Finding my way

Public forum, tell us about yourself and what brings you to StayLDS!
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Mr. Sneelock
Posts: 18
Joined: 19 Sep 2017, 08:06

Finding my way

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 28 Nov 2017, 15:04

First off, I want to say thank you to everyone responsible for creating, maintaining, and participating in this forum. It has been a source of reasonable compassionate thinking and ideas for me as I have navigated my faith crisis. It was so helpful to find a group of people who are able to discuss uncomfortable and sometimes devastating facts without becoming defensive or declaring all-out war on the church.

I would like to tell my story and you are welcome to read it if you want. I think it's mostly therapeutic for me to have it all written down.

I was born in the covenant, raised in the heart of Mormondom, served a mission, attended BYU, married in the temple at 22, and started a family (now 5 children) immediately. Outwardly I have been Peter Priesthood to a T until approximately a year ago. Pretty much every major decision I have made in life has been influenced by what I thought God/The Church wanted me to do (and I might add that the results of these decisions have almost always been positive). I was always the most "spiritual" of my siblings/classmates/friends and people frequently told me that I was going to be a leader in the church someday. If not for the economic downturn and subsequent church hiring freeze in 2009 I would have become a full-time seminary teacher as a profession. I relate all of this just to illustrate the point that the church has been my life. Another part of my story is a pornography/masturbation addiction that wreaked havoc on my self-confidence growing up and continues to be a major struggle in my marriage.

I think the first cracks in my crystallized world view appeared on my mission. It was there that I met and talked with other Christians about their beliefs for the first time. Three experiences really stand out in my mind. The first was a meeting with an older gentleman who invited us in and started asking us about grace. In a way that was non-confrontational, he helped us see how our understanding of salvation was more rooted in works than in the grace of Christ. From that moment on I tended to focus more on Christ than on all of the other requirements and obligations that are a part of the church. The second experience was at a doorstep, where a person who seemed to know what he was talking about told us that Joseph Smith married other men's wives. At that point I don't even think I knew Joseph was a polygamist so I vehemently denied what he was saying and told him that the information he had read was completely false. You can imagine the sinking feeling I had years later when I learned that everything he had told us was true! The third experience as a missionary was in the home of a wonderful lady from Scotland. She graciously and sincerely listened to our message then expressed concerns about polygamy in the history of the church. I tried to explain it and justify it but in the end I knew that there were no satisfactory answers for her concerns.

In the 12 years since my mission I have periodically been troubled by new information such as polygamy/polyandry, Book of Abraham, seer stones, blacks and the priesthood, temple rituals, etc. but never allowed myself to honestly question my beliefs until about a year ago. I was actually meeting with my bishop for help with the pornography/masturbation problem when I decided to seek his counsel about some of my doubts. He did not have any answers for me, but he did decide that my questions made me unworthy to hold a temple recommend and therefore I would be unable to confirm my son at his baptism which was a couple of weeks away. This completely blindsided me and was like a punch to the gut. I was forced to tell my son, who had already requested that I confirm him, that I would not be able to do so. I pleaded with and begged God to confirm to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet but received no answer. It felt like my life was falling apart. Thankfully I didn't make any drastic decisions and I had a supportive and listening dad and brother to help me feel loved and walk me back from the ledge.

As with many of you, I am currently figuring out just what I believe and how to navigate my way as an unorthodox member of the church. I appreciate your support and hope to build relationships with many of you as I participate in the forum.
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

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LookingHard
Posts: 2712
Joined: 20 Oct 2014, 12:11

Re: Finding my way

Post by LookingHard » 28 Nov 2017, 15:23

Welcome Sneelock! Thanks for the intro and MANY could write this same story.

I don't have time for a longer response, but I do think it would be good for you to listen to http://celestialsex.libsyn.com/scott-and-mitzi-cannon (you can also get it as a podcast on your phone), especially his "testimony." I am a firm believer that the "addiction" is inappropriately thrown around in the church. My use of porn went away once I decided occasionally looking at pictures of naked bodies was not all that terrible of a thing and I could do it when I wanted. After decades of struggling the struggle was gone. I no longer seem to have much of any desire and I realized I was deep in a shame cycle.

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Heber13
Posts: 6625
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Finding my way

Post by Heber13 » 28 Nov 2017, 15:36

Welcome and thanks for sharing your story.

