My Story

I am deeply interested in religion, politics, current events, history, musical theater and books! I left the LDS church a couple years ago and have spent a lot of time since then thinking and considering various religious influences in my life and in the lives of those around me. For more information on why I left the LDS church, look here. I also love to sing, act, dance (tap preferably) and perform on stage whenever possible.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Why I Left

I had a friend recently ask me my reasons for leaving the LDS church and since that is an entry I have been meaning to write anyway, I have included my reasons below (in no particular order).

Women’s Roles – This has always been a sticking point for me. From the time I first entered the Young Women’s program I was annoyed with the things we did for activities and were told were important. We spent many activity days making cookies or doing crafts or some other kind of homemaking activity. I was never really interested in those things. I wanted to be doing the things the boys were doing in Scouts. Things like hiking, camping, sleeping in snow caves, etc. It seemed that the Scouts got to attend several camp outs a year and the young women were limited to one camping trip that usually involved irritating activities like decorating your tent or your camp t-shirt. The reasoning given for the Scouts seemingly endless activities was that they were not really affiliated with the church and were a separate entity that the church simply endorsed. However, callings were (and continue to be) given by the LDS Bishops to leadership positions within the church as well as fund raisers sponsored by the church etc.

So that’s where I came from. As I grew up I found myself disagreeing more and more with the LDS church’s stance on women’s roles. I put myself through college, got a degree in Computer Science, started a career and excelled in the business world. I got married and continued to work. Neither one of us were ready for children and so we have put that off as well. I do not work because we need the money and can not figure out another way to get by. I work because I enjoy it, because I feel I have something special I can give to the world and because I need to feel a certain amount of independence. My feelings on what a women could (and possibly should) be constantly conflicted with what I was learning every week at Church. I did not agree with statements like the following from the “Proclamation to the World”.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
I felt (and still do) that it is the Mother and Father's combined responsibility to care for the family and to provide for the household. Each couple should be left to determine the best way to divide those responsibilities between each other. Members of the church may counter that current prophets have encouraged just this, however, lessons are still being taught in church every week as doctrine, such as the following from Spencer W. Kimball as taught in the current manual for the Marriage and Family Relations Course.
Some of them are quite willing to help earn that lavish living by continuing employment after marriage. They consequently leave the home, where their duty lies, to pursue professional or business pursuits, thus establishing an economy that becomes stabilized so that it becomes very difficult to yield toward the normal family life. Through both spouses’ working, competition rather than cooperation enters the family. Two weary workers return home with taut nerves, individual pride, increased independence, and then misunderstandings arise. Little frictions pyramid into monumental ones.
I was absolutely blown away by this. So now, not only was I not to work when we had children, I shouldn’t work after marriage either? I just could not agree that a woman's duty lies in the home. Further, if the argument is made that this is not the the official position of the church, then WHY is it still included in the current lesson materials?!

Also, as I consider the possibility of one day raising children, I have to ask myself if I want my girls to be taught the same things I had learned as a young woman regarding women's roles. The answer is a very simple, "No".

Stance on Homosexuality - I do not believe that marriage can or should only be between one man and one woman. I believe that everyone should have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as I do as a heterosexual. I am constantly frustrated by the church saying on one hand that they do not get involved in politics only to contradict themselves by encouraging members to vote for or against certain laws that will limit the basic rights of the homosexual community. If I am following Jesus’s example to “Love one another” than how could I possibly say that a homosexual person should not find love and happiness in their own lives in whatever way they can? Their choices do not hurt me, or my family or the LDS church. About a year ago we had dinner with a couple in our neighborhood and the topic of discussion turned to this. They asked how I could reconcile my membership in the church with my beliefs on marriage and homosexuality. The only answer I could give them is that I could not.

The Temple - Okay, I have to be careful on this one, I really don’t want to offend any faithful Mormons out there by addressing this topic, but since it is one of the reasons I left the church, I feel I must address it. For me, the Temple experience felt like signing my life away before I was allowed to read the fine print. No one will really tell you what ordinances you will be making in the Temple before you go, and it is considered wrong to attempt to research it outside of official church sources. A few minutes into the ceremony they ask if anyone would like to leave to raise your hand and they will escort you out. However, at this point you still have no idea what you are getting yourself into so how can you possibly know to raise your hand?

