Disclaimer: Parts of this post may not make sense without some background knowledge of the Latter-day Saint faith/Mormon church, but this is just one of those posts that doesn’t bear well with further explanation.
This is also a joint post with my amazing husband, Jared.
A riddle is a description of something, and it has to be a description that identifies the something exclusively but without naming it. When we hear a riddle, our mind searches through catalogs of ideas that could fit. We quickly do several things:
· We think of ideas that have the same aspects. If we’re thinking about what’s black and white and read all over, for instance, then we start thinking about things that have some black or some white in them, for starters.
· We check for any misinterpreted words or puns — things we may not have thought of originally, because we were looking at it the wrong way. If we thought we were looking for something “red” rather than “read,” for instance, we would be mistakenly looking for color, rather than reading material.
· We then make sure the thing we’re thinking of isn’t missing one of the necessary aspects. If we find some reading material that’s white with blue writing, for instance, it doesn’t fit, because it’s missing the black.
· We then also make sure the thing we’re thinking of doesn’t have extra aspects that don’t fit, that is, that there are no contradictions. For instance, if you were to say, “What is black and white and purple and read all over” a newspaper no longer fits (unless you know of a newspaper printed in black and purple ink).
Religion is like a riddle — though we most definitely don’t mean to simplify it to that degree. That is why we say it is like a riddle, not that it is a riddle.
For us though, instead of being given the clues and then finding the answer, our riddle was given to us backwards (In fact, we heard it said just a few months ago by a spiritual leader in the congregation that if a person prayed for an answer and got a different answer than the Church’s answer, then they got the wrong answer, and they needed to realign themselves with the Spirit and try again).
So for those of us in the LDS church, we were told what the answer was, and then we were told to go about making sure for ourselves that it fit truth — that is, we were told to gain a testimony of the answer we had already been given.
And you know what? So many things fit. They really did. And they were good, and they were happy, and they were beautiful. And you know what else? A few things were misinterpreted, misunderstood, changed, or difficult to understand, and that didn’t matter either. We didn’t care. They were matters for a time of greater light and knowledge. We were more than happy with faith, because if faith wasn’t necessary for salvation then what kind of wimpy trial is earth life? Who on earth would have all the answers and not follow the truth? Of course faith was necessary. This is a test, after all. The answer we’d been given was still possibly correct.
But what if the answer turned out to be missing key attributes?
You see, our religion promised us a spiritual confirmation of its truths. It said that it was the most unique and special religion of all religions. So, naturally, we expected a spiritual confirmation of its truths. And not just a warm, fuzzy feeling, but a feeling that was unique and special. After all, if it’s just any good feeling, how could you tell that it was exclusive to this religion? We weren’t sign seeking; we didn’t need thunder and lightning. We just needed to follow the rules, read the scriptures, pray with real intent, and get an answer that was unique or special.
For me (Jared), I did get something. After fasting for 48 hours and praying in an isolated room in the church, I finally felt something I could call a little different than most other feelings. But I now realize that the something was actually an internal decision, not an organic, external confirmation. That is, all my worth as a person — my identity, my acceptance from others, my purpose in life, my impending mission service, my marriage, my future family, everything — depended on me getting the right answer. Of course I felt something. Plus, I wanted to be good; I wanted to do what was right. So there was the feeling (read decision), and I hung my hat on it. I served my two years, and I meant every minute of it.
But then I came home and continued that mission. And as I reached out to others of different faiths to try to share my truth with them, and as I tried to listen to them in the same way that I wanted them to listen to me (you know, that second great commandment and all), I came to a scary realization as person after person recounted a spiritual confirmation equal to (and sometimes even more powerful than) mine. And they were sincere. And their feelings were real. And they were not Mormon.
And for me (Brynne), that answer didn’t come at all. Over and over and over I read. Over and over and over I prayed. And I felt nothing. I cried, yes. But I cried because I felt nothing.
But I continued on. Maybe my testimony is just different, I thought (scratch that; I didn’t think that. People told me that, and I believed them). Maybe I just need to be patient and let things happen “In the Lord’s time” (even though this was his supposed test, and he didn’t say it would happen years and years after reading Moroni’s promise). Maybe I just needed to reason myself there, since I wasn’t feeling that promised spiritual confirmation (but reason was not what was promised, so how could that be enough?).