I echo LH's comments and think that sometimes we hold ourselves back with certain principles we were taught and we believe them literally.

As we grow...I think God allows us to start expanding our thoughts to learn things in a new light. Hence the prism of my avatar...I think I used to see the one source of light (white) only from one literal orthodox perspective (one color from the other side of the prism). Then we get thrown from traumatic experiences or a faith crisis of some kind and see another light and realize it isn't "wrong" to see one color or another color...it just depends on our point of view and where we are standing and we see the same light differently. It's an imperfect analogy, but it is something to consider as you may want to view church in a new light.

There are good things about the church we don't want to throw away or take from our life purpose. But, we may have learned new things that we do want to peel away and throw out.

Eventually, we find the inner core of what we can accept in the gospel, and can find ways to make church work for us in a more powerful way. It is a process that can take years sometimes, each person's journey is different.

But I think God wants us to shed unnecessary things, like shame or guilt over things that aren't such a big deal really. So...we work on those.

Cling to and hold on to the things that are special to you. You may not know if Joseph Smith is a prophet and if he saw what he thought he saw...but that doesn't have to change the revelations and spiritual experiences of your past and what you hold sacred to your heart...you just might adjust the framing of it to appreciate what it is for you today.

Welcome to the forum. I look forward to learning from your point of view. Thanks for joining the discussion.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Mr. Sneelock
Posts: 18
Joined: 19 Sep 2017, 08:06

Re: Finding my way

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 28 Nov 2017, 15:46

LookingHard wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 15:23
I am a firm believer that the "addiction" is inappropriately thrown around in the church. My use of porn went away once I decided occasionally looking at pictures of naked bodies was not all that terrible of a thing and I could do it when I wanted. After decades of struggling the struggle was gone. I no longer seem to have much of any desire and I realized I was deep in a shame cycle.
I agree that the term "addiction" may not fit in the truest sense of the word. I also think that shame has played a major role in keeping me locked in the cycle. Whether or not I truly am an addict, all I know is that approaching it through a framework of addiction recovery (12 steps and professional help) has seemed to help.
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

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Mr. Sneelock
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Joined: 19 Sep 2017, 08:06

Re: Finding my way

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 28 Nov 2017, 15:49

Heber13 wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 15:36
Welcome to the forum. I look forward to learning from your point of view. Thanks for joining the discussion.
Thanks for your response. Like I said in my OP, I have found this forum to be the most supportive and helpful without being defensive or judgmental.
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

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LDS_Scoutmaster
Posts: 138
Joined: 21 Jan 2015, 23:30
Location: SoCal

Re: Finding my way

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 28 Nov 2017, 15:57

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 15:04
I would like to tell my story and you are welcome to read it if you want. I think it's mostly therapeutic for me to have it all written down.
Writing it all out was helpful for me as well. I wrote mine out before i posted my intro here because i had so much going on in my head, and others on this site helped me immensely.
Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 15:04
. I relate all of this just to illustrate the point that the church has been my life.
Personally i think a Faith transition is harder for those who grew up in the church, i can only say that from a convert point of view. It was devastating for me, but i can't imagine how it was for someone with perhaps a more sheltered world view.
Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 15:04
Another part of my story is a pornography/masturbation addiction that wreaked havoc on my self-confidence growing up and continues to be a major struggle in my marriage.
I agree with LH. Once I became less critical of myself and my problems, they went away. Not all at once and not completely but definitely more peacefully. Perhaps time and age has helped as well.
I agree that it can be devastating in a marriage, kudos to working through it. I've heard of marriages ending over it and it always was discouraging to hear. There are some many other things worse in a marriage to end over than porn.

The only advice I could give is to me, doubts are not something that should keep a person from obtaining a TR. The TR questions ask if you have faith, not if you 'know'. You can still have faith even if you doubt sometimes or doubt something. Maybe taking with the bishop more and exploring the differences between doubting/questioning and unbelief will be helpful.
Doubt and Faith can exist in the same mind, because they do in mine.

Welcome to the forum!
"When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." God, according to Futurama

We are all imperfect beings, dealing with other imperfect beings, and we're doing it imperfectly.

