Hi, I'm Evan
I'm a husband and father of 4. I make websites as a digital nomad and I was a mormon.
I was raised in the church, went to early morning seminary, served a mission and have been sealed in the temple. We had kids in the covenant and participated as a young growing family in our wards. We always had callings and did our best to do them well. I served as primary teacher, scout leaders, young men leaders, ward clerk, ward mission leader & executive secretary. I collected things onto my shelf my whole life and eventually had to really examine it all to make sense of it.
On the Mormon Spectrum
Why I left
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 plan of salvation. But if the church foundation wasn't what it said it was, if the leaders weren't men of God, if the priesthood was 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 etc 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, unfaithful and judged unworthy observer. 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.
Questions I've answered
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 and hopefully remove them from my shelf, I ended up with more on the shelf than I started with. The church's treatment of vocal 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 the "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 introduction of the first vision and priesthood restoration, along with the temple ceremonies were all trigger topics for me.
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 a bit 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 (the same on he later used to translate the plates).
What was your experience as a missionary?
While I didn't enjoy the pressure and expectations of serving a mission as I grew up, I actually finally told my family I was not going to serve because I didn't fully have a testimony. I then studied to understand what the big deal was and found a testimony I felt was strong enough to stand on it's own and decided to serve a mission. I am so glad that I had my own reasons for going and didn't go out of obligation or expectation. I think that has made a huge difference in my attitude while serving and since. I served a mission in France and Belgium and really enjoyed it. 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 to use, because I respected people and let them make their own decisions. I saw a baptism on my mission of a woman who had turned her life around and I believe it was a positive experience for her, 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 church membership. I made great friends on my mission though, and I never expected to. Many members from areas where I served as well as fellow missionaries are among my closest friends.
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 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, Look up Sam Young (a former Bishop and leader of the Protect LDS Children movement who was excommunicated for this involvement) and Joseph Bishop (former MTC president who sexually abused sister missionaries in the basement of the Provo MTC, who was barely chastised and even protected by the church) and tell me who the church should listen to and who should be considered for church discipline...
Are you still 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 all the other things I learned in boy scouts, but I don't think the mormon church or the christian faith has a monopoly on these. 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 spirituality. I work to believe in some higher power that rules the universe in some way. I hope that power is benevolent and that I continue to exist in some fashion after this life, but I'm not certain about any of it and to me, being ok with that mystery is a beautiful part of being human.
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 our own self. Then we can release the feather with all integrity and truly fly.
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 many tribes and I am fascinated by these tribes of the world. I work to see these tribes as different facets of the same "us" rather than an 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 them of their 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. I have begun a mindfulness & meditation practice. I'm very drawn to principles from other world wisdom traditions too, such as those taught in Buddhism. Integrating these "original" principles with has brought me peace and understanding.