Hi, I'm Gretchen
I am the mother of eight children and I love reading, scrapbooking and doing hot yoga. Look up Gretchen Day on Amazon for children's books I wrote to assist my exit from Mormonism. I was a Mormon.
For my full story on John Dehlin's Mormon stories go to:
My husband and I have always read together and studied religion together. We did this when we were dating and over the first ten years of our marriage, we read the book of Mormon, the New Testament and the Old Testament cover to cover with all the BYU manuals multiple times. As well as reading the book of Mormon every year as a family. We didn’t just read our scriptures 20 minutes a day and call it good. We really studied. About ten years ago we started studying even more because we had read all of the standard works and every manual that went with it multiple times. We started buying books from retired BYU professors on religion history, listening to podcasts, trying to do what we thought we were commanded to do which was search, ponder and pray. We felt this was the best way to keep our testimonies strong and vibrant.
I found what was then considered the most apologetic book series named, “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy,” by Brian Hales. After reading that book my first concern was the angel with a drawn sword story. Common analytical sense tells me, that if a man professing to be a prophet came to my door and told me that an angel with a drawn sword told him he had to marry my 14 year old daughter and if she didn’t, she and our family would not be saved, I’d say…”Get the hell off my porch and call the police.” That was my immediate, gut reaction to all the polygamous relationships in that book. The fact that even in the lds.org essays (which were hidden 3 clicks in for a long time) it considers polygamy in Josephs’ time a commandment from God using this story was laughable. It also bothered me because since I was a sunbeam, I’ve learned that I came to Earth for two things: a body and free agency. I also learned that there was a battle in the pre-existence between Satan's plan and Christ’s plan and Christ’s plan is free agency. But Satan's plan is force. The angel with a drawn sword story is clearly force and Satan’s plan. Can nobody else see this? I was left with the conundrum of either Joseph Smith is lying (most likely), or Joseph Smith was deceived, or Joseph Smith is telling the truth and God commanded it. But if the answer is that God commanded it (which is the LDS church claim) this isn't the God that I believe in or want to believe in. Add to that each story it goes through where a lot of the girls were young, or the women were married and he married them while their husbands were gone on missions, and a lot of it was done behind Emma’s back. Based on all the evidence and daily prayer, I became convinced that God did not really command this. This was the first time I allowed anything in the church the possibility of not being true. My main problem was NOT with the church’s claim that God commanded Joseph to start polygamy based on the angel story. What I do and did have a problem with was the fact that this is not taught openly in weekly church services, in Sunday School, in Relief Society, in High Priests/Elders, to the youth, or even talked about in eight hours of general conference twice a year, with everyone worldwide so I could talk about it in my LDS Sunday lessons and have everyone know/be taught the whole truth. And I realized that even if it was discussed in lessons in the Mormon church, I couldn’t express my own conclusion, which was that this was clearly not of God.
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# Why I left More stories of 'Why I left' the Mormon church
In Brian Hales book, he also talks about Joseph’s martyrdom, which the background and information surrounding Joseph Smith’s death indicates that the “martyrdom” is basically brought on from Joseph secretly practicing polygamy. Wait a minute…being killed because you were secretly practicing polygamy and destroying the printing press to conceal it led to Joseph’s murder? That’s not martyrdom. In those days it was vigilante justice and if the men in the town thought you were after their wives or their girls they were going to kill you. That's how they took care of it. And the premiere Mormon apologist is printing this evidence in a book? I’ve never heard that talked about in Sunday School. I wrote a paper while attending BYU about the, “Times and Seasons,” the Mormon newspaper and, “The Nauvoo Expositor.” I’ve read what was printed in the Nauvoo expositor. It wasn’t lies. I’d read it. It was a portion of what is now our D&C revelation on celestial marriage, which includes plural marriage. William Laws also reported in that paper that Joseph Smith had secretly married polygamously, a young girl in their household, which was living with them because her mom died and the Smith’s took her in. Brian Hales book corroborated this story. I had always been taught that William Laws printed lies and Joseph was trying to protect the people by having that printing press destroyed. What I learned every four years in gospel doctrine was false. Via the “Nauvoo Expositor,” William Laws is outing Joseph for secretly marrying in a polygamous marriage a young girl who he was basically her foster father. (I would have done the same thing!) I can still handle the fact that Joseph Smith didn’t necessarily die a martyr. But I’m sitting in gospel doctrine, with the gospel doctrine teacher telling this story, and I had to walk out. Because the lesson manual is misleading and completely false saying that William Law was printing vicious lies. I’ve read quotes from the paper. What he printed was true. Add to that, the fact that from the church apologist, himself, this was true…and we’re still teaching it wrong via the manual? But I can’t open my mouth and say anything because I know if I suggested William law was printing the truth and a lot of Joseph’s death was because he was practicing secret polygamy I would cause a ruckus in my Mormon Sunday School class. I have to sit and listen or leave. I started losing my voice in class. I didn’t lose my testimony over this, but the more I studied actual Mormon history, the more I realized many events are not being fully taught or taught falsely in gospel doctrine classes.
