood blessing broke the shelf.”

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“It took 3 and a half years from the death of Joseph Smith for God to call another prophet. Apologists claim that gods timeline is different from ours but this is the restored Church for the last days and it caused so much confusion that half the apostles followed the “wrong” guy. Just made me wonder why god would make life harder for the saints when Lucifer was already doing such a good job.”

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“My first real issue was the Book of Abraham. But I wonder if earlier experiences made me a skeptic.

I had extreme scrupulosity in high school. One way to get over my compulsion to pray nonstop was to just not pray. I had uncontrollable thoughts that I was constantly repenting for, and the solution was similar: don’t repent of those things. Repentance/prayer actually exacerbated my problems. It was this contradiction between therapy and church teachings that really stretched my perspective.

I essentially had to change my beliefs about God and the church’s black-and-white teachings in order to start recovering.

I also had a couple experiences in high school/college that made me feel extremely uncomfortable. A local stake president who was also a lawyer wanted the local high school students to start a Mormon club (the CTR Alliance). I was asked to help lead the group. There was already a Christian club on campus, but the stake pres/lawyer pushed to get our group approved so we could have “wholesome” activities and be an example to others. As if the Mormon kids needed to spend more time at church functions…

The other thing was Prop 8. I was at BYU-I, and they were asking students in the wards to volunteer at the phone centers. I felt super uncomfortable because I thought the church wasn’t supposed to be part of the political process.”

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“The rock in the hat. I had never heard about it and suddenly TSCC is releasing photos of what seems like a plain old rock, claiming that JS used it to translate? I figured, if they covered up that story what else did they cover up? Then I found the CES letter and everything fell apart from there.”

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“How can God have a plan and we still have free agency? Either everything is orchestrated, or we can choose our path. I started chewing on that concept in primary, but it took dating an atheist in college to get me to finally pull my head out of the sand and take a hard look at the rest of the crap.”

*

“How most everyone at church/mission seemed to miss the boat on real Christ like virtues and was really superficial cracked my shelf.

Combined with church being super boring and repeating the same information and platitudes I disengage and distance myself from the indoctrination and just read e-books when I wasn’t teaching at church.

Independent study lead to discovery of book of Abraham problems and I called bull shit on the whole thing right then and there.”

*

“My son came out to me as gay. I wanted nothing more for him than what is availed of every other worthy and believing member of the church, which he and I both were at that time. He had questions, which led me to question and after he left for college I continued to study. My world was rocked by all I was able to find, and it wasn’t long before the CES letter came into my life. I continue to research and have left the church. It was a difficult transition with my siblings saddened and hurt by my actions. I still battle with depression and feeling of not being enough.”

*

“Second anointing and the history of the temple.”

*

“Reading the complete discourses of Brigham Young. I was out within weeks.”

*

“I left over Prop 8, then came back. After reading the Mormon Essays, particularly the one about Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the one about blacks and the priesthood. I had always somehow ignored these issues but the essays confirmed some of my worst fears.”

*

“1st. Learning about polygamy from historic sources (as opposed to Mormon sources).

2nd. Learning of all the efforts TSCC has done to keep the real history of polygamy hidden from its members.”

*

“Here are the big things in order:

  1. Never feeling something profound during blessings
  2. The guys in my ward excluded me
  3. Prophets not prophesying
  4. Doing the calculations: Less than 1% of the world is LDS
  5. Doing the calculations: There were a ton of spirits that fell away
  6. Bishop told my Stake President not to trust my dad
  7. Changes to The Book of Mormon
  8. The brutally murderous things that happen in the O.T.
  9. An overcontrolling bishop
  10. Book of Abraham a “vessal for translation”
  11. Neglected in another ward
  12. No miraculous things happen anymore
  13. The temple ceremonies
  14. R.M. Friends
  15. Demanding Bishop
  16. CES Letter

*

“Realizing that nearly every belief system uses the same method for determining the veracity of their version of the truth. Feels before reals.”

*

“Gay marriage. The church said free agency is #1, then spent a lot of money and time during Prop 8 trying to restrict the agency of gay couples. The hypocrisy was too blatant to ignore.”

