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Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 13 May 2014, 21:51
by eyedempotent
I'm new here and I'd like to tell my story. I grew up in the church, very believing. Was happy to serve a mission, went to BYU, married in the temple, and even recently was Elder's Quorum president. I'm 36 now and have three kids, the youngest is five.

I'd always been deeply religious, but also very interested in logic and science (I'm an engineer). The conflicts of faith and reason never bothered in the slightest, until a few years ago, when it started to matter. Over time I've seen more and more holes and I've self-identified more and more with what I can best describe as the skeptic crowd (the true meaning of the word, not the skeptics that use the word to justify anti-science positions).

It's very hard because my wife is still very believing. Also nearly ALL of my friends are members. I love the people (for the most part, some blind spots grate on me), but I have a horrible time going to church. The best analogy I tell my wife is this: imagine you are ultra conservative (she is), then imagine that church every week is like going to a greenpeace meeting, or a democratic convention, or something to that effect. But you can't say anything, you just have to listen while everyone at the meeting reaffirms the superiority of their beliefs. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard and my mind races at a million miles an hour.

So, what am I looking for from this group? In part, I'm not sure. I have to decide if it's worth staying, if I "leave" how I do that (some level of reduced activity, no temple recommend, name removed, etc.)? I like being Mormon, it's my heritage and I feel comfortable with the lifestyle. But church is torture. I'm also very much a people pleaser, and it's sad but honestly I'm afraid of a couple things: 1) what will happen to my local ward friendships (I tend to get lonely easily), and 2) what will happen when my over-bearing father-in-law finds out (and my siblings)? I don't know if I can live with myself intellectually if I stay and I don't know if I can be happy socially if I leave. Feels like a no-win situation. It also feels very lonely, I guess part of what I want with this group is to know that I'm not alone in my doubting. I wish we could discuss it more in church, I have one good friend who talks to me about it who left and another friend who stayed who I really get along with, but he moved out of town and we haven't kept in touch much. My bishop has mentioned other people in the ward who struggle with some of my same doubts but I don't know them.

Next question is what to do about my daughter's baptism. My wife's family makes a big deal and they all travel here. I just don't see how I can answer those first few temple recommend questions in the affirmative one more time to be worthy to baptize her. Part of me feels guilty, like she'll feel less loved (I baptized the older two girls), and part of me feels like I'll be doing her a favor. I was relieved to see that recently the policy allows a dad to baptize even if not strictly temple worthy, although at the discretion of the bishop. I think my bishop would allow me to, at my currently level of activity, but I don't know if I can keep up the charade another 2.5 years.

I just can't believe this happened to me. I had such a strong testimony that I never doubted. I've just come to look at the world through the lens of science and what I considered testimony building experiences I feel can be described as coincidence or self-generated, I just don't see evidence for a God, at least not one like is described in the scriptures. I saw a recent email from FAIR-LDS describe the books one should read before leaving, I figure I owe it at least that much of a try and I'm reading Shaken Faith Syndrome now. But I've tried to reason and argue the "pro" points all along and I'm afraid the evidence against just hit a critical mass in my mind.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 03:47
by DarkJedi
Welcome. You are among friends here and you are not alone. I very much relate to what you have said and many others here can as well. My first and pat advice to everyone: Take it slow, don't dump all at once, and focus on what you do believe.

Deciding to leave or stay and if you stay what activity level you choose is completely up to you - people here can and will offer their experiences but in the end you must do what's right for you. I have recently returned to church after a ten year absence related to my faith crisis. I had been a bishop's counselor twice, YMP, GD teacher, etc. The feeling your whole world collapsed is not uncommon. My biggest issue with church and why I didn't go: it's the same as yours, I have a very hard time sitting and listening to all the things people "know" that they don't really know at all, and teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (I literally believe that happens each and every Sunday). Some people here suggest not actually listening in church - if the topic starts to go to an area you are uncomfortable with, read scriptures or play Angry Birds or do something else.

