The Day I Left the Church . . . Journal Entry

mormon to atheist journal

02/10/2008

Well, Sarah* and I have officially broken up.  Wow, this is going to be tough.  I continued to be way depressed on Thursday and Friday, way doubtful, and decided (once again), that I HAD to break it off with Sarah because I could not go on feeling this and I couldn’t just repress my questions or find satisfying answers so I had to just end the relationship.  We went to the photographer on Friday, then went back to her parent’s house and did some stuff.  I finally got myself to tell her I’m still doubting, or actually, that the doubts had come back and I wasn’t through this.  She was really confused, angry, sad, and everything else.  We talked more and she gave me the ring back and went upstairs crying.  She talked to her parents, Nate (on phone), we texted a bit and she came back down and we talked for a long, long time.  We decided I’d try some depression medication — because, like I wrote earlier, I’m POSITIVE I’ve been depressed a lot.  I told her, though, that what I wondered is whether that depression CAUSED or AMPLIFIED my doubts, or whether my doubts caused the depression.  We both hoped it was the former and that being more emotionally stable would help me be more stable in my testimony as well.  Then Saturday was great.  We got depression meds – but they don’t kick in for 3 or 4 weeks sometimes** — we had a really fun day together, and went to a Valentine’s party at night.  I love and respect her so much.  She is truly one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

Also, I went and talked to Nate.  He’s a great brother.  He also talked with me and sought for some of my strength with an issue he’s struggling with — that was nice.  I gave him a blessing this morning.

So — today, after I gave Nate the blessing, Sarah and I drove down and went to her ward.  Sunday School and Sacrament meeting were both on temples —- and I realized I COULD NOT … it WOULD NOT be possible for me to believe that again.  So — I set myself firm in my mind, and when we got in her car after church I told her I couldn’t do it, and explained a little bit of why.  Wow, that was tough.  It was so hard to see her SO DEVASTATED.  She was so frustrated, mad, sad, and everything again.  She stated “I’m losing you right now and there’s nothing I can do about it!”  It was extremely tough, I drove her back to her apartment, she gave me the ring back, we cried a little more and she left.

I am SO SORRY that I did that to her.

This is going to be really hard on both of us, but it’ll probably be even harder on her — because she doesn’t understand why I’ve oscillated SO MUCH and given her so much hope, and in a lot of ways I’ve already suffered through a lot of it because I’ve thought about it so much before.

I called Nate — he’s very understanding and supportive.  He made me promise, though, that I’d never give up the search for truth — that if I didn’t find anything through all my efforts that I’d retrace my steps and try this church again.

I called Mom – WOW, there is not a more amazing woman on this planet.  She just listened, trusted me, said she knows I’m a truthseeker, that if we believed in Joseph Smith’s story we had to give other people the freedom as well to follow God as they felt he was guiding them, and she understood I HAVE to be honest with myself.***  She did warn me, however, that if I begin to live unworthily she’ll begin to question whether I was being inspired of God or of Satan.  She asked to write down WHY for the purpose of UNDERSTANDING — not so I could convince her or she could try to convince me.  I agreed.  I owe it to  her and Nate and Sarah and others.  I’m not sure what I’m going to write though — I don’t want to appear bitter or hardened … but I don’t want to appear foolish or deceived or weak either.  Maybe the 2nd part is because of pride.

I think I did the right thing, no matter how hard it was and will be.

—————–

*Different name . . . I’m hoping that will keep her from killing me when she finds this, lol.

**I never took the depression meds, because I believed my doubts were causing the depression, not the other way around.  I was right.

***I didn’t mention the feeling I had when I finally made that tough decision.  Simply put, a huge burden was lifted off of me.  I felt free, no longer having to put new information through the strain of LDS doctrine to see if I could believe it or not.  I could look at politics, evolution, homosexuality, everything in a new light.  I was also afraid, because I didn’t want to be deceived.

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30 thoughts on “The Day I Left the Church . . . Journal Entry

  1. Bro, I think you & I have had similar experiences, especially in terms of depression stemming from doubt on specific doctrines and religion as a whole. I was actually medicated throughout my entire mission and couldn’t even leave on a mission until I had been “stabilized” for about a year, but that’s another story. I remember my own quest for “truth” when I was 15-19 years old, as I was turned off by past racial dogma and conspiracy from the LDS Church. At one point, when I was 17, I almost became Muslim. I was also turned off by the lack of transparency among church leaders. Since, I’ve come to terms with most of these things. I remember something that Robert Millet told me after a lecture, he said that “the scariest days in the history of the church will occur when no one doubts.” He reasoned that religious doubt is related to the struggle of the soul to find truth and truth seekers are the only ones who can assist in LDS progression.

