I'm an author and I was a convert to the church. I was a mormon.
I have written over a dozen books and I've also published poems, radio plays, and hundreds of articles in magazines.
I'm a full-time writer and also speak at seminars, retreats, and on television and radio programs. I'm the recipient of Pepperdine University’s Distinguished Christian Service Award for Creative Christian Writing,
I am a Christian at peace with myself and the Lord.
Why I left More answers about 'Why I left' the mormon church
When people ask me why I became a Mormon, I tell them that I wanted to please God, and I believed that I could do that in Mormonism. No ulterior motives, no grand plan, just simplicity and the literal faith of a child. I (the Baptist I was) had a great respect for Scripture and a love for my Creator, and Mormonism gave me the chance to expand and act on that love while learning more about God and His mysteries than I’d ever dreamed.
I found it incomprehensible then that everyone would not want this expanded, updated, self-correcting and plenary version of Christianity. It seemed all very black and white to me. My senior year of high school, an English teacher had all her students write themselves letters, which she would mail to each of us after five years.
I with eighteen-year-old sobriety spent the entire letter scolding my 23-year-old future self for any minor infraction or distraction that would take me away from my wholehearted devotion to the Mormon Church. I congratulated her for staying faithful, for either going on a mission or being married in the temple, for beginning to fulfill the patriarchal blessing which promised me influence in the church and in my community.
The next fall I went away to BYU, where I was gloriously happy. I took English, Spanish, writing and religion classes on the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, "Teachings of the Living Prophets" and "The Gospel in Principle and Practice." I studied, believed and lived Mormonism as it wanted to be understood.
My yearbooks show pictures of a relaxed, smiling, clear-eyed young woman, across the pages from Mitt Romney and my friends Deborah Legler and Paul Toscano.
When the Provo LDS temple was dedicated, I was in the crowd with a white handkerchief, waving it with the solemn “Hosanna shout.” I honored the prophet and my leaders as personal heroes. I was there. I believed. I worked hard, putting myself through school without any outside help other than writing scholarships and earned good grades and loved, just loved, being a Mormon. I participated in every ward function and continued to write and be published in BYU’s publications and to read voraciously.
Of everything I read or studied at BYU, one work stands out in my memory above all others. In a literature class I was required to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, "Young Goodman Brown." It is a highly symbolic story about a man who has a traumatic experience that causes him to lose what I would have then called "his testimony."
The closing lines of the story read: Often, waking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of [his wife] Faith; and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.
Why was that story so terrifying? Because I could not think of anything more dreadful than the loss of beloved belief. Apostasy from Mormonism -- the idea of becoming what is called a son of perdition -- is that of the sealed fate of a creature past redemption, a being of utter loss, beyond any spiritual lifeline nor resuscitation, dead to God yet still living, a walking corpse of dismay to anyone who sees his or her spiritual condition.
Someone with no hopeful verse on his tombstone, someone for whom her dying hour would be gloom. Such were the rushing fears of the person who in May of 1975, two years after leaving Mormonism, read the letter she’d written herself five years before in high school, saying that Mormonism was the only source of happiness, that it was worth dying for.
"You’ll never be happy again. . ." The words of my last LDS bishop rang in my ears as I remembered making the decision to leave Mormonism. The process of coming back to faith – in anything – was a difficult one, yet one whose steps I can recount. Though it sounds simple, this process was agonizing.
First of all, I looked around me at the beauty and diversity of nature, and concluded that such order and creativity indicated the existence of a Creator. But power and ability to create do not necessarily imply goodness – look at the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali, for example. I looked again at nature and decided that whoever made all that was both complicated and good. If He created all of nature, and I was part of nature, He had created me. If He created me and all mankind, I concluded that surely He would want to communicate with us. Since I had seen the danger of unfettered "personal revelation," I supposed that there would have to be a type of communication that would be beyond human contrivances, something truly reliable.
And that’s where the true leap of faith was – to believe the Bible was the inviolate communication of this good, relationship-seeking, Creator God. I couldn’t trust anyone or anything else on earth but that Book. But sometimes it was almost too painful to read, and I shrank from His touch. I began The Mormon Mirage to explain to myself as much as to anyone why I had made the decision to abandon the single most satisfying and soul-healing thing in my life.
