Shane Was a Mormon, an Ex-Mormon Profile Spotlight

Shane’s journey unfolds as a poignant narrative of resilience, love, and profound self-discovery within the intricate tapestry of faith, family, and personal identity. A stalwart member of the LDS Church, Shane’s commitment to his beliefs and his family is evident in every chapter of his life. From the vibrant memories of a South Korean mission to the formation of a beautiful family, Shane’s devotion shines through. However, life takes an unforeseen turn as he confronts the devastating impact of a degenerative brain disease that slowly unravels the life he knew.

Amidst the chaos and heartbreak, Shane’s unwavering dedication to his ailing wife leads him to make heart-wrenching decisions, navigating the delicate balance between personal well-being and familial responsibilities. His choice to prioritize self-care, even at the cost of excommunication from the LDS Church, reveals a profound strength and a deep-seated peace within him. As Shane embarks on a journey beyond the confines of institutionalized faith, his story becomes a testament to the enduring power of love that transcends religious boundaries. In the face of adversity, Shane emerges as a beacon of resilience, challenging dogmas, and embracing a spirituality that is as boundless as the love that sustained him through the intricate dance of faith and life.

I joined the LDS Church as a fourteen year old, in the 1970s. Served a mission to South Korea, for which I still have many fond memories from that formative experience. Returned from the mission to marry a beautiful woman (also a young adult convert) that I had met in the MTC. Graduated from BYU, enjoyed raising six children with my sweetheart and working my ass off as a EQP, YMP, Bishop, High Counselor, Stake Presidency Counselor, Primary Teacher, and Primary Chorister (amongst others). Met many lovely people along the way, and still retain a few beautiful friends that have chosen to love me, despite the events that followed. I was a Mormon.

I am a survivor of a really horrible disease that inflicted my wife and for which we lived without a diagnosis for twelve years. In 2007, my wife began to change due to an unknown/undiagnosed degenerative brain disease. She was a magnificent woman. Over the next sixteen years, our lives unravelled, her behavior changed, and her life was destroyed (she passed away in early 2023). During this many year journey, her personality changed, our lovely marriage crumbled, and we descended into a deep decade of dysfunction, misdiagnosis, misuse of prescription drugs, and thousands of chaotic and traumatic experiences.

There were literally thousands of prayerful pleadings and fasts for answers. None came. Many incorrect diagnosis and treatments; no real assistance. The Church community could not deal with us. My wife could not stop her destructive behaviors or bend in any way to work on our marriage. I became so broken and hollowed out that I decided I would need to make changes or I was not going to survive. So I told my LDS leaders that I was going to find a woman and seek a healthy relationship, but not divorce my wife because I needed to provide health benefits and income, but I could not longer manage the uncontrollable life into which we had devolved. I sought a legal separation to protect myself from the real difficulties that my wife’s often illegal and dangerous behaviors had introduced into our lives.

I met a lovely athiest woman who was single, never married (about my age) and began a relationship while I tried to figure out how to best help my spouse. I told the local leaders that they would need to excommunicate me because I could not see anyway through this; frankly, my faith had ceased to provide answers and support for my/our situation. During my excommunication, I was given an ultimatum, “divorce your wife to retain your membership and be disfellowshipped until you remarry, or excommunication would be the result”. In that moment I felt complete peace and knew that excommunication was the right choice for me.

As I found the permission to take care of myself, I became a much better advocate and support for my wife, and we eventually discovered the disease Frontotemporal Degeneration (behavioral variant), a terminal illness that destroys the patient’s personality and body over an extended period. My life-partner helped me find a measure of health and happiness that helped me take care of my spouse to the end. It became a different kind of love story; and our story simply could not have occurred within the confines of the Church. Yet, there were a few active LDS friends and family members that continued to be part of our story. I have learned deep lessons about love; and these experiences could not have come to fruition within the rigid boundaries of Mormonism. The Church could not accept or provide a meaningful path for me.

I was a deeply devout, well-studied LDS Leader. But in my expulsion from Mormonism I took the opportunity to revisit books I had read as a teen and began an even deeper dive into the histories and events that formed Mormonism. I will always be grateful to the many courageous storytellers (e.g. D. Michael Quinn, Todd Compton, Fawn Brody, John Dehlin, RFM, Bill Reel, Lindsey Hanson Parks, and many more), as well as a host of authors outside of Mormonism (e.g. Yuval Harari, Jonathon Haidt, Iian McGilcrist, Eckart Tolle…).

I am extremely well read in LDS doctrine, orthodoxy, and official Church history. And I am now, from thousands of hours of study, well versed in the alternative versions of LDS history and the evolution of LDS doctrine. The current LDS narratives are highly currated and filtered to promote faith and adherence. For me, it is impossible to reconcile what is propped up with what actually transpired. But I understand most of it in terms of the deep needs of the tribe. Every human group requires “hero stories” to create a binding adhesion and identity; the Brighamite branch of Mormonism has done this very well. But there are deep problems with the narratives, and I see the Church being somewhat forced to open itself to a more revealing narrative, over time.

I had what I might describe as mystical experiences before joining the LDS Church, and I experienced what I interpreted to be mystical and spiritual experiences during my long LDS tenure; and I continue to have a spiritual dimension in my life now; in that way, nothing has changed except the manner in which I interpret these experiences. What I have learned is that spirituality is ultimately an individual experience, and we should never give our spiritual identity away to a rigid orthodoxy; life requires flexibility and continued openness.

My simple reality is this; Mormonism was lovely until our family no longer fit; and then it wasn’t anymore! And now I see all of those lovely humans that were deeply harmed by it; who were nearly invisible to me, before life forced me more fully open. I have learned that love is so much greater than can be held in any religious construct. And it is simply okay for me not to be LDS anymore.

For those of us who have made this journey it is impossible to describe it to those who remain fixed to the “truth claims” of the Church. It is alright; we cannot understand that which we have not passed through; so I do not expect people to be able to come to terms with the challenges that our family faced with bvFTD. The abject truth seems to be this; “if you fit within the Church, it can be a lovely and supportive community. If you do not, it can be really damaging; for some people, it can be deadly.


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