The more I studied, the more Sunday school and Relief Society meetings became treacherous for me, on even basic LDS topics. Especially the Joseph Smith story because they leave all the crazy stuff Joseph did out of class discussion and only tell the good things that we perceive that he did. Leaving important details out of a story is DISNONEST. I can cut Joseph some slack because people make mistakes. I'm never going to agree that polygamy was of God, we don’t practice it now I’m thinking, so I don’t have to worry about it. The fact that LDS church history is messy has never been my main problem. It’s the fact that we don’t openly talk about or teach it, or allow members to come to their own conclusions about what was right and what was wrong after we’ve researched the facts. I can’t raise my hand in gospel doctrine and say, “I’ve studied this, I’ve prayed about it and I know that Joseph Smith’s polygamy wasn’t of God.” I can’t say what I actually think. This is a huge red flag. It means as an LDS member, I’m not allowed critical inquiry. I didn’t know that term at the time, but I do now. Critical inquiry means I get to look at the facts (from any source on either side, although I stuck to church sources at this time) and I get to interpret the facts myself. If I come to a different answer than the church, I can voice that without fear of offense or being in trouble for my views. That’s what critical inquiry is. I couldn’t do that in the LDS/Mormon church. No being allowed critical inquiry is the #1 sign of a cult. I did not know the signs of a cult at that time. I just knew I was suffering in silence without being able to have my own interpretation on the facts. And that felt terrible.
Eventually, I let the Joseph Smith studies go and turned my focus on the study of the Book of Mormon because it says in the scriptures “by their fruits you shall know them.” I decided to just zero in on the Book of Mormon. And a dedicated study to that renders it non historical. Even the UVU church historian just in March of 2020 admitted when asked, he said, “yeah there's no evidence that the Book of Mormon actually happened.” I won't get into the DNA essay, here, but if you understand simple genetics it is very misleading. And I don’t even have a problem with the BOM not being historical. I think to myself, I can still look at it symbolically. It can still be scripture to me. I taught Relief Society and was very careful to always say, “In the story…” (because I knew it was likely just a story). I could let this go. The problem, for me, was the fact that I couldn’t discuss my findings or conclusions at church or with other members. No professional outside of the .02% active Mormon population believes that the Book of Mormon is historical…meaning no one with a science or history degree thinks the stories in the book really happened. The cognitive dissonance at church starts affecting me inside. This means that I have to jump through mental hoops to say I believe Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon truth claims. I want to believe, but I also can’t discount historical truth. The fact that I can’t talk about true facts out in the open, at this time, continues to be a thorn in my side.
I switch my focus of study again to try to make this work. Next, I researched the book of Abraham and found that the pictures I was taught as a kid that was Abraham being sacrificed were actually funerary texts of some unknown person. I can’t talk about that openly, either. And I find out that the church changes the words in the scriptures under the picture from “translation to revelation.” Because they know there's no way they can back up saying Joseph Smith translated it when it's a funerary text that has nothing to do about Abraham. And then I'm seeing red flags of dishonesty from the church, which was definitely not being transparent here, in the beginning. People that I believe represent and talk to God for me are changing the scriptures instead of saying Joseph got it wrong? I look at all these great people in the neighborhood, the type of people I'd want my kids to marry, what great experiences my daughter is having on her mission, the morality, the good, the service, the community… I think to myself, I’ll just have to look at everything symbolically to stay in and I do, but I have to keep my thoughts to myself.
