Why I Left the Mormon Church

Why I Left the Mormon Church

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Why I Left the Mormon Church

There have been some rumors floating around that we have left the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures of Jen in sleeveless dresses, or you’ve noticed from my tweets the absence of any mention of church for almost a year, and you’re wondering what’s going on. Some people have approached us about it privately and others have silently assumed we left and have come up with their own reasons for why.

Let me put all rumors to rest and state openly that yes, we have left the LDS church. As shocking and saddening as I’m sure this news will be to many people, I feel the need to be honest about it and to clear up any misunderstandings as to why we left. I realize that this announcement may cause us to face rejection and ostracism from some family and friends. Sadly, we’ve already experienced some of this. Of course, when the beliefs you deeply treasure are disregarded by someone else, it’s easy to feel like you’re being attacked personally. Please understand that no attack is intended and I completely respect those who continue to remain in the church.

Below you’ll see a link to a document I’ve written that explains everything about my journey out of the church. It’s not anti-Mormon propaganda meant to dissuade you from belief, although it’s definitely not faith-promoting either. Mostly, it’s a personal story about me and my journey out of the church, which was much harder than it sounds. The church was everything to me and was very much a part of my identity and the filter through which I saw the world. Leaving was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and one of the most painful. At the same time, it’s been one of the most rewarding, joyous, and enlightening experiences of my life.

The letter is pretty long, but I hope you’ll take some time to read about my journey, the events and thought processes which brought me to where I am, and how my worldview and beliefs have evolved since I left. Hopefully after reading, you will be able to see us for who we are, not just for what we believe, and to continue loving and accepting us as we still love and accept you.

Also, feel free to email me or post a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[Note: I occasionally make updates to this letter as my journey progresses. The link below is the live version I keep updated on Google Docs.]

Read Why I Left the Mormon Church

[Update: I summarized the responses we've received from leaving the church in a post called Reactions to Radical Decisions.]

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About the Author

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, traveler, homeschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in every moment.

Comments (107):

  1. It’s been such an interesting journey, one we never thought we’d take. It truly has been a very difficult time in our lives, and I am very grateful for those of you who have continued to express and show your love and support to us as our entire worldview and identity crumbled before our eyes. We are grateful to be doing much better now though with the passage of time. It has been such a learning experience and one we feel very fortunate to be able to have come through happier than before we began.

    Brandon, I know how important it is for you to feel understood and authentic in your relationships with others (as it is for me also), and I know how hard you have worked to make sense of the things you have learned and experienced. You have put hours of time and emotional energy into the creation of your document, not only because it has been therapy for you during this difficult transition, but also because you truly care about the feelings of others who read it and you want to be kind and respectful in the way the information is presented. It has already been received with much courtesy and respect by many who have read it so far. I am really appreciative of those types of responses, and hope we can continue to hear from more of you who would like to express your thoughts and love.

    • Jen- I am so grateful that Brandon has you as a wife. You are so supportive and loving, and it is incredible that you two have been able to take this journey together. I love you both. :)

      • I second that. This is your journey as much as his – and so fortunate that you worked through all this together. Can’t wait til we can all be together again :)

        • @Allison, Thank you so much. I am so glad we had you to turn to as well during our time of shock as we discovered our beliefs were changing. We knew we could count on you to help us through. I admire your strength and courage so much as you went through your own transition, without the benefit of the support and understanding that you have so graciously provided to us. I love you!

      • Thank you Ashley. We are so glad to have you in our lives. I am incredibly grateful that we have been able to take this journey together as well, and that we also had you to share our thoughts and feelings with freely and openly, knowing you would be a source of such love and support. I love you too!

        • Love you, Jen :) Can’t wait until I can see you again!

    • You are such a cute, loving friend! I hope you are loving your new adventure! Sure love ya!!,

      • Thank you Kare! I am happy to have such a sweet loving friend as you too. :)

  2. I remember when we first met and you were at the beginning of your journey of discovery. We talked for hours and it’s one of my fondest memories: talking about our similar journeys, running around with your children in the garden in Grecia and knowing that we all connected on a deep level.

    Brandon, you write so authentically and logically. Many religions overlap in many of the tactics they use to keep people believing that only they are the chosen ones. Your personal journey that you’ve detailed is a great read for anyone involved in any religion, not just LDS.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there. You will get criticism, but I applaud your confidence and bravery.

    • Thanks so much, Sabina! I remember fondly the day we met as well and our great conversations. Your friendship was one of the highlights of our time in Costa Rica and you helped us a lot through our transition. Thanks for your support and appreciation! I look forward to seeing you again sometime on this side of the world. :)

  3. Wow… you did it. I know you’ve been struggling with making this announcement for a long time. I’m proud of you for being true to yourself and wanting to be your full and authentic self.

    It was such a complete shock when you said you wanted to video chat over a year ago – that you had something important to tell me… you knew you were safe telling me, and acknowledged that I may be the only family member that would actually be HAPPY at the news. And I was, having left myself almost 10 years earlier. Though completely shocked. I never in a million years expected that you’d ever come to question Mormonism as it really brought you joy. I think some have assumed that I tried to pursuade you to leave the church – but I didn’t – it seemed to be a great fit for your personality and I fully supported that. In fact, after I wrote my own “coming clean” letter to you in response to your own concerns about me, I don’t think we ever discussed religion after that. I always appreciated that you stopped the missionary efforts (though I knew you were still quietly worried about me : ) and we built a relationship on our common interests and love for each other.

    When you shared the news and we talked through things in the following weeks, I could see and hear in your voice how painful these discoveries and shifts were for you. It gave me great admiration for your courage in actually following where your heart was leading you.

    One thing that really impressed me is how quickly you moved through any feelings of anger and betrayal. So many who leave the church (including me) have a hard time with that and the anger can last for years. You and Jen moved through it all with such grace and ease and have come to a healthy and loving place. I have found it very inspiring. Anyone who feels like you are attacking them personally in any way is bringing those feelings with them to the relationship – it’s not coming from you.

    You are still very much Brandon – but a more complete Brandon. More comfortable in your own skin. More authentic. Less fearful, more spontaneous and adventurous. More interested in the world around you, and the people in it – loving and accepting them for who they are with no need to convert them to your way of seeing the world/spirituality/etc.

    Since you were born I’ve always felt you were an “old soul” – other people commented on it too. You’ve always had a depth and wisdom and spiritual maturity about you that far exceeded your years. It was one of the first things that made me wonder about reincarnation, actually… how could a child have such an old soul? The past year I’ve seen you expand that 10-fold. I love the lives you’re creating for yourselves, the wonderful new experiences, the diverse and rewarding friendships you’re forming all around the world.

    I love that all the walls are down in our family. We always loved each other, supported each other, had fun together. But there was always a formality about it – certain things we couldn’t really discuss for fear of offending or hurting each other, not feeling like we could be our complete and total selves with each other. Now we can and do – and it’s completely amazing.

    Love you so much and am so very proud of you. I know others are too. I hope those that don’t agree with your decision to take this different spiritual path will recognize how great this has been for YOU and your family – that it’s not about THEM – and continue to love and accept your friendship.

    Your document is long but very interesting. And the last couple of pages where you sum up where you are now are some of the most powerful. I hope those that know and care about you will take the time to read it.

    You inspire me.

    • Oh Mom, you are so sweet! Thank you so much for everything. I’ve never appreciated you and the wonderful person you are as much as I have in the past year or so, even though you have always been just what I needed. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and loving mother. Thank you! I love you!

  4. I still love hearing about your family experiences! Jen, you are so adorable! I just think you’re a beautiful family! I’ll still look for your adventures on fb=] good luck with your new journey. I love you. I consider you as cute, fun friends!

  5. I truly admire and respect you, Brandon. You have done, here, what so many people have been, and still are, afraid to do. I know this was quite a painful process for both of you to go through- but I am so glad you have gone through it and come out on the other side more complete and at peace with yourselves and the world around you.

    The most prominent benefit I have noticed from you leaving the church is how much more sincere our relationship has become- and how much closer I feel to you. Like mom said: all of the walls are down in our family. Everything feels so much more “real,” now. I no longer feel like there will be judgment passed if I say something or do something or wear something that you might not have approved of, a few years back. I feel like you love me completely and that our relationship of brother and sister has grown deeper and has blossomed into an authentic friendship. I feel like I can talk to you about anything, now, whereas before, I felt there were barriers preventing us from really getting to truly understand and get to know each other.

    When looking at pictures of your family from before, when you were still very much involved in the church, to now, the contrast in your countenance is amazing. You all look so much more relaxed and happy. At peace. I am so happy for you, that you’ve gone through this discovery process. I know how much happier you are. I hope that everyone around you can see it too, even if they might not agree with your decision to leave the church. You are an incredible person. I love you so much.

    • I’m so glad you’ve noticed those changes. I think losing the judgmental attitude has been one of the greatest benefits I’ve gained from leaving the church. Even if I didn’t say anything, I guess in my subconscious efforts to “perfect the saints,” you could always tell when I thought you were doing something the church didn’t approve of. It’s so nice to just love people for who they are now, without worrying about their eternal salvation.

      I always felt happy in the church, but I am so much more happy now. And my relationships are much more genuine and interesting, too. It’s been a refreshing pleasure getting to know each other again. It’s like a fake layer has been peeled off of our skin and we’re seeing who we are more clearly than ever before. I love you, Sis!

  6. What would we be if we weren’t Mormon. That’s all we knew. I really respect you and others who have based their decision to leave the church on study and self exploration. I like you had no idea what my life would become with out “the church”, but unlike you I needed no study because there is no place in the church for a person like me. I had no choice. I wonder sometimes if I had been straight if I’d still be a Mormon. I hope to god not. Like your mom I’m impressed how quickly you worked through the anger. I have recently discovered that I still have it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Paul. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been growing up gay in the church. It’s amazing how much damage can be done by intolerance, judgment, and worse.

  7. Well done AND said Brandon. I read your letter when you first sent it to Paul. I was so proud to know you. The time, effort, and research you put in paid off for you and will do so for many others. I sent it to my brother and a couple of friends who all asked if it was OK to share with others because they knew friends and family that were struggling with their own situations of “growing up Mormon” and knowing nothing else and feeling like if there was not “The Church”…what is left?

    Like Paul, I’m not sure I would have left the church if I wasn’t gay. Definitely a plus to get outside of the church and be able to see from the other side. The anger Paul alludes to is still there for me too. What the Mormon church put me through and what they put Paul through because we were gay is unforgivable.

    I’m fine with my family and friends who choose to remain in the Mormon church, but I long for them to step back and take a look – like you did so completely – at the big picture.

    The damage they have done – and continue to do – to young gay Mormons is tragic.

    Thanks for letting me add my 2 cents.

    • Thanks Craig. I’m glad you and others have found my letter helpful. Please feel free to share it with anyone you think might benefit from it. I’m sorry for how you were treated by the church. I was so blind to it myself until I start seeing things from the other side. It will be interesting to see if they ever change their doctrines about homosexuality, like they have on so many other important issues.

