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When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.
(Lectures on Faith 6:7e)

I tried very hard over the better part of the year to rebuild what has been destroyed. I liken my experience to returning home to my parents’ house after years of absence. It looks smaller and duller than I remember it. The flaws and cracks that once faded into the background of childhood familiarity are now painfully apparent. In reading the scriptures and praying, I have noticed how little I get out of the exercise. The scriptures seem rife with contradictions, immorality, and dubious teachings. I notice how my conversations in prayer have always been so one-sided. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see things the same way again.

After trying the experiment on the word for over three decades without success, it now seems reasonable for me to move on. What started as a sincere seeking for a greater connection to God has ended in a different but unexpectedly wonderful place. I am ready for the sword to fall on the ties that bind me to God and the Mormon church that we may go our separate ways.

I was a liar and a fool for professing to the world an absolute belief I didn’t really hold. I must begin to live more honestly. I must follow the truth as I have seen it, even when that leads me out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as Joseph Smith’s experience led him out of the churches of his time.

My only regret about this change is the difficulty that it will bring into the lives of my family, especially my wife, children, and parents. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 1:4) I hope that they will see that I am walking in the truth as I see it and share my joy at being reborn.

Some loving, concerned Mormons in my life will consider this a large step in the wrong direction. They will not believe that I can be truly happy without the thing that has brought them so much happiness. They will recognize the teachings of the Anti-Christ Korihor in my beliefs. (Alma 30:13–17) They will see that my story has been told with a mélange of human philosophy and scripture. They may feel like I am turning my back on them, a traitor to my family and Church, leaving to kick against the pricks and fight against the kingdom of God. (D&C 121:38) They will worry for me.

I bear no ill will toward my family or the Church. I am who I am because of my family and the Church. They are the soil in which I grew. Admittedly, denying the divinity of the Church is an attack on its central dogma. It is an inherently violent act against the Church. For those who identify themselves very closely with the Church and its teachings, it may be impossible to see any difference between an attack on the Church and a personal attack against themselves. I can do very little to help that situation. It is up to those readers to determine to avoid taking personal offense at my words. I don’t think anyone would ask me to lie about what I believe, though they might prefer that I would remain silent.

I recognize many benefits to membership in the Mormon church. Many of those who join the Church will lead better, happier lives because of it. I am happy for them. I hope however that humanity will create ways to replicate the benefits of religion without requiring us to live in the darkness of superstition.

Some Mormons will try to fit my change of heart into their world view. They will want to explain my experience in a way that deflects the threat against their beliefs. I don’t think the fit is a natural one; that’s why I am standing here, godless. Some might suspect that I was ignorant of the Church’s teachings, offended by someone within the Church, didn’t have enough friends in the church, or that I was indifferent or lazy in my commitment to the gospel. None of those are the reasons that I leave.

Others may say that I allowed myself to be seduced by falsehoods. It feels more like I was seduced by the truth. Letting go of the bogeymen in my head led me to greater peace, greater clarity, more happiness, and more power to do good. This change of heart is delicious to me.

Still others may wonder if I had a secret sin which poisoned my relationship with God. I agree without hesitation that I have committed sins in my life. Jesus himself said that none were good but God. (Matthew 19:17) No one would be members of the Church if the price of admission was sinlessness. I did my best to repent of my sins. I struggled most of my life trying to understand what exactly was expected of me in repentance. If anything, I was guilty of repenting too zealously. I was too exacting of myself. I was waiting for that confirming peace, the divine reassurance that I was right before God. No matter how hard I tried, I never received it, so I assumed that I must not have truly repented even though I confessed and forsook my sins. So I tried even harder only to be disappointed again and again.

Only after these years of struggling to work out my salvation do I see the futility of it. I thought as a believer that the teachings of Jesus were the cure for my ailments. But for me, they deepened my wounds and then offered the cure. I had to stop imagining myself in a war against Satan and his forces and hoping for the Balm of Gilead before I could find peace.

Others may say that I misunderstood and misapplied the gospel teachings. Perhaps this is true. I cannot say. But it wasn’t for lack of trying to understand and pleading with God for wisdom. (James 1:5–6) I would agree that any relationship that I had with God wasn’t real. The only relationship that I remember was with a creation of my own mind.

