Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Smells Like Nirvana. Or Is it Teen Spirit?

Let's talk dating as a mid-single adult. Honestly, I've kind of had it. I figured out Tinder and online dating apps. Those all seem so inauthentic though and it's truly a numbers game to find someone truly compatible there. My best relationships have been from Facebook and through real life friends. I've met some really amazing women through both methods, TBH.

But what am I getting from it all? What's the cost/benefit ratio?

The cost is, especially for a guy, a lot of money spent on people you barely know (I'm a giver naturally so I usually don't mind that - I really do love to give, to anyone, guy or girl - see my last Facebook status update), a lot of time spent on things that aren't really growing you, except a few rare cases, meeting people that just, much of the time (but not all - I truly have met some really amazing women), not much of a match or intellectually stimulating enough to me as a sapiosexual (I like long, deep, mind-bending intellectual conversations, and the most amazing women I've met I've connected on an almost metaphysical level where we can almost read each other's minds and we could talk into the early morning if we allowed ourselves, just like teenagers), and a lot of risk both emotionally and physically.

What's the reward? A one-in-a-million girl? Sex (don't let me get started with the risks there - honestly, I'm really liking the idea of waiting longer for sex more recently)? An occasional make-out session? Good friends? I have plenty of friends. Is it physical touch? I'm actually exploring a lot of Buddhist philosophies around reducing the *need* for physical touch - I think that's a learned societal behavior. I actually think, maybe when my kids are older, I might see if I can spend some time in Thailand as a Buddhist monk to explore this further.

Honestly, I'm just not seeing a lot of benefit for dating. If the right girl comes along and everything just clicks? Sure. In my new relationship with God and Christianity, the whole symbolism of relying on God to give and guide things to you is a powerful one, as it removes codependency on humanity and places it solely on God - that God can be a real thing, love, feelings, freedom, or whatever you want to symbolize it as, but the key is killing the codependency on humanity. And that's what I'm doing.

So if you see me attempting to outwardly date kick me in the rear a bit. That's, in many ways, codependency (I HIGHLY recommend the book, "Codependent No More" - more on that later). Time to just "Let Jesus/Buddha/Allah/God/etc Take the Wheel" and let karma do its job in guiding my life.

In Buddhism, removing these worries and outwardly "needs" for human connection, touch, and things removes codependency and ultimately reduces suffering. That's the exact place I want to be.

Honestly, it's starting to feel like Nirvana!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Celebrating MY Independence Day - My Peter Moment

Wednesday was Independence Day. I spent it visiting friends in the LGBTQ(IATP) community in Provo, Utah, who in today's world, still don't have the same freedoms that us heterosexual men and women do. It was during this event, and subsequently Provo's Stadium of Fire, where I spent a lot of time contemplating Freedom, and what that means to me. 3 years ago from Wednesday, on Independence Day, I submitted my resignation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was MY Independence Day! I was liberated - this was my first Independence Day. My 2nd Baptism.

Leaving the LDS Church was a soul-harrowing experience. I literally lost everything from the experience. I was literally homeless, living on a suitcase out of a hotel at one point. I spent 6 hours in jail amongst homeless people and Heroin addicts for crimes I didn't commit and were dismissed entirely later. For the first time in my life I was truly experiencing what my Savior Jesus Christ had experienced. In Mormonism I was so sheltered, and so filtered and controlled that I was oblivious to what losing everything could actually mean. And at the same time, I lost my faith in Jesus. I lost my faith in God. Entirely. I thought the experiences of old were simply just shadows on the wall of Plato's cave, and in today's knowledge in many ways they were. I KNEW NO OTHER GOD!

Fast-forward to today and I came across a new form of freedom I completely wasn't anticipating. I've been fortunate to have a very dear friend and mentor who grew up Christian, joined Mormonism, left Mormonism and rejoined Christianity, help me rediscover my own spirituality and faith in Jesus Christ. Let me explain what happened, and what this means to me!

This friend of mine had such a firm belief in Jesus Christ after leaving Mormonism to the point that every time I was around this friend I was enamored in trying to figure out why, and how they could come back to faith after an environment where faith was all-or-nothing, with so many rules and boundaries (perhaps I'll write more about that later). I remember this from the first time I met them.

