Monday, November 17, 2014

Letter to My LDS Friends and Family


The following may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.


Woman at the Well by Simon Dewey
Dear LDS friends and family,

You may have noticed that I have not been at Sunday meetings for a long time.

You may have wondered why, or you may have not given it a second thought because you're too busy trying to stop son number 2 from torturing daughter number 5 while you prepare for the lesson you have to teach in ten minutes.

For the sake of this post, I will assume that somehow I crossed your mind and you're going "where is Anna. I haven't seen her for awhile."

I want to tell you why you haven't see me in awhile.

But first I want to tell you what I believe.

I believe in God. I have felt Him. I have experienced Him. I have woken to feel His arms around me. I know He is there.

I believe in Heavenly Mother. One Heavenly Mother like one Heavenly Father. I wish I knew more of Her, but it stands to reason that if men and women are made in God's image, then I am in the image of my Mother.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He came to earth, born of the virgin Mary. I believe He healed the sick and performed miracles and taught His people. I believe He suffered and took upon Him our sins in the Garden. I believe He was innocent and perfect and died on the cross. I believe He rose up in a perfect body three days later when Mary saw him. I believe in Christ. He is my King and based on the scriptures in the New Testament, I believe he is a different and separate being from Heavenly Father.

I believe in eternal progression, the pre-existance and that families can be together forever. I believe that death is not the end but another beginning.

I also love the members of the church. I believe that for the most part they are loving, caring and spiritual individuals who are trying to do the right things and live good, honest and decent lives. I don't want to lose those friendships.

And now I will tell you why I have not been at church.

Through my over thirty years of membership in the LDS church I have served in many different capacities and in the presidencies of all three of the women's auxiliaries. I have taught every age group and studied the institute manuals. I have spoken in church, written and directed road shows for the youth, been the music conductor in Relief Society, been a stake missionary, tended the ward library, and served on the activity committee and the homemaking committee.  I have been what I thought was an informed member of the church and an active one as well.

During that time there have been things that I found disturbing and went against my moral values. So I put them on the shelf or on the back burner, or somewhere in the deep recesses of a closet. Polygamy, racism, the inequality of women, the ordinances in the temple. I put them away taking them out occasionally but not dwelling on them. I was afraid to.

Two years ago I took on the challenge I gave myself of reading the scriptures straight through. I began with the Old Testament (that was brutal, there's a lot of killing that goes on there, some that appears to be directed by God), then the New, followed by the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

While reading the Old Testament I discovered that no where in it, did God command polygamy. There is no passage that states that Abraham took another wife because God commanded him to. David was not given wives by God. No one was. God never once said "Go forth and gather up women like cattle and marry them for thou art blessed and deserve to have as many wives as thy heart desires."

Nope, not even once.

Whats more, the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy very strongly.

Jacob 2

23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
 24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
 26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

 27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
 32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

 33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

Oh yeah. God was mad. He even refers to the "mourning of the daughters of my people", in other words "His daughters". 

And so I decided that Joseph Smith, like many prophets before him, such as David, made a big mistake. Like a huge whopper of a mistake and led many people astray.

I could live with that.

But the thing that changed everything for me, was the discovery by doing further research from well respected LDS historians, that Joseph did not translate the Book of Mormon through the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph found a rock that he used to seek for treasure. He would hire himself out to local people promising to find treasure with this rock which he was never able to do. That same rock he stuck in a hat, put his face in the hat and "translated" the Book of Mormon.

This did not even involve the use of gold plates. I don't know where the gold plates were, but they certainly weren't in that hat.

Now some people might say "so what?"

What the church said happened.
Here's the so what for me. It's not the story I was told by the missionaries or in any class I was in. It's not the story I taught in Sunday School. It's not the picture in the church library of the translation. Essentially, the one true church - lied to me.


What really happened.


Let me repeat that. The organization that I put my full trust in, the organization that I allowed to help me raise my children, the organization that I gave my time and my belief to, lied to me.








Which made me feel like this: (note - you need to press the play button otherwise all you get is the pretty smiling lady).



 I thought I was getting something real. Instead I got plastic.

