Monday, November 12, 2012

Faith Crisis: I will go, I will do *fist pump*

It's time for a little faith crisis update. Actually, it's not little, it's obnoxiously long. Sorry, I guess I should have made these more frequent, but they are infuriatingly hard to write.

When we came to Madison, we went to LDS Church the first Sunday here. The walk was longer than we would had thought it would be, it was hot (it wasn't supposed to be hot in Madison) and we lost Sophie, Lula's favorite toy. We got to Church late, caught the end of testimony and then went to unfamiliar classes with unfamiliar people (although we met plenty of nice people). We left disappointed. Our faith crisis had hit a height listening to the story of a CES couple that had left the church on our drive out to Madison. They just seemed like such nice people and their reasoning seemed so sound. Underwhelmed at our first LDS experience in Madison, we decided to try the Unitarian-Universalist church. We found the people just as friendly, if not more. The meeting was engaging, the nursery great and full-time, the building beautiful and the ideas of the sermon refreshingly in-line with what had come to be our core beliefs. It was also so much CLOSER.

We thus got in the habit of going to the First Unitarian Society (FUS) every Sunday. We still went to some Church gatherings and got to know some of the members of the ward better through these gatherings and as some families invited us into their homes for dinner. Still, we were so enamored with FUS (and how close it was), so we continued to go there. I (we) became more comfortable thinking of ourselves as inactive or post or whatever Mormons. I took Atticus to the last two hours of Church one Sunday, but that was it. While we certainly enjoyed FUS, it acted more as a stopgap for the hole left by not going to the LDS church than as a true faith home.

This went on until General Conference (so, something like two months). I had been planning on giving General Conference a pass this time around, in my effort to gain some space from and perspective on what my faith was when not supported by constant Church interaction (if it existed at all outside of that context). But an invitation from several friends and family to watch convinced me to change my mind. I spent the night before preparing my mind to be open and receive what knowledge or inspiration or whatever that I could get from the teachings of these familiar authority figures.

My feelings during conference vacillated along with the different sessions. I've rehashed those feelings in another post, so I'll leave that to you to read (again) if you like. I continued swinging back and forth between belief and disbelief, but we continued to stay away from Church (we made an attempt once, but a rough night before the 9AM meetings kept us away) and FUS began to feel more and more like a solid faith home for us. I still felt yearnings for a return to the faith of my youth, but I also knew that there were major moral difficulties impeding that return.

In the past week or so, I got to a better place about my internal wranglings with my LDS faith. I saw through some alternative online sources, examples of smart, informed people who were making being liberal Mormons work, and I wanted to be like them. More than that, I wanted to be an example for the people who have reached out to us about their own faith crises of someone who could make being a liberal Mormon work. I started thinking that maybe we just hadn't given the ward here a chance. We had made some really good friends in the ward, and we knew there were plenty of other people in the ward struggling with their faith too. I started reading the scriptures and praying (in the Mormon way...mostly). I felt like I could get to a place where I could take the good that I felt coming from the Church and push all the other upsetting things aside.

So, in this spirit, I decided to go to the 4:30 pm option for FUS on Saturday night to make room for us to go to LDS Church, which at 9-12 would prevent us from going to either the 9am or 11 am FUS meetings. Cait came with me to the 4:30 sermon and the delicious potluck afterwards. Whatever happens on our faith journey here in Madison, I don't really see a path that keeps us away from FUS. If you are having your own faith difficulties based on being a liberal in a conservative church, head to the closest UU church and spend some time with people in the same boat. You can thank us later. Anyway, we got things organized for a busy Sunday with LDS Church in the morning, FUS new member meetings (we are joining at the end of our 4-week orientation) at 1pm, home teachers at 4pm and maybe a Diwali festival at night at 7pm.
I put on my garments for the first time in a while, put on a white shirt, my suit and even my dress shoes (I wore my five fingers both times at church before) and biked off to church with Atticus. In the end Cait decided she wasn't up for it. We got to church in time for the Sacrament, which I haven't taken since we stopped in at a ward in Arkansas on our way to Wisconsin. It was gratifying to see Atticus sit still for the sacrament so nicely. He got restless and so I sent him out in foyer with the iPad while I sat where I could see him from the Chapel. Not forcing kids to sit through meetings that are often boring even for adults is one of the values that I would carry with me from FUS if I were to return to Church, not like we were any good at keeping our kids quiet during Sacrament before FUS.

Everything was going well until the meeting continued after the sacrament (so, for a total of like 8 minutes). The program was a primary program and I knew that was going to be a problem from the start. One of the two key difficulties that spurred my faith crisis, along with Prop 8, was the doubt I felt soon after Atticus's birth about bringing my kid up in a church that started from a young age to teach, as truth, principles that could only be proven true through personal inspiration. As one after another of the kids went up with unequivocal statements of belief in things way beyond their powers of understanding, I grew steadily more uncomfortable.

If anyone is reading this had any hand in organizing this program, or one like it, please try not to take offense, although I realize that this is probably impossible. This was a beautifully put together program, with all the kids nailing their parts, the music well sung, and with more than a few nods to the diversity of our ward with Spanish portions of the program. This program ran just like a church primary program is supposed to, and therein lies the problem for me.

The theme was "Choose the Right." I don't have any problem with choosing the right, of course, but when "the right" apparently consists solely of reading your scriptures, paying your tithing, going to church, saying your prayers and being obedient to your parents, with nary a mention of treating others with kindness, accepting differences or cleaning up the earth, "the right" seems to mean doing things to cement your Mormonism from as early a stage as possible.

There was a lot of discussion about baptism, and a rendition of "The Baptism Song" that talks about how the children want to be "clean as the earth after rain" in the eyes of God by being baptized and joining the LDS Church. I never want my 8-year-old son or daughter thinking that they are dirty in the eyes of God for fighting with their friend or telling a lie. That's patently absurd. The idea of baptism as working towards an eternal family always sounded so nice until I realized the threat implicit in this way of thinking: join the Church or you will be apart from your family forever in heaven.

Another section, and the worst for me, of the meeting was about examples of people who chose the right in scriptures. The four examples were Nephi, Moroni, Ammon and Abraham. These, for me, are the four most troubling scripture heroes. The highlights of each of these men's (in its own way problematic, of course) experiences is infused with violence. Does getting the scriptures back from evil men really justify beheading a drunk guy, no matter how bad a guy he seems to be, passed out on some back street? There are some people around today who behead people because they defile their scriptures. Not really heroes. Moroni had an entire group of anti-war protestors executed? No matter how politically motivated anti-war protestors are (Vietnam?), a mass execution is never the answer. Ammon's main highlight was bringing a huge pile of arms he had cut off to a man who he wanted to convert to the church. Abraham has been a huge figure in my faith crisis from very early on. Let's just say, if a voice in my head, or even angels or god visiting me in my tent, tells me to take my son up to a hill to execute him to prove my faith, I'm checking myself into the nearest mental hospital, not loading up the donkey. "I will go and do" with dozens of little hands pumping up in the air was definitely the low point for me.