A few months ago as this friend and I were talking it hit me an experience I had on my LDS mission in Thailand (yes I speak fluent Thai) that I've never shared with anyone but this person and my ex-wife before. I'm actually going to share it here, because in my new faith and belief system this is something I think NEEDS to be shared with the world! Why keep something so important so secret??? Here's what I wrote in my mission journal on November 6, 1998 (the experience was on June 11, 1997):

"I need to tell about a spiritual experience I had while I was in Thonburi. I'm still not sure what it was, because it wasn't a full manifestation. One night I was praying after a really spiritual day. I began to have a desire to know Christ more. I don't know how crazy this seems, or if it was my imagination, but afterwards, I asked with sincere faith to see Him. I remember this tremendous feeling of joy coming over my body, and then I saw some form, in the resemblance of Him. Now, I'm not so sure about it, because scripture from what I know now, does not quite support it, but I gain great joy whenever I think of that experience, and know that whatever it was, it was from God."


In my journey out of Mormonism I couldn't figure out who God was. Science simply didn't support Him. It still doesn't. I couldn't figure out what spirituality was. I read Bart Ehrman, Spong, and others suggesting most of the Bible stories simply aren't literal nor historical, and they're still right, quite honestly. But I had completely lost my spirituality and this experience brought everything back to me helping me realize something I was missing that I had forgotten I missed.

You see I had a very close relationship, besides this experience, to Jesus as a Mormon. From a young age I prayed to God daily. I told God I loved him every single day. I had conversations with my God. I truly believed he was there, listening to me. I did all I could to learn more about him. For this Mormon it WASN'T all about Joseph Smith and temples and Priesthood, although I constantly found those as barriers to the relationship I wanted with MY God.

In addition to this I saw MY God speak to me in ways I just couldn't deny as I relied on him. I saw a boy get up and walk after being lame and receiving a blessing from me through faith in Jesus on my mission. I saw my life literally be saved because Jesus (Mormons call this the Holy Ghost - no, it was Jesus, and the same feelings, although more limited) spoke to me as my dad felt a prompting from God that he needed to pray for me while I was in Thailand. I saw healing after healing (I'm, quite literally and psychologically, a healer I've found) through my lifetime of giving blessings through Jesus. I saw miracle after miracle. Whatever it was, even if it was something like a "Hyperfrontal"-induced dimension as mentioned in the book, "Stealing Fire", they happened. And I gained a real, personal, 2-way communicative relationship with MY God.

MY Jesus.

But even then it was clouded with religion, "The Priesthood", and the way my church wanted me to have a relationship with my God. So when that went away I couldn't figure out what was left.

At least at the point I shared this experience with my friend I realized I was missing something I had forgotten about. But I didn't know how to find it. With that in mind I started seeking things that reminded me of that experience I had on my mission. THAT experience was Jesus Christ to me! I don't know if it was real. I don't know if it was just a figment of my imagination - perhaps it was - but I knew WHAT I FELT WAS REAL! And that feeling I craved. Oh, I craved it!

Then, MY Independence Day hit again. I actually didn't quite realize what was happening. This friend, through a series of circumstances, made an entrance back into my life (Mandino's "The Greatest Miracle in the World" comes to mind - this person is my ragpicker!). Just yesterday, 3 days after Independence Day, I was experiencing a negative energy I just couldn't explain. I wanted to cry. I couldn't figure out why.

The topic of Christianity came up again. My friend wanted to get Baptized to reshow a commitment to God. In traditional Christianity, as contrast to Mormonism, Baptism is an outward ordinance of physical devotion to God and happens any time an individual wants to outwardly show their personal commitment to their God. It's a big celebration, full of pomp and circumstance, and prayer and incredible rejoicing to Jesus.

I sort of wanted this too. I realized I was missing it and I didn't know what it was or how to get it or even if it was something real or why my friend really embraced these things in such a scientific and literal world. My friend is really smart and already gets those things, so why this strong belief and what did it mean to them?

My friend shared with me the video below. I already had a VERY open mind at the moment, so if you watch this, please approach it with an open mind, thinking back to the most spiritual experience you ever had (and don't worry if the experience is literal or not - that doesn't matter). Then, think of Jesus in this as THAT experience! It doesn't have to be literal. It CAN, but it doesn't HAVE to be (Spong, an Episcopalian minister, suggests Christians take the Bible way too literally). Now watch with that open heart, and feel, putting yourself in the place of the individual dancing with Christ:

At about 3:50 I broke down, feeling everything I had just been through the last 3 years. And everything I had been through as a Mormon. I realized Jesus, whomever he is, whatever he is, has been trying to find me ever since I was a baby. He was walking on water, fighting the forces of nature, to rescue me, Peter, who was drowning in the water. I was being held back by forces of Priesthood, control, and religion the entire time I was Mormon. I was being held back by the forces of not realizing there could be a God outside of that. I found my way out but even then I was still fighting for my life, and he was fighting back to come and find me. My emotions let go and I bawled, quite literally, like a baby - this was me after seeing that video:

All of the sudden I GOT IT! I KNEW this man, whatever he or it is that I had a very personal relationship with inside Mormonism, was! And HE found ME! I don't know how to describe it. It was greater than anything I ever experienced inside Mormonism. Even greater than my vision of seeing him in person, at least in my heart. It was like a big, warm hug in such a real way. Instead of just seeing him I FELT him!

