The Basics

Many people have been interested (or confused, or angered) by the recent decision Holly and I made to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When people find out there is always the inevitable question: "Why?" (Often accompanied by testimony bearing, statements instructing me on what my beliefs are, and passive aggressive hints about how much I'm hurting those I love).

For those who want to know why I've made this decision, I've briefly outlined some main points below. This is offered as an explanation to satisfy curiosity, not as an opening for religious discussion.

In the church, everything we learn and do is underlined with our personal testimonies - the experiences we've had where we feel that Heavenly Father has, through the Holy Ghost, manifested truths to us. These experiences are often very powerful. I've had several life changing experiences which shaped my beliefs and supported my faith through periods of doubt.

I've known many people that have drifted from the church. Some followed lifestyle choices contrary to church teachings, and lost touch with their faith. Others become offended at the actions of those in the church, and estrange themselves for social reasons. Some just get lazy and don't want to bother anymore.

Our path was none of these. We were faithfully reading our scriptures, saying our prayers and attending the temple to a degree we had never before achieved in our marriage. What happened was that we turned and faced those nagging doubts and questions that had trailed us through our whole lives (or in Holly's case, her whole experience with the church). Associated with every spiritual experience of my life was the question: "How do you know this isn't coming from you?"

On my mission when we challenged people to pray about our message, very few accepted. Some just didn't want to bother, but some had counter arguments: What makes you think that what you feel is any different from what any other religious person feels? This was the question I had to ask myself.

I look at an Islamic terrorist who thinks he feels God, and I say "That man isn't feeling what he thinks he's feeling. That's not God, that's emotional fervor."

I look at a Pentecostal at worship, who thinks that the rapture will happen at any moment and I say "That woman isn't feeling the Holy Ghost, she's feeling other things. She's being tricked."

I look at all of the millions of people on the planet, and I point my finger at each and every one of them and say "The thing that you believe is not true. You think that God is telling you it is true, but he isn't."

Is it possible that what I think is God talking to me isn't really God? Anyone who would say it's not possible would be lying.

I also look at times in my life when I have been convinced I was right about something, only to find out later that I was wrong. In retrospect I look at myself and say "I was misled in that one instance, I confused the Spirit with some personal emotion".

I don't think there is a difference. I think I've trained myself to "feel the Spirit". I think I've known all along that there is no God. But I WANTED to believe so badly that I kept myself from facing that.

After coming to this conclusion, everything else was shed in a different light. All of those little doctrinal questions that have no answer (why doesn't 3 Nephi match JST Matt? Why does DNA evidence disprove Israelite blood in Native Americans? etc) were no longer "mysteries of the kingdom" but "plot holes" in a fabricated storyline.

All of those strange things from church history (Joseph searching for treasure with the same seer stone he used to translate the BoM; Joseph marrying young girls behind Emma's back; changes to eternal temple ordinances etc) no longer had a "there must be some other explanation" clause, and became what they seem.

So Holly and I have removed our names from the membership of the church. We can't in good conscience support an organization that is built on so many untruths. And why would we? If there is no God, then this is not His church.

We are very comfortable with our decision. We are happier than we have been in years, and we feel like we are -for the first time- being totally honest with ourselves. We really think that religion and reality are not the same, but opposites.

We don't want anybody's prayers, although I suppose we can't stop you. We don't want people telling us how sad they are at our decision. You wouldn't want us telling you how sad we thought it was that you're still operating under self delusion - that would just be rude.

I have written this note not to unconvert others, but to preemptively (and postemptively, if that's a word) answer those questions which so many of you have. We have given both sides of the argument serious consideration. We are familiar with all of the doctrinal arguments - I spent my whole life believing them, and 2 years teaching them. But we have concluded after much prayer and pondering that we believe something different.