I won’t go into every topic here, but this a short list: godhead, which included a study of the four versions of the first visions way before they came online on lds.org. But even though that's been taught now what they don't teach is that in the beginning they didn't consider Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost three separate beings and when they decided to change that theology in Mormon doctrine that's also the same time that the version where Jesus Christ and God the Father are separate people comes in. Which doesn't necessarily mean it's not true, I’ve always given the church the benefit of the doubt, but it is highly suspicious, and it's not included or being taught. I studied origins of theology such as apostasy, 30 plus events leading up to the restoration, the restoration of the priesthood, polarity of God's, God the father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, Satan existence, the creation and the Fall, the gospel plan, how the temple started, work for the dead, the Gathering of Israel, the second coming, the Millennium, the resurrection, tithing origins, word or wisdom origins, etc. I studied all of these doctrines and how they came to be where they are today in the Mormon church. We're talking thousands of hours of study at this point so I'll spare you the details but even the BYU professors who wrote the books say that all of those doctrines came about because of things that were going on in the church or the nearby community at the time. The leaders made changes according to what they wanted to teach and the doctrine was morphing and changing ALL the time. And none of it was really revelation. It was the creation of a theology that morphed and changed over time to what we have today. And very few of those topics were the way I learned them, meaning even the story of how the Melchizedek priesthood was restored, was told differently in the early church. It morphed and changed. All the topics did. The 3 degrees of glory, was taken from another preacher during that time period that Joseph liked. And I’m thinking…”What the FUCK?”
Is there anything I learned in my LDS life that I was taught the full truth on? I can cut slack on Joseph Smith. I can cut slack on Book of Mormon. Now I have to look the other way on the all the other topics, too? And I can’t talk about it openly or disagree? The last three years, my focus has been more on the bible, Old and New testament, and as far as historicity goes, the bible doesn’t fare much better than the Book of Mormon in terms of historicity.
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At this point, I am manifesting physical and emotional symptoms of trauma. And I can see this is hurting me. And I can see that being a member is hurting my some of my teenagers, at the time. I start not making one teen go because this child is manifesting severe anxiety about going to church, activities, bishop interviews, etc. I don’t want to attend either. We have a new baby (which is a great excuse to stay home), so my teen stays home with me. I feel all alone at this point. I’m starting to really feel like I've been lied to by the leaders that I’ve trusted my entire life.
Around this time the LDS LGBTQ+ statement about not baptizing children of LGBTQ+ couples comes out, which first they call policy and then they have this great experience and they say it's doctrine and I see firsthand in today's age what I've seen throughout history which is a prophet saying one thing and then changing it but not acknowledging that he changed it. I was really concerned. Because up to this point, I thought of my study, (that's all in the past even if the leaders in the past, ie: Joseph Smith/Brigham Young did dumb things, deceptive things,) but I didn’t ever think it would happen with my current Prophet. I had always been taught that the prophet speaks for God and could never lead me astray.
Some of my teens, who have friends in the LGBTQ+ community, are really upset with this bigoted policy. Right about this time, the Bishop is saying in church, “questions are welcome ask questions,” all that la di da da. And my teen starts asking in Sunday school class questions/concerns about this policy. The well-meaning Bishop is saying questions are welcome, but the teacher, isn’t practicing that in class. My teen would say to the teacher, “you know, I just don't believe in this policy. It's bad. LDS teens are committing suicide over it.” Teacher’s response, “well the prophet knows best.” If my teen didn't agree with the teacher, the teacher would stop the class and just stare my child for way was perceived as a looooong time. The Sunday School teacher was trying to intimidate my child into believing the church’s narrative on LGBTQ+. It’s one thing to have to be silent about your thoughts, in class, but now my children aren’t allowed to question and are being intimidated or put down if they don’t agree? We’ve had problems with other Sunday School teachers not allowing our children to have different answers or different perspectives on doctrine. This is not new and no one is perfect. But I’m seeing it’s the very reason I don’t go to my class anymore. My children are being affected, as well.
