Hi, I'm Jeremy
I'm passionate about science, law, and exploring wilderness. I was a mormon.
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I loved my identity as a Mormon, and loved the community it gave me. My Patriarchal Blessing said I would be "called to a specific people and a specific place". So when I was called to serve in the China Hong Kong Mission, I figured I would be spending the rest of life in China or serving the Chinese people. I learned Cantonese while I was a missionary in Hong Kong, and I later studied Mandarin Chinese in college and in TianJin, China.
After I got married, I took my first major step to "returning to the place I had been called" in my Patriarchal Blessing. I did a study abroad in Hong Kong and an internship in ShangHai, but after we spent the summer in Mainland China - I started to see the logistical challenges we would face. We only ended up seeing the sky a handful of days because of extreme pollution, we had to worry about counterfeit eggs and chemically-injected-exploding watermelons, and we had to haggle over every transaction. The stress of living in mainland China for one Summer was exhausting, I realized I didn't want to live in China, and I started to think that maybe my Patriarchal Blessing was wrong. About five more years of processing, and I realized that Mormonism wasn't a healthy place for me to stay.
Why I left
I became heavily involved in the Ordain Women movement because it invigorated my spouse's faith in Mormonism. We thought it could be a way for Mormonism to help rediscover its progressive, egalitarian roots with the historical practice of Women's Blessings and a doctrine of Heavenly Mother, and then we had our first daughter, and I wanted to create a better faith home for her to grow up in.
When Kate Kelly was excommunicated, our optimism was crushed, but I kept searching Church History to understand Heavenly Mother and the nature of God, which led me to contemplate who the Holy Spirit could be. The best answer I found was from Janice Allred (Allred, "Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother", Dialogue Journal, 1994, Vol. 27, No. 2, Pgs. 15-39) who argued that "God" could be the Heavenly Couple together, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and that each of them gave up their immortal bodies to serve us on earth. Heavenly Father gave up His body to become Jesus Christ - The Son and Heavenly Mother gave up Her body to become the Holy Spirit. I was ecstatic to discover that there could be room for Heavenly Mother in the Godhead, and there would be a space for my daughter to emulate a Feminine Divine, but then I learned that Janice Allred was excommunicated for her paper and presentation that had brought me so much faith and inspiration.
I began to look further into Church History to understand the First Vision and changes regarding marriage (e.g. monogamy as doctrine, polygamy as doctrine, Family Proclamation, and views on LGBTQIA issues), and I kept finding changes in doctrine. The Nature of God seemed to change through Church History, the Doctrine and Covenants seemed to be changed in response to political and legal pressure instead of being revealed ahead of time, and when I realized that the most problematic "revelation" for me personally, D&C 132 regarding polygamy, was only added two years after a new law - the Poland Act of 1874 - was introduced to aid in the prosecution of polygamy, I finally allowed myself to consider that Mormon Prophets weren't receiving revelation, but were reacting to legal pressure.
I kept searching, hoping I might be wrong, but the further I dug, the more I found out about the evolving nature of the First Vision, since the "first vision or first visitation" appeared to evolve from being a "treasure guardian" who visited Joseph when he was between 18-19 years old, to an "angel" who told him his "sins were forgiven" when he was 17 years old, to "many angels" telling him his "sins were forgiven" when he was 14 years old, until the First Vision account I was familiar with from 1838 declared that "God the Father & Jesus Christ" appeared to Joseph when he was 14 years old. It was unsettling because none of the early church leaders, like the three witnesses, or later leaders like Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff seemed to know about the "First Vision" from their teachings, see here regarding the "doctrinal evolution of the mormon god": http://www.jvalentiner.com/2017/09/doctrinal-evolution-of-mormon-god.html
Through my research, I kept seeing instances where doctrine seemed to be changing and leaders kept failing to predict the future. One of the most startling examples for me was when I realized that the Mormon Church Presidents had changed positions on marriage multiple times: for instance, the original D&C 101 (1835) states: "we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband", but that was later replaced with D&C 132 (1876) "new and everlasting covenant - polygamy". That change appears to have happened two years after a new anti-polygamy law, Poland Act of 1874, was passed by the U.S. government. It appears that it was expressly canonized in preparation for a first amendment challenge to that Act, which ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The Supreme Court ends up upholding the Constitutionality of the Poland Act and the Church ends up losing. Further legal and political pressure is added to dissuade the practice of polygamy, and eventually the First and Second Manifestos are given to publicly declare the practice of polygamy "over", while it was still practiced in secret for several more years.
Later in 1991, the marriage equality fight begins in Hawaii, the Mormon Church files an amicus brief to petition to intervene in the marriage equality case but is unable to point to any "scripture or doctrine" for monogamy, since they had previously argued for a first amendment right to practice "polygamy" in Reynolds v. U.S. - an irony that was predicted by Dallin Oaks in a legal memo that he prepared and was dated the same day he was sustained an apostle on August 7th 1984:
>"The leading United States Supreme Court authority for the proposition that marriage means a relationship between a man and a woman is Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878). In that case, in which the United States Supreme Court sustained the validity of the anti-polygamy laws, the Court defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The court's stress in that case was on one. The modern relevance of the Reynolds opinion is in its reference to marriage as being between a man and a woman. The irony would arise if the Church used as an argument for the illegality of homosexual marriages the precedent formerly used against the Church to establish the illegality of polygamous marriages."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals", 7 August 1984, Pgs. 19-20
In 1995, Gordon Hinckley introduces the "Proclamation on the Family" and the Mormon Church uses this document as basis for their doctrine supporting monogamy in their petition to the Hawaii court in the ongoing marriage equality litigation in 1997.
It appears that an original monogamy doctrine was replaced with a polygamy doctrine to fight a law on constitutional grounds, later the Church tries to intervene in marriage equality fight, but needs to supplant their polygamy doctrine with a document establishing monogamy as doctrine.
If they were "prophets", why didn't they see into the future? Why didn't the leaders of the Church fix these problems before laws and court decisions forced a change? If leaders are actually inspired by revelation, why has "scripture" been amended several times to flip flop from monogamy to polygamy to monogamy?
I didn't have an intellectually honest answer to that, and my integrity required that I regain my agency and authority. It took control of my life by taking a different path.
See here for citations and more detail regarding the "doctrinal evolution of mormon marriage": http://www.jvalentiner.com/2017/02/doctrinal-evolution-of-mormon-marriage.html?q=mormon+marriage
Questions I've answered
What do you believe now?
I see God in the mystery of life. The fact that humans, animals, plants, anything exists is a miracle. I live in joy that I have consciousness, and get to experience the world. Some resources that have helped me find purpose and meaning include Stoicism and Secular Buddhism.
Which version of the First Vision do you prefer?
I think the most interesting account comes from Oliver Cowdery in an 1835 letter to W.W. Phelps published in the Church’s official newsletter “Latter Day Saint’s Messenger and Advocate” where it discusses Joseph Smith praying to know “if a Supreme Being did exist”, the year of “religious excitement” was 1823 not 1820, and the time Joseph was given his prophetic mandate, i.e. it was his first vision of the divine, but it was with an “angel” - which can be assumed to be sourced to Joseph Smith since it relates Joseph’s personal experience (Oliver Cowdery, "Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate", BYU Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections, February 1835, Vol. I, No. 5, Letter IV, Pgs. 77-80) - on the right hand side of the webpage is a "content drop-down", maximize "Vol. 1 No. 5, February 1835", click on "Letter IV" (the eighth item down under "Vol. 1 No. 5"), available at: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/NCMP1820-1846/id/7160