Hi, I'm Evan
I'm a husband and father of 4. I am a musician, I make websites for a living and I was a mormon.
I was raised in the church, went to early morning seminary, served a foreign mission (French speaking in France and Belgium), and have been sealed in the temple. We had kids in the covenant and participated as a young growing family in our ward. We always had callings and did our best to do them well. I served as a primary teacher, various scout leaders, young mens leader, ward clerk, ward mission leader & executive secretary. I quietly collected questions and issues onto my "shelf" my whole life and eventually had to really examine it all to make sense of it.
On my shelf
On the Mormon Spectrum
# Why I left More stories of 'Why I left' the Mormon church
It's complicated. I still believe in the principles of the gospel, and love the church as I understood it when I learned about it. But I have since learned a new (actual) church history that I cannot reconcile with my principled beliefs. I can say that I left mormonism because I studied church history and because I have to live with integrity. Things didn't line up with what I'd believed, I'd been fed a line (and I'd taught the same on my mission no less) about how perfect the church was and honorable the founders of the religion were, but after studying them I don't think they had integrity or were acting under true direction from God. I was saddened to come to that conclusion because I had a real love for the mormon religion and views on Christ and the plan of salvation. I liked the certainty it gave me in my life. But if the church foundation wasn't what it said it was: if the leaders aren't men of God, if the priesthood is merely a trump card in a power struggle, if eternal marriage is the twisted offspring of polygamy and polyandry, if the temple ceremony is more from masonry than revelation, if, if, if, etc. Then, I can only see Mormonism as a tribe. A single tribe in a world of many tribes. A tribe with some serious issues including a compulsive obsession for truth claims. Also, a tribe I was still interested in being a part of, but as more of a non-believer in those truth claims. It became too difficult to participate in any sort of gray space because no matter how welcoming the church professes to be – in its current state of existence, it relies on these very truth claims as an integral part of its identity and can't allow dissentious thoughts to be introduced without shutting them down. They claim to welcome everyone, and that doubt is ok, but in action are actively seeking to exile that gray space and forcing those of my persuasion to participate in the tribe as a silent observer, and be judged unfaithful and unworthy. I left because that was not a healthy place to be and over time, my need to participate in the church practices diminished more and more.
My wife was struggling with her own faith transition, and I dug in so I could help her through that. As I dug in, it became harder and harder to accept the things I was discovering along with readdressing many of the things already on my shelf. Church history and social issues and cultural issues all piled up and my shelf broke. It was devastating at the time, everything I thought I knew crumbled and I realized it wasn't true. Over time, I've been able to reconstruct what I believe and though I've kept a hold of many principles I learned in my mormon-upbringing, the mormon church is not something I've kept a hold of. Me letting go of the church has been devastating to friends and family as well, and I didn't appreciate that so much of my identity to them was tied up in being mormon. I wanted to help destigmatize leaving somehow and that's where this site came in. I wanted to share my story but also allow others to share their own.
Questions about Mormons My Answers to Questions about Mormonism
#Link to this answer of 'Are you lazy? Is that why you left?' by Evan Mullins Are you lazy? Is that why you left? See more answers about 'Are you lazy? Is that why you left?'
Am I lazy? Yes, but that's not why I left. I actually feel like I was lazy to stay as long as I did. It was hard mental and spiritual work to digest all the issues and come to my own authentic and honest conclusion about the church. It's much easier to just go along with it and do what you're told, no?
#Link to this answer of 'What broke your shelf?' by Evan Mullins What broke your shelf? See more answers about 'What broke your shelf?'
I was always perhaps an unorthodox member and wasn't super concerned with the letter of the law. But over time, life experiences led me to question my faith. I'd always had things on my shelf like polygamy and race, but more and more as I studied topics to examine them in order to understand them and remove them from my shelf, I ended up with more on the shelf than I started with. The church's mistreatment of outspoken members was a big part of my shelf breaking. Watching members I agreed with, like Sam Young and Bill Reel and John Dehlin face excommunication for talking about my "shelf issues" made me see the church more as a human organization bent on self preservation than The kingdom of God. Studying church history specifically around Joseph Smith also was a catalyst when I learned more about his polygamy/polyandry, scripture translation with a peep stone, multiple accounts of the first vision story, and late introductions of the first vision and priesthood restoration, along with the temple ceremonies were all devastating for my faith in the church.