  8. Brandon– I don’t know you, but do know your Mom. I have always admired her for her independence and her bravery to reach out and create a new life for herself. I can just imagine how she felt when you gave her this news. The barriers that have been up between me and most of my children since I left the church have been very painful, and make my life at times feel as those there is a door on the past that needs to be shut, but cannot be because of the “elephant” in the room I feel whenever I’m with my children and grandchildren. Good luck to you in all the adventures and growth you will be feeling in the next few years.

  9. I completly and whole heartedly support you! I also left the church many years ago as an adolescent after feeling even at that young age that the teachings did not speak to my heart, and did not align with my moral center. I cannot support a religion that oppreses free thinking, i could go on for pages and pages…

    I feel you have written something that came from deep within and a place of love and understanding, its beautiful, thank you!

  10. Very well said! I left the church over 13 years ago, and still to this day feel judged by some family and friends for the decision I made. You and your family are inspiring to me, and I wish you all the luck with your “new life” : )

  11. To both of you I offer a congratulations!! Not for leaving the church but for digging deep inside yourselves to find out who you really were and what would benefit you all best in your life. It is such a difficult thing to do. You should be very proud! I applaud you!

  12. Brandon, congrats on this new chapter in your life. I know firsthand that leaving the church can be very scary, but many new adventures and experiences now await you. You’re so lucky to have one of the coolest mothers in the world, and clearly, she’s behind you 100%.

    I wish you the best, my friend!

    Sandy Anderson
    Ellensburg, WA

  13. Brandon –

    Reading your letter was incredible and inspiring, and caused me to realize some things about not just your own journey – of which I had some guesses, but never really understood just how difficult and painful it must have been – but also about myself, and how I need to pay more attention to my “world filter”.

    I feel a little silly saying it (I shouldn’t) but literally everything about you is an inspiration to me and this is absolutely no exception. This has been an amazing read and I’m glad you have been able to come out and openly express your decision. I hope it continues to be just as rewarding!

  14. Thank you for sharing your letter. I know how much sincere consideration and effort went into this letter. Deciding to take your lives on a different path from the familiar and comfortable one you had always known was scary and painful. But it is so important to take the path that your heart tells you that you should.

    Not only is it hard to leave the familiar path, it is also painful to discover that people you thought were your friends will reject you if you are not on the same they have chosen. I admire you for being true to yourself, and being open with those you know and care about, even though you’ve found some who have turned their backs on you.

    As I mentioned previously, I believe those who respond with disrespect, intolerance and condemnation are simply showing us all their true character.

    It was wonderful to spend the time with your sweet family in Hawaii and get to see how happy, content and full of joy you all are. Although you have always been sincere, as Ashley mentioned in her comments above it is apparent that your relationships are much more “real” and rewarding now that you are on this new path. I am happy for you and proud of you.

  15. Back in the early ‘70s there was quite a movement in the LDS church towards proof of “spiritual” things – archeological findings in South America, the Dead Sea Scrolls containing the temple ceremony, etc. One of the books us missionaries had to have was Hugh Nibley’s Since Cumorah. I recall the catch phrase “you’ll not be given brownie points for believing on faith anymore” from one of the popular talks of the day. I remember thinking that is was so cool that all this “research” was “proving” the validity of the teachings of the church. Surely the world would now understand the fullness of the gospel and hear of “the one true church!”

    Of course, that fad faded, the “evidence” became less viable over time, and the “proof” of the truthfulness of the church became more spiritual. Such is the nature of our spiritual existence. Almost by definition spiritual experiences can’t be proven. Those connections with the spiritual remain outside the world of our physical existence, yet thrive in our conscience – that world in our head we all live in. And yet religion continues to try to manipulate and control not only the people but also that spiritual world in people’s heads. I have a pretty healthy disdain for most all religious endeavors, because religions have come to have so little to do with what’s spiritual and so much to do with exerting power and control over non-spiritual things. The LDS church may get a little heavier dose of that disdain, but I believe that’s only because that’s the church I was brought up in, that’s the church I know more about than any other. (Brandon, I particularly like the section in your paper about the glasses that we wear and the way that colors our perceptions and views.)

    I really enjoyed your paper because it talks about navigating the physical world you live while trying to be true to the spiritual world that lives within you. Balancing those is no easy feat, and, as you’ve discovered, is practically impossible within a church culture. Good job.

    Ok, to be honest, my favorite part is the jokes at the end…..

  16. I particularly liked your list of benefits that have come from leaving the church. I agree that, and it seems counter-intuitive to religious people, one’s love and forgiveness of others increases with the absence of religion.

  17. Wow, is the only word that honestly comes to mind right at this moment. I truly do love your family and especially my amazing cousin Jen. This statement brought tears to my eyes and I have never had a feeling overwhelm me of darkness as much as I just did reading your letter. I am so sad to hear your new feelings of the church. My first question is this just your decision has your entire family made similar beliefs and choices?
    From my perspective I can honestly say that I do consider all sides of being a member and of not being a member. I see through both glasses and try to open my mind. I ask questions and ponder thoughts to make sure I am doing what I know in my heart to be right. Yet still as you mentioned in your letter that you can not imagine walking away from such a powerful feeling of the spirit and Holy Ghost when you know it to be true. As you know I have not been always the strongest member or to what I used to consider you and Jen as the leaders of the church. I have faultered, I have always been apart of the church and at times know that I was doing it for more of expectations than for myself. Although I can say now with a strong conviction that I know the church is true.
    I am honestly having water in my eyes just imagining a moment where my Aunt Kim is looking down on what once was her daughter and family with such strong beliefs. To completely swing the opposite direction and to be tearing apart those beliefs. I am very sorry for the feelings you have. I pray that one day you will find answers to the questions you seek and have the ability to stand before the Lord with a loving heart and open arms. Your letter brought me feelings of turning your back on the Lord and all that he has testified of his truthfulness. I had to stop reading your letter about half way through and don’t know if you answer this question or not, but what do you believe now? Doesn’t the thought of leaving that eternal family just make you cry?
    I still love your family and will pray for you to receive what you need to find the true church and whichever that may be. I am sorry if these words offend you. I honestly feel like Hell just froze over and I probably should have let the dust settle before I responded.

    • Oh, Cassidy. You’re so sweet! :) Thanks for caring so much about us and expressing your concern. I know it’s hard to see us make this choice, and it probably seems like we’re giving up everything good in our lives. Know that we love you, too, and that we’re still the same good, loving people we were before. We just believe different things, like your brothers and sisters of different faiths across the world. I’m happy that you’re happy in the church, and I don’t mean to take you from that. I was really happy there, too, and I think it’s helpful for many people.

      I don’t know how far you got in the document, but it sounds like maybe the “Smaller Things” section. Please, if it makes you feel that bad, don’t feel like you have to finish it. I actually thought about leaving that section out, because it contains much of the history that the church asks its members to avoid. But in the end, I decided to leave it in order to be thorough, but with a clause to “skim” it if you prefer. I hope I didn’t offend you. The rest of the document (starting “Dealing with the Evidence”) should be more digestible, though, and will answer some of your other questions about how we feel about it all and what we believe now, if you decide to continue reading. But really, no pressure.

      To answer your questions, my mom left the church about 10 years ago, which initially made me feel similar to how you feel now. But this was a very personal decision I came to after a lot of pondering and study, and was not influenced by her choice. As for what I believe now (page 26 of my document), I’m much more open minded about what’s true. I don’t claim to know the answers about even the existence of god or life after death (and therefore eternal families), but I try to interpret the evidence and my experiences in a way that makes sense to me. Hopefully, you’ll believe me when I say that I’ve never been happier or more at peace than I am now. And that’s saying a lot because I was VERY happy in Mormonism! Although I didn’t used to believe that people could really be happy outside the church. Or at least I thought they would be more happy with the gospel than without. After meeting some incredibly good and happy people outside the church, it’s become evident to me that you can be happy either way.

      I don’t know what other consoling words I can say. But I hope you know that we love you no less than we did before, and we completely support you in your decision to stay in the church. Thanks again for caring enough to write.

  18. Brandon,

    I must first point out that it is not fear or you pointing things out to me about the church that made me stop reading. It was the inability to listen to accusations and opinions that brought a terrible feeling of giving satan power over me that made me stop reading. I believe it is a good thing to challenge your faith to build testimony. Although having said that your paper is not based on facts it is based on opinions and ex-mormon writings (Meaning fake documentations). I honestly can say that I do not judge people for being other religions or faiths. I believe that people have a right to choose and have that CHOICE that the Lord gave us to come to this earth. I just hope that Jennifer is honestly looking at her own beliefs and not following your straight out of being isolated from her family and beliefs. It makes me cry thinking of Kim watching down on this. I have never met anyone more Christ like and someone with as much faith as Kim and I know that passed to Jennifer. The Jennifer that has been such an example to me of faith throughout my childhood would never completely loose sight of the things her grandmother and mother taught her.

    Below I have to make a few points on your beliefs or things you have gained by leaving the church.

    “I don’t judge people as much.”- Not sure you can put the blame of this on the church and say you left this in our church, because we are taught not to judge people. If you remember primary lessons teaching of love and being Christ like. This is wonderful that you have found the ability to not judge people but lets be honest sounds like a personal choice of a change of your own heart and nothing to do with the church. Can imagine a world where we taught our children to judge people based on their beliefs and choices. We are not here to judge each other. In fact the only persons judgment that does matter is the Lords! We were put here on this earth to make choices to make mistakes and do our very best to be like Christ and return to our Heavenly Father.

    “I have more free time.” Hello, seriously of course you have more free time. Having no faith and no beliefs. It is harder to be a member than to not. The Lord asks us to sacrifice and to give our talents and abilities to help build the church. One Quote is all I am going to say, “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.”

    “I don’t feel guilty or judged by God for every mistake I make.”- Again what do you believe then I have yet to hear what you believe. You stated you believe in God but not quite sure he is a person or what he is. What the heck do you think we came to earth for? Seems like a pretty empty life to come to this earth and have no faith.

    You know covenants that you made and that there will be a day of judgment. Again it has nothing to do with you leaving that has brought me such anger. It is the fact that you are writing such a paper denying CRHIST and the Lord. Many people choose to believe other things and I respect them for their choice. I hope you will not continue promoting and trying to turn people from the church with false accusations and FAKE websites that are not true documentations. At least base your statements from factual documents and not made up ones.

    Your statement of “Maybe it’s caused you to reassess your own beliefs. If not, then you probably didn’t take off your Mormon glasses to try to see things from a new perspective.”-I don’t agree with a lot of your paper. My one thing I really want to point out are the false accusations about the Prophet Joseph Smith. You off all people should know how easy it is to create false documents and writings and spread them on the internet to have people waiver from the truth. I believe that nobody can make accusations such as the ones you have brought up and try to bring false documents proving them to be true. The only people who would actually know the truth about that moment is the people in that moment and not Ex-Mormons creating webpages designed for the specific purpose of spreading false facts and statements to destroy peoples beliefs.

    Again I can not imagine a life without the belief in Christ and the Lord and will pray for your family.

    • Wow, after my kind reply, I’m kind of shocked to hear your accusations. I’m sorry I misunderstood your reason for not reading further. I know I would have felt similar negative feelings had I read the document as a believing member. I have since called into question where those feelings are actually coming from (for example, maybe it’s fear or anger or guilt, rather than Satan), but I know how hard it is to break out of our mindsets and see things from another perspective, especially when we’re already so sure that we’re right. I’ve been there, but I no longer am.

