I’ve stated several times in my blog that my leaving the LDS faith and coming out as a gay man were two entirely separate events in my life. Of course, one influenced the other and vice versa. Neither event occurred in a vacuum. But for me at least, they were not automatically mutually inclusive.
Debunking the LDS faith of my fathers came first for me. Only after I was thoroughly convinced that I had been bamboozled did I reach the epiphany that,
“WOW! I really AM gay.”
No longer did I place any credulity in the opinions and proclamations of the church leaders who had told me that being gay was merely a behavior that I could choose not to engage in. I had spent considerable time researching how trustworthy these leaders were and coupled with my own concrete experience that not choosing gay behavior made me no less gay inside I was convinced that they were wrong. The first and most powerful result that surfaced was that my own lifelong inner voice telling me,
“Yes, you are gay. You always have been. Little gay you is here. He has always been here. He’s not going anywhere no matter how long or how hard you resist him. The church leaders are wrong about so many things; they are wrong about this too. You are OK. You are good. Good to finally meet you. Welcome to the real world.”
It was a powerful and, dare I say, “spiritual” experience. But I haven’t really talked much about how or why I came to the realization that I did regarding the Mormon church. That’s mostly because most of the information is so readily available elsewhere on the internet. My placing all that information here is pretty unnecessary. Likewise, while the facts are now easy to find, there are an increasingly greater number of people who know these things and still choose to remain Mormon. And even for those who leave, our reasons are not all the same.
While I was in the early stages of researching and studying Mormonism I was doing it to bolster up my proof and confirm for myself that there was significant reason and logic to pursue the LDS way of life. Perhaps I was subconsciously trying to convince myself that denying my gay self was worth it. I was certainly not happy in spite of having and doing everything according to The Plan of Salvation. The more I followed it the more miserable I became inside.
I was in my mid 30’s at the time and it was really all I knew in life. I was still confident that it was true in a very real sense. As I was studying, however, I became less confident as I progressed and discovered more. I recorded my thoughts and discoveries so that I could look at them as an outside observer. Basically what I did was write an essay listing all the facts and what they meant to me. At the time, this essay had a slightly devastated tone to it but it was an extremely helpful exercise.
Because this blog is a way for me to record my journey and progress as a gay Mormon father, I’ve decided that I’m going to jump back in time to rewrite this initial essay here on my blog as a record for myself. I’ve already posted about why I would never return. The following series of posts, which I will call Search, Ponder and Pray, is a record of why I left in the first place.
Those of you who have done your own research will probably not find anything new here. I’m doing this mostly for my own record. If it helps someone else, great. But I’m not placing this here to convince anyone of anything. The original essay wasn’t for that purpose either. It was mostly to enable me to step back and ask myself, “Who is the crazy one here? Us Mormons or everyone else?” Initially, I was certain that the answer would be that the crazy ones were anyone who questioned or denied the truthfulness of the gospel.
Past Mormon leaders had this same cocksure confidence back in the day and it is this attitude that I grew up with. I’m not sure when exactly the change took place, but sometime in the late 90’s or early 2000’s Mormon leaders switched from a confident, “We have the truth and science will one day confirm it!” to “Facts don’t matter. Confirmation of our truth can only come through feelings of the spirit.” I grew up with the former.
The following quotes pretty much explain how I felt. You don’t really hear them say things like this anymore:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ clearly says to us as far as the world of truth and fact is concerned, there’s nothing out there to be afraid of. The Latter- day Saint leans into learning with a gusto, or should.”
-Elder Neal A. Maxwell (copied off of the Meridian web site)
“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
–J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.
If faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.
–George A. Smith, 1871, Journal of Discourses, Vol 14, pg 216
I think full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret, not underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.
-Pres. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, vol 20, pg 264
“This book [the Book of Mormon] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does the Book of Mormon merit such consideration, its claims, even demand the same.”
-Apostle James E. Talmage in ‘Articles of Faith’, page 273
“As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. Many years of experience in courtrooms have taught me that truth, in the sense of obtaining justice, is arrived at only by questioning in a searching way. Members of the Church are encouraged to seek learning from all good books and from any helpful source…”
–James E. Faust, September 1998 Ensign
“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one-sided but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending”
– James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, January, 1920, p 204.
I believed there was a logical answer for everything and that in the context of the truth being on the Lord’s side, there was nothing to be afraid of at all.
As far as source material goes, I initially stuck with faithful LDS writings, books and conference talks. It’s when I moved on to the writings of LDS apologists that things started to really heat up. It’s through FAIR or FARMS that I learned which topics are truly debatable. If you start off reading an apologists writings without having much background in the initial controversy that they are justifying or defending, it’s the apologists that introduce it to you. You get a chance to evaluate their reasoning and logic from a fresh and purely non-biased frame of reference. I started out reading most of their material as a believer, already on their side and convinced that there was a good answer for everything. But I almost invariable walked away from their writings disappointed that their logic was unsound and that they’d merely attacked an author or scientist personally…even when I wanted to believe them. It was the apologists therefore who led me to the original questioning source material and it was there that I encountered more honesty and what I felt to be more substantial facts.
Yes, I got a lot of material off the internet but did my best to confirm sources when I could. For example, if I read a quote from Journal of Discourses I looked it up to see if it was taken out of context. More often than not, the so-called “anti-Mormons” had it right while the apologists felt the need to rely on rationalizations, magic, or mental gymnastics to explain away difficult issues.
What follows is an explanation of that process for me. Mormons are taught to do this through the scriptures and in children songs. Too often though, they only pray and condemn those who actually search and ponder.