That scene in the video of Jesus fighting for her, getting in and even fighting back her enemies and all the different forces that were fighting against her. Then getting her up, cleaning her off, doing a dance with her and just embracing her. Just loving her. Just holding her. That was something I never felt inside Mormonism! I felt a genuine, genuine love for Jesus, perhaps more than many Mormons, but never like this. This was like that embrace at the end. A huge, warm hug holding onto me saying, "I'm here."

I'm bawling as I write this, feeling it all over again.

Today I went back to a nondenominational Christian church for the second time. The first time I was still Mormon, tainted by the controls I was subject to there preventing me from full clarity of my God. This time I went back unfettered. And boy was it an amazing, incredible, and another life changing experience! The songs resonated like never before, something I never understood as a Mormon. The messages resonated in a very personal way I was finally allowed to apply MY OWN interpretation to in any way I chose. After all it was MY relationship with Jesus!

This was, once again, MY Independence Day. And it was my 3rd Baptism. And I'm oh, so grateful!

If you could only feel the feelings I'm feeling right now. I will never go back to anything that controls me and my relationship with MY God again! I know that HE is there, fighting for me, embracing me, and every decision I make moving forward is going to be through him.

For my Atheist and Agnostic friends who have also left Mormonism - Jesus doesn't NEED to be a literal, "magical" being. Jesus is something inside you. He's something symbolic of love. He's symbolic of FREEDOM. But most of all, the Jesus OUTSIDE of Mormonism is one YOU get to decide what he means! You can do that - you can have spirituality back. You don't have to believe in fairy tales either. But you CAN have that relationship with YOUR God back. Try it, and see what else comes!

What else can I achieve after THIS???!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Are We in a New Era of the LDS Church Leadership?

I saw something really significant this last week. For the first time EVER, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an open press conference, where its newly called President and counselors stood in front of the Press taking open, live questions translated live into most of the major languages. Never in the Church's history, since early pioneer days pre-David O. McKay (who instituted "correlation" to control the messaging of the Church), has the LDS Church opened itself up, unfiltered, without Correlation. For the first time since Hinckley (who stayed, with his wife, with my grandparents, very nervous, the night before his infamous CBS Mike Wallace interview) the LDS Church has a leader, speaking to the public, unfiltered, truly representing the Church. This change is HUGE, and should be noted, whether you like the man or not!

I mentioned on Facebook that for the last decade or more Thomas S. Monson has been "sick". Some say he had dementia. It was enough to prevent me from getting anyone in the 12 or First Presidency (the top leadership of the LDS Church) to directly participate without correlation on social media. I used to preach, when I worked there, that the advantage of this "New Media" era was to "open up the covers" and bring back the times, like in the days of Joseph Smith, when members of the Church could talk to its leaders and those leaders could talk back, unfiltered.

I remember ordering copies of BJ (one of the premiere authorities on user interface design in a social media era) and Linda Fogg's "Facebook For Parents", and Robert Scoble (A man who eats, breathes, and sleeps the idea of "opening up the covers", sometimes quite literally! He's also a good friend.) and Shel Israel's "Naked Conversations" for each of the 12 to teach them this concept. I used to share stories of a man in the Book of Mormon named King Benjamin, who would preach as far as the ear could hear and they'd share it to their friends (you can see my presentation at LDS Business College where I shared a portion of this story here), and how social media now allowed the LDS Church's leaders to do this, having a true conversation with its members, one-on-one, unfiltered as in the days of Joseph Smith.

So this press conference was significant. And they messed up in how they responded on the issue of women and gays. Of course they messed up. It was unfiltered. I expected that when I shared these ideas with the Church. And that's okay. That's the point - there will be mess-ups. Now the responsibility of the LDS Church will be to listen, reiterate, and keep responding, one-on-one, unfiltered like they did at this press conference in as many places as possible. This move was unprecedented, and I'm absolutely tickled to see it happening. This is what I was waiting for when I had that really scary conversation with Michael Otterson about 6 years ago. So that event was huge. Especially for me.

There's one more really significant thing I've noticed however.

