I was born in 1965 and grew up in Illinois. I first studied the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) as a senior in high school. I was dating a devout Mormon classmate who convinced me to learn about the Mormon Church. She arranged for missionaries to teach me about the Church. The missionaries were female missionaries, and female Mormon missionaries are customarily addressed with the title “Sister” followed by their surname. The missionaries who first taught me were Sister Young and Sister Wild. I kid you not. I suspect some would say that was only fitting considering who I was at the time.
After studying with the sister missionaries for several weeks, I told them I appreciated their time but had no belief in their claims about the Church, so I ended their visits. I continued going to church with my Mormon girlfriend, praying about the Church, and reading the Book of Mormon. The summer after I graduated from high school I read the entire book cover-to-cover in about three weeks, but I still didn’t believe it was anything other than a work of men. I was agnostic and had no belief in a God who answers prayers or otherwise intercedes on the behalf of anyone. With that lack of faith, it would be an understatement to say it was challenging to take up the promise of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4) and pray, with faith in Christ, to know if the things in the Book of Mormon were true.
My girlfriend was about to go off to the Mormon Church’s Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, and I wanted to go to a university in Illinois. However, I was a bad procrastinator. Though I was an honor student with near straight As, I had put off applying to college until the deadlines had passed for fall admissions at the schools I was interested in. I thought I was going to have to go to the local community college which I wasn’t excited about because I wanted to go to a big university and get away from home. My girlfriend suggested I apply to Brigham Young University even though their fall admissions deadline had already passed too, because the worst they could do was say “no,” and the best case scenario was that I got to go to school with her. I applied to BYU and was accepted (I’m sure explaining I was studying the Church had a lot to do with that). I went to Utah and fell in love with the mountains, but fully planned to transfer to a university in Illinois after my first year at BYU. But, during my first semester at BYU, I had an overwhelming experience after praying about whether I should join the LDS Church that was euphoric and gave me a sense of being one with God and having a higher purpose. I had never experienced anything like that before, and it seemed clear to me that this was the power of the Holy Ghost mentioned in the Book of Mormon promise. I also felt calm and at peace while reading the Book of Mormon and while considering other teachings of the Church. I concluded the calm and peace was also the power of the Holy Ghost telling me these things were all true, so I joined the Church my second semester at BYU. As a Mormon, I no longer wanted to transfer to an Illinois university.
I struggled quite a bit with my belief in the Church’s truth claims that first year as a Mormon. But after a lot of thought and prayer my second year at BYU, my belief in the Church grew, and I decided to go on an LDS mission. I came home from BYU and in about May of that year told my parents my plans to be a missionary and asked if they would help support me financially if I wasn’t able to earn enough money to pay for the whole mission. They were kind of surprised. They hadn’t realized how serious I was about being Mormon. But, they agreed to help me as needed. I got called to serve a mission in Brazil. My parents probably paid for about half of the mission expenses. I served an honorable mission, loved the people, learned and loved Portuguese, and returned home after two years. The Mormon girlfriend was still single when I got back, but had all but gotten engaged, so she married to someone else not long after I returned to the United States.
But, I returned to BYU, met an amazing woman there who I married, and began the prescribed Mormon pathway through adult life. We had five kids; I got two degrees from BYU; I accepted and strived to fulfill various teaching and leadership callings in the Church; we always gladly paid a full tithe on gross income; I prayed daily personally, with my wife, and as a family; we regularly had weekly family home evening; and I read my scripture daily. Though some of my scripture study was from the Bible and other Mormon scripture, the bulk of my scripture study was reading the Book of Mormon. I believe I read it at least once a year on average during my years as a devout Mormon. I’m not putting this all out there to brag that I was a good Mormon. Like everybody else, I had and have my faults and weaknesses. I list these Mormon milestones because they can give you a feel for my belief in and devotion to the Church and its teachings. I took it very seriously. To me, it was actual eternal life or death. I don’t think I ever got anxious about not being perfect because I had a strong understanding that God didn’t expect me to be perfect in mortality. But, I also accepted the admonition to seriously and honestly strive to do the will of God (Matthew 7:21) as a natural result of my faith and charity, with the understanding that the atonement was the only way to overcome my weaknesses, faults, and sins.