So, I do what I do with everything to help my teen understand the new policy. I research. I find out that medically speaking what causes the fetus in utero to become gay/same-sex attraction etc. is related to how much testosterone the mom produces when the sex organs are being created. If there’s not enough testosterone, they might not develop heterosexual. I had to agree with my teen about his/her questions and concerns with this policy. We listened to podcasts of parents whose LDS gay teens were suffering, we learned of many committing suicide, because the teens were literal believers and realized because of the way they were born, they would not be able to marry someone they were attracted to in the LDS temple or have a family or attain the highest level of the celestial kingdom. I read articles about the Utah LDS teen suicide rate increasing significantly after the announcement of that policy. I couldn't imagine God saying, “Hey I'm not going to let you get married in the temple and I'm not going to let you have kids or marry someone you’re attracted to because of the way you were born.”
Not to mention, when you research back far enough, the church originally taught that same sex attraction was a choice and did unbelievable harm with their shock therapy program at BYU to try to “fix” them. The church seems to be 10 to 20 years behind science on things like this. They were with blacks and the priesthood and the leaders were originally against the right for women to vote according to history. But I see it happening again. Here and now. I won’t go into the LDS morphing and changing of this topic over the decade, but it shows no signs of revelation. That’s for sure. Saying gays can’t be part of the plan because of the way they were born does not make sense to me, and I disagree, but I cannot voice that in Relief Society or the LDS church or class. If there is a judgement, (and I don’t know because I’ve never died before) I want to be able to look my Creator in the eye and say I erred on the side of kindness. I don’t want to say I supported something that I knew was causing teen suicides. I erred on the side of kindness by not supporting the church in this and I still do not. No God would do that. I’m watching here in my own time the prophet doing something I do not believe a loving God would do. But I’ll tell you one thing, the Mormon prophet and the 12 apostles do have blood on their hands from all the suicides. So, if Mormonism is actually true, and they are judged in the afterlife, they are in DEEP SHIT!
As I remember from my research, the whole catch phrase, “the prophets will never lead you astray,” began, with President Benson. When he first used it in a BYU talk, I think, Pres. Kimball, the prophet, at the time and other members of the 12 were upset. We have journal entries and 2nd witness accounts. At the time, President Kimball said to Benson that he didn’t want that being taught because he said that that phrase is a dangerous slope and he did not think it was true. But once Benson became the prophet, it was the new doctrine. Nobody even knows the history behind the phrase, “the prophet will never lead you astray.” And that’s a clear sign of a cult, which I still didn’t know, at this time.
About this same time my teen starts having anxiety related around church rules and topics and the fact that she can’t disagree with her teacher in Sunday School without public humiliation. I attend many of the therapy sessions and am flabbergasted to find how much cognitive dissonance and pain religion has caused my child for teaching, “an ONLY ONE way to think philosophy.” I don't think I fully understood it until this child resigned. Every year as a family we read the book of Mormon. And at the end of the year when we finished the book, we send the kids to their rooms as they pray about it to allow them to get their own witness, which is the promise the book makes, that you can know for yourself. It wasn’t until years later when my child resigned from the LDS church that I learned that for years this child had been going to his/her room getting no answers and coming out and making up a story because he/she felt bad that there was no witness. And then in Bishop interviews for temple recommends or advancement, the bishop is asking, “what do you think of that man, pointing to a picture of Joseph?” Or asking, “Do you believe in the restoration, for temple recommend interviews, etc. This child felt compelled to sit there and say, “yes, I believe in the restoration,” just to get the heck out of there. But my child did not believe. The fact that this child did not feel comfortable telling her leaders or believing parents is a shame and sad. This is cognitive dissonance in a teenager’s brain and this teen was not being allowed critical inquiry, just like all the other LDS teens, worldwide. I would later find out that it’s not healthy to put anyone alone with a man with, no professional mental health training, asking children/teens questions about sexual purity, or talking to them alone, at all. The LDS institution should not put bishops and kids in such a precarious situation. I found that out the hard way. I ‘ve seen, first hand, what that can do medically to multiple children of my own.
