Philosophy major who didn't leave because of things like The Problem of Evil, or after reading Euthyphro. I was a mormon.
Philosophy major is able to make it through his classes without ever questioning TSCC until he wants to learn more about the amazing lives of Joseph Smith's other wives, existentialism and faith crisis hits, managed to marry an amazing wife that was willing to be objective (probably because there were aspects of TSCC culture that we felt members embraced too much) and we are both out with two lovely kids. Shout out to Utah Valley Exmos. Sorry for any typos or grammar mistakes.
# Why I left More stories of 'Why I left' the Mormon church
I was full on TBM who had built up a reputation on my mission and at home as someone who could defend anything and everything about the church with anything (secular/philosophical knowledge and/or spiritual/testimony, etc) and had just walked out of the Legacy Theater in the JS memorial building, after having watched the JS movie there. In the intro to the film, JS's adoptive daughter was talking to Emma in her later years and it mentioned that Emma struggled with JS's polygamy. After exiting the building I noticed that bronze statue of Emma and Joseph in a depiction of how much love they must have had for each other. I thought to myself, God wouldn't allow any mockery of marriage, so if Joseph Smith married other women, then other wives must be equally amazing as was Emma, each with their own story of sacrifice, nobility, and each with amazing testimonies.
So I dove into their lives thinking I was going to discover a little forgotten piece of LDS history that would strengthen my testimony. I didn't get around to it for a while, but the interest was still there, and strangely enough little things popped up on FB about a timeline of Joseph's wives. I thought great, someone has already done a lot of the research and this will save me a lot of time. Boom, first thing in the time line: FANNY ALGER. I thought, WTF; this is entirely made up or taken out of context.
So I went to the LDS Essays, which I expected to settle all of my questions that were popping up in one satisfying motion. Nope; I only received superficial answers and possible explanations. So I searched for unbiased research that had been done on JS's wives. I came across FARMS and FAIR thinking TSCC wasn't going to go full academia on the public with the essays and instead must have put out a watered down version of what all the church historians and researchers really knew since they were knee deep in it and could most definitely settle things. NOPE! Their answers only made God's will harder to understand since it all seemed so inconsistent and contradictory which isn't God is taught to us. At best the answers from apologists were, "we just don't have enough information."
I attempted to talk to my wife about it later that evening that apparently JS may have committed a very serious sin while acting as the Prophet. I was assuming at the time, that maybe this is why JS's life was so hard at times, or maybe this tied into some other loss of priesthood for a time that tied into other things I had been taught in Sunday school. My wife, didn't receive my announcement very well because as she saw it, if a prophet couldn't keep his covenants, what hope was there for someone like her. I told her that this was a big of a deal as having someone accuse your spouse of an affair; if there are holes in your spouses timeline and they match up with the accusations, you can't just leave it alone. She asked me to be very careful in reading more about it and made me promise only research from church approved sources. I agreed because I sure as hell didn't want to face the reality of at best JS being a fallen prophet, but at worst he was a fraud.
There was much prayer, fasting, and serving in the ward; but after looking at the research done by apologists in an effort to help with my prayers and scripture study I had to put it all on the shelf for a while because I didn't like where it was going, and thought God sometimes answers things if you just give it time; kind of like making sure to get enough sleep while studying for a big test instead of cramming the whole night.
I gave it at least 3-6 months for God to help. Nothing ever came, and little by little no matter how bad I wanted to hold on to my testimony, I couldn't help but feel like I had just seen the man behind the curtain or the trick behind a magic act? I couldn't unseen what I had seen. TSCC, meetings, lessons, General Conference all seemed so hollow. I even fasted before General Conference listening for any message that had to either do with polygamy directly or a message to doubters. I was pissed that all I got was Elder Ballard saying where else are you going to go? Really?! You have a heap of evidence stacked against you, it all lines up with holes in your own stories, and all you can say is you won't find happiness without us. I knew at that point that this was the language of an abusive relationship and the shelf broke. But how did I break it to my wife? We had nearly had an argument just at the mention of JS possibly doing something wrong.
While I look back at this now, and wish I had brought my wife in with me to really dive into the accusations TSCC was dealing with; at the time I thought okay if TSCC is false the evidence will be there. I committed myself to objectivity and that either my doubts were going to be killed by this and I would have unshaken faith once and for all, or I was definitely never coming back. Polygamy was going to be my starting point.
I started compiling research on JS's wives (How they first met him?, The circumstance leading up to the marriage?, What methods were used to convince people to do it?, What were the EXACT rules for polygamy outlined in D&C 132? Did the practices match to the doctrine taught? Was the first husband aware?, What was Emma's knowledge of the marriages and was she ever lied to? Were the first husbands of polyandrous marriages ever offered a chance to be sealed to their wives? etc). Slowly other items I put up on the shelf all slowly started coming to my memory (God ordering genocide in the OT, blacks and the priesthood, 116 lost pages, etc). My mind was beginning to reject and throw up the Kool-aid. All I could do was just suffer through while the house of cards collapsed. The more research I did, the more I knew Joseph Smith was a fraud at this point for being a complete lying dirt bad, but how did this match up with the BoM, and the Witnesses, visitations of angels and the restoration of the priesthood? Was he just a fallen prophet? Then it hit me, if TSCC could have cherry-picked the history surrounding JS and polygamy to give members a more favorable view; then the same could be true for everything from the beginning. I decided to talk to my wife about the conclusions I had come to since I didn't really need much else other than knowing that JS was a dirt bag who lied, manipulated through deception his plural wives, couldn't follow his own rules on sex; and TSCC had covered it up making them just as guilty and illegitimate as well.
I put my kids to bed, and said a prayer going up the stairs to talk to my wife asking in one last act of desperation that if I was making a serious mistake to PLEASE, PLEASE stop me from what I was about to do. After a long night of me just spilling my guts to my wife (who hardly said a word), a few weeks of open discussion, a friend that was already out telling me that I should read the CES letter as well, and an agreement between my DW that there wouldn't be any more solo investigations; we both read the CES, and with some hesitation, we removed our garments, kept our tithing money, and began to wonder just what things we would end up doing now that TSCC couldn't tell us what to do. We are both living happier than ever out of the church.