Of course, the head-decision was reaffirmed constantly. I was startled over and over by the contrast between what I’d been taught in my BYU classes and what Mormon history really was like—the deceptions of Joseph Smith, the failed prophecies, the ignoble shams. The Book of Mormon continued to crumble before my eyes, unredeemed even by its quaintness and platitudes. The Book of Abraham was an embarrassing fraud. Different god, different heaven, different eternal past. Again and again the glaring difference between Bible doctrine and LDS doctrine disquieted me as if I’d never seen it before; new, like God’s distant mercies, every morning.
But still I wanted to believe the best about Mormons themselves and was genuinely, continuously surprised by their actions as well. I didn’t want to believe that people would lie about an apostate who left for doctrinal reasons, until another woman who left the Church learned that it had been announced in Relief Society meeting that she – who had always been faithful to her husband -- was excommunicated for adultery.
I didn’t want to believe that my own local LDS leadership could be deceptive until I asked to be excommunicated from the LDS Church several months before The Mormon Mirage was to be published. (Unbeknownst to me, a Mormon who was a self-appointed mole in ex-Mormon organizations was corresponding with me under the pretext that he had left the Church too and apparently had been reporting my research to Church leaders.) When the new bishop of my hometown ward told me that I couldn’t be excommunicated because they had no record I had ever been a Mormon, only the existence of my baptismal certificate and temple recommend made the procedure go forward.
The unarticulated and un-targeted sense of betrayal I felt became the permanent inner garment of my soul. Charles Spurgeon articulated it best: “If God be thy portion, then there is no loss in all the world that lies so hard and so heavy upon thee as the loss of thy God.” I have tried to describe the state in which I lived for years after leaving Mormonism by comparing it to the aftermath of the discovery that your “forever” lover has left you and will never come back.
Who do you blame when you have been duped by a church?
For me, I couldn’t find anyone to blame. Not my Mormon friends. I knew their good hearts. Not Church leadership – at that time I found it incomprehensible that people I knew-- my bishops, stake presidents, regional representatives -- could be aware of what I had found out. But how far up the chain of command would I look to find the ones who did know these things and had hidden them? Could it be possible they were unaware too? I had no way of knowing where the line of inner-sanctum complicity began.
I couldn’t blame myself, though the responsibility surely lay there. I wanted to reproach myself for being suckered – but how could I hold responsible the trusting eleven-year-old? The trusting teenager? The trusting college student? If there is no loss as great as the loss of one’s god, there are few tasks to compare with setting out to learn to serve another One. If you’ve been burned by a god, how do you learn to trust another one? Make no mistake about it, I knew I needed what only He could provide: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, church and community based on truth, not beloved fictions.
I knew from the beginning that I would walk with a spiritual limp the rest of my life, the price I paid for being there, and believing. From this I have learned a truth about Mormonism: The power of its sociology – its cultures, its traditions, its people – is of such intensity and persistent power for those who love it, that doctrine and history can pale in significance unless truth is more important than any other thing.
Truth is worth any limp, any price.
More than I paid, more than any price payable; because truth alone can bring peace.
Questions about Mormons My Answers to Questions about Mormonism
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 wrote a book about it called The Mormon Mirage: amazon.com/Mormon-Mirage-Former-Member-Church/dp/…
In it, I share my journey out of Mormonism as I uncovered shocking inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the faith I had loved and lived. I've revised it thirty years later as Mormonism and Mormon scholarship have evolved with the times. The third, revised and updated edition keeps pace with changes and advances in Mormonism, and reveals formidable new challenges to its claims and teachings.
The Mormon Mirage provides fascinating, carefully documented insights into:
• DNA research’s withering implications for the Book of Mormon
• the impact of new “revelations” on Latter-day Saint (LDS) race relations
• new findings about Mormon history
• increasing publicity about LDS splinter groups, particularly polygamous ones
• recent disavowals of long-held doctrines by church leadership
• the rise of Mormon apologetics on the Internet.
More than a riveting, insider’s scrutiny of the Mormon faith, the book is a testimony to the trustworthiness of Scripture and the grace of Jesus Christ.