Listen, I know that the LDS Church isn't trying to turn all the young children into blood-thirsty arm slicers who might try to sacrifice loved ones at random intervals. What they are trying to do is convince the young children to do whatever it takes to be a good Mormon, and resist any attempt to be swayed from this course with resistance akin to violence. I've seen this violent defense of the faith from people I care about, where keeping me and my kids in the church trumps any pretense of civility (if you're reading this and wonder if I'm referring to you, I'm not. Trust me). I've seen it in violent condemnations of all gay people as disgusting or inherently evil. I've seen it in the dismissal of any woman who questions their place in the church as a "whiny femi-nazi." I know that there are plenty of wise and discerning adults who are able to resist calls for loyalty over morality and still remain in the church, but the high-level reasoning and abstraction that such paradoxical thinking demands simply isn't present in 6-year-olds.

Contrast this with our experience the night before the FUS. After a sermon about how important it was not to let our own ideas of what is right or wrong affect how we treat every other person we come in contact with, on the difference between kind criticism and final judgement, there was a question and answer session with the minster, where people in the congregation shared their own experience and asked questions. And then we had a potluck that exceeded any Mormon potluck I've ever been to by far (no jello as far as the eye could see). During the service a youth choir sang some beautiful numbers (link is by another group) about what it meant to search for identity and truth in youth. It's easy to dismiss the words to these songs as lacking in substance, but like so many other things in the UU church, space is intentionally left for each individual to fill in with their own experience and spirituality.

It's that space that is so desperately lacking in the LDS church and it's that space that I want for my children as they try to discover who they are. I don't know who they're supposed to be, the primary teacher doesn't know who they are supposed to be and the prophet doesn't know who they are supposed to be.

Sunday was a major blow to my fledgling efforts to reclaim my LDS faith. I realized that even with the best of wards, and this one is great, there are some fundamental and universal aspects of the church that I find morally repugnant, no matte how sweetly they are presented. The thought I kept having while watching the program was this: there has to be some line drawn. There has to be a line that I draw about how far a church can go teaching things that I find morally objectionable as truth before I abandon it. There has to be an even stricter line about how much I allow that church to teach my children, and impel me to teach my children, absolute truth claims and invariable value systems which we admit can only be verified through personal interaction with the divine, starting at the "crib side."

I'm not sure exactly where those lines are, but I'm sure of this: Within whatever limits those lines could possibly be drawn for me, they were crossed long, long ago.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I felt uncomfortable for the same reasons when I went to church for the first time in more than a year and watched parent after parent take their 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children up to the podium and tell them what to say during fast and testimony meeting.

    Of course then I felt wildly guilty and never mentioned it! So really, I was so glad to read this.

    1. I'm glad you found a fellow voice of wild guilt.

    2. Well, I read this post almost 5 days ago when my wife mentioned that her favorite Mormon liberals had wandered a little too far from the Ferritic Handrail... and like watching a proverbial train-wreck, I couldn’t help but read the entire post and about half of the comments. I can’t say that anything I read was much of a surprise. First, I have had almost all of those thoughts at some point or another, and secondly, I was not nearly surprised to read that such an open-minded and free-thinking couple had decided that The Church wasn’t for them any longer. In fact, to me it seems like the more open-minded, caring, and genuinely altruistic a Mormon becomes, the more likely they are to either slip away from their fold or to become a pillar of truth and reason to their congregation. As I see it, the toggle for this railway switch of life is actuated by humility. Let me elaborate:
      When developing a proof, one depends on logic operators to progress from a set of assumptions to their ultimate conclusion upon which they will base their hypothesis. Later, as evidence accumulates, their hypothesis may become a theory or law. In my History of Mathematics course, as I was challenged to re-create some of the great mathematical proofs of man-kind, I often ran into a road bump, or I would discover that indeed 2+2=5 so to speak. Whenever this happened I would check my logic, but more often than not, my error lie within the ASSUMPTIONS that I used from the beginning.
      Tim, to me it seems as if the axioms that you have been relying upon during this religious renaissance of yours may be leading you to an incorrect conclusion.

    3. I saw this as your complaints about The Church or its Leaders evolved into complaints about the Book of Mormon and then into criticisms of the Old Testament. This is very telling. It seems to me that you are not particularly criticizing members, but that you are criticizing God and the way He has handled Himself thus-far.
      Now, to be fair, I see how one could reason himself to this point, let’s do like the Chinese and reverse engineer this thing: “Well, a God of Love wouldn’t do that” “so, this story is obviously a fabrication by some lazy-eyed dessert dwellers making up stories around the camp-fire” “well, isn’t’ that all that religion is anyway? Like the mythical gods of the Greeks or the modern day spaghetti monster in the sky?” “All of the big religions have different stories about their gods, they can’t all be true! They contradict each other.” “Why do I think my religion’s the ONE that has it all right? How smug of me.” “How could anyone think that? How conceded and closed minded” “religion causes conflict for this reason” “No one should REALLY believe what their religion teaches, or take it too literally, cmon, the earth is more than 6,000 yrs old” “The only things you should really take to heart are the things that teach kindness and tolerance” “Religion is really a personal choice anyway, we’re encouraged to approach God personally, right?” “So, Ok, we’re all making up our Gods more or less, ya know, to help us deal with stuff and fill in the gaps of human understanding, like where did the big bang originate, and how could an eye-ball form spontaneously?” “Why would we ever say that this ‘god’ would do violent things? And why would we make our kids believe it? That’s like telling your 5 year old that Santa kills some of the kids on his naughty list… how morbid!” “Who am I to even decide who is on the naughty list?” “what someone wants to do with their genitalia is none of my concern, why should it be of my god’s concern either?” etc….etc…..etc….
      Did I hit at least SOME of your logical way-points there?

    4. Now, let me show you where the incorrect assumptions lie: First, the over-simplification of “God is Love”. The reason this vibes so well is that your reasoning is cyclical. Our final conclusion in that exercise was essentially that God SHOULD be composed of Love, Tolerance, Peace, and Understanding. This makes sense because these are the ingredients of a successful society here on earth (also things that I believe we should focus on and let shape our behavior toward others) The God is Love comment is also misconstrued in that you assume that God must ‘love’ you like a spouse or earthly parent might, in that He accepts you for who you think you are or want to be, and that he can’t let anything bad happen to anyone he loves ( like go to a sub-celestial kingdom). This shows limited understanding of Eternal Laws and the Nature of this Carnal Existence. Don’t take my word, or even the scriptures word, for fact. Simply observe our collective predicament; bad stuff happens All The Time, to good people, to innocent babies, entire nations. And not just at the hands of other humans, mostly by natural disasters and disease. So, either God does not Love us, he is not very powerful, or perhaps… PERHAPS, His love, like the grand plan, is a little more complicated and MAYBE our short spat here on Earth is not really all so important in the overall scheme.
      Now, for the obvious short-comings within ancient scripture: They are scattered all over the Old T, the New T, and the Another T, for sure. Why not? Translated scores of times… passed orally at times… written by imperfect people… Maybe things changed in their memories before they wrote it down? Tons of reasons. But, there is also a good chance that they got a lot of it right. Surely God can, and definitely has, interacted with humans on this planet. If not, then he probably couldn’t be too mad if we didn’t understand him or worship him quite right. If there is to be religion at all, then there must be mandated to us from that God, to whom we should direct our worship and how, as well as which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. He will either let us all know personally, or he will send messengers, and they’ll let us know. This is the essence of scripture. (and prophets and revelation, etc)

    5. Now, for the big one that I alluded to at this diatribe’s inception: Humility. Forgive me for being blunt, but the shield of anonymity and the stirrings of my soul persuade me thus: So I ask,
      Who do you think you are? Who are you to tell God what he should command or what punishments he should exact upon man? He existed and acted well before you were even a thought. He has no obligation to justify his actions to you. To think that His nature or His plans will change because of your wishes or to fit your ideals represents the pinnacle of arrogance. We dare not play the game of fabricating Gods. How can we create our Creator?
      Surely, I think, therefore I am. And before I thought, I was not. I was thus created at some point, or what created me was created, until ultimately there was the Grand Creator. He was who He was, and is what He is. We should seek to find out more about Him, not theorize what he should be.
      I’ll leave it at that, I’ve got to get my sleep. Now, I don’t have all the answers, no one does. But please be cautious in criticizing what God has done, and don’t condemn folks that try to pass down what they know about God to their kids, for if they don’t, the children will grow up lost from their purpose on this Earth. Left only to theorize what God might be.

