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Who told thee that thou wast naked?

“…mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb…”
(Revelation 6:16)

I stopped going to Church at twelve. I had just received the Aaronic Priesthood, but I soon stopped going. I don’t know anymore exactly why I chose that one particular Sunday, but I just decided to stay home. My parents, to their credit, figured that I was old enough to make my own decisions about such things.

I can think of lots of reasons that made me stop attending church meetings. I didn’t feel accepted by my peers at church. I hated the chore of sitting still through all those meetings where I never learned much of anything new. I wanted to do other things with my time. I liked rebelling against my parents ideals. Those were some of the reasons.

More importantly, I wasn’t sure about what I was being taught. I didn’t have the same conviction as the other members of the congregation. My doubts made me defective in a community of believers. Faith is the first principle and virtue of the Church. I couldn’t even get past the first step.

I think most importantly, I began to be ashamed in earnest. Mormonism had strict standards of behavior. The list of things to do to get yourself to the Celestial Kingdom seemed endless (though I doubt we have 613 rules to live by). Being human and a young boy just emerging into puberty, I found it impossible to live up to those standards. I believed in Mormonism just enough to take its standards to heart and see my own unworthiness.

I knew that Jesus was supposed to have made an atonement for my sins so that I didn’t need to feel guilty anymore. Somehow, this idea didn’t comfort me. I also knew that to be cleansed of sin, I needed to feel the Holy Spirit and be born again. (John 3:5–6, Moses 6:59, Mosiah 27:24–31, Alma 7:14–16) To feel the Spirit, I needed to clean up my act and be worthy of its presence. (Helaman 4:24) I needed to forsake my sins and confess them. (Mosiah 4:10, Doctrine and Covenants 58:43)

“This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us.”
(Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 208)

While I was away from the Church, I tried really hard to give up my sins. I really wanted to be free of the guilt that I felt. I desperately wanted to overcome my sinful nature and rejoin the community of the faithful. I failed and failed and failed again no matter how hard I tried and no matter how hard I prayed for God’s help. I was confused about how much God expected me to do and how much He was willing to help. Was I supposed to get myself back to a place where God would be willing to forgive me, or would God help me back as long as I had enough faith in Him? How would I gain enough faith to take either of these paths?

It seemed that the standards of the Church were designed to keep me in a state of perpetual failure. Perhaps my constant failure was meant to draw me nearer to God. Instead, it made me want to stay away from the Church. Shame and self-loathing festered and burned inside me. My shame drove me to more sin. Going to church in this vulnerable period of my life only served to remind me of my failures.



  1. Anonymous said,

    January 23, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    Did you serve a mission?

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 23, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

    Jumping ahead in the story a bit, aren’t we? :)

    Yes, I served as a Mormon missionary.

  3. Anonymous said,

    January 23, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

    Have you told your parent’s about your decision yet? Do you think they’ll be surprised?

  4. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 24, 2007 @ 9:28 am

    I’m sure that you’ll understand that as it is a matter of some privacy and delicacy, I intend to discuss the details of what and when I tell my parents (and their reaction thereto) with my family only. I apologize that I can’t be more forthcoming on this subject.

  5. Amanda said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 11:48 am

    Wow, I’ve lived this story. Even the part about being 12. I just wish that my parents had reacted like yours. Thanks for writing about this. It’s helpful and very healing.

  6. Jonathan Blake said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 11:57 am

    Thanks, Amanda. It was healing to write it. Your comment helped me out today. It’s nice to hear that there are others who sympathize. Thank you again.

  7. Amanda said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    I imagine that you’ve been to & realize that there are many others out there who have left the church. That said, you add peace and rationality to a decision that is extremely painful and often dramatic as a result. Your story is told without bitterness or anger. Like many ex-LDS folks, I struggle to maintain a loving relationship with my Mormon family and tend to simply avoid sensitive topics in order to keep the peace. Your ability to lovingly share your inner life and gently explain your positions is impressive. I’m glad I followed the link on to your blog and will follow it with interest from now on.

  8. Jonathan Blake said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

    I think you’ve arrived too late. I’m only getting more bitter with time. :)

    Honestly, I think I need to take a huge break from even thinking about Mormonism/religion. It’s just dragging me down.

  9. Amanda said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

    Poor guy! I can understand…an admirable battle but …I seriously fear that you may be giving people in general and specifically the ones who seem to be responding to your blog (or at least this part of it) a little too much credit – but it’s kind of you and speaks to a hopeful nature. That said, I haven’t read your later entries :) I’ve been trying to do the “open, loving – but differnet thing” with my huge Mormon family for years. It SO hasn’t worked for me and my hubby and I just sort of steer clear as much as possible now while still trying to be nice – but then I don’t have the “I-write-like-Stephen-Covey-and-his-ilk-but-just-happened-to-have-looked-at-stuff-honestly” that impresses me about your writing so far :) (I often see mormons – usually men in leadership roles – use that a similar style of peaceful writing and speaking – and it works – it works here too!!)

  10. Jonathan Blake said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

    You’re too kind. :)

  11. Jonathan Blake said,

    September 27, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that being open and loving but different hasn’t worked for you. The maddening part is people often seem to believe they’re doing the right, loving thing when they’re being their most dogmatic. I include myself in that critique.

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