I still remember the moment when I was pulling weeds and realized that the most likely and really only explanation for all of it was that the church was not true. I realized that the first vision didn't happen and the pillars of my testimony and all the things I'd taught people on my mission and my own children during family night lessons was not real. That for me, God is love. Love is all you need.
#Link to this answer of 'Do you consider yourself a Christian?' by Evan Mullins Do you consider yourself a Christian? See more answers about 'Do you consider yourself a Christian?'
I still hold to the christian and/or mormon principles I learned throughout my upbringing as a mormon. I believe in the principles of love and kindness and other things I learned at church and in boy scouts program. However, I don't think the mormon church or the christian faith has a monopoly or even a "full" understanding of good values. Moving from the certainty of mormonism into uncertainty has been a challenge, and I by no means have replaced the tightly defined plan of salvation with something as easily defined and diagramed. There is real wonder and mystery to our life and our spirituality. I struggle to believe in some higher power that rules the universe in some way. I hope that power is benevolent. I hope that I will continue to exist in some fashion after this life, but I'm not certain about any of it and to me, living with that mystery is a beautiful part of being human.
Sadly, in history (as well as in the world today) I've found that religions act more like a political party or a corporation than like anything led by a benevolent and loving god. These tribes all seem to each make god in their own image.
I see organized religion to be similar to Dumbo's feather. It is something that helps us to fly, in fact many believe in the power of the feather to make us fly. It is useful because it's much easier to learn to fly while believing in some external power granting us abilities beyond our own, but in reality it's not needed and that power is within each of us. Some of us who use and benefit from it in our life can at some point get to the point where the feather is no longer needed. There is real learning and progression while believing in the power of the feather, but by some crisis or realization or enlightenment, we realize the feather was just a prop to believe in so we could eventually believe in ourselves. Then we can release the feather with all integrity and truly fly.
#Link to this answer of 'What do you believe now?' by Evan Mullins What do you believe now? See more answers about 'What do you believe now?'
I believe in the principles of the gospel as I learned them. I also believe in some other principles I have learned from other sources - religious as well as secular. I have explored a few cultures of the world and found them to be very similar in they they teach us to be good and to belong and participate. I see Mormonism as a single "tribe" in a world of valid tribes. I am fascinated each of these tribes that I have connected with. I work to see these tribes as different facets of the same "us". They are all human societies and cultures and religions. I prefer to see us as all human rather than seeing the classic "us vs them" scenario. I believe in people and their ability to construct these tribes to understand the world and their place in it. To inform each of us of our own culture and history and to give a communal sense of belonging. I believe in people to do right as defined by their tribe and understood by the individual. I also hope or want to believe in a spiritual facet of being human. I believe there is great mystery in the universe but I don't feel adequate naming it or codifying it. Yet, I still strive to better understand it and mindfully experience it. I do my best to live life with mindful purpose and meaning. I'm very drawn to principles from the great wisdom traditions of the world too. I enjoy studying Buddhism and other "native" cultures. Integrating these "original" principles with my own beliefs and worldview has brought me peace, comfort and understanding.
#Link to this answer of 'Are you happy?' by Evan Mullins Are you happy? See more answers about 'Are you happy?'
It has been a long road, but I've enjoyed learning more about other wisdom traditions and things like mindfulness and meditation. I'm drawn to those things because they don't offer prescribed answers to questions, but answer those questions by simply sitting with them. The answers aren't possible or required, and often pondering the very questions or who is asking them is just as profound as any answer could be anyways.
#Link to this answer of 'How long was your struggle?' by Evan Mullins How long was your struggle? See more answers about 'How long was your struggle?'
The struggle has lasted years and is ongoing, though lately, things are feeling much less of a struggle. I feel like the bulk of it is behind me: there were a couple years of trying to help my wife through her faith crisis, a couple years of joining in with my own faith crisis, a couple more years of deconstruction, consciously leaving the church and reconstructing my own beliefs. Each step along the way has been a struggle in its own right, but each of them feel like growth at this point.
