(Update August 6, 2015: At the time I wrote this, I considered myself an ex-Mormon. My thinking has evolved to the point where I consider myself an independent Mormon.)
It’s traditional for ex-Mormons to post their exit stories on ex-Mormon forums. Here’s mine:
I grew up in southeastern Idaho in Idaho Falls, which is about 50% LDS. I faithfully followed the normal LDS path through childhood, adolescence and adulthood: baptized at 8, graduated from seminary, served a 2 year mission (for me, to Germany), graduated from BYU, married in the temple. I served as a bishopric counselor twice, had lots of other callings, etc. Despite all that, and always having what I thought was a testimony that the church was true, I have a very scientific way of looking at things, which caused me to put a lot of things on my shelf. There were many things in the Book of Mormon that would set off my B.S. alarm, like the population growth, enormous battles that dwarfed any others in history, where every single soul showed up dutifully to die, etc. But, I always assumed truth was on our side, and that it would all make sense in the end. A few years ago I was looking at the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham and I wondered “Did Joseph Smith translate those correctly?” At the time all I found was FairMormon which of course taught me that Joseph Smith was awesome and not to worry about it.
Fast-forward to January of 2015, a few months shy of my 44th birthday (hello Helen Mar Kimball!). Again, I had the thought to research the Book of Abraham. Why that started to pester me again, I don’t know. (An active Mormon might say it was the buffetings of Satan! An atheist might say my subconscious B.S. alarm was nagging me. A believer outside the LDS church might say I was prompted by God. I’m not sure what I believe.) I figured the truth would vindicate the church again like it had before. One of the first links in my search was from MormonThink.com: “The Book of Abraham Issues – Translation Problems”. I thought: “Problems?” Yes, of course, big time problems. It didn’t take me long to figure out the Book of Abraham was a fraud. Once I knew that, and knew there was literally no way to repair that fact, it allowed me to look at the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith with a more critical eye. I tried reading all the LDS apologetics for every topic I researched, but all that showed me was the apologists had nothing to stand on. The church essays made it even more clear: the church has no answers. If anything, the essays confirm how messed up church history and the origins are. At the time my wife was at a funeral in Utah, and I was home alone with our kids to deep dive through rabbit hole after rabbit hole, reading late into the night. The historicity of the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon was completely destroyed for me, along with any belief I had that Joseph Smith was a prophet. In two days (!) I had gone from a true believer to knowing without a doubt the church was false. In reality I think my subconscious had been working on this for years, and I just needed the obvious proof to push me over the edge.
At that point, I knew I had to leave the church. I had three boys, ages 17, 15 and 11. How would I tell them? How would I tell my wife, who loved the church with all her heart? I was afraid I might lose her over it. At the same time, to me, the truth is everything. Living an authentic life is very, very important to me. I knew there was no way I could fake it. As a missionary, I always hoped we would find truth seekers, and that once they found the truth they would embrace it. I had found new truth, and I had to go wherever that took me. I think that makes me the exact opposite of a golden contact, whatever that might be called.
Fortunately my wife was very understanding. She cried a lot at first, but she was very respectful and listened to me. I would tell her things I had learned and she would often say “What’s your source for that?”, implying they were anti-Mormon lies. But then she decided she wouldn’t be afraid to research things herself. Although she came to different conclusions than I did, she can understand my perspective and where I am coming from. She still believes and sees a lot of good in the church. We’ve learned a ton together by listening to Mormon Stories (and other) podcasts, reading lots of books, and talking about what we’ve learned. I’ve learned more about the church in four months than I did in my first 44 years. Although it’s been painful to tell family members and friends, who mostly don’t understand where I’m at, I wouldn’t trade my new perspective for anything in the world. I feel more tolerant and loving than I have at any other point in my life. I’m happy to have stepped out of Plato’s cave, to have taken the red pill, and to have walked up the Truman Show’s stairs and stepped through the door. I only wish I could help others understand where I’m at, but maybe it’s something they have to experience for themselves. I look forward to learning from those who have gone on a similar trip before me, and I hope to help those who are just beginning.