My first experience in the Temple was only a couple weeks before my pending Temple marriage. The invitations were sent and this was one of the last steps I needed to take before the big day. I was nervous about it and didn’t really feel ready, but I had to go in order to be married in the Temple and I HAD to be married in the Temple. That is just how it is done. When I came home after that experience I just cried. I was so frustrated. I hated wearing the garments and I felt completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. I didn’t feel any of the feelings I was supposed to feel, like peace or happiness or anything. I just felt bleh. Needless to say, I can count on my hands how many times I went back. Now that I have been out of the church for a while and have had time to research the Temple ceremony, I have found other problems with it which I will not go into. If you would like to know more, simply google "LDS Temple Ceremony" to research some of the issues on your own.

No Conviction of Joseph Smith - I never had a strong testimony of Joseph Smith or felt convinced that he had really seen what he claimed or that he had really translated the Book of Mormon. I did try and gain my own testimony of this. I had learned my entire life that if I just kept doing all the "right things" and believing and praying that I would eventually gain that testimony that everyone else seemed to have. In temple interviews I would say, "yes I believe that" because I did believe it. But I never felt I had that strong feeling about Joseph Smith that I have heard so many others express in their testimonies, but I wanted it to be true and I really tried to believe that it was. I never felt I could say "I Know" this is true about anything in the LDS church. However, when I left the church I told those closest to me that it really didn’t matter to me if Joseph Smith did those things or not, because I felt that the LDS church of today was not true. At the very least, not true for me.

Open Discussion Not Tolerated - This drives me CRAZY! Issues would come up that I wanted to talk to my friends or family about and everyone would treat me as if I was evil for wanting to know or questioning a certain position of the church. A church that claims it is the only true church should be able to stand up to the most careful scrutiny. But as soon as you ask questions or disagree with something stated as truth by the :LDS Prophets, you are labeled “evil”. A fine example of this comes from a Mormon Times article I recently read.
Evil speaking of the Lord's anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.
The Only True Church – I have never been able to reconcile that the LDS church believes it is the only true church on this Earth. It always made more sense to me that there are multiple ways to God and that everyone needs to find their own way to be spiritually connected, whether that be through Jesus, Allah, Buddha or ??? I was always frustrated by the focus of “Every Member a Missionary” when I felt that if my neighbor was not Mormon and was happy, then who was I to interfere? If they were happy with their current path, why should I try and convert them to Mormonism?

Book of Abraham - Several parts of the original Book of Abraham have been found and translated by present day Egyptologists. Their translation does not match Joseph Smith’s. Being a scientifically minded person, this is a problem for me. If he didn’t correctly translate the Book of Abraham then how can I believe he actually translated the Book of Mormon? For more information on this, Wikipedia provides a decent look at both sides of this issue (or just google, "Book of Abraham" for other sources).

African Americans and the Priesthood - This never made sense to me. Why would African Americans not be able to have the priesthood in the church and then in 1978, God suddenly changes his mind about the matter and decides it is OK after all? Especially for something that very obviously should have been OK throughout the church's history, a church that preaches "love thy neighbor" and encourages its members to follow Christ's example. It always seemed to me that the church's stance prior to 1978 was just simply racist motivated by the fears and prejudices of the times. I could not reconcile that it had anything to do with God or revelation. The United States had changed and the LDS church had to change too or risk losing its members and the respect of the community. However, the prophets and apostles continue to stick by the "revelation" story when they really should just come out and apologize for making the same mistakes so many others made at the same time. Mistakes made by men, not by God.

Honest With Myself - When it came right down to it, I had to be honest with myself. There was just too much of the LDS doctrine, history and scripture that I did not agree with. I could no longer align myself with this organization and feel good about it. I had to leave in order to maintain my personal integrity.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I wonder why you were able to connect the dots while others can't? This is one of the things that I find interesting about Mormonism. One of the other things I wonder about is why so many exMormons are atheists. It's good to be a free thinker which you obviously are. I hope you haven't thrown the baby out with the bathwater and can find a connection to God.