And so we continued on that way for a very long time, waiting for that unique, spiritual confirmation that was just around the corner. And even then, we could have continued on. We could have given our lives for this. We could have prodded that illogical reasoning, that confirmation bias, that comforting decision-making process on.
But then the contradictions hit. And oh….the terrible contradictions. We’re not talking about those lying, deceiving anti-Mormon contradictions. We’re talking about contradictions between unequivocal Church doctrines in its own scriptures and unequivocal Church doctrines from its own current prophets who were clearly professing to be speaking for God. We’re talking about contradictions between Church-admitted facts about its very foundation, and the Church’s own absolute core principles of righteousness. We’re not talking about contradictions like the scriptures saying that seership but then also eternal life are the greatest of all the gifts of god; there are a lot of those types of contradictions, but they are easily dismissed. We’re talking about contradictions that demonstrably prove that the Church’s claims are false.
Sidenote: We overused italics here because we cannot stress enough how much these contradictions are solid. And earth-shattering.
Add to that the lack of a spiritual confirmation (either any or a unique) and there was really no other authentic choice we could make.
And so there we were, standing on the edge of the world that we used to know was round, but now we were standing at the edge, looking off into a deep chasm of absolute unknown. That level of fear is something no one can grasp who hasn’t faced it. If you want to talk to us about religion and get anywhere, you have to face that possibility — truly face it — that you could be wrong. If you can’t be wrong, then you can’t be taught. And if you can’t be taught, there’s not much point listening to another point of view.
So why are we telling you all this? I guess something in us can’t stand the thought of being misunderstood. The LDS Church used to teach us that people like us left the Church because they wanted three hours on a Sunday and some coffee. Yeeeeeaaah, of course people would trade immortality, the conquering of death, dead children re-born, forever families, community, answers, guidance, forgiveness, purpose, revelation, perpetual peace, direction, eternal identity, and so much more…for some coffee. I mean coffee is just that good! Seriously, people, this is not why we’re leaving.
So here’s the bottom line: we have resigned from the LDS Church. With that decision, comes a parade of questions and assumptions. In case you are one of those who has been wondering and/or asking us some of the following, here are some of our answers:
— Yes, we were reading our scriptures daily — alone, as a family, as a couple (and yes, we were studying them; not just checking boxes) (I (Brynne) have read them since I was in 7th grade, and had not missed a single day. Not one. And as a couple, we never missed a single day either. Even when traveling, we read them over the phone to each other, by text if need be. Sometimes, when we knew we wouldn’t have cell service, we even set alarms so we could read a certain passage “together” (at the same time, but separately). Our 5-year-old has heard the entire Book of Mormon multiple times from us).
— Yes, we were praying daily, sincerely — alone, as a family, and as a couple.
— Yes, we were attending church every Sunday, all three hours, up until the testimonies were shattered. We stuck it out to the very end.
— Yes, we were attending the temple regularly
— No, we were not “sinning” in any grave way whatsoever
— No, we didn’t allow each other, our friends, or our family members to convince us to leave against our better judgment
— No, we were not entrapped by any “anti-Mormon” literature or pandering
— No, we did not leave because we were offended by anyone at church
— No, we did not leave because we had personal issues with church doctrines
— No, we did not leave because we mixed up the earthly church/members with the gospel (“the gospel is perfect, but the members are not.” We get it).
— No, we did not leave because we are overly intellectual and don’t know how to just have faith
— Yes, we each spent a LOT of time and energy coming to this decision
— No, you cannot convince us to come back (well, we’ll try to have an open mind, but we’re like 99% sure)
— Yes, we are open to friendly discussion on the issue. Truly, one of the good parts of this decision is that we are so much easier to talk to now. We don’t have that fear of eternal consequences hanging over the conversation anymore, urging us to follow the Spirit and convert the other person. We can just listen and ponder and feel with open minds and hearts.
And yes, we would love it if you would treat us the same as you always have. We are still just who we’ve always been. We have that same desire to be good people, to do good in our communities, to teach our children to be kind, and patient, and giving. The only thing that has changed is that we have realized now that not everyone finds the same answer to the riddle, and that ALL answers — and the people who seek them — deserve our loving, open-minded (for reals open-minded) consideration.
Thanks for listening (er….reading). It means a lot to us.