Question: When did you first begin to lose your “Mormon faith”?
Don’t put words in my mouth. No church is the proper object of anybody’s faith, but I’ll play your game.
It started for me when one of my religion profs at BYU planted the idea in my mind that the church and the gospel were not the same thing.
I started noting a disconnect between what the scriptures taught, what the church taught, and how church members lived.
I grew up in small towns in the Pacific Northwest, where the members were all faithful and stuck together. I was shocked when I first visited Utah and Idaho and saw the lack of reverence and respect for the temple and how the supposedly “good” church members of Provo preyed upon the BYU students.
I also noticed that after sitting through long, boring sessions of General Conference, I could go back to our little student ward where our bishop addressed us and feel more Spirit there than I had in all the sessions of Conference put together.
Over the years, I stayed close to God and the scriptures, and mostly ignored the church. When I was excommunicated, it felt more like a graduation than a condemnation.
What I eventually discovered about the real Gospel, the true God, and about reality and existence in general completely eclipsed the meager understanding and limited world-view of Mormonism. Yes, Mormonism is pretty mind-blowing, when compared to the other Christian sectarians, of which Mormonism is quickly becoming a part. But, what I found is even more mind-blowing.
Yet, I can fit the fundamental teachings of Joseph Smith completely within this greater view. He was onto something. Maybe he was just concocting a bunch of fairy tales to captivate a frontier audience, but along the way he stumbled onto some profound truths, and in tapping into the “ethers” to pick up some of his ideas, God saw an opportunity to work in an idea or two, edgewise. And what ideas!
As true Mormons, we are supposed to keep searching for truth wherever we find it, and not get so stuck in something we think we have found that we that we are afraid to progress beyond that point.
I’m not bitter toward the church. I think it is a great upbringing for young kids, but they need to be taught to move THROUGH it and BEYOND it.
You don’t stay stuck in the 4th grade all your life, unless you keep flunking out. But, what if you discovered that you were stuck in the 4th grade and realized that you weren’t learning anything new, but were repeating the same boring stuff over and over? Then, the teacher figures out that you know this, and instead of pointing you toward more advanced educational opportunities, she condemns you and kicks you out of the class to fend for yourself?
This is what I see happening with so many people either leaving or questioning the church today. At its core, there are some fantastic ideas. But the leaders lack the vision to execute on them. Further, they lack the vision to harness the drive and talent and instead drive it from the church.
So, my advice to everybody is to realize that the church and the gospel are not the same thing, and to make a clear distinction between the two. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
A comment from Steven B Stew:
One word. Epistemology. The moment I realized that people use “know” language for things they can’t possibly know, everything started making so much more sense. Mormons will tell you themselves. If you don’t trust your feelings (the spirit) more than the apparently observable facts, if you don’t put faith over science, Mormonism doesn’t work. So for me, it doesn’t work anymore.
Steven B Stew, I agree with you. People who say they “know” when they merely believe are liars and bearers of false witness. To me, belief is a poor imitation of faith. Faith is a tool with which to obtain knowledge. Knowledge is obtained by experience and observation.
But, experience and observation take in far more than just the dense physical plane. There are higher and more refined spiritual realities, and more senses than just the five that we acknowledge.