And once I realized that the translation story was a lie, then everything else fell apart. Joseph Smith was no longer someone who could be trusted. From my research about him (using well respected LDS historians) I have come to the conclusion that not only did he lie about the plates, but he also did several other heinous things that would be considered criminal. In fact Joseph would not be allowed to be a member of the church he had founded.

The claims of the church that they are the one true church, that they have authority straight from God, that we should "follow the prophet" no longer held together for me.

However the people are good. Is there really a church that doesn't have a shaky and twisted history? Probably not. So was there something I could hold on to even though I no longer believed in the authority of the priesthood, the Book of Mormon, and  that the church was the way back to God?

And so I looked at the church today and it too had problems. Like really big horrendous problems.

Following is a list without going into great detail since each of these subjects could make a blog post of one, or two, or ten which I hope to delve into at a later date.

1. Polygamy - still practiced today in the temples and the belief it will be practiced again later.

2. The inequality of women in the church. I know there are women out there that don't see it that way because they haven't experienced it. But just because you haven't experienced it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. This is a huge subject. Equal but different is not necessarily equal. Especially when the different has no voice, no authority, and isn't even trusted to handle finances.

3. The secrecy behind the financial records of the church. The City Creek Mall, the hunting preserve for rich people, the expensive temples, keeping women out of executive positions within church businesses since those are reserved for priesthood, the pay and perks that apostles and missionary presidents get while members are told that "there's no paid clergy". This is just a short list of financial indiscretion.

4. Withholding blessings based on money. Members are taught that they must do their temple ordinances in order to enter the celestial kingdom. Members cannot do their temple ordinances unless they pay tithing. It's similar to indulgences that Martin Luther was so against. It causes hardship for the poor when they are told they must not only pay tithing but spend money to travel great distances so their families can be together forever.

5. The temples. The first time and every time since that I went through the thought that went through my head was "secret combination". I never could believe that God needed secret handshakes and passwords. Changing two letters of a word from secret to sacred doesn't take away the fact that it's secret. Plus they are great and spacious and expensive buildings. And it isn't ancient rites that have been handed down or revealed. It's masonic rites.

6. The anti-family stance. Yes, the church is anti-family even though it says differently. It keeps parents and family members from weddings, prevents missionaries from attending family funerals, keeps fathers away from family while they do church callings, discourages many family activities on Sundays, tries to break up marriages when one spouse leaves the church, encouraged gay men to marry women without telling them about being gay, has anti-gay rhetoric that causes problems within families, creates an atmosphere of ostracizing when family members leave the church, and takes money from poor families that would be better spent providing food and shelter.

Chris Cobb's Mormon Ad

7. Is always behind on social issues. The church as a mouthpiece of God should be in the front. Instead they are behind. They were behind on slavery, equality, women's issues etc. How can the church be so wrong over and over again?

8. The church is politically active. By being so (proposition 8) they ask people to vote a certain way. Many members did even though it went against their conscience. A church is not supposed to tell people how to vote.
The church owned City Creek Mall ad that features
a woman wearing a beautiful dress that no devout
temple going Mormon woman can wear.


9. Modesty rhetoric. The church teaches that girls are responsible for boys thoughts and embarrasses young women about their clothes. This has caused my daughters some grief. Furthermore there is body shame attached. Yet the church advertizes a different standard.

Let me add again: Girls are not responsible for what boys think. That is rape culture. Boys are responsible for their own thoughts. By the way, boys will think sexual thoughts if all they see is girls in parkas, snow pants, and balaclavas. 


10. The treatment of gay people. I have heard some awful things said about gay people at church without regard to who is in that class. A church should be inclusive, not be figuring out ways to keep people out or different. Saying negative and nasty things about someone's child is not Christ like.

11. Censorship. This is huge for me being the granddaughter of a man who was murdered by Stalin for the things he said. The church has threatened people with excommunication for things they have said or blogged about and demanded that blogs be taken down. In fact they have excommunicated people for their blogs. In fact, in one instance not only was the blogger excommunicated, but his wife was as well - apparently for associating with him.

12. The excommunication of scholars, historians and feminists for expressing opinions or speaking the truth. The current church essays have the same things in them that people were saying and excommunicated for in the early 90's. Just recently several bloggers and well known Mormons such as Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been singled out. There has been fear in online church communities with crackdowns for what people have said and blogged about.