Then one day, more than 24 years after becoming a Mormon, I stumbled onto historical information that contradicted what I had learned and understood about the Church. The details of what I learned aren’t important. What is most relevant is that I discovered I had not been given full disclosure about the Church I had committed the rest of my entire life to. It was so shocking that it seemed to overwhelm every thought. I couldn’t stop reading and trying to disprove the troubling things I was discovering, but the more I researched, the more evidence piled up against the Church’s truth claims. Within about three days I realized and admitted to myself that I no longer believed the Church was what it claimed to be. I was dumbfounded at this conclusion. I loved the Church. The Church had been good to me. I admired the local and general leaders of the Church. I had learned many valuable lessons from the Church. I had met my wife through the Church. MY WIFE!
It didn’t hit me in any particular moment, but the more difficult it became to believe in the Church, the more horrified I became at how this could impact my marriage and my relationship with my kids. My wife and kids are everything to me. There is nothing in this world that even compares to their importance to me, and I thought there was a high likelihood that my wife would take the kids and leave me if she found out I didn’t believe in the Church. I convinced myself that the best route would be to try to study, pray, fast, attend the temple, and try to rebuild my belief in the Church. The evidence continued to pile on against the positions of the Church. After praying one day, I finally felt that familiar calm and peaceful sensation. It was the same perception I’d had hundreds of times before of the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, but this time it was associated with my desire to walk away from Mormonism. (It wasn’t until later that I discovered people have these kinds of perceptions all the time that they attribute to the Spirit of God telling them that all sorts of contradictory and mutually exclusive ideas are true.) My quest to prove the Church true was over. From that point my Church research was about getting at the truth in spite of what I may have wanted to be true.
At that point I thought that if I couldn’t believe, maybe I could pretend to believe and just be an active Mormon for the rest of my life. However, once I allowed myself to question the Church’s actions and assertions these became problematic for me. Some wonder why a person can support an imperfect government or employer but not an imperfect church. The difference for me is that the LDS Church asserts it is beyond questioning, demands everything of its adherents (and that’s not an exaggeration for those who have completed the temple endowment ceremony), and refuses to apologize for anything (See quote by Elder Oaks). When I realized this, I realized I could never support an organization like that whether it be a government, an employer, or a church.
So I knew I had to tell my wife about my disbelief in the Church, but I had been avoiding the truth with my wife for so long, I didn’t know how to tell her. My fears about what it might do to our family killed me. I put off telling my wife for a long time (which only served to make matters worse when I finally did disclose my disbelief). After telling her, life was horrible for six months and only slightly less horrible for the rest of that year. Things have improved a lot during the years since then, but it is still an area of discomfort and pain for my wife and me.
Considering the struggle my faith transition caused me and my family, it might seem odd that I would want to put information out there about the Book of Mormon that could possibly contribute to another person going through something similar, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. First of all, I think very few devout, believing Mormons will even venture a glance at anything I have to say about their religion. I wouldn’t have during about 24 years of my life. But, even if a devout believer stumbles onto this and it leads to their disaffection from the LDS Church, I’m comfortable with that. I think the sooner a believer has full disclosure about the Church’s claims, the better. It is true they are likely to suffer as a result, but if they do not have a disaffection brought on by such a disclosure, their children are likely to have such a disaffection because of other information already out there. Which would be worse, the suffering from faith transition now, or the suffering from the faith transition of multiple people later? Besides, if the LDS Church will not provide full disclosure, isn’t the struggle associated with finding out the truth about the Book of Mormon the direct responsibility of the LDS Church?
I believe the truth should be put out there because I think the truth is valuable. Those who are already disassembling their Mormon faith may be validated by my observations. I think those considering joining the Church should have easy access to the information I’ve compiled so they don’t join uninformed, invest thousands of dollars and hours and immeasurable amounts of emotional effort and commitment, only to later find out that they hadn’t been given full disclosure about the Book of Mormon. In other words, it’s possible my observations about the Book of Mormon could prevent someone from suffering like I did. I think I have a moral obligation to disclose what I know about the Book of Mormon.
The truth is important to me, so if I have written anything that is inaccurate, please correct me so I can get the truth out there.
What does it say about a person if they are offended by the truth? After all, “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Ne 16:2), and “the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness” (2 Ne 9:40).