      I’m glad you think it’s good to challenge your faith. How do you think that’s best accomplished? You seem certain that any document or reference that speaks against the church must have been forged for the purpose of discrediting the church. I hope you don’t think that I would simply take the word of an ex-Mormon website without doing my research to see if the documents they referenced were valid. I was actually surprised to learn that most of the condemning evidence against the church is found in the church’s own publications. Have you ever read the Journal of Discourses? Or the multi-volume History of the Church? There are a lot of disturbing things in there. Heck, there are a lot of disturbing things in the scriptures! (I mentioned God commanding his people to murder, pillage, and even rape multiple times as one example.). Also, I’m not sure if you noticed, but in my document, I referenced many pro-LDS sources and scholarly sites, and encouraged you to do the research on your own. I told you not to rely on my opinion (I’m sure you won’t). It’s just my interpretation of the evidence I’ve seen. But don’t make the false assumption that the references are invalid just because you don’t agree with them. You can go to the sources yourself and see. You can even get a hard copy book if it makes you feel better than reading it online.

      As hard as I know it is for you to accept, the sources I referenced were not fabricated, and if you look into it, you’ll see that as well. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean the church is false. We all draw our own conclusions from the evidence that we find, and many people still choose to believe after seeing the same things I have seen. But they don’t deny that they are a true part of Mormon history. For some pro-Mormon sites that discuss these things openly, but in an attempt to preserve faith, check out http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu (FARMS), http://mormonstories.org, http://staylds.com, and http://fairlds.org.

      I think it’s very insulting to say that Jennifer just followed me along on this. Certainly we were influenced by being away from our culture, and some of the amazing people we met there both inside and outside of the church. Travel has a way of enlarging your perspective in many ways. But she came to her conclusion about the church on her own maybe even quicker than I did. She was also the main instigator of our move offshore, not me. She’s a smart one, and not a sheep. Please give her credit for that.

      Your comments on the benefits I’ve gained from leaving:
      - “I don’t judge people as much.” You’re right, this is more about me than about the church. But it’s a benefit I don’t know if I would have come to within the church. While the church teaches its members not to judge, it also teaches them that they are the special chosen ones with a sacred duty to convert everyone else in the world to Mormonism so that they can be happy, too. There’s little room for allowing or even recognizing that people can be and are VERY happy outside of the church, just as they are. This realization hits home even more when you remember that Utah has the #1 highest rates of depression in the U.S. (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695231614/Utah-leads-the-nation-in-rates-of-depression.html). This isn’t necessarily because of the church, but it does make me wonder.
      - “I have more free time.” I’m glad you found that obvious. Still, it’s an important benefit I’ve gained. “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.” — Who exactly are you quoting there? And why believe a statement just because somebody said it? Does it make sense to you that things would have to be difficult?
      - “I don’t feel guilty or judged by God for every mistake I make” You asked what I believe as if you’re expecting me to list some doctrine, but it’s not quite that way for me anymore. I don’t believe nor disbelieve in God. I see some reasons to believe in him and some reasons not to, so I’m withholding my belief until I come upon further evidence. I think the evidence for God as a creator of the universe is stronger, for example, than the evidence for a personal god that interacts in our daily lives. Maybe life really has no purpose. That was a difficult question I faced and yes that did seem empty when I first considered it. But I’ve learned to enjoying embracing life’s mysteries.

      You mentioned covenants, but they became meaningless to me when I realized that the Temple was simply copied from Masonry (which many believing LDS scholars admit). See http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Latter-day_Saints_and_Freemasonry.html (this is a 100% PRO-LDS site for defending the faith)

      I know how hard it is to imagine a life without a belief in Christ. We could hardly bear to think about it ourselves. But to be true to ourselves, we had to face the pain of it, and much more. I hope you can recognize how difficult of an experience this was for us and show some compassion, as the Savior you believe in would do.

      • I was going to point may of these things out on your behalf, Brandon, but you’ve done a wonderful job of explaining yourself (and kindly, once again) to Cassie.

        But I will say that anyone who assumes that any document or website that contradicts their current belief is “fake” will not likely be swayed be evidence and facts. So don’t be surprised or discouraged if Cassie continues to “dwindle in disbelief” :)

        It’s much easier and safer to write off any contradictory evidence to our beliefs as fake, false, misleading – and saves us from actually having to READ all of those “fake” documents. :)

        Truth is, many people simply don’t want to consider the alternative – it’s too scary, painful or unthinkable that there might actually be some truth to the evidence against the truthfulness of the church (or any other cherished belief).

        So they stay where they feel safe – and there is nothing wrong with that if it’s where they want to be. It’s just obnoxious when they think the rest of us should stay there too.

  19. once again Brandon, You rock! Paul and I were talking last night about how much fun it would be to spend time with you guys now that the barriers you and your mom and Ashley discuss are no longer there.

    We are very happy for your family’s newly enhanced happiness and adventures in exploring life on the planet. hope to see you some time in the future!

    • That would be awesome, Craig! We’ve been thinking the same thing and are looking forward to spending more time with you guys.

  20. I have a few more observations to share about you and your family – having been the family member who has spent the most time with you since you made this decision (about 7 weeks in all, during 2011).

    Brandon & Jen didn’t go on this quest to hurt anyone, or challenge anyone’s faith. And the idea that either of them would simply accept some anti-mormon propaganda as truth is ludicrous. And Jen has always had her own mind – never a sheep. She’s not afraid to speak up and share her thoughts. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is that she is now more comfortable in her own skin – a happier person, open to giving and receiving even more love than before.

    They both did their own research, pondering, praying. I watched as their lives crumbled before them – many tears were shed as they dealt with the shock, pain and fear…. (one of the fears being how friends and family would respond).

    But then I got to witness them emerging from their own darkness to the other side… …where the they discovered a world that was light and bright, open, beautiful and very welcoming – and where possibilities were endless. They were the same people, but different – happier, lighter, more expansive, bigger vision for themselves and their future.

    You (Cassie, and others who believe as she does) likely can’t see that from where you are – can’t even believe it exists… but for those of us who have actually made the journey through the the dark and scary forest of questioning our faith and come out the other side – it’s absolutely beautiful over here and we’d never go back.

    LOL… just realized it’s kind of like the idea I was taught at church… “if we knew how beautiful even the lowest degree of glory in heaven was, we’d kill ourselves to get there” (of course, killing ourselves would disqualify us from the highest realm). But that’s what it’s like. Life after Mormonism has been a wonderful, beautiful world that I couldn’t believe existed until I made the hard journey and found it. Just wish I’d had the courage to make the journey many years earlier in my life (and would have, if I knew how great it would be once I got here!).

    If I were to relate this back to any scripture, it would be “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Well, Brandon and Jen are producing some pretty great fruit.

    The love they feel for each other, for their friends and family, and for their fellow man, just radiates from them. They are their authentic, true selves and it is a joy to behold (and be around).

    They are happy, peaceful, open, kind, generous and caring. They are touching lives for the better wherever they go, and truly care about their fellow man.

    They are raising smart, happy, confident and adventurous daughters who are growing up learning to love, accept and care about others as they are – as well as to know that they can do and be anything they want. Did you notice what 8 year old Emily wanted for both her birthday and Christmas this year? Nothing for herself – she wanted to help those in need instead.

    Though it may not be the life or belief system you would choose for yourself, the lives they are living are perfect for them.

  21. I really have nothing further to say. Like I said before I am incredibly shocked that one could actually have such faith in Christ. Not Mormonism! Faith in Christ as our savior, God our Heavenly Father as our creator to the complete opposite. How can you deny Christ after having the spririt tell you its true. It reminds me of how shocked I am when I hear of Laman and Lemuel denying Hevenly Father wishes right after they see an angel. It seems something that I can not even picture doing and believing.

    Misery does love company and there are plenty of people who can leave the church but for some reason just can’t leave it alone. Go ahead and leave the church that is your right and choice. All I am asking is that you do it with respect of not tearing it apart because of your own beliefs. Leaving in the manor in which you are as your mother stated, “Trying to Swayed people who are still apart of the church”. Doesn’t seem right. Of course Satan is all over tearing apart the church. This is his playground that is his purpose here.

    Again please tell Jennifer that I love her very dearly and will think of her and your family.

    I know how tempting it is to believe in what I see as worldly selfish things such as a few of the benefits I stated from your paper earlier like: More money for myself, the ability to live a lifestyle with no boundaries or someone telling me I am not supposed to do certain things, more time for myself, etc….. To me the keyword in all those statements in MYSELF. Or coming acrossed as the inner child that is more selfish. We all have this inner child that we just have to keep in check because life isn’t just about ourselves. Its about everything we are taught in religions.

    I have nothing further to say and really don’t want to debate with you and that was never my intentions. I just wanted to point out that I am very saddened to hear your harsh thoughts and accusations that I honestly have looked at and believe that they are false. It’s not out of the unwillingness to do the research where in the world would crap like that come from and accusations how could they ever be proven but by Joseph Smith himself? They can’t, really!

    I love my savior and I know that he came to earth for the purpose of the atonement. This world was created by our Heavenly Father and again believe what you will. I just can’t stand by and hear you say that Christ did not come here and die for me. I need to testify to you that I can not deny Christ or Heavenly Father. Please be respectful and make your choices and let me believe what I believe.

    Best of luck

    • I’m afraid my statement wasn’t clear (and you misquoted it, to boot). Brandon is not trying to sway you, or anyone else, to his way of thinking, Cassidie. You came up with that one all on your own. Brandon was simply stating that there is strong, factual evidence in the documents you easily dismiss as “fake.”

      What I meant was that if you can summarily dismiss any evidence and facts you don’t like as fake, then you will never be swayed to believe that Brandon and Jennifer actually researched and came to their conclusions with integrity. It’s pointless for him to try and convince you otherwise.

      His letter was an explanation of his own journey to those who were interested. If you feel like Brandon’s life journey is one of selfishness, you haven’t been paying attention and don’t clearly know Brandon.

    • Hi Cassidie, I completely understand the pain of feeling like the the savior you believe in so strongly is being denied by someone else. I have felt those same pains. I totally respect your choice to believe in Christ, and I don’t mean to hurt you or ridicule your sincere beliefs, or sway you from your faith. You’re welcome to believe whatever you like and I’ll love you the same. However, when you make false accusations against me and my intentions, I will correct them.

      You asked “How can you deny Christ after having the spirit tell you its true?” I covered this in great detail in the beginning of my letter. Did you read it? This was the main issue that led me to question my faith. In short, I saw that people of other faiths felt the same powerful spiritual feelings, yet took it as a witness that their beliefs are true (and those beliefs contradicted mine). How do you reconcile that contradiction yourself? In the end I came to the conclusion that when I feel spiritual feelings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a Holy Ghost or a Christ is speaking to me or that the church is true. Other people have these same feelings, and interpret them very differently. I simply never questioned the way the church taught me interpret these feelings, but when I did, I found no reason to believe their interpretation over any other.