13. Hiding historical information. Researchers and historians cannot get into many church archives. History belongs to everyone. Furthermore when research is done, it is discovered that the church has left out important details or out right lied about the information (such as the face in the hat). If the church is true, what is it hiding?

14. Abuse. There are so many stories of abuse. This can happen in any church or community, however the church sets up the situations where it can happen and then defends the abuser. Rape victims are frequently blamed for their rapes and often punished by being forbidden to fully participate in church worship.

15. Taking young women alone into rooms with middle aged men and grilling them about sex. This is so inappropriate and damaging on so many levels.

16. Having untrained men as clergy. "But they're inspired and called of God" is the argument. Yet there is story after story of how men who have no training have severely emotionally and spiritually damaged members of the church. There is story after story of leaders who have committed adultery and sexual abuse. Being called does not make them experts, no matter how sincere and righteous they are.

17. Sexual shaming that causes sexual problems. The church needs to stay out of people's bedrooms. Especially married couples.

18. The insistence that the church has the one true gospel. Not only that but it leads members to believe that all others are lost, that the world outside is evil, and that other churches are completely wrong.

19. Follow the prophet he will never lead you astray. Again, if we study history and the scriptures we will find that simply isn't true. We concentrate more on following the prophet, than on following Christ.

20. Not focusing on grace and the price that Christ paid. We recognize it, and then the church tells the members all the things they must do to be accepted. And it's a long list.

21. Tithing. I believe that tithing has it's place. But ten percent from someone making a thousand dollars a month is completely different from ten percent from someone making a hundred thousand a month. It is not really voluntary when you attach temples to it. We don't know where it goes (billion dollar malls?), and the emphasis is not on the giving, but on what you get if you give it. It also tends to discourage people from donating to other charities (I gave at my church), especially when it can be so demanding. There really isn't a sense of giving when it's handed in. It's automatic and thoughtless. A true tithing would be a prayerful study of who best to give it to.

22. No outside church community. The LDS church tends to hold itself back from participating in activities with other churches. Sure, sometimes other churches leave the LDS church out, but the church itself does it and also discourages members from participating in other churches activities. There is more community with other Protestant churches. It's an Us versus Them mentality.

23. The insistence that everyone must believe the same things. If you don't believe in A, B, and C, then you don't have the spirit. If you question things out loud you are an apostate.

24. "I know the church is true". Look, unless you have spoken face to face with Christ about it, you don't know. You believe. There is too much emphasis on knowing when we are actually supposed to be learning about faith. If God wanted us to know, He would appear in front of the entire world.

25. Free agency. We talk about it and then deny it. The church demands obedience. In order to be a member in good standing you must be obedient. I guess that's a form of free agency, but is it if you feel threatened by not being obedient? Isn't that part of Satan's original plan to force people into obedience? It's why I kept my mouth shut for so long about my questions because the consequences of asking were too great. It's why I've been afraid to tell people about my disaffection. The consequences of losing my family and community seemed a high price to pay.

26. The teaching that the world is getting worse. It's not getting worse. Any student of history can tell you that. It's getting better. People have a higher standard of living. Children have a voice and are better cared for (just read Charles Dickens or Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl"). Women are gaining in equality. Rape is illegal. You don't step out of your door and see heads on pikes. Health care is better. Prisons are more humane. We don't go to public executions for entertainment.  People are more concerned with each other's well being. Freedom of choice is more widespread. Yes there are still horrible things in the world, but the world is getting better. Frankly the world was never the Donna Reed 1950's shangrila that we are led to believe.

One of the other things that has been happening for years that I didn't put on my list, is my feelings about going to church. Sunday mornings were a battle for me. I would be fine during the week, but on Sundays I would feel angry and afraid and the last place I wanted to go was to church. I felt exhausted and dissatisfied when it was time to go home. Sundays were not filling my soul and for a long time I blamed myself. I was not spiritual enough. I didn't try hard enough. I wasn't in the right mood and that was my fault. I battled it and then finally decided that Sundays shouldn't be that hard and punishing. Sundays were supposed to energize your soul so you could face the rest of your week. I felt more uplifted going to other churches or staying home and listening to informative podcasts and spiritual music.

