I was raised in a very lov­ing fam­i­ly in Ari­zona. My par­ents were both raised as mem­bers of the LDS Church, and they decid­ed to raise us, their kids, as Lat­ter Day Saints as well. I was gen­er­al­ly a good kid who tried to do what was right. I fol­lowed the faith­ful path out­lined for every young man: bap­tism, priest­hood, Eagle Scout, mis­sion­ary, BYU grad­u­ate, and eter­nal hus­band, sealed in the Salt Lake Tem­ple. I was on my way to endur­ing to the end, faith­ful­ly prac­tic­ing Lat­ter Day Sain­tism for the rest of my life.

In Ear­ly 2012, I was in the Elders quo­rum pres­i­den­cy and my wife was serv­ing in Young Women in a won­der­ful ward. We felt very wel­come and appre­ci­at­ed. We were try­ing to do all the right things, as best as we could man­age. On an oth­er­wise typ­i­cal day, an old friend of mine announced on Face­book that he no longer believed in the Mor­mon church. He put togeth­er a word doc­u­ment that out­lined many of the issues that led to him los­ing his faith.

What ini­tial­ly both­ered me was not the issues he men­tioned, but that my friend had lost his faith based on these issues. I read through his doc­u­ment but did not con­clude the same as he had. I had been exposed to most of the issues at var­i­ous times grow­ing up or on my mis­sion. I was able to rely on the rest of my tes­ti­mo­ny, expe­ri­ences, and under­stand­ing to rea­son that either the sources behind any issue was not reli­able or the issue itself was not sig­nif­i­cant, and there­fore I was unmoved read­ing through the issues again.

I was, how­ev­er, moved to want to help my friend return to the light and good­ness of the true gospel, and I was going to try to con­vince him that his issues were not as crit­i­cal as he believed. I want­ed to help him see that there is so much good and right that coun­ter­bal­ances the weak­ness­es that were both­er­ing him.

So I began inter­act­ing at times with my old friend through Face­book, com­ment­ing on some of his (what seemed at the time to be) “anti-Mor­mon” and “anti-reli­gion” posts, all while read­ing Fair­Mor­mon and oth­er sites, try­ing to devel­op my defense. I recalled that I had a book on Joseph Smith on my shelf that I hadn’t read, called Rough Stone Rolling. I was also rec­om­mend­ed a pod­cast by a friend called Mor­mon Sto­ries, specif­i­cal­ly episodes 289–293 with Ter­ryl Givens. While dig­ging into these sources, I con­tin­ued read­ing scrip­tures and pray­ing, ask­ing for help and guid­ance.

The respons­es to my friend’s issues on Fair­Mor­mon and oth­er apolo­getic sources were not help­ing. While their respons­es seemed to pro­vide a way to make peace with each issue indi­vid­u­al­ly, Fair was at the same time con­ced­ing in their respons­es that most of the issues my friend had were legit­i­mate and didn’t have sim­ple answers. Also trou­bling was that many of the the apolo­getic answers were con­tra­dic­to­ry with each oth­er when looked at as a whole. Lis­ten­ing to Ter­ryl Givens’s approach pro­vid­ed me anoth­er expla­na­tion, that the evi­dence for and against the church’s truth claims was, by God’s design, equal and incon­clu­sive. This approach rein­vig­o­rat­ed my hope and effort, but ulti­mate­ly that was not a sus­tain­able posi­tion for me either.

Over the next few months, I con­sumed hun­dreds of hours of Mor­mon Sto­ries, as well as oth­er sources such Mor­mon­Think, as I became con­vinced that most of what had always seemed as anti-Mor­mon lies were much clos­er to the actu­al his­to­ry than the “offi­cial” church sto­ries. Fair­Mor­mon, Rough Stone Rolling, and Ter­ryl Givens had all con­firmed as much. My prayers were not pro­vid­ing me any clar­i­ty — the heav­ens were silent, and instead of hav­ing a defense with which to approach and help “save” my friend, I was strong­ly doubt­ing my own faith.

I felt the need to out­line the most impor­tant infor­ma­tion impact­ing my faith to make sense of it all, with the infor­ma­tion sup­port­ing and oppos­ing the key truth claims which were the basis of my tes­ti­mo­ny. As I put my thoughts and research into writ­ing, I was able to more clear­ly sort through the chaos. That out­line was fur­ther devel­oped in late 2012 into the essay which is avail­able here. Its intent trans­formed over the months into pro­vid­ing an expla­na­tion of why my per­spec­tive changed regard­ing spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences in addi­tion to describ­ing my great­est issues with the Mor­mon church’s claims to unique truth. In writ­ing the essay, I attempt­ed to ref­er­ence non-biased infor­ma­tion when pos­si­ble, based on my eval­u­a­tion at the time, the sum­mer of 2012. The essay has lim­it­ed revi­sions since that point, in order to pre­serve the raw­ness and inten­si­ty of my mind­set dur­ing that crit­i­cal peri­od of study. Any and all feed­back is wel­come.

Dur­ing this process, my wife had noticed a dis­tance devel­op­ing between us. She con­front­ed me about it, and I cau­tious­ly explained why. Instead of the worst-case sce­nar­ios I had imag­ined, she was very under­stand­ing, and she was inter­est­ed in learn­ing about my con­cerns. The fear that my doubt would sep­a­rate us was mis­placed. Instead, we grew much clos­er as we dis­cussed our doubts and dis­cov­er­ies. With­in the next few months, we asked to be released from our ward call­ings, and we dis­cussed some of the con­cerns with our bish­op. He didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly try to con­vince us of our errors or sins, but instead showed love and con­fi­dence that we were being sin­cere in my desire to find truth.

Nei­ther of us were able to receive heav­en­ly guid­ance or reas­sur­ance, even though we were hon­est­ly request­ing help and clar­i­ty from above. As our per­spec­tives changed to not believ­ing the truth claims of the church, we no longer felt that church was a wel­com­ing or uplift­ing place to spend our Sun­days. We stopped attend­ing at the end of 2012.

We con­tin­ue to wel­come ward mem­bers to our home, attend social church events, and try to main­tain sev­er­al of the friend­ships, but the dis­tance due to lack of week­ly church atten­dance is evi­dent and dif­fi­cult to over­come. We have instead devel­oped mean­ing­ful friend­ships with oth­ers who have “lost the faith.”

Decid­ing to leave the church was one of the most dif­fi­cult deci­sions of my life, but I am now con­fi­dent it was the right one for us. This change is per­spec­tive has opened our minds to pos­si­bil­i­ties beyond the cook­ie-cut­ter life set out for us, and it has made every day much more pre­cious. We feel much more con­nect­ed to our neigh­bors and com­mu­ni­ty, and we real­ize just how sim­i­lar we all are — we are all just try­ing our best to make sense and best use of this time we have.

I hope hear­ing my sto­ry has been help­ful in some way. Please let me know your thoughts, and please share your own sto­ry or mus­ings on relat­ed top­ics in a post of your own.

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