Impact: I am a BYU graduate, a returned missionary, and a very black-and-white believer (that was probably the problem). The beginning of losing my testimony is probably like a lot of others’ experiences. I never got strong answers to my prayers. I always told myself that I knew the church was true, and I felt good while reading the Book of Mormon.
The clincher came when I worked for the Liahona. I did some research on Abraham for a series on Old Testament prophets (I think it’s in March?), and I read the Wikipedia entry, just like I had for Adam and Noah. Of course I read about the mismatched translations, and my heart sunk. I panicked about it, then eventually figured that there was an explanation, but it didn’t matter. Only my faith mattered.
But I gave myself permission to look at the questions that all of the anti-Mormons were asking. I thought they would be saying stupid things like, “Joseph Smith ate babies!” And of course, it wouldn’t be true. I remembered having a speaker come to BYU-I and talk about this list of 20 things that disproved Mormonism and resolving all 20 of them over the years. So I felt justified. I was ready to know difficult things.
I was so, so wrong. I was a very black-and-white, orthodox Mormon. For example, the whole Proposition 8 thing made me feel uncomfortable, but I supported it anyway. (They had a big campaign at BYU-I to get students involved in a telephone campaign at the time. I didn’t do that but messaged a bunch of friends on Facebook.) My stake president pushed a group of students to start a club at my high school called the CTR Alliance. It was basically FHE for high school kids (despite the fact there was already a Christian club on campus). That felt very wrong too, but I thought the carnal me just needed to be humbled.
Being black-and-white, the church was not allowed to be anything other than black-and-white, and the evidence was so overwhelming. It was just one thing after another–the Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook Plates, the real reason for Thomas Marsh’s excommunication, Joseph’s involvement with treasure hunting and masonry, polyandry, and everything else under the sun. Polyandry was a very painful thing to me, and I think it was what sent my beliefs tumbling down. It was plain adultery in my eyes (which, come to think of it, is that not somewhat sexist of me? I mean, why can a man have multiple wives but a woman can’t have multiple husbands? I guess the point, though, was the utter hypocrisy of Joseph).
If it had been one or two things, I could have survived. But it was too much. It was an excruciatingly painful process deconstructing my faith, but it was also very freeing to let go of faith-encrusted beliefs about women and the priesthood, blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, homosexuality, cohabitation, and the inferiority of other faiths. I feel like this is my refiner’s fire because the people burning me are the people I would have expected to agree with the rest of my life.
I think everyone feels anger to some degree, and it can be all encompassing. It’s anger over a life dedicated to half-truths and lies, anger over losing the love of others because the church won’t come clean, anger that you’ve given yourself so blindly to something that has kept you from loving fully. I don’t know that the anger ever goes away, but it becomes embers, more tame than the inferno that could have taken out a forest and probably took some people with it.
The facts are the catalyst for the betrayal. I think they are the thing that burns below the surface when you talk to others filled with testimony or with people who judge you. At the same time you want to burn them up with the facts, you don’t want anyone to ever feel what you’ve felt. You want to be a light, not an ignition source.
I’ve lost my husband over my loss of faith. I just hope he’ll come back to me and realize that I was just trying to be a light.
Date: 16 Jul 2014
Impact Topic: Polygamy; The Book of Abraham; General