[This was originally part of an email that I sent on 18 Jan 2007 to my family to give in a nutshell my story of awakening.]
As my children grew and started to ask questions, I knew that I would be teaching them to believe in Mormonism. This reawakened old doubts that I had been hiding from for years. I decided that I had to know for myself. I couldn’t lie to them and say that I was sure when I wasn’t. So I studied and prayed like we’ve been taught to do. My studies took me outside of the comfortable mainstream of Mormonism to faithful LDS authors who reported Mormon history as it was, not as we might wish it to be. My doubts were being confirmed rather than quieted. In the midst of this, I began to hear about some recent atheist books published partially in reaction to the religious fundamentalism which motivated the 9/11 attacks. As I heard the authors’ arguments, I experienced a radical awakening where I suddenly realized that everything that I had believed about Mormonism was the product of self-deceit. This realization, while at times frightening, brought me unexpected peace and joy.
If I must label myself now, I would say that I am ultimately agnostic, because I believe that no one (including myself) can have true certainty about anything. However, the evidenceâ€”or lack thereofâ€”forces me to believe that there is no supreme being, lovingly intervening in our lives.
This will terrify some, I think. I would have been very worried if I heard this about someone in our family just a couple of years ago. We have come to rely on God to protect us against many frightening things. What I didn’t realize before is that it is possible to live a perfectly happy, moral life without believing in God. I am happy, contrary to what I would have expected. I want to be moral (in the broad sense, not just sexually) because of my empathy for others and because it is the path to happiness.
If Mormonism is true, then I was doing it very, very wrong. It was the source of unnecessary anxiety in my life as I tried to be obedient. I constantly worried about reaching the Celestial Kingdom. Paradoxically, the less I worried about being obedient, the happier I was. The happier I was, the more I wanted to be good and help other people. The people who are the happiest in Mormonism must either have become supremely self-disciplined or have come to terms with their own mediocrity. I never managed to do either.
My conscience began to jab me in the ribs every time I participated in the Church in a way that falsely implied that I believed. But I didn’t want to leave until I had given it my best shot to get back on the bandwagon. So I kept this change of heart secret from April of last year in the hopes that I would return to sanity and that I wouldn’t need to hurt my family. As I studied and prayed, the separation between me and God only deepened. The Scriptures where full of ideas that I found unbelievable or even repugnant. I felt like my prayers were going no further than the inside of my own skullâ€”like they always had, now that I thought about it.
So late last year I told my wife. Things still didn’t change. So last week, I decided that enough was enough. I sent in a letter of resignation from my church callings last week. I always hated when family members weren’t active in the Church for reasons that I couldn’t really figure out. Instead of asking them what their reasons were (which I thought might be impolite because I assumed that they were ashamed of whatever reasons they may have), I played a guessing game.
I didn’t want that to happen in my case. I plan to say it loud and proud, as they say. I don’t want that silence between me and any of my family any more. So I’m leaving the Church, those are my reasons, and no, I’m not ashamed.
[And you can ask me about my reasons for leaving, if you honestly want to know.]