Sunday, January 13, 2013

Feeling Betrayed

Not too long after deciding to step back I was packing up my temple clothes (I had just washed them since I'd wanted to go through the temple one more time before I stopped attending). As I was packing everything up, tears began to come. I felt sad and confused, again feeling lost. "I'm so confused," I thought. "I don't understand why this decision to leave feels like the right thing to do when it's the only church where someone has actually conversed with God (thinking of Joseph Smith's grove experience). I also don't understand why a church that is God's 'one true church,' is not aligned with some of the things I've been learning about healing the human mind and heart."

It was not more than a week later when I came across information about the multiple accounts of the first vision. Now...some background for anyone reading...I was not LOOKING for information about this subject, in fact had never even heard about it before. I was not researching anti-mormon sites. I was listening to some podcasts that simply had the intent of supporting people wherever they were in their experience with mormonism (whether in, out, or anywhere in between). There were all sorts of topics, including information about church history. Basically the idea was to bring in researchers, historians, etc. who had done work directly with source material, and have them share their stories and experience. Some of the guests were members of the church (church historians & apologists), others were not.

I came across a podcast and the interviewee was talking about the multiple accounts of the first vision. "What?" I felt so confused. "I've never heard about this before." I began researching what other historians had said on the subject, both in and out of the church. As I found church historians, including Richard Bushman, confirming what I was hearing about the multiple accounts, I began to feel sick & betrayed. I also felt some weight lifting off my shoulders. It was both painful and helpful. The information seemed to make more sense in a lot of ways, but I was shocked! "Why don't they tell us that?" "Why do they paint a picture that's missing important pieces?" "It makes it look like it's something it isn't." (This was just one area of history/doctrine that this happened with...I'll post a future post on this).

Then I came across some quotes, that helped explain why important parts of the history were left out:

- Apostle Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271

"You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.

Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.

There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.

Some things that are true are not very useful.

That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. ... Do not spread disease germs!" ...[end of quote]

- Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, "Reading Church History," CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, 16 Aug. 1985, page 25. also see Dallin H. Oaks, "Elder Decries Criticism of LDS Leaders," quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday August 18, 1985, p. 2B

"It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947, 'when we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.' ... The Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord's anointed, or of Church leaders, local or general. This reality should be part of the spiritual evaluation that LDS readers and viewers apply to those things written about our history and those who made it."

- Apostle Russell M. Nelson, “Truth—and More,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, page 69

"Indeed, in some instances, the merciful companion to truth is silence. Some truths are best left unsaid.

Any who are tempted to rake through the annals of history, to use truth unrighteously, or to dig up facts with the intent to defame or destroy, should hearken to this warning of scripture:

'The righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.' (Rom. 1:17-18.)

I repeat: 'The wrath of God is … against all … who hold the truth in unrighteousness.'

To anyone who, because of truth, may be tempted to become a dissenter against the Lord and his anointed, weigh carefully your action in light of this sacred scripture:

'These dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information … yea, having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and … wicked, … entirely forgetting the Lord their God.' (Alma 47:36.)" [end of quote]

It's me now

So, yeah, again...I was shocked. After reading these quotes, I felt shakey and weak. I felt betrayed. I realized how I'd made many decisions based on believing a story that was portrayed a certain way, and that the story that was in my mind wasn't even reality.

One thing I've learned in doing my own healing work and in doing therapy, is that facing things HONESTLY is one of the greatest, most healing, most beautiful experiences there is. Facing things honestly means looking at both the pleasant and painful, the good and the bad, the light and the dark. It means understanding all aspects of the experience, and seeing them for what they are. I do acknowledge that often we mistranslate things (example: that because we've done something bad...we are bad). We tend to believe in causations that aren't true, and end up suffering because of our own confusion. However, if we just pretend parts of the experience didn't exist then we don't give ourselves a chance to work through and understand what really happened, and why it played out as it did.

