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 Post subject: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:28 am 
2nd Quorum of Seventy

Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:00 pm
Posts: 705
Stage One, Detachment

When I was 19, I feel while skiing, breaking my fall with my left hand. When I got up and brushed off the snow, I went to grab my ski poles and discovered that I could not grip with my left hand. It did not hurt, but I could not make a fist.

The next day, my hand had swollen, then by the following day I met with a doctor who confirmed a broken third metatarsal and scheduled me for surgery, to insert a metal plate.

I think about that moment, now. My hand did not hurt, I did not know it was broken, but mainly it just didn't work.

That's similar to how I am feeling now.

This last year our family has undergone our own drama and hurtful actions by church leaders. I was denied a stake temple recommend interview because, according to the stake president, my husband was involved in "an intrigue of priests." Or, in other words, my husband and another male member of our ward were at odds in a legal dispute over a contractual relationship.

Shortly after I was given the green light for a recommend. Several months later, my husband wrote emails to the bishop and stake president explaining his disappointment about the way they intervened in this conflict. Shortly after the bishop denied him a temple interview due to his attitude in the emails.

About a week after, the bishop reconciled with us, but the stake president made an appointment with my husband for a preliminary disciplinary council regarding the legal conflict and the emails from my husband. By the time the interview rolled around, the stake president had softened considerably. Instead of the interview being with the whole presidency, it was just him. He sat and listened to my husband explain the whole conflict for over an hour. He then invited me in to hear my thoughts for a few minutes. Then he apologized to us.

The apology meant a whole lot to me, it went a long way to salving the pain from the last year.

But, now, like I felt when I broke my hand, something is wrong. It's like something broke and I don't know what.

I grew up in the church, but in a scientifically-minded family. My mom taught us biology at home before we learned it at school. Both parents chief focus became that of acquiring a Christlike character, not on obsessing with rules or culture. My dad's major area of study is the Beatitudes and how to shift one's flawed perspective to a more loving, Christlike perspective in times of conflict. I can attest as his daughter that he's diligently tried to let this shape his life and enhance all our family relationships.

When I was quite young, I always processed gospel teachings logically to the extent that my age and understanding allowed. To me, God could be best understood as Love and Truth and Light. The core of the gospel has always been that we are His children, that He loves us and sent His Son for us.

My family has traveled extensively, living in different countries, over the years and most of that time, church has been in a foreign language for me. This means that for nearly a decade, my relationship with church has been mostly social with what is best called highlights of doctrine. I guess you could say that the language barrier has forced us to, or allowed us to, stay focused on the most basic gospel core, at Church.

So now, after the conflict we've had with the other ward member has been significantly resolved, I'm not sure what is yet undone, because that's certainly the case. When I was 18, several experiences of those close to me popped that bubble I enjoyed as a child, that essentially immunized our family from "bad things." By age 19 I had reasoned and developed a strong testimony that God truly judges by the heart, that no outward analysis could truly achieve that divine judgment: in other words, you cannot say that a young man who dies as an inactive is doomed, for example.

Likewise, for the twenty-plus years since, I've persisted in translating the black-and-white oversimplifications of the LDS culture into more nuanced, open-ended concepts. I guess that up until now it's worked for me.

Something about this last while has undone something.

The ward member has hurt us tremendously. He seems to be a pathological liar and is very skilled and charming. I know that, even though my lifelong acknowledgments that church leaders are fallible, it has been frustrating that our church leaders were tricked into believing him over us, even if temporarily. I see his fruits as truly evil fruits, I feel like he was like a wolf in our midst. (He threatened to kill us, intimidated us on several occasions, and eventually assaulted my husband.)

Maybe I also doubt myself, since I agreed that we trust him. For the record, I feel like we've grown and learned tremendously from this hellish experience. I feel that because of this, I will be smarter but also able to have more compassion on others and love more deeply.

But something is undone, and I'm not sure what. I'm hoping that by talking through it, I can understand.