*

“When they changed the mission age, I excitedly told everyone I was going to start preparing for a mission (I was eighteen at the time). When I told my roommate (who was no longer practicing), one of his friends asked me how I could go advocate a ‘prophet’ who married 14 year olds girls. At the time I didn’t even know ol’ Joe was a polygamist so I just thought she was crazy. When I confronted my mom about his polygamy, she told me that she knew, and so I started wondering what else had been kept from me all those years. I started studying church history, and you can guess the rest of the story.”

*

“The very first thing for me was the theory of evolution. I was a behavioral science and health major as an undergrad and there was a lot of coursework in anthropology involved. It just didn’t make sense considering what I had been fed by the church. You are welcome to use my username.”

*

“The Book of Job in the bible. So you’re telling me that Satan, who was kicked out of heaven went back up to heaven to make a bet with god? And then then god said, “I’ll take that bet”, and then proceeds to use Job’s family and friends (and god’s own children) as pawns in a gamble? I knew all of that before I got baptized (convert at 21) but I could never really get past that and never had a “true” testimony because I knew god was an awful existence.”

*

“I started doubting at BYUI.

  1. They literally could not have an intelligent conversation about honor code changes. “obedience” was all many students could think about – no regard for whether or not the rule was fair and appropriate.
  2. Some courses I had to take encouraged me to think more deeply about the relationship between science and religion. I came to the realization that they had used the softball questions like “how old is the earth” and “was there death before the fall” as teaching instruments. They didn’t or couldn’t tackle the real questions, like “why is there no evidence for the book of mormon” and “is it ok to base beliefs about human migration and history on a spiritual confirmation.”

After this, some other things weighed on my shelf.

  1. I started to realize that my father has thrown away most of his adult life for a bad marriage to a mentally ill woman who should probably be living in a home. When he was asked why he stayed, he specifically brought up his faith in eternal marriage. His bishop, on several occasions, promised him in priesthood blessings that he would be the one that got to heal her during the opening hours of the second coming.
  2. I saw no miracles of any kind on my mission. Just a bunch of kids who didn’t know anything about anything presenting a canned message they barely understood to the vulnerable people that would listen to us. And my mission president was a committed micro-manager. It was clear, by the end, that the number of baptisms a missionary had was determined by how charismatic they were, not how faithful they were.
  3. I started studying on Mormon Think. It did not take long to realize that something was very wrong with church doctrines and history. The Book of Abraham translation put the last nail in the coffin.”

*

“In Sunday morning Bishopric meeting, the HPGL suggested that a faithful member leave his apostate wife. I was EQP at the time and I was taken aback, shocked actually. I looked around the room for similar reactions but everyone else was nodding their heads in agreement.

That was the first thing that got me thinking something wasn’t right.”

*

“It was probably something as simple as wondering why God would command Nephi to kill Laban so gruesomely when he was already practically passed out. Most recently things sealed the deal like the Book of Abraham, really analyzing what the “Spirit” is and how useless it is as a gauge of truthfulness when applied broadly, how flat mission narratives often fell in practice even when I was doing my best, and general questions of theodicy (why a god would allow people in the first world to claim tiny “miracles” in trivial areas of their life as blessings while others were suffering so much).

But in general it’s more a lifetime of realizing that every time a “gospel” answer struck up against more general analysis, it gave every time, but watching people bend over backwards and come up with the most ridiculous ways of continuing to prop it up.”

*

“For me it was big picture stuff like the age of the earth and the history of civilization. The church seemed so small and artificial to me compared to the larger picture in the context of all humanity.

That’s what got me started. The beginning of the end for me was the City Creek Mall.”

*

“Seeing that missions ran more like businesses than inspired armies of the lord. Came home and saw that the rest of the church was the same.”

*

“Finding out that single women can be disciplined for being artificially inseminated… men are merely encouraged not to donate sperm.”

*

“I read the BOM cover to cover and no warm fuzzy. Repeated at least 8 more times but no real answer.”

*

“I realized mormon bishops were acting as a proxy for the mormon god, Elohim. That turned out to be a bad thing for my belief in the mormon deity. Those bishops/officials that had no empathy highlighted just how much of a box checking administrator that the mormon god is. Elohim’s primary job appears to be checking that everyone has their paperwork in order.

