Hi, I’m David.
I was a Mormon. I enjoy meditation, travel, and playing music. I’m married, a published poet, and a multi-instrumental musician. I’m working on a graduate degree in music in the UK. I’ve won two Emmy Awards since leaving Mormonism. I speak English, French, and Greek. I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian living Life 2.0. And if you understand my moniker on this website as an obscure Monty Python reference, kudos to you.
Nominal Protestant birth family, ex-Catholic father. Joined Mormonism at 25, left at 52. All the wrong reasons for joining, all the right ones for leaving.
On my shelf
It’s nearly impossible to completely tell about my pre-Mormon, Mormon, and post-Mormon experience in such a short space. I’ll summarize here, but I’m writing a memoir, which will have the entire story. The very short version is that I joined the Mormon religion at 25, never having dealt with early, sustained abuse and generational dysfunction and addiction. It took me years of being out of Mormonism to realize that I was looking for a perfect family. It was 1987 when I joined. I went through the Temple in 1988 and did pre-1990 ritual, which included mimicking slitting my throat, cutting open my chest, and disemboweling myself. Something died inside me after that. I suppressed any doubts I had for years. When the Internet happened and became mainstream in the mid-late 1990’s, I began searching for more objective information about Mormonism and its origin stories and proof (or lack thereof) that it was true. I found the website of a Mormon fundamentalist group - the TLC Manti group (mostly now disbanded) - and had my first exposure to the suppression of early beliefs and how they’ve changed over the years. I wrote to one of the leaders (who has since left) and we corresponded for a few weeks, and I dropped it. A month or so later, my stake president’s secretary called me and told me the SP wanted to see me. I went to the appointment and there was a printout of my private email with the TLC leader on his desk and a letter from the Strengthening Church Members Committee. They had wiretapped the email server (whether directly or indirectly I never found out) of the TLC group and found my email address and cross-referenced my name to local membership records and asked I be investigated on charges of apostasy and sympathy to an apostate group. I went home and told my future ex-wife about it and she sided with the Mormon leaders against me and swore me to secrecy. My world collapsed and I sunk into a deep depression. Anti-depressants didn’t work, and an incompetent doctor misdiagnosed me as bipolar. I took a host of psychiatric drugs to suppress any feelings for 17 years. Eventually, the drugs caused Parkinsonism, which at the time was diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. The marriage imploded over time, and I filed for divorce in late 2014. I moved to Houston to re-connect with my college girlfriend, whose work in medicine gave me access to leading specialists, including a psychiatrist with a national reputation, and one of the world’s leading neurologists. We married. I finally resigned membership in the Mormon church I nearly 2015. The neurologist who agreed to see me did a brain scan and told me the probable cause of the Parkinson’s was one of the 17 drugs I was on. He wanted to titrate me off everything, and referred me to a nationally-known psychiatrist to develop a titration schedule. When the psychiatrist heard my entire story he told me I almost certainly wasn’t bipolar, just misdiagnosed - trauma misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder. I titrated off the drugs over six months, and became asymptomatic. Life took a turn for the better - much better. I was happily married, drug-free, and fully recovered. I finally began seeing a trauma therapist who correctly diagnosed me with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and who helped me work through the it - flashbacks of the gruesome temple ceremonies, nightmares from which I awoke screaming or sobbing, and more. Mormonism was a bandaid - and a terrible one at that - over a gaping wound of early family dysfunction and abuse. It did nothing to address issues that I buried for years, and added layers of additional trauma onto my life. Leaving Mormonism was the key to finally dealing with the storm of abuse and the wreckage that abuse left in its wake.
Questions I've answered
Are you still christian? More was mormon answers about 'Are you still christian?'