Since the changing of the guard in Public Affairs in 2016 and Richard Turley taking over the reigns from Michael Otterson (I actually adore Michael - he had a huge responsibility ahead of him during the Romney era, post-Prop 8, and other situations, despite some of the ways he ran Public Affairs that I disagree with), there have been no notable excommunications of public members losing their membership as a result of the Public Affairs department investigating individuals in the Church. When I worked there under Otterson I knew of several under investigation. I provided notes to Public Affairs about John Dehlin, JoAnna Brooks, Mike Norton, Helen Radkey, and others in that administration. And we know of very public excommunications like John Dehlin (they even responded publicly here) and Jeremy Runnels and Kate Kelly happening as a result of those Public Affairs investigations. I sometimes wonder if my own issues with my local leaders squeezing me out were a result of top brass at the Church talking to them (my Stake President wouldn't say where the screenshots came from).

I think this move as well is significant. Is the Church opening up more? Is it being more okay with disagreements from local members? Is it starting to allow open conversation and disagreement and handling it better? There are some very open conversations happening right now that I think are very healthy for the Church. Many around women and the Priesthood. Questions like the one Peggy Fletcher Stack, an active Mormon, asked the top leader of the Church just this last week. And frankly while I don't like the full answer, I like the love he tried to show, and that he at least attempted an unfiltered answer.

Side note: President Nelson knows my family as well and something like the response he gave to Peggy would mean a lot to me - he and my grandfather were friends, and served in the General Sunday School Board together. President Nelson if you're reading this, "Hi! Leave a comment or give me a call - always happy to chat and recollect about my grandfather!" (Now this will be an interesting test...)

I think something major is happening. Will they dig in their heals deeper on issues like gay marriage and women and the Priesthood? I can almost guarantee it based on my experience there (maybe I'll write more about that later). But one thing I think we can count on - they'll do these things openly, boldly, and there will no longer be any doubt on the LDS Church's position on these matters. No longer will the Church messaging come from the Gospel of Mormon Newsroom. You'll hear it from the top person's and First Presidency's mouths themselves, in real time, unfiltered. And you can also guarantee you'll see more listening as a result.

In the end that's HUGE, and a really good thing! Transparency always wins.

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Vision of The Iron Rod and Tree of Life

I just had a vision.

There is a story in The Book of Mormon about an "iron rod", leading to a "tree of life", and people holding onto that iron rod in order to get to the tree of life. Next to the iron rod is a "mist of darkness", and on the other side of the mist of darkness is a "great and spacious building", full of people pointing down and shouting at the people holding onto the iron rod. The interpretation by Lehi, and indirectly Joseph Smith (who interpreted the story supposedly by vision from God) is that those holding onto the iron rod are the righteous, and the tree of life is salvation and exaltation in the Kingdom of God.

While I have my doubts about The Book of Mormon, let's assume it was a real vision that Joseph Smith saw as he interpreted the story of Lehi. What if Lehi, and Joseph Smith got it wrong? Plato talks about a cave where people inside see shadows on the wall, assuming those shadows are reality. What if, instead of a path to righteousness as Lehi and Joseph Smith interpreted, this "iron rod" story is actually the story about the people in the building, who have a view over the entire world, and the beauty of it all? What if, instead of pointing their fingers in scorn down at the people holding to the rod, the people in the building are actually shouting at the top of their lungs that they're a much more beautiful world, and much bigger story if the people holding to the rod would just turn and listen? What if the river is the chasm that those holding to the rod have to go through, tearing their lives and hearts apart as they get to the building where they can see the entire picture? What if the iron rod is actually Plato's Cave and the great and spacious building are those outside the cave, looking in?

On the other side you see things differently. You see a whole new world without boundaries, and now instead of just one story about a narrow, tunnel-vision group of people focused on salvation, you see everyone in the picture, and a world of suffering, while those holding to the rod judge those that are lost, and on the other side. They don't realize that they're actually the ones who are lost.

I feel free. I feel like I have a view of not just the iron rod and tree of life, but the entire world around me, the people suffering within, and all those holding to the iron rod unable to see the people who are suffering!

"Twas blind but now I see"... This is MY vision, and the clay has been wiped from my eyes.

You can read the story here: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/8

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Faith Journeys: Leaving Mormonism and Religion Cured My Obsession for Pornography

A well-intentioned and very kind-hearted Mormon Bishop on my feed deleted a comment I made on a post of his where I talked a bit about my obsession for pornography as a Mormon and how it ended when I left. It was probably my first admission publicly that I had an obsession with pornography when I was Mormon. I was going to wait to post this, but feel I need to now, in order not to be silenced. Being silenced by my local ecclesiastical leaders for making intentionally and extremely honest and helpful posts to my audience (not necessarily putting the Mormon Church in the best light as a result) was the reason I finally left, after all. I am a free agent now - I can say and publish what I want, and be my true self as a result. You get the honest and transparent me - ALWAYS. I wasn't going to let religion stop that.

