Garrett stumbled into the rabbit hole of doctrine inconsistencies while doing his best to teach the youth of the church. He studied deeply and what he was finding troubled him enough to stop. He felt the prompting to continue to “seek truth. [He] felt assured that if the church was true, if the restoration was real, [he] would find the answers and rebuild [his] all-in faith.” What he found were simply more questions and issues to put on his shelf until it became so overloaded that it broke, leaving him feeling alone and marginalized by the community to which he’d given his life.
I’m a family man, an outdoorsman, and a scientist. I was a mormon.
I vividly remember praying as a 16-year-old about the Book of Mormon and I had a powerful spiritual experience. As we are taught, I felt that experience was the Holy Ghost revealing to me that the Book of Mormon was true. That experience changed my life. Everything became about the gospel, the church, and most importantly, my personal relationship with God. I frequently felt led by God in my life as I experienced strong impressions of personal revelation.
I began a deeper study of Joseph Smith’s revelations. I was Young Men’s President at the time and our quorum had some discussion about the Word of Wisdom. I noticed a reference to “barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks” which I had never noticed. I was curious about what a “mild drink” containing barley was and started to study the historical context surrounding this revelation, how it was interpreted and implemented early on, and how it has since evolved into a distinguishing doctrine of our faith.
This process brought several questions about how the doctrines of the church can evolve and how the personal preferences of church leaders can shape our understanding of right vs. wrong. I was introduced to Dialogue and Sunstone and inadvertently was exposed to the story of Fanny Alger.
As more questions came up, I felt I had to drill down into church history to save my faith from crumbling. I was hesitant but made it a matter of serious prayer for weeks. It was all I could think about, until I had a spiritual experience. I felt God prompting me, just like I had countless times before, to seek truth. I felt assured that if the church was true, if the restoration was real, I would find the answers and rebuild my “all-in” faith.
That’s when it all began to come unglued. The issues seemed never-ending. I am not sure what the final straw was that broke my shelf. I’ve always thought it was more the sheer magnitude of sound evidence that invalidated the whole story. There were some minor concerns before my shelf started getting heavy, but they could always be explained, rationalized, or disregarded as anti-mormon. After some serious study, the concerns became insurmountable and it became clear that my family and I would have a hard time participating in the church we love as non-traditional/unorthodox believers. The cons of church activity in that state of turmoil began to outweigh the pros.
Significant shelf items for me were: Book of Abraham, fraud in Mormon history, treasure digging and folk-magic, Book of Mormon translation mechanics, anachronisms, 19th century sources and influence, DNA evidence, credibility of the witnesses, Kinderhook plates, Zelph, polyandry and polygamy, evolution of church doctrine vs. culture, including race and the priesthood, Adam-God and blood atonement doctrines, the word of wisdom, how the church has adamantly controlled/denied the information until forced into transparency, the church’s marginalization of those willing to talk about the history, the conditional love paradigm, fear indoctrination, patriarchy, LGBTQ issues, correlated curriculum, tribal shaming, all-or-none ideology, etc. Once you get into the material it seems like there is no end.
The shelf breaking is a demoralizing, crushing experience. What hurt the most was the feeling that I had nowhere to turn. Looking back I see the extreme cultural pressure on people to stay active, to “stay in the boat“, to stay away from “anti-mormon” influences. This builds an unhealthy community of fear, judgement, and shame for anyone who feels on the fringes. What’s worse is this is the community that I had given everything to. Feeling betrayed about the control of information was hard, but feeling like the community I gave my life to had no place for me was even worse.Garrett
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