“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” René Descartes
I know this church is true. I recited this mantra as a child, internalized it. Moroni's promise always seemed a bit redundant to me. I didn't need to ask, I already knew. I never questioned. Never doubted.
Growing up in the Church provided me with a blueprint for life. I was a son of a loving Heavenly Father who had prepared a perfect plan for me. A plan complete with commandments, ordinances, covenants, and all their corresponding blessings. I learned to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not unto my own understanding. I learned to submit to any trial or affliction with meekness, humility, and patience. Doubt not, fear not. Obey.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Joseph Smith, D&C 130:20-21
I went on to serve a full-time mission. It was extremely challenging at times, but I knew with God's help, anything was possible. I taught with power and purpose. Many accepted the universal message of the restored Gospel, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. My testimony grew stronger as I watched light and love fill the lives of those I taught.
Later, during my first year of college, I learned the concept of ethnocentrism. Was I guilty of assuming my culture and beliefs were the the best way for everyone to live their life? I recalled certain investigators who argued that there were many paths to the top of a mountain, and that happiness could be found in many forms. But they didn't understand. This was in fact “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth!" If they could just accept that fact, they could experience complete and true happiness.
Over the next decade, I found myself asking more questions I couldn't quite answer. If this is God's true church on this Earth, why do only 0.2% of his children know about it? Why does scientific evidence of evolution conflict with the story of creation? Why are gay members of the church sentenced to a life of unhappiness? Why would a prophet of God marry other men's wives? Why would God not give black people the Priesthood until 1978? And significantly, why are our current leaders so adamant upon insisting we doubt our doubts and that only at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from the path of truth?
What peril is there in doubting truth?
As Gandhi so wisely put it, ”Truth never damages a cause that is just.” And yet, the more I learned about the Church, the more I felt like I had been intentionally kept in the dark.
“I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. [...] Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.” Boyd K. Packer (Quinn, Faithful History: Essays On Writing Mormon History, p 103)
I finally came to the confusing conclusion that contrary to the words of Wilford Woodruff, our leaders are sometimes wrong, and have on occassion, even led us astray. This posed a serious conflict of faith. I had built my testimony on a house of cards, and it was collapsing.
Still, I tried to reconstruct my faith following Elder Holland's advice to hold the ground I had already won. I focused on my family and my relationship with God. But it was uncomfortable. I sat in limbo, feeling disingenous in church. I felt lukewarm in the gospel, and knew I couldn't raise my family and reconcile my faith at that temperature.
I realized that for years I had been rationalizing or dismissing my doubts, carefully storing them away on a metaphorical shelf for later examination. But despite my best efforts, it seemed no amount of reinforcements could prevent the shelf from bowing. Growing desperate, I resolved to stop doubting my doubts and begin facing them head on in an earnest attempt to relieve the growing weight of dissonance I was experiencing.
If the Church is true, I reasoned, what do I have to fear?
I reached for the first file on my shelf and began studying and praying. But instead of relief, the facts invariably led to further questioning and concern. The pattern continued with subsequent investigations. And before I knew it, my files had turned to folders, folders to books, and books to crushingly thick volumes.
Inevitably, the supports failed, the shelf collapsed, and everything came falling down in a deafening, devastating crash.
Once the dust settled, I opened my eyes and looked toward the wall where my shelf once hung. In its place I found instead an open door. A flood of brilliant light poured into my room, illuminating the archives of doubt amongst the rubble. And all at once, everything made sense. Truth had dispelled doubt, and I was free to leave my room to discover the light beyond.
I decided to start this blog in an attempt to chronicle my honest journey for truth. My hope is that others who are experiencing a crisis of faith will find comfort in knowing they’re not alone. I also hope to dispel some of the stigma, judgement, and popular assumptions within the church that people who leave do so only out of laziness, lack of faith, sinful behavior, or offense. Finally, I hope my children (who are still very young) will be able to read this when they get older to understand how my wife and I came to this crucial decision in our lives.
I have not yet come out to my family about my beliefs, which is why for now, I have chosen to remain anonymous. In coming posts, I will write more detailed accounts on the specific paths that led me to my decision to leave. And when I do come out to my family and friends (which I believe will happen soon), I will share my experience here.
To anyone who finds themselves in a similar position, be strong.
”The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” James A. Garfield
This has been a harrowing, heartbreaking journey, and I know there are many challenges ahead of me. But I can honestly say that I have never felt more alive, more present, and more happy than I do at this very moment.
Thanks for reading.