    6. The calls to humility that I have received (only in private or anonymous comments so far) have always really interesting to me. It seems to be a pretty commonly held belief that if I am just humble enough I will return to believing that I am one of 13 million people on an earth of 7 billion who have special access to and knowledge of God and that are doing the right things to qualify for full exaltation and that are listening to the right prophet and that I got to that position either by listening better to the voice of God inside my head and heart or by being more righteous in the pre-earth life and so was lucky enough to be born into that position. I am not sure how that is supposed to be a position of humility.

      Now, I'm not saying that because a certain position or belief requires a certain amount of hubris makes it false. It takes some pretty big belief in human power to believe that our puny little cars and homes are emitting enough co2 to significantly change the climate patterns of the earth, but that doesn't mean that is wrong.

  2. Okay so I told you that I would privately send you some of my own thoughts, and I still will, but, since others have been intrigued with your "faith crisis", I thought it might be good for others to know that it is possible to overcome doubt and gain an assurance of faith... that just because you have doubts, doesn't mean the only solution is to withdraw or abandon the teaching that make you uncomfortable. So here it goes:

    Tim, I was happy when I first started reading this because I believe that the desire you felt to try going to back to Church came from something greater than a mere yearning to return to the faith of your youth where you feel comfortable. I personally believe that this feeling came to you because I, along with your family and many others, have been praying for you, a lot. I hope you never manage to shake this feeling until you figure things out.

    Yes, me, an uneducated conservative, felt that I have the ability to plead with God on your behalf. And I think the main thing you struggle with is whether or not there is a God... if you are struggling with that, then, yeah, I guarantee that our LDS faith is going to seem psychotic. So let's just imagine that you find out that God (according to the LDS faith) does exist and let's say you find this out after this life, (because you could never disprove what happens after death so it might be a good idea to find out if we can prepare for it.

    So when God asks why you stopped going to Church and you respond with, "Well it didn't correspond with MY political and moral beliefs that I came up with after 25ish years of life... plus this other church was so much closer and/or started at a later time... and I didn't have to teach my kids to sit still... and they had better potluck dinners" I think those reasons would not go over very well. Again, this is all conditional on whether or not God exists, so shouldn't you want to know if he does? Even if it means adjusting your personal beliefs to fit His?

    Now, I cannot create that desire for you, I just wanted to point out that it might be a good thing to learn for yourself that what I said is true. I also wanted to comment on a few points you make in this particular post:

    1. While part of my struggle is "is there a God or not," part of my struggle is certainly, "if there is a God, is this really His chosen church." That was definitely a part of what I felt in that sacrament meeting, although I didn't convey it well in the post. Right now, and this is of course subject to change, but if I went to heaven right now, and God said: "Why weren't you going to the LDS Church like you were supposed to" then I would have a very clear answer, "There's no way I could believe that you, an all-loving God, was the author of what I saw and felt that day and what I've seen and felt before." I felt dark and empty watching those kids sing, and at FUS I felt warm, loved and inspired. Now, it is easy to dismiss the one set of feelings and say "no, that's not the Spirit, what you were feeling 2 or 3 years ago, THAT was the Spirit, this is just some impersonation from the devil." The thing is, you can't make that judgement, only I can. And this blog post was about me taking a step towards making that judgement.

      The point was, I was worried that, like you said, I was only going to the FUS church because it was more convenient and people there agreed with me on politics. And so I tried to go back. And I realized my schism from the LDS church went much deeper than that. Any sense of goodness or truth, what I still feel fine calling the Spirit, was telling me that the LDS church was either not true, or not meant for me.

      If I get into heaven and God says, "No, you were supposed to trust the Church more than you trust your feelings" I will gladly part from Him as the deepest of hypocrites, because what other guidance has He given towards truth than our own feelings and inspirations? Science? Dogma? Social pressure? That somehow, I am supposed to trust a Church to provide me truth over my own inner feelings when those inner feelings are the only things that taught me to believe in that Church is completely illogical. "Well, it's not about logic, it's about belief." What could be more deceptive than that?

  3. 1. Teaching kids from a young age the things they may not fully understand is fine... and good, in fact. For example, we taught our little girl as a toddler not to stick things in electrical outlets (obviously we put covers on, but if one was left off accidentally, or if we were at a non-baby-proofed house we had to step in as responsible parents). Now I knew she wasn't going to fully understand electricity and how our bodies can act as conductors and how badly it could hurt, but we taught her good habits and that we don't just reach for something because it looks fun... that last part is good advice for adults, too. And IF teaching specific beliefs to children IS inherently wrong, I would hate to see what goes on at your house... so it's okay. Plus, doing things like reading scriptures, going to church, obedience to parents can lead to your list: treating others with kindness, accepting (being understanding of) differences or cleaning up the it's more about teaching kids where to go to find answers instead of just telling them all the time.

    2. I was taught all the time about treating others with kindness, being understanding of differences, and even cleaning up the Earth... sorry if the primary program didn't include everything in the short time they had, but I know they still teach that to children... all the time. Don't claim to be able to judge the primary handbook from one little program... all that stuff is in there.

    3. I guess I am patently absurd because I see zero problem with teaching that sin is like being dirty, baptism/repentance washes away the sin. Fighting and lying are fundamental sins that kids should be aware of, and that, if not bridled, can cause serious damage as an adult... even violence, theft, etc. "Dirty" doesn't equal "less love". If I have a clean house and my child comes in from outside with mud all over, guarantee that I will make them get clean before coming into my house again... but I will still love them just as much as I did before. (D&C 1:31)

    4. The idea of making promises with our Heavenly Father in order to receive blessing that he has prepared for us sounds reasonable to me. You see it as a threat, well if everyone was entitled to live with their families after this life and God came along and said he would sever that unity unless you did what he said, yeah, I could see how that philosophy would rub you wrong. But what if his message was, "There is a way for you to live with your family forever, that I have provided for you, I will show you that way, first you have to..."

    The funny thing is, if God was just a myth, we would be separated from our families after we die anyway.

    5. Nephi, Ammon, Moroni, and Abraham were not bloodthirsty men themselves. If they were justifying their own acts for personal reasons under a guise of holiness they would be murderers, and that is bad. But if they were commanded by God, then God Himself justifies those acts... which He can. Abraham went through a particularly sacred experience and I really think it's not a good thing to judge his sanity, because you do not know how closely he was communicating with God.