I often say that if you stop going to church you will find out who your friends are and aren't. I'm not suggesting you stop going to church - I suggest the opposite but understand that it may be very uncomfortable for you. If you do stop going it's likely that the people who really are your friends will still be your friends, although some may not know how to deal with you or what to say. Some people here do have a live person they can confide in, and it sounds like there might be some such people in your ward or that you know - I suggest you reach out to them privately. Be careful, however, with whom you share and what.

In my experience family often don't react well in these situations, which adds to the angst. That's the part where it's really important to focus on what you do believe and not dump at all once. When you talk to your wife especially, talk about things you do believe. Baptism: if you can find it at all in yourself, be a part of it - even if you only see it as a symbolic without actual spiritual meaning to you. I have made mistakes in this area that I will always regret.

One of the first steps I took in rebuilding my faith was to separate the gospel from the church. It's hard, and some areas I have not fully separated yet - but the church and the gospel, though intertwined, are separate and distinct, it's not like undoing a cake. I do not believe everything in the church and I have some doubts about the gospel itself (beyond the love thy neighbor and Jesus parts). Be open to the possibility that some things could be true or correct, even if you don't think they are. I particularly noticed you mentioned that you don't see evidence of God, at least as presented in the scriptures. Are you sure that's it or is it the God that's presented by the church or the church's general interpretation of the scriptures? I spent a long time being mad at God until I realized it wasn't God I was or should have been mad at - the anger was really toward the church for teaching about a God that is not what I have come to understand God is. I'm not saying I'm bitter toward the church, I have forgiven in light of my new understandings. There are atheists here who attend church and are active. I lean more deist, although I have been very close to being atheist. I do believe in God, and maybe even the one portrayed in the Bible - I don't believe in the standard LDS version of the God who helps people find their car keys.

Lastly, I'd like to suggest you read (or reread) Pres. Uchtdorf's Saturday morning address from October 2013 conference. He gets it.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 08:37
by Deepthinker
Welcome! You and I are very much alike. You are not alone in this and I can really relate to many of the things you’ve described. I’m also a people pleaser and I'm afraid of the results if I were to open up to friends and family. I dont' want to hurt them.

I’m a few years older than you, but I’m also an engineer and have always had what I thought was a strong testimony. My family always looks to me as the “strong one”. It’s been difficult over the last year to try to balance my intellectual integrity with my religious integrity. I understand the guilt you feel about baptizing your daughter. I have a son that will turn eight in less than a year and I’ve been concerned about it. I’ve tried to approach my wife gently about my doubt, but she has asked me not discuss any of the church issues with her and I’m respecting that. At times it feels very lonely, but I come here and receive much needed support.

There are some great threads on this site that discusses ways to handle the temple recommend interview. I would recommend you read them and see if it something that will work for you. Does anyone have the links for these?

I’ve tried to always recognize that science has its limitations. I still see the value in religion and that it has its own “realm of authority” just as science does (the natural and the supernatural). I just try to remove the religious teachings that can be disproven by science and maintain the ones that cannot. A few examples: Evolution does not disprove God, but it does show that the young-Earth creation teaching is false. LDS apologists that I’ve read already agree that the Theory of Evolution is valid, yet they maintain a belief in God. That there was probably not a literal flood does not disprove God either.

I like to think of the many stories in the scriptures with a metaphorical and/or allegorical lens. They can teach us important values and ways to live our life. I also like what DJ has said and I've always tried to separate my spiritual experiences from the church.

We are taught in church to read from the best books, words of wisdom. I like to read many “outside” sources and not limit my sources for knowledge (spiritual and otherwise) through only LDS sources.