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Beefster
Posts: 376
Joined: 04 Aug 2017, 18:38

Re: Finding my way

Post by Beefster » 28 Nov 2017, 18:53

Losing a temple recommend in that situation really sucks. Unless there's more issues underneath you don't feel comfortable sharing on a public forum, most bishops (at least of those I had) would not revoke a TR for porn/masturbation problems and shaken faith. Then again, I dunno about the FC part of it, since I've never told my bishop nor do I plan to. I haven't been "punished" for masturbation since high school. Every bishop I've had since then didn't make a big deal out of it and my mission president only threatened to not renew my TR if I didn't quit (BTW, I was 'clean' from that point until about a week after I got home, so the threat sort of worked.)

Point is, sounds like you're a victim of leadership roulette. Porn and masturbation issues are notorious for being handled wildly differently by different bishops. This is made worse by the fact that "masturbation" is never mentioned by name in any current church publications I know of and is not, to my knowledge, part of any official written policies.

I'm still navigating my feelings toward porn and masturbation. I really don't think it's as big of a deal as the church likes to make it, but it definitely is not ideal. Nothing worth losing sleep over... Which unfortunately has happened for my mom since I told her because she's super orthodox. I wish I had never told her because her involvement has only made it more complicated for me to figure it out with a bunch of the wrong kind of pressure to quit.

Anyway, best of luck to you. Enjoy your stay. I look forward to seeing what you have to say and I hope my lack of inhibitions toward sexual topics is helpful to you.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

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Mr. Sneelock
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Joined: 19 Sep 2017, 08:06

Re: Finding my way

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 28 Nov 2017, 20:38

Beefster wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 18:53
Losing a temple recommend in that situation really sucks. Unless there's more issues underneath you don't feel comfortable sharing on a public forum, most bishops (at least of those I had) would not revoke a TR for porn/masturbation problems and shaken faith.
Yeah the temple recommend thing had nothing to do with porn, as I had abstained for several months at that point. It was purely a result of me expressing my doubts. I know that the bishop had no ill will toward me, he was just trying to go by the book. Honestly I didn't care one bit about the temple recommend itself. It was the lost opportunity to confirm my son, missing my sister's sealing, and being forced to go "public" with my faith crisis that bothered me.

I understand that for a lot of people, porn is not a big deal but it has been for me. I started at such an early age that it impeded my ability to form relationships and has now drained the life out of my marriage. If I can't find recovery then my marriage will soon be over.
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

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LDS_Scoutmaster
Posts: 138
Joined: 21 Jan 2015, 23:30
Location: SoCal

Re: Finding my way

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 29 Nov 2017, 16:09

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 20:38
I understand that for a lot of people, porn is not a big deal but it has been for me. I started at such an early age that it impeded my ability to form relationships and has now drained the life out of my marriage. If I can't find recovery then my marriage will soon be over.
For many of us we grew up with porn around. My dad had a dozen magazines in his room, as a teen I found his stash of videos and ugh, 8mm films. A friend across the street had literally closet full. I think it only marginally affected my views growing up on sex and marriage. It's my personal opinion, but I think a bit of it was healthy. I too had trouble forming relationships but for reasons of being a bit of an introvert, terribly shy around girls, even though I did not look at them as objects.

I didn't read into it, but does your spouse know all about it? If so, you can continue to work on it in the open, and be honest about it. Your last line hit a nerve, and I hope that you both can get through this. I ask if she knows because unless there are other deeper issues in the marriage, you can work on it together, I can't imagine this being a deal breaker after so long together.

Counselling and talking through it will be key in figuring out how to recover. It can be such a difficult thing to talk about, women feel at first that they are being rejected or substituted. However for most men this is not the case.
"When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." God, according to Futurama

We are all imperfect beings, dealing with other imperfect beings, and we're doing it imperfectly.

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Beefster
Posts: 376
Joined: 04 Aug 2017, 18:38

Re: Finding my way

Post by Beefster » 29 Nov 2017, 19:44

Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Nov 2017, 20:38
If I can't find recovery then my marriage will soon be over.
Is that something you believe, or is that something you have been led to think you believe because of the culture surrounding the issue? Is it because your wife is freaking out about it (maybe she is, maybe she isn't. I don't know your situation), or is it an internal conflict?

I think environment, culture, and upbringing are massive contributors to the potential damage porn can do; I think a lot of the damage is either self-fulfilling prophecy or the result of unhealthy secrecy.
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

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