I've been fielding some inquiries about my decision and I felt I should post here an email I wrote to the Elder's Quorum President to help clarify my position. In my earlier post I wrote only about the recent policy change because I wanted to avoid a rambling rant and I wanted to be explicitly clear that I disagreed with that policy. However, my reasons for leaving the LDS Church are more fundamental than a single policy.
Below is the email I sent. It has been slightly modified from its original form for clarity in this format to a general audience:
I want to start by saying I appreciate you giving me some space over the last few weeks. I recognize that you may feel that you somehow failed in your calling over my decision to stop participating in the church, but that would be unfair to yourself.
I also realize that [the Bishop] feels that people leaving the Church is a private matter and probably hasn't discussed, with you, the conversation I had with him. That leaves you in the dark and wondering where I stand. I know that that is probably frustrating.
I want to start by telling you that I have no ill will towards you or the other members of the ward.
And I want to set a clear record about my decision.
I was born and raised in the Church and was a practicing member for all 30 years of my life. I know that oftentimes some rather dismissive reasons are given to explain why someone leaves the Church. The 5 most common being along the lines of: "They were just offended about something," "They didn't really understand the doctrine," "They felt being part of the Church was too hard," "They've been reading anti-Mormon literature," "They just wanted to justify their desire to sin."
Unfortunately, the continued propagation of these supposed reasons does members a disservice because they're rarely true and are often used to dismiss real concerns as the personal failings of individuals.
I was not offended by something anyone said in particular. I did 4 years of early-morning seminary and took all of the required religion courses at BYU as well as having attended services weekly for over 30 years--I understand what the current doctrine of the Church is. Having been raised in the Church the "hard things" are just normal to me. Unless the essays published under the direction of the First Presidency on LDS.org are considered "anti-Mormon" then, no, it wasn't because of that either. And finally, if I still believed in the Church I would have no trouble honestly obtaining a temple recommend--I don't have secret sins that I want to justify by leaving the Church.
So why did I decide to leave?
I consider myself to have high standards but I also recognize that people are imperfect. I'm willing to overlook a lot of faults, but I do place a very high value on truth, honesty, and transparency.
I believe that an organization that claims to have the only communication channel to God should be held to the highest standard of behavior. Sadly, my research into the Church as an organization--its practices, teachings, doctrines, and history reveals that the Church does not meet my standard of truth, honesty, and transparency.
But even this could be grappled with if the promise of receiving spiritual confirmation about its teachings were fulfilled. I have followed the guidance of Church teachings. I have prayed with earnest desire for truth many times throughout my life. I have never experienced anything that I could interpret as a response (for or against).
The only conclusion I can draw from my personal reflection and experiences is that if God exists He wants me to use the gifts of agency, logic, moral reasoning, and my conscience to come to my own decisions about how to live my life and not to simply put my trust in men claiming to have His gospel.
I believe I have given the Church a fair chance. And the closest emotion I can name for my feelings upon doing my own research is betrayal. The narrative taught in the lesson manuals is not what the Church admits is true about its history. Demonstrably false statements continue to be preached and taught as truth.
The misunderstanding of individuals is one thing and could be excused. But the Church puts a lot of effort into its published materials and they continue to be published with false and misleading statements long after the errors have been made clear and acknowledged. This intentional deception is unacceptable in an organization claiming to have not only some truth, but to be the only organization with the whole truth and a direct connection to God for further direction to keep us on the right path. Truth shouldn't need to be hidden. Truth shouldn't be feared.
I don't see myself as an enemy of the Church or its members. I do see myself as an advocate for truth, honesty, and transparency. Since the Church has a long history of organizationally fighting those principles it might make me appear to be an enemy to some, but that's not my view.