Hi, I'm Aaron.
I am an avid reader, I study cryptography and mathematics for fun, I love solving puzzles. I was a Mormon.
I was born and raised into the LDS faith. My dad joined the church, so he could marry my mom, who was Mormon. I was a lifelong devout, active, fully committed member. I went to 4 years of seminary in high school. I attended institute of religion classes in college. I served a full 2-year mission in Toronto, Canada, where I met my wife, whom I later married in the Salt Lake Temple. I paid a full tithing on my gross, not my surplus, I volunteered in every way, shape, and form. I served as Elder's Quorum Counselor as well as President. I taught primary and Sunday School classes, both alone, and with my wife. In fact, I even taught Relief Society once. I play the piano and organ, and have been called many times as a priesthood pianist, choir accompanist, and Ward Organist. I was even asked if I could be an Ogden Temple organist, but I had to turn it down due to my busy schedule. At home, I actively prayed, read the scriptures, watched and attended General Conference, held Family Home Evenings with my family, and did everything else a good Mormon should do.
Why I left
I left after having a discussion about Joseph Smith's polygamy with a friend. When the LDS church published a series of 13 Gospel Topics Essays on their website, he pointed out to me that the church finally admitted that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. I fought back, because I was raised and taught that he was monogamous, and even went so far as to tell my friend he must be mistaken, or the church had it wrong. However, I admitted that I didn't know a lot about the issue, and promised him I would look into it. As an avid reader, and an amateur researcher, I held to my promise. But the deeper I dug into Joseph Smith's history, the deeper I went down the rabbit hole of LDS church history. I was soon learning not only about Joseph Smith's polygamy, but also his folk magic, and the problems with the Book of Abraham, and the Kinderhook Plates, and so much more, to the point that it became very clear to me that the narrative I was learning was not matching the dominant narrative I learned growing up, nor the dominant narrative that is currently being taught. I tried hard to give space for the historicity of the church claims, but every essay, paper, blog post, podcast episode, and so much more, was lined with mountains and mountains of references and citations, all of which could be verified. The "antimormon" literature I was reading was really the true church history, and it rocked my world. From April 2015 to January 2016, I was deeply consumed with everything I could get my hands on to try so hard to prove that these "antimormon lies" were just that- lies. But it the exact opposite. After 9 months of intense and exhausting research, I realized that the evidence for the truth claims lied overwhelmingly with the critics of Mormonism, and not the apologetics. For months, I dealt with anger and depression, as I tried to wrestle with 40 years of my life essentially being a lie. But, the storm settled, the relationship with my wife grew stronger, and now I have honest conversations with my wife and daughter about real issues, doctrine and policy, that shape our lives and the lives around us. These discussions are healthy, they provide deep reflection and introspection into difficult topics, and we have a space where we are happy, vibrant, and authentic.
Questions I've answered
Not in the same way you would think. I'm willing to give space that Jesus of Nazareth may have physically lived on the Earth, even though the evidence shows otherwise. But I can't seem to make the leap that he is divine. But if he did exist, I can see to some extent the value of his parables and doctrines, and I can see the value in emulating his life. However, I find myself more secular than religious now. I've really embraced a secular form of Buddhism, and have found meditation and mindful living more valuable than worrying about sin or judgement.
The initial struggle with nine months, from April 2015 to the end of December 2015. But even now, I struggle with many aspects of Mormonism, these years later. I still stay abreast of the current policies and teachings, I'm following many post Mormonism podcasts, I am active in a number of different exmormon groups and forums, and I am in a mixed-faith marriage. So the struggle really isn't over, as much as it has just subsided.
There were three big shelf breakers. The first was the story behind and the translation of the Book of Abraham. When I was studying this, I mentioned to my wife many times that I wished the church would just come clean about it, rather than try so hard to find various apologetics theories to rationalize a truth claim. The Kinderhook Plates was another brief, but catastrophic shelf breaker for me. But the shelf came crashing down when I learned about Chris and Duane Johnson's big data research into the Book of Mormon. After that, it was clear to me that Joseph Smith did not have the gift of translation, everything was a lie, and the whole church is a fraud. This is when I entered my angry phase.
As with probably most families, their reactions were as unique as the family members themselves. One family member was very angry, and I had a 2-3 hour long heated argument with them about my denouncing the faith. Another family member actively encouraged their spouse to not discuss my faith transition with them. A different family member now avoids discussion religion while I'm around, and yet a different family member loves bringing it up at every turn, as if in an effort to reconvert me. A couple others have been indifferent about the whole situation, and another will make snide comments and remarks about my current life choices at any opportunity they get. One family member is a closeted nonbeliever, and shares links with me, asks questions about my transition, and so forth. So, it varies. For the most part though, family gatherings are just fine. It's not uncomfortable to hang out with my family, and after three years, everyone moves on like normal.
I loved my mission! Even though I have since become disaffected with the church, I still have a lot of fond memories from my mission, and I have kept all my journals, photos, and some memorabilia. It was on my mission where I met my wife. We were both missionaries, where I was her district leader. Even though we didn't have feelings for each other on the mission, her mom invited me to her homecoming, and we started dating, and the rest is history. But I wouldn't trade my mission experience for anything. I served a lot of people, did a lot of great work, and overall just had a very rewarding and fun time in Toronto, Canada.
My wife and I celebrate different cultures for our wedding anniversaries, and this year is our 20th wedding anniversary, and our 20th cultural celebration. As a result, we have had an opportunity to learn about so many different cultures, traditions, and religions. Further, I have actively participated in the rituals of some religions. I fasted for the entire month of Ramadan, and have read the Quran three times. I attended a Jewish synagogue and participated in the service. I have attended many different Christian faiths, participated in the services, and volunteered at their service projects. I currently volunteer as a coffee team member at an evangelical Christian church. I attended a Hindu temple, stood at the base of a human pyramid, and have attended their services. All of this to say that my beliefs now are very fluid. For the most part, as mentioned in a previous question, I primarily follow a secular form of Buddhism, and make meditation and mindfulness part of my daily practice. But I find that no single religion claims ownership of spirituality, and my beliefs very much reflect that. They are far more encompassing than exclusionary.