Stage Two, Awareness

My deconversion wasn't a result of learning history and it wasn't from being hurt by the church, though it intimately involves both.

I knew that Joseph Smith was a man of shady practices. Somehow I allowed myself to suspend conclusions about him based on that knowledge. I figured that maybe God could still work through a man like that even if he screwed up that much.

Then, through church, we met a man like Joseph. This man lied to us, he acted in bad faith, he lied about us to our church leaders, he threatened my husband with violence and death, eventually assaulting my husband.

At the beginning in our relationship with the man we knew, we thought the issues could just be fairly normal misunderstandings. We granted that he had legitimate issues and understood that his poor health could also exacerbate his poor relationship skills. So, that time period was this quasi fog of undertainty tinted by us giving the man the benefit of the doubt and also acknowledging our own flaws and poor decisions.

However, as the relationship continued to deteriorate, it became clearer that there was no equivalency between the way our two parties were struggling with the relationship. We were acting in good faith, while he had never had any, but only maintained a thin veneer of fake good intentions until it was untenable for him. We saw that there was no way to reach this man with reason or kindness or compassion while maintaining a mutually responsible and honest relationship.

The day that he told my husband he wanted to kill him, and when called on it responded that he would not get in trouble as there were no witnesses, it was immediately after he had sent us an email saying he would be looking down from Heaven at us in Hell. He CC'd church leaders that email. In other words, he was publically invoking God's judgment against us for our supposed offenses while privately denying any risk to his own soul for his offenses against us. To me, this made everything terrifyingly clear. I saw that the lengths to which he would go were absolutely unacceptable.

To this day, this man still attends church with his family, having never acknowledged his actions or apologised for them. At first, when the stake president apologised for how he and the bishop has hurt us (after believing the lies) I did feel much better.

However, I realised that it all still felt different. I think my heart was broken, and my glasses were clearer: I knew that a man who lies consistently about important things that hurt people cannot speak for God. Whether he be the man who punched my husband in the face, or Joseph Smith. Neither of these pathological liars were a mouthpiece of the Lord.

In my case, I knew the church was false when I learned about human nature, with a certainty that Joseph Smith was not good enough to be who he is said to be. Having a broken heart helped as well, in seeing the church with more objectivity.

Stage Three, Transition

This has just begun!

Stage Four, Moving On

Not there Yet

In Retrospect

We all learn differently. I remember BYU religion lessons on Jesus Christ and how he merited his title as our Father, in part, by committing to come to earth to be our Savior, that he had a theoretical understanding of his mission but only came to realize it in near fullness in the Garden when he atoned. That's when his knowledge became complete, because of experience.

So when I was young and learned that there were credible issues with Joseph, I acknowledged my own epitemological limitations and suspended doubt by supposing that revelation might work differently than I thought. Then, with our recent experience, I learned that there are things men can do that repulse the Spirit of God and which do not allow the Spirit to dwell within them. Our "friend" did this, and so did Joseph Smith, even when acting as prophet.


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:15 am 
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Wow, what a unique story! It is not often in this day and age where a bishop and stake president would turn to displinary actions based on personal legal actions between members in the ward/stake.

I assume the same actions (withholding of recommends, threat of further displinary actions) were not given to this other man?


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:59 am 
2nd Quorum of Seventy

Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:00 pm
Posts: 705
RockSlider wrote:
Wow, what a unique story! It is not often in this day and age where a bishop and stake president would turn to displinary actions based on personal legal actions between members in the ward/stake.

I assume the same actions (withholding of recommends, threat of further displinary actions) were not given to this other man?


Supposedly, but we can't be sure that was always the case.


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:34 am 
God
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Location: Somewhere between bemused and curious.
Welcome and great story.


I am sure you know but local leadership in church is like the local law enforcement. When you get pulled over you never know if your getting Barny Fife , Harry Callahan, or Columbo.