I had many questions and things on my shelf for as long as I could remember. I was able to put them off and avoid thinking about them for quite a long time. I did have to address them when my wife was struggling with her own faith transition, I dug in to help "fix" things for her and my own faith unraveled as I dug.
There were a couple years of real struggle. I was the executive secretary at the time and was reprimanded by my bishop for some thoughts I shared about Sam Young on facebook. The next spring, I received an accidentally forwarded email thread between the bishop and the relief society president lambasting my wife and I for our lack of faith and poor life choices (I'd recently asked to be released due to plans to travel full-time as a digital nomad family). We still travelled as planned but felt much less guilt about leaving the ward leaders. While we travelled we attended as much as made sense, but my faith crisis was fever pitch by then. While travelling my shelf broke. We told our families that we decided to "take a break" from the church.
There is still some struggle today, but it's centered around family relationships and my own work to define my "purpose". I feel my church membership stunted my adult development of finding my own meaning in life.
#Link to this answer of 'Was Joseph Smith involved in treasure digging?' by Evan Mullins Was Joseph Smith involved in treasure digging? See more answers about 'Was Joseph Smith involved in treasure digging?'
I think Joseph was involved in treasure digging, he was looking to get money from little to no work. He was looking into his stones and telling people where to find treasure, though they never found any - until he found his own. I think the hill cumorah story of Joseph obtaining the gold plates has changed over time and originally fits very close to treasure digging myths of the day. Over the decades the official church narrative has cleaned up and sanitized it - for example, in early recordings, he found the plates by looking into his seer stone (which he then used to translate the plates). The foundation stories of the church fit exactly into the folk-magic of his day.
#Link to this answer of 'What was your experience as a missionary?' by Evan Mullins What was your experience as a missionary? See more answers about 'What was your experience as a missionary?'
I didn't enjoy the pressure and expectations of serving a mission as I grew up, I always had the feeling that I didn't want to serve a mission. My dad hadn't gone in a mission, and even though I was always told it was because they couldn't afford it, it showed that you could still be good and not serve a mission. I was very uninterested in church and the doctrine well into my late teens. There was a growing anxiety about what would happen when I turned 19. I finally told my parents that I did not plan on going on a mission, and when they demanded to know why, I had to admit it was because I didn't have a testimony. I opted out of BYU too, choosing to go to a school closer to home (UGA) so I could be closer to my non-member friends (I'd started playing guitar in a garage band and we all wanted to go to college together and "make it big").
My dad had a heart to heart one day bringing up my lack of testimony and said that he found his testimony to be a "pretty big deal". He said that if all the church stuff was true, then it'd be pretty important to figure it out. That it might just be the most important thing I figured out in my life. This piqued my interest and I remember rebelliously thinking I could investigate the church and then after I concluded it wasn't for me, I could share that with him and move on with my life confidently and peacefully. So, I studied to understand what the big deal was. I started going to institute classes, I took missionary lessons, I read lots of scriptures. I got to the point that I wanted to "know". So I prayed long and hard over a period of a couple months. One night during some deep praying, I felt a presence like I hadn't before. I was nearly sure there was an angel in my room and I seemed to feel God's love for me. I didn't turn around to check if there was an angel, I just sat in the love for a few minutes and three feeling faded. Nothing miraculous happened, but it felt providential. I interpreted this experience as a witness from God and through this witness, I had found a testimony.
So ironically, by trying to get out of a mission, I found a testimony and then felt that since I did think it was true, what better way to spend my time than to share that with others. I had to eat crow and tell my parents that I actually did want to serve a mission. I "broke up the band" and left my friends to serve God. To their credit they all respected me for it too.
