Testimony of an Ex-Mormon Who Has Been Harassed by the Church For Leaving After Finding Out It Was All A Lie
I was born and raised a Mormon in Southern California. My ancestors crossed the Plains in covered wagons, and I have ancestors who were married to both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
To be a Mormon takes a lot of dedication and time. The average service on Sunday is over three hours, and that’s not counting other activities during the week. The Church makes sure its members are always involved, which is one of its selling points. Mormons are made to feel important. Ever since I can remember, Mormonism just didn’t seem right to me. The teachings were so different from other Christian religions that I never felt comfortable with it.
Religious instruction starts early with constant reinforcement. Everyone around me was so sure Mormonism was the right religion. I felt that I was just a bad person who wasn’t ‘getting it’.
These feelings continued to grow as I did.
I tried to believe. I read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it. I never received the ‘burning in the bosom’ talked about by Mormons. This was suppose to be a signal from God that the individual had found the true Church. This made me feel even worse. I was a rebellious child, and Mormonism isn’t the ideal religion for that. It’s very structured with clean-cut boundaries as to behavior and status. Needless to say, my activities put me near the bottom of the pecking order. As I approached the missionary age (18-19), I sat through farewell meetings for my friends. I heard the girls cry while the young missionaries would almost glow with religious fervor for the Lord.
My mother would talk about how nice the meeting was, and plan what they were going to do for my farewell. I would smile and feel like dirt. I knew that a mission was out of the question, because I didn’t believe. Yet, I didn’t quite know why. As time passed, and it was clear I wasn’t going on a mission, people’s attitudes towards me changed. Conversations stopped when I came near, and everyone always had something to do and left. My social life was finished because Mormon girls are taught that their prime duty in life is to marry a returned missionary and raise children. There was only one young woman who treated me with kindness during that time. B. E., if you ever read this, thanks. I drifted further and further away from even the most basic Mormon beliefs; however, I still had to attend while living with my parents. Seeing everyone believing and content just pushed me further into depression and confusion. I joined the Air Force at age 21 and left for basic training. While there, I once again tried to return to Mormonism. I reread the Book of Mormon and prayed, but it didn’t help.
I was stationed at March AFB, Ca., near Riverside. Leaving the Church was easy, and I didn’t miss it at all. I was always told that I’d feel an emptiness in my life without it, but I didn’t.
Mormons are very tenacious people and don’t like the idea that one of their members is back-sliding. Since I was still on the membership roles, I could be tracked down. Men from the Church would come to my home and ask me to come back. Their visits would average about once every 4 to 6 months. I would get phone calls both at work and home for the same purpose. I was considered an ‘inactive’ member by this time.
Mormons have a program called fast-offerings. The first Sunday of every month, members are required to fast from the Saturday evening meal until Sunday evening meal. The average food cost is then calculated, and that amount is given to the Church (as a minimum donation). On that day, twelve year old boys are handed a package of envelopes. On them are the names and addresses of inactive members living within certain boundaries as well as those individuals who couldn’t attend the fast meeting. The boys are then driven to the targeted houses and ask for a fast offering. I was hit up for this as well.
I left for Korea for a 1 year tour and wasn’t there two months before they found me again! I had to live in a dormitory and my neighbors would tell me about missionaries knocking on my door and asking about me. I worked rotating shifts and was seldom home. The visits had gotten so frequent that my neighbors taped a sign to my door saying ‘Mormons, go away!’ Religious recruitment is forbidden on military installations. How did they get in? How did they keep on finding me? As a result, I had my dog tags changed for religious preference.
After my return to the U.S., I started doing my own research into the history and doctrine of the Mormon Church. As stated earlier, I required three independent sources of information to confirm a belief or event. The reason for this is while the Mormons were starting their religion, they were persecuted. While some anti-Mormon literature was written, there was also a great deal of objective and firsthand accounts as well. If three different sources agreed on an event, it was unlikely to be pure hate literature. What I found out was very different from what I was taught growing up. The Church version of Mormon history is a heavily doctored one designed more for the raising up of faith than recording accurate history.
