I left the church 10 years ago, right after I got home from my mission. One of the benefits of living in Utah is that I do not have to travel far when there is a mission reunion - most of them happen here. So last October I decided to go. I can't really explain why, but I wanted to see the people I knew very well long ago. Only one of my mission companions knows that I quit church. But she still thinks that I can be returned to the fold (though she does not pressure me and does not bore me with her testimony) - how silly :)
Well, anyway. I arrived to the church building, and go to the gym (it is kind of strange that a house of worship has a basketball court, don't you think?). The room is full of the returned missionaries that served at the same time as I did, and their families.
The social part was fun - after 10 years a lot has changed in peoples lives. Some had 4(!) kids already. I actually enjoyed that part a lot. And then I went to say hi to my former mission president. On my mission, when I started having serious doubts about the church, me and him had several long discussions. I guess he remembered that. So when I came up to him, he started carefully probing me with indirect questions aimed to find out if I was still active. I did not wish to start another faith promoting conversation, so I answered also indirectly - I did not lie, I just answered such that he still could take it either way. Luckily, there were more people who wanted to talk to him so I left him.
The most interesting part (for me) was in the end of the meeting, when the mission president and his wife bore their testimony. I was able to listen to it without having to pretend that whatever they said made sense. I felt like I was observing subjects from the Stanford experiment (http://www.prisonexp.org/) where absolutely reasonable educated people did something unnatural just because they were in a specific environment. The mission president had to say all those things about the truthfulness of the church, JS, etc. But I was listening to the words and was trying to assess their meaning logically. You know that this nonsense is true because you feel it? You believe what JS said because he heard voices and saw visions? Well, it is called schizophrenia ("a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations". http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001925/)
Thanks for sharing that. I really liked your closing line. I recently have been trying out other churches and walked into a service that was performing this song (link below) that just struck me... I am FREE! i cried like a mormon on testimony sunday. Im sure for others the song meant something else, but for me it symbolized a turning point, no more questions, no more doubts, im done, i am free.