Okay - tangent aside, I'll get to the meat of the matter. I hesitate to share this because it IS a matter of judgement and worry amongst most Mormons and religious (and many of my religious family don't know), but the minute people become non-religious they stop worrying about it and stop caring about what people think! By sharing this I risk some of my Mormon and religious friends to judge me and think of me as evil. I hope that's not the case. I hope you live up to your religion and the reasons you stay.

Here it is - I stopped my obsession with pornography when I left the Mormon Church - ENTIRELY. Yes, you heard that right. I was "addicted" to pornography as a Mormon and there were times I couldn't go a day without thinking about it. I obsessed over it in leadership positions. I obsessed over it even when I worked for the Church (although I never looked at it on church-owned computers). I obsessed over it after I worked for the Church. I obsessed over it since I was probably about 14 years old. Arguably, I truly believe that almost every male and some females in the Mormon Church, and perhaps most religions that spend all their waking hours trying to rid the religion of pornography, has an obsession with pornography.

I'm learning more and more since leaving that I was not alone. One thing I've come to realize since leaving the Church is that Ex Mormons and those that are non-religious in general are much more willing to talk about these things, and you learn about all the minute details like this. I have yet to meet an Ex-Mormon who wasn't obsessed with pornography at some point in their time as a Mormon. If the LDS Church wants stats, interview those that leave the Church - those are the ones that will be honest with you!

When I left the Church, to be honest, I didn't try to stop my obsession with porn - developing a new system of ethics and morals, I didn't really care! But what I found is that, naturally, as I stopped worrying about it and having it shoved down my throat every minute and in every Bishop's interview (many of which I just lied as most people do, because I'd get so tired of it, and at times because my own livelihood relied on it), every Priesthood conference (meetings for the male leaders in an area), every Stake Conference (meetings for all members in an area held quarterly), and General Conference (meetings for all members in the Church held bi-annually), and then being taught to teach the youth I was in charge of on a weekly basis not to do it, I just didn't think about it any more. And naturally, I stopped. Completely. And I don't think about it at all and I'm definitely not addicted! I argue most who are non-religious aren't for this very reason.

I keep using the word "obsessed" instead of "addicted" because I don't think most people are truly addicted to pornography. I think most of us who are or were constantly thinking about it and wanting to indulge were simply obsessed because it was something we were taught to feel shameful of. It was something we were taught to be sad about.

Every book I read on the subject was depressing, teaching how we should use the "atonement of Jesus Christ" to overcome, as though it was a sad thing to have these obsessions. I was once told to go to a 12 Step program for Sexaholics because of my porn problem - that too was depressing, people with much worse problems than I had (child rape, adultery, among other things) mixed in with others of us thinking this was something as bad and life-threatening as alcoholism. I only went once because I felt it was making my problem worse. And then I was constantly being told it was an "addiction". It's something you "need to overcome" (see http://overcomingpornography.org for the LDS Church's official stance - it's treated as a sin). I was constantly focusing on the horrors of what I was doing rather than how to treat women right and what "consent" vs. "non-consent" is. It's no wonder I was obsessed! I was not addicted - I was subject to a constant bombardment of how bad a person I was!

It's not pornography itself that is the issue. It's shame, and guilt, and depression that is the issue surrounding pornography, and that exists because churches are constantly teaching, in an almost obsessive manner, that these things are evil. When in reality it's not pornography as a whole that is evil, but rather certain types of pornography where women (or men) are being treated as inferiors, where sex is being forced or manipulated (or implied as such), where children are involved, or where human trafficking is the source of the industry that are evil. Once we stop treating pornography, in general, as "evil", and start focusing on the real problems and reasons we don't want people looking at pornography (without focusing on pornography itself), the obsession, and associated "addictions" will go away. Entirely. I guarantee it.

I share this not to boast about leaving the Church or the benefits I'm seeing, but rather to point out that there are many, many (arguably MOST males and many females!) suffering inside of religion, and especially the Mormon church right now that shouldn't be. Stop treating it as a sin! Stop seeing it as shameful! Get it out of the Bishop's interviews! Get it out of General Conference and the youth and adult manuals for church! And frankly, if it gets you out of this rut, religion is not so important as to prevent you from having a happy life.