And it has irked me when I hear members say about the new essays that the church put out "I've always known that". Really? I didn't. I didn't know about Joseph's penchant for young girls and other men's wives. I didn't know about the face in the hat. I didn't know about the treasure seeking, about the false translation of the Book of Abraham, or that it was Brigham Young's serious mishandling that caused the tragedy with the handcart companies. Nor about Brigham Young's hatred of black people, women, and interracial marriages. I didn't know that he taught that Adam was God, or blood atonement. I didn't know these things because they weren't in the church approved manuals. I was obedient in not looking much further. So I didn't know. It wasn't until I broke away from the admonition to not look outside of church manuals that I discovered the truth. South Park was more honest about the truth than the church was.


And by the way, if you knew about it, why didn't you tell me before you were teaching my daughters moral standards that you thought it was okay to force fourteen year girls to marry already married middle aged men? Because frankly, I can't jump on board with that concept. In my mind, that's rape. According to the law, that's rape. And even the argument that it was a different time doesn't hold. It was wrong then too. It was one of the reasons people were afraid of the Mormons.

I have been visiting Christ's other tribes, looking for a place to fit in. It isn't easy. But my moral compass can't allow me to support the LDS church anymore. I cannot believe that a 38 year old man who coerced a 14 year old into marrying him and threatened other women with destruction if they didn't marry him, who sent men away on missions and then married their wives, tested couples by demanding to marry the wife, did all this behind his wife's back, publicly lied about it and destroyed a printing press for publishing the truth about it, is a good man to follow. Would you readily hand over your teenage daughter for marriage if the prophet knocked on your door and demanded it? Or your wife?

And I cannot be a part of a church that treats women as children, supports censorship, and builds great and spacious buildings instead of helping the poor.

I do not believe that Christ's gospel is about lies and secrecy.  Why hide things? Christ does not need us to lie for Him. He does not need secret rites. He does not need us to keep things underground. The gospel is for everyone. All of the gospel. Not just the milk but the meat too.

And so as much as it hurts me, I have to say goodbye to actively being involved in the church, although I hope I don't have to say goodbye to friends and family. I will not turn my back on people however, it is possible people will turn their backs on me.

I am on a faith journey. I climbed over the fence and found a world filled with great beauty and compassion. I support others on their faith journey, whether they choose Mormonism, other Christian churches, non-Christian faiths or even atheism.

In "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis there is a character that does not know Aslan the Lion who is a representation of Jesus Christ. Instead this character has done good in the name of Tash. Yet when he meets Aslan, Aslan tells him that all the good that he did for Tash Aslan takes as service to himself.

And so I am continuing on my journey of faith knowing that if it is done in a sincere desire to do right and to know Christ, He will accept it.

Some may ask why I don't just quietly go away and never speak of this.

I spent over thirty years in the church. I married, divorced, and raised seven kids in the church. This is my story. I can't forget thirty years. Those thirty years helped shape who I am now. I can't pretend they didn't exist. Mormonism will always be with me. I even still retain some beliefs because I think they were inspired. And I can't help but wonder if there is someone out there who is feeling alone who might be helped by what I have to say. If you are out there, please let me know.

I will be continuing with this spiritual blog and I invite people to have a dialogue with me. I will not be posting this blog to facebook out of respect for those who might feel uncomfortable. Nor will I bring up my beliefs to anyone unless I am asked first and then only when the setting is right.

Sincerly and lovingly
The Woman at the Well - Anna

P.S.

Following are some links to more information.

The Church Essays on LDS.org

  1. Are Mormons Christian? November 20, 2013
  2. First Vision Accounts November 20, 2013
  3. Race and the Priesthood December 6, 2013
  4. Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah December 16, 2013
  5. Book of Mormon Translation December 30, 2013
  6. Book of Mormon and DNA Studies January 31, 2014
  7. Becoming Like God February 24, 2014
  8. Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints May 13, 2014
  9. Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham July 8, 2014
  10. Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo October 22, 2014
  11. The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage October 22, 2014
Other Information

I've Heard It All Before (a response to what members are saying)
Why Mormons Leave
Mormon Stories (podcasts that feature a variety of Mormons and reveal a balanced look at the church)
Journal of Discourses (standard works of the LDS church)
Year of Polygamy (podcasts that look at the lives of women who lived in polygamy)
Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony - Jeremy Runnels 
Are We Paying Too Much Tithing? (an historical and scriptural look at tithing)

38 comments:

  1. I agree with so much of this. One of my favorite paragraphs is: "the teaching that the world is getting worse. It's not getting worse. Any student of history can tell you that. It's getting better."