In other words, it is leadership roulette and there is no consistency on how rules are applied. Local leaders are easily fooled. It is almost like they are just ordinary men.... oh wait...they are.

I have seen the charismatic figures come and go in wards, and I have seen how easy it is for LDS people to place their trust with someone who makes them feel good. When someone's whole life is dedicated to a religion that is verified by a good feeling, that person is an easy target for fraud and insincere charismatic personalities. By the way there is also a good side to the fact that trust comes easy to Mormons, in that it forms a very strong sense of community quickly, a community that can accomplish great things.

Once again welcome.

_________________
"The lives we lead now are not dress rehearsals, they are the only performance we have. Therefore what matters is what we have here, the people we know and and love and the good we can do for the world"
Sean Carroll


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:10 am 
Sunbeam
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Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:09 am
Posts: 71
I hear you on this. I noticed that it wasn't doctrinal issues or the history that 'got you' -- it was the behavior of church leaders. I ran into the same patter you describe, although I'm a bit further along in the stages than you are now (not to make myself out to be "better".

I got awareness early on -- one year into my membership when my Bp and stake president told me to stay home due to no funds in the missionary fund. I showed up two years later with the money and out of debt, and the hard-nut stake president excluded me from the testimony bearing at priesthood meeting, when two other members (lifers) were leaving the same time I was. I had a grand story to tell, and was approaching 24 when I left given after two and a half hard years of multiple jobs, living an unheated attic in Northern temperatures for sleeping, etcetera to meet his requirements. Our eyes met in the priesthood meeting, and I could see he was concerned what I might say about his lack of faith, his harsh attitude (there was a lot more to this than above, but there was no sin on part). He never invited me to speak at that meeting....his self-preservation was more important that uplifting the body with my story, and granting me a few minutes to bear powerful testimony...

I had other situations that were far more extreme than this that landed me into my first bout of clinical depression over the behavior of members leaders, as well as physical weakness and then infection afterwards.

All due to the behavior of others, which many have told me was extreme. But it showed a side of the church most don't see -- its preoccupation with itself, with temporal matters, with the needs of individuals placing a distant second to leader pride, and organizational imperatives. I got so sick of being taken for granted...

I am married in the temple, returned missionary, active children, and a spouse who is an auxiliary leader. I have a small calling, and have been comfortable saying "no" to all the callings they want me to take, except for those callings I truly want. I used to have hefty leadership callings but no more.

Here was my coping strategy..

1. I found my service and community outside the church in secular service contexts. it's so much easier to put up with bad leadership in those contexts. I grew much happier even though there are similar challenges there.

2. I minimized the role fo the church in my life. I realized the world needs many of my passions and talents, and the church can't offer me expression of them due to all the administrative rules to follow. Part of me thinks they don't deserve even my feeble effort and talents either.

3. Accept traditional Mormons for who they are. For many, it works. It brings them peace; don't disturb that.

4. Never express doubt, only heartbreak. Only not being able to sleep over the behavior you have experienced, talk about how you served "on testimony" alone. Expression of doubt will land you in hot water with leaders.

6. Don't worry about being authentic. Are we ever truly authentic with our boss, even our spouse?

7. In my case, I have family so I stay because of them. The church is a lot easier to handle when it's not extracting all your savings and most of your time. It seems like it's just dessert, to forgo my commitment due to the roulette of local leaders who see everything in black and white.

8. I don't hold a TR. They have no claim on me when I don't hold a TR. If they deny me the privilege of ordaining my son eventually to the office of priest or elder, I will hold a father's blessing, recorded and transcribed afterwards to be part of the experience. If I am not in the temple for my children's marriage, there will be a father's blessign right before or after to include me in the experience.

9. Leave your options open -- have great faith in your own ignorance and ability to make mistakes. I don't know if the path I'm on is the "right" one as far as God is concerned, but it makes me happy now, and pursuing happiness is the object and design of our existence, isn't it? Given all the historical problems and quiet about-faces the church has done, I'm not convinced they have what it takes to save my soul even if I comply with their rules -- but I leave myself open to the fact I might be wrong about that. There is peace in agnositicism about the church's power to provide a path to salvation...