I guarantee, the minute the Church, or any religion gets pornography out of religion, the problems, with perhaps a small minute few exceptions, "addiction" to pornography will go away entirely and it will no longer be an epidemic. Maybe it's religion, or the proliferation and obsession over topics like pornography within religion that is the epidemic? Overcome that, and you overcome pornography.

Now, judge away...

New Series: My Faith Journey

Starting today, I'm going to begin a new series on this blog. In reality, it's a continuation of everything else on the blog - my transparent (as I have time) journey in everything I learn and discover on my faith journey in life. You can read back and see my previous posts as a Mormon and see a stark difference in my posts as a former Mormon, for instance. If you want to get into the mind of someone who has gone through this process, this should be a friendly, non-threatening way (no matter your religion) to do this and understand what someone like myself has gone through.

My next post will be a bit of a doozy, although honestly it doesn't seem that big to me any more now that I've left Mormonism. I'll let you find out in a few minutes what it's about but you'll definitely get a much better idea on how transparent I'm about to get.

Following this, I have thoughts on where my belief in God has transitioned since leaving the Mormon faith, as well as Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many other components of Mormonism. I find many who leave go through a similar process but we don't quite see the process of why they go through what they do. This will be me opening up my thoughts in as transparent a way I know.

Lastly, I want people to understand the challenges someone leaving a faith transition go through. It's not an easy process no matter what religion it is. That said, I'm still more confident, more free, more liberated, and happier than I've ever been since making my decision, and that's all that matters.

Stay tuned - my next blog post is coming soon!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Do You Do When You Stop Believing? (The FULL version!)

This is the full version of my faith journey, which I shared on June 3rd. This was written back then, but I withheld part only for close friends, and wanted to compile it all for you to see the full story in one today.

I've stopped believing in Mormonism. The truth is I'm struggling how to tell you. I actually wrote out an entire post around my journey but realized that probably defeats my purpose in sharing this. I'm happy to discuss privately with any of you - perhaps I'll write that down and share a link for those that ask, in private so I'm not repeating myself. Keep in mind that I really don't want to argue about this. Contention is not my goal for this. Trust me - I know your side better than anyone.

I have a very public profile online and you deserve to know that. I don't want to offend my fellow Mormons, but at the same time it's not fair to them to think I believe when in fact I don't any more. And the truth is, by just sharing the fact that I don't believe online I risk the fact that the culture and membership I've known my entire life could be stripped from me by church leaders. I love the traditions of Mormonism - the friends I've made there, the people I've met along the way, and the people I've served.

Truthfully, I've been debating how to share this with you. I don't want you to go through the same things I have. They have been gut-wrenching, soul harrowing. The entire principles and culture I grew up with my entire life had been turned on its side. If you begin to doubt and begin to research, you WILL eventually find the same things and have to decide what to do with it. That's not what I want - you need to decide if you're ready for that. I need to be transparent with you though.

I've been asked to do an AMA on Reddit about my story. I've been asked to be on John Dehlin's "Mormon Stories" (UPDATE - I did that - go here to see). I'm trying to decide if I'm really ready for that, or if there's really purpose in my going that direction. Clay Christensen was threatened with excommunication by just being on these shows (he resigned instead). (Also UPDATE: I resigned on Independence Day, 2016 - I'll share some of that later) I do owe it to you to share my story though and let you know where I stand.

Pushed Off a Cliff
Throughout my life I've always made a commitment that I'd be honest and transparent in my faith journey. You can see some of that on this blog. My opinions and testimony have changed quite significantly over time from extremely conservative to somewhat liberal. On Facebook, where I'm more personal, I've shared the good and the bad, and I'm always 100% transparent in my opinions on subjects, and I was even as a faithful member.

You can see that to the point where people within the LDS Church in my own congregation and area were sharing screenshots of what I shared online with my Bishop and Stake President. In fact my Bishop and Stake President called me in - I brought my wife with me (at her request - I have nothing to hide from her) - and condemned me for simply sharing sympathy with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees, who created a pretty angry video of his feelings against the LDS Church. The post simply said, "A lot of anger and frustration in this video - thoughts?" I'll save those church leaders, who had good intentions, the grief of the details, but suffice to say there was contention, on both sides, in that meeting. Our Stake President told me AND my wife (who didn't post anything) we couldn't go to the temple.

While not offended, I was hurt. THEY were offended.

We walked out of the meeting early. I had been pushed off a cliff. Kicked out the door. At least that's how it felt. I haven't stepped foot back in church since. I understand how Christ felt, rejected by His own people and condemned for believing different.

I'll be honest that I had a glimmer of faith in the LDS Church even when I posted that Facebook post. I truly wanted to hug Tyler Glenn. I could tell, from his video (which has many symbols in it, whether you get offended or not), was hurting. I wasn't trying to draw people away from the Church by sharing it.

