She asked me to explain to her why it is so difficult for me. I want to share with you an email I wrote explaining that to her and get your thoughts, as I feel like I have no one else to talk to who feels the way I do or looks at things the way I do.
This was the email I wrote her:
1. I do not accept the infallibility of LDS prophets and apostles. That is, I do not accept that everything they say comes directly from God through revelation. Many in the church say they don't either, but still cling to a belief that what is said over the pulpit at General Conference, for example, or what is written in the Ensign is scripture and can and should be treated as if it comes from God. I reject this as prophet worship. This is based on a thorough understanding of church history, especially as it pertains to certain teachings and policies, such as blacks and the priesthood, polygamy and the Adam-God doctrine.
2. I believe that when a prophet speaks from God, he makes that clear. I believe when a prophet speaks the words of the Lord, he says so. I believe a true prophet, acting as a prophet, seer and revelator, does not make us guess as to whether he is speaking as a man or as God's mouthpiece. This is based on study of the scriptures and the life of Joseph Smith.
3. To that end, as I have studied church history, the last time any of the prophets and apostles presumed to speak for God was in 1978, when Spencer W. Kimball recieved the revelation on blacks and the priesthood. However, this was not a recorded revelation, as opposed to Joseph Smith, who recorded all his revelations (word for word) and presented them to the church. This strikes me as odd.
4. Because of issues 1 through 3, I doubt that our current leaders are being led by direct revelation from God, as was Joseph Smith, Moses, Nephi and others who spoke directly with God. The scriptures teach us that we are to recognize prophets by their fruits. I see no revelatory fruit being manifest in the church today.
5. Because of issues 1 through 4, I do not hold strong faith in many of the current policies of the church, including its firm stance regarding homosexuality and the role of women in the church. I sustain the prophets and apostles in that I recognize that they are duly appointed to lead the corporation of the church, but I do not agree with everything they say or do, just because they say or do it.
6. I believe our modern church, due partly to the laziness of the membership and partly due to the church's own teachings, is suffering from severe prophet worship, wherein we rely on the words of our earthly leaders to guide and direct our decisions, rather than relying on the spirit and the scriptures. I believe we place too much emphasis and trust in the words of men rather than relying on our personal relationship with God to dictate our beliefs and actions.
7. I do not believe in a doctrine of "the one true church." I believe it is possible that God revealed many important and unique things to Joseph Smith, and that Mormonism was meant to be a guardian of sorts of certain truths, however I believe that anyone who is earnestly seeking after God can and will find him, whether in the LDS church or outside it. Obviously, that is not for any of us to judge. There are many not of our church who have had and continue to have profound spiritual experiences, not even relating to anything Christian in nature necessarily. I can not and will not reject these experiences as inferior or even incomplete because of a "one true church" doctrine that is preached in our church.
8. I do not believe that ordinances in and of themselves have any saving power. I believe they are outward symbols of inner commitments to God. If one can live a life fully in the service of God and his fellow man without the ordinance of baptism, for example, I have little doubt God will reject him. If I were to turn back time, I would still want to be baptized, however, but this does not mean that my baptism would have (or does to this day) save me. I do not believe that cancelling my membership in the church can or would cancel my baptism, as that is something between me and God. I do not believe the church acts as an eternally necessary intermediary between me and God. That is wholly unnecessary. The same applies for my temple sealing.
9. I do not know that God exists. I do not know that Jesus Christ exists or lived on the earth. I do not know if the Book of Mormon really came from God. These are all things that I choose to BELIEVE. In my mind, there is a very important distinction. I believe that belief and faith are essential as they are an exercise of our agency. Unless and until I receive a spiritual and physical witness of any of these things, I will neither profess knowledge of them, nor teach my children that they should do likewise.
10. I believe the church has deliberately withheld important parts about church history and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. When these things are discovered, members are naturally angry, hurt and upset that their church would practice deceit or "whitewashing" in an attempt to keep people in the church.
All of these points make me naturally uncomfortable in most church situations. I know that I can believe all of these things and still answer the temple recommend questions honestly.
However, from experience I believe that I am starting to see that I cannot openly believe these things and be accepted within your average LDS ward. So, my choice is to either silently worship at church (to me, not only unfair, but unacceptable), openly worship at church (culturally frowned upon and uncomfortable) or remove myself from the institution of church altogether.
If you have other ideas of how to resolve these concerns, I am open to listening.