Seth R. said...

Practicing and active Mormon here.

I sympathize with much of this. I have, on occasion, even wondered myself if the current LDS Church I belong to is in a state of apostasy all it's own. Can't rule it out I suppose.

anon,

I don't know if we really have any data of how many ex-LDS are atheist and how many go for some other flavor of Christianity.

But I will say this.

Once you decide that the Joseph Smith story is a load of rubbish. It's not very hard to draw the same conclusions about the Jesus story. The FAITH CLAIMS of both are equally susceptible.

Sure, we know a character named "Jesus" existed. But that bare information doesn't make him the son of God any more than the fact that we know a person named Joseph Smith existed makes him a prophet.

If you tear down one faithful narrative, the other doesn't often prove any more resilient.

ldsneighbor said...

It saddens me that you lost your faith and a glimpse of your divine role. There is no greater job in all the world nor greater contribution to humanity than raising children. One day when you look into their eyes looking up at you, you will see. I love The Book of Mormon and the spirit I feel when I read that book. I am so thankful to know about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am grateful to live in these exciting times when the gospel has been restored. Thank you for allowing me to comment on your blog. Take care.

Just J said...

Seth, I think you are exactly right...It is difficult to trust/put your faith in anything, once you realize that so many of the things you have been taught your entire life are not true.

anon, I consider myself, at the moment, to be Agnostic. Possibly even Christian Agnostic. I believe there is a God and a way to be spiritually connected. I believe all religions help their people to feel connected spiritually and that we are all connecting to the same loving God regardless of what name we decide to give that God.

ldsneighbor, please don't be "saddened"! Please accept that in the same ways you feel that you "know" the church is true for you, I have had the exact opposite feelings (through listening to that inner voice, or The Spirit as you would call it) that tell me it is not true for me. I know that your religion makes it so you cannot even consider this, but I promise it is true! I agree that raising children is an amazing job and accomplishment but I feel that how two parents go about raising their children should be left completely up to them. For some families it may work best to have a father stay at home instead of the mother or possibly the two parents can divide their time equally to care for the children. I cannot accept that it is a woman's duty anymore than a man's to rear and raise children. I am glad for you that you have found happiness in the LDS religion. Please be glad for me that I can be true to myself by maintaining my personal integrity and finding my happiness and faith elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Very well written post. I feel you expressed yourself very well and I am sure maybe some of it was hard for you to write down. I have a few questions for you that I am curious about. I was wondering if you ever anytime in your life wanted to "gain your own testimony" rather than relying upon others' in your life? If so, whatever came of that? Did you ever "feel the spirit"? If you never attempted to "gain your own testimony", why? and also, as an active LDS member myself, I am confused how you ever attended an temple endowment session because you stated you "never had a testimony of Joseph Smith or felt convinced that he had really seen what he claimed or that he had really translated the Book of Mormon" when one of the questions asked of you before you can recieve a temple "recommend" to enter the temple is "do you have a firm testimony of the restored gospel?" Why would your answer ever be "yes" if you never had a testimony of Joseph smith or that he translated the Book of Mormon? I feel that those questions are in place so as to prevent those who do not have firm testimony from making convenants they cannot understand or feel prepared for.

Just J said...

anonymous, Let me try and explain. I did try and gain my own testimony. I had learned my entire life that if I just kept doing all the "right things" and believing and praying that I would eventually gain that testimony that everyone else seemed to have. In temple interviews I would say, "yes I believe that" because I did believe it. But, no, I never felt I had that strong feeling about Joseph Smith that I have heard so many others express in their testimonies, but I wanted it to be true and I really tried to believe that it was. I never felt I could say "I Know" this is true about anything in the LDS church. That is what I meant by "no strong convictions", I never "knew" it like so many others claimed they did.

As far as the Temple goes, obviously I wasn't ready to attend the Temple at the age I did. Hindsight is 20/20, eh? I thought my belief that it was the right thing to do was enough, but I realized fairly quickly it was not. Also as a young bride, everyone was telling me it was the right thing to go and be married in the Temple and at that point in my life, I really did not feel I had any other choice if I wanted to proceed with my upcoming marriage that was less than two weeks away.

