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(This post is about a 7 minute read.)
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Beginning on April 29, 2016, I experienced a heart wrenching gift which began as an acute existential Faith Crisis, turned Faith Transition and Reconstruction, which I now refer to as my Faith Journey.
The Gift initiated that evening as I stumbled online across the LDS Church’s Church History Gospel Topics Essays (including the footnotes and the cited sources), the CES Letter along with Fairmormon’s debunking of the CES Letter, reviews of the Church’s Essays on the website Mormonthink, Fairmormon’s Table of Contents of how LDS Apologists reconcile problems with Mormonism and Christianity, and the podcast and YouTube channel for Mormon Stories. It was a very long weekend, with nearly every waking hour consuming this in many cases new-to-me information.
Here are links to the information I stumbled across that weekend:
Before that weekend, I had in faith, placed scriptural and historical problems, doubts, concerns, and things that conflicted with my inner voice and conscience regarding issues of faith and Mormonism, on metaphorical “shelves” with the certainty that some day I would receive further light and knowledge on regarding those topics.
Before that evening, I was a completely all-in, active believing and practicing 49 year old Mormon, with self-proclaimed certainty of its truthfulness based upon my construct of what spiritual experiences meant, and that the Church and its leaders where exactly what they represented themselves to be. I was completely dedicated to the Church. Mormonism was a core part of my identity, community, relationships, and reputation. I had spent most of the prior 20 years serving in the Church as either the Adult Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Teacher, on the Stake High Council, as a High Priest Group Leader or Assistant, or as a Ward Mission Leader–including about 4 years as a Temple Ordinance Worker. The Church received the vast majority of all my charitable contributions. My future retirement plans were to serve multiple LDS Missions with my dear wife in our 60s and 70s.
As long as I could remember, I had been a black-and-white thinking, Benson/McConkie/Hinkley/Packer orthodox believing Mormon with complete trust in the integrity, the discernment, the divine appointment, and the authority of the Prophets and Apostles of the LDS Church.
When I stumbled across the Essays, websites, podcasts, and videos that weekend, it had the effect of crashing my metaphorical shelves–with everything laying on the ground in a pile of brokenness.
The LDS Church’s Essays, footnotes, and cited sources confirmed and expounded upon the severity and validity of the problems with LDS Church History and scriptures. More disturbing, I perceived that in many cases the Essays misrepresented what I read in the footnotes and cited sources for the Essays–which I believed to be dishonest. I also recognized that the information in the Essays in many cases conflicted with information I had been exposed to in Church lesson manuals, General Conference talks, videos, and other media during my lifetime in the Church (my parents joined the LDS Church when I was 3 years old). I concluded after studying the information in the Essays that Church Prophets and Apostles lacked mantles of discernment, demonstrated an absence of divine authority, that Jesus could not be at the head of the Church, and that these leaders actually had actually crossed what seemed to me to be clear lines of Integrity and Honesty in order to prioritize Faith and Heritage.
The most difficult thing that happened that weekend was that simply by stumbling across this largely new and verifiable information, I recognized that many of my foundational, treasured and reliable spiritual experiences during my lifetime had actually “witnessed” of many things that were partially or entirely inaccurate.
In Mormonism, I operated under the construct that elevated, transcendent, soul-warming spiritual experiences represented divine witnesses of the truthfulness of the subject matter, the ritual, the community, the lesson or sermon, or the things being represented as those spiritual experiences occurred. Under the Mormon construct, I believed and taught that these spiritual experiences were the Fruits of the Spirit explained by Paul in the book of Galatians in the New Testament, and in other LDS scriptures, spiritual experiences are frequently identified as spiritual witnesses of truth through the Holy Ghost, through which we can learn the truth of all things. I had considered these spiritual experiences to be more than simply communion with or connection with God. When I taught, served, or gave talks in Church, I routinely and reliably had those spiritual experiences. I believed that I developed the capacity to identify those spiritual experiences to be led to serve others in Christlike ways, to teach truth, and to administer to others through the power of divine priesthood.