Baptism
Knows signs and tokens, handshakes and magic pass phrases
Mission
Temple Marriage
endured to the end

Everyone has to come to terms with whether the god of mormonism matches the kind of a god that would be worthy of belief/worship. Elohim fails that test all the way around. The jealous god of Genesis 22 and Matthew 10:37 is not worthy of worship. It is a sad thing if the deity has less empathy than the best humans among us. It was a relief to learn that Smith’s religion was entirely made up. I wish others in my family could abandon Pascal’s Wager and drop their belief, but I doubt they ever will.”

“Testimony meeting. People who I knew weren’t following, or by any reasonable standard trying to follow, the commandments would get up and talk about how close to the spirit they were. It was devestating because I really wanted the church to be true and worked hard to be worthy but couldn’t ever feel the spirit or gain a confirmation. Had to face the fact that I could waste my whole life and never gain a testimony.”

*

CES letter

*

“The story of angels taking the plates away. As a small primary kid I thought, “I hope my friends don’t hear about this; they’ll make fun of me.” It is just the most childish excuse ever.

Edit: however the thing that more directly lead me to leave was book of Abraham fragments being bull sh**.”

*

“Debating with people about gay marriage started the cracking, CES Letter finished the blow years later.”

*

“Seminary when we were reading about the Book of Abraham. The Mummy had recently came out, and I noticed that the Egyptian in the movie didn’t sound at all like the names in the Book of Abraham. I assumed eventually more of Egyptian culture would be discovered eventually and would validate the deities Joseph Smith’s translation revealed.

The next item on my shelf was GBH’s interview with Larry King… also in Seminary. I knew that Hinckley wasn’t being exactly forthright. I rationalized this as that Hinckley had to protect the church.

I didn’t stop believing in the church for another decade.”

*

“A Mormon Stories podcast on the Book of Abraham. It was my first exposure to Mormon Stories and a long and crazy ride after that.”

*

“The very first weight on my shelf was being pressured to use gimmicky sales tactics on the mission. I never could get fully on board with pressuring people into religion…”

*

“Wife teaching in nursery. the lesson was # 26 from “Behold Your Little Ones.” The lesson was to teach kids that Jesus was baptized, then have the kids repeat “I will be baptized and confirmed.” until they are able to say it on their own – without assistance from the teacher. It is brainwashing at its most basic level.”

*

“Polygamy in the early church and the glaring age difference between husband and wives. The women were looked upon as trophies, baby making machines, and commodities.”

*

“Prop 8 bothered me but the blacks and the priesthood essay is when I really began to question what was really going on.”

*

“That we still practice polygamy via the temple.”



Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Seth L.

    I thought all “Anti-Mormon” material referred to stupid fake things that I, a smart human being, could easily dismiss. I clicked on a 1 hour Youtube video called “10 Mormon Myths”. Three years later I am leaving the church.

  • Travis88

    Wow! City Creek Mall was quite a disaster for leadership. You’d think they could have done a better job of covering up the church’s financial involvement? Well, I’m sure they would have if they could have seen the future. 🙂

    • Thomas

      how so? inever heard of it…(non utahn)

  • MTB

    I ran into the world “polyandry” while simply googling a quote from an early prophet. I had no idea that polyandry was even a thing. I was serving in a bishopric at this time. I went to http://www.fairmormon.org/ to get an explanation. FAIR’s defense of this practice felt illogical and immoral. While I was on FAIR’s site, I ran into the problems with the Book of Abraham (which I, embarrassingly, also had no clue about). So, I started studying……

  • Michael Anderson

    This post is an excellent idea.

  • Michael Anderson

    I didn’t start questioning until I read a fiction book that brought up the idea that Jesus was nothing more than a man. This was not a new concept–I initially understood it to be a Jewish position. But the book also suggested that the apostles knew that Jesus was just a man, but conspired to make him to appear as though he was the son of God. Granted, the book was fiction–but it still planted a seed of doubt in my disjointed skeptical/believing mind. I was able to put this thought on a shelf and get married in the temple and get a decent job with the church.

