Publicly coming out about my changed beliefs on July 8, 2017, with a Facebook post titled “The Why.”

Approximately 14 months after my metaphorical shelves crashed, I felt like I had progressed to a place where I was ready to be fully public about my changed beliefs.  I felt like I had largely finished re-visiting the Anger or Depression Stages of Grief, and I believed that my own spiritual and emotional well-being would not be reliant on how my friends and family responded.

This step of authenticity brought me a significant sense of peace and gratitude.  It helped me continue to move forward in my Faith Journey and served to strengthen many of my relationships with Church members and non-members.

I put a significant amount of thought into how I could express my experience of changed beliefs without delving too deeply into the weeds of the individual issues that contributed to my changed beliefs.  It was also healing to express how my Faith Journey had enhanced and magnified my sense of gratitude and compassion for my fellow human beings, as well as for every moment and opportunity in my mortal life.

Below is the text from my first full public Facebook post about my changed beliefs.

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“The why.”

This week, one of my close non-Mormon friends asked me why recently I’ve publicly posted things about my changed religious beliefs, about the videos of 12 year old Savannah and of The Mackintosh’s Story, and about my pushback against the narratives in LDS Sunday School Lesson #24.

I have not been known to be one who wore my religion on my sleeve or pushed my faith on others. My non-Mormon friends could attest that I honor others’ beliefs and religious traditions.

Among the key teachings attributed to Jesus that resonate with me include to mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and to visit the sick and the in-prisoned (which I interpret both figuratively and literally).

The New Testament Gospels present many different versions and temperaments of Jesus, and the one that resonates with me the most at this point in my life is the Jesus who focused on ministering to and being an advocate for the marginalized, those suffering loss and alienation, those who suffered from the expansion of Pharisaical man-made rules and power structures in the name of God, and basically, the Jesus who focused on the “one” instead of the “ninety-nine.”

As critical thinker in most all areas of my life, except with regard to my own faith tradition, I was perilously set up for a deep and painful Faith Crisis at some point in my life. Within my faith tradition, my tendency was to be more of a dualistic, black-and-white, literalistic thinker about scripture, historical narratives of my faith tradition and of historical Christianity in general. Instead of deep exploration into things that would bother me about historical narratives or current teachings within Mormonism, within Christianity, or the Bible in general, I constructed a metaphorical “shelf” to park those things with faith that I would receive further light and knowledge some day. I did this because I had a personal desire to retain certainty about my faith, about my belief in Christ, about the power of a literal Atonement, about the authority and inspiration of my leaders, and about what I perceived were divine spiritual experiences that enlarged my heart and soul, and which I interpreted under the construct that those experiences were witnesses of truthfulness from God.

Because of the way I process and remember information, I had more than one “shelf” full of parked things. I had a “wall full of heavily ladened shelves” of things that I parked because they either didn’t make sense to me or they did not jive with what my heart told me.

At the same time, I was an all-in, true-believer, with significant literalistic interpretations of scripture and of historical narratives about the Church. I did everything asked of me and more. I held complete trust and confidence in my religious leaders, not as being infallible, but that when they were within their stewardships, roles, and responsibilities, they were speaking the mind and will of God, and that God would not allow them to lead us astray, and that God actively directed and inspired them.

Then, a little more than 14 months ago, I stumbled across information from my Church that I had always been led to believe was false, spun, and misleading. In faith, I had avoided that information over the years. It wasn’t that I was lazy. It was that I was the opposite of lazy. I was faithful, and I suspended my natural tendency of critical thinking regarding those issues because of my faith.

Those LDS Church History Gospel Topics Essays, the footnotes, and the many cited sources, essentially “bombed” me with information, much of which was different than things I taught and believed from Church lesson manuals, missionary materials, and about which I perceived I had received spiritual witnesses of truth. I experienced a sense of betrayal, not only from my leaders, but from God himself. How had He witnessed to me of the truthfulness of things that are not entirely factual? On top of this, after that one weekend of devouring this formerly un-Correlated information, I experienced the heavens being closed. It was my “wilderness.” It didn’t matter how much I prayed, or sought help and guidance from my local Church leaders, the ease and frequency with which I had felt connected with God my entire adult life up to that weekend was suspended, and it has not returned to be the same as was before that weekend.
Fowler’s Stages of Faith model describes what I experienced as “the dark night of the soul,” except it lasted more than one night.