    1. 1) There is a difference between teaching your kids something that is objectively true, that is, something that can be proven to any sane, competent individual, like "If you touch a hot stove, you will get burnt" or "You should look both ways before you cross the street" and something that can only be proven true by personal revelation and inspiration. In matters of faith, as far as I'm concerned, there has to be a line between testifying and teaching, and there is absolutely no such line in the teaching of young children in the Church.

      2) All that stuff is in there, but it isn't emphasized. I don't just jude the primary on one program, I judge it on what I remember of my time in primary and my time teaching primary. Just because some things that I agree with are sometimes taught doesn't change the fact that those things are drowned out by things I feel are wrong.

      3) Will you send your kid to eternal torment and separate them from their families if they refuse to get clean?

      4) I disagree with you about how the philosophy is presented.

      5) You know who else thought they were "closely communicating with God"? A bunch of really terrible, awful people. If Abraham wasn't in our prophetic tradition, we would have condemned him long ago as a crazy man (or more likely, we would have no idea who he was). Again, if I get up to heaven, and God answers the question "Do you tell people to murder other people to prove their faith?" with a yes, I will gladly separate myself forever from HIs presence. I can worship a God who sent HIs only Son to learn through deep, compassionate experience what it was to be a sinful human, only to be murdered by a bunch of self-righteous zealots, but I simply can't worship a God that demands human sacrifice as an act of faith from anybody, at any time, ever. I don't want that God's love and I don't want to grow up to be like HIm.

    2. Alright, we've got 3 of 4 gospels confirming that Jesus believes in the God of the Jews AND SPECIFICALLY the God of Abraham and Isaac.
      "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:31-32, cf. Mark 12:26, 27, Luke 20:37-38)

      Now I post this to warn you that Abraham, Jesus, Joseph Smith, your local Bishop all indeed serve the same version of God. I'm still not sure you get it though... imagine that God just is who he is, no matter WHAT you think or believe. Or what 5.9 Billion people believe for that matter.

  4. All of these points you have made, have been made under the assumption that God doesn't exist, or that He is indifferent. I promise that He does exist, and His understanding surpasses man's. But God does provide ways to come to know of his paths.

    Along with that, you mentioned the "space" that you feel is missing in the LDS faith. That is interesting to me. I had enough space to discover who I am, and I could not have discovered that I was a Son of God without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So if I AM right, then you are not on a path of self discovery, but your path to self discovery is actually being obscured by ideals of imperfect individuals.

    I hope that you understand that I say these things out of love and concern and I hope that you don't dismiss what I say. Let your first priority be trying to talk to God sincerely without the concerns and moral hang-ups, because He can't clear those up for you if you don't believe in Him to begin with.

    P.S. Please reflect on these until I send you my other thoughts that are organized a lot better. I will not stop keeping in touch with you until you personally rebuke me... until then, expect my input and support because I know when people start wandering in their free open space they make themselves easy targets for Satan, who is also real.

    1. I think you miss another possible assumption: That God isn't Mormon. That maybe He's bigger than any patriarchal system. That maybe He cares more about how we treat other people than what building we go to on Sunday morning. That maybe's He's bigger than "He" can convey. I'm not saying I 100% believe that, but I believe it much more than I believe that God asks people to kill other people to prove how much they love Him or a God that wants me to talk to Him without my "moral hang-ups" being involved.

      I hope you realize that I am not dismissing you, I'm just disagreeing with you, and that, by questioning my own faith, I am not inherently questioning your own. Peace be the journey.

  5. The great thing about the LDS church is that it is true, or it isn't. It claims to be the only true church on the earth, so there isn't any middle ground. Either you believe there is a prophet on the earth today, and that his name is Thomas S. Monson, or you don't. It all links together, and comes as a package.

    The thing about having a faith crisis is, you are often searching for truth, but have lost your greatest tool: the Holy Ghost. (I'm not saying this about you specifically-just speaking from my own experience.)
    The only way to REALLY know if the church is true, is to test it out. And then you have to trust the feelings that come (from reading scriptures, praying, etc.). All religion requires faith, which is hard, but you have to be willing to say, "I don't know why, but I can't deny it."

    1. I put it more aggressively in a reply to Westin, but I don't believe that I've been abandoned by the Spirit, although I understand that that is not what you were saying. I simply feel that the Spirit has lead me to other places. And while I'm not really sure what the Spirit is anymore (not that I ever really did before), I can't deny the peace and goodness that I've felt many times on this peacefully horrific faith journey.

      Thanks for the comment and being honest.

  6. I'm not Mormon, but I am a long veteran of faith crises. I recognize so much of what you say, wanting to find a faith home, wanting to keep that which you grew up in and once meant so much to you, but being so uncomfortable of how it's presented. I oscillate between going to church and not going to church, but in the end, there's something out there that keeps me wanting to go--and sane in the long struggle to find a way to go to church that doesn't poison me.

    Whatever you end up deciding, I'm glad you've found a home of sorts in FUS and hope you find a way to live your faith that respects who you are.

  7. I really enjoy reading your accounts of your faith crisis. Judging from some of the sanctimonious comments, it must take a lot of courage and perseverance to continue to post anything at all on this subject.

    So much of what you say resonates with me. I wish it were more acceptable in our church to question and doubt out loud. I wish we could respect one another's feelings and beliefs even if they aren't completely homogeneous. I wish we could do a better job at separating church doctrine from church culture. And I too wish that all the admonitions sounded more a little more like Christ and a little less like the Pharisees. Perhaps it's an unavoidable consequence of a religion passing from the fringes to the establishment.

    Out of curiosity, did you have an easier time going to the LDS church abroad? I mention this because I have so treasured my time in small branches in other countries, where most of the members are converts and there's no critical mass of lifelong members to dictate how everyone thinks and speaks.

    I feel like I'm kind of in flux at the moment when it comes to my relationship with the Church. Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly cringing during all three hours. But I still find so much meaning in the doctrines, and I love going to the Temple. I spend a lot of time in the Bloggernacle, where I don't feel like such a freak for questioning and wondering and speculating unorthodoxly. And whenever I have a panic attack about whether I'm hurting my kids by taking them to Church, I have to go read back posts on Joanna Brooks' blog till I feel better.

    But no way would I be brave enough to post anything like what you have on my personal blog. Thank you so much for being honest and vulnerable enough to say it.

    1. Thanks for your comments. If you want to do an anonymous guest post of your faith crisis on our blog, feel free.

      We have mixed feelings about the Church abroad. I enjoyed my time in Argentina and met a lot of great people there. All of the wards were full of mostly recent converts, which I feel creates a great environment, because everything is new for everyone, so diversity of thought was expected. Cait found her ward in South Africa to be disturbingly divided on issues of race, including among the leadership, but still she found lots of great people there. Our ward in DC, while not foreign, had a substantial recent immigrant population, mostly refugees from East Africa, and that ward had a great feel and made a real attempt at stretching the curriculum to make room for other cultures. Our ward in Egypt was made up of mostly ex-patriates and only one or two actual Egyptians, and we also overwhelmed it with all of the students on the study abroad, so it mainly felt like a BYU ward where there was an Arabic Sunday school class filled with native English speakers who thought they knew Arabic.

