Part of a series about My Faith Journey.
On March 1st, 2017, one year after my faith crisis, I posted the following status message to Facebook. I had sent a similar message to numerous people individually during the year prior, so I figured it wouldn't come as a big surprise to a lot of people, but I wanted to post a status message to catch anyone I hadn't caught individually. It was also an important step for me to make a public announcement about where I stand and to help me separate from church.
Hey, all. Big announcement time: As many of you may know, I've been a member of the LDS church my whole life: baptized at age 8, served a mission at 19, married in the temple, and served in numerous church callings (including two bishoprics). I even come from pioneer stock.
However, through a series of events that include personal experiences, observing current events, reading science articles, and researching church history, I have arrived at the conclusion that the church isn't what it claims to be. I think it's 100% man-made and displays all the flaws of any other man-made organization. This news might sound abrupt, but it actually took me a long time to arrive at this conclusion. My name is still on the records, but I can no longer accept the divine origins or the truth claims of the church, and I cannot in good conscience give the church my support.
As many of you know, I've been battling with clinical depression and anxiety for many years. Interestingly, I think experiencing anxiety gave me the distance I needed to see the church from a more objective point of view, and experiencing depression gave me the clarity of vision to be able to see some of church's flaws (something I never looked for before). In hindsight, I think there are a number of aspects of Mormonism that were damaging to my mental health, including: expectations of perfection, unhealthy repression of anger, a culture of not complaining / not talking about your problems / bottling up your feelings, constant manipulation via guilt / shame / fear, forced relationships with toxic people, victim blaming, constant self-loathing, passive-aggressive behaviors, massive amounts of cognitive dissonance, no respect for personal boundaries, and being forced to live an inauthentic life. When I stopped believing and stopped attending church, my depression all but disappeared. I'm much happier now.
It was a year ago that I lost my faith, the culmination of a two-year process of distancing myself from church due to depression & anxiety. I initially described my de-conversion as a "faith crisis," but I now consider it an "awakening." At first I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me, but then I realized that I was actually riding a magic carpet and I could fly now. This last year has been a period of healing, education, growth, and progress. I've reached out to many of you individually about my awakening and we have had some very meaningful conversations. Thank you to everyone (both believing and non) for being my support system and helping me to get through this. I've found a way to make peace with my past and move forward. I'm keeping the good parts of my religious upbringing, letting go of the bad parts, and finding new light and truth to fill the holes. Best part: After seeing the world in black-and-white terms for decades, I finally get to see the world in color.
To all my LDS friends:
I'm grateful that the church brought us together and helped us to form bonds of friendship. I have many fond memories of scout camps, ward picnics, service projects, and riding my bike through the crazy streets of Miami. I hope we can still be friends but if this announcement about my loss of faith permanently tarnishes our relationship, I am prepared to accept that. Please believe me when I say that the best part of the church is its members. As a whole, you are all wonderful people who want to be good neighbors and raise good families. There's an old saying that "the church is perfect but the members aren't". I think the exact opposite is much closer to the truth; there is goodness in the Mormon church _because_ of its members, not the other way around. I dearly wish the church could be governed from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down.
A request: Please don't send me messages or make efforts intended to "rescue me" or "bring me back". I neither need nor want to be "rescued". You wouldn't appreciate it if I sent you messages trying to challenge your faith, so please return the same consideration to me. I won't try to de-convert you if you don't try to re-convert me. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.
There may be some faith-challenging discussion in the comments that follow. I intend to make honest, candid, remarks and they will likely not be faith-affirming. If you don't want to be exposed to that kind of thing, don't participate. Fair warning.
To all my non-LDS friends:
Thank you for helping me to find community outside church, for helping me to forge an identity outside of Mormonism, and in general for broadening my perspectives about life. Thanks to my post-mormon friends for helping me to know that I am not alone, and for showing me that that there is nothing to fear and everything to gain by venturing outside the castle walls. Thanks to my atheist/humanist friends for showing me that we are born with a moral compass that works just fine right out of the box; we don't need a church to tell us what's right & wrong. (The natural man is _not_ an "enemy to God".) Lastly, thanks to my LGBT friends for giving me the courage to "come out" like this, and for showing me that how we treat other people counts for much more than the gender of the person we love.
A request: Please don't offer to buy me a drink or invite me to do anything crazy. I'm still living a largely LDS lifestyle: I don't drink / smoke / do drugs / fool around / look at porn / etc. I'm very devoted to my wife and daughters and I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize my relationship with them. The whole "clean living" thing has worked out for me for many years, and I plan to continue with it. I'm not trying to put down anyone else's choices, I'm just saying that these are my choices -- and they're perfectly valid ones. I won't get on your case about how you live your life, so please don't get on my case about how I live mine. Thanks in advance.
Please try to be polite and respectful to any LDS people that comment below. They are my friends and I like them. Besides, I like seeing people be nice to each other. :-)
Whoever you are, wherever you are in your life's journey, I hope you find happiness, whether that's inside or outside church, with or without faith, or anywhere inbetween.
Anyone for the closing prayer?
I'm pleased to report that the message was very well received by both believers, nevermos, and exmos alike. I was contacted privately by a number of people who said they had lost their faith but hadn't come out and were still going through the motions in order to keep peace in the home. They said my message helped give them courage to "come out" themselves someday. It was also interesting to hear from people who were "inbetween": doubting but still occasionally attending. I offered to be a listening ear to any of these folks if they needed one.
None of my LDS friends said "we can't be friends anymore", but I did notice that some of them became rather chilly and distant. This is right in line with the passive-aggressiveness that typifies Mormon culture. It's also possible that we were already drifting due to "natural causes" (especially if they were LDS friends from my old neighborhood). No need for me to assume any motive. (Update: Months later, while looking at "On this day" flashbacks on Facebook, I noticed that some of my LDS friends had unfriended and / or blocked me. I expected that there would be some of this; it's how they were trained.)
There was only one believer who did not respect my wishes and tried to "rescue" me. After repeated, unheeded, warnings to cease with their unwanted behavior, I had to unfriend (and later block) that individual.
None of my non-Mormon friends tried to buy me a drink or persuade me to engage in any "sinful" behavior.
Update: Over a year later, I learned of the "F.B. Purity" Chrome extension (See: https://www.fbpurity.com/). One of the many features it offers is the ability to see who has unfriended / blocked you. If you're planning on doing a Facebook announcement like this, you might want to install this extension first so you can get notified about who unfriends you.