Now, I’ve studied every single doctrine I could get my hands on and the history behind each one. One of the only stories that I found completely accurate with no inconsistencies was the story of the Aaronic priesthood. So, it’s not just one problem with one event in history, now almost all of it is suspect, not to mention my study of the Bible, New and Old Testament. I’m not even going to touch that here. That would take an entire week. And I have a child clearly suffering from being raised Mormon. I’m still a believer, but I’m struggling to look at everything symbolically. By now, I can very clearly see that the church is not the only true church, that the truth claims do not hold up under critical inquiry, but that it is a path I still want to choose for myself because I love my community and Mormon life sooo much. But it is not a good path for some of my children’s mental health. I can see this and I start teaching my kids, privately, that the Mormon path is NOT the only true path, but A path which can be a good one for many people. And I leave it at that.
At some point I became an intermediary between the bishop and family members who could not or did not want to meet with him. After my son’s early return mission, I had to be an intermediary for him, as well. During all of these times, I could not tell the bishop my faith crisis, because there was no one left to be an intermediary for me. And it wasn’t fair for me to have my temple recommend on the chopping block for facts and truth that weren’t being taught openly, but had to be dug out of books and researched OUTSIDE of Mormon classes.
I was still convinced (because of mind control and brainwashing) that even if the LDS church isn't the only true church and that most of its truth claims weren't what I thought they were that this was the path for me because of my spiritual experiences. But most of my spiritual experiences revolved around the children we have had and could also be independent of the LDS church. I also studied a lot about emotion elevation, which can be a way your brain creates strong emotional or spiritual events. (But that’s a whole other topic). As I watched my child struggle, I knew that when this child resigned that it was the right choice for her and her mental health. I could not deny that fact. But in this child’s resignation, when this child called the church a cult and told me how much pain being raised in a cult had caused, I was hurt by that term. I went to my old reliable friend….research. What does that word mean and what are the signs? I don't think any of my children could have said anything that would have hurt me more. I had witnessed first hand this child not being able to ask questions without ridicule in this ward and I watched how the cognitive dissonance of feeling like he/she was forced to say he/she believed things that he/she did not. I personally knew what it felt like to have parents that weren’t perfect. The only thing I ever wanted for my kids was for them to be safe and protected. I didn’t always have that experience as a child, and I couldn't even provide that protection for my children. My spiritual and even your spiritual experiences won’t fix the damage Mormonism has done to some of my children. My feelings and my spiritual experiences will never bring back elements of mental health and stability that they lost.
At some point, I had to admit to myself that the main sign of a cult, which is not being allowed open critical inquiry and not being allowed to openly disagree with leaders policies or doctrines, was the very thing that was causing me so much pain and mental anguish, at that very time. What was/is not okay and what's not healthy is that I can't talk about it openly at church, in my meetings. I can't talk about it in Sunday School. I couldn't bring it up in Relief Society. I couldn’t talk about it with my Mormon friends or most of my family. The church historian can talk openly to UVU Institute students, but I can't talk about it in my own church lessons because the church has been hiding it for so long and doesn’t use it in weekly curriculum. And I know, by this point, that past and current prophets have been dead wrong on multiple accounts and have hidden the truth on multiple accounts (the church historian admitted that the LDS leadership was not transparent at various times in the past because they were embarrassed, that’s the word he used, “embarrassed by their past.”) I’m thinking they’re still embarrassed or the truth would be in the missionary manual, weekly mtgs, taught in conference, etc.
Then when my early return missionary delved into a depression that would prove almost fatal, partly upset about what he was learning about church history in institute and on the internet post mission; information we had purposely not told him so as to protect his testimony for his mission, you can understand why I disagree with the bishop about protecting the good name of the church. (My son’s temple recommend was taken away after he posted his anger about the church and the prophet, at the time, which the bishop said was he duty to, “protect the good name of the church.”) The LDS church leaders deserve to be outed. The good name of the church should be held accountable for hurting people by not being transparent and teaching the truth across the board to all members and future members. If history is a precursor to what they will do in the future, they will slowly change teachings and doctrines and hope you don’t notice. But they will never own up to being wrong, even when it is obvious that they are. Once my eyes were open that this was not all true, I could analyze it more healthily on a different level than I could as a literal believer and I started doing that then.