      If you read my letter, you’ll know that I didn’t leave the church for the benefits, or for any worldly pursuits. To the contrary, most of the benefits came as a surprise to me after I left. My reason for leaving the church is none other than what I stated in my letter: because I found it to not be all it claims to be, and chose to follow my integrity in that regard, as difficult as that decision was. But I will say that a life without religious boundaries is wonderful, and it does not make a person selfish. In fact, I feel more concerned than ever about the welfare of humanity and helping those in need, and I do help them. So does Emily, as you’ve seen. :)

      You said, “Where in the world would crap like that come from and accusations how could they ever be proven but by Joseph Smith himself?” You’re right that we can’t know what was in Joseph’s head or his true motivations. No one can, not even you. But we do have his own writings, and writings he dictated to his scribes. And writings of other prophets and apostles. And church-commissioned historical records. I assume you believe these sources to be true, and not “fake,” but these are the very sources that led me to my conclusions about the church. If you’ve studied them thoroughly and reached different conclusions, great. But calling the accusations “fake” just shows you haven’t given these documents serious study, and you aren’t being true to your own religion in denying them. Remember, active LDS scholars all admit that the evidence I’ve presented in my letter is true. It’s in church documents! They just disagree with me about what some of it means.

      Let me give one example to make sure we understand one another. Joseph Smith married his house maid, Fanny Alger, and other girls as young as 14, while keeping the secret from his wife, Emma. That’s a fact. Joseph himself later admitted it (See D&C 132) and it made Emma furious, and the church’s own genealogical website clearly shows that he did it: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/af/individual_record.asp?recid=7762167 What’s not fact is how you interpret the data. Joseph said God commanded him to do it. But there are good reasons to believe other explanations. You decide how you will interpret the data after reviewing all of it (not just the stuff you like or agree with). If that’s all you’re saying, then we’re on the same page. Your opinion is as good as mine, and I’ll love you the same no matter which interpretation you believe. It doesn’t change who you are or who I am.

  22. So i have been reading and trying to stay out of this but since the MOM feels she cannot let Brandon answer his own – I feel like I also need to speak up on Cassidie’s defense. We really do not care what Brandon or Jennifer choose to beliieve in or not – that is totally up to them. We have our own life to think about and wish that they would have not chosen this but totally accept it. We love them very much and hope that they do find peace somewhere out there. We are not questioning that you have left the church what we are having a hard time with is the so called not Anti-Mormon paper. Seriously to spend this much time on a paper and say it is not to get others to agree with your views?? Why else do people write papers or views – it is totally to get your point out to others. And one this long, if this is what you spend time on not trying to persuade others I cannot imagine what one would look like that you did. All Brandon and Jennifer had to say was we are leaving the church and that would have been fine with everyone. He also could have left it on his blogue but instead he chose to put it out on Face Book for more attention. Either way it really doesn’t matter. It is not a debate – Brandon and Jennifer you have made your choice and we have made ours and we wish you well and hope that you will be happy.

    • Hi Kelley & Corey, nice to see your post on here. Thanks for caring enough to join the conversation. :) The reason you didn’t see me answering Cassidy more quickly is because I was asleep halfway across the world in a different time zone. :) (I replied to her at 2:30 AM right before I hit the sack.) But I do appreciate my mom’s comments, as I do yours. My mom has been a great and loving support to us through this difficult transition, and I hope you can respect that.

      I’m glad that you totally accept that we’ve chosen different beliefs, as we accept you. Hopefully you can also see that we are happy and at peace with our beliefs, as we believe you are in yours.

      You seem convinced that my paper is an anti-Mormon document with the intent to sway others to my way of thinking. I admit that it would stroke my ego if someone were to come to the same conclusions I have after reading my document. Psychologically, all of us want to be validated in our beliefs. In that way, I’m no different than you. But it sounds like you’d only be content if we had announced that we left the church without explaining why. The trouble is, that doesn’t leave us feeling understood. People make assumptions that we left because we got offended or wanted to “sin,” (such as you wrote to Jen in your letter) and that’s hurtful to us, and insulting to our integrity, goodness, and intelligence. I had heard enough of these rumors and was tired of being misunderstood. I wrote this document to clarify why we really left, and also to help others understand how difficult of a decision it was for us. We were hoping for empathy and understanding, not more labeling and judgment. Fortunately, many both within and out of the church have chosen to show it to us.

      While the thought processes and references I wrote about in my document did persuade me to leave the church, I made it very clear that the purpose of the letter was not to dissuade you, but to get you to think for yourself. I gave many references to pro-LDS sources and encouraged you to come to your own conclusions, and not believe my opinion or any of these sources without your own serious research and reflection. I also stated at the beginning that if you’re offended by the idea that I don’t believe the church is true, then please don’t read the rest of the document! You didn’t have to read it if you didn’t want to know why we left. But a lot of people do want to know, and have thanked me for writing and sharing it (yes, active Mormons, too).

      As offensive as you have found my document, many active LDS have read it and replied stating that the information was accurate, well presented, tactful, and handled gracefully and without judgment, even though they disagreed with my conclusions. The fact that you cannot see this as others do says more about where you’re coming from and your own insecurities (or perhaps devotion) than it does about the document itself.

      Jen and I both value open and honest communication, and we appreciate that you’ve written us with your concerns. Hopefully you can begin to see us as the good people we are, and not assume malicious intent in our honest quest to understand ourselves and to be understood by those we love, including you.

  23. Obviously there are people reading and responding to a post such as this who are reacting emotionally, no matter which side of Mormonism they find themselves on. I can’t blame anyone for that, because a person’s belief system can be an integral part of who they are and there are strong emotions that come along with that. I admit I am saddened at your news, Brandon. I think I am sad simply because for ME the church is everything that makes me feel whole and happy. To be honest, even if it ended up not being true at all (which I don’t personally believe is the case), it is the way I want to live MY life. You’ve taken what you’ve learned and decided how you want to live YOUR life. Everyone has the right to believe as they choose and no matter what anyone’s beliefs are or how they change, kindness and compassion can always be exercised.

    • Very insightful comment, Lauren. Thanks for sharing. I agree that we can always show compassion and respect and it’s especially necessary (yet more difficult) when discussing emotional topics.

      I also remember feeling that the church made me happy and that it was how I wanted to live my life. I think that’s awesome! It’s a good life. What surprised me was that after I left, I found myself and my life to be basically the same. My morals and goals and desires haven’t really changed. I just have different beliefs about how life came about and why, and I see some things differently. Isn’t it great that we can all live in this world together happily while holding different views? The diversity I’ve encountered in my travels, especially, has very much enriched my life.

  24. Hi Brandon –

    You don’t know me. I found your blog through a friend and realized that we had similar backgrounds – I also am a musician, served a mission, and am interested in world travel. I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels, and I am compelled by your very sincere attempts to understand and expand your spirituality.
    I found your document very interesting. After beginning my doctoral degree a few years ago, I too began to investigate the history of the church, and looked at many of the sites you noted. It was a challenging time for me as well, and I struggled with many of the same issues that you mentioned. As I personally worked through these issues and looked at the evidence on both sides, I came to the conclusion that there was in fact evidence to support both sides of the argument, and both sides could be compelling. I found that depending which “glasses” I put on, the “evidence” from both sides looked different. This was perplexing to my critical, rational sensibilities.
    I’ve also had the privilege of being in contact with seasoned scholars who have investigated the church and its history in much more detail than I probably ever could (Richard Bushman is in my ward, for example). Many of these individuals that I’ve spoken with have dealt with very problematic Church history issues that I’m not even aware of, and they are thoughtful, highly critical scholars of history and church history. They are also very active in the church.
    I think this is interesting in and of itself. If the evidence was truly conclusive on either side, why wouldn’t thoughtful, rational people come to the same conclusions?
    As I’ve thought about this and considered my own experience, I wonder if there is a reason that the evidence isn’t exactly conclusive either way. The evidence seems to “serve” the perspective that I frame it with.
    I wonder if what it really comes down to is a question of agency – that we choose what we want to be true, what we want to love? I think about this quote by Terryl Givens often. It’s kind of lengthy, but I think worth the read:
    “I believe that we are—as reflective, thinking, pondering seekers—much like the proverbial ass of Buridan. If you remember, the beast starved to death because he was faced with two equally desirable and equally accessible piles of hay. Having no determinative reason to choose one over the other, he perished in indecision. In the case of us mortals, men and women are confronted with a world in which there are appealing arguments for God as a childish projection, for modern prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for modern scriptures as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious divinity presides over the cosmos, that God calls and anoints prophets, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. There is, as with the ass of Buridan, nothing to compel an individual’s preference for one over the other. But in the case of us mortals, there is something to tip the scale. There is something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of unbelief. There is a heart that in these conditions of equilibrium and balance—and only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally “enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:16)—is truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness.”

    If that is the case–and this is my question–do you think that the choices that you’ve made recently regarding your activity say more about who you are than what the evidence is? And don’t misunderstand my intention here – I think that understanding who we are is indeed a journey that is worth pursuing–perhaps the most important one. But I am curious what you think, as a fellow seeker. What is the role of agency here?

    I will continue to have a great respect for you, maybe we can meet sometime.

    • Nate, you’ve echoed so many of the feelings and thought processes I went through on my journey, and you’ve asked some excellent questions! It’s great to meet you and thanks for commenting and getting me to think some more.

      It seems apparent to both of us, and I’m sure anyone who’s taken the time to see with and without the Mormon glasses, that the evidence can be compelling from both perspectives. And it’s true that very thoughtful and rational people have taken both sides of the issue. Why the split? Shouldn’t it be obvious after seeing the evidence?

      These are great questions! I think you’re right in stating that more goes into the choice than simply a weighing of evidence. We try to be objective, but we’re all biased to some degree. Someone may stay in the church because of subconscious emotional ties or fear of the unknown. Someone may leave the church because of a subconscious desire for change or discontent with the church’s restrictions. There are lots of reasons we could go into and they would be as varied as the individuals themselves. But in these cases, are the glasses really gone? Is some evidence being overlooked or brushed aside unknowingly? Possibly so. I can’t really say.

      However, I will say that I personally don’t see the scales as equal with regard to the evidence. Perhaps this is just because I’m writing without my glasses at the moment, but even if the evidence were equal on both sides, one thing that tips the scale for me is that there are so many issues to begin with. Sure the issues can be answered, but doesn’t the fact that they exist at all make you wonder? If the church were truly revealed by God, then why all the inconsistencies to explain and challenging problems to solve? Wouldn’t God’s true church be more coherent, more consistent, and less error prone? Yes the explanations of these issue make sense (some more than others) within the context of Mormonism, but those explanations don’t usually make sense outside of that context. And again, why are the issues there at all?

      Perhaps it’s just due to the mistakes of men, but is that really true for all of the issues? (You could go through each one and decide for yourself). Or perhaps God set it up this way as a trial of faith to see who would choose to believe his church on their own accord, without regard to the evidence. However, most people don’t make it far enough in their search for truth to get that kind of trial, and are fed evidence from only one side. In that case, perhaps some need the trial and others don’t. But now we’re just getting more speculative, and the further we travel down this road, the more questions we will have to answer, and the less certain the answers will become. I found this to be the case with many of the explanations of the church’s historical and doctrinal discrepancies. Most answers brought up additional questions with even less certain answers. To me, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, it seemed similar to an elaborate lie that starts small, but as it’s challenged, more lies are added to cover up the fault in the old ones, and in the end it becomes an elaborate story that makes some sense, but is also left with some gaping holes.

