I spent nearly a decade wrestling with gospel questions I didn’t understand. I studied, pondered and questioned everything in that search. It was anything but lazy or easy.
Yes I'm lazy but not the main reason I left. But it does help to be not lazy!
🤣🤣 oh I'm lazy but not when it came to the church. I did a lot for primary and for the music aspect of the religion. I left because I felt like I was lied too, on more than one occasion.
I ate, slept, and breathed my religion. It took me being massively jarred to even begin questioning the church.
Maybe a little, but never in religion. When I started having a faith crisis I worked extra hard to try and believe. Because I had concerns with the temple, I asked to become a temple worker and spent 5-6 hours a week there performing ordinances and talking with other workers, trying to understand. I read the Book of Mormon again. I served as first counsellor in the relief society presidency. I kept all of the standards, plus some extra ones as a BYU student.
I left because trying sincerely to grow my faith and live worthy of the Spirit couldn't change the fact that it isn't true.
At this point, I am manifesting physical and emotional symptoms of trauma. And I can see this is hurting me. And I can see that being a member is hurting my some of my teenagers, at the time. I start not making one teen go because this child is manifesting severe anxiety about going to church, activities, bishop interviews, etc. I don’t want to attend either. We have a new baby (which is a great excuse to stay home), so my teen stays home with me. I feel all alone at this point. I’m starting to really feel like I've been lied to by the leaders that I’ve trusted my entire life.
Around this time the LDS LGBTQ+ statement about not baptizing children of LGBTQ+ couples comes out, which first they call policy and then they have this great experience and they say it's doctrine and I see firsthand in today's age what I've seen throughout history which is a prophet saying one thing and then changing it but not acknowledging that he changed it. I was really concerned. Because up to this point, I thought of my study, (that's all in the past even if the leaders in the past, ie: Joseph Smith/Brigham Young did dumb things, deceptive things,) but I didn’t ever think it would happen with my current Prophet. I had always been taught that the prophet speaks for God and could never lead me astray.
Some of my teens, who have friends in the LGBTQ+ community, are really upset with this bigoted policy. Right about this time, the Bishop is saying in church, “questions are welcome ask questions,” all that la di da da. And my teen starts asking in Sunday school class questions/concerns about this policy. The well-meaning Bishop is saying questions are welcome, but the teacher, isn’t practicing that in class. My teen would say to the teacher, “you know, I just don't believe in this policy. It's bad. LDS teens are committing suicide over it.” Teacher’s response, “well the prophet knows best.” If my teen didn't agree with the teacher, the teacher would stop the class and just stare my child for way was perceived as a looooong time. The Sunday School teacher was trying to intimidate my child into believing the church’s narrative on LGBTQ+. It’s one thing to have to be silent about your thoughts, in class, but now my children aren’t allowed to question and are being intimidated or put down if they don’t agree? We’ve had problems with other Sunday School teachers not allowing our children to have different answers or different perspectives on doctrine. This is not new and no one is perfect. But I’m seeing it’s the very reason I don’t go to my class anymore. My children are being affected, as well.
So, I do what I do with everything to help my teen understand the new policy. I research. I find out that medically speaking what causes the fetus in utero to become gay/same-sex attraction etc. is related to how much testosterone the mom produces when the sex organs are being created. If there’s not enough testosterone, they might not develop heterosexual. I had to agree with my teen about his/her questions and concerns with this policy. We listened to podcasts of parents whose LDS gay teens were suffering, we learned of many committing suicide, because the teens were literal believers and realized because of the way they were born, they would not be able to marry someone they were attracted to in the LDS temple or have a family or attain the highest level of the celestial kingdom. I read articles about the Utah LDS teen suicide rate increasing significantly after the announcement of that policy. I couldn't imagine God saying, “Hey I'm not going to let you get married in the temple and I'm not going to let you have kids or marry someone you’re attracted to because of the way you were born.”