I would suggest not reading too much of apologetic sources. I’ve read a significant amount and there is plenty that can do more damage to you than good. I read part of the "Shaken Faith Syndrome" and was not impressed with it. The title itself makes it sound like it is a disease. Faith was never meant to go through mental gymnastics that some apologetic explanations perform. The Book of Abraham was probably the worst for me because it was all right there, the Facsimiles, etc. I’ve had to try to redefine how I view revelation. An excellent podcast about this is here, if you're interested (David Bokovoy is the one person from FAIR in this podcast that made the most sense to me, even though it still is a difficult position.): http://mormonmatters.org/2014/02/21/213 ... scripture/

I recently met for almost two hours with an Area Authority (we have both kept it confidential, my wife does not even know). He is the first person I have ever opened up to about my doubts in person, since I started on the journey a few years ago. He really cares and has given me some excellent advice. You can read the thread about it in the Support section.

Repeating DJ here, but the best advice is: go slow.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 08:38
by Curt Sunshine
I have almost no time right now, but I do want to welcome you.

I hope we can help you and you can help us. We like to see other perspectives.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 10:20
by eyedempotent
Deepthinker wrote:I would suggest not reading too much of apologetic sources. I’ve read a significant amount and there is plenty that can do more damage to you than good. I read part of the "Shaken Faith Syndrome" and was not impressed with it. The title itself makes it sound like it is a disease. Faith was never meant to go through mental gymnastics that some apologetic explanations perform. The Book of Abraham was probably the worst for me because it was all right there, the Facsimiles, etc. I’ve had to try to redefine how I view revelation. An excellent podcast about this is here, if you're interested (David Bokovoy is the one person from FAIR in this podcast that made the most sense to me, even though it still is a difficult position.): http://mormonmatters.org/2014/02/21/213 ... scripture/
Thanks for your suggestions. Back when I was a firm believer I loved the apologetics stuff. I'd stop by FARMS and buy their latest issues, read a lot of FAIR-LDS, etc. But now I agree with you, I find that it's not too helpful. I'm reading a book a non-LDS friend gave me called Godless, about an evangelical preacher who became an outspoken atheist. I bounce between reading that and Shaken Faith Syndrome (SFS). I find that within the first few chapters a lot of SFS has been insulting to me and my struggles and doesn't make sense, although there are a few interesting points. Then when I read the other book just about everything makes total sense.

It's interesting because people often say someone didn't try hard enough because he stopped reading scriptures or didn't do all he could to keep the testimony. I think in some sense that puts the cart before the horse though. I've started reading other material only after I started thinking about things that didn't make sense. I don't want to give too much away but I have a couple people in my ward who are very active in the apologetics movement. Sometimes I think I should talk to them about my doubts, but I just don't see it helping to be honest. The thing that helped the most was talking to my friend a few years ago who also says "the only thing I can know is what I verify with my senses," he has the same doubts as me. But he is happy staying in the church and gave me reasons that I related to. Such as: it's a good place to give your kids moral teachings, tithing is an antidote to greed, temple is about strengthening your relationship with your spouse and family, etc. I can see those points. But again getting through a TR interview will be tough. I had another friend when going through this who just answered "I hope so" to the testimony questions. The bishop took it in stride and in the end just asked if he wanted to talk. The member of the stake presidency didn't even do that, just signed off on it. I don't have any sins or morality problems, just the doubts and an issue or two on the church stance on things.
Deepthinker wrote:I recently met for almost two hours with an Area Authority (we have both kept it confidential, my wife does not even know). He is the first person I have ever opened up to about my doubts in person, since I started on the journey a few years ago. He really cares and has given me some excellent advice. You can read the thread about it in the Support section.

Repeating DJ here, but the best advice is: go slow.
I did read that and thank you for posting. I'm fortunate that my bishop is a good man, he even left me in as Elder's Quorum President when I had the doubts, he said he wanted the change to come from me and as long as I could love and serve the brethren in the quorum that's what mattered. That was pretty progressive of him. When I shared my doubts with the member of the Stake Presidency is when I got a release, which I think was definitely the right thing to do.