I went on a mission because I loved people and wanted to help them. I am so glad that I had my own reasons for going and didn't go out of obligation or expectation. Many I served with and around had no real interest in being there and didn't have a nice "conversion" story to share. I do think it made a huge difference in my attitude while serving though (and after my mission too). I served a mission in France and Belgium and really enjoyed myself. It was a so-called "hard" mission because we didn't baptize many, but that was ok with me. I enjoyed serving in foreign lands and learning a new language and culture. I didn't follow sales tactics I was taught and expected to use, because I respected people and let them make their own decisions. I didn't record my teaching statistics and when was asked I would give a number that generally represented the week. I did train new missionaries and was called as a district leader multiple times, so don't think I didn't try my hardest to really do the work. I saw one baptism on my mission. A woman who was suicidal when we met her and we helped her turn her life around - it was such a positive experience for all of us and I'm proud to have helped her. I am fairly certain she is no longer active in the church, so my mission had a net-zero effect on actual church membership, but I know I made a difference in her life. I made great friends on my mission too, something I never expected. Many members from areas where I served as well as fellow missionaries are among my closest friends.
#Link to this answer of 'Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators?' by Evan Mullins Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators? See more answers about 'Does the Mormon church protect sexual predators?'
It seems so. The church seems to have done a lot in the act of "preserving the good name of the church". There is a pattern of gaslighting and dismissing victims and skipping legal (and moral) requirements in favor of forgiving perpetrators. For example, leaders are instructed to call a hotline when dealing with issues of abuse - and the hotline is to the church law firm presumably so that the church can keep things quiet rather than to actually care for the victims. The church has punished those who publicly seek to protect children while quickly forgiving and quietly restoring sexually abusive priesthood holders.
For example, lookup and compare two people who are relevant here. First, Sam Young, a former Bishop and leader of the Protect LDS Children movement who was excommunicated for speaking out. Secondly, Joseph Bishop, a former MTC president who sexually abused sister missionaries in the basement of the Provo MTC. Bishop was barely chastised and even protected by the church while Young was excommunicated. This doesn't seem right to me, following any example of Jesus we have would care for the victims rather than worry about the name of the church and involve lawyers. These are just two examples among many more. Who should the church listen to and who should be considered for church discipline?
#Link to this answer of 'What resources have helped you through the process of leaving?' by Evan Mullins What resources have helped you through the process of leaving? See more answers about 'What resources have helped you through the process of leaving?'
I read quite a few books and listened to lots of podcasts. Also many many therapy sessions and long long talks with anyone who was available.
Books I found helpful:
- History of the Church
- Navigating a Mormon Faith Crisis (Thomas Wirthlin McConkie)
- Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul (David Anderson)
- Rough Stone Rolling (Richard Bushman)
- ExMormon's Search For Meaning (Zach Olsen)
- Bridges (David Ostler)
- Falling Upward (Richard Rohr)
- Daring Greatly (Brené Brown)
- Stages of Faith (James Fowler)
- Why Buddhism is True (Robert Wright)
- The Wisdom of Insecurity (Alan Watts)
- The Crucible of Doubt (Givens)
- God Is Not One (Stephen Prothero)
- The Righteous Mind (Jonathan Haidt)
- Mormon Stories (John Dehlin)
- Mormon Discussions (Bill Reel)
- A Thoughtful Faith (Gina Colvin)
- Mindfulness+ (Thomas McConkie)
- Secular Buddhism (Noah Rasheta)
The Gospel Topics Essays
#Link to this answer of 'What do you feel or know about the different First Vision accounts?' by Evan Mullins What do you feel or know about the different First Vision accounts? See more answers about 'What do you feel or know about the different First Vision accounts?'
Joseph Smith's first vision was one of the pillars I clung to as my shelf began to crack. Even though I'd heard about the multiple accounts of the first vision story, I assumed there was a plausible explanation. I was afraid to look into the details because subconsciously I knew if my belief in the first vision crumbled, everything else would follow. It was the thing that as a missionary I was able to share with everyone because it proved I wasn't crazy and that God cared. It proved that the church was true basically. It was the origin story of Joseph Smith and the whole church. I probably have Hinckley to thank for that binary thinking, it was him that said "If the First Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham".
Joseph claimed he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in a pillar of light. This was the pillar so many things were based. I remember the very nature of the Godhead was explained at the pulpit multiple times to be understood because the first vision showed that God the Father and the Son were different and distinct beings.