      Certainly there are unanswered questions outside the church as well. Science can’t say with certainty what caused the Big Bang, or what makes the laws of physics work as they do. But at least they admit that. And if they speculate, they label it as speculation, which honesty I appreciate. Spiritual explanations also exist to answer questions that science can’t, but that also take objective evidence into account more than most religions do. You may enjoy a fascinating book I’ve been reading called “War of the Worldviews” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307886883/?tag=wwwbrandagsco-20) that pits science against spirituality in a friendly and thought-provoking debate. Through reading, I’ve come to appreciate both the power and limitations of science, as well as the wonder and beauty of spirituality, though I make no claims at this point to my beliefs on the subject.

      In all honesty, I can’t say for certain that I’m seeing things from the correct viewpoint, if there even is one. Saying that would close my mind to future learning and growth. But I’m interpreting the evidence I see in a way that makes the most sense to me while trying to take into account as big of picture as I can see, which fortunately now, thanks mostly to my travels, includes many more peoples, religions, and cultures than the one I grew up in.

  25. I want to say thank you to Brandon and his family. I too have left the Mormon church. About 6 months ago I really started questioning the teachings of the church after having an appointment with the bishop. I started to do research and visited many websites, some anti-Mormon some not. I did nit care for the anti-Mormon sites as they carried on with things that just didn’t feel good. However, I found many sites such as http://mormonstories.org, http://staylds.com, and http://fairlds.org and FARMS.

    It was several moths later that I heard about the Pearce’s journey. I have been following ever since and it has really helped me through some very difficult times.

    Thank you Beandon! I will continue to follow you in your adventures!

    • Thanks for your comment, Shannon. I agree that most anti-Mormon sites are just too negative and biased to be very useful in coming to an understanding of the truth. I’m so glad you found my document helpful. Best wishes to you on your new life!

  26. I find these angry and combative comments very saddening and confusing. I wish that people could understand THIS IS NOT ABOUT THEM, and not be taking it personally. This is about Brandon & Jen, what they have learned, and in what directions they are heading. There is no call to get nasty or angry or defensive. I just don’t understand these reactions. Particularly when someone will initially profess to love Brandon & Jen and then turn around and attack them for being open and honest. It’s just not called for, and it’s truly sad.

    Cassidie and Kelley, you did make the choice to read Brandon’s paper. You were warned on page 1 that “if you are a believing member of the church, this document may be difficult for you to read, and may stir up uncomfortable emotions” but you apparently continued on, at least to a point. Take some responsibility here for your own feelings and actions. Don’t blame Brandon for your anger. And why choose take this personally? The fact that Brandon has written this is not the problem. You taking offense at it is actually the only problem.

    If you are happy in Mormonism, great! Be steadfast in your faith and let nothing shake it. Or, take a broader view, take off those glasses and see if life and the world around you look different. Either is fine; no one is telling you what to do here. And if you are indeed secure in your faith, the conclusions and realizations that Brandon & Jen have come to have no bearing on you. Why get defensive? I will say it again, as kindly as possible. This really, truly isn’t about you; it wasn’t meant as an personal attack on your family or anyone else, so please don’t choose to take offense.

    Kelley, your comment that “All Brandon and Jennifer had to say was we are leaving the church and that would have been fine with everyone” is incorrect. That may be what you would have preferred, so less people learned of Brandon’s findings, but that’s not true. Many people were very interested in hearing about his discoveries and his reasoning for leaving Mormonism. Fortunately, not everyone has reacted so badly. Many of their friends have been genuinely interested, and even those who who were saddened by the news or may not agree with Brandon & Jen’s findings, could still express their love and support in a sincere and gracious way, without accusing, attacking, blaming, or feeling persecuted because Brandon sees things differently (and had the audacity to say so!!). I personally have found this to be a very enlightening experience, in that it has clearly shown who are Brandon & Jen’s true friends and who are not.

    As I read through the comments, it is so interesting to note which writers express themselves in a calm, sensitive, logical and kind way and which writers are angry, rude or throwing accusations. It’s also surprising to see how many people seem to think they can see inside Brandon’s head and heart, and want to tell him how he feels and what his motivations are. I have known former Mormons who left the church and were very angry and bitter, feeling resentful that the church was misrepresented – those who “leave the church but for some reason just can’t leave it alone”. Brandon is not one of them, and to insinuate he is, is totally absurd. Anyone who truly knows Brandon is well aware of the fact he is a loving, kind, gentle soul, without even a hint of bitterness or malice, and one who quite obviously conducts himself with far more grace, patience, compassion and wisdom than his attackers.

    I have known Brandon since the day he was born. And I have spent some quality time with him since he and Jen made their difficult discoveries. I can honestly say that I have never seen Brandon so at peace, content and joyful. He and his family are a blessing to all around them. This has been the right decision for them.

    • Wow, Kristin. Very well said. Thank you for kind words and loving support. We so much appreciate you and your love.

  27. Brandon and Jen,

    First of all, it’s been fun to keep up with you and your world travels. I can’t imagine what you must be experiencing on a daily basis. We love you no matter what you profess to believe or not believe! I would be lying if I said I haven’t been affected by your news. I found out over a month ago and was shocked as most people have been. My heart has been heavy. I found myself viewing my surroundings differently, asking difficult questions, and communing with the Lord with a greater purpose. If anything my conclusions have lead me to a greater appreciation for what I do have.

    I don’t consider myself to be an intellectual, in fact probably the opposite:) My beliefs are simple. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives me hope and faith in a life that is often filled with such hate and darkness. It makes ME happy and helps ME to feel that I do have a purpose in this crazy thing we call life.

    I’m grateful for our friendship. You and Jen have never been anything but kind and good people. At the end of the day I hope and pray that more of us can be just that. I hope you enjoy your travels and the beauty that surrounds you!!

    • Hi Liz, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you were able to do some soul searching, too, and come out even stronger. It’s often only when our faith is challenged that we realize how strong it actually is. We love you guys and are grateful for your friendship, too. Best wishes to your sweet family.

  28. OK, it’s probably about time we heard from the Dad.

    Brandon and Jennifer, I love you dearly. It takes a lot of courage to admit something like this and to risk so much. I have no doubt that you are happy and content in your new lifestyle and belief system.

    As you know, I had my own faith crisis some years ago and faced many of the same obstacles as you have. I have been through all the evidence and while there remains some cognitive dissonance I have found that I belong here. The reasons to stay have been much more powerful to me than the reasons to leave. This is my tribe. This is my home and my heritage. And I believe that through faithful activity in the church I am becoming a better person.

    So, although it makes me sad that you have abandoned your church and your faith, I can totally understand your reasons, and want you to be happy.

    There is one bone I have to pick with you though, Brandon. If I were you, I would have written your letter and placed it on your web page without sending a general Facebook link. That way people who care about you and follow your blog would be able to see your reasons, and the scores of others who don’t know you as well would not be faced with their own unsolicited crisis of faith. I don’t presume that your intention was to destroy the faith of others, but it could appear that way. I’m afraid the chips are just beginning to fall.

    Anyway, I hope to talk with you again soon
    Lots of love,
    Dad

    • Hi Dad, it’s so great to hear from you! Thank you for recognizing the courage and integrity it took to do this, that our reasons are valid, and that we’re happy with our choices. I knew you would understand. I know you’re happy in yours as well, and only time will tell if we feel the desire to return to our tribe, like you have done. I love you!

      Thank you also for not mis-judging my intent, and for giving me an opportunity to explain why I made this announcement as public as I could. Actually, at first, I didn’t. I put a link to it on my About page before I launched my new website, thinking that those who cared would see it. A few did, but most didn’t. And it’s not necessarily that I want everyone to read it, but that I felt like I was hiding. Like I was afraid to share who I was or my decisions. I was tired of pretending to be LDS to those who thought I was and being more “real” with those who knew. I wanted to be me to everybody. I wanted to be genuine. Unfortunately, I continued to be misunderstood, even by friends. I was tired of that superficiality and wanted more meaningful, deeper relationships.

      It turns out that most of my friends don’t subscribe to my blog directly (most don’t even know what RSS is). Instead, they see the links to my blog that I post on Facebook, and visit my site from there. Every time I publish a new blog post, I post it publicly on Facebook, and that’s where many of my readers come from. I was concerned about how my document might affect younger audiences, but I couldn’t see a way around that either way. All my friends on Facebook are friends I’ve met in person and care about. In contrast, most of my blog subscribers are people I don’t even know who are more interested in travel and entrepreneurship than religion, so wouldn’t Facebook be a more appropriate venue? Either way, in order to feel genuine with everyone, I wanted to make a public announcement. I suppose I could have limited the Facebook post to my “friends only,” and maybe I should have, but it’s not how I was used to doing things.

      Fortunately, many friends of friends and people I don’t know have thanked me for my document and shared some wonderful insights with me, which have given me the opportunity to clarify my thinking further and make new discoveries and friendships. I’ve also become reconnected with some friends who I haven’t heard from in years because I made this post public. So I’m glad that I did.

      Finally, is posting about my journey out of the faith on Facebook really that different from the many people who post conference talks, religious preaching, and charged political material publicly? Facebook is a public forum, after all, and those who wish to restrict what they see and from whom they see it can do so within their settings page. Personally, I welcome the open dialogue this has fostered, and think that a world in which we don’t feel comfortable sharing our views (especially our heartfelt, honest, and well-researched ones) is a world seriously lacking in understanding and diversity. Many people have views they don’t share publicly, often out of fear of the responses they will get (i.e. emotionally charged and hurtful ones). I think it’s sad that we have to fear that. I no longer do. I still care about the feelings of others, and I’ve tried to be sensitive to that, but I’ve also realized that I’m not responsible for how people choose to react to me. The vastly varied responses I’ve received from my document have made this very clear. I think it’s more important to be honest about the truth and about ourselves, than to hide it.

      Thanks for all your love and support, for recognizing I’m being true to myself, and for your wise and loving example throughout my life. Let’s talk soon.

  29. Hi Brandon. I don’t know you, but a link to your blog showed up on the side of my Facebook wall through a friend. I stayed up late into the night reading your paper and found it very inspiring. I felt a great peace as I was reading it. I have checked back several times since I have read it and I’ve grown more curious about you and your family. I don’t want to stir up problems or anything, but I’ve felt compelled to comment.

    I stopped going to church at 18 (26 now) when my friends left for missions. I had long before decided a missions wasn’t for me and when my friends left, my desire to go to church died. I found I was going for my parents and others and not for me. Many of the commenters attitudes toward you both here and on Facebook created similar feelings for me for what I felt then. I felt many members were so judgmental and were in fact acting the opposite of what they and the church was trying to teach me. I stopped going without much though or hesitation.

    Over the years I always look back to the church and have fond memories. I learned a lot of self discipline from the church as well as the importance of service and helping others. I’ll nerves forget the valuable life lessons I learned from my various scout and young men’s groups, as well as all the fun and hilarious moments I had.