    I heat this so often in church and it drives me batty!

    Thank you for your voice and courage.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have enjoyed following your comments in the Mormon Stories community as well. So much of what you shared resonated with me, as I have gone through a similar process of self-discovery upon leaving the Mormon church. In a way, "losing my faith" was like finding it: faith in myself, in humanity, in our ability to be good and create happiness without coercion and guilt trips.

    I can honestly say that I have never been happier. That is not to say that I wasn't happy as a faithful Mormon -- I was. But I did not learn until much later that that happiness did not stem from the church or the "gospel", as it appeared at the time. And there were many factors endemic to Mormonism that actually detracted from my happiness: excessive guilt, unhealthy views of sexuality, judgmentalism, perfectionism, cognitive bias, etc. Leaving those behind while continuing my spiritual journey has been tremendously liberating and empowering. And it is wonderful to meet fellow travelers like you on the same journey.

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  3. Thank you, Anna. This took much courage. You speak (eloquently, I might add) the thoughts and feelings of many who have already had the courage to leave the Mormon church, and of many who are afraid to speak up, for they know the sad repercussions of speaking up. Good on you for showing such integrity. It takes far more integrity to do what you've done, than to keep the blinders on and pretend.

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  4. Thanks for sharing Anna. It does take courage to be open but it's a better way to live. I hope your family and friends will let love overcome anger and fear. That's what we're all here for, isn't it? God is guiding our journeys. Everything's going to be okay.

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  5. So what I get out of this after carefully reading it, is that you''re offended and you want to sin. Is that about right?

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    1. Thanks for illustrating an additional issue the OP may have. The members have absolutely no ability to think outside the paradigms the church has so rigidly enforced for them. If you use your reading comprehension skills you will realize that not once does the OP mention wanting to sin or being offended. But since that was what you were trained to think about all members who leave that is all you will hear while dismissing somebody's real pain and issues. Sad.

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    2. you got out of that letter what you wanted to get out of that letter - I hope you never served or will serve in leadership in the church, you listen with bias

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    3. Im glad you showed your real profile so we know what an idiot prick looks like

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    4. I am pretty certain that @David Burns is being sarcastic. Or slight troll.

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    5. Anonymous #4, Yes, I'm being very sarcastic. Sadly, many people miss the sarcasm because many Mormons actually respond that way, so when I say something outrageous, people aren't sure if I'm truly being outrageous or just brain-washed.

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  6. Awesome, even I learned something I need to research, thanks for the links. You've been very brave, I post as Anonymous because I cant let family see me researching truth as it may limit my access to my kids

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  7. I think David Burns comment was sarcasm and he did it to illustrate what some members might say. Am I right David? Because I'm hoping so.

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    Replies
    1. You've only spent 30 years in the Church and have presented only 26 legitimate reasons why you're leaving. I think you're taking this too lightly. I think you need to pray about it. I'm sure if you did that, you would realize that only 23 or 24, or at the most 25, of your reasons are valid. Don't give up so easily just because you want some coffee (sweet, delicious coffee).

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  8. Anna, your blog post was very beautifully and sensitively written from the heart.

    Hopefully it will touch the hearts and minds of those you love.

    Your authenticity, honesty, integrity and compassion are eloquently expressed in your writing.

    One of the things I found most striking about leaving Mormonism was that I suddenly became aware of my connection to the rest of the human race. I somehow felt more compassion for others than I've ever felt before. It was overwhelming.

    I believe fervently that compassion helps us connect with each other better than anything else.

    As humans we need to lose our tribalistic in-group out-group mentality and truly connect with each other.

    It is only through anxiously trying to understand one another and compassionate empathy that our relationships can be enjoyed and cherished.

    I wish you well in your faith journey.

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  9. Thank you for this post! It put into words my thoughts on why I could
    No longer belong to this church & raise my children in it as well. It's nice knowing I'm not alone.

