I’ve made a huge mistake. Unfortunately, the consequences of this mistake extend far beyond me. I owe you an explanation why I didn’t tell you everything you were getting into.
I was born to a good, wonderful, righteous, Mormon family. I love them dearly. They raised me wonderfully. The gospel as taught by them was awe-inspiring. My life up to the point was seen completely through the lens of Mormonism. It was beautiful to me, and I loved it. I wanted to share it with you, and I wanted your family to have the same love that mine did.
When I was 19, you let me into your home and opened up your heart and your soul to me. We had long, heartfelt talks. You told me and my companions about your trials, your hardships, your ups and your downs. We all cried when you had surgery, and we prayed together for your recovery. We cheered when you stopped smoking, and we laughed over meals together. I loved you, each of you, with my whole heart. I wanted nothing more than for you to be happy.
To me, that happiness was Mormonism. I was always taught growing up in Church that it was the only way to real happiness, the only way to enduring joy. I wanted so desperately for you to have the happiness I had, to get the blessings I was getting. I would do whatever it took to let you feel that love of God in your life.
So sometimes I didn’t answer your questions. I would downplay your concerns about polygamy. I would pressure you into making a decision before you had the chance to research things yourself. Sometimes I didn’t know answers to questions because I was never taught the answers myself. When you asked me about Joseph translating the Book of Mormon with seer stones in a hat, I told you that was an anti-Mormon lie. When you told me that Joseph married a 14 year old girl, I told you that wasn’t true. Even if I would have known this things, at the time it didn’t matter, because I believed that the ends justified the means.
It makes me sick to type that. Please, please believe me when I say that I love you. I spent hours thinking about you and your struggles. I was really, truly trying to help you in the best way I knew how. I know better now.
I don’t regret the time I spent with you. I learned to love and I learned to be selfless. Most of those lessons I learned from your example. I wish I could have learned those lessons under better pretenses. Rather than when I was pushing an agenda. I wish I could have been just as genuine and authentic with you as you were with us.
I do regret the sacrifices I told you to make. I regret telling you to give up your career in order to live my religion. I regret telling you to pay tithing when you could barely feed your children. I regret telling you that tea was a sin while I told you it was okay for God to treat black people and homosexuals differently. I am so sorry, and I hope you will forgive me.
I wish I wouldn’t have told you what your spiritual experiences meant. You had those experiences before you had even heard of Mormons. Those were just as powerful and real then, and I am sorry I used them to convince you that God was just preparing you to meet us. I am sorry that I turned any positive event and turned it into proof that the church is true.
When I met some of you, you were a Buddhist. Or a Christian. Or an atheist. Or inactive. I am sorry that I tried to tell you that you were wrong. I told you over and over that “I know” when in fact, I didn’t. I’ve learned so much about Mormon history that I can’t keep believing it is what I claimed it was on my mission. It isn’t the answer to the world’s problems, and I don’t believe it is God’s one true church. If you wish to still believe, that’s okay. My family does too. If you decide you wish to leave, I hope it isn’t as difficult for you to leave as it was for me.
I will never forget that feeling when you got baptized. We stood in the water in white and you promised to “mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. We had this new kinship, this sense of connectedness. We were officially on the same team now.
I hope you know that hasn’t changed for me. I realize now that this connection wasn’t the result of an ordinance, it was a result of our love for each other. I hope you know that regardless of where life takes us or what we believe in, I will always love you and your family. I hope that despite my ignorance and mistakes, you will still love me too.
A former Elder, a forever friend.