10. Fill your life up with things that bring you joy. I have a lot of them now, so the church is this tiny corner in my life that I dedicate about 4-5 hours a week if you include church meetings.

11. Start by examining everything you have assimilated from the church, and decide what YOU believe. After a while, the SuperEgo of the church seems to matter less and less as you elevate your own conscience about all else. Consider what the church teaches, but remember, they can only teach general principles -- and thes general principles and policies weren't crafted with your specific situation in mind. Work all that out with God and through your own meditation, and find your own way.

Good luck. It's more than possible to be at peace within the church if you start elevating your conscience, and your pursuit of happines, however achieved -- above the control and influence of the church....while keeping yourself open that you may want to do an about face some day. Paul had is own Road to Damascus experience....I haven't ruled out one of my own some day. But for now, my own conscience and happiness reigns supreme in my relationship with the LDS church. The church is secondary....my inner peace and happiness comes first, and so does what I really think about the claims the church makes.


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:36 am 
2nd Quorum of Seventy

Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:00 pm
Posts: 705
Fence Sitter wrote:
Welcome and great story.


I am sure you know but local leadership in church is like the local law enforcement. When you get pulled over you never know if your getting Barny Fife , Harry Callahan, or Columbo.

In other words, it is leadership roulette and there is no consistency on how rules are applied. Local leaders are easily fooled. It is almost like they are just ordinary men.... oh wait...they are.

I have seen the charismatic figures come and go in wards, and I have seen how easy it is for LDS people to place their trust with someone who makes them feel good. When someone's whole life is dedicated to a religion that is verified by a good feeling, that person is an easy target for fraud and insincere charismatic personalities. By the way there is also a good side to the fact that trust comes easy to Mormons, in that it forms a very strong sense of community quickly, a community that can accomplish great things.

Once again welcome.


Thanks! It's true that trust comes easy, especially to help start friendships...but I have learned that the trust is limited in how far it should go. As it deepens, it should be earned. We were so stupid to trust the man in my story as much as we did, to let him and his family live next door to us in our rental apartment. But, lesson learned.

The church leaders tried really hard, but also, they were dealing with a man who has serious mental issues, who is an extremely smooth manipulator. They're not trained to recognise those traits or deal with them. At one point, after an evening when the man assaulted my husband and then a mutual friend, the bishop ignored the eye-witness testimony of a third party he trusted who was helping all the parties freely (not to mention not believing us, too) in favor of the assaulter's version of events. The bishop was really hooked in by that man, maybe still is.

By the way, I for one was never charmed by the guy. I always feel squeamish when people overcompliment or feel that flattery is pointless and irrelevant. He never hooked me in, I was never in his thrall, I found him annoying but made excuses for him because of his illness. Perhaps the fact that I never let him be my guru contributed to our "friendship" with him and his wife deteriorating. I guess it just didn't go the way he intended and then the crap hit the fan.

Anyways, it's interesting to me that, by loving and trusting and trying to follow the gospel and help people, we learned a whole lot about the church and the LDS gospel, so much more than we planned to learn.


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 Post subject: Re: Actual Versus Hypothetical Learning, or My Deconversion
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:39 am 
2nd Quorum of Seventy

Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:00 pm
Posts: 705
UnicornMan wrote:
I hear you on this. I noticed that it wasn't doctrinal issues or the history that 'got you' -- it was the behavior of church leaders. I ran into the same patter you describe, although I'm a bit further along in the stages than you are now (not to make myself out to be "better".