Not to mention, when you research back far enough, the church originally taught that same sex attraction was a choice and did unbelievable harm with their shock therapy program at BYU to try to “fix” them. The church seems to be 10 to 20 years behind science on things like this. They were with blacks and the priesthood and the leaders were originally against the right for women to vote according to history. But I see it happening again. Here and now. I won’t go into the LDS morphing and changing of this topic over the decade, but it shows no signs of revelation. That’s for sure. Saying gays can’t be part of the plan because of the way they were born does not make sense to me, and I disagree, but I cannot voice that in Relief Society or the LDS church or class. If there is a judgement, (and I don’t know because I’ve never died before) I want to be able to look my Creator in the eye and say I erred on the side of kindness. I don’t want to say I supported something that I knew was causing teen suicides. I erred on the side of kindness by not supporting the church in this and I still do not. No God would do that. I’m watching here in my own time the prophet doing something I do not believe a loving God would do. But I’ll tell you one thing, the Mormon prophet and the 12 apostles do have blood on their hands from all the suicides. So, if Mormonism is actually true, and they are judged in the afterlife, they are in DEEP SHIT!
As I remember from my research, the whole catch phrase, “the prophets will never lead you astray,” began, with President Benson. When he first used it in a BYU talk, I think, Pres. Kimball, the prophet, at the time and other members of the 12 were upset. We have journal entries and 2nd witness accounts. At the time, President Kimball said to Benson that he didn’t want that being taught because he said that that phrase is a dangerous slope and he did not think it was true. But once Benson became the prophet, it was the new doctrine. Nobody even knows the history behind the phrase, “the prophet will never lead you astray.” And that’s a clear sign of a cult, which I still didn’t know, at this time.
About this same time my teen starts having anxiety related around church rules and topics and the fact that she can’t disagree with her teacher in Sunday School without public humiliation. I attend many of the therapy sessions and am flabbergasted to find how much cognitive dissonance and pain religion has caused my child for teaching, “an ONLY ONE way to think philosophy.” I don't think I fully understood it until this child resigned. Every year as a family we read the book of Mormon. And at the end of the year when we finished the book, we send the kids to their rooms as they pray about it to allow them to get their own witness, which is the promise the book makes, that you can know for yourself. It wasn’t until years later when my child resigned from the LDS church that I learned that for years this child had been going to his/her room getting no answers and coming out and making up a story because he/she felt bad that there was no witness. And then in Bishop interviews for temple recommends or advancement, the bishop is asking, “what do you think of that man, pointing to a picture of Joseph?” Or asking, “Do you believe in the restoration, for temple recommend interviews, etc. This child felt compelled to sit there and say, “yes, I believe in the restoration,” just to get the heck out of there. But my child did not believe. The fact that this child did not feel comfortable telling her leaders or believing parents is a shame and sad. This is cognitive dissonance in a teenager’s brain and this teen was not being allowed critical inquiry, just like all the other LDS teens, worldwide. I would later find out that it’s not healthy to put anyone alone with a man with, no professional mental health training, asking children/teens questions about sexual purity, or talking to them alone, at all. The LDS institution should not put bishops and kids in such a precarious situation. I found that out the hard way. I ‘ve seen, first hand, what that can do medically to multiple children of my own.
Now, I’ve studied every single doctrine I could get my hands on and the history behind each one. One of the only stories that I found completely accurate with no inconsistencies was the story of the Aaronic priesthood. So, it’s not just one problem with one event in history, now almost all of it is suspect, not to mention my study of the Bible, New and Old Testament. I’m not even going to touch that here. That would take an entire week. And I have a child clearly suffering from being raised Mormon. I’m still a believer, but I’m struggling to look at everything symbolically. By now, I can very clearly see that the church is not the only true church, that the truth claims do not hold up under critical inquiry, but that it is a path I still want to choose for myself because I love my community and Mormon life sooo much. But it is not a good path for some of my children’s mental health. I can see this and I start teaching my kids, privately, that the Mormon path is NOT the only true path, but A path which can be a good one for many people. And I leave it at that.
At some point I became an intermediary between the bishop and family members who could not or did not want to meet with him. After my son’s early return mission, I had to be an intermediary for him, as well. During all of these times, I could not tell the bishop my faith crisis, because there was no one left to be an intermediary for me. And it wasn’t fair for me to have my temple recommend on the chopping block for facts and truth that weren’t being taught openly, but had to be dug out of books and researched OUTSIDE of Mormon classes.
