Hi, I'm Brandon
Father, physician, math nerd, music lover... I was a mormon.
Grew up in a small town in southern Utah with a big and wonderful mormon family. Roots go deep with all 32 of my great-great-greats as mormon pioneers. Ancestors include some of the first members of the church like John Young (Brigham's brother) and Newel Knight. I loved growing up mormon and the peace and surety that the gospel brought to my life was a comfortable foundation. I served a mission to Nebraska (Spanish speaking), served as an elders quorum president, married in the temple and had three kids before I finished medical school. All was right in the world and I was living the dream and I never encountered anything that would make me want to question my faith. That all changed when I had a close friend leave the church and I decided to learn more about my own faith to try to help answer his questions and resolve his doubts.
Why I left
As I began my own study of church history using uncorrelated but still faithful sources I was quickly surrounded by new things which troubled me. I found ways to make things work for years as I continued trying to learn all that I could about our history and probably would have made it work too but the biggest issue that I found was that when I tried to have conversations with members about the new things I had learned, they either didn't want to know (active information avoidance), didn't want to talk about it (were struggling to deal with the same issues) or worse, tried to engage and ended up passing on troubling responses which caused me to have bigger issues (e.g. "God has always given priesthood to men of specific heritage, like the tribe of Judah from the bible.") More than any specific issue it was the general response to questions and doubts that began to feel very cultish and half-examined. During that time I also began to explore spiritual traditions outside mormonism and began to be spiritually nourished from dozens of sources I would have never considered. The loss of certainty opened a whole new stage of curiosity and rediscovery of God and what it means to live a moral life. Eventually I left mormonism because I found something better.
Questions I've answered
What do you believe now?
Now I find inspired people are all around me and not just in an office building in Salt Lake City. I have begun to study philosophy and draw wisdom from a host of spiritual people from Richard Rohr to the Buddha. Podcasters from Krista Tippet to Science Mike. I am discovering a wealth of wisdom and spirituality which I never imagined possible. I try to develop a practice of "Effective Altruism" as I meet new communities of people working together to make the world a better place.
Are you still christian?
Yes, I love the power of the biblical metaphors and choose to have faith in things like grace and redeeming love but am learning to separate that from the centuries of colonizing empire that molded the christian story and culture. While I consider myself christian, I also draw strength from diverse traditions and world religions.
Could you give us a brief overview of Mormonism?
Mostly good people trying to hear the voice of the Lord and live good lives. Man-made, God-inspired...just like all of the other religions.
Does the church encourage leader worship?
No, but when you believe that certain men are the only ones privileged to receive revelation for all humans... you can see how it can happen.
Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators?
Not intentionally. They have some now famous screw ups and a system that is not designed to recognize and correct mistakes so those things get perpetuated. I hope it will figure things out though and improve in the future.
What do you believe is the origin of the Book of Mormon?
Aside from the parts copied from his version of the bible, the book was written by scribes as dictated by Joseph Smith. He was known as a particularly good orator and often gave sermons for hours without any prepared notes. He also practiced telling stories about native Americans as a teen based on legends of the mound-builders of Hebrew heritage which, per his mother, entertained his family for hours. He borrowed stories like Lehi's vision of the tree of life from his father's experience and contemporary religious themes (like baptism of infants) from local preaching. His deep immersion in a biblical/ magical christian community may have been a source for some hebraisms (such as names and chiasmus) as they continue to appear in subsequent revelations.
What does the church do with tithing?
No one really knows... and that is a problem. I still give a minimum of 10% of my income but choose charities which are effective and transparent. (see GiveWell.org if interested)