      However, our faith crisis hadn't begun while we were any of these countries, so what their affect on that would have been is tough to say.


  8. Replies
    1. Dad, I hope you know that disappointing you has been the number one hardest thing about losing my faith in the Church. Sorry Mom, you're second.

  9. I think that comments on Facebook don't always show how many people liked and disliked your blog. Those who don't want to offend you, hurt your feelings or don't feel that this is an appropriate place to post, don't make comments. I wouldn't use the comments as a guide of how much negative or positive feedback are out there. At the funeral some relative told me that they have been avoiding your blog because they cried too much after reading it and it was hard emotionally for them to handle. It's good to write your thoughts out but maybe a handwritten diary would be better. We affect other lives with our actions and words. Just so you know you are breaking many people's hearts.

    1. I am aware that I shouldn't base the direction of my faith journey on the numbers of likes it gets on Facebook. But I also reject the idea that I should stay LDS just because my leaving disappoints people. I'm sure you understand that Mom, because family disappointment didn't keep you Catholic. While I know sharing my faith journey causes problems, I wonder if you would tell me to write my spiritual thoughts in a journal if they were more in agreement with your own, or if you would thank me for sharing them.

      I love you and I'm sorry we've been reduced to this.

    2. Obviously, the Carrolls' hearts are breaking...

  10. I just wanted to give you some support. I think it's important to have a safe (yes, and public) forum for these discussions, even though they're not easy for some to hear. They provide validation and give courage to those who find themselves in a similar state of mind. That didn't exist for me growing up, I honestly believed I was the only person who had the feelings and thoughts I did, (particularly with the way gender roles are presented in the Church) and I could only come to the conclusion that I was "wicked" and morally weak for feeling awful when I was told I would feel good. I can't explain what an immense relief it was to eventually find other people who felt like me, and to give myself permission to examine the system and the structure and conclude that some things really were troubling and I wasn't crazy for feeling what I did. I know how hard it is to deviate from the script, but I will always value authenticity over dogmatism and image management. I hope you keep doing what you're doing.

    1. Thanks for your support, Rachel. It means a lot.

  11. Tim, we've never met (I used to work with Cait) but I do agree with you that it's a little disturbing sometimes to watch young kids repeat things they can't possibly understand, to make up an identity for them before they've had a chance to figure out who they are. Maybe this is what happened to you?
    I know I have a hard time with church lately. Especially living in Utah with all the extracurricular mormon-ness of people, and living in a neighborhood full of Republicans. I am a Liberal, femninist, foreign weirdo. I struggle with the idea of these people teaching my daughter in YW or pushing their "must be out on the mission field by 18 (sooner now!)" on my son.
    None of this has affected my faith, and I go to church where I am a youth teacher and I can at least do my part to ensure those nine kids know how to figure it out for themselves.
    What I'm getting at is: I think you should search in the Book of Mormon. The Church or the prophet or the bishop has nothing to do with it. It's between you and God.
    To the previous poster who asked about church abroad: it's a lot easier for me to sit in a tiny chapel in Argentina surrounded by 30 people who have just heard the good news a few months before and the are learning the basics. Oh, I love being there. I want that for my kids someday.

    1. Thanks for your comment Millia. I'm glad you are in a good place with your faith and find fulfillment therein.

      Unfortunately, while I have been reading the Book of Mormon a lot lately, losing my testimony in its divinity has been one of the last steps on my path away from the Church. However, discussion of that would really demand another whole post.

      Thanks again for sharing.

  12. It's so interesting that you posted this now. Just the other day I was thinking about how Primary mimics the indoctrination that goes on in far less savory contexts (militant Islam, communism, etc.) and was kind of wondering where the line was. I agree that it's not my ideal way for teaching my children the gospel but I do appreciate what they're trying to do. However, my son is enrolled in a gospel-based preschool and I much prefer her approach. She teaches scripture stories (from Bible and BoM) while also teaching letter sounds and sharing. I feel like he's learning the background of the religion which will eventually allow him to make his own decisions about testimony, truthfulness, etc.

    When I was watching General Conference I found myself DYING for a talk on just LOVING others. With no conditions or expectations. Finally, Robert D. Hales gave his talk and it felt like an answer to my silent prayer. I do wish there was more emphasis on loving people completely- divorced from the concept of missionary work. I always cringe when I hear stories about how a member befriended a non-member and then- yay!- they joined the church! Why not love them just because they were your neighbor? With no expectation of baptism or conversion?

    All that being said, I do love the church. I read a comment on a forum not too long ago that this woman felt like the church was 90% men and 10% God peeking through and I thought that was a very astute observation. I stick around seeking for that 10%. And I feel like, the more I search for that 10%, the more easily I am able to find it.

  13. Part 1: I know you don't know me personally and I really only know Cait by association with Devin, but I have found you blog extremely interesting and read it as I can. I've been keeping up with your "faith crisis" and while I have had thoughts or comments, I've kept them to myself, because being almost a complete stranger I felt it would be weird to comment on something so personal. With that said, I also wanted to bring something to the table.

    I don't hold a degree from any college or university, and some might find me simple and plain. Which is fine with me. I also don't expect anything I say to change or sway your faith crisis... because it yours and its personal to you. But I would be very remiss if I didn't share what's on my mind. From what I have read, your family seeks out knowledge and is very endowed in that area, speaking Arabic is very impressive. I can also appreciate wanting to "know" the "truth" and searching out those things. I myself have experienced a "faith crisis" more so life crisis from 16-20 but I've always known the church was true. I may not have practiced my faith but I knew it was true.... I even tried to distance myself from it and decided it was my body and I was an adult and I could make my own decisions, ETC... Well I went to other churches, searched other things, and I was miserable. Obviously not in a short amount of time. I even tried not to feel the Spirit but when I was doing things that I really shouldn't be doing, I'd feel a "tug" so to speak and eventually that "tug" got too loud to ignore. This really seems the opposite of your experience. I had been taught to be wary of some of the actions I was taking. Now I didn't die, and there was really no permanent physical damage to my body, the world didn't end. But it could have. I missed out on a lot of blessings and spiritual growth, I endured a lot of un-needed hardships and pain. I'm grateful I was able to repent through his Atonement and be made clean again. I have a testimony of this, because I no longer feel guilt for my actions and I know that my Father, not my bishop, has forgiven me. I know that the Atonement works.

    I was inactive and I didn't even realize it. I went to church, participated in the primary programs you referred to (PS. Your comments haven't offended me) and my parents taught me the fundamentals for going to church, reading my scriptures, saying my prayers, and paying my tithe. My point is, with the church, and your views on how the teach fundamental truths to your children, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. I can assure you, they are not seeking the detriment you found in the program, but even if that were the case... they have free agency. Just like you. At the end of the day, the church can teach and preach and send out all kinds of information and stories of testimony and good feelings, BUT at the end of the day, YOU choose what to believe and how to act. Molly Mormon, I'm not but I do have a testimony of His church. Not because someone made me or brainwashed me or reached out to me and said you really need to come back to church. But I made the decision after searching for something that I thought made me happy or I had control over because I don't. I came back to church because I felt empty and I was missing something. I prayed and cried and reached out to my Father, I needed it so bad, and I felt like I had gone so far away I could never come back... but I decided I was going to go back to church because I knew it was true... and if I had to sit alone in that chapel, with no one talking to me and people judge me for my actions, I did not care because I knew that's where I was supposed to be. Sure other churches can be considered more fun and lively and the people are equally nice there, but for me, I could not feel the spirit completely.