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  10. Wonderfully said. It is people like you who have the courage to speak out so clearly and articulately describe the multiple problems with the church who will break through the more than a century old groupthink that has been so destructive for so many who have blamed themselves for the church leaders' mistakes and suffered in silence. Now that these issues are being so openly discussed, it will be much more difficult to deny them.

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  11. #5 - I couldn't agree with you more. The first time I went through the temple I was thinking aren't these secret combinations? The Masonic rituals performed in the temples are just that, but we are taught that we will grow closer to god by performing temple work for the dead.

    #24 - I hadn't thought much about this until recently. Why do we teach our children to say that we know the church is true? Believe is the correct term because it requires faith while knowing something requires proof.

    I still maintain my membership, but consider myself a progressive/reformed Mormon. For me the sense of community and the core principals that are taught in church are why I attend with my family. I have had conversations with the Bishop so he knows not to give me any callings and I chose not to pay tithing. I have been paying Fast Offerings because I was told years ago that those funds are used only to help the needy in my area, but lately have heard that it doesn't matter which line you put your donation on, it all goes to the same place and the leaders redistribute as they feel necessary.

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    Replies
    1. That's not correct in terms of finances. Tithing goes to church HQ, fast offering gets used directly by the Bishop and Stake President to helps those in need locally, and any spare then goes to others in need

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  12. What a heart felt post. I am not Mormon and have never been, but have lived my whole live in Utah. All the things you listed are things as a evangelical Christian I knew about Mormonism and could never understand why Mormons I would speak to would deny Joseph Smith had plural wives among the many other things they would deny about church history and doctrine. Through blogs like this I am discovering they would deny it because their church lied to them about it. Over the past several years I've encountered so many ex-Mormons who are wounded and hurt by the lies they have uncovered. I hope that you continue on your path to just have Christ as your testimony.

    Kiki

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  13. Wow- seriously blown away. Very nicely written.

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  14. perfectly said! thanks for this beautiful summary that I couldn't agree more with! I was raised LDS and am challenged right now with helping my family understand my perspective while maintaining mutual respect. I also live in Utah and have an underlying fear (mixed with the excitement of figuring it out as we go) of raising my children outside the church. thanks for your bravery :)

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  15. "I believe he is a different and separate being from Heavenly Father.
    I believe in eternal progression, the pre-existance and that families can be together forever."

    I am sincerely wondering how you can continue to believe these things because they are based on what Joseph Smith taught.

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  16. I can believe them because

    a: They make sense to me. If you read the New Testament there are many instances where Jesus refers to His father. It was the one of the last things He said on the cross. He wasn't speaking to himself. There is also mention of the pre-existance in the Bible with the whole Lucifer story. And when I heard it, it felt like a "heart memory".

    By the way, most people who believe in God believe in eternal families. Ask anyone who believes if they will be with their family again, and they all say yes. I have yet to meet a believer who doesn't think they'll see their loved ones again. The difference is they don't believe they need a temple to do it. As for eternal progression, can you picture a heaven where we just sit around on clouds all day never learning or moving forward? I can't.

    b.) I believe everyone is capable of inspiration. Is it a hard stretch for God to use Joseph or anyone who is in a position of leadership to be inspired? It doesn't mean that Joseph was a prophet or that he spoke for God. It simply means that he said something that was inspired. Sometimes I feel inspired too. The difference is that I don't have nor expect to have a following.

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    1. Mainstream Christians believe in the Trinity. It was Joseph Smith who taught that Heavenly Father and Jesus were separate beings, according to the First Vision. Also,"at death do you part" is a standard Christian belief and they don't believe there is marriage in heaven. That doesn't mean they don't believe they will see their loved ones again, but they do not believe they will continue in a marriage relationship. My point is that eternal families are only taught in the LDS church. Although mainstream Christians believe they will see their loved ones again, that's not the same as believing you are eternally a marital and family unit like you were on earth. The concept of being sealed and continuing on as a family unit comes from Joseph Smith. So,it's not about whether there is a temple or not, it's a fundamental difference in beliefs in relation to relationships in the next life.