For some, the strange part of my story will be that it no longer concerns me much whether there is a God or not. If He is up there, I imagine Him patiently shaking his head in parental concern. He would know my situation and extend mercy to me. That is unless He’s the petty, vengeful, Old Testament sort of God. If He is, I’m in for a world of hurt when I meet with him for that final interview in the sky.

Even though my framework has changed, what I hope to do with my life hasn’t changed much. I am still guided by the same internal moral compass. While I have doubted many of its teachings through my lifetime, I have constantly believed in the practical value of living according to the Mormon ideal. Ironically, I’m living it better now than ever. There is much of great worth within Mormonism which I hope to carry with me and pass on to my children.

I continue to admire many of those who call themselves Saints, who struggle to live lives of humility and strength. I do not doubt their sincerity nor their goodness. I respect their choices as I hope that they respect mine. I walked the same path for most of my life. I am powerless to blame anyone for choosing that path. I no longer share the theology, but I share many of their ideals. I look to many people within the Church as exemplars of the kind of life I wish to live. May I become so good.

Marriage and family are still my primary concerns. My love for my wife and children continues undiminished and ever expanding. That love has become a matter of personal choice unfettered by external obligations. I serve my family because I love them, because I hope to see them happy without the worries created by heaven and hell. I will continue to work with myself to become a better husband and father.

I choose to be where I am.

I have no good reason to believe that God exists. Most everything in the world works exactly as I expect it would if there were no supreme personality intervening in our lives. After all that I have written, that is the simple reason for my change of heart, the flash of lightning which has caused me to write this.

Perhaps God, if I am wrong and He is not just my imaginary friend, will someday have mercy on His wayward son who thinks too much and respond to my seeking for truth. Until that revelatory day, I must remain true to what I know and what I see. If there is a God, I feel now more than ever that I am right before Him. My relationship with Him is exactly as it should be, given what I know. I am confident that He will accept my offering of an honest life well-lived, and that I will not seek his face in vain when this life comes to a close.

If God exists, may He correct my error. Regardless, may I find the truth and live according my conscience. May I savor each passing moment knowing of my own impermanence. May I lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. May I love my family and do my utmost to serve them in humility and love. May we be happy in spite of the suffering which life brings to us all. May I do good with the time that I have. May the truth resound from every mountain and every hill, spoken from every mouth, finding a place in our opened hearts until ignorance and superstition are cast aside as worthless dross in the loving fervor of the perfect day. That is my hope and prayer.

In Honesty, Hope, and Love,

Jonathan Blake, Heretic

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  1. Steve Graham said,

    April 19, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    It’s funny that both you and Joe Steve Swick apply the same term to yourselves.


  2. Steve Graham said,

    April 19, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

    Another thing I find odd is that sometimes when a person learns that some of the things he was told about the Church are wrong, he not only leaves the Church, but also leaves behind his faith in a Heavenly Father and a Savior. While another person may simply come to grips that the Church is not perfect or may continue believing in the Restoration and seek out a group which more perfect believes/follows the original prophets.

    I don’t think this has much to do with your situation, Jonathan. Just some thinking I had to put down in writing and your site was handy ;-) Thanks.


  3. Jonathan Blake said,

    April 21, 2007 @ 8:50 am

    I wear the heretic badge with pride. I have finally come to a place of self-determination which is at the root of heresy. I refuse to back down from that. If I were to ever reenter Mormon life, it would because I chose to, independent of others’ undue influence in the private precincts of my conscience.

    There are several reasons that I can imagine caused me to leave behind belief in God as well as Mormonism. I never felt close to Heavenly Father or Jesus. People would say that they love God and I simply could not relate. My struggle to feel that love is what ultimately destroyed my belief.

    The coincidence of me finding atheist at the time that I was struggling was another factor. My heart and mind were open to the truth, whatever it might be. The truth of atheism walked in at that same moment.

    I always said that if the Mormon church wasn’t true, then no other church was. Well, I guess I lived up to that opinion: it was the Mormon church or no church for me. :)

  4. Green Oasis » Blogiversary said,

    January 10, 2008 @ 10:59 am

    [...] echo this sentiment again: Others may say that I allowed myself to be seduced by falsehoods. It feels more like I was [...]

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