  14. Now I understand, I have had a very unique experience, more faith based than the intellect you seek. My husband often tells me I more fully understand the "Mercy" side of things than the "Justice" but thankfully that burden doesn't fall on my shoulders. Because I know there is a God and we are all children of God. We may call Him different things, or all believe different things about Him, but that doesn't change the fact that He exists or He loves us any less. I consider myself very conservative but that doesn't mean I hate gay people or that I'm a slave to my husband. This also doesn't mean that you won't encounter ignorant people within the church. I think if you would examine the fundamentals the church was and is founded on, you would see the message or truth you're looking for, is right there. It talks about in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, about the gospel being simple and true. I believe that with all my heart. If you look to the simple things about the gospel, you will see that they are true. When you start to complicate them or dissect them, you lose sight of that. I am going to have to respectfully disagree about the primary program you mentioned in sacrament. Of course our children can't fully understand the concepts, so we teach them the simple ones. As we progress in the gospel we can understand things that are more in depth. Your comment about "if you met God and could ask him about taking the life of another to justify the means, and you could honestly say you would walk away from that God", it makes me sad. But I also know, that if you truly did meet God (let's say in the next life) and you felt His love, I find comforting in knowing it would be extremely hard to deny him because you would have a perfect recollection of all things, thus nulling your now, faith crisis. And I'm probably getting too personal for something that's not personal (ie, not my faith crisis) so I'll back off that topic. But what I am trying to get at is this, there are some things in this life, we just cannot know. It's impossible to know everything. And sometimes in the pursuit of this knowledge, we become bigger than the problem, we become so complicated in our thoughts or ideas and what we think we know, we cannot find the solution. I'm not saying you are wrong for anything you are doing, like I said I am very simple and because of that, life is slightly less complicated for me. I am satisfied in having faith because I have gained my testimony through experiences that are personal to me and that faith cannot be shaken now.

  15. I had a really neat experience with my daughter (she's 2), I was hot gluing some items on to a bag for her as she told me where she wanted them to go. After we were done with our craft I unplugged the glue gun and rested it on her shiny coloring book. I told her the glue gun was hot and not to go near that area because she could slip and burn herself on the hot metal tip. I was nursing my son, and watching her from the rocker about three feet away. She went over to where I told her not to and slowly but surely inched her foot closer to the glue gun. I reminded her again to move away from that area so that she didn't get hurt. She then looked and placed her foot which was covered with a sock on top of the book... inches away from the hot, metal tip of the glue gun. At this point, I reminded her again, but told her if she got burnt it was her own fault. And she didn't get burnt, I realize the situations of a soft sock on a slippery coloring book with a glue gun on it doesn't have to equal disaster, but I also know it's not the best idea. Sometimes, Heavenly Father sets guidelines for our protection, not because the action would result in our eminent demise. I love my child and of course, want what is best for her. I can tell her things and try to guide her, but she will do what she wants in the end. Does that mean I should just give up trying to parent? Absolutely not.

    So I understand you are on your path to gaining a testimony of whatever it is that you are seeking and I know that you will find something. I wanted to reach out to you as a REAL person, who does have a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but does not have a personal investment in your testimony (ie, friends/family) and share things I've been impressed with reading your blog post.. I know that regardless of your choice, whether God exists or not, and if He does in fact, exist, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, really His church the "true" church, He does exist and He will never give up on you because you are His child. I'm not telling you what to believe and you are doing exactly what you are supposed to, searching out the truth. Just be careful how far you go, when you seek out things and don't approach with a spiritual state of mind, you can often get lost in your pursuit of faith, using intellect. There are just some things in our life we can't know. Our minds cannot comprehend it in this life, ie the story of Nephi killing Laban. I struggled with that story too, but I accept my Heavenly Father's plan and understand that if that act did not occur, generations of people would suffer... ie why I can't judge with mercy and justice, it's not my place. Essentially, even though we are adults, we are still Hiis children and even the most intellectual people don't have 10% of the knowledge God does. So we are like little children learning from our parents how to navigate this life, much like our children are looking to us. And if you think about it like this, it makes a lot of sense why you are experiencing this. Because sure He could tell you and I can tell you, but you have to figure it out for youself. You may get burned or you might escape unscathed, I'm going to root for the latter consequence. And In the end, it's really going to all boil down to faith and all of the intellect in the world cannot explain faith. You either have it or you don't. It's an extremely hard concept to grasp, but it's worth the effort.

  16. It says in the scriptures that "There will be some that know and that have a desire to believe and even if you have a desire to believe" that will be enough. Sometimes, all you can offer is a desire to believe and Heavenly Father might not answer that request immediately. Similar to my glue gun story, he may only warn us a few times because he lets us figure it our on our own. It doesn't mean he doesn't love us, just means he's a parent, Even the strictest parent can't make us do things.

    I'm sorry this post is so long and I'm also sorry if this came off the wrong way. I'm a sleep deprived mom of two now and thoughts often get jumbled but I felt strongly to share this with you. I know I talked a lot about my feelings but the church isn't all "feel good feelings". Sometimes you go to church and you don't leave with a life changing experience or good feelings. Sometimes, it's what you put into it, that you take away from it. Sometimes you prepare fully and still don't get what you seek right away. For all those scenarios, I've always concluded the church was true of my personal experiences over and over throughout my life, I cannot deny those. I wish you the best in your faith crisis and hope you find what you are seeking. It's personal, and touchy and wrapped with emotions for you and your family and those you love and I commend you for standing firm in what your beliefs are and not bowing to pressure. While I know my views may differ from yours, they come from a place of love and understanding, much like you mentioned about the UU church. For me, the other churches left to many gaps where I feel our church fills them in. I may have stepped away from the church to find "myself" but I don't think I was ever so lost. When I, not someone pushed me, but I decided to come back on my own accord, I have never felt so whole or complete or been so happy. Almost six years later, through many,many trials, I feel just as strongly that the church is true and it's where I belong. It's where I am happy and safe and loved and cannot deny my testimony of the gospel. Notice, I didn't say the testimony of "the people and friends that I go to church with make me happy and complete and whole, but the gospel." We can argue what is right and what is wrong all day, and the specifics can be debated, but what we cannot argue is that there has to be a RIGHT and a WRONG. The key is to remember that in your search. I'm sorry you are going through a struggle and I hope you come out of it, stronger than you were before. Wishing the best for you and your family,

    Ashley Howe

    PS. Sorry for blowing up your blog feed, but I spent the better part of two hours writing this and I was not going to let it all go to waste! I didn't realize it was so long until I put into word and it came up FOUR pages,,, hope you made it this far :)

  17. Okay, seriously! Last post or comment... I misspoke, when I said no one reached out to me from church. An older sibling of one of my church friends, one that I thought absolutely despised me, sent me a six page letter about something she felt impressed to write. I read the letter, thought it was sweet but didn't apply to me and rarely thought of it ever again. Almost a year after she sent that letter to me, I came back to church. I've saved that letter over all these years and it means so much to me now. Thus why I was so bold to write what I was impressed. It may not matter to you now, but maybe it will help you at some point, down the road.