      It would be nice if we could pick and choose what we like about the LDS church and just believe those parts. But, the reality is that it all came from Joseph Smith - the good, the bad and the ugly. If we decide we believe certain things he taught only because they make sense to us, how does that makes sense to denounce Joseph Smith, yet adhere to some of his teachings? If you ask mainstream Christians, they believe you can be saved by just acknowledging and accepting Jesus, they do not believe in marriage after death and they don't believe that the Father and the Son are separate beings.

      I'm not trying to hassle you, but I've noticed that people who leave the church sometimes continue to adhere to beliefs that Joseph Smith taught and I find that interesting. Those things are not taught anywhere else to my knowledge. It is hard to let go of the idea that God is not the God we were taught Him to be and that marriage may not continue in the next life (or families) as we know them on earth. But, if you let go of Mormonism, you are letting go of those things that are central to their belief system, otherwise, can you really say you are leaving the church?

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    2. Actually in the NT it does say in several places that Christ and the Father are separate beings. So that's not strictly a JS teaching. I will blog about that sometime.

      And I'm sure if you asked a happily married couple they would say that they believe they will be together forever. I'm sure if you asked a mother who has lost her child, she will tell you that she believes she will be reunited with her child again. It may not be an official teaching in a church, but it's something that people believe.

      And I stated before, that I believe all people can have inspiration.

      We all pick and choose what we want to believe. That's what's important about a faith journey. You don't just go along with what one church says and then not listen to anything else. You take the best of what you find along the way. I choose to believe some things in Mormonism because I think they are right, not because it's Mormonism, but because I believe someone was inspired. No one has all the truth.

      Mormonism isn't this horrible evil thing. There are inspired people along the way. I chose to leave because there were too many issues for me.

      Just as many Mormons say "you have to believe in the church to have the true gospel" many Christians say "you have to believe as I believe or your not a true Christian".

      It's the exact same game and I won't play it. It's not up to me to decide what others should believe and I won't follow what some Christians dictate according to their knowledge and understanding what I have to believe to be a Christian.

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    3. I understand where you are coming from and respect your feelings.

      I think as humans we tend to believe things that make us feel good and bring comfort. Who knows if they really are true, they just help us sleep at night. We don't want to believe in things that make us uncomfortable. Polygamy makes many people uncomfortable and so is natural to not want to believe in it. If something doesn't feel good we just don't believe in it.

      When you say people are inspired along the way, is it only inspiration if it feels warm and fuzzy? What determines what is inspired and what is not?

      Several people I know who left the church did not find what they were hoping outside the church. I hope you do. Best wishes.

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  17. One of the things that bother me the most is the triangulation of any sort of meaningful communication with God. We are not trusted to listen to God's whispers ourselves, but must instead rely on the whispers the prophets receive.

    What about me is so inferior that God cannot speak to me directly?

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  18. Exactly. The church has placed man (and a do mean man, not woman), in between the individual and God. It claims not to. It tells us to speak directly to God. Yet it also tells us to confess to a man, to take punishment from a man, to obey a group of men, and to think the way a group of men tell us to think (and that changes even though we're not supposed to ask for change). I was not even allowed to be at my daughter's wedding because a man said I couldn't (I had not done anything wrong - but even if I had...).

    There are too many men who have taken on the power of God. They even claim to be able to prevent God from allowing you access into heaven. They call it excommunication.

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  19. Awesome post - I totally agree with your list.

    One thing I think should be pointed out, though...

    At the beginning you stated this:
    "I believe in God. I have felt Him. I have experienced Him. I have woken to feel His arms around me. I know He is there."

    I'm pretty sure that goes against #24 on your list. Unless you have spoken face to face with God, that is.

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  20. I enjoyed reading this. The only thing I would add is to #15: those interviews are just as bad and potentially creepy for boys.

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  21. "I believe in God. I have felt Him. I have experienced Him. I have woken to feel His arms around me. I know He is there."

    You're right. I should have said "I believe He is there."

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  22. While I am still very angry at what you did to me for, I believe, disingenuous and bitter reasons, without talking with me about it, without knowing so much important information about imbalances of power and abuses taking place that I can't talk about... I am very proud of you for what I knew was inevitable. I knew that eventually you would have the courage to do what is right. Ironic, isn't it? I hope this brings you and your children closer, and that you experience the explosion of joy and relief that we ex-Mormons experience for years on end. That you are filled with truth, and that you find a more Christlike community for yourself.

