This article is my reaction to an article over at LDS Living. While I respect the experiences of the author, I felt the post inaccurately portrayed why most people leave the Church.
I left the Church, and I have no plans to come back – my life is much more happy and blessed since leaving. If you are an active and orthodox Latter-day Saint, you may attribute my current happiness Satan’s deception. If my life was worse, you would say it’s the loss of God’s blessings. In the eyes of some Mormons, no matter how wonderful or difficult my life is, it will be the result of my apostasy. My fault. I will have brought this onto myself as a result of sin.
But that could not be further from the truth.
I served a mission and I worked hard. I served as a Zone Leader. I baptized nearly 30 people while serving a stateside mission – not something I ever told anyone before I left the Church. I was very modest and humble, never boastful. I served in various leadership callings in my student ward that put me in the ward council. I met a righteous, spiritual, faithful latter-day saint. We got married fast, and those days were blissful – we talked about serving couples missions when we retired, we went on baptism dates to the temple, we studied scriptures together. We were a Christ-centered coupled, and we did our best to be like him.
We got married. It was a beautiful day.
And from there on out, it was supposed to be Endure to the End. We went to Church weekly, we shared the gospel with friends, and we went out to save the lost sheep.
Which is were we ran into the problem.
I want to reinforce this point. We did NOT seek to doubt the Church. We were not trying to prove the Church wrong. We were not sinning. We learned the actual, uncorrelated, uncensored, history of the Church through every primary source we could put our hands on.
Which is why when I read an article like this in a Church owned magazine that my friends and family read that sends the message of “I left because of sin, and I came back because I repented” I get a little bit frustrated. I did not leave because of sin, and most former members of the Church didn’t either.
And that’s true for most people that leave these days. Just take a look at the sample study done by John Dehlin (which he then presented to the leadership of the Church). Of course, all of us would rather have the numbers straight from the tapir’s mouth, but I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.
John’s study illustrates exactly what my experience was and is for tens of thousands of struggling Latter-day Saints. We did not sin. Our faith-crisis was simply the result of the Church’s massive truth crisis. The Church is obviously struggling to figure out what to do lessen the hemorrhage of many of its faithful members. New carefully worded and unsigned essays on topics that range from Joseph Smith’s polygamy (including a girl a few months away from her 15th birthday) to the priesthood ban for blacks (which the Church completely disavows but doesn’t apologize for). But still, the message is reinforced to members of the Church through official publications that sin is what leads people away from the Church.
Tell me, how did I sin when I discovered that South Park taught me a more accurate depiction of the translation of the Book of Mormon than two decades of Church attendance? Why am I the sinner when I learned that Joseph Smith pressured young girls and other men’s wives into marrying him, then lied about it and tried to hide it? Why am I told Joseph was sent to Carthage on false charges when in actuality he destroyed a printing press that was publishing the truth about his polygamy? Why am I a fool and prideful when I learn that Joseph’s “translation” of the so-called Book of Abraham papyri are wrong and the Book of Mormon contains dozens of anachronisms?
I would go to my bishop and ask for answers. Conversations with family either resulted in dismissing my concerns or ended with “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” I took that to heart. I stopped studying anything other than scripture. I doubted all my doubts before I did anything else. But it would not go away. I won’t rehash my entire journey out of the Church for you in this post, but you can read what I shared with my friends and family here if you are interested. Suffice it to say, I did not abandon the Church, the Church abandoned me.
One more tragic consequence of this article is its effect of those who are doubting the validity of the Church. To anyone who is in that boat, I want to make it very clear – it is not your fault. The Church has alway said that it was their job to teach to the doctrines of the gospel. They took it upon themselves to teach you Church history. By their own definition of honesty, they were dishonest. Your faith-crisis is not the result of Satan trying to trick you, God trying to test you, or sin. Just like we were taught in Sunday School growing up, lying always comes back to bite you in the butt.