Luckily my wife is also being about as good regarding this as can be expected. She lets me talk and she has said a few different times that she wants to hear my concerns and know what's going on inside my head. I try to be gentle as I don't want to destroy her belief. I won't lie, it would be nice if we were going through the same things but she's giving a very good reaction and says she just wants me to be happy. She says just not to cheat on her or beat her, or become an "angry" atheist. Don't worry, that's a very low bar and I believe we have a much better partnership than that. She's starting to understand more where I'm coming from. I'm lucky that I've had a few friends and my wife I've been able to share the doubts with. Oddly enough I can be more open and honest with non-member friends than members, which is a little saddening but understandable.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 10:55
by DarkJedi
I gave up on apologetics awhile back, too. I did read some of Shaken Faith Syndrome, and there is some good stuff in there but the rest is just standard apologetic stuff that focuses on historical questions that I don't have.

The TR questions: A year ago I couldn't have answered them, either. They're tough. Again, focus on what you do believe and build from there. I think they are purposely worded very broadly and I think it's on purpose that they require only a yes or no answer. I also think answers like "I try" are acceptable, but that's going to vary bishop to bishop.

There are only a few "believe" questions, the rest are "do" questions. Do you believe in any God at all, even one who did nothing more than created and doesn't necessarily meet any of the other things generally taught in the church about God? Do you believe that Pres. Monson has the "legal" authority to be president of the church, even if you don't believe he receives any revelation? I find it helpful to look at the as broadly and vaguely as possible because that's how I think they're meant.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 11:15
by Deepthinker
eyedempotent wrote:Thanks for your suggestions. Back when I was a firm believer I loved the apologetics stuff. I'd stop by FARMS and buy their latest issues, read a lot of FAIR-LDS, etc. But now I agree with you, I find that it's not too helpful. I'm reading a book a non-LDS friend gave me called Godless, about an evangelical preacher who became an outspoken atheist. I bounce between reading that and Shaken Faith Syndrome (SFS). I find that within the first few chapters a lot of SFS has been insulting to me and my struggles and doesn't make sense, although there are a few interesting points. Then when I read the other book just about everything makes total sense.

It's interesting because people often say someone didn't try hard enough because he stopped reading scriptures or didn't do all he could to keep the testimony. I think in some sense that puts the cart before the horse though. I've started reading other material only after I started thinking about things that didn't make sense. I don't want to give too much away but I have a couple people in my ward who are very active in the apologetics movement. Sometimes I think I should talk to them about my doubts, but I just don't see it helping to be honest. The thing that helped the most was talking to my friend a few years ago who also says "the only thing I can know is what I verify with my senses," he has the same doubts as me. But he is happy staying in the church and gave me reasons that I related to. Such as: it's a good place to give your kids moral teachings, tithing is an antidote to greed, temple is about strengthening your relationship with your spouse and family, etc. I can see those points. But again getting through a TR interview will be tough. I had another friend when going through this who just answered "I hope so" to the testimony questions. The bishop took it in stride and in the end just asked if he wanted to talk. The member of the stake presidency didn't even do that, just signed off on it. I don't have any sins or morality problems, just the doubts and an issue or two on the church stance on things.
Yes, I used to love the apologetics stuff as well and would refer to them often when discussing the LDS faith with others. My “faith crisis” was the result of discussing religion in online debate forums for several years. I was never antagonistic in my responses and most of the discussions were not started by me. I originally joined these forums to discuss politics, with no intent to “proselytize”. I did share with my wife what I was doing but she had no interest.

I don’t have any sins or morality problems either, at least not any more than most active LDS people. Same as you, just doubts and issues with some of the teachings and stances. What is sad is that I used to think the same thing about people who stopped believing or lost their testimony. That they were not trying hard enough or had some major sin issues.
eyedempotent wrote:I did read that and thank you for posting. I'm fortunate that my bishop is a good man, he even left me in as Elder's Quorum President when I had the doubts, he said he wanted the change to come from me and as long as I could love and serve the brethren in the quorum that's what mattered. That was pretty progressive of him. When I shared my doubts with the member of the Stake Presidency is when I got a release, which I think was definitely the right thing to do.

