I was born into a Mormon family. I was told that this was because I was an elect spirit and it was my reward for being so righteous in the preexistence. I used to feel that maybe somebody had got it wrong upstairs, because I never felt as if I was worthy of such a leg-up in this life. I was always a good girl. I married in the temple and had kids at a very young age, foregoing tertiary study to do so. I was applauded for my righteous decisions. I have three beautiful children whom I love very much, but I never felt fulfilled as a stay-home-mom. This made me feel guilty. I started suffering from depression. Part of my treatment was to undergo mandatory counseling sessions with a therapist. He gave me the tools to overcome my depression and to lead a more fulfilling life, but they were contrary to the teachings of the church. He was suggesting that I stand up for myself in situations I felt bullied in. He told me to spend more time away from my kids and husband to find out what I enjoyed doing. He told me to take control of my life instead of blindly following whatever others told me. He told me to find something that fulfilled me outside of motherhood and being a wife. But these things were SUPPOSED to be what fulfilled me? I ignored his advice and took my meds which helped, but weren't helping with the core issues. Things eventually got worse. I decided to pick up a few papers at the local university and started working towards a degree. Some leaders of the church told me that I was being selfish and that my place was in the home. I ignored them and continued to study. I started to grow in confidence, I started to learn things about myself that I hadn't known before and began to feel happier. I met good people who were not Mormons. My 'us and them' mentality started to crumble. The thing that confused me the most, was I was starting to enjoy being a mother more and I became a better mom! But how could this be when I was not doing what a good Mormon girl should? I started to question the teachings of the church regarding the role of women. When I let myself question that, I started to question a little more.
I took an ethical philosophy paper. It blew my mind. I realized that ethics differ greatly between cultures and nations depending on the circumstances of the people. It made sense to me. How could one philosophy be imposed on everybody? The answer was, it couldn't, or rather shouldn't.
At university, I met some amazing gay and transsexual people. They were wonderful, friendly, good human beings. It broke my heart to think that my church believed that they should never experience love and companionship in the way that heterosexual people could.
I learned about evolution. It is true. There is no denying it.
Regardless of the enlightenment I received, I still carried on going to church, serving in callings and justifying the teachings of the prophets. I was so indoctrinated.
One night, I was lying awake in bed thinking about the church and the teachings of the prophets and realized that I was doing some crazy mental gymnastics to come to the conclusion that the church was true. By this time, I had completed 2 years of postgraduate research. Could the scientific method I used in my research be used to determine whether the church was true? Surely the same principles could be applied to my question?
First, I began to look at how other people determined the truthfulness of their unique scripture and teachings. I found that they used the same method that I was taught to use. Surely, truth is universal and if a teaching proved true for one person and something completely different for somebody else, then the 'pray for truth' method was flawed and had to be eliminated from my protocol. But, like every good TBM should, I counseled with my bishop before eliminating it completely.
"Bishop, how can it be that the spirit can testify to other people about the truthfulness of their unique scripture, just as the spirit testifies to us about the truthfulness of the BoM?"
"Apostate Angel, we do not have a monopoly on the spirit. The spirit can testify of the truthfulness of the good aspects contained in any religion and unique book of scripture."
This answer only led to more questions. What if the spirit was only telling me that some bits of scripture are good? If what my Bishop said was true, then that meant that the good feelings I got when I read the scriptures were not an indication of the truthfulness of the entire gospel as taught by the LDS church. And why would we not have a monopoly on the spirit? The church teaches:
“they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."
(JS History 1:19)
And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
(1 Nephi 14:10)
I decided that prayer and feelings were not a good determinant of truth.
I decided to apply other aspect of the Scientific Method. I needed to start with a hypothesis and a null hypothesis to avoid circular logic. I made myself aware of cognitive biases during every step of my study (confirmation bias, the backfire effect, anchoring, bandwagon bias, belief bias, the framing effect, to name a few). Despite my efforts to eliminate bias from my study, I still decided to only use church endorsed materials in my study (information bias).
In order to determine the truth about the church, I had to know exactly what the church was all about. I started some intense study. I started to read about the history of the church. I started to realize that the church had undergone a lot of changes since Joseph Smith had restored the gospel to its fullest. But it couldn't have been restored to it's fullest if things kept changing, could it? Isn't the Lord the same yesterday, today and forever?
Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
I learned about Joseph Smith's prophesies that didn't happen. I read the crazy things Brigham Young had said and proclaimed every word were scripture. I wondered how black people could be held accountable for the sin of Cain, and nobody is held accountable for Adam's transgression? That didn't make any sense to me. According to Brigham Young, the penalty for interracial marriage is death on the spot. Well, that is obviously not true. Again, I took my concern to my Bishop.
"Bishop, why did JS prophesies not come true? And why has the church changed so much over the past 200 years and what the heck is up with Brigham Young and Quakers on the moon?"
"Apostate Angel, prophets are men too, and sometimes only speak as men. They are as fallible as you and I."
"Bishop, how are we supposed to know if the prophets are speaking as prophets, or if they are speaking as men?"
"Apostate Angel, that is why we have the spirit. The spirit tells us if what the prophet is saying is true."
Again, this just lead to more questions. If we have to rely on the spirit, then why do we even have a prophet at all? How would the church leaders feel if I decided not to follow what the prophet said because the spirit had told me it wasn't true? I felt that the doctrine about the creation and homosexuality were wrong. If I told that to my Bishop in my next temple recommend interview, I would fail to get a recommend. That didn't make any sense to me. And what about 'when the prophet speaks, the debate is over'? Does that mean we follow and defend incorrect doctrine because the prophet says it is so until another prophet tells us otherwise? If that were the case, then that means that the church is not 100% true?
I continued to read and to learn. I learned about the early prophets of the church. They were not good men. Sure, nobody is perfect, but when members are held to a higher standard then the early presidents of the church, there is something amiss.
I learned about the Book of Abraham. I learned about the translation process of the book of Mormon. I learned about polygamy and polyandry, the blood atonement and the Adam-God theory.
Within a week of intense study and counseling with my Bishop, I could no longer in good conscience stay in the church. I resigned from my calling and told my husband everything I learned. I am fortunate that he was just as appalled as I was when he learned the truth.
Our family is now working through the difficulties associated with deconversion. We are in the early stages in the process and hope for better and brighter things to come. We ask ourselves every day, 'how could we have been so stupid?'