    I also look back and question if I made the right decision. I too am a coder and science and reason lead me life. When I tried to make reason with church and god, much of it didn’t add up like you found. I didn’t miss the good feelings, as I had them elsewhere. I mostly felt fear at the unknown or possibilities of the end of days and living in the afterlife. I don’t think believing out of fear is a great idea though and that really would have been my 1 of 2 of my only reasons for going back. The other is that I think the church can be a great way to help raise a child, but I don’t have kids (don’t plan to) and like you’ve found, you can do that just fine and even better without the church in your life.

    You were far more “Mormon” than I ever was, and were the “perfect Mormon” in my eyes. I can sense the pain and confusion you must have gone through and I know it wasn’t easy for you. I think that alone should show your friends and family the importance of what you have done for you and your family. The church teaches family is of the most importance, well you all seem to be the happiest you’ve ever been as well as the closest and most loving you’ve ever been!

    I was captivated while reading your paper and couldn’t stop due to the fact that it was more in depth than I had ever researched. I learned things I myself hadn’t known and after reading some of the sources I feel more validated and peaceful about my decision to not be a part of the church and I thank you for that. I did feel some brief anger at learning some of the things about the church’s history and some of the things they do now. Its also really bothered me that the church’s stance is to obey the laws of the land, yet lobby’s and takes political stances.

    Anyhow, I’ve rambled on long enough. I am very happy for you and your family. Your adventures look awesome! I now follow you on Facebook and Twitter and can’t wait to see more as well as delve into more of your past experiences.

    • Hi Chris! Welcome to the blog. I’m so glad you found my document inspiring and that it brought you peace. I was quite unaware of the judgment that went on in the church because I was so much a part of it myself, and felt justified in it through what I considered missionary efforts, perfecting the saints, or being a good “example” — all of which embarrasses me now.

      Yes, I think fear is a huge part of what keeps a lot of people (not everybody) in the church, or any religion, whether it’s fear of the afterlife, fear of the unknown of not believing, or fear of how others will treat you for leaving your roots. Living without fear is very liberating and I’m so happy for you that you’ve found that for yourself.

      The dark and dismal “world” that many see and that’s often portrayed in the media is so different from the rich and beautiful world I experience on a daily basis. There is nothing to fear.

  30. I just thought I would add an observation. Some have questioned Brandon’s reason for writing his paper and further for making it public via a Facebook post.

    To the first. Have any of you written a journal or diary and through the process been able to express experiences, lessons, and thoughts you have experienced? Many counselors use writing such things down as a way to think through and emote your inner thoughts and self. Brandon, did not force his writing on anyone, and went to pains to warn potential readers that it might be something uncomfortable to read. It was posted on a link on his blog well before he made any public announcement. In writing it, he is also able to point to it as a reference for friends and family who were curious about his departure from the Church — retelling the same thing to each query can become tedious.

    To the second. Friends and family observed a change in what Brandon and his family wrote about and talked about. Questions started, and likely a number of rumors. I think announcing his change in belief, and making his paper available for those who wanted to know why, is one of the best ways to end rumors and innuendo.

    • Thanks John. Yes, from day one I began journaling these things for myself without the intent of ever sharing them. It was only after I began feeling misjudged and hearing the rumors that I felt the need to clear things up by making my journey public.

  31. Thank you so much Brandon. Your honesty, courage, and conviction are incredible.

    I went through a similar process recently and reading your letter helped me be calm and rational about it. Unfortunately, I found that while the church claims to be all about the family, some of my family was all about the church. Being ostracized for studying church history and then living with my resulting convictions has been difficult.

    I’m very thankful that you wrote your letter and had the courage to be public about your reasons for leaving. While I already knew the things you wrote about and felt the same way, it was comforting to hear another person’s story.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark. Yes, it’s not always easy to live with our convictions, especially when those you love don’t support you. I’ve pleased however to have received much more support than backlash, and of course peace within myself for doing what I feel is the right thing. Congratulations to you as well and best wishes.

  32. Brandon,

    It takes an incredible amount of courage to let go of something that for many, in this case, defines them. I am impressed with your willingness to share your journey openly and honestly.

    As you know, my family has been through the process of “discovering the truth”, and as heart-breaking as it was, we are the happiest we’ve ever been. How sweet life is to us, now that we are making choices based on what *we* feel to be right, not based on some man-made organization’s counsel.

    Being completely true to yourself is a trying exploration. I resonate with the following quote, and thought you and your wife might as well:

    “First of all, although men have a common destiny, each individual also has to work out his own personal salvation for himself in fear and trembling. We can help one another to find the meaning of life, no doubt. But in the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for “finding himself.” If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence. You cannot tell me who I am, and I cannot tell you who you are. If you do not know your own identity, who is going to identify you?” -Thomas Merton

    May you continue to find joy in living life to the fullest! :)

    Your friend,
    Liz MacAskill

    • Beautiful quote, Liz. And yes, that’s probably one of the hardest parts — letting go of beliefs you feel define you. So glad to hear you’re the happiest you’ve ever been without the church, too. Best wishes to you and your family.

  33. Jen and Brandon, I was really sad when I heard about your decision to leave the church. Jen I still remember you coming to my house to visit me with Tina as my visiting teachers. You have always been so sweet and have such a beautiful family. I am truely saddened about your decision, not on a judgmental basis, but because I have always admired and loved you for the loving, giving person that you are and always will have that love for you,, no matter what you decide. I also have two, actually three sisters, one passed away at 35, who are inactive or rather have left the church, and I ache for them as well, simply for the fact that I want them to know and truely feel of the Saviors love for them personally and individually. I know with his help, we are NEVER ALONE. I don’t know where I would be without the knowledge of our Heavenly Fathers plan for us here on earth, To know that even though it’s hard, we have been sent here to walk by Faith, and we are all going to face adversity and trials, sometimes seemingly unbearable trials, while we are here, but if we endure to the end and have Faith and trust in our Lord, and lean not unto our own understanding as it sais in the book of Proverbs, we will be guided daily by his spirit, and he will NEVER give us anything we cannot handle or overcome if we stay close to him. I am so grateful for the gopel of Jesus Christ. I know this is his gospel, that the Lord is our personal Savior, and that he atoned for my sins as well as for all mankind who accept and follow him. He is our perfect example, and he came to earth to show us the way and how to be like him. I know he died for us because he loves us so much unconditionally and perfectly. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that he is fair and just, and that he loves us no matter what. I know you have made your decision for now, and I know from experiences with my family that we all just need to love each other dispite our differences in our beliefs and choices, and I truely do. We love our family so much and just want them to be happy. I wasn’t going to reply after reading your blog, but Jen, you have been on my mind all day, and I know I’ve been horrible about keeping in touch, but I just had to tell you thank you for always being so sweet, and being such a wonderful example to me. I’m so glad we had a chance to get to know each other and really enjoyed you lessons you taught in RS. I heard from a friend about your post on fb, and my heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for being so wonderful and kind and such a good example to me. You and your sweet family are in my prayers. I know that this must have been such a hard decision for you both. Brandon, I know we don’t know each other very well, but because of Jen, i know you are wonderful too. You have such a beautiful family. I love to travel, and have seen some really amazing places. You guys must be having such amazing adventures traveling the world. I know that there are so many wonderful people that feel the spirit and are so giving and happy, but I guess I just love what Pres Gordan B Hinckley said,( pertaining to all those of different faiths… “Bring all you have and let us(our beliefs) add to it.” It’s not that members of the church are better than others, or that people of other faiths never feel the spirit, If anything I believe that we as members of the church will be judged the hardest, because we have the fullness of Christ’s gospel. I love how Nephi nails it when he sais in second Nephi, 33:!0, “Believe in Christ, and if ye believe not in these words, believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ.” I served a mission in Hawaii, and Fabe served a mission in Japan. There are so many wonderful, incredible Christlike people in the world who don’t have the gospel, and don’t even know about the Savior and how he died for them, but they will have a chance, Everything will be fair because only our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are perfect. They know our hearts and our thoughts. I know everything will be just. I know that our Savior died for us so that we could be together forever as families through keeping his commandments and our covenants that we make in the temple and enduring to the end. I also know that Satan is real and is doing everything in his power to destroy our Heavenly Fathers plan. Man will never be perfect, we are all only human, we make mistakes, but Chist and his gospel are perfect. Any mistakes are the mistakes of man. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, I have so much love and admiration for him. I know that he restored Christ’s gospel here on earth and Pres Monson is our true and living prophet today. Life can be hard, but if we build our foundation upon the rock of Jesus Christ we will never fall. I wish you both the best of luck with your journey. Congrats on your beautiful baby girl. I need to be better about keeping up on fb. I love you Jen… You are amazing and have so much to offer others. I’m not the best about keeping up on fb, but my email is amy******@*****.com. Jen, I’m so sorry for the hardships you have been through with you mom, I truly empathize with you and know she is watching over you. best wishes for you and your family.

  34. Thank you for your sweet comments Amy! It is great to hear from you. I hope you and your family are doing really well. :) I have your email now. Thank you. Brandon hid it in the comment for your privacy. I love how you said in your comment, “I know from experiences with my family that we all just need to love each other despite our differences in our beliefs and choices, and I truly do.” I can tell that you do Amy, and I appreciate that so much. Thank you so much for your true empathy toward us. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to see people leave the church as an active member, especially when you have such a strong testimony and an exceptionally loving heart, like you do. It really has been a difficult journey for us, but the most painful part has been those who would treat us differently because of it. So, thank you so much for your unconditional love. As hard as that part of our lives has been, the past couple years of our lives have also been the best years for our family in so many other ways. We have so much to be grateful for, and we truly are. I know it may be difficult to understand how we could be happy now, but I hope it brings some comfort to let you know we truly feel even happier than we did before. Thank YOU for your great example in my life as well. I am so glad to know you and I think you are amazing. :) Lots of love to you and your wonderful family.

  35. Brandon,
    I am your mother’s cousin Robert. She asked me to read you pdf file and to maybe comment if I wanted to. And I do.

    First, let me state that I am stunned at the similarities between us in certain regards. The way you described your commitment and love for the church is exactly how I’d describe mine when I was in my teens and 20s. I didn’t have much of a social life because I spent my time reading books on doctrine and praying. I well remember members of our ward telling my mother they had no doubt I’d be a general authority someday. I loved hearing that. LOL….

    I loved the church. I sincerely think I would have died for it.

    Fortunately, along the way, I suffered a tremendous trauma. I awakened to the fact that I was gay. Now I say fortunately because minus that, I might very well have been a general authority in a church I now detest. At the time it was traumatic. As so many others have, I too considered suicide. But although I considered secular views on the issue to be evil and brought about by Satan, I decided I should at least do some research on the subject. And I did. One intense week up at the University of Utah medical library. By the time I was done, I understood that sexual orientation is not a choice, not a result of bad environment, and quite normal. I felt a sense of great relief. But I soon began to feel tremendous anger. Anger at what I’d been taught all my life about the subject which caused the self loathing, fear and depression I’d suffered as a result.