    At the temple I had another hit on my faith while experiencing the endowment and sealing ceremonies. I was waiting for a transcendental experience, but felt nothing more than unease and revulsion. I had heard all of my life how uplifting, transformative, and spiritual this experience would be–it was none of the above. I shrugged it off and chalked it up to not being ready for higher truths at the moment. Everyone else there seemed to be into it. My wife later admitted to feeling the same way that I did, but felt that the experience would improve with more sessions.

    While working for the church I encountered more dissonance as I encountered the reality that the church is nothing but a corporation. I saw inspired managers and “the brethren” make decisions that ended up being mistakes. I saw pride. I saw foolish certainty. I saw those with doubts squashed down by those with authority. I saw man operating with all of the usual faults of man. And yet everyone around me was buying into the idea that God was guiding every aspect of the operation. After 1 1/2 years I quit. I didn’t belong there. With every additional week I realized that I was not one of these people. I doubted … a lot.

    It took me about 9 months after that before I looked at my first “anti-Mormon” site. I had been driving down the freeway and saw the “Mormon Think” billboard. I had no idea what sort of material to expect: that there was more reason to doubt other than my experiences up to that point. I started out with the “Top 10 Mormon Problems” video and voraciously consumed as much information as I could… for more than a year straight. My wife cried after discovering my YouTube history. She admits that she had considered divorce–that’s what you have to do in those situations, right?

    A week my wife’s discovery, Amazon delivered “No Man Knows My History” and she ended up thumbing through it. She got caught up on a page describing the wives of Joseph Smith and started down the rabbit hole after me. We stayed up many nights crying and debating. Questioning everything that we knew and coming up with alternate possibilities. We analyzed faith and other religions. We questioned the existence of God. We talked about science and skepticism. But mostly we talked about the Church — the thing that we had dedicated out lives to; the thing that we had used to make out most important decisions. It couldn’t be true and we were devastated by that conclusion.

  • David Fife

    My mission president wanted us to pray for instruction and guidance. “Drawing upon the powers of heaven” was required reading in my mission. The problem was, different people praying to the same God got different answers about the same task. It made me wonder about the process of praying for truth.

    I read an article in Susnstone magazine a few months after I finished my mission, while at BYU. Essentially, the article argued that there was nothing unique about the origins of the book of Mormon. https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/050-16-26.pdf

    At this point, my worldview was collapsing all around me. I spoke to BYU counselors, religion professors, philosophy professors and read voraciously. Thinking, that if I simply understood it more, it would make sense in the end. The more layers of the onion I unpeeled, the stinkier it became. Once I had a basic understanding of actual church history, I was done.

    I was pretty open with my bishop about my feelings and the church. After I told him this, he leaned back in his chair, rubbed his chin and said “are you having sex?” I was flabbergasted by this question. I was fasting, praying and desperately trying to remain in the church and culture I was raised with. At this point, I knew I was done.

    I am socially somewhat active in the church, but a deist, at best. I have fantasies about resigning. I wish there was a way for non-believers to remain part of the big tent called mormonism.

    • ma

      I was pretty open with my bishop about my feelings and the church. After I told him this, he leaned back in his chair, rubbed his chin and said “are you having sex?”

      Sorry…but this is funny stuff.

  • charles rivera

    A Chronological Recounting of My De-conversion:

    1. Get baptized, they said. You’ll feel clean and super special, they said. When I did get baptized, nada. No choirs of angels, no voice from heaven, not even a pat on the head from God. Oh, excuse me “Heavenly Father”.

    2. The Atonement: the idea that I “owed” God for my “sins” that Jesus must now pay for me and how dare I sin! What? I was always a good kid! The Sunday School teacher explained this to me, but I was more depressed than impressed.

    3. Book of Mormon: wars conducted in 18th century style “gentleman’s wars”. What the heck was up with all that? Badly designed war strategies, clumsy and awkward in its execution. And the Lamanites were are cartoonish & simplistic and totally evil. I was embarrassed for them/Joseph Smith. Too many wars in the BOM, too tedious and confusing to follow. Even the study guides were no good.

    4. Doctrine and Covenants: God commanding his people through Joseph Smith to give Smith their money. Hmmm, how convenient was that?