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  23. Natasha, thank you for your post. I am surprised you even found me. I had assumed you had put me far behind you.

    Please let me tell you that what I did had no bitterness on my part. It wasn't to get back at you. I wasn't angry with you. What you did frightened me and I did what I did out of concern for others. I realize you will never see it that way and I'm sorry you got hurt. I did let you know it was me so that you wouldn't blame others for it. I was sincerely trying not to take sides in the situation and there were many times I stuck up for you. I saw what could be a potentially dangerous situation and I did what I thought was best.

    Please know too, that I still love the members of the church. When we were friends I was questioning things but I wasn't as far along as you were and you might recall that I was very supportive of your journey and your decisions. Nor did I cease my friendship with you once you left the church.

    I hope you have a peaceful and joyous life.

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  24. My son told me about your post. I'm not sure how he found it.

    What you saw as a potentially dangerous situation was not seen clearly and you didn't look enough steps down the road, asking yourself what could happen if perhaps I was just not communicating myself clearly enough and you were handing this communication meant for friends who I thought knew me to someone far more arrogant, power-hungry, and dishonest than most people realize. There were several possible approaches and responses. You chose the one most harmful to me, escalating the situation immediately, without getting more information. I expressed a very common emotion felt by parents whose children are bullied and who are a suicide risk because of that, and my feelings spoke to that. Your choice of response caused someone with too much power to abuse it and harm me.

    I too love many members of the church. It's the church and church leaders I hate.

    Best wishes to you, too. I'm sure your decision makes Dan and Ami very happy. May it bless your whole family.

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  25. Just want you to know that you are 100% not alone in your beliefs.

    I agree with your entire list. It is truth.

    I realized I had based my entire testimony around a church and not around Christ. I kept trying to fix the testimony, but there were too many holes to fill and it kept not being sturdy. So I scrapped it, threw it all out the window and started over building my testimony around Christ. It has been absolutely beautiful.

    I have been going through my beliefs one at a time and evaluating them one at a time. I'm not embracing the teachings of the church as a whole anymore. I'm using the spirit to guide me as to what is truth and what is not.

    As of right now, I'm still a member, my family and I still attend. My husband and mother are on the same page as me. But for now I feel like this is the best fit for our family. And I'm not ready for the fallout if we choose to leave.

    I am fine being where I'm at for now. It's beautiful, as well as lonely at times. I have a good number of friends who know where I'm at spiritually and they continue to love me. Some with the agenda of me "coming back" spiritually, but most with true, Christlike love and respect for what I believe and/or don't believe.

    It's been amazing, and wonderful. Being where I was spiritually, and where I am now spiritually, I would choose here. Right here, right now.

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  26. I'm so glad I found this blog. I was born and raised in the LDS church. I too struggled with a lot things, but never spoke out because I was afraid. I actually quit going they were too family orienated for me. As an infertile, childess couple, the LDS church is a very uncomfortable place to be. But when I would express that, I was always greeted with the "God will work it out, don't question us" attitude.

    I went for years with no church, but my soul was starving. So last fall, I decided to try other houses of worship.

    Before, I went to the LDS church out of guilt. I hated every second of it. Now, I have found a church that feeds my soul. Like you said, Sunday used to be a day of dread. Now, its my favorite day of the week. When I first started going, one lady said it best. "We're just love to praise God."

    I could write a list pretty similar to yours. I had never before read the bible, but I'm working my way through it now. (I agree, the Old Testament is not as enriching as the New.) My study has just brought up question after question in regards to the LDS church.

    About a month ago, I decided to be baptized by my pastor. Not as a way of joining their congregation, but because I wanted a fresh start with Jesus. Of course, my LDS family had a fit. They could not understand why I would deny what they believed was right. My grandma kept going on and on "the church is true. Joseph was a prophet." I kept telling her, "I do believe in God." I want to worship in a church that praises Jesus, not some mortal man.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog.

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  27. I totally agree w/h you 100%...........it's just very sad!!! but like they say "The Truth Will SET YOU FREE"!!!!!! Amen!!! I've fought w/h these feelings every time I attended church,I never felt like I belonged there or was apart of the so called "group"!!

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