Anyways, I was finally courageous enough to lean into the doubts around the first vision and see what the different accounts said. After having nearly put the accounts back on the shelf with the gospel topic essay, which if you trusted the content of the essay blindly and didn't read any footnotes or sources you could almost turn a blind eye and continue. I listened to a mormon stories podcast with a panel including Sandra Tanner discussing the first vision accounts and the apologetics surrounding them. I remember I was pulling weeds and doing yardwork at a house we were housesitting in Australia on an unusually warm winter July day.
I was terrified of what I would learn, but continued to listen and think things through. I had just read all the different accounts and some of those apologetic articles and struggled to reconcile it all. The mental gymnastics to make it all fit was exhausting. I finally fully considered the question, "What if it isn't true?" I remember all the pieces falling neatly into place with that thought. I could understand why the earlier vision accounts didn't mention two personages, and that the early versions of the book of mormon spoke about God in more of a trinity mindset. As time went on, so did the doctrine of the church. The Godhead wasn't revealed in the first vision, because how would the book of mormon have so much trinity talk in it that was cleaned up while dismissing the changes as "grammatical punctuation fixes". How come in the early days, no one spoke of the first vision? I has always assmed that the first vision was the first discussion back then as well. Obviously there weren't discussion, but I figured it was in the church pitch. But it wasn't, the first vision is canonized today, but it wasn't until much later on. It wasn't considered part of the origin story of the church until even later! The church leaders and missionaries don't start talking about the first vision until decades after it was supposed to happen. If everything hinged on the first vision, then why did it not even enter into the discourse until 50 years later? Even when it started being referenced, it wasn't as central to the faith as it is today. At the time they had other things to concern themselves with (Adam-God, Polygamy, Statehood, etc)
The very first accounts were even different on some points that were always key to my own experience of the canonized version. For example, Joseph had already concluded that no church was the one true church in the early versions, while the official JSH version states that "it had never entered into [his] heart that all were wrong". Or he's simply seeking forgiveness of his sins, not which church to join. The later versions are written when it makes sense that he's looking to "redefine" the origin story of the church. He's needing to cement his own authority during the Kirkland bank scandal days.
Digging in and finally trying to reconcile the first vision was the last crack in my shelf. I had been holding everything together for me for quite a while. I could live with the messiness of it all and the imperfections in the church. I thought it, like many things, started pure and deteriorated from there. It was led by actual humans who were doing their best with the intangible non-literal connection with the divine, right? I put such belief in the fact that the church was better than other organizations and corporations, it was above reproach and pure. It started with a simple innocent boy asking which church to join, and he was told no church - but called to create the one true church. That was the saving grace of the church for me for a good while, it wasn't started by man, it was started by God himself.
As I deconstructed the first vision (with help), that was the keystone for me. The book of mormon being actual history or actually translated wasn't as big a blow to me, it was the origin story of the church I had been fed, and had been feeding others. I coudln't believe that I had been duped into believing the story because it made me feel good. Once I removed the keystone, all the things crumbled and I was forced to face the fact that the church wasn't true. I could hope and pray all I wanted, but that couldn't and wouldn't change the facts. I thought about just going along with it still, but that couldn't work. The church doesn't want people to come and participate in any meaningful ways if they have different ideas, or don't believe. I couldn't attend silently, so I stopped attending. It still took time, but eventually I informed family and friends of my deconstruction and started the long process of building something of the rubble.
I loved the quote about the honest man discovering he is mistaken, and pledged to remain honest. "When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease to be mistaken or cease to be honest"
#Link to this answer of 'What are your thoughts about leaving the church alone?' by Evan Mullins What are your thoughts about leaving the church alone? See more answers about 'What are your thoughts about leaving the church alone?'
I was taught to share truth.
I served a mission to share truth.
What I thought was true, is not.
Now, I continue to share truth. The message is different, but it is the truth.
That's why I created this website, I needed to share my truth. Doubt and questions and leaving is so stigmatized I wanted to do something to tell my story and allow others to do the same. I found it cathartic to share my story, and processes some of the post-mormon baggage I carry. That was a great weight lifted, it was a fruit of deconstruction and I desire all to receive it.