Hi, I’m Garrett
I’m a family man, an outdoorsman, and a scientist. I was a mormon.
I had a great upbringing in the church. I grew up in Atlanta, GA as the youngest of 6 kids. Life was centered around the church/gospel. I had some years as a wayward teen, but I vividly remember praying as a 16-year-old about the Book of Mormon and I had a powerful spiritual experience. As we are taught, I felt that experience was the Holy Ghost revealing to me that the Book of Mormon was true. That experience changed my life. Everything became about the gospel, the church, and most importantly, my personal relationship with God. I frequently felt led by God in my life as I experienced strong impressions of personal revelation. I loved the clarity and certainty that came from being "all in" as a faithful Mormon. I attended BYU in Provo, UT, served a mission in the Montana Billings Mission, was married in the temple to my best friend, and had 2 kids (I now have 3) before the weight on my shelf began to disrupt my daily life.
Why I left
Simply put, my shelf broke, and the cons of church activity in that state of turmoil began to outweigh the pros. There were some minor concerns before my shelf started getting heavy, but they could always be explained, rationalized, or disregarded as anti-mormon. After some serious study, the concerns became insurmountable and it became clear that my family and I would have a hard time participating in the church we love as non-traditional/unorthodox believers.
Questions I've answered
What broke your shelf?
It all started when I began a deeper study of Joseph Smith's revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. I was Young Men's President at the time and our quorum had some discussion about the Word of Wisdom. I noticed a reference to "barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks" which I had never noticed. I was curious about what a "mild drink" containing barley was and started to study the historical context surrounding this revelation, how it was interpreted and implemented early on, and how it has since evolved into a distinguishing doctrine of our faith. This process brought several questions about how the doctrines of the church can evolve and how the personal preferences of church leaders can shape our understanding of right vs. wrong. I was introduced to Dialogue and Sunstone (journals of Mormon history) and inadvertently was exposed to the story of Fanny Alger. As more questions came up, I felt I had to drill down into church history to save my faith from crumbling. I was hesitant and made it a matter of serious prayer for weeks. It was all I could think about, until I had a spiritual experience. I felt God prompting me, just like I had countless times before, to seek truth. I felt assured that if the church was true, if the restoration was real, I would find the answers and rebuild my "all-in" faith. That's when it all began to come unglued. The issues seemed never-ending. I am not sure what the final straw was that broke my shelf. I've always thought it was more the sheer magnitude of sound evidence that invalidated the whole story. Some significant shelf items for me were:
1. Book of Abraham
2. Evidence of Fraud/cover-up/sensationalizing of events in Mormon history throughout time (e.g. priesthood restoration accounts, first vision accounts, Moroni/spirit visitations, etc.).
3. Treasure digging and folk-magic culture, and how it's influence is seen in the Mormon story (Moroni, Gold Plates, Indian lore, etc.)
4. Book of Mormon issues: translation mechanics, anachronisms, 19th century sources and influence, DNA evidence, and credibility of the witnesses.
5. Kinderhook plates, Zelph, and lots in this same category.
6. Polyandry and the often gruesome details of early polygamy.
7. The evolution of church doctrine vs. culture, including race and the priesthood, Adam-God and blood atonement doctrines, the Word of Wisdom, and many others.
8. How different the story really is from how I learned and taught it. Exploring the story within the historical context is an eye-opening, but gut-wrenching, experience. So many details included in this that it's daunting to even begin to summarize.
9. How the church has adamantly controlled/denied the information until forced into transparency. This includes the church's marginalization of those willing to talk about and publish the history of the early church.
10. Many modern issues that came to light for me are :the conditional love paradigm, fear indoctrination (perpetuates the idea that it is impossible for anyone to be happy or good outside of the organization), patriarchy, LGBTQ issues, correlated curriculum, tribal shaming, all-or-none ideology, and more.
11. Etc. etc. etc. Once you get into the material it seems like there is no end.
The shelf breaking is a demoralizing, crushing experience. What hurt the most was the feeling that I had no-where to turn at first. Looking back I see the extreme cultural pressure on people to stay active, to "stay in the boat", to stay away from "anti-mormon" influences. This builds an unhealthy community of fear, judgement (of self and others), and shame for anyone who feels on the fringes. What's worse is this is the community that I had given everything to. Feeling betrayed about the control of information was hard, but feeling like the community I gave my life to had no place for me was even worse.