Recently I heard how an LDS father told his potential future son-in-law of a requirement that the son-in-law never leave the church and always stay strong in it. Could I or would I have made a promise to never leave the church back when I was going to marry my wife? Absolutely! I genuinely thought it was the one true church. But a year ago when I went through an abrupt faith transition, did I choose to no longer believe? No way. I didn’t have a choice to still believe. This is something active Mormons would have a very hard time understanding. In April 2015 conference, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the 70 gave a talk entitled “Choose to Believe.” He explains that we have to choose to believe to listen to living prophets and apostles:
Prophets across the ages have encouraged us and even implored us to believe in Christ. Their exhortations reflect a fundamental fact: God does not force us to believe. Instead He invites us to believe by sending living prophets and apostles to teach us, by providing scriptures, and by beckoning to us through His Spirit.
And when I learn the Book of Abraham translation isn’t even close to the actual translation of the source papyri? Choose to believe! Or when I discover Joseph Smith used a rock in his hat to “translate” the Book of Mormon, the same rock he used to pretend to find treasure and defraud people out of their money? Aw, come on! You promised to always believe, remember? Or when I find out Joseph married girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30’s, or married other men’s wives, and didn’t bother to tell Emma about most of them, including those he had sexual relations with? Hey, God sent an angel with a flaming sword to kill Joseph if he didn’t marry more women! What’s a guy to do? Give Brother Joseph a break! Or if DNA, archeology, anthropology and linguistics prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Mormon isn’t actually “the most correct book on earth” (despite over 3,900 changes since the 1830 version)? Never mind science. What, do you hate Jesus or something? A Mormon just believes! Or when it turns out the church can’t come up with any reasons why the prophets of God kept blacks from receiving the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, other than because the prophets were products of the racist culture they grew up in? That’s such ancient history! It was fixed in 1978. Get back to church!
I didn’t choose to quit believing in the LDS church. My only choice was not to believe. It was so impossible to stop my unbelief, that I’m reminded of a scripture in D&C 121:33. I’m going to take some liberties and change a few words:
What power shall stay the
heavensevidence? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the AlmightyGoogle from pouring down knowledge from heaventhe web upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.
I understand that some will look at the evidence and decide they do still believe in the church, but I have no choice with the way my mind inteprets the evidence. Would that LDS father have approved me as a Mormon worth marrying before my faith transition? I’m fairly certain he would. I was a completely worthy and stalwart member of the church for the first 44 years of my life. But if I had made a promise to never leave the church, and to always stay a strong member, I would have had no way of knowing it was an impossible promise to keep. It was only a matter of time until I found out just how obviously man-made the LDS religion is.