Hellmut’s Deconversion

I have been miserable at Church ever since my mission. I still couldn’t get out because I had to act on my testimony even though I experienced Church as toxic every Sunday.

To me, the mission experience was dehumanizing and sacrilegious reducing converts to trophies and missionaries to tools. Any amoeba will leave an inhospitable environment and strike out for greener pastures and yet I came back for more for something like sixteen years only to despair more because I could not get over my testimony.

I had a wonderful experience at Church before my mission. So one day, I decided to google my boyhood friends. One of them had begun to agitate against the Mormon Church. This particular essay argued that the rejection of evolution proved that the president of the Mormon Church could not be the prophet.

I though that argument was weak since other apostle like Widtsoe and Talmadge had no problem with Darwinism but I trusted my friend enough to reinvestigate the Church. One of the first sites, I stumbled upon was the Mormon Alliance, which documents cases of ecclesiastical abuse.

When I learned that Church leaders demand that scholars retract their research to remain members, I realized that they are not speaking for God because their behavior created a paradox, which denied the atonement.

Basic Christian theology stipulates that Christ redeems humanity by paying for our sins. Basic Christian theology also says that sinners need to repent to take advantage of the atonement. According to Mormon theology, people can only take advantage of the atonement if they perform priesthood covenants such as baptism and remain members in good standing.

Insofar as research represents scholars’ best effort at determining the truth, asking them to deny their research by threatening their membership in the Church creates a paradox for the atonement that cannot be resolved if one takes Mormon theology at face value.

If you are excommunicated, supposedly, you are damned. Denying your research without being persuaded to be wrong amounts to a lie. Lying is sinning. Sinners are damned.

This problem contains a logical loop because if scholars repent of their lie, they shall loose their membership. If we accept the Mormon worldview for the sake of argument, then that means that the brethren’s requirement for faithful research creates a class of people to whom the atonement does not apply.

I concluded from that contradiction that the brethren did not act on behalf of god. My testimony had misled me. My experiences did not mean what I thought they meant.

Two weeks later, I had figured out that the feelings approach advocated by Joseph Smith contradicted Jesus Christ. Christ warned us that we shall recognize the false prophets by their fruits.

Observing fruits has nothing to do with feelings. Observing fruits is an empirical exercise. It relies on the use of our brain and our senses. We only need to have a pretty good idea about good and bad views and observe the evidence.

Since then I have concluded that Smith’s approach to truth in Moroni 10, Doctrine and Covenants 9, and Alma 32 is really an auto-suggestive technique that relies on suspension of disbelief (Moroni 10), wishful thinking (Alma 32), and attribution error (D&C 9).

They are the same techniques that let us enjoy novels or movies and that are the mainstays of any confidence trickster. By the way, that leads me to conclude that Smith was at least a co-author of the Book of Mormon. The feelings epistemology reflects the experience of the con-man. Since Smith has the history of a con-man and Sidney Rigdon does not, the feelings epistemology is probably a genuine creation of Joseph Smith.

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10 Responses

  1. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    (Sorry in advance to ‘TBM’s’/NOMs…)

    how church members can function in callings without feeling like cogs in a wheel Completely Escapes me ….

    Decisions & (top) Leaders are so intimidating; they treat the members like the old fashioned ‘shadow leadership’ that we grew to Hate in the youth programs….

    the amazing part of it ALL is that the LDS blithely go along with it all; Even my DW #2 now spontaneously said that the Temple is ‘just plain wierd’; THEN I told her was been toned down Before she went thru….

    LDS services are so highly scripted; they’re like the bags at the McDs which treat the help so stupidly they print on the bottom of the bag how many items it will hold….(Can’t figure it out for themselves)

    Kindness, Honesty-Charity, Mercy & Compassion are just side-cars on the LDS cycle.
    (sorry TBMs here who contribute.)

  2. Joel McDonald says:

    This aligns well with Ken Clark’s presentation at the recent ExMormon Foundation Conference entitled “Lying for the Lord“. I listened to it last night, and was struck by how the church had really used lies as a control mechanism and how it’s built into the organization. In fact, the suspension of belief required to receive an answer according to Moroni 10:3-5 is really a lie to oneself. Throughout service in the church, members are lying to themselves and each other. I don’t think the intention is really to receive, but members are desperate to know that what they are teaching is true…or at least appear that they do.

    When I think back to my mission and remember the instructions to not study beyond the materials given and to teach within the guidelines provided, being careful not to go beyond in breadth or depth, I was left to twist and spin the difficult responses to the difficult questions I was asked. I feel badly for how well I was able to do this. Like Ken said, Mormons are good talkers.

  3. aerin says:

    Thanks for sharing Hellmut. I agree with you. There needs to be a better way for the LDS church to review and maintain doctrine than excommunication.

  4. Hellmut says:

    Thanks for the reference to the talk, Joel.
    I felt deeply betrayed when I found out about the September Six, Aerin. If we had known that the Church would be reenacting Galileo Galilei in 1993 and continues to do so, we never would have joined.
    Kudos to Tom Murphy for standing up to the outrage. In light of the protest, the stake president realized what he was doing and changed his mind. Kathy Worthington organized the support effort back in the day.
    Tom Murphy’s story illustrates that the Church would be a better place if the members did not put up with so much shit. I am glad that Californians are confronting the Proposition 8 machinations.
    Galileo Galilei in the 21st century and the imposition of religion on non-believers, the brethren are so self-righteous and out of touch, they don’t even realize that they are violating other people’s rights until someone stands up to them.

  5. Craig says:

    I was at the conference, and both Ken Clark’s presentation and Steve Hassan’s were very enlightening.

    The main three things that always bothered me are/were the church’s treatment of 1) women, 2) gays 3) “so-called” intellectuals.

    Even now as a non-Mormon, it bothers me how disgustingly the church treats its members, especially any who isn’t white, male or straight.

    As a gay feminist intellectual, you can imagine how much I love Packer, and his constant tirades against everything I am 🙂 I’m pretty much the epitome of evil to him.

  6. Hellmut says:

    At least Boyd Packer is honest. It’s true though. His words have damaged many of our children, especially our gay children but others as well.

  7. chanson says:

    Great story!! There are many cases where one’s conscience (sense of right and wrong) is what starts people questioning. Naturally, that’s what happens when religious orgainzations justify bad things by claiming it’s the will of God.

  8. Hellmut says:

    Thanks, Chanson. You are right. Despite my own discomfort, I could not draw the necessary consequences. When I realized that I was supporting abuse, I got out instantaneously.

  9. belaja says:

    “I have been miserable at Church ever since my mission. I still couldn’t get out because I had to act on my testimony even though I experienced Church as toxic every Sunday.”

    Wow. I almost couldn’t finish this post, Hellmut, this statement hit so close to home. I could have written it myself at one point.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Hellmut says:

    Thank you, Belaja. May be, you should write your exit story. I would love to read it.

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