Unequivocally yes. I was a Christian before I got involved in Mormonism. After leaving, I did a serious reexamination of everything I had believed before Mormonism. I did a critical analysis of the Bible and Christian history. I struggled to find meaning and purpose for a long time, at least it seemed so to me. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ again was a process, and didn’t happen overnight. The most important thing I learned in that process was that Mormons have faith in the person of Joseph Smith, and follow that up with a seriously warped understanding of Christ, and a whole host of works and rituals to make themselves worthy of God’s love. Christians, on the other hand, have faith in Jesus Christ first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. When faith in Christ is first you don’t have follow that with works, to somehow make yourself worthy of the unconditional love of God. Works follow a life of faith in Christ. I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian because I believe the Eastern Orthodoxy best represents a living, unbroken connection with the early Church. But saying that, I also find joy and fellowship with Christians of other persuasions. In fact, I work as the Communications Coordinator for an Episcopal church. Christians all have one thing in common - belief in Jesus Christ as God’s message of unconditional love to a broken and hurting world. How they express that in worship and discipleship is more a function of individual discernment, culture, and preference than anything else.
Are Mormons Christian? More was mormon answers about 'Are Mormons Christian?'
Not in any conventional sense of the word, no. They use Christian terminology, but the words have completely different meaning than what Christians mean, so as to render the terms they use meaningless. Mormonism is a hodgepodge of heretical ideas universally condemned by historical, orthodox Christianity. Just because you use the word “Christian” doesn’t mean that you believe in Christian doctrines. It’s a word that has no meaning when Mormons apply it to themselves.
Does the church encourage leader worship? More was mormon answers about 'Does the church encourage leader worship?'
Worship? That might be inaccurate. I’d describe it more as veneration that borders on idolatry, particularly when applied to Joseph Smith. I’d say Mormonism is not about leader worship, per se, but it IS about one thing only - unconditional obedience to the leaders. Once you understand that, you’ll understand Mormonism.
Are you happy? More was mormon answers about 'Are you happy?'
Yes. Absolutely yes. All the time? No, of course not. Expecting happiness all the time isn’t realistic. I deal with the same struggles and issues every person deals with. Any person who tells you they’re happy all the time is selling you something. Life is ups and downs - and all emotions are temporary. I learned that in therapy. I read The Happiness Trap, and it helped me find perspective on accepting all the ups and downs - all the joys and sorrows - of the human experience. It’s not happiness that makes us human, it’s experiencing the full range of emotions. Mormonism numbs emotions and encourages its believers to live a life that’s fake - take a look at the plastic surgery ads in Utah and the sheer volume of anti-depressants prescribed there and you’ll get a sense of what I mean.
Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators? More was mormon answers about 'Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators?'
Loaded question. Some leaders do - explicitly and implicitly - but some don’t. I’m hesitant so say an unequivocal “yes” but also an unequivocal “no.” What Mormonism does is to create a culture of silence and obedience, which is the breeding ground for predators. As a CSA survivor myself, I see the telltale signs there - from leader veneration to unconditional obedience to its obsession over sex and sexual behavior. It’s profoundly unhealthy and dysfunctional.
Have you had any profound spiritual moments in your life? More was mormon answers about 'Have you had any profound spiritual moments in your life?'
Yes - when I feel a deep sense of connection to creation, see beauty, hear music that’s so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. I believe these are all expressions of something that’s “spiritual.” I find deep moments of connection with other people at church and the transcendence and awe I experience in liturgical worship in the Orthodox Church profoundly moving - it makes me aware of my connection to God and aware of his love and compassion for me. I count all of these experiences as “spiritual,” whether or not they’ve involved explicitly religious worship or simply a sense of wonder. As Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos Ware taught, wonder is at the heart of faith.
How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon? More was mormon answers about 'How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?'
I’d say that a few were “genuine,” meaning having a sense of human connection, while others were simply emotional manipulation done either implicitly or explicitly. I believe that connection IS at the core of spirituality (read anything by Brené Brown and you’ll see what I mean).
How long was your struggle? More was mormon answers about 'How long was your struggle?'
A very, very long time - from about 1997 - 2014, so 17 years.