    My story then turns a bit from yours, and over time I have found so many answers to my doubts and fears and have remained active in the faith, but yes – there have been struggles. I admire you for having the courage to open up to the world on such a personal struggle, as it takes some cajones to do so. I don’t think I can ever look at anyone differently solely based on prescribing to a different ideology. Just be a good person and improve the lives of those around you – I think any religion and non-religion can agree on this point. And by the looks of things, that’s exactly what you’re doing with your life: improving those around you. Keep up the good work & keep making this world a better place! You’ve got my support man.

    • Shaun! Thanks for reading and thanks for your input! I met Millet on my mission and actually met with him for a few hours at a time during this whole process. In general I liked his open approach towards dialogue with people of other faiths and it was pretty awesome of him to take a bunch of his time to meet with me. It looks like you’re having an awesome time in Hawaii . . . I’m ridiculously jealous . . . but you’re graduating soon?

  2. Man, I remember this time SO clearly. All the talks, with you and Sarah separately, the emotions, and the fears. Reading your detailed description of your feelings brings it all flooding back. Painful stuff.
    Glad we have had each other during our crazy truth-seeking journeys. Love ya bro.

  3. Thanks for the post. 🙂 that’s probably one of the most honest things I have ever read. I’m lds, and I believe in evolution, biological links to homosexuality, and am unaffiliated politically. These three topics seem to be of importance to you, and is be interested to hear why they mIs you question the church. I mean, I can understand feeling frustration with the culture of the church with regard to some of these topics, but am confused at where the doctrinal concern sits. Anyway, thanks again. Tell colten and nate hi.

    • Hey Smed – so, wordpress automatically blocks comments from a new user until I approve them, which is why yours wasn’t posting last night, haha. I saw you posted 3 times – if you want me to put up a different one than this one let me know. But you should be able to comment unblocked from here on. Thanks for the comment – some of my posts will be doctrinal layouts of the doctrines that troubled me, so you’re sure to get that explanation over the coming months.

    • Hi, just a note on evolution–I haven’t heard any anti-evolution doctrine in the Church, at least not in modern history. It was taught in BYU biology classes, which I took in the late 70’s.

  4. Glad you’ve decided to do this, nephew. I’ve worked hard to earn my current doubt-free state, and wish you the best. Keep in mind that atheism is a religion, too. It is probably the least progressive one, since it sets man up as the greatest intelligence to appeal to.

    • Chuck! I’ve always enjoyed our conversations, I’m glad you found the blog and hope you come back to read it often! The reason I chose the subtitle “How I went from devout Mormon missionary to no religion at all” is because as an atheist I DO still have beliefs. People often say, “You don’t believe in anything?!?!” – a common misconception – well, I believe in being good to people, being truthful, etc. I don’t have a religion if it is defined as an organized set of beliefs and practices agreed upon by a body of people, since there is no dogma I must uphold as an atheist. There is another definition of religion that is more general, like “a set of beliefs,” but most people don’t use the word that way. I’m also not “spiritual but not religious,” since I don’t believe in a spirit or anything divine, but have always loved thinking about deep and important philosophies.

      • I like your definition of an atheist, Jeff. Most people read it with a negative connotation. Thinking atheists don’t care about anything, but that is horribly untrue!

  5. “The glory of God is intelligence.” And thus I always expected him to be more intelligent than me; and that he can reveal his higher reasoning to my mind if I seek it without any self-serving agenda.

  6. God’s intelligence is manifested in his revealed laws and ruling principles. It is the pondering of those laws, until I understood their depth of purpose, that has proven to me that none compares, in wisdom and intelligence, to the God of Israel.

  7. Bro,

    I don’t say it enough to my immediate family, but I’m so proud of you for the current irons in the fire that you are working on with your writing and philanthropy. I’m glad you are willing to share yourself in this way and reading the entry I can see how hard it was for you. You know my story well by now… and I am so glad our whole family can relate better and has become closer after all of this happened.

    Love you.

  8. Cloward, you have obviously done a ton of thinking and decision making over the past few years and you don’t need any validation either way from me or anyone else at this point. Knowing where I’m coming from, you can probably assume my gut reaction to the conclusions you have come to on religion, so I’ll spare you those today. I like the words your mother shared with you which you have shared in your journal entry, and I also appreciate Shaun’s personal comments he shared.

    I hesitate a bit as I’m typing this because I’m finding myself not able to adequately put into words how I feel on the subject (not that any of this is about me; I’m not that narcissistic). I just don’t want anyone to misinterpret my tone or meaning. I caution anyone that tries to use logic, reason, or science to explain religion, God, or faith. It’s not to say one can’t make connections between science and religion, but with faith it’s about taking steps into the darkness before you see the light.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir and my intention is not to change your mind, I just wanted to weigh in on the subject since that last time I checked in with you, you were of a wholly different mindset. Take courage on your journey as you search for truth, I can only hope you find what you’re looking for and just maybe it leads back to where you started. Best of luck to you, either way.