That weekend, I recognized that my interpretation of the Mormon construct of spiritual experiences had failed me. Although those past experiences had been real and deeply meaningful to me, the actual construct had been unreliable for me–even a false construct on many foundational topics in Mormonism.
When I realized that for me the construct of what spiritual experiences meant was false, I then experienced what some refer to as God “leaving the corner of the room” where we once knew Him. Essentially, for a time, my spiritual experiences ceased. I pleaded in prayer for understanding, but nothing. It was though God suddenly ceased to exist–just because I stumbled across this information–and I felt like I was metaphorically falling down an endless rabbit hole.
In James Fowler’s book, Stages of Faith, this experience is referred to as “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Except, my Dark Night of the Soul would end up lasting for about 3 months.
This essay is a very good summary of Fowler’s Stages of Faith:
Counsel with local leaders, priesthood blessings, hours upon hours of pleading prayers, hours upon hours of scripture study, and all the other things that had always worked for me to feel connected to God in the past, and still, the Heavens remained closed for months. God had “left the corner of the room where I knew Him.”
(In this blog, I’ll share how I eventually re-discovered spirituality and a new construct of God and faith in a completely “different corner of the room.”)
During these last 26 months, I sought out and greatly benefited from the friendship and support of others who with compassion and Christlike love supported me, trusted me, mourned with me, sat with me in my pain and loss of spiritual identity, mentored me, provided me insight, and without any predetermined judgement or expectation as to where I would end up in my Faith Journey, expressed confidence and faith in me and that I would find light, meaning, and truth as I progressed into the next Stage of Faith.
During these last 26 months (at the time I wrote this Introductory post), I traversed and periodically revisited the Stages of Grief, I processed a deep sense of betrayal and spiritual trauma from my Church and it’s top leaders, and I internalized a desire to reconstruct personal and foundational paradigms about life, meaning, purpose, spirituality, faith, and community. Along the way, I kept a record of my Journey through periodical personal journaling, through occasional posts I shared on Facebook in closed and in secret faith-based Support Groups, and through limited privacy posts I shared with a limited number of personal friends.
I believed there would come a time when I would be ready to pay-it-forward by sharing some of those posts and experiences of how I personaly reconciled things with a broader group of people via a blog. I hope that some of the things I share may possibly be of value or serve as comfort to others in similar ways that words from my friends and people in these Facebook Support Groups so generously helped me.
I hope to share with you ways that I went about “unpacking” the “ambiguities” (the messiness, the concerns, the doubts, the dysfunctional paradigms, and the problems) I accumulated and placed on a metaphorical “shelf” in faith during my lifetime, which would eventually crash, and the progress I feel like I’ve made reconstructing something new and more sustainable in my life.
I’ll share with you dozens of books, podcasts, resources, and experiences that significantly impacted my life.
I have no motivation in sharing these things beyond to increase understanding and empathy, to help and validate the concerns of others, to support individuals as they work to navigate mixed faith relationships, and to help people to heal, find hope, and move forward to healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives after a change of belief.
While at times I will share things that may come across to the reader as critical of the LDS Church and its leaders, please know that I have no intent or personal desire to crash anyone’s shelves, trigger faith crisis, or bring down the Church. I certainly did experience some of those feelings as I traversed the Anger and Depression Stages of Grief during the earlier parts of my Faith Transition, but I don’t feel that way anymore.
I believe that the best way forward is to do good, be good, and to love and support people in their individual faith journeys–as long as I am not supporting what I perceive as harms to others.
My dear wife continues to be an Active Believing Mormon. She serves as the 1st Councilor in the Stake Relief Society Presidency, and she is a Temple Ordinance Worker. I fully support her in her membership, activity, and service in the Church. She finds Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Divinity in her participation. I don’t need her to arrive at the same conclusions as I have about Mormonism.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and read my blog. I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to simply participate in the lives of others.