  18. Tim- You don’t know me. I don’t know you (other than what you choose to write on your blog). Our paths will most likely never cross outside of this virtual world. I stumbled upon your blog about a year ago. If I am being completely honest, I must admit that the reason you and your family fascinated me was because I had never come across anyone so completely opposite myself (in both thinking and life pursuits) than you and your wife. Having said that, I must add that I am mature enough to know that there are many trains of thought in this world we live in—and my way of thinking is no more right for you than your way of thinking is right for me. I have many friends in my life with a broad array of perspectives and thoughts. I have read your blog with an open mind and—in doing so—have cheered your successes and felt heartache at you trials. I have, very much to my surprise, grown to care about you and your wife and your darling children. I want you to find peace and happiness. As the mother of 5 children, I manage my free time scrupulously, and am not prone to commenting on people’s blogs—much less on that of a stranger’s. However, I have had a lot of thoughts building that pertain to your “faith crisis”. I am sure you will be able to tell, from my thoughts, that I am LDS. I hope that doesn’t dissuade you from sincerely giving thought to the things I am sharing. I understand that you are a deep thinker. You like to analyze and search for logical connections. This is a wonderful attribute—one that defines who you are. However, faith—no matter what religion you are—requires an extent of trusting in things that you can’t know for sure. That is the entire point of faith—us learning to trust and obey without having a perfect knowledge of why or how. As a father, I am sure you understand that children naturally want to know “why” they are asked to obey. When possible, good parents always take the time to teach the “why”. However, there are many times that teaching must come later, and – for the time being—children have to act out of a trust and faith in their parents. The things we ask of our children are always for their own good, but they can’t always grasp that concept due to limited understanding and perspective. This is no different than what is asked of us, by a God who loves us and wants what is best for us. Sometimes, we just have to trust until we are given greater perspective.

  19. Faith is an action word. Whether you are consulting the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavada Gita, Deepak Choprah, or the Dalai Lama—you will ALWAYS find that if you sincerely want to receive greater light and truth in your life—you must act. If you desire greater faith in the FSU community—and put your actions toward that—you will surely find good things to build your faith on. If you decide to cut off your relationship with God altogether, and act accordingly—then that is where your faith will lie. You have written that you don’t regularly attend your LDS church, you have stopped reading your scriptures, you rarely pray (“in the Mormon way”) and you no longer wear your garments. Is it really any wonder that your faith in the LDS church has diminished with your lack of action? If you really want to see your faith in the teachings of the LDS church strengthen, then do the things, wholeheartedly, that Mormons do. Attend your meetings (not looking for friends, but searching for truth), pray sincerely, study scripture, listen to the words of a prophet. If you are sincere in your efforts, it is impossible to do this without receiving the verification you are looking for. There is so much more that I could say. I have thoughts on your feelings about general conference, and the primary program, and many other things. However, I don’t know if sharing those thoughts would really matter to you. I don’t know how committed you are to resolving your “crisis”. Sometimes, your blog reads as though you have already made up your mind long ago. It is enough to say if you look for the bad in life (or any religion)…you will find it. If you look for the good, you will find it too. I can honestly say that living by the precepts of the gospel has only enriched my life, and the life of my family. My children are better people because of their relationship with a being greater than themselves. They have been taught to be giving, kind, accepting individuals. Knowing that God is mindful of me and my actions brings me greater understanding of what I want in life and who I want to become. He is mindful of you too. I commend you on your journey to find “good” in life, and pray that it leads you to what you are looking for. “And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good…” Ether 4:12

  20. I saw that you came on Sunday, I knew you and Cait were struggling with the Church but I thought that was noble to make such an effort as I haven't seen you guys there in quite a few weeks. (I'm going to focus on just one thing you talked about... dun dun dun, the primary program) I'm sorry the primary program was such a blow, its hard NOT to put so much weight on things when you are going through a crisis of faith, but I want to hopefully lessen the blow slightly with my perspective, you can take it or leave it. My perspective is this: I guess I look at it more like a school program. I don't know if you were in D.A.R.E. but I know I got up (as did LOTs of kids) and sang songs about how I'd never do drugs, how I was ALWAYS going to say no... blah blah... and as for me, I did just that (not because of D.A.R.E, but because I didn't want to do that stuff). But as for about half my class, they were on some'm by high school (and I grew up in Utah) and those D.A.R.E songs were easily forgotten. I say this only to create a very similar analogy. I can tell you that my participation in MANY primary programs was hardly a milestone in my life, in fact it just felt like another school program and was yet another chance for me to shine a little in front of my parents. In other words it felt like a school performance and didn't pull much weight as to what my future self would become. I felt just as free to choose what I was going to maintain as my belief's later on in life as I would have having NOT participated in that program. The statements made are nothing more than the teachings of the church, they are the doctrine (so let it be more an issue with the doctrine and leave the fact that the children are saying it, out of it). I agree more emphasis could and probably should be placed on other things that are right like treating others with kindness, but just because that WASN'T mentioned in this instance doesn't mean it isn't taught in Primary and in homes of LDS families. The songs are cute ways for children to express enthusiasm for the Gospel (which isn't a false image, children love learning and they are enthusiastic about what they are learning in Primary), its a wonderful way to teach children those principles seeing as children hardly remember anything else other than songs from their primary lessons. Please don't let the fact that a bunch of children got up and recited memorized lines of gospel principles be the last straw. The primary program isn't a propaganda move, its just a once yearly chance for children to shine in an organized way and to share an uplifting gospel message, there are no hidden motives. Yes its true, we teach our children the gospel at church but church is only 3 hours a week. Their greatest influence comes from the home, school and everything outside of that building. A weekly dose of "go and do" is not harmful, especially if children are blessed with a home environment where they can ask questions, form opinions and develop their own testimonies and thoughts. That's all, I've blabbed long enough. You didn't offend me (you might if you were to have used the word "brainwashed" but other than that I'm not easily offendable)... I hope my response didn't offend you I just wanted to offer a less weighty perspective. I hope we'll see you at church again but if not I'll see you all at Pizza Night (yum)... maybe I'll keep you posted as to when we are going to have some good speakers :)As far as wards go you couldn't have landed in a more progressive or diverse one that's for sure, and the people take care of each other better than I have EVER seen in my life as an LDS member :). Have a great week!

  21. Tim, I'm trying to be supportive and understanding as you take this journey. But, of course, as you go away you take Caitlin, Atticus and Tallulah with you, and that really hurts, as I know you realize. If you're not going to raise them in the church, please don't make them bitter toward the church, so at least when they are young adults they can make a decision -- as you have -- which way they will go.

  22. Just to add to the discussion, just because something is or has to be taught doesn't make it untrue or non-useful. e.g. maths.