    I decided that if the church could be so wrong about this, what else was it wrong about? It took a few years, but I delved into histories of the church that were written by LDS historians, many of whom later were excommunicated for bringing the true history to light. All of their statements were backed, not by anti-Mormon sources, but by LDS sources. You have made this same statement in your pdf. I was so glad to read that. The true history of Mormonism is completely and thoroughly detailed in its own history books, but few ever touch the surface of these massive volumes. The fact is, if anyone truly wanted to know the truth about the true Mormon history, some of which you touch on, it would destroy their belief in it. Boyd K. Packer stated outright that church historians were to present church history in a faith promoting way, and that he would hold accountable any that did not. His fear (well founded) was that the true version of events would destroy fledgling testimonies. Then the purges began of what he called intellectuals. Men who felt that the truth was more important than a made up feel good fairytale that would falsely lead people to conclusions they may not otherwise make if they knew the truth. They put their memberships on the line for the sake of honesty.

    I was enraged. That these leaders could not only suggest but demand that a glorified version of history be presented to me was criminal. They like to say that ‘no unhallowed hand can stop the gospel from going forth,’ but the truth certainly could. How could they be true representatives of Christ? How unfair to the unknowing missionaries who would so humbly reveal these stories to prospects? How unfair to the prospects who were about to commit their lives and resources to the church to be misled.

    So many events of early Mormonism that you have touched on I too learned about. The true history of the Pearl of Great Price (and how unfortunate for the church that the actual papyrus were found in 1969). The Kinderhook plates. Fannie Alger. Blood atonement.

    So in 1995, I wrote a letter of resignation. I remember walking to the blue mailbox a couple blocks away to send it. And I began to worry along the way if I’d regret it. The church had been such a big part of my life. My family’s history for many generations back was a noble history of church service and devotion. I dropped the letter, and I promise you I felt the most incredible sense of relief and lightness. And I have never ever regretted it.

    Like you I also wanted to be understood. I was naïve. LOL.. I truly thought my family and friends who knew me would listen to what I had to say. Sadly I was mistaken – with the exception of your mom and your aunt, and another cousin Pam you probably don’t know. We had created a website where we could debate religious and political ideas. And I put much of the true history on there, but was dismayed when it was dismissed as anti-mormon, or part of an agenda I had to bring the church down. Or assumptions that I wasn’t smart enough to know baseless anti-mormon drivel and let it lead me astray. That I had been tricked by Satan… etc. etc. Some of which I see you have already encountered too. The worst was that because I was angry at the church over it’s stupid teachings about homosexuality I had an agenda to harm it for revenge…

    Eventually I came to see that the effort was futile. That for many the love of the church and it’s glorified history was too strong. Like you I accepted that that was okay if it made them happy. But some of the discussions became hostile and I left. Your mom and Kristin and Pam did also.

    Everyone of your conflicts with church teachings I’ve also had. I too questioned why God would need to see his Son suffer and tortured if he was so omnipotent that he could create the entire universe and simply forgive who he chose to forgive and not forgive those he chose not to. Made no sense. It made no sense to have some sort of magical family bond in the hereafter if we were all brothers and sisters anyway, and if in the hereafter we could associate with who we wanted.

    You wrote a 33 page essay, essentially. That is nothing! Ask your mom about some of my 70 page posts from that old forum. LOL… My reply here is too long, so I’ll end it now.

    But let me just say I understand everything you’ve gone through. I have gone through it too because intellectual honesty and historical integrity matter to me as well. Don’t let those who would try to shame you on this succeed. It doesn’t matter what a deceased parent might have felt in this life about you or your wife leaving the church. I have heard that too in regards to my own mother. My reply is that now that she is on the other side, she likely knows the truth about Joseph Smith and is glad at least one of her brood got out of it. None of us have any responsibility to our parents, siblings, grandparents, friends or anyone else to embrace anything that we don’t believe in. Be true to yourself, as it is obvious you are doing, and God bless you and your family. And I’ll just end by saying I’ve become a great admirer of your wife’s. I appreciate how she speaks to others and sense a great gentle soul there. You are a lucky man to have her. Ditto that in regards to your mom and aunt. God knows how many times I used to send my 70 page rants to her asking her to review them and tone down some of my more provocative statements. LOL.. They are not just cousins to me, but wonderful friends.

    Alright now I have to go get my grandson from school. I have some of those old roundtable discussions saved if you ever want to read them…

    • Thanks for your comment, Robert! I’ve been told many times that I’d grow up to be a general authority, too, and my patriarchal blessing hints at the idea that I would even become the prophet! Those were great ego trips, and they kept me being a “good Mormon.” :)

      It really is sad to me that the church doesn’t teach its true history, and even excommunicates LDS historians who dare to publish it. But anyone can find it themselves if they want to look in the original sources, as you’ve mentioned.

      The negative feedback we’ve received has actually been rewarding to us in a few ways, and has helped us to grow even more. Of course, the positive feedback is enjoyable in a different way. But we’ve come to realize, like you have, that everyone has their own opinions, and we can learn from them. But we don’t have to live our lives according to someone else’s opinion. We can make up our own minds and be true to ourselves.

      Thanks again for your comment, and I wish you all the best!

  36. You have stated you have a lot more time to read… Might I suggest the book, “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture” by John Sheby Spong..

    He has actually written a number of books (just put his name in at Amazon)… and having just checked I see some new ones I’d maybe like to get…

    But in this book, he relies on bible scholars and what they know about how the bible was constructed, why portions of it were written (like the creation stories), and incredible contradictions.. many of them in the differing accounts of Jesus’ life and death.

    You mentioned in your pdf that you had learned that the gospels were 2nd hand accounts written sometimes up to 70 years after Christ had died… He gets into the history of that … in depth..

    Aside from the question about whether Mormonism is what it claims to be is the larger question of whether Christianity is what it claims to be…

    The book was #1 on the national best sellers list for a long time. It provoked outrage among fundamentalists (including one old lady who hit him in the back of the head and called him an S.o.b at his 2nd wife’s funeral).. They hate the man because he does a grand job and deconstructing the idea that every word of the book is God’s word. He makes the point that in claiming such nonsense people make the Bible their graven image and are actually guilty of idolatry.

    Anyway, in your continuing quest for truth and ideas, his books (and this one in particular) may be an enjoyable read.

    For myself, I have come to like the religious movement called Unity. It’s the largest of the three New Thought religions. No doctrine. No bible idolatry. Christ is seen more as a Teacher or prophet…

    btw for those interested, in Shelby’s book (chapters 7 and 8) are profound deconstructions of anti gay sentiments.. and he very nicely uses the apostle Paul’s own words to forcefully demonstrate that Paul himself told us between the lines that he was gay. An ancient theory that I’ve never seen anyone so completely lay out.

    I don’t think any one Christian leader has done more for the andvancement of gay acceptance within Christianity than this guy..

    • Sounds like an interesting book. I also enjoyed this one on a similar topic by a retired (still active) Lutheran minister: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0060609176/?tag=wwwbrandagsco-20)

      I also found Choprah’s interpretations of Jesus’ teachings interesting in “The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307338312/?tag=wwwbrandagsco-20)

      We went to a Unity church once in Costa Rica, and it was nice, especially the meditations, but was mostly attended by older folks so we felt a bit out of place with our young family. I’d be interested to attend a Unitarian Universalist church to see what that’s like, if I could find one around here anywhere. Being close to nature and reading enlightening books usually does as much for me spiritually as going to a meeting, but “meetings” are great for meeting new friends. :)

  37. I really liked the Unitarians too… I used to go to their services in Salt Lake City in the early 90s when I lived there. I hope you can find one.

  38. Wow, just found the essay and had to say thank you for being so honest and open about your faith journey. Very inspiring and was strikingly similar to my own. I still find myself a card carrying member to keep my family happy but feel disingenuous and guilty for continuing to appear to support the church when I do not.

    I am especially impressed with the way you seem to calmly and lovingly respond to “testifying” members. Although it saddens me to see the perpetuation of illogical and irrational belief systems, I remember the certainty I felt and I your approach to those people that made what I see as fairly rude and self righteous comments was very well done. Thank you for making this available and I’ll be sending the link to people I know to give them insight into my own beliefs and spiritual journey. Well done!

  39. “There’s a fascinating look at this in Jon Krakauer’s true crime book “Under the Banner of Heaven”. Two members of an extreme fundamentalist Mormon splinter group School of Prophets receive a revelation to kill a young mother and her infant daughter. As the case winds through the courts, virtually all the players – police, judges, juries, lawyers — are believing Mormons, for whom revelation is an accepted part of their religion. The crime requires them to examine the concept of revelation in depth.”

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2012/05/04/when-god-talks-to-you/

  40. Brandon,
    My husband and I were so impressed with your story, and especially what you said about emotion being the enemy of objectivity, that we quoted you in our book, “The Collapse of Belief” (chapter 6).

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/145641951X/?tag=wwwbrandagsco-20

    Thanks for being so open and honest!

    • Looks like a very interesting book! (Will you be making it available for in digital format or for Kindle?) Also, I wish I could take credit for that quote, but I’m not the first person to say it. I first heard the idea from Simon Black, but a Google search tells me he wasn’t the first either. I’m not sure who was… But thanks for recognizing me. :)

  41. “The Collapse of Belief” doesn’t format well for Kindle because of the illustrations. So for now, it’s just available in paperback.

  42. Brandon I really enjoyed reading your letter. I was baptized Mormon at 18. After I got married I quit going to church for the most part because my husband wasn’t Mormon and I choose to spend my time with him and not at church. It is now 34 years later and a lot of my family is Mormon on both sides of my family. My brother-in-law just became a bishop.

    I really just started searching for truth about the Mormon Church lately. I guess I still needed to know for sure if it was true or not. After reading Fanny Stenhouse’s book “Tell it All” I was so angry and saddened at how these poor women were treated in polygamy! How they were lied to before coming over from Europe and how I was lied to about the history of polygamy when taught the lessons. I don’t blame the missionaries, it was what they believed to be true, but I really needed no further proof that this was all made from men and if it were of a god, then I would rather not have anything to do with him.

    I found your letter while searching why other Mormons left the church. I was so very impressed with how well you put your thought process down and all of your research.

    I have asked to have my name taken off the church records because it is all I can do. If I get contacted by anyone, like showing up on my doorstep, I will hand them the copy of your letter I printed out because I could never put my thoughts into words as gracefully
    and lovingly as you have.

  43. “I realize that this announcement may cause us to face rejection [...] from some family and friends”

    This alone would have been reason enough to leave the church.

  44. I stumbled upon your blog when looking into the idea of returning to Costa Rica where I spent the better part of a year nearly ten years ago. I picked up your posts at the move to Grecia, which a Costa Rican friend had recommended as a great place for a pleasant laid back retirement. I’m 66 and have lived in Mexico for many years. I spent several hours following your travels and enjoying glimpses into the life of freedom you’d chosen for yourself and your family.

    I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and was active in the ministry until an “awakening” very similar to what you’ve described at age 34. That background made me cringe a bit when I’d read posts discussing your involvement in the LDS church. Of course it is none of my business, but I couldn’t help thinking how your life of freedom could be so much more free without the restrictions imposed by religion. When I came to this post, and as I read the attached explanation, I felt that “spiritual” sensation religious people confuse with a mystical encounter. I just wanted to share that.