Faith in the Modern LDS Church
At that point in my faith journey (which was really just 2 months ago), I still believed that Joseph Smith could be a prophet. I still believed that, despite him sharing 3 different versions later in life of his vision of God and Jesus Christ (one of those which was not both of them), his supposed affair with a 14 year old girl while married to Emma, the flaws of The Book of Abraham translation, etc., etc. (most published on LDS.org or available in the LDS Church's own records archive), that just like Moses and Job and even Peter (who doubted Christ), and many of the prophets in the Old and New Testament, a prophet of God could be flawed.

I wasn't quite sure of the truthfulness of the modern LDS Church though. I worked for 3 years as the first person at the LDS Church managing social media. I worked with every single department of the Church. I set up BYU's first Facebook Page. I set up the Church's first Facebook Page. Before I worked there I consulted to help them set up their first Twitter accounts and the Mormon Channel Youtube Channel. I helped the Church secure a Facebook ad account executive. I helped with the "I'm a Mormon" launch. I helped strategize the Church's response to having a Mormon (Mitt Romney) run for President. I monitored the conversation of members, non-members, and former-members online and truly understood many of the conversations happening on all sides. That's just the tip of the Iceberg.

I'll be honest - even while working for the Church I truly felt the modern Church was true. I felt "the Spirit" there (something I still can't explain - you can feel the Spirit in non-LDS Churches as well, whatever that feeling is - it's a feeling of peacefulness and comfort, something I feel as I write this). Even with the executive clergy (members of the 70 and Quorum of the 12) I worked with, I felt they were truly trying to make the world a better place. They were also trying to defend the Church's existence, but they all had pure hearts. I still love many of them - some of the 12 Apostles know me by name and I hope they know I still consider them friends and love them. I feel while some of them make mistakes, they do get "inspiration" - whatever that is or means. I've seen miracles that I can't explain. I've seen these in other Churches too though.

Mankind, regardless of religion or faith, is somehow connected in ways we don't understand (and many try to explain).

Shortly towards the end of my employment for the Church, and in the years after I began truly studying the history of the LDS Church. Terryl Givens was my Bishop when we lived in Virginia over 11 years ago (before I worked for the Church) - Fiona, his wife was my Sunday School teacher when I was in charge of the Sunday School there. I was in the Elders Quorum Presidency under him as well - I love that man, and especially his dear family! So I truly understood there were flaws in Mormon history, and that many leaders had made mistakes. I wasn't willing to let that stop my faith.

I started realizing the inconsistencies in the Modern Church (Brigham Young and after) - the Word of Wisdom and the fact that all church leaders through at least Joseph F. Smith drank alcohol, coffee, and some smoked tobacco (and who knows what else). I was aware of the fact that the Salt Lake Temple had spittoons in the room for the Quorum of the 12 up until Joseph F. Smith, and we have pictures that still exist today.

The temple too was inconsistent - I came to realize that we don't even know the original endowment ceremony introduced by Joseph Smith. And the one practiced today is not even the one, nor signs or symbols or covenants that was practiced by Brigham Young and many other prophets after. It has changed MANY times over time. That's a historical fact. I highly recommend this book (click on this link), which I feel and felt even as a believing Mormon, was very respectful to Mormons' sacred beliefs on the subject.

Add to that blacks and the Priesthood in the 70s. I worked for the Church when the Church released the statement admitting the Church was wrong. I always encouraged them while working there to be true, open, and transparent, as long as they felt they were true. If true, the truth will work itself out. They were very supportive of that, always trying to share truth when they knew it, as you can also see from the release of The Joseph Smith Papers recently.

The Tipping Point

The tipping point was last October, when the LDS Church put an official (policy) ban on allowing the children of gay couples from getting baptized until they are 18. I'm all for making sure kids are accountable when they join a Church and frankly think age 8 is too soon. However, the inconsistencies of it all make it really hard for me to see that this is an inspired principle. What began my true doubt on the subject was the divorce of my Dad.

2 years ago my Dad left my mom - I'll spare the details (I've shared some on Facebook). He divorced her, and beginning of this year he was sealed in the temple to his second wife, after not revoking his temple sealing from my Mom. For the non-Mormons out there, a "sealing" means you are married for not just this life, but Mormons believe it seals you together after this life, and for eternity. Many say things will be worked out in the next life, but this step really weighed hard on me and my faith in the modern LDS Church and belief in the temple itself.