Luckily my wife is also being about as good regarding this as can be expected. She lets me talk and she has said a few different times that she wants to hear my concerns and know what's going on inside my head. I try to be gentle as I don't want to destroy her belief. I won't lie, it would be nice if we were going through the same things but she's giving a very good reaction and says she just wants me to be happy. She says just not to cheat on her or beat her, or become an "angry" atheist. Don't worry, that's a very low bar and I believe we have a much better partnership than that. She's starting to understand more where I'm coming from. I'm lucky that I've had a few friends and my wife I've been able to share the doubts with. Oddly enough I can be more open and honest with non-member friends than members, which is a little saddening but understandable.
I’m actually still serving as the Executive Secretary in our ward and nobody has any idea about my doubts. It is actually a great position for someone with doubt. I get to serve in a way that is helpful, but I'm not put on the spot to testify and teach like the Bishopric. I tend to keep quiet for the most part and just listen anyway.

I’m glad to hear you have such a good Bishop and that you've been able to talk with some good friends going through (or that have gone through) the same thing.

I’m assuming the biggest help is the way your wife has reacted positively. I really have tried to discuss it with my wife and I don’t want to keep the extent of my doubt a secret from her. I feel like I am lying to her. I just think she is not open to hear it, at least not right now. She has some other issues of her own that she is going through right now that I’m trying to help her with.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 12:32
by Curt Sunshine
Sometimes I think I should talk to them (apologists) about my doubts


Don't do it. There is almost no chance it will go well - that they will be able to offer help that will work for you. You need your own outlook, not a traditional apologetic one. Also, it might drive an unnecessary wedge between you and them, and it's not worth it.

Not sharing everything (being selective) is NOT being dishonest. Honesty and full disclosure are VERY different things. I wish everyone was able to share and listen respectfully to differing ideas, but that simply isn't reality.

Accepting and embracing reality, with all its contradictions and ambiguity and messiness is important to internal peace.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 14:06
by eyedempotent
Ray DeGraw wrote:
Sometimes I think I should talk to them (apologists) about my doubts


Don't do it. There is almost no chance it will go well - that they will be able to offer help that will work for you. You need your own outlook, not a traditional apologetic one. Also, it might drive an unnecessary wedge between you and them, and it's not worth it.

Not sharing everything (being selective) is NOT being dishonest. Honesty and full disclosure are VERY different things. I wish everyone was able to share and listen respectfully to differing ideas, but that simply isn't reality.

Accepting and embracing reality, with all its contradictions and ambiguity and messiness is important to internal peace.
I perceive wisdom in those words, probably born of experience. Thanks for the suggestion. One of the apologists is a friend of mine (not a good enough friend that I've talked to him about this) and he's a nice guy, our home teacher. He said he used to be more of a firebrand and bible basher but now he's more relaxed about it. But, to be honest, in what I've looked at it seems that trying to reason your way to gospel truth is something of a lost cause. The rational arguments against seem to always be much stronger. I told my bishop that no matter what happens I don't think I'll ever be believing in the same way I was. This may be a horrible analogy but I feel like someone who lost a limb. I won't ever be the same or do things in the same way. But maybe I can improve my ability to get by and learn a new way of interacting with the world around me. The more time passes the more difficult that seems, but I agree with the advice of taking it slowly.