    5. Institute lessons: Law of Common Consent [a.k.a. Communism in sheep’s clothing] and Polygamy. Why am I hearing about this just now? Bible phase: why do we never talk about Songs of Solomon? What’s going on in here that—-holy crap! It’s Biblical soft porn!

    6. School learnin’ vs Mormon teachin’s: how old is the earth anyway? Why are there 17,000 year old cave paintings in France, while we only talk about a 6,000 year old earth? What’s going on here? Native Americans: bear zero resemblance to Jews. Their practices also bear zero resemblance to Jewish religion.

    7. Mission: wow, look at all these ambitious guys, they all want to be an assistant or work in the office. How lazy is that? Oh, look there’s a crazy guy who fasts and won’t eat until their companionship has had a baptism. What is wrong with people?

    8. Mark Hofmann vs Gordon Hinckley + the church. Gordon couldn’t save Kathy Sheets or Steven Christensen, plus the church lost some serious coin on those fake document purchases. Gordon had the gall to hide behind a legal team and NOT testify. What kind of profit was he?

    9. Tithing: the church tightens its death grip on my wallet. The economy tanks and I am left high and dry. Where’s those “blessings” now? Thanks, Mormon God and whoever was profit at the time.

    10. Philosophical and doctrinal answers missing: why do very bad things happen to good people? The leaders can only bear their testimony or recount Jewish history. I know, it has nothing to do with the topic, but that’s all they got.

    So long, farewell, adieu brethren!

  • Lou

    Thanks for not putting my story in here, Dick.

  • Lou

    Can you please post this on your Facebook page so I can “like” it and have my wonderful family and friends see it? I scrolled through, but couldn’t find it.

    • Albert Carrington

      I’ll do it right now!

  • Davey t

    I started to doubt because I believed too much. I genuinely accepted that Priesthood blessings could work and that I as a Priesthood holder would receive gifts of the spirit and so on. At 34/35 I was at a crisis point as I was unable to heal, receive actual promptings during blessings or experience any real two-way , discernible interactions with divinity – my integrity screamed out in frustration and I stopped pretending to give any ‘spiritual’ guidance as I couldn’t honestly claim it was anything other than my imagination. I resolved to find out whether my technique was wrong, my faith was wrong or whether my worldview was wrong. I told God in prayer that I would be offering my testimony as a sacrifice and my trust that , if he/she/it cared, they would guide me to resolve my inability to act as a servant one way or another. 2 years later I had found enough evidence to discount the Abrahamic God, all other described gods and along the way the whole set of rotten LDS foundation myths. I was surprised, dismayed but authentically free and me.

  • Bill Johnson

    The Book of Mormon is basically about two groups of peoples that lived in the Americas some 1,000 years apart. They were steel-smelting, chariot-driving, temple-building people that grew so numerous that 2 Million people died in a single battle. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that any of these people ever existed. The BofM is not backed up by any archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence. There is no evidence of any Hebrew culture in the Americas as you would expect from descendants of Israel as is the premise of the BofM. DNA evidence indicate that the natives of the Americas originated from Siberia, and probably came across the Bering Strait, just as scientists have thought for decades and not from the Middle East.

    Isn’t it strange that we have found much evidence of many other cultures that existed in the Americas like the Aztecs, Mayans,Toltecs, etc. yet not a single Nephite coin, steel sword, armor, or ‘Reformed Egyptian‘ writing has ever been found which is unbelievable considering the span of Jaredites, Nephites & Lamanites which numbered in the millions over the almost 3,000 years that these various peoples reportedly flourished.

    There are so many anachronisms in the BofM such as the numerous animals, plants, metals, and cultural artifacts mentioned in the BofM like horses, elephants, wheat, barley, steel, silk, etc. that it seems inconceivable that the BofM could be historically accurate. According to the BofM, the travelers from the Old World of course brought the greatest invention of all time with them – the wheel, which they used to make chariots as mentioned many times in the BofM. There have never been any chariots or other wheeled objects found in Ancient America except for perhaps some small toys. Also, they used this knowledge to make chariots, and presumably other wheeled inventions, but somehow the entire knowledge of this most useful invention was lost and not used by their descendants. This is very improbable.

    The list of reasons why the BofM is not really a historical document is very long and well-researched. I encourage serious believers in the BofM to review them.

