I am an average male who was born into the Mormon Church. I was baptized in 1951 at the age of 8 by my next-door neighbor in California. He later became my Stake President who sent me on my mission. My father never became a member, but he allowed my mother who was a member to take my brother and me to the LDS Church. Since it was a fun place to go and I had friends there, I went and fully embraced the Church. Instead of going on a mission at age 19, I had to wait 2 extra years to talk my father into allowing me to go. My mother was the catalyst, challenging him until he relented.
I went to Uruguay, South America from September 1964 to December 1966, spending the first 3 months at the Language Training Mission in Provo. I worked very hard and baptized 35 people in two years. Then, I returned home and continued my education at Brigham Young University. I was married in the Oakland temple on a semester break in January of 1969.
Over the years, from my marriage at age 25 to my resignation at age 64, I was a Stake Missionary 3 times, a Stake Mission President, an Elders Quorum President 3 times, a High Council member for 7 years with responsibility for the Bishop’s Store House and Dry Pack Cannery in Fresno, CA, a Scout Master, a Financial Clerk, a Membership Clerk, Ward Mission Leader, and an Executive Secretary. With my knowledge of the “Scriptures”, I was in demand by the fulltime missionaries because I could usually persuade a prospect to accept the “validity” of the Mormon viewpoint.
Early on, I was once the Senior Aaronic Priesthood leader, meaning that I was in charge of fellowshipping all the new converts into our Oregon ward. At one time there were 25 new folks, so I organized a weekly Fireside in the homes of members during which I led a discussion about various Gospel topics. I remember relying on the Rick’s Ready Reference as a source of answers to the many questions put to me. It always worked. I remember, for example, giving a detailed explanation about why the blacks were denied the Priesthood by quoting from Abraham.
This group all became very active in the Mormon Church, with one going on to become a Bishop. This all took place before the Internet knowledge explosion, so my explanations were accepted as gospel because I was convincing and sincere. I had no clue at all that my references could be fraudulent. I hope such a Fireside program would never work again thanks to the wealth of information available on the Internet.
I worked in pharmaceutical sales for 35 years while raising four beautiful children, all born in the “everlasting covenant.” My oldest daughter got married, and they began to be challenged in their Ward in Washington State by less than truthful members. She and her husband and four children returned to California in 2004 to start over. They have both gone on to complete their educations, and they both have very lucrative jobs now. But early on, after their arrival, Jenny and I had a conversation in which I asked her to share with me some of her feelings and discoveries that led her to leave the Mormon Church.
She showed me a few websites with the proviso that “this will lead you out as well if you study them.” Since I have always had an insatiable curiosity, I began seeing what was out there. My personal “Aha!” moment came one night in December of 2005 when I was reading the story of Bishop Simon Southerton of Australia in which he discovered quite innocently that DNA proved the Native Americans emigrated from Asia and NOT Jerusalem. I really did not know what to do with this new information. I was the executive secretary in a Spanish branch in Fresno at the time. I began to recognize for the first time the extreme personal control exercised by Church leaders—control over every aspect of our lives—in their attempt to maintain righteousness and personal purity. Not knowing what to do, I continued attending services until March, 2006, when the following happened:
Hermano was a bright-light personality in the Branch who was not afraid to express his ideas, and they were interesting and entertaining. But being on the inside with the Branch Presidency, I knew that they detested him because he was not under their control as a “good” member should be. His public statements were not defamatory, just different sometimes. He had a strong testimony, but he wished some things could be different, and he was not afraid to say so in public. One fast-and-testimony Sunday morning, he stood up and announced that in his opinion we could do without Sacrament meeting because everything we really needed to know was found in the Temple Ceremony. His statement was not intended to be inflammatory, just an offhand statement of what if. The branch president became totally unglued! He met privately with him that week and announced that he could not participate in any meetings for six months until he had fully repented.
Then during the following Sunday Sacrament meeting he publicly reviewed this decision in front of all present. This brother was totally crushed in every way. I recognized how capricious, arbitrary, and political the situation was as I witnessed his public humiliation. But the final corker for me was later that same Sunday when I entered the President’s office to discover the President and his two counselors slapping each other on their backs and exulting about how they had “finally” shut up this troublemaker! Now, it was my time to become unglued, and I told them how wrong they all were to judge this man. I was furious, walked out and never went back.
Fortifying my resolve was my private knowledge that the Book of Mormon was a fraud, and that by leaving I was not really jeopardizing my future spirituality because the Mormons had it all wrong anyway! Still, after that it took over another year and a half until I had the nerve to remove my name from the records of the Church. All told I have one child still active along with my mother who is 88 now. My ex-wife (I asked for a divorce in the summer of 2007) and three of the four children and their families and I have all left the fold.
I was living in a hot apartment in Fresno in the summer of 2008, when I remembered how beautiful it was in the state on Montana. I had gone whitewater rafting in Missoula in 1979, and I fell in love with this beautiful state. So, I moved here to Montana in July of 2008. It has been the best move I ever made! I have discovered the joy of simple friendships in the First Presbyterian Church where I am in the choir—complete with a robe and a sash! Five years ago if you had told me I would be here, I never would have believed it. I have made it a point to not to disclose to anyone here that I used to be a Mormon. This has allowed them to accept me as a normal human being without a lot of unnecessary and tiresome explanations.
This post is also available in: Spanish