Patrick served faithfully and notes that his “faith defined every decision of [his] life.” He was successful at putting his issues on the shelf for decades until he wasn’t and it came time to understand and accept his own gay child in the context of the church. He found the church position lacking when studying church history and wondered what else it might be wrong about. Once he began to look, he realized that “under even minimal scrutiny, all of the church’s foundational truth claims crumble”. Though the transition was painful and at times dark, he’s now happier as an exmormon where he is able to learn and love in the LGBTQ+ community in ways that were simply not possible in the church.
I grew up in a devout LDS family, served a mission, and spent 45 years as a believing member of the church. My faith defined every decision of my life. I dutifully gave 1/10 of any money I ever earned to the church. I willingly made a promise to God that I would give all my time, effort, and anything God asked of me through his church leaders, to build up his kingdom on Earth. I did anything asked of me in the church. I had more than one ongoing responsibility in the church and devoted more than a dozen hours per week to church responsibilities. I was a Mormon.
I gladly sacrificed to live the teachings of the church because I had been taught all my life that Jesus Christ is alive and that he personally leads the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and no other church on Earth. I believed that Joseph Smith talked to God face to face, that he translated the Book of Mormon, and that he lived and died as God’s chosen servant incapable of leading anyone astray. I believed that current leaders of the church are similarly connected to God and incapable of leading anyone astray.
For decades I set aside all doubts, concerns, and questions that arose to challenge my faith, believing that leaders of the church knew better than I did what was right for me and my family. I believed, because I was told so, that the good feelings I felt when contemplating on the beautiful promises of the church were evidence from God that everything I was taught is true.
So what happened? I was trying to understand what I as the father of an LGBTQ child, should be teaching my family about what it means to be a gay child of God. The church teaches that gay people sin if they act on any desires that are not heterosexual. LGBTQ people who can not or will not conform to heterosexual norms are going against God’s plan for them. The only acceptable life for a gay person, according to the church, is lifelong and complete celibacy – they can not act on love, they can not be who they feel they are, they must always be on guard against intimacy in any meaningful relationship.
Despite my life long indoctrination, I knew this dogma was just wrong through and through. A historical analysis of the church’s position made it clear that they have been wrong for a long time on this and many other social issues. When I finally admitted that the church simply was wrong about many issues, a light started to shine through the cognitive dissonance and thought stopping walls I had built to protect my testimony of the church. I gave myself permission to study all sides and listen to all voices, for and against the church.
That is when I realized why the church vehemently warns members about searching for truth outside of church sources. Under even minimal scrutiny, all of the church’s foundational truth claims crumble. There is easily verifiable evidence that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient text, that Joseph Smith could not translate ancient texts like he claimed, that Joseph Smith led a life of secrecy and deception, that subsequent prophets do not talk with God, and that Jesus Christ is not leading this church. How many of the church’s truth claims need to be disproven to show that the Church is not what it claims to be?
The fact is, the church withholds the whole truth in most if not all corners of its history. It promotes half-truths that serve its agenda, and it uses a mix of beautiful promises, deception, and fear to keep people indoctrinated. Since the beginning of the church, the church’s doctrines have done incalculable harm to the most vulnerable members of society.
When my search for truth caused a faith crisis, my conscience demanded that I leave the church. Leaving the church was incredibly hard and scary. At times I found myself wishing I were dead, yet I had a new horror of death. I temporarily lost all hope and meaning in my life. I grieved the loss of everything I thought was constant and eternal. I felt angry. I felt stupid. I felt duped. I wondered how much of my life had been a waste of time. I wondered what harm I had done to others on my mission, in my family, among my acquaintances. Though the process was difficult and painful, I have found peace and fullfillment as an ex-mormon that I never had while in the church.
With time, introspection, and with the love and advice of wonderful people in my life, my life has taken on beautiful new meaning and urgency. My commitment to being a good person and helping make the world a better place, a commitment that so many members of the church share, has blossomed outside of the stultified confines of the church. It turns out there is a whole beautiful world outside of the church and I am grateful to be finding it. I don’t think I would be where I am now without the beautiful things I have learned from the LGBTQ+ community and for that I will be forever grateful!Patrick
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