Hi, I’m Mark
I’m a father of 4 amazing adult children. I love the outdoors, motorcycles, snowmobiles, hiking, etc. I was a mormon.
y faith journey
In order to explain how I got to where I am, I think some background is necessary. I was raised in a primarily orthodox LDS home. My parents were married in the Salt Lake City temple and have been active members all their lives. We basically followed the teachings, commandments and policies of the church. We would go do family activities on the weekends and at times this meant missing church, but it wasn’t that often. For a few years my dad raced snowmobiles on the weekends and races were on Sunday and we didn’t give it a lot of thought. We were together as a family, and family came first, even over the church.
I am the youngest of 4 siblings and am the only one who served a mission. I was highly influenced by my friends and my seminary teachers in this decision. At the time I felt converted to the gospel, even though I had never completely read through the Book of Mormon before my mission. I felt like I did my best to follow the commandments as taught by the church.
As I got into my later teens and start to think critically about aspects of the church that sort of bothered me, I did so always with the assumption that the church is true so I made my critical thinking and logic mold to fit the church’s narrative. For example blacks in the priesthood. Growing up we had a very close relationship with an African American family we spent a couple summers with at the U of U as my dad was getting his doctorate degree. These were the only people of color I really knew, but they were just like us and we loved them dearly. I was in Junior high school when the church allowed blacks to receive all the temple and priesthood blessings and it never sat right with me that up until that time blacks aren’t considered worthy to receive those blessings. I was always taught that god is not a respect or of persons, but my cognitive dissonance made me put that on a shelf and not think too deeply about it. There are other examples such as polygamy, why we don’t have the golden plates from the Book of Mormon, why was Joseph Smith seemingly always in trouble with the law, why there is zero mention of the specific temple ordinances anywhere in either the Bible or Book of Mormon (if it is such a critical part of our being able to get back to god, it logically made sense to me it would be at least mentioned directly is some scripture before)? All of these things and others that didn’t make logical sense to me, I never even thought about digging into. I just accepted what the church taught, because the church is true. No need to educate myself any further. I had enough weaknesses as a teen and young adult, just trying to stay worthy was hard enough.
I served my mission, got married in the temple, finished my education, had kids, started a career. All the typical things you do as a faithful Latter Day Saint. Had callings, paid tithing, went to the temple (not very often but as occasion arose). Kids grew up and we taught them the importance of family and church.
When our youngest son was 13, we were having one of our rare family home evenings, and something was troubling him deeply that he got enough courage to talk to us about. He told us that he doesn’t believe in the church or even that god exists. By admitting this to us, he thought that by doing so he would be destroying our family. He was horrified but wanted to be honest. Instantly the only concern I had regarding this or any issue any of my kids is their personal emotional and mental health. I wanted them to always know they come first for Lynette and I, above anything else, the church included. At that time my comment to Carson was, one of our greats gifts from god is free agency. I told Carson that he is honestly exercising that god given gift and he should not feel guilty for doing so. I only asked him to vet the resources that he had studied to come to this conclusion. Are they as reliable as the scriptures? If so, then we support him. I never asked what specifically he had learned. I comforted him that he in no way was damaging our family, in fact this experience actually brought our family closer together as we had to concentrate on what we can do to support each other in a very real way.
Even after this Carson freely participated in most every church activity and he graduated seminary. We didn’t really push this on him, he just had a good attitude about it and continued to attend church, advance in scouting and seminary. Once he graduated high school it was his choice and right to not attend church any longer.
For most of Carson’s life I suspected that there is a possibility that he could be gay. Through my career at Hallmark Cards, I have become very close and dear friends with several people who are LGBT and again had to bend my critical thinking about homosexuality through the lens of what the church taught. I thought I had worked it out in my mind that I can support a civil union between a same sex couple, just couldn’t go as far as supporting a “marriage”, as that is a covenant between a man and a woman in gods eyes. I tried not to think any deeper then that about the topic. Just love my friends and not judge them.
During Carson’s senior year he officially came out to us, even though we had known for the longest time that he is gay, and I did my best to never make him feel shame for who he is. I always want him and all my kids is that I love, support and accept them for who they are.
So, to this point there are a lot off issues I have placed on this mental/spiritual shelf. You put them up there and don’t think much about them.
My journey actually started as a calling Lynette and I received from the stake, here in Farmington, Utah, to be group leaders for a stake youth conference, “Moroni’s Quest”. We were called in late fall and the youth conference was in July of the following summer. As part of this calling, we were challenged to read the Book of Mormon, but with this time, really think about that actual people in the book. Get to know who they were, what struggles they went through and relate this to the youth to strength their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the church. I took this challenge to heart, and began rereading the Book of Mormon. I was working in Brigham City at the time and had almost an hour commute each way, so I would play the Book of Mormon on my phone and just immerse myself into the characters and story as I drove.
Something was different this time then any other time reading, but it wasn’t as I expected. I used critical thinking, but with the thought to really know the story. I was surprised this time how self righteous Nephi came across to me. Then just how so much of the text was copied from the Bible. Why would god have prophets copy word for word on golden plates (a seemingly pain staking process) just to copy scripture that already exists. Then the cursing of the Lamanite skin color. Something about this just seemed so wrong to me this time. Further into it, the amount of people who supposedly lived here and the tens and hundreds of thousands who died, but there is no archeological evidence of their existence.