What advice would you give folks who are transitioning? More was mormon answers about 'What advice would you give folks who are transitioning?'
Be patient with yourself and find a good trauma therapist. You’ve likely experience deep trauma. I’d also say that you need to give yourself time. Healing is a process that’s messy and non-linear. Expect a wide range of emotions. They’ll come and go. You’ll be triggered. Emotions are temporary. They pass. Find people you can connect with on a human level. Learning to trust again will take time. The most important thing? Practice self-compassion.
What did the Mormon religion bring to your life? More was mormon answers about 'What did the Mormon religion bring to your life?'
I learned to appreciate quiet time, simpler things, time with family, unplugging, doing board games - stuff like that. To their credit, Mormons have retained a lot of traditional values. I also learned to appreciate that you can’t numb away uncomfortable feelings by drugs, alcohol, and food. I don’t drink alcohol any more (tried it after leaving, gave it up again), so I’d also say living a sober life with a focus on something other than your immediate pleasure.
What do you feel or know about becoming like God? More was mormon answers about 'What do you feel or know about becoming like God?'
Mormonism isn’t a monotheistic religion. It’s a religion that teaches that by your perfect obedience and knowing secret handshakes and passwords and being 100% loyal to it that you’ll “be exalted” and made a god, complete with your own planet. It’s profoundly polytheistic. I was taught this explicitly for years. So from that perspective, it’s the whole Garden of Eden lie again - you will be as gods. Same old lie, but now Mormons teach it, so they have to invent a lot of fantastic theology involving godhood and planets and whatnot to justify it. As a Christian, I see Mormonism as just another way people have invented to make themselves into a god. Same S**t Different Day.
Are you lazy? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Are you lazy? Is that why you left?'
LOL. Mormonism keeps you busy - for hours upon hours every week - so that you don’t have time to think about things deeply or question the narrative you’ve been taught. If you mean lazy - like I don’t spend endless hours and money doing mindless temple work, scrubbing toilets in meeting houses, putting away a year’s supply of food, etc., etc. ad nauseam, then yes - I’m lazy and proud of it. I spend my time and energy not only serving others through my work, but also by building healthy relationships, first and foremost with my wife and the family I married into, and with friends who value me. I also take time for myself to meditate, pray, exercise, and learn. So no, I’m not lazy - I just won’t give my time away anymore to Mormonism - an unaccountable corporation that masks as a religion.
Were you offended? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Were you offended? Is that why you left?'
What “offended” me was finding out that I had been lied to for years and had dedicated myself to a fraud. When my bishop (a co-worker and friend) cooperated with the Strengthening Church Members Committee in investigating me I was hurt and felt betrayed. When my ex sided with the church against me, I was hurt and betrayed. Their betrayal, along with the host of easily disprovable claims, bizarre doctrines, whitewashing of history, theological mumbo-jumbo, and cult rituals all contributed to my leaving.
Could you give us a brief overview of Mormonism? More was mormon answers about 'Could you give us a brief overview of Mormonism?'
Mormonism is a 19th-century pseudo-Christian polytheistic cult (more accurately a multinational, multibillion-dollar corporation with a religious front-end) founded by a convicted con-man / serial adulterer / pedophile. Its primary scripture (the Book of Mormon) is a pseudo-historical novel with heavy borrowings from other sources (see CES letter). Its central dogma is to perfect oneself to attain godhood and thus to join the ranks of the infinite number of gods. It demands complete, 100% obedience without question to its leaders and their current teachings, as well as 10% of members money.
Mormonism meets all of the following ten criteria for being a cult (see culteducation.com/…):
1. Absolute authoritarianism without accountability
2. Zero tolerance for criticism or questions
3. Lack of meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget
4. Unreasonable fears about the outside world that often involve evil conspiracies and persecutions
5. A belief that former followers are always wrong for leaving and there is never a legitimate reason for anyone else to leave
6. Abuse of members
7. Records, books, articles, or programs documenting the abuses of the leader or group
8. Followers feeling they are never able to be “good enough”
9. A belief that the leader is right at all times
10. A belief that the leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or giving validation
What did and do you feel about the Mormon Temple Ceremony? More was mormon answers about 'What did and do you feel about the Mormon Temple Ceremony?'
