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Executive Summary

[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 evidence—or lack thereof—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 skull—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.]

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  1. Ryan Hales said,

    March 21, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

    Hello Jonathan, I received a phone call today from a good friend of mine informing me of your website. He asked me if I remembered you from the mission and I told him I did. He shared what he had discovered and some of his thoughts on what he had read from your site. I located your website and have been reading for an hour or so. I quickly recognized that I am not as well read as you are; therefore I don’t completely understand some of your references to other books, authors, or musicians. But I do have common sense and I did understand most of everything else you’ve written. Now that I have that out of the way I don’t know where to start, maybe with what weighs heaviest in my heart.
    It is very apparent to me that you are concerned for your loved ones and how they will be taking your news. I can’t help but feel sorry and concerned for your wife of whom I have never met and your children who I’ll probably never meet. I can appreciate the letter you wrote your parents and I hope they don’t take any blame for your being born again. You wrote that they had raised you properly; I also hope they do and always will feel that way. I’ve not wanted to take too much time elaborating on what I think is right or wrong, true or false. I wanted to write in response to your asking if anyone wanted to know the real reason you left the church to ask. I’d like to know.
    I’m saddened with your decision to leave Mormonism, I’ve had struggles in my own life that have caused me to wonder, study and ponder. But I’ve always come to realize first that there is a loving Heavenly Father that cares for me and from there on things were simple to understand. I feel like my faith in a supreme being has blessed my life and I have come to know in my heart that I’m loved by Him. I know you’re not interested in what I might feel or think and I don’t mean to preach or leave testimony with you and tell you I think you’re wrong for leaving. My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family.

    Ryan Hales

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    March 21, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

    Long time no see! Thank you for stopping by and expressing your thoughts and concerns. It’s great to hear from you. No need to apologize for taking up time or for saying what you think. Feel free to comment as you wish. I won’t be offended or censor sincere thoughts and feelings, even including testimonies. I am interested to hear what others think. It helps me knock the rough edges off and keeps me thinking.

    Regarding why I left the church, do you want a more detailed answer? If so, I’ll explain in another post where I can be more explicit (I’m trying to stay neutral here).

    Don’t be a stranger.

  3. Chris Smith said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

    Blake! What’s up man. Before I met you, someone in the mission once told me you were the most apostate missionary in the NYRM. Once I met you though, I thought he must have been mistaken, or talking about a different Elder Blake…But hey, after reading your blog a bit, I’m trying to remember Who told me that. Maybe he could give me some lotto numbers.

    Good to see that you’re doing well. I haven’t made a habit of frequenting mission reunions, so it’s good to see signs of life from people I knew out there.

    Take care man

    Chris (Elder) Smith

  4. Jonathan said,

    June 3, 2009 @ 7:13 pm

    Hey (Elder) Smith!

    Before I met you, someone in the mission once told me you were the most apostate missionary in the NYRM.

    Hah! I had no idea I had that reputation back in those days. I tried hard to be a good missionary, but have to admit that I had a hard time with some of these rules. It’s funny it how it’s worked out I suppose.

    Yeah, I have only been to one reunion years ago. I won’t be going to the Jensen reunion this year because I’m in the middle of a big project at work and money’s a little tight these days. I seriously thought about it though. Would that be weird?

    Great to hear from you.

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