To my friends from the Plano, Texas 5th Ward and to my other LDS friends and family who have been directed to this blog, I wish you a hearty welcome.
I understand that my disappearance from Sunday meetings and voluntary relinquishment of my callings—first as Executive Secretary, then as Elders’ Quorum secretary, and finally as home teacher—have been the subject of some curiosity and discussion among you. I have been disaffected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a little over two years now. The reasons for my disillusionment and disappointment with the church that I have called my spiritual home for nearly two decades are the subject of many of my posts here. If you are interested in knowing why I have chosen to cease active participation in the ward, I refer you to the left sidebar under the caption “Best of Equality.”
The purpose of this post, however, is simply to dispel a few myths or misconceptions and, perhaps, to quell a rumor or two and clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen. I want you, my friends and family, to know that whatever my thoughts about and feelings toward the LDS church and some of its leaders, my feelings toward you are not diminished or tarnished in any way by my transformation of faith. If I loved you before, I love you now. If we were previously friends, I consider you a friend as much now as ever. In the words of Joseph Smith, “I have enmity toward no man.” I have friends of many faiths and political persuasions, and see no reason to withhold fellowship from any simply because we do not share a particular world-view, ideology, or belief system.
My decision to resign my callings, substantially reduce my attendance at church functions and, more recently, to voluntarily withdraw my membership in the LDS church, (Download resignation_letter_redacted.pdf ) should in no way be viewed as indicative of my feelings toward the members of the LDS church with whom I have always enjoyed a pleasant association. To the contrary, that it has taken more than two years of researching, discussing, deliberating, and soul-searching before finally resigning my membership underscores the gravity of the decision—a choice made all the more difficult because of the love and respect I have for my Mormon family and friends. If the Mormons with whom I have associated in my ward and family were not basically honest, sincere, caring, compassionate folks, then leaving the LDS church would be much less emotionally arduous. In short, my disaffection with the LDS church has neither caused nor resulted from any disaffection with my Mormon friends and family.
One of my stated purposes in maintaining this blog is to dispel some of the myths often promulgated in the LDS church regarding those who “leave the fold.” It is not uncommon for members of the LDS church to speculate on the root cause of “apostasy.” Invariably, the consensus among the faithful is that those who leave do so because they either (a) have been offended or (b) want to sin. A variation on this is that the Mormon lifestyle was just too hard and the departing member was just too weak to “endure to the end.” A third explanation for apostasy often posited is that the “wayward” member is afflicted with a “hard heart” or “pride.” All of these (offense, desire to sin, pride) are the result, it is often surmised, of Satanic influence. The member neglected his duty to pray or read the scriptures, or pay tithing or go to the temple and was thus left open to be tempted of the devil or one of Satan’s millions of demonic henchmen who are constantly on alert for faltering saints, ever hoping to find a chink in the member’s spiritual armor.
Contrary to these clichéd explanations for why people leave the LDS church, in my experience meeting, discussing, corresponding, and counseling with hundreds of disaffected Mormons over the last two years, I have not encountered any who left the LDS church because they were “offended” personally by a fellow member. So, all the cookies and paper hearts in the world (as well-intentioned as they may be) will not bring such people “back to the fold.” Nor have I encountered people who have left the church—believing it to be true—but just wanting to sin. Asking former members “which commandment they didn’t want to keep” might make for a good EFY anecdote, but it bears no resemblance to reality. People who leave the LDS church often (but not always) do make certain lifestyle changes (especially with respect to Sabbath observance, word of wisdom, and tithing). But in the great majority of cases, formerly faithful members who leave do so because they undergo a spiritual change on the inside. The outward manifestation follows the inner transformation.
I did not leave because someone offended me. Nor was there any particular “sin” that I just had to commit or any specific commandment I was incapable or unwilling to keep. This cucumber is perfectly capable of one day becoming a pickle, thank you very much. As for pride, I think that it actually takes a substantial measure of humility to examine one’s belief system critically, to accept the idea that the things you believed in so ardently for years—things you felt with “every fiber” of your being—might not be true. In my view, it is prideful to cling to beliefs for which there is no reasonable basis and to refuse to consider new information, new evidence, new arguments, new points of view. My willingness to re-examine and re-consider my faith, and to change as a result, is the opposite of proud. I think that the nearly two years’ worth of blog posts here put the lie to the notion that I left because I was offended or wanted to sin or that I have been overcome by demonic forces. Far from the picture of apostasy painted in LDS church culture, I am not miserable; I am not tormented; I am not walking in darkness or wallowing in pig slop. I still love my family; I am still gainfully employed; I still smile and wave at the neighbors and the school crossing guard; I still have spiritual experiences; I still have a conscience—indeed, it is my conscience that impelled me to withdraw my association with the church. So, worry not for me or my soul. Do not wonder what you may have said or done to drive me away—you had nothing to do with it. I have nothing but the best of feelings for you, my Mormon friends and family. I wish you Godspeed in your spiritual journey. And it is my sincere wish that we who were friends at first may yet be friends at last.