This question was answered in detail on the Mormon Stories Podcast, episode 1669: mormonstories.org/podcast/temple-masonry/. In a nutshell, shortly after being initiated into Freemasonry, Joseph Smith claimed to have had a revelation for the Endowment ritual, which borrowed heavily / outright stole from Masonic ritual. While Joseph Smith claimed the Endowment was revealed and was a restoration of ancient ritual, his claims are completely false. There is literally no evidence to back up the claims that the Endowment ritual has ancient origins. It was never part of Christian (or pre-Christian) teachings. The Temple ceremony (the Endowment) has been changed over the years, most recently in 1990 following a survey taken in Utah wherein members provided input as to parts they were uncomfortable with. Parts removed in 1990 were mimicking throat-slitting, cutting open one’s chest, and slitting open one’s bowels rather as penalties for revealing the names, signs (ritual gestures), and tokens (handshakes) given to the participant. The penalties were removed in 1990. When I received the Endowment for myself in the Mesa, Arizona Temple in December, 1988, I did the penalties. I also performed the penalties nearly 100 times, acting as proxy for many of my dead ancestors. If you want to geek out about the Endowment ceremony changes, check out ldsendowment.org/.
How or why did you stay in the pew? More was mormon answers about 'How or why did you stay in the pew?'
I stayed for 17 years after I first realized I had been sold a bill of goods. I resigned membership once, stayed away for a few months, then went back and was re-baptized. Mormonism is really good at not only isolating you from the outside world and from forming any deep social connections, but also by the explicit threats (“Where will you go if you leave? What will you do?”) that general authorities repeat over and over again. Both the subtle and the overt psychological manipulation convinced me that I had no choice but to go back. It wasn’t until my ex-wife and I finally divorced my that I resigned once and for all. It took relocating and forming a new circle of friends and a few years of therapy to realize how much I had been manipulated into staying. I heard someone once compare the “where will you go if you leave?” trope to what an abusive husband will say to his victimized wife. The implication is that the wife will answer “nowhere.” That’s probably the most accurate analogy I can think of. Once you’re victimized you tend to repeat the pattern of being victimized over and over again because you’ve internalized what the abuser says. People stay in abusive situations because they don’t believe they have an option, or because they don’t believe they’re truly worthy of love, belonging, and connection.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Mormons? More was mormon answers about 'What are the biggest misconceptions about Mormons?'
First, that Mormons are Christians (see my earlier answers as to why they’re not). Second, many people believe Mormonism is “all about families.” It is, but with huge caveats - as long as you stay in Mormonism and believe and practice it, your family relationships will be largely intact. If you leave, all bets are off. You’re likely to lose meaningful connection with your family members, or worse (like in my case), be shunned and ghosted, even by your children. Third, people think Mormons are honest, hard-working, decent people. While Mormons have the veneer of honesty and hard work and decency, true-believing Mormons are loyal only to the leaders and the organization, so any behavior that might be seen as “moral” is subject to so many caveats as to render it meaningless.
What do you feel or know about Joseph Smith's Polygamy? More was mormon answers about 'What do you feel or know about Joseph Smith's Polygamy?'
Joseph Smith was an adulterer - the Fanny Alger incident makes this apparent. He also sent some men on missions and married their wives as polygamous wives while the women were still married to the men out serving as missionaries. Joseph Smith’s affairs are well-documented, and when details of his secret polygamy were to be published in by the Nauvoo Expositor, he led a mob to destroy the paper’s printing press. The destruction of the Nauvoo printing press was the incident that ultimately led to his death in a gun battle, so it’s not inaccurate to say that Joseph Smith’s polygamy led to his destruction.