    • Kyle – I appreciate what you said, thanks for reading – and you don’t need to feel hesitant to say what you’d like to say, no worries! But – I get that you want it to come across in the right tone. There are a lot of different types of people reading this blog and anyone’s input is valid, and conversation is welcome. Personally, I live a very happy life and am extremely unlikely to change my mind about religion, but I respect anyone’s input when its said from a stance of respect and understanding. So – thanks! I’ll try to respond to it in another post soon.

    • So . . . what I was trying to say was . . . everyone’s comments, whether here or in a personal message, give me a good idea of what you all would like to know and will help me write my story as it is relevant to the questions the readers have about why I left, or whatever it may be.

  9. The reason I like reading your progression so much is that I never really struggled with my decision to leave. Well, actually, that’s not fair to me, because I had tremendous guilt and doubts. I never sought out questions or answers, really, so I really enjoy reading about you, Em, Nade, and Mom and your search. Kinda like you guys do all of the hard work for me! 🙂 Love you and love reading your stuff! I would like for all of us sibs to share some of our experiences. I love learning about all of you.

    • Rin – I’m actually going to post something a bit later about HOW we can tell what is true or not, and I think the way you left the church (as I understand it) was a better reason than mine, and a better way for recognizing if something is wrong or right. Stay tuned 😛

  10. I believe I’ve responded to your past posts, and then I come back and find there’s nothing here from me. I enjoyed this post, Jefferson. It was a long time before I could grasp the “why” of your leaving, and it’s probably true that I still cannot really define specifics except to say that you are honest despite the pain that honesty brings. I say this, not in the past tense, but in the present tense because I believe it is one of your guiding principles and that you will never betray it.

    And that’s the best reason of all.

    I have experienced the same feelings about the temple… an inability to get past something that is more than a lack of belief, but rather, an active inability to believe. Whenever I’ve thought, “Well, perhaps I can find a way to make this work, and this, and this… and still be an active member of the church,” then the temple rises up in my mind as a massive, impenetrable wall that I cannot, will not, conquer. Heaven knows, I tried for the 35 years since I first went there, pushing down my screaming sense that something was wrong here, because no one else seemed to see or feel what I was seeing and feeling. (The Emperor’s new clothes, anyone?) What would lie beyond that wall again, I am certain, would destroy me. It would require me to deny any accountability for my reason AND my intuition, and to lean solely upon the words of people who could just as easily be devils as servants of God, but are more likely just men. Plain. Old. Men.

    Keep writing, Jeff. Your sharing your inner thoughts benefits so many, even your Mom. 🙂

  11. It took a lot of fortitude to follow through with that. It’s sad that you had to leave a woman you loved due to religion. You’re lucky, however, that those around you were so supportive. Most people don’t get that.

    • Definitely lucky. I have some friends who have had some terrible experiences with family and friends – the way my mom responded, especially, was amazing.

      It was really tough to lose that relationship, but it was also a mutual choice. I knew that being in a relationship with a highly Mormon girl would make me hesitate to explore new ideas as freely as I wanted, and I craved freedom of thought. She knew that raising kids would be really hard – there’d be a lot of fights about what to teach them. Also, Mormonism is especially family-focused in its doctrine, and it’s difficult to be fully Mormon without both spouses being temple worthy and active. A lot of mixed-member families make it work, but there are constant reminders at church that YOUR family isn’t as faithful as others, and it is really difficult.

      • That’s really unfortunate. I grew up Catholic, so I can’t speak to Mormonism at all, but it seems to be equally divisive. I have had, however, a couple friends that were raised in the LDS Church – in SLC, no less – that when they left, it meant they lost their families as well. One of them hasn’t seen or spoke to his family in almost 10 years. Very sad.

        • Here are some interesting related stats on Utah:

          Over 96% of homeless youth in Utah come from LDS families, in a State that’s only 60% LDS.

          42% of those homeless youth are homosexual, kicked out of their homes because their parents found out they were gay, or leaving on their own because they were forced to participate in “Reparative Therapy” to make the straight or because their family became emotionally or physically abusive.

          It’s crazy. I think some of the LDS Church’s recent moves may help with this, and I hope it does, because the prescription to cast out your child if they’re not faithful is causing a lot of problems :/

          I haven’t verified the stats, but this is where I heard them: http://gaymormonstories.org/berta-marquez-on-thriving-by-being-an-activist-and-working-with-homeless-lgbt-teens/

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