The interesting thing about having been a member of the church is that while I was educated to think critically, I simply didn't apply that learning to the areas of the church. And no wonder, I was taught not to! (this is not to say that some aren't taught to...but I wasn't. In fact, I was taught that as far as "church" issues go, if something I learned didn't fit with what leaders were telling me, it was best to defer to the leaders. Again, this was simply my experience). I think that as humans we have an innate desire to understand the truth (unless there is a block of fear or something). When you watch children they ask questions, even awkward ones, genuinely curious about the truth. I find that I most often want the information (sometimes really asking for honesty is scary), and want to be allowed to make the meaning from it that I will...from my own experience. To be manipulated into believing something a certain way (by someone purposely leaving out information) feels inauthentic and hurtful.

This topic of not hiding things to protect our ego needs is one I'm working on within myself, and one that I'm finding can release a great deal of we do it with compassion and awareness. I included a thought and definition of the word "Moksha" on the back of my business card...


  1. Jenny, although I respect every personal reason you have to step back from the church, and for following your own path, I must say that I feel the below statement is stereotyping church members and beliefs, and I feel that what you are saying is more of a cultural issue, but that you write about it as if every member of the Mormon church deals with this.

    "The interesting thing about having been a member of the church is that while I was educated to think critically, I simply didn't apply that learning to the areas of the church. And no wonder, I was taught not to! I mean, think about it...if someone in the press told us something like one of the quotes above, we'd be angry. As humans we want the information, and want to be allowed to make the meaning from it that we will...from our own experiences. To be manipulated into believing something a certain way (by someone purposely leaving out information) feels inauthentic and hurtful."

    I actually would not be angry if someone from the press told me something like the quote above, and I know many members who would not be angry. I also was taught to think critically, including the areas of the church, and have never shied away from that, nor denied any history. In fact, I openly taught accurate history as a missionary--including Joseph Smith's wives, and the first vision, and I critically researched it further. I also love Richard Bushman's work--who is someone that is a perfect example of another member who does not shy away from critical thinking, nor would be upset if the press shared the quote mention above.
    ...And there are many members like this--full of faith, but also full of wisdom and critical thinking.

    There are thousands of members who read Richard Bushman's accurate historical accounts, and all of his work is sold at Deseret Book, a church-owned book store. The Joseph Smith papers, being published, are full of accurate history, as are the church history volumes, which are kept in any ward library. Sunday school is meant to inspire and uplift for the coming week, but history is there for us to fully digest if we desire.

    Again, this is not to convince you otherwise, only to share that I feel your experience being raised in the church is unique, and not every Mormons experience, and not what every church member is taught. My personal experience has been very different.

    I personally see the church a complete healing vessel, one that has always taught me I can be, and do, whatever I desire. Free agency is a beautiful thing. If I feel like going to church because it will enrich my week, I can go. If I don't desire to, I don't have to. If I feel like paying my tithing, great! If not, I go to God and tell him, and he chuckles with me and with a smile says: "Ok Lauren, whatever you must do or desire." I see repentance as "letting go". To move forward, to not cling to your guilt, but to move on. How wonderful is that! I can let it go ... and not carry any burdens with me. I can love myself perfectly, and I do see myself as absolutely perfect--as does God.

    I also was raised in an orthodox Mormon home, and consider myself an orthodox Mormon. (I say this as well, because I remember in one conversation you suggested I was perhaps was not raised in an orthodox Mormon home, and I disagree. We went to church every week, had temple recommends, taught friends the gospel, kept the word of wisdom, had family home evening and scripture study, paid tithing, went to seminary, 4 of my siblings served missions, and I fell asleep listening to Janice Kapp Perry!
    So from one orthodox Mormons experience to another, we have felt differences within our same faith, and that’s something to acknowledge. No two Mormons see God in the samw way, and who's to say the way I view him is correct, or yours is correct. Religion, despite being the same religion, is still incredibly individual. My relationship with God is personal, and very healing.

    1. Hi L.J.,

      Thanks for your thoughts! You are right, different people, even in the church experience these things differently. I've gone ahead and made some changes to hopefully represent "my" experience more than a stereotype. It means a lot that you'd take time to share your thoughts.