The history stuff I can get over the fact that it's not true in the way it is currently being presented. I can even let the changing doctrines slide. What I can’t personally accept as healthy is the fact that the church has direct signs of a cult. I am not allowed critical inquiry. If I were, I could raise my hand and say, “I don’t believe God sent an angel with a flaming sword. That’s crazy talk.” I could say openly in class, “I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is literal. That’s what 100% of the evidence shows and there is no evidence that it is literal.” And I can’t say, the prophet/leadership policy on gays is not of God. It’s wrong. I can’t say that openly without fear of temple recommend punishment or fear of offending ward members. Words can't express the devastation I felt when I realized I had spent 45 years of my life, raised my kids in what could be labeled in many ways a cult. I couldn't deny it then and I can't deny it now. But for some reason at this point I'm still in. Barely hanging on…in.
Concurrently to my son’s mission events, my fourth child starts asking all the same questions his sibling did and getting ridiculed in Sunday School by his peers, not the teachers this time. You have to remember, when my children ask questions at church, it’s not because they think that the teacher has all the answers. It’s because they want to know the teacher’s opinion, but they want to be allowed to disagree and have their own opinions, too. That’s critical inquiry. So, in that sense, neither of my struggling children were ever able in this ward (due to LDS church culture) ask questions without being ostracized or worse. My teen’s best friends are gay This topic is never going to be something this teen will agree with, but this child is not allowed that opinion in Sunday School. He had been bullied in that group many times before. And that Sunday School class owes him a big apology. I would love nothing more than for him to be able to go to church when we go as a family and feel safe and feel like his questions are valued. After a decade of bullying, he didn’t leave over doctrine. He left because he was not being treated Christ like. What should have been an experience of acceptance and understanding from his church classmates, turned church into a battlefield for him. I blame the institution even for this, mostly, because those classmates are taught that this church is the one and only true church and that the prophet will never lead you astray. And he was questioning their deeply held beliefs. He asks a lot of controversial questions and he got ridiculed regularly. He came to find out that questions weren’t really allowed. We hear the bishop say that but because the bishop can’t be in every class, monitoring all the teachers and kids and the Mormon culture does not encourage questions, especially if they don’t agree with the teacher/leaders answers, our family has never felt questions were welcome.
We decided not to discuss Joseph Smith history with our son pre-mission. We knew that the way LDS doctrine teaches missionary discussions it would just ruin his testimony for him to know the truth so I didn't say anything. The only advice I gave my son was just remember when you're teaching you’re teaching for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and using their materials and it's their story you're telling. There might be other viewpoints of the story. I disagreed with the foreign missionary call because of this child’s medical background. I didn't feel good about it. I couldn't talk him out of it. I asked him to ask if he could be reassigned stateside after his second semester of school because he was already demonstrating a lot of anxiety, but he wanted to go where the prophet had called him. He wanted to be obedient. And I didn’t want to be the overbearing mom, telling the bishop and my adult son what to do. But I'm constantly thinking to myself the prophet has never met my child. I am the only one who knows what he's capable of and this is a bad idea, but I sent him anyway. I didn't look my own son in the eye and tell him what I knew or what I really believed. And the fact that I felt like I couldn't do that as a member of the LDS church is another sign of a cult.
This son had a traumatic, and what I would consider an abusive mission experience. Every day I’m reminded that I didn't stand up for my own son. I chose to stay in a religion I knew had serious truth claim problems and let him go to preach for that religion. And it wasn't just that one of the church history topics or doctrines wasn’t true or taught incorrectly. Almost all of them had inconsistencies and I knew that I disagreed with the church’s interpretation of the facts in the key elements of the truth claims. The truth is not my fault, so why do I feel like I’m constantly being punished mentally and emotionally and watching my kids fall, one by one, for facts I didn’t write. The history of the doctrine not adding up is not Gretchen Day’s personal fault; it’s an institutional failing at transparency. At this point, I’m only in to support my child who is planning a temple marriage and to support my missionary. I’m still in, but feeling forced to stay in so I can attend my own child’s wedding and support this amazing child who was doing exactly what we raised this child to do all his/her life….be married in the LDS temple. (People who don’t believe the Mormon religion is true can’t attend, so my mouth is sealed. I feel like I was born into the mafia, but when I realized it was the mafia, I had to stay in to fight for my children.)