Independent research is highly discouraged. Members are told to view, read, and listen only to Church approved sources. The more I learned on my own, the more I believed that Mormonism is not the true religion of God. I was no longer bothered by the thought that I was going to the Telestial kingdom (the lowest of three worlds Mormons believe will exist in the afterlife) for casting away the true gospel. The discrepancies between the historical and Church versions were so wide that I started to get angry. All my life, I was taught to believe that Mormonism developed in a certain way, and now it was all wrong.
It got to the point that I wanted to sever every tie with the Church that I could. I called the local bishop and asked him to forward a letter to Salt Lake City, Utah. In that letter I stated that I wanted my name removed from the records of the Church. He sounded very distressed. He stated that he didn’t even know I was in his boundary (I guess the dog tags was how they kept finding me). He asked to meet with me, but I declined. I told him that I didn’t want to talk to anyone, no one was to come to my home, and no one was to call. He was agitated and somewhat dumb-founded. He asked me if I had sinned against the Church, and, if I had, that I must go through a bishop’s court. In this court I’d be judged as to whether I warranted excommunication, in other words, cut from the Church on their terms. I told him that I wouldn’t attend any court because I no longer recognized his authority (he didn’t like that). After some more discussion, he agreed, and I mailed him my letter.
About two weeks later, I was away for the evening. When I returned, my wife told me that the bishop had come over. He told her that he needed my phone number and priesthood records. After she let him in, he immediately started looking around for me. He asked her if she was Mormon (she isn’t). He told her all the horrible things that would happen to me in the afterlife if I continued with this process. After getting his information, he left. I was furious when I found out. The only reason he was there was to get my phone number (it’s unlisted). I clearly told him I wasn’t to be contacted at home, and he disregarded my wishes.
About two months passed without any progress. I received a phone call one evening from the bishop. He asked me to meet with him at the Church next Sunday. My initial thought was that he had my membership cancellation notice. But as I thought about it, it didn’t make sense. It would’ve been mailed to me. I asked him what he wanted to talk to me about. There was silence for about twenty seconds before he spoke. He said that the Lord had a calling for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I asked him to repeat what he said, and he did, adding that we needed to talk about it. I told him I wasn’t an active member and wasn’t interested. He turned nasty then, mocking my voice and started pronouncing doom on my head if I refused the Lord. I hung up the phone. This happened in Jan. ‘ 95.
By this time I knew that he wasn’t going to honor my request. I started to look for another way out. I couldn’t believe the trouble I was having getting out of a church! If I had gone ahead with a bishop’s court, it would’ve already been over. The Mormon Church doesn’t like people leaving on their own. It makes them look bad. But if the person has been excommunicated, they can say that the person was a sinner and didn’t deserve to be a Mormon.
I contacted a lawyer and told him what had happened. At first he looked at me a little strange but as he got the full story, decided to help me. He told me he would call Salt Lake and advise them to release me. If they didn’t, then I was going to sue the Church for harassment. In addition, he wanted the records to reflect that the only reason I was removed was because I had requested it.
I went home and just shook my head. I was amazed at this whole thing. If it wasn’t so pitiful, it would’ve been funny.
The next day, I came home from work and checked the mail. In it was a package sent overnight express. Inside was my records cancellation letter from the local bishop. It was a Xerox and written in the top right-hand corner was ‘Nov. 94’. I just laughed, they were fighting to the end. I decided to develop a Web page to express my opinions and become a point of contact for others who had gone through the same experiences I did. It got pretty popular, receiving over 31,000 hits in seven months. I was helping people who’ve had their lifes thrown into turmoil by leaving the Mormon church. As my page received more exposure, the members in my parents area started to mobilize. My parents were harrassed by people they’ve gone to church with for over 20 years. Instead of exhibiting Christian-type values such as comforting them for the loss of a son from Mormonism, they received emotional blackmail instead. My father’s health started to suffer as a result of it.
I was forced to remove my page from the Internet because I was stating my opinion and it scared them. Mormons have long cried “Persecution! The world won’t let us believe what we want and publish/think what we want.” Well, that same attitude has been used on me. Since they couldn’t get to me they turned on my parents. Another example of a repressive, closed-minded church that will work tirelessly to stop anyone who dares express an opinion of Mormonism that hasn’t been through the Church’s sanitation machine. I’ve had many people tell me I should write a book, I’m in process of doing that.