I was still convinced (because of mind control and brainwashing) that even if the LDS church isn't the only true church and that most of its truth claims weren't what I thought they were that this was the path for me because of my spiritual experiences. But most of my spiritual experiences revolved around the children we have had and could also be independent of the LDS church. I also studied a lot about emotion elevation, which can be a way your brain creates strong emotional or spiritual events. (But that’s a whole other topic). As I watched my child struggle, I knew that when this child resigned that it was the right choice for her and her mental health. I could not deny that fact. But in this child’s resignation, when this child called the church a cult and told me how much pain being raised in a cult had caused, I was hurt by that term. I went to my old reliable friend….research. What does that word mean and what are the signs? I don't think any of my children could have said anything that would have hurt me more. I had witnessed first hand this child not being able to ask questions without ridicule in this ward and I watched how the cognitive dissonance of feeling like he/she was forced to say he/she believed things that he/she did not. I personally knew what it felt like to have parents that weren’t perfect. The only thing I ever wanted for my kids was for them to be safe and protected. I didn’t always have that experience as a child, and I couldn't even provide that protection for my children. My spiritual and even your spiritual experiences won’t fix the damage Mormonism has done to some of my children. My feelings and my spiritual experiences will never bring back elements of mental health and stability that they lost.
At some point, I had to admit to myself that the main sign of a cult, which is not being allowed open critical inquiry and not being allowed to openly disagree with leaders policies or doctrines, was the very thing that was causing me so much pain and mental anguish, at that very time. What was/is not okay and what's not healthy is that I can't talk about it openly at church, in my meetings. I can't talk about it in Sunday School. I couldn't bring it up in Relief Society. I couldn’t talk about it with my Mormon friends or most of my family. The church historian can talk openly to UVU Institute students, but I can't talk about it in my own church lessons because the church has been hiding it for so long and doesn’t use it in weekly curriculum. And I know, by this point, that past and current prophets have been dead wrong on multiple accounts and have hidden the truth on multiple accounts (the church historian admitted that the LDS leadership was not transparent at various times in the past because they were embarrassed, that’s the word he used, “embarrassed by their past.”) I’m thinking they’re still embarrassed or the truth would be in the missionary manual, weekly mtgs, taught in conference, etc.
Then when my early return missionary delved into a depression that would prove almost fatal, partly upset about what he was learning about church history in institute and on the internet post mission; information we had purposely not told him so as to protect his testimony for his mission, you can understand why I disagree with the bishop about protecting the good name of the church. (My son’s temple recommend was taken away after he posted his anger about the church and the prophet, at the time, which the bishop said was he duty to, “protect the good name of the church.”) The LDS church leaders deserve to be outed. The good name of the church should be held accountable for hurting people by not being transparent and teaching the truth across the board to all members and future members. If history is a precursor to what they will do in the future, they will slowly change teachings and doctrines and hope you don’t notice. But they will never own up to being wrong, even when it is obvious that they are. Once my eyes were open that this was not all true, I could analyze it more healthily on a different level than I could as a literal believer and I started doing that then.
The history stuff I can get over the fact that it's not true in the way it is currently being presented. I can even let the changing doctrines slide. What I can’t personally accept as healthy is the fact that the church has direct signs of a cult. I am not allowed critical inquiry. If I were, I could raise my hand and say, “I don’t believe God sent an angel with a flaming sword. That’s crazy talk.” I could say openly in class, “I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is literal. That’s what 100% of the evidence shows and there is no evidence that it is literal.” And I can’t say, the prophet/leadership policy on gays is not of God. It’s wrong. I can’t say that openly without fear of temple recommend punishment or fear of offending ward members. Words can't express the devastation I felt when I realized I had spent 45 years of my life, raised my kids in what could be labeled in many ways a cult. I couldn't deny it then and I can't deny it now. But for some reason at this point I'm still in. Barely hanging on…in.