You also asked if I ever "felt the spirit". Yes, I have felt what the LDS have labeled as "the spirit". However, I don't necessarily believe that feeling means that whatever you are experiencing or hearing at that moment consecrates it as absolute truth. I think all people have those feelings of being spiritually connected to something more than them but I don't think it is connected specifically to the LDS religion.

Hopefully I answered your questions sufficiently!

Oliver family said...

I wish that I could somehow actually respond to "ldsneighbor". I guess I'll just post a comment here and that will have to be good enough. I read this post and the comments a while ago, and can't get this out of my mind. I have to express my personal disgust for ldsneighbors "saddening" by you, the blogger, searching for your own truth. ldsneighbor - that is exactly the kind of close-mindedness that so many people (of all different religions) posess. The whole, "what I believe is right, and what everyone else believes is wrong" attitude. The feeling that "sadness" or darkness or damnation is going to come to someone because they choose to question their beliefs is completely baffling to me. If you want to be sad for our posting friend, be sad that she waited so long and wasted so many years on struggling against herself and the feelings in her soul. Who cares what religion or belief system anyone is? Do you really think that a loving God (or higher power by whatever name) is going to choose only people of a certain set of beliefs for his closest companions in the life after this one? Or for that matter, is this same God really only going to give blessings to a few of the numerous people on this earth because they belong to "His Church"? I, myself, am sad for you ldsneighbor, that you cannot feel the Joy in this blog. The happiness that our friend is searching for her own truth and wants to find that for herself before she tries to bring a child to the world and teach that child a belief system that she herself cannot believe.
I personally applaud our Blogger's courage and am very happy for her for searching for the goodness in the world that will speak truth to her soul and bring her ultimate happiness.

Jay said...

Good points, I think we understand. I think a big underliner is the fact that there is no literal or figurative suggestion box where people can express concerns that they have such as yours. It isn't an organization designed to have people question policy or leadership, no communication from the bottom to the top, and if you aren't going to fall in line then there isn't much to do but leave or keep quiet and be a jack mormon for the rest of your days. I remember a defining moment for me was a talk where they discouraged fence sitting by saying that people couldn't pick and choose what they would believe or live, that either all of it is true or none of it is true. Needless to say, I agreed.

Sarah said...

I am not an acquaintance of any of you but feel urged to post my opinion. As a convert to the LDS church I do believe that the gospel, as taught within this church, can help everyone. Being LDS should fulfill you with hope and joy and if that is not the case then an individual needs to figure out what they are missing in their life- however that occurs. Nonetheless, being a member of the church will not fix all of your problems. I have experienced other religions and know that this religion is the most full when compared to the others. All of the others that I have practiced left me empty and depressed and feeling without worth. I, too, have always had the strong opinion that women should be able to pursue their own decisions about children and being wives, as I have never been gifted with the desire to be a mother myself. However, as I have been doing my own research outside of the gospel I have found that there is no greater joy for a woman than being a mother- this has taken me years to realize. I do not have children of my own yet, but am now planning on it in the next few years ( I have been married for 3 years already). Everyone has their own time table and we are all entitled to being able to decide what is best for ourselves as individuals. I do want my children to be raised with this gospel and will teach my children to study as much as they can and to enjoy life- I will not pressure them any which way, but teach them about what matters most to me and why I believe that this gospel is true. When I have my children, I will want to stay home with them. My mother had a daycare in her home from the time I was 9 and still does (15 years)- those children are so starved for attention and love that they will do anything to get it. AMong other research I have been doing follows along the trends of the downfall of our society. Because no one wants to stay home and give the children the love and attention they deeply need- our society is getting worse and worse- 50 years ago teen pregnancy was rare and now it is accepted. 50 years ago we would never have heard of children bringing guns to school and slaughtering their schoolmates. Our society is just getting worse and worse, and I truly feel that if more families allowed for parent to be home with the children that this trend might decrease- it saddens me to see our country falling apart at the seams. This gospel does not fix everything and it doesn't make everything all right, but it brings me hope. Being able to say this gospel is the one true gospel took me a while to be able to say- as I felt it was quite vain to say such things. Jan- I don't know you, but I sincerely respect your decision and everyone else who has posted. Before I converted to this gospel I was anti-LDS, but after I did- I felt as though my eyes were opened. I do not agree with how a lot of the people within the church think, but I do know the gospel is true and that is all I need. I have a lot of things to work on in my life and I am far from perfect, but I am trying, and at then end of the day this gospel offers me so much hope to be able to wake up the next day and the next day and to keep striving to be a good person.