In the Mormon church, if I were to tell any bishop my true thoughts and feelings, I would no longer be an effective intermediary for my family members. Some of them were at church schools. They needed me in that capacity. Plus, I’d be putting my own temple recommend on the line right before my child needed me with him/her at the temple. I was still worried that day about the temple recommend issue. Taking away someone’s ability to see a family member be married because they are questioning or heaven forbid, disagree, is an institutional punishment and sign of a cult. I would never use the word cult openly in this community, but I am using it here with leaders, because that’s what I really think. I’ve felt the harm that can come from not allowing critical inquiry and not allowing members to disagree with leaders openly. I have seen it cause many of my children pain, one to the point of suicidal suffering. This is NOT okay.
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In fact, the only reason I could write this letter and tell my bishop my thoughts was because I was already giving up my temple recommend and my membership via formal resignation. I'm handing it over, saying, “HERE…TAKE IT!” By resigning I’m proactively taking that power away from the church. Bishop roulette will no longer apply to me, because I won’t answer to a bishop, anymore. I've gone through every scenario about how to stay in or get out and it comes back to the signs of a cult every single time. The only way I can be congruent with my thoughts and feelings is by not being Mormon. The only way I can protect my kids and teach them what I think is true going forward is by not being Mormon. I wish there were another way. If I could find another way, I would take it. But I can't. I can no longer say I think something is true that I know is not. And I can't be a part of a religion that doesn't allow me critical inquiry. I can’t stay in a religion that doesn't allow me to say, “Hey you know this flaming sword story of Joseph Smith? I don't believe it was from God,” plus 300 other incongruencies. I can't say that openly in this church or ward. I can't say, “Gay people are born that way. We shouldn't be punishing them. The prophets wrong on that. They’ve been wrong in the past multiple times. Current leaders have repeatedly on lds.org, in writing, repudiated or invalidated past prophet’s teachings.” It’s true, but I can't say it openly. The fact that you can Google what are the signs of a cult and in every list I find one to eight signs that I am currently experiencing and have watched my family experience is undeniable. How can I in good conscience remain a member? How could I in good conscience keep my mouth shut around my own children about what I believe and the truth? The answer is that I can’t and it’s not healthy to ask me to.
The week after my daughter got married was when I attended the Relief Society lesson on careful vs casual, where I almost lost my mind. I went home and wrote what I knew I could not say out loud, without ruffling feathers, in my own church with my own friends. It started out as just a ranting journal entry and then I thought if I don't share this with my children, who already knew I no longer believed, but they did not know why or see my struggle, I would be seen as casual for pulling back, when nothing could be further from the truth. I could no longer keep my feelings to myself, so I sent it to one family member and a few friends in the ward. Then I got up the guts to share it with leaders who were working with my kids. It took me nine months to share my journal entry/coming out letter around, but my leaders had to be last because I needed to be in a position to be ready to give up my temple recommend and my membership once my leaders saw it. Why should I be punished for knowing the truth and not being allowed to talk about it or my interpretations of the facts? Why would I fear losing my temple recommend for something the church was not being entirely open and honest about? Church history isn’t my fault. Church truth claims that don’t add up are not my fault.
Now I can truly say that I know how the cognitive dissonance for my child who resigned must have felt when she was in our home to constantly feel like he/she didn’t have a voice. And I'm not alone. When I started getting responses after sharing my journal entry with other people, I found many who felt the same way I do. Some said things like: “I don’t blame anyone for not staying when their faith (like mine) has been completely shattered, no matter what the cause. I am truly sorry for your pain. It is a pain that is deep in the soul. Something that is hard to explain and difficult to talk about to some people. I also, agree, that it is the WORST to sit through meetings where things and attitudes are shared that are like a dagger to your heart, because you have a different perspective, and you don’t feel safe to share that perspective. It reeks havoc on our mental health. Church should not make us feel like that!!!” Some said, “The older I get, there seems to be more questions than answers. The loneliest place in the whole world to me is at church, surrounded by people! Crazy!”
