Disaffiliation Redux

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:

Hi [EQP],

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.

Candids

I want to be taking more pictures, so I got the camera out so that it's accessible instead of staying packed inside the travel case in my closet.  I spent some time taking snapshots of Heather and Corinne today; mostly Corinne, Heather wasn't interested.

Nothing special, but it's a slice of life around here.  And Corinne needed some more pictures anyway.  So we can pretend these are her 10-months-old pictures (just a few days late).

Disaffiliation

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. --Matthew 19:13-14

 

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, ...
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. -- Matthew 18:2,5-6

 

A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.

A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows: ....

The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.  -- LDS Handbook 1 16:13

The above quote was the leaked secret policy of the LDS Church as implemented Nov 3, 2015.  Last week, on Jan 10, 2016, Elder Nelson doubled-down on the policy by informing the world that the new policy was given to the Church as divine revelation.  The message given is clear that God does not want these children in his Church.

I cannot support such a policy.

In my mind this policy is irreconcilable with Christ's teachings in the New Testament.

My conscience will not allow me to condone this policy.

But I thought I'd at least give the Church's own teachings a final fair shake.  I prayed about whether the policy truly was God's will.  And I received nothing in response.  So I prayed as to whether I should continue participating in the Church.  And I received nothing in response.  So with the last fragments of whatever faith I may have held I prayed that if God exists he really needed to give me something.  I've participated in this church for 30 years and if that was going to continue I needed something--anything--to justify it.  And I received nothing in response.

Which is the exact response I've received every time I've ever prayed: Nothing.  So I'm forced to face two possibilities:  1. God doesn't exist. or 2. God exists but sees fit to deny acknowledging his presence to me.

Either way makes it clear that I can no longer continue my participation in the Church and stay true to my own conscience.  I cannot continue to participate in the Church and not feel like a hypocrite every night when I try to fall asleep.

I went against my own conscience when the First Presidency asked Church members to write letters to their government representatives opposing the legalization of gay marriage.  I felt it was wrong to deny the legal status granted to other people, but I was a BYU student and trying to be a good Church member.  So I wrote my letter and I mailed it.  And I have regretted it ever since.  It was wrong.  And I knew that I needed to be true to myself in the future.

Therefore I'm no longer participating in the Church.

Jess is continuing her participation in the Church, which is her right, of course.  She listened to me and heard my concerns and didn't try to tell me I was wrong.  I intend to give her that same respect.