I got awareness early on -- one year into my membership when my Bp and stake president told me to stay home due to no funds in the missionary fund. I showed up two years later with the money and out of debt, and the hard-nut stake president excluded me from the testimony bearing at priesthood meeting, when two other members (lifers) were leaving the same time I was. I had a grand story to tell, and was approaching 24 when I left given after two and a half hard years of multiple jobs, living an unheated attic in Northern temperatures for sleeping, etcetera to meet his requirements. Our eyes met in the priesthood meeting, and I could see he was concerned what I might say about his lack of faith, his harsh attitude (there was a lot more to this than above, but there was no sin on part). He never invited me to speak at that meeting....his self-preservation was more important that uplifting the body with my story, and granting me a few minutes to bear powerful testimony...

I had other situations that were far more extreme than this that landed me into my first bout of clinical depression over the behavior of members leaders, as well as physical weakness and then infection afterwards.

All due to the behavior of others, which many have told me was extreme. But it showed a side of the church most don't see -- its preoccupation with itself, with temporal matters, with the needs of individuals placing a distant second to leader pride, and organizational imperatives. I got so sick of being taken for granted...

I am married in the temple, returned missionary, active children, and a spouse who is an auxiliary leader. I have a small calling, and have been comfortable saying "no" to all the callings they want me to take, except for those callings I truly want. I used to have hefty leadership callings but no more.

Here was my coping strategy..

1. I found my service and community outside the church in secular service contexts. it's so much easier to put up with bad leadership in those contexts. I grew much happier even though there are similar challenges there.

2. I minimized the role fo the church in my life. I realized the world needs many of my passions and talents, and the church can't offer me expression of them due to all the administrative rules to follow. Part of me thinks they don't deserve even my feeble effort and talents either.

3. Accept traditional Mormons for who they are. For many, it works. It brings them peace; don't disturb that.

4. Never express doubt, only heartbreak. Only not being able to sleep over the behavior you have experienced, talk about how you served "on testimony" alone. Expression of doubt will land you in hot water with leaders.

6. Don't worry about being authentic. Are we ever truly authentic with our boss, even our spouse?

7. In my case, I have family so I stay because of them. The church is a lot easier to handle when it's not extracting all your savings and most of your time. It seems like it's just dessert, to forgo my commitment due to the roulette of local leaders who see everything in black and white.

8. I don't hold a TR. They have no claim on me when I don't hold a TR. If they deny me the privilege of ordaining my son eventually to the office of priest or elder, I will hold a father's blessing, recorded and transcribed afterwards to be part of the experience. If I am not in the temple for my children's marriage, there will be a father's blessign right before or after to include me in the experience.

9. Leave your options open -- have great faith in your own ignorance and ability to make mistakes. I don't know if the path I'm on is the "right" one as far as God is concerned, but it makes me happy now, and pursuing happiness is the object and design of our existence, isn't it? Given all the historical problems and quiet about-faces the church has done, I'm not convinced they have what it takes to save my soul even if I comply with their rules -- but I leave myself open to the fact I might be wrong about that. There is peace in agnositicism about the church's power to provide a path to salvation...

10. Fill your life up with things that bring you joy. I have a lot of them now, so the church is this tiny corner in my life that I dedicate about 4-5 hours a week if you include church meetings.

11. Start by examining everything you have assimilated from the church, and decide what YOU believe. After a while, the SuperEgo of the church seems to matter less and less as you elevate your own conscience about all else. Consider what the church teaches, but remember, they can only teach general principles -- and thes general principles and policies weren't crafted with your specific situation in mind. Work all that out with God and through your own meditation, and find your own way.

Good luck. It's more than possible to be at peace within the church if you start elevating your conscience, and your pursuit of happines, however achieved -- above the control and influence of the church....while keeping yourself open that you may want to do an about face some day. Paul had is own Road to Damascus experience....I haven't ruled out one of my own some day. But for now, my own conscience and happiness reigns supreme in my relationship with the LDS church. The church is secondary....my inner peace and happiness comes first, and so does what I really think about the claims the church makes.


Thanks. We're out, though, we have no interest is adapting ourselves or the church so that we can still participate as members. We will bring our kids and maybe from time time attend something to see friends, but that's it.


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