  23. I wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts in such an open-minded manner. It has caused me to think a lot over the past few days. So much of our perception of the church is based on the imperfect, mortal side of administering things- seen through the church manuals, or some teachers we had, passages in the scriptures, someone's interpretation of the scriptures, comments that are made by leaders. No matter where you look in the church you will find imperfections. Everywhere. 'For all...fall short of the glory of God". ALL. Me, you, primary teachers, ward members, bishops, the authors of the manuals and designers of different programs, the prophet and apostles- we are ALL mortals, and with mortality comes some misunderstandings, over simplifications or man-made "why" explanations, and some of those get turned into "doctrine" or "truth" by us. I think every single one of us, including church leaders, have some important things that we just "don't get" the way that God does. I think that every church has some wonderful truths, and probably some ways that they fall short of God's full glory and intelligence. He understands things so much better than we do at this point. The LDS doctrine of the plan of salvation makes so much sense to me for just the very reason that I see all these imperfections-why would God allow that in any church if he wanted it to be "his"? Because the purpose of earth life is not to be perfect, not to learn the gospel, or even (i think) to act in faith and perform all the necessary ordinances-though sometimes we get bogged down on that one because there are elements of truth in that- but the ultimate purpose is progression and learning. We need to experience what it is to be mortal, and imperfect, and to have growing experiences in order to become like God. I'm grateful to be in a church where we have lay ministers, callings, discussion-based classes, random speakers in church, etc, because even though that means a heck of a lot of opinion and some false doctrine gets tossed around, I learn and grow a lot more by being asked to participate, than I would sitting still and having pure Truth just handed to me. I think God doesn't intervene and perfect all our false or less than perfect teaching methods because he knows the most important thing during mortality is gaining experience. To learn, to be mortal, to make mistakes, to be asked to do things we might think is beyond our capacity, to practice teaching and leading. I think God is very understanding and forgiving of our shortcomings because he knows what it will take for us to come to perfect understanding- and it will take much longer than this life. The full fruition of the atonement culminates in the resurrection, and, I believe, until this mortal puts on immortality, and we are "purified even as he is pure" will we truly be able to take the experiences we've had in this life and be more perfectly instructed in pure truth, love, and come to see and understand things as God does.

  24. Yes, other religions contain, teach and live truth. I would say there are even some things that others may "get" better than some mormons do right now. Every congregation will have it's own set of flaws-because they come from mortals, and guess what? We all are. Perhaps you will find that the Unitarian congregation feels like a better fit right now. The God I know will love you and cheer you on in all the good you do no matter what congregation you choose. We will, all of us, Unitarians, Mormons, Catholics, etc. etc. have some learning and changing to do after this life. I think you will also find there are things you find lacking or missing in any church or organization. We're all trying to do our best, but we all just plain don't get some things, and make some pretty false assumptions.

    So, your post made me think-what would I choose? When is too much false or imperfect teaching too much for me? Well, there is also just so much good that I see. So many people who really do get and live some principles really well. But I don't stay in the church for the people, anymore than I would leave it because of certain people. I stay because of the doctrines I love and believe that I don't think can be found all together anywhere else. The plan of salvation is one of them, the atonement covering everything, including mortal imperfections, hurts, and injustices is another. Eternal families (not because "I have it and others don't" but because I believe it's possible and God wants that and will make it possible for all who do) is another. Patriarchal blessings. Priesthood blessings- feminist or not, when priesthood is used humbly and righteously it gives me a window into the love and blessings my Heavenly parents have for me.i believe women also have access to that power- and I've seen Ian's experienced it. I believe the temple points clearly to the fact that priesthood is not only a male responsibility. But those beliefs do not change my love of the doctrine of the priesthood and how it can be used to bless and tap into the love of God. Home and visiting teaching, the responsibility and emphasis on really building a community that cares about each other (though this is mo of a current practice than really a doctrine, but it's based on a doctrine I hold dear.) I could go on, but I won't. My list would probably be very different from yours. And you could probably find things to dislike about all the things I cherish. There is much to love and some to dislike no matter which direction you choose to go. But how you live and what you what you personally give to your children will always be the most important thing. No matter the false or over-simplified eachings they get from mortals in any church or organization (and they will), what you live, teach, and believe will have the most powerful impact upon them.

    I think you and Cait will be a positive influence for good in he world no matter what path you choose. Thanks again for making me think :) All the best!

  25. Hello Tim. I will remain anonymous, but I will say that I grew up with you and was in your ward way back when in good ole' Rosehill. I have been following your blog for sometime and I couldn't help but post and share my feelings with you because my heart is breaking for you and your sweet family. I have been so intrigued by your "faith crisis". I KNEW YOU TIM! You used to have such a strong testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ. You served a worthy mission and shared His message with His children. Sorry if this will sound chastising, but I feel you need to hear some chastisement instead of everyone telling you it's ok to fall away from the church because it's not okay. You will one day look back at your decision with regret when your family is falling apart because that is what will happen if you choose to fall away from the church. You grew up in a very strong LDS family. I know this because I admired your family and really looked up to you, your siblings and parents. Your parents taught you correct principles and they loved you and worked SO very hard to raise you in the way the Lord would want them to. I know this because I am trying to raise my children the way the Lord would want me and it is extremely difficult. My heart is aching for you Tim. I do not know what has happened in your life to make you forget that you have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who do not want you to forsake Them. I am crying as I'm writing this. They LOVE you no matter how you feel about Them. They want you to come back to them and feel their love again. I am begging you Tim, please do not make this decision to leave the church. You and your family need The Gospel of Jesus Christ in your lives. The adversary is working harder than ever to destroy families and he WILL destroy your family if you choose to follow Satan's plan. It's not a matter of if, it's only a matter of time. Your children need to know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and wants them to return to Him one day. They have no other way of knowing the truth of the Gospel unless you teach them and that means you have to have a strong testimony. I know your earthly parents love you Tim. Their hearts are breaking for you. I promise they only want your happiness and that is why they are so upset, because they know leaving the church will only cause you and your family unhappiness. They do not want to lose you just as your Father in Heaven does not want to lose you. Please try to remember what your parents have taught you and please try to remember the love your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for you.

    1. Because ALL families that aren't LDS fall apart?

  26. I actually read this post hours after you posted it, but I can't get it out of my mind, so I came back to comment.

    Although, I don't agree with all of your concerns and conclusions, I can't help but hear the hurt in your writing. I am so sorry that your feelings and concerns have been belittled and dismissed. I can't help but shed tears for you as I feel the torment you are undergoing on your journey to find the truth. And whereas I have had my own (comparatively mini) faith crisis where I learned the church was true, I admire the person that questions what they have been taught as truth and gains their personal testimony of truth on their own. Every strong testimony, on any subject, is a personal thing, that can only be gained individually. I pray that your journey brings you back to the Mormon church (and at the very least does not influence your kids to be biased against the church) but I respect that this is your journey and you decide the end.

    In the meantime, I will say that I am SOOO impressed with the high morals and beliefs you have. I am appalled at the number of "good" LDS people who are on a Hunger Games frenzy (which I find APPALLING. The premise of the book is that children are made to kill children. HELLO??!!) So, kudos to you for walking out.

    There are good families in and out of the church. Prophets are people and can make mistakes and repent just as the rest of us can. Teaching our children to make good choices and respect those of others is vital. And you will always be loved and welcomed in our home despite your political views ;) or your journey's end.

    I pray that your journey brings you to peace.

    ps I hope this comment makes sense because Brooklyn and I were fighting over the computer the entire time. :)