Concurrently to my son’s mission events, my fourth child starts asking all the same questions his sibling did and getting ridiculed in Sunday School by his peers, not the teachers this time. You have to remember, when my children ask questions at church, it’s not because they think that the teacher has all the answers. It’s because they want to know the teacher’s opinion, but they want to be allowed to disagree and have their own opinions, too. That’s critical inquiry. So, in that sense, neither of my struggling children were ever able in this ward (due to LDS church culture) ask questions without being ostracized or worse. My teen’s best friends are gay This topic is never going to be something this teen will agree with, but this child is not allowed that opinion in Sunday School. He had been bullied in that group many times before. And that Sunday School class owes him a big apology. I would love nothing more than for him to be able to go to church when we go as a family and feel safe and feel like his questions are valued. After a decade of bullying, he didn’t leave over doctrine. He left because he was not being treated Christ like. What should have been an experience of acceptance and understanding from his church classmates, turned church into a battlefield for him. I blame the institution even for this, mostly, because those classmates are taught that this church is the one and only true church and that the prophet will never lead you astray. And he was questioning their deeply held beliefs. He asks a lot of controversial questions and he got ridiculed regularly. He came to find out that questions weren’t really allowed. We hear the bishop say that but because the bishop can’t be in every class, monitoring all the teachers and kids and the Mormon culture does not encourage questions, especially if they don’t agree with the teacher/leaders answers, our family has never felt questions were welcome.
We decided not to discuss Joseph Smith history with our son pre-mission. We knew that the way LDS doctrine teaches missionary discussions it would just ruin his testimony for him to know the truth so I didn't say anything. The only advice I gave my son was just remember when you're teaching you’re teaching for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and using their materials and it's their story you're telling. There might be other viewpoints of the story. I disagreed with the foreign missionary call because of this child’s medical background. I didn't feel good about it. I couldn't talk him out of it. I asked him to ask if he could be reassigned stateside after his second semester of school because he was already demonstrating a lot of anxiety, but he wanted to go where the prophet had called him. He wanted to be obedient. And I didn’t want to be the overbearing mom, telling the bishop and my adult son what to do. But I'm constantly thinking to myself the prophet has never met my child. I am the only one who knows what he's capable of and this is a bad idea, but I sent him anyway. I didn't look my own son in the eye and tell him what I knew or what I really believed. And the fact that I felt like I couldn't do that as a member of the LDS church is another sign of a cult.
This son had a traumatic, and what I would consider an abusive mission experience. Every day I’m reminded that I didn't stand up for my own son. I chose to stay in a religion I knew had serious truth claim problems and let him go to preach for that religion. And it wasn't just that one of the church history topics or doctrines wasn’t true or taught incorrectly. Almost all of them had inconsistencies and I knew that I disagreed with the church’s interpretation of the facts in the key elements of the truth claims. The truth is not my fault, so why do I feel like I’m constantly being punished mentally and emotionally and watching my kids fall, one by one, for facts I didn’t write. The history of the doctrine not adding up is not Gretchen Day’s personal fault; it’s an institutional failing at transparency. At this point, I’m only in to support my child who is planning a temple marriage and to support my missionary. I’m still in, but feeling forced to stay in so I can attend my own child’s wedding and support this amazing child who was doing exactly what we raised this child to do all his/her life….be married in the LDS temple. (People who don’t believe the Mormon religion is true can’t attend, so my mouth is sealed. I feel like I was born into the mafia, but when I realized it was the mafia, I had to stay in to fight for my children.)
In the Mormon church, if I were to tell any bishop my true thoughts and feelings, I would no longer be an effective intermediary for my family members. Some of them were at church schools. They needed me in that capacity. Plus, I’d be putting my own temple recommend on the line right before my child needed me with him/her at the temple. I was still worried that day about the temple recommend issue. Taking away someone’s ability to see a family member be married because they are questioning or heaven forbid, disagree, is an institutional punishment and sign of a cult. I would never use the word cult openly in this community, but I am using it here with leaders, because that’s what I really think. I’ve felt the harm that can come from not allowing critical inquiry and not allowing members to disagree with leaders openly. I have seen it cause many of my children pain, one to the point of suicidal suffering. This is NOT okay.