This is an institutional problem because the church says it’s the only true church and teaches that disagreeing with the brethren or groups that oppose them leads to formal punishment. I no longer want my kids being taught these two very destructive principles. I can let go of all the truth claims not being true. They didn’t have to be true for me to stay in. I just needed the religion to healthy 100% and not harmful. Let it at least pass that test, but it doesn’t. I feel like I have to stand up for what is right, even if I look stupid, even if I lose all my friends, even if I have to give up a religion that I loved and would have given my life for. People see what they are looking for. If you guy a yellow bug, you will start to notice all the yellow bug cars because that is what you are looking for. LDS members/local leaders are going to see what they want to see and nothing I say will change that. But the same goes for me. Now that I can see the beyond being Mormon and the harm that Mormonism can cause, I’m going to start seeing the red flags and warning signs that members won’t.
My hope is that my resignation will send the signal to my children that it's really okay to be on a different path because that's what I've been teaching them for years. I want to openly be in direct conflict with the teaching that the church is the only true church. I don’t believe it and I don’t want my kids learning that at church. It’s a harmful teaching and it’s not true. I can’t pull them out completely, because it would be social suicide here (then COVID hit and we got to leave immediately, haha). My hope is that they will at least not feel blindsided like I did, and that they will be allowed critical inquiry to come to their own conclusions.
Last week I gathered my family around the table to tell them that I was resigning. But the family joke is whenever I gather them around with an important message is that I'm always saying I’m have another baby. So, I started off by telling them your dad and I have an important message to tell you. “We’re having another baby. As everyone starts freaking out, I add it’s a baby boy and I’m due in six months. Then as (husband) is laughing, I say, just kidding, but I do have an important announcement… I told them that I was resigning from the LDS church and that I would no longer be a Mormon. One child “great now I'm not going to have any friends.” His words not mine. No religion should have so much power that my child thinks that if his mom leaves the religion he won't have any friends. Hopefully that's not going to be the case but the fact that he even said that or thought that is another sign of a cult. If you can't leave an organization with your head held high or without people inside thinking you're making a bad decision that's on many cult sign lists.
I don't use the word cult casually. I don't use that word meanly. I don't even use that word aggressively. I use that word with all the devastation of someone who has spent 45 years and had to admit to herself that her religion could be described as a cult when looking at warning signs. I wish I could say otherwise. But I did not make up the signs. And that's why I don't feel like I can make any decision other than to resign. I’m resigning for my own mental and health and to show my kids that I am living what I’m teaching, which is that your path is your own and no ones path is better or more true than another’s.
I'm not leaving over the fact that church history doesn't add up. I'm leaving because I can't talk about it. I can't be open about it. I can't have my own opinion. I can't have a difference of opinion. And that's not healthy for anyone. It's not my fault that the church has repressed and hidden information that could undermine their truth claims in the past and are now finally at least posting a lot of this information on lds.org. It’s not my fault that they still are not teaching it openly in weekly classes all over the world, or in preach my gospel, or at conference. Maybe one day they will. I doubt it, but anything is possible. Unless the time comes where I feel like I can express what my interpretation of the facts are without fear of punishment, I can't be a member of this church. Even in my very act of resigning from the LDS church, there is one more sign of a cult, which is you can’t leave without some sort of punishment. I resign and I lose my temple marriage, lose my baptism, which is supposed to keep me out of the highest degree of heaven and exclude me from my family in the afterlife. This may hurt my believing family members. It’s the church’s attempt to punish me by removing by supposed ability to be with my husband and my children in the next life. The church thinks it has that Priesthood power over me, but I know that it does not. The only punishment that will hurt and does hurt me is that I lose my temple recommend, which means if any of my children choose to stay in and be married in the temple or go on missions, I will not be able to attend the temple with them. That is the main reason I have stayed in so long. Remember how I plan ahead? I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to attend some of my kids weddings, or my future grandchildren, for that matter. But that’s the churches punishment, not mine. So, I’m willingly giving it up. I willingly accept this cult-like punishment. Because that’s what it is. There are also numerous good things, good qualities and good people, which I hope my children can still associate with. That’s why I say I want to make it clear that I am resigning from the institution, not the ward family. I hope to keep my kids and myself in the things that are truly healthy and good and avoid the things that could be construed as signs of a cult.