These questions didn’t really weaken my faith at this point, I just wanted a way to better understand. Not to find fault, just understand. So I thought, a good way to better know the Book of Mormon is to better know the man who translated it. I never really studied much about Joseph Smith other then reading his history in the Pearl of Great Price. So my next source was the Doctrine and Covenants. It’s his revelations directly from god. How better to understand him then through his interaction with god. So I had the same mindset, listen to how Joseph interacted with god. And again, instead of feeling this heart warming feelings from the Holy Ghost, as I was expecting, thoughts of, this sounds narcissistic and self serving, not important knowledge to build up gods kingdom in earth.
This is when the first thoughts of, what if this isn’t exactly as I’ve always been taught. What if Joseph was even more flawed then the church admits. Not that it’s all a lie, just, okay maybe I need to start having a more open mind about what I believe and what I’ve been taught.
About this time a close friend of mine was on the Mormon Stories podcast. This friend is a strongly believing member who had actually in his twenties served as a Bishop, but he is gay and is now divorced from his wife and in a healthy relationship with another believing man. His story is so much more than just him being gay and working through what he can to continue to believe in god and the church, even though they excommunicated him for being in a same sex marriage.
I mention this because this friend is an example to anyone who has challenges in their life and continues to be as healthy, honest and authentic as he can. Although my son has no interest in church (and that makes no difference to me whether he does or doesn’t, I just want him to be a good person and find joy in his life) I want him to have every joy that a marriage and family has brought to me. In November of 2017, the church came out with a policy regarding same sex marriages. That being, anyone in a same sex marriage is an apostate and open to excommunication. It also set restrictions on church ordinance for children of same sex parents. (Please look it up on the church website for more specifics). This policy was very troubling to me.
As a parent of a gay child, this policy did not strike me as gods will, but rather the will of those in power to make such policies based on their own prejudices. Later in 2019/2020 this policy was amended to not call same sex partners as apostates. This reversal clearly shows that neither policy was revelation from god (although on multiple occasions Pres. Nelson stated that it was).
This began to weaken my belief In the church. It was also around this time that I discovered the Gospel Topic Essays on the church website. They aren’t easy to find, and I found the content to brush over many important facts, and use apologetic language to skirt around some difficult errors in what I had always been taught was to be truth, and historical. Granted it was an attempt by the church to start being more transparent about some issues that are problematic for the church, but it came across to me as a sophomoric explanation. I have later learned that the reason the church wrote these essays was because of information that was readily available on the internet that members and non-members alike were finding as reliable sources that contradict the church’s narrative.
I then came across other references (many of which I found through footnotes on the church website, so they shouldn’t be viewed as “anti-Mormon”, such as the book, No man knows my history, by Fawn Brodie (President Mackay’s niece), and Rough Stone Rolling. These books are well documented historical insights to Joseph Smith, his family and other founding members of the church. All of this information was kept from me and the general population of the church for years and even decades. Keep in mind, my intent for studying wasn’t to tear down, but to understand and educate myself. My hope was that it would eventually strengthen my belief in the church. Sadly, with every topic that I researched, more and more evidence was building a case against the church.
If I came across a podcast or some writing, if the author seemed to have an axe to grind against the church I moved on. I didn’t want bias, I wanted information.
This is what many call “the rabbit hole “. Once I began learning and my mind was open to a different style of critical thinking, one where the premise didn’t start with “the church is true, therefore make this fit that mold. This critical thinking was based on, where does the evidence point and what makes best logical sense.
I studied topic after topic: Book of Mormon and the golden plates and how it was translated; the first vision; the restoration of the priesthood; the temple ceremony and its Masonic roots; seer stones; the book of Abraham translation not matching what Joseph claimed it to be; polygamy and polyandry; Kirkland Anti-Bank criminal charges and multiple other instances where Joseph extorted money from even his closest church members; Joseph’s contention with key church founders; Mormon extermination order; why Joseph was really arrested and jailed in Liberty jail; Brigham Young incorporating the Adam-God theory as doctrine in the endowment ceremony; why did Joseph have so many revelations from god and so many of them seem so trivial, but no prophet since has even had any experience like Joseph did; blacks and the priesthood; Joseph’s final arrest and what happened in his last days in Carthage, and more and more.
Somewhere during studying these topics my shelf broke. All the issues I had rationalized or ignored and placed on that shelf to keep my beliefs fell! Now so many things that never made sense as a believing member, it all comes together and a undeniably clear view!
A clear picture of who Joseph Smith was came into view. He was a genius, charismatic, a tremendous story teller, but also a complete fraud, criminal, narcissist, rapist, plagiarist and philander.
Through this process, I went through every range of emotion. Shock and fear at first. Even horror to realize my entire identity is destroyed! Every major decision I have made in my life was highly influenced be the church. So many of my relationships are based on the church. The thought of loosing any part of that was terrifying!
Anger, that I had been lied to and controlled in part through fear of loosing eternal relationships and blessings.
Relief, that I no longer had to feel the shame of being a failure because I “sin”. Not huge things, but just constantly falling short. The church requires so much of every aspect of our lives.
Confidence, in the feelings I had about so many of my shelf items are now validated.
Joy, that I now realize my path and thoughts are just as valid as anyone else’s.
Dealing with my family and close friends has been painful and rewarding.
I now am more confident that the church is built on lies, then I was of its “truth” when I was a believing member.
I now see the damage the church’s doctrine and policies cause so many and that is painful to see. I know that it works for many and I’m happy for them. I try my best to focus on the common ground and be as positive as possible.
My request I have from those in my life who are believing LDS is to give me the same respect in my belief as they expect me to give them.
I could no longer sit next to my wife in sacrament meeting and listen to the rhetoric from people proclaiming their “knowledge” of the truthfulness of the church, when I now see clearly that it is a house of cards, build upon lies snd deceit. I love so many of the people in my ward, but that wasn’t enough to keep me their. I had to be honest and authentic to the truth I now know!