Just J said...

Sarah, I am glad you have found happiness in the Gospel in ways that I cannot and never could. You brought up some good points about how our society needs to keep focused on the family and the care of our children. I believe caring parents, either husband or wife, of any faith can do this and are qualified as anyone to do so. I also agree with you that children should be cared for and reared by their parents whenever possible, I just don't buy into the idea that this is solely the mother's responsibility. Both father and mother share in this task equally and it is up to them to determine how best to rear their own children.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia is a great source of truth!

It looks to me as though you never made attempts to gain a testimony through prayer. If you look for a scientific explaination for everything, OF COURSE YOU WILL LEAVE. Why would God give you a reason to not listen and obey him...?

The bottom line is: You made a good choice to leave the church because you were not really ever part of the church, so its better to be out than to pretend.

I just hope that when your time comes to meet your maker, you have more of a convincing reason than the Book of Abraham as described on Wikipedia.

Gay marriage, or other gay relations has always been looked upon as a sin in the Bible, so besides leaving the Mormon religion, you shouldn't be a Christian either. You can love Gay people, but Mormon's hate the sin.

It's too bad that you lied yourself into the temple. Even the bible and most other religions say that lying is wrong. So in your search, find a religion that condemns lying. In the temple recommend interview, you are asked if you have a testimony of the living prophets. What a shame that you had to lie. No testimony of Joseph Smith means no testimony of Hinckley or Monsen... since they are the prophets of the church that Joseph Smith founded.

I apologize that I come across like I do, but it is agrivating that people can't just be honest.

Honestly, I hate 3 hours of church a week... I don't attend the temple more than once a year. I don't do my hometeaching. But I have had moments in my life where the spirit (not the scientific evidence, or the internet) told me that what I believed was and is true.

Find peace, find yourself, but be prepared to face your God.

Don't speak as though Mormon people are restrained to explore other faiths. I myself found comfort in a Catholic church during my freshman year in College. God is everywhere, but to fully participate in his plan you need faith and the spirit to guide you. You also need the ordinances and priesthood guidance. But I think deep down, you know that. Don't stray too far, don't take the easy way for too long or you will regret it.

out of love.

Sarah said...

I agree.

Just J said...

To my latest Anonymous poster...

"out of love" huh? Funny, I'm just not feeling it.

What you perceived as lying I perceived as belief. (See my comment here for an explanation of this point)

Also, I put in the Wikipedia links because it sums up rather nicely some of the issues I have gotten from other well documented sources.

Thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I should not be a Christian at all...although, based on your post, I'm not really sure you should be one either. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Seth R. said...

Anonymous,

As an active and believing LDS, I can say, with all sincerity, you're not helping.

All you are doing is reminding people why they left the Church in the first place - to get away from attitudes like yours.

Sarah said...

just to clear the air- I was agreeing with what Justin J said after my comment and I am further agreeing with Seth R's comment after anonymous', anonymous does make a few good points, but nothing is black and white- you may think you believe in something and then realize later that you never really did- that is not a fault or a lie -it just happens.

Just J said...

Thanks Sarah for understanding my position and for your thoughtful comments!

musicgirljen said...

Thank you again, Jann, for this post. While I chose not to delve into specific reasons on my own site like you did here, I finally posted something similar, and am glad to have it out there.

Alexie said...

J- You know me, we did shows together, so you know the faith I live and believe. And I do belive it, all of it, which also means that I believe it is Truth and can make people happy, if I didn't I could not claim it as my religion. In that sense I am "sad" that it you could not find happiness in it, because whenever I have needed answers it was in my religion that I found them. However, I understand your quest for happiness and faith and I hope you find it. Love you!

