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Ye shall know them by their fruits… Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – Matthew 7:16-20

I remember in the middle of my faith crisis always turning to this and similar verses of scripture. In my best attempt at doubting my doubts, not doubting my faith, and nearly qualifying for the 2015 FAIR Mormon Mental Gymnastics World Convention, my soul clung on to the spiritual experiences that I had previously had. I looked back on my years and years of primary, mutual, missionary service, and active church attendance. It had only done me good. I was never marginalized or mistreated by the Church in any way I could perceive. I bought in 100% and was committed 100%. The fruit was good to the me. Like a fresh Asian mango.

Unfortunately, this fruit is relative.

When I decided to reveal I no longer wished to be a member of the Church, I was often asked “But what about all the good the Church has done for you? Are you just going to throw it all away?”

Fundamentally, the argument that “the church has only benefited my life, so I know it is true by its fruits” is a selfish one. If you are willing to perpetuate and support an organization that you know has hurt and is hurting other human beings simply because it has brought you good things in your life, that isn’t Christlike – it’s self-serving.

Consider a bi-racial couple in love but they are told by the First Presidency that God wants his races like He wants food dished on his plate – not touching. Or the young girl who is propositioned to become one among the dozens of Brigham Young’s wives (which is different than how God wants His plate dished). Ponderize the ethics of the amount of money Christ’s supposed Church invests in business, property, and other worldly things rather than the poor and needy. Empathize with the psychological damage caused by years of being told homosexuality is a choice and a sin next to murder. Consider the suicides and suicide attempts. Do not forget the all too real damage caused to  families when a spouse or child stumbles upon the uncorrelated version of church history. In each of these cases the fruit not only tastes rotten, but can cause life-altering illness.

This is not to say the Church doesn’t do good things – it would be ignorant of me to say otherwise. But simply looking at the “fruits” is subjective, and what is good fruit to one person can just be fruit leather (the apricot one) to another. Some people can thrive within the Church. Others are made completely miserable. It’s just like any other religion – it has an extraordinary capacity for good, coupled with a terrifying ability to do harm. And therein lies the problem – if it is just like any other church, why would I want to be apart of it? Isn’t the reason people are supposed to be Mormon is because the Church is inspired and led by God, and is the only true and living church on the face of the earth? But if an inspired Church is indistinguishable from one in apostasy, then how is one supposed to know which to join?

I don’t think there is such a thing as finding a “true” church. It’s about finding true, long-lasting, authentic, joy and letting others do the same. And that holds true even when their idea of joy is different than yours.

In reality, people should be able to believe and do whatever will make them happy. But that is not the doctrine of the Church, whose prophets teach gems like this:

“Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family [humanity’s straight families, at least].” – Ezra Taft Benson, commentary by me added in brackets

I truly believe that there are many people who are truly, deeply, happy in the Church. But the Church is quick to tell those that leave that they aren’t really happy. That deep down, they know that the Church is the real way to happiness. We can leave the Church, but the Church can’t leave us alone.

And if it was just me, I couldn’t care less. The Church could say whatever they wanted about me being happy or not, and I could go on my merry way. But the reason I care and am even bothering to write this is because of the many people who are trapped by fear. This fear is instilled by the Church after years and years of stories about giving up your birthright for porridge (I am sure the Jehovah’s Witnesses use this scripture the exact same way). Guess what – sometimes your birthright sucks and the porridge is actually coffee. It is a lie that people who leave the Church cannot ever truly be happy, and they point to the good the Church does as evidence of this fact. The Church does not have a monopoly on happy families, happy careers, happily serving others, happily improving yourself, or making the world a happy place.

There are organizations that are much more charitable than the Church. There are churches that do more than the LDS Church does. Some of the best people I have ever met in my life never were Mormon or are ex-Mormon. Any good fruit in the Church was grafted in, and it grows on plenty of other trees.

The most important fruit in Mormon theology is the fruit of the tree of life. This fruit is personified in Jesus Christ, and it represents the love of God. If we are created in the image of God, then that means loving other people. Or maybe you prefer the secular version: if we are the only humans within the next billion light years, each one of us is a rare and precious life. Everyone of us: Mormons, ex-Mormons, gays, feminists, intellectuals, people with man buns, and Glenn Beck listeners. Each of us has inherit worth and different fruit that makes us happy.

If your hope in life is to make this little plot of earth we have been given in the universe a better place, then you are a good person. If you don’t like the fruit, throw it away. Find new fruit. Or grow your own tree. You don’t need a temple recommend to build humanity a Zion.



Albert Carrington
Albert Carrington
Albert Carrington served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until he was excommunicated for adultery. During his disciplinary court, Elder Carrington tried to argue that he had only committed "a little folly in Israel!", but the current brethren couldn't be bothered to give him a break. Learn more about Elder Carrington here.
  • Swagavad Gita

    The Church does a lot of good, but it also does a lot of bad. And it doesn’t even offer any revelation justifying it. Not really.

    • gryndyll

      I would counter that many of the members do a lot of good… the church… not so much.

  • Swagavad Gita

    It pretty much adopts its stance of gay marriage based on the Old Testament? I thought the whole point of prophets and new scripture was to provide a more accurate practice of the gospel. Not even a new revelation for it.

  • James

    It’s not very often that you can get devoutly religious people to consider the possibility of being wrong. But it happened a couple times with my mom and sister who both said something to this effect, “All the evidence I’ve seen points to the church being true. But even if it isn’t, there is no other way I would want to live. The Mormon lifestyle makes me happy.”

    Their analysis was egocentric. “If it’s not true, it doesn’t matter because *I* am happy.” They never considered the flipside of the consequences of the Mormon church not being true. If the church isn’t true, it *does* matter. A lot. If the church isn’t true, imagine the colossal waste that temples are. Imagine all the unnecessary emotional damage you cause to “apostates” and gay people and black people. Consider the wide range of social opportunities that you miss out on. Think about all the hours spent doing mind-numbing administrative tasks, prying into teenager’s sex lives, and reading the same fictional stories over and over and over and over…..

    These are the fruits of your religion too. I’m glad for all the good things that Mormons do. But also very sad for the needless suffering that is caused by their beliefs.

  • Arwen Undomiel

    I told my mother yesterday that I resigned and she started asking me questions like what happened to your testimony of the Book of Mormon? What happened to the experiences in which you felt the Spirit telling you the church is true?

    I really found it hard to explain these things to her. She wouldn’t believe me when I told her about the new policy that discriminates children. I did not want to argue with her about the Book of Mormon. I just told her there are good things in the Book of Mormon that inspire to do good but that was not a good reason for me to stay in a church that discriminates children. Then my mother was worried that I was going to be away from God by not going to church.

    Honestly, I have told her already a few times that it’s not necessary to be in a building to be close to God, but my mother’s brain doesn’t process this simple truth. It doesn’t matter how many times we talk about this, I know she will ask the same thing again. It’s like her brain has been impaired to logic and reason and she can just repeat what she hears in church. It’s like she has an invisible shield force that unconsciously protects her brain from unwanted information. It’s like my mother has been robbed from her personality or like she has been kidnapped. I suppose these are some of the fruits of this church, spiritual and mental handicap.

    No one in their right mind can support a policy that bullies children. Unless, of course, in ypur mind you are supporting the prophet who is called by God, then it’s ok to bully children I suppose. This is the worst the mormon church has done, to rob people of their freedom to learn to think by themselves. The freedom to learn to discern by themselves. The freedom to follow their conscience. It’s a crime against what’s best in each of us.

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