I experienced a deep, painful, and many months long Faith Crisis. I thought that it was somehow my fault. I felt broken. I felt alone and abandoned. I feared for loss of friendships and relationships. I feared loss and alienation from my community at Church. I feared sharing my experience with my Church friends because I did not want to risk triggering a Faith Crisis in them.

Attending my local congregation triggered significant emotional and spiritual dissonance for me because either I felt like a fraud if I pretended to still believe what I did just months before, or I risked alienating my Church friends by speaking up about what I could no longer accept, or I risked introducing them to the same material that put me in a Faith Crisis without knowing whether they would process it the same way I had. Were my Church friends primed for a Faith Crisis like I was?

The more I studied, the worse things got. I consumed 3-6 hours per day reading, watching, and listening to things that I thought might help me either regain my certainty or somehow reconcile this new information. I spent most every waking hour on weekends consuming information.

My pattern of literalistic, dualistic, black-and-white thinking as to how I processed information about faith, combined with my “walls full of heavy laden shelves” had failed me, and I placed all the blame on myself, while also sensing deep betrayal and abandonment. I experienced moments of disassociation, anger, and depression.
I began to traverse the Stages of Grief over the trauma, loss of certainty, sense of abandonment, and fear of loss of relationships. The Stages of Grief are difficult to traverse, and the process is not linear.

I incrementally deconstructed all the elements of my past faith to try to figure out how many pieces of my “thousand piece puzzle” I could retain to try to reconstruct a new, smaller “puzzle.”

Fortunately, about 6 weeks in, I found resources, social media groups, and I developed new online and in-person friendships with others who could either mentor me through this process because they had traversed something similar in the past, or they concurrently shared my experiences of “the dark night of the soul” and Faith Crisis.
First, these resources and individuals helped give me a reprieve from “the dark night of the soul”, and later, helped me exit it completely. While they were not professionally trained therapists, they were individuals and a community who were able to metaphorically and literally sit with me, give me space to vent and process, and without judgement, love and accept me, regardless of my eventual conclusions about faith and spirituality. They practiced and lived according to the teachings attributed to Jesus that I listed above—even those who self-identified with agnostic or atheist beliefs.

About 3 months in, with the support of my wife and my local Church leaders, for my emotional and spiritual health, I began a Sabbatical from participation in my congregation, which helped me process and heal more quickly.

My relationships with my wife and children have grown and strengthened during these last 14 months. My wife is truly an amazing woman. I am grateful that her tendencies of how to process ambiguity and difficult information about history and faith are different than mine. She experiences divinity in her participation in Church, and she supports me in my journey to find things that jive with my personal sense of integrity. I fully support her in her ongoing Church activity.

Now, a little more than 14 months since the “bomb,” I experience newfound purpose and meaning as I strive to be the kind of person that I needed a year ago. I strive to live according to those teachings attributed to Jesus which resonate with me that I listed above. (Even though I have serious questions and doubts about the historical Jesus and the accuracy of the New Testament.)

I have deconstructed my past faith and am in the process of rebuilding something new. Still, I reside in a world of “I don’t know,” and strangely, it gives me peace, confidence and purpose. My concept of divinity, truth, faith, community, and meaning and purpose in life have significantly changed.

I now feel a deep sense of gratitude for my Faith Crisis and Transition.

I live with a magnified experience of empathy, compassion, confidence, vulnerability, and love for my fellow man and woman.

I have things for which I hope, things about which I have faith, and things which I believe, but the list of beliefs is very short these days, and the list of things about which I am certain is very, very short.

My experience of these last 14 months, combined with a loss of certainty about what happens after this mortal life have enhanced and magnified for me the immense value and precious quality of every moment, every relationship, every creation, and every opportunity–because this may be all that I ever get, everything has a magnified value, many, many times over.

I am less excited about the future than I am about the present, and I experience a deep and moving interconnectedness with virtually everyone I meet. I feel in my heart that everyone has a meaningful and personal story. There are no chosen or favored people by God, all are equal, with infinite value.

I experience divinity in and through all of us, through nature, and through all creation. Sometimes, I am hesitant to call it God, but I do experience this power of interconnectedness, and I am okay with uncertainty of what it is.
This is my present experience.

The messages and principles attributed to Jesus that I shared at the beginning of this post have a deeper and more poignant meaning for me now.

This is “the why.”

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