So my dad, who purposely left my Mom not telling her why he was leaving, and marrying a second wife in what according to Mormon belief truly is polygamy, is sanctioned and celebrated in the Church, and I get to keep my membership as his kid (even if I was under 18), but the children of gay couples in the Church can't??? That made absolutely no sense to me. I was hurt. I was confused. All the previous inconsistencies began to come together and fall. It's interesting how life tragedies can push people to truly seek for more truth.

I began discussing with my wife my frustrations and disbelief in what the LDS Church was doing. I no longer believed the LDS Church, as it stood today, could be true. It was not an easy conclusion to come to, and there is much more to it than what I'm just sharing here.

The Last Straw
At that point all I had was the possibility that Joseph Smith's Church was true, but Brigham Young's wasn't. Could it be that the Church fell after Joseph Smith died? Could Community of Christ, a Protestant Church modeled more after Joseph Smith's original church, actually be that church? Had we completely lost what Joseph Smith set out to accomplish?

Circle back to the meeting with my Bishop and Stake President that I mentioned earlier. I said they pushed me off a cliff. I no longer believed in the modern Church. I was convinced of that (and frankly I would have preferred to discuss that with them than a stupid post on Facebook and the condemnation they ensued on me). I'll be honest I wasn't quite sure what to do about it. I stopped going to Church - it just wasn't worth it any more.

So I needed to figure out the truth of Joseph Smith's church. I began studying real historical documents, on both sides of history. The LDS Church has its own point of view around history that defends its own existence - I saw that first hand working for the Church. The bureaucracy itself is built around defending its existence and that's why you see things like Prop 8 happen. There are also many historians, solid historians, in and out of the LDS Church that have their own views of history. I read all of those.

Without getting into detail, I began to realize that Joseph Smith had more evidences against his story than for it. Look up "The CES Letter" if you want a cliff notes version - I'm not going to try and convince you here, and frankly that's not my purpose of this. Before I knew it Joseph Smith's own story had crumbled. I was no longer willing to say that I knew Joseph Smith saw God, or that the Book of Mormon was written by a prophet, or that I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet. Every time I said that before it was based on evidences (see Hebrews 11:1 for the definition of faith, which I taught on my LDS mission). Now the evidences pointed the other direction, in quite a significant way!

Can We Still be Friends?
I don't want to appear as "anti-Mormon". I don't want to be someone trying to convince others, or evangelizing against the Church. Frankly, I'd still fight for the LDS Church if they wanted to hire me again. I'm still against people sharing videos of the sacred LDS temple ceremonies on Youtube. I'm still against ex Mormons trolling Mormons on Mormon blogs. There are many good things the organization itself does, and like any former employer I enjoyed working for I would do it again if for some crazy reason they asked me. I just don't believe in the doctrines any more. Heck - I may even continue sharing my photos with LDS Create, as I have done thus far.

Lastly, I don't want to offend any of you. I know many of you, especially family, see someone who leaves as not going to the Celestial Kingdom. I don't want you to be sad. Frankly, you can try to convert me in the next life if I'm wrong (which I am 100% convinced at this point I am not, nor do I want to argue about it). I'm not a "sinner". I'm not "offended". In fact I'm at peace. I've prayed about it. I've read the Book of Mormon dozens of times. I've sought out the best books and sought the "Mysteries of God". The truth is I was, spiritually and ethically, moving faster than the Church, and this was my only next step in my life (or eternal) progression. I am completely at peace with my direction in life and I'm happier, and healthier than ever and a better person because of it.

As I've always said, this is my faith journey SO FAR. I anticipate this will change more and more in the future. Who knows where I'll be 10 years, or even 20 years down the road? I want you there with me. I want us to all be friends in our individual journeys.

As I've said on Facebook, my mantra is to be true to myself, and kind to others. God or not (I'm still figuring that out), the laws of Karma and the Universe still exist. What we put into this earth we get out of it. I hope you can join me on this journey, whether you're Mormon, non-Mormon, former-Mormon, or otherwise!

Please, reach out and say hi some time - not as a church leader, a home teacher, or visiting teacher, but as a real, true friend. Frankly, I'm not quite sure I can be sure of that if you have any of those callings and come to me, I apologize - I've held the callings myself and I KNOW I wasn't true friends with many of those I was trying to bring back to the Church. I can usually tell your true intentions - building trust with me is really important at this point. I'm hoping to discover who my real friends are from all of this! You can know if I friend you, I now have have none of those motivations - I expect the same.

I'll try to share what I can as I progress on this blog, so please subscribe! Let's all heal, in our own individual journeys, together. And if you're struggling, I'm here to help, no matter which side of the coin you end up on.