    • Kathy

      Bill, You are right… because it did not happen in Meso America like it has been promoted. Apparently you have not head of the “Heartland Theory” There is so much evidence that is being discovered in the mid-west it’s astounding. The American Hopewell civilization or mound builders appeared about 600 BC and suddenly disappeared about 400 AD and they don’t know why. So many of the found artifacts have Jewish symbols and archaeologists cannot figure it out. Here is a website you may find to be very interesting. http://bookofmormonevidence.org (articles and videos) At the present time, there is a dig going on across the river from Navuoo. They think they may have discovered the location of the Zarahemla Temple. (All research and resources for this project is privately funded. (The Church has made no comment) Of course.. what’s new?

      • Dave Astle

        The Heartland Theory doesn’t really do better than the Mesoamerican model in addressing the things Bill brought up. In some ways, it’s far worse, because it’s based on really bad science (e.g. the Newark Stones) that nobody outside a small group of hobbyist Mormons takes seriously.

        The reason the church won’t comment on or support funding of these models is because they don’t want to be pinned down to a position that can be disproved.

  • Laura Neumann Journey

    I converted to the church in college after I started dating my future husband. While I felt a warm fuzzy once when I was praying with the missionaries on if I should join, I never enjoyed going to church. There were a couple of years when I hung out with a good friend during church, but otherwise I felt it wasn’t for me. I struggled with going and fulfilling my church callings.

    Then I read about Joseph Smith’s rape angel in the Nauvoo polygamy essay. God would not destroy anyone for something someone else did or did not do (like marry Joseph Smith). I figured it was something he told Emma, but looked it up and he told the women he was proposing to that an angel would kill him if they didn’t marry him. It was one of Smith’s tactics to coerce women into marrying him. I started to study the subject more and have been reading In Sacred Loneliness.

    After the Supreme Court decision regarding marriage, a facebook friend posted it was wrong because gay couples could not be sealed and produce children in the eternities. I almost commented that they were using Smith’s doctrine to justify polygamy to determine what other people can and cannot do. Then I realized being sealed together is one of the most important things about Mormonism and it’s been ruined for me.

    Then I read the ‘I too having been born of Godly parents’ entry on Thoughts on Things and Stuff. And that letter broke my heart. I was mad at the church for not letting black people be sealed in the temple for so long and causing suffering. And I was mad at the person who wrote the letter for actually believing this false doctrine that they would not see their daughter again because they weren’t sealed in the temple, while all their friends would have their families. Then I realized that this church isn’t the only one that teaches we will have our families forever, it’s the only one that teaches we won’t unless certain conditions are met.

    When my Mom died earlier this year, my bishop called me after the funeral and asked if I shared with my father regarding eternal families and what-not. I said yes to grease the wheels on that phone call. The truth was the priest covered it all very nicely that Mom was with Jesus now. If Christians return to Jesus, then we will all be together and there is no need for complex doctrines that served Joseph Smith in his quest for power. I wasn’t going to tell my Dad he had to further change his life and give the church money if he wanted to see Mom again.

    And I’ve been watching Dan Vogel’s YouTube channel. I found how common the belief that the Indians were descended from Israel during Smith’s time very interesting. As well is the belief there must have been a white race on the Americas to build the stuff the Indians certainly couldn’t have built, which was then wiped out by the Indians. And there’s Smith using animal sacrifice trying to break spells put on roaming treasure and the first references of Smith trying to get the gold plates treat it as a treasure seeking story and not something holy or angelic.

  • GBee Bean

    I left after questioning and realizing that I couldn’t ignore the black and the priesthood debate. As a black woman, I always lingered on the fact that black people weren’t allowed to have the priesthood, enter the temple or go to heaven unless they were slaves, until about 50 years ago. To think that men that are ‘divinely appointed’ by God would tell a group of people solely based on their skin color that they were less worthy to receive certain ordinances is racist and insane. To also think that God would preach this through 10 prophets and then suddenly change his mind ironically at the same time as the civil rights movement is also crazy. I couldn’t stand by something that actively preached that interracial marriage was a sin and that it shouldn’t happen. If you preach about loving one another, what happened to loving us?


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