Tad said...

J, I'm a bit late commenting,but here's a big hug of support for you! And I've been procrastinating a similar post on any of my blogs.

For the moronic commenter who suggests that you are taking the "easy" way, I beg to differ. You have taken the more difficult path. Far too many, in all too many faiths (and not restricted to Christianity), take the easy way out and just accept what they are taught without question. They wear blinders that prevent them from seeing anything that contradicts the "gospel" or the doctrine du jour. Then to make matters all the more absurd, they take on an arrogant position that they are part of the "chosen." How many wars have been fought over such arrogance?

The LDS Church has a fundamental schism between the doctrines of "free agency" and "obedience." My experience is that obedience trumps free agency in most instances. This is positively dangerous; consider that the only difference in organizational structure between the current Youth programs and Hitler youth is the hope that one is presided over by a "living prophet."

You fell into that schism when pressured to get married in the temple, which requires you to ratify beliefs that may not be strong. "Faith it until you make it." We can't "know" the gospel is true, etc. for if we did, our calling and election would be made sure, and we'd be translated. I submit that the commenter lies when he testifies and answers the temple recommend questions. Perhaps, as he asserts, you "lied" when you did as well (under the circumstances, I don't think so), but it seems to me that you've repented. I don't think he has. I would refer him to the seventh chapter of Matthew (and not the JS Translation).

It seems to me that if, as LDS Doctrine has it, "As man is, God once was; as God is man can become," is true, then it is necessary to learn to think for ourselves, rather than being told how to live in every aspect of our lives. I shudder to think what would happen to an "exalted" being confronted with the necessity of making an independent decision for a whole world full of souls.

The homosexual question fascinates me. First, the traditional interpretation of the story of Lot in Genesis doesn't quite work as a prohibition against homosexuality when I read it. And if we're going to follow the example Lot sets, does that mean the incest is okay? On the other hand, the Book of Mormon specifically, and unequivocally prohibits plural marriage. Yet the church practiced plural marriage, only repented of the practice after losing the appeal of the court case that disbanded the church, and if one reads the history closely, beloved Joseph practiced polyandry. Seems a bit hypocritical to me for the Church to condemn homosexuality, take a proactive political stance in an area where only 2% of the population are members of the Church, favoring a Amendment to California's Constitution, after having been on the receiving end of similar, and worse, persecution in the last half of the 19th century all the while teaching "free agency." (Excuse me, but isn't this Satan's plan?)

Finally, I want to touch on the notion that prayer, rather than scientific and logical inquiry, would result in developing a "testimony." This is a falacious and basically self-serving argument that goes like this: You don't agree with me on a faith based issue, therefore your faith is defective, you're not doing it right. There is no way to refute this argument, nor any way to prove it. But I will say this, and it explains why I'm no longer a practicing member of the Church. I did pray about several issues, and I received answers to those prayers. The problem was that the answers I got weren't the same as those my priesthood leaders were teaching and counseling me with. (It got a bit dicey when my Bishop and I started discussing the sin of blasphemy... his!) I have a letter in my files, signed by Gorden Hinckley, Thomas Monson, and James Faust that discusses a matter of eternal doctrine. This letter was in material error! If the omnipotent Savior had given them revelation on the matter, which as prophets they were all entitled to, this error would have been impossible. If these three men had examined the documents that we'd sent to them (and which they had requested) the error would have been highly unlikely, yet the error occurred. Under the Levitical law, all three are proven to be false prophets.

I could go on, there are so many points that could be debated. But I will stop here and reserve the rest of my thoughts for elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong here. Religion fills a need for many individuals, but since we are all unique, each of us has different needs. The rigid structure and predictable routine of LDS theology works for many, but there are many others that have different needs, that are met in different ways. There are many things about LDS teaching that I can say are true, but not all of it is true for me, and the things that are true are not exclusive to the Mormons. The LDS Church would do better to enter an honest discussion with other faiths rather than insist that they have a monopoly on "revealed" truth. There is no such thing.