Re: Can't believe it happened to me

Posted: 14 May 2014, 19:49
by cwald
eyedempotent wrote:
Deepthinker wrote:I would suggest not reading too much of apologetic sources. I’ve read a significant amount and there is plenty that can do more damage to you than good. I read part of the "Shaken Faith Syndrome" and was not impressed with it. The title itself makes it sound like it is a disease. Faith was never meant to go through mental gymnastics that some apologetic explanations perform. The Book of Abraham was probably the worst for me because it was all right there, the Facsimiles, etc. I’ve had to try to redefine how I view revelation. An excellent podcast about this is here, if you're interested (David Bokovoy is the one person from FAIR in this podcast that made the most sense to me, even though it still is a difficult position.): http://mormonmatters.org/2014/02/21/213 ... scripture/
Thanks for your suggestions. Back when I was a firm believer I loved the apologetics stuff. I'd stop by FARMS and buy their latest issues, read a lot of FAIR-LDS, etc. But now I agree with you, I find that it's not too helpful. I'm reading a book a non-LDS friend gave me called Godless, about an evangelical preacher who became an outspoken atheist. I bounce between reading that and Shaken Faith Syndrome (SFS). I find that within the first few chapters a lot of SFS has been insulting to me and my struggles and doesn't make sense, although there are a few interesting points. Then when I read the other book just about everything makes total sense.

It's interesting because people often say someone didn't try hard enough because he stopped reading scriptures or didn't do all he could to keep the testimony. I think in some sense that puts the cart before the horse though. I've started reading other material only after I started thinking about things that didn't make sense. I don't want to give too much away but I have a couple people in my ward who are very active in the apologetics movement. Sometimes I think I should talk to them about my doubts, but I just don't see it helping to be honest. The thing that helped the most was talking to my friend a few years ago who also says "the only thing I can know is what I verify with my senses," he has the same doubts as me. But he is happy staying in the church and gave me reasons that I related to. Such as: it's a good place to give your kids moral teachings, tithing is an antidote to greed, temple is about strengthening your relationship with your spouse and family, etc. I can see those points. But again getting through a TR interview will be tough. I had another friend when going through this who just answered "I hope so" to the testimony questions. The bishop took it in stride and in the end just asked if he wanted to talk. The member of the stake presidency didn't even do that, just signed off on it. I don't have any sins or morality problems, just the doubts and an issue or two on the church stance on things.
Deepthinker wrote:I recently met for almost two hours with an Area Authority (we have both kept it confidential, my wife does not even know). He is the first person I have ever opened up to about my doubts in person, since I started on the journey a few years ago. He really cares and has given me some excellent advice. You can read the thread about it in the Support section.

Repeating DJ here, but the best advice is: go slow.
I did read that and thank you for posting. I'm fortunate that my bishop is a good man, he even left me in as Elder's Quorum President when I had the doubts, he said he wanted the change to come from me and as long as I could love and serve the brethren in the quorum that's what mattered. That was pretty progressive of him. When I shared my doubts with the member of the Stake Presidency is when I got a release, which I think was definitely the right thing to do.

Luckily my wife is also being about as good regarding this as can be expected. She lets me talk and she has said a few different times that she wants to hear my concerns and know what's going on inside my head. I try to be gentle as I don't want to destroy her belief. I won't lie, it would be nice if we were going through the same things but she's giving a very good reaction and says she just wants me to be happy. She says just not to cheat on her or beat her, or become an "angry" atheist. Don't worry, that's a very low bar and I believe we have a much better partnership than that. She's starting to understand more where I'm coming from. I'm lucky that I've had a few friends and my wife I've been able to share the doubts with. Oddly enough I can be more open and honest with non-member friends than members, which is a little saddening but understandable.
Ray DeGraw wrote:
Sometimes I think I should talk to them (apologists) about my doubts


Don't do it. There is almost no chance it will go well - that they will be able to offer help that will work for you. You need your own outlook, not a traditional apologetic one. Also, it might drive an unnecessary wedge between you and them, and it's not worth it....
This is the correct answer.

-sigh-

Do what is right, and let the consequences follow. -sigh- It seemed so easy, black and white, in primary didn't it.

Good luck and welcome.


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