Hi, my name is Brendan.
I am an Educator, Author, and a Life-Long Learner. I love to travel, read classic novels, and connect with people from all walks of life. I was a mormon.
I come from a long line of mormon pioneer ancestry. I was born and raised in a small Southern Utah town, and grew up with the Church as a major part of my upbringing. Served a mission in the Pacific Northwest from 2012-2014 and was married to my spouse of 6 years in the Provo City Center Temple in 2016. I completed a Bachelor's degree in History at Utah Valley University. As part of my undergraduate training, I did an internship in the LDS Church History Department, which served as a catalyst to my faith crisis. Afterwards, I completed two graduate programs at the University of Mississippi in History and Higher Education. I now live in northern Utah with my spouse and two children. My spouse and I are happily navigating a mixed-faith marriage.
On my shelf
On the Mormon Spectrum
The claim that we were the "only true church on earth" never set well with me growing up. As a young kid, my family used to take road trips across the country, stopping at national parks and historical landmarks along the way. One year, I remember stopping at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee and experiencing a major moment of cognitive dissonance--on one hand, I abhorred racism and systems that excluded others based on their differences, and yet I realized that my own Church had deeply rooted exclusionary beliefs (i.e. "we're the one and only", etc).
This cognitive dissonance would stick with me all the way into my mission, when I was tasked with convincing others that their religious or cultural beliefs were not "true". This never set right with me either, and I probably wasn't the best missionary because of it. I met so many good people from different walks of life and quickly realized, again, how harmful exclusionary beliefs can be.
Upon returning home from my mission in 2014, the Church came out with its infamous November policy targeting LGBTQ+ families. They announced children could not be baptized in these households unless they disavowed the same-sex marriage of their parents. This was soul crushing to me--I had a deep level of empathy for these families, and was once again confronted with the exclusionary policies and beliefs of my own Church. I put this on the shelf, as I had done before, and continued to grapple with my changing perspective.
About a year later in 2015, I had a close family member leave the Church due to historical concerns. History has always been something that I gravitated towards, and Church history was one of the only spaces I believed, at the time, I could truly feel the spirit. I was puzzled and confused why this family member would leave the Church over something I found so inspiring. It also troubled me to see how they were treated by those around me--again, because of exclusionary beliefs.
About three years into my undergraduate studies in college, I decided to take an internship in the Church History Department with the Gospel Topics Essays to confront some of these historical issues head on. I thought (naively) that if I could understand where this family member was coming from, maybe I could bring bring them back into activity. However, it was during this internship that I learned the full, unfiltered history of the Church for the first time. I thought I had known Church History, I studied it extensively in college and throughout my life. I had used Church approved sources and stayed away from "anti-Mormon material". But I began to realize there were certain areas of history that had been withheld from me--critical areas. The full extent of Joseph Smith's polygamy and polyandry rocked my testimony, the full context surrounding the Church's black priesthood ban was tough to swallow, and the more unfiltered history I researched in this position, the more I came to realize how "man-made" (not "God-made") the Church really was. The non-whitewashed version of Church history that I learned as an intern revealed a historical record of LDS leaders creating and sustaining systems of oppression, followed by a concerted effort to distort or shelter this information from its membership. It was at this point I realized I could not continue to support a machine that had harmed so many people in the past, and continued to harm others today. I could not continue to hold up a man-made organization with deep flaws as God's "One True Church." My shelf broke.
I was fortunate to have the sympathetic ear of my spouse, who chose to love me for me, and not merely for my Church membership. We had the opportunity to leave Utah for graduate school, which was enormously helpful for my deconstruction. As part of my Master's Degree in History, I studied the early civil rights movement and the history of the Church without limitations, and wrestled with my ever-evolving new beliefs away from family and the Mormon bubble.
Now I'm coming back to Utah a completely new person. My spouse remains a member and is going on her own unique journey in life, which I find beautiful. While I have not taken my records out of the Church, I have chosen to no longer consider myself a member. My wife and I have enjoyed exploring the world of mixed-faith marriage. It hasn't been easy, but we hope sharing multiple viewpoints with our children will open their minds and give them permission to seek their own meaning in life. There's still a long road to go, and I'm sure it'll get bumpy along the way, but I'm forever grateful for my faith journey--even though it was earth shattering in the beginning, it turned into a beautiful exploration of my self and my new beliefs. I'm now an Educator at a public university, I no longer have limits on who I love or what I am able to learn, and I'm able to create my own meaning and understanding of life--and live it to the fullest.
I would never trade my faith journey for anything--it has truly been a gift.
Questions I've answered
What do you believe now? More was mormon answers about 'What do you believe now?'
Coming from a space where I once felt I had all of the answers, it was difficult for me at first to get comfortable saying "I dont know." However, I began to realize that no one has the answers and the most important thing I can do is focus on living in the here and now. Little by little, I began creating my own meaning in this life.
While I currently consider myself agnostic, I am open to the belief in a god--though I no longer profess to know what that god looks like or where he/she/it comes from. I still believe life has a purpose. That we are to learn how to love one another despite our various differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Valuing diversity and learning to love everyone is the ultimate goal I strive for in life.
To achieve this understanding, I no longer put limits on my learning. I draw meaning from Buddhism, Stoicism, Philosophy, History, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and many other belief systems.
I understand that life is a journey and that things can change. I no longer hold black and white beliefs. Instead, I have learned to think like a scientist--assessing what I can learn from facts and understanding that new evidence could easily change my beliefs in the future. I no longer claim to have all of the answers, and that is liberating.
Are you lazy? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Are you lazy? Is that why you left?'
This couldn't be further from the truth. It makes me sad when members of high demand religions result to this kind of black and white thinking.
In fact, it was the opposite in my case--I studied extensively the history of my Church and grappled for years with cognitive dissonance. I worked hard to maintain my belief system through reading the scriptures, praying, and giving of myself in Church callings and community service.
What made me leave was realizing that I was working hard to maintain a belief system that wasn't right for me, and went against the values I had developed in my short lifetime. I could no longer remain in a system that excluded or harmed others, and it was extremely difficult to make the decision to leave knowing that it would have major effects on my family and friendly relationships.
In my view, laziness would have been refusing to be open minded, to remain in dogmatic beliefs and excuse them on a frequent basis knowing in my heart that I couldn't justify them for myself. I chose to avoid that road at all costs because I believed it was the right thing to do.
What did the Mormon religion bring to your life? More was mormon answers about 'What did the Mormon religion bring to your life?'
In spite of my decision to leave Mormonism, I am still able to acknowledge and appreciate the beautiful things it brought into my life. There are many aspects of Mormonism that I continue to hold on to, and find commendable in my friends and family. For example, the selfless culture of service is something I feel strengthened me growing up, and I find it incredibly beautiful to this day. I also admire the growing emphasis on family roots and genealogy--I feel that it was largely due to this emphasis that I chose to embark on my career journey to be a historian and educator. Another beautiful aspect I feel Mormonism brought to my life is the emphasis on family. Though I no longer place boundaries on what a family should look like, I still find that emphasis beautiful and valuable. We continue to hold on to this emphasis, though now more inclusive and open.
Though I no longer hold to the Mormon belief system, I still consider the Mormon people as family and continue to love and respect them as individuals.
Why are you sharing your story? More was mormon answers about 'Why are you sharing your story?'
I'm sharing my story not because I'm still angry at the Church or because I want to tear people down. I'm sharing my story because I know there are thousands of people in my situation. People who feel hurt, unheard, or broken. I hope my story will be a small step in helping people gather up their broken pieces. I know that's what other people did for me when my shelf broke--I hope I can be there in a similar way for others.