    You are so blessed (in a real way) to have a loving wife who has come to the same realization that you have. Wishing you and the girls the very best.

    — Que le vaya bien (Mexico)
    — Pura vida (Costa Rica)

    (The website is my daughter’s; I just do the techie stuff for her. :)

  45. “I’ve Never Met a Mormon Man Who Has Any Real Respect for Women”
    An Ex-Mormon Woman Looks Back at the Church

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/30/an-ex-mormon-woman-looks-back-at-the-church/

  46. Brandon, thanks for the effort you have put into the truth, for that truth does set us free.

    I am a reformed Fundamentalist Pentecostal Charismatic Christian (whew!) that discovered the lies of religion 6 years ago, and now run a forum for others who have come out of the Christian church and need to share their thoughts. Please feel free to come by and visit with us. http://papashome.com

    If religion does not allow us to honestly question then it is false. Question everything! And hold onto that which is true.

  47. I just wanted to say thank you. I found your blog while doing some research of my own, and it has been a huge help for me to know I’m not alone and am not just going crazy. I was once one of the members that thought you were a horrible person for leaving the Church. I’m embarrassed to admit how judgemental I was now. I decided something wasn’t right after I went through the temple with some friends. I started questioning from there and came to the same conclusions you have stated so eloquently. I lucked out that my still very active husband is so accepting of my different beliefs and loves me for me, not for my being Mormon. I however have not told any of my family and may not ever be that confident. They would not handle that well to say the least. My biggest worry right now is finding the balance for my kids so as they grow up in the church they don’t judge me for not believing. I will continue to follow your blog for any added strength and information you can give. Thank you for sharing your story, I honestly appreciate it!

  48. Wow Brandon, Congratulations, this website has now become a full fledged anti-mormon site! What a surprise! Deep down inside you might be wondering how an fairly uneducated young man wrote at least 71/2 pages a day of the book of mormon and has millions of some of the smartest people on earth giving up 10% of their income and more than that of their time. Also how many of the prophecies in the Book of Mormon are coming true as we enter a time of “there is no sin” that has been predicted in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Dont judge! everything is ok, These are the battle cries of those who sit passively by while families weaken and our society decays. Readers of this site may think that so many are, “coming to the truth”. In reality the Christians of the Church of Jesus Christ are coming out of obscurity as predicted in the scriptures. Only good comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints. Just like Korihor, We will all confess at the end that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.

  49. One entry in a site awash with numerous other entries does not earn it the title of “full fledged anti-Mormon site.”

    In my experience, anything short of glorifying the Mormon Church as the only true church is considered persecution. In fact, the church has plenty of skeletons in it’s closet, and if you truly think that only good has come from it, then you are either blinded by ignorance or by choosing to only read the glorified version of it’s history that the church promotes.

    Whether or not it is true that all will eventually confess Jesus is the Christ, it would have little to do with the LDS church.

  50. Mike, it seems perhaps you have missed the majority of the other interesting posts Brandon has offered on this site. There are lots of topics! Music, travel, family, work, culture, spirituality, health & wellness… All sorts of topics. Only a small fraction of posts are related in any way to mormonism. Wouldn’t the focus of anti-mormon (or anti-anything) site need to be that particular topic? Simply voicing an opinion you don’t like doesn’t make this site anti-anything. I’m sorry you’ve focused only on these few posts and missed so many other interesting insights Brandon has shared. I’ve found this to be a fascinating blog and appreciate Brandon taking the time to write down and share his thoughts and his journey with us. I find his openness and willingness to explore new ideas to be so refreshing. Check out some of the other topics!

  51. Great article Brandon … I left the Mormon Church after 18 years of “committed” service!! It did save my life at the time as I was very self destructive but then it was time to leave. I cannot have any friends from the church as they think just as I use to think.. everyone else is going to pay for their sins as they are not serving as they should.

    I read people’s energy fields for a living. I have come to realise what the subtleties of being in a religion does. Now that I believe in reincarnation, I question many things. I question or even have to deal with in my work the implication of forcing rituals on dead people do as in the ‘ordinances for the dead’ in the Mormon Temples. Also committing (making a contract – baptism) to a life of Christ means a life of suffering, sacrifice, service, poverty and not a happy ending!

    For those who want to wake up and think for themselves ….. the time is now. We are now able to do it and create a better life. Good on you and thank you for the article …Marisa

  52. Hi Brandon

    We both don’t know one another, but I feel like I already know you. I was converted 2 years ago by wonderful missionaries who had inspired to me to believe that God and Jesus Christ do exist. Before I came across your blog I was doing reading other things about the church. I had just finished reading the history of the church, polygamy, and other things about Joseph Smith. After I read it I didn’t know whether my belief that Joseph Smith was a true prophet was true anymore. It sadden me and I was terrified by all the claims Joseph made or lied in regards to polygamy–especially to Emma. I it was hurtful to think that there were so many things that the missionaries did not teach me while I was investigating.
    My husband and I got married not too long ago. My husband is one of the greatest person I’ve met, one who makes the least judgment of people. He could love anyone, but unfortunately, a lot of the church members despised him because he isn’t a member. When he first got missionary lessons, it seemed everyone had hoped he was going to become a member, however later we both unexpectedly announced our wedding. This shocked so many member and it especially shocked me to see so many people that I thought I knew or loved to react so brutally. I was one of those members who would have given everything I had for the church. I believed they were my family, however I was proven wrong. Everything went so wrong! They believed my husband was a bad influence, dragging me down and away from the Gospel or a chance at entering the Temple. I hurt me so much because the person that I love so much is being looked down on so much. Everything that I have been taught all seemed to down spiraled. My patriarchal blessing had mentioned that my husband was going to be of my choice and I knew that yes he was my choice, but not to many of the members. I also knew that my patriarchal promised that he was being prepared and we will eventually reached the temple and start to perform temple work. All of this however seemed to have been proven wrong by the members. Even though it all seemed to be so true to me, they didn’t see it that way. My husband was not included; he wasn’t going to get the chance. I cried for days and nights, crying because the people I love so much hurt me so much. Leaders who I saw as my own parents, all turned their backs from me. I felt like an abomination; how could God allow me to meet such a wonderful man, one who could be so loving and accepting but not want me to marry him. Also I would never label my love for my husband and what we have an influence by the Devil. I know for sure that this happiness was an influence by my Heavenly Father.
    At this point my husband was on the verge of deciding to baptized, however the way the members reacted to suddenly caused him to be in a state of shock and confusion. He didn’t know if they were the people they acted before, because now they acted like they didn’t want him around anymore. This was my breaking point. I had my heart set on the fact that my husband will be baptized and yes my patriarchal was telling the truth and that my Heavenly Father loved me, but after my husband said no the missionaries my heart cried out!
    After we got married a lot of the members saw me differently, I felt so secluded. Before I was super involved and everyone wanted me in the room. I helped the missionaries in everything and I especially believed my Bishop. I was in love with the church and the members. However, all that happened contradicted everything I was taught. The Father I knew was one who had taught me to love all and not judge. I wanted to become a missionary myself, and was in the process of completing my paper work before i got married and so I knew that my husband was my first investigator. Everyone, however, judged him! What happened to all the things I was taught. I questioned why no one is helping me, I felt so alone. Everyone just stopped contacting me the way they used to.
    It has been so long since I’ve been to church but I still absolutely love God, Jesus Christ and the Church. I know the church to be true, I’ve felt the spirit and have had some happiest time in my life but the people can corrupt something so pure.
    Because of all these things it led me to investigate the history of the church. If such evil can happen now, how is it not possible to happen back then. If it is possible for my very own Bishop to turn his back on me, many other converts and create lies about them to prevent them from achieving relationships in the church, how is it not possible then for such evil to be happening? How is it not possible for evil to be present during the restoration of the church, how is it not possible for Joseph to commit crime or evil? I used to believe everything in the church was perfect: the people, the doctrines, the teachings, and everything else that others do so willingly. However, I’ve learned that of course these things can be corrupted or man made. I know however, that the church itself is true. Christ’s church is here for a purpose, a place for someone like me to go and worship him and feel the spirit. The Father I was taught is still the same and is the one I’ve learned, who loves and accept all. Not one who says it’s fine to deceive your brethens for your own good, not one who consent in murdering, polygamy and deception. I want to thank you so much Brandon! I know you and your wife are still definitely the same loving person you mentioned in a comment above. I don’t know if I was clear enough, but I thank you for your courage and for reaching out to those of us, because there are so many of us who are afraid and don’t know where to turn to. This is very encouraging and inspiring! Thank you! I wish you and your wife a good life and amazing adventure!

  53. I’m coming kind of late in the discussion on this, but I really enjoyed reading this, and it got me thinking. I’ve questioned most of the same things, as well as some other issues. I’ve been able to reconcile some, but not all. For example, there’s no doubt that Joseph Smith didn’t translate Egyptian to write the book of Abraham, but I see no problem with him being inspired to write it. Maybe the papyrus was the catalyst for that. Who knows? I have accepted that some things we just don’t know, and will probably never know, at least in this life. I believe God allows us to bump into walls, so to speak, to go through things that don’t make sense to us, and to use our brains and spirits to search, mainly to learn.

    One thing I think is dangerous, and I think the church can be its own worst enemy in this regard, is expecting perfection in the doctrine or the church leaders, past and present. Also, when things like the scriptures are taken so literally it sets you up to be very disappointed. The church more or less promotes this, and when someone like Brandon, whose life completely revolved around it, finds out it is not perfect and there are serious questions that haven’t been answered, the entire thing comes crashing down. I long ago gave up the concept that everything should be perfect and the church leaders can be very flawed. Basically, it’s just a bunch of people trying to do better, hopefully. Perfection cannot be achieved on our own, and definitely will not be achieved in this life. When I finally internalized this the whole fit together better for me.

    I still have so many questions. I have often wondered, and spoke about it in church, why God chooses to communicate with us the way he does. Couldn’t he make it more clear? Why the uncertainty between spirit and emotions? Why are we taught through very imperfect scriptures? Could he just give us a clean set with all the answers? I suppose it would all be too easy then, and we wouldn’t have to dig, study, ponder and pray to find the truth. Why does he work in such small circles? In other words, and Darren pointed this out, if the LDS gospel is true, than why are so few people exposed to it? When Christ was on the earth, he may have interacted directly with 100 people or so. There were millions who had no chance to hear him. The only way that makes sense to me is to look at everything as if this life is just a microscopic piece of our existence. Why are ordinances, such as baptism, so important to an all powerful God? There are others.

    I am a member of the LDS church. I have almost left before. I was never going to make an announcement, but rather just drift away. I explored a lot of other belief systems. Honestly, I have basically accepted that we don’t know very much, but it is fun to search. I don’t think I had some of the same issues that Brandon had as far as judging other people that are not members and think differently than I do. I also definitely have not been closed off to exploring anything, even if it doesn’t fit church doctrine, or felt confined by my religion. It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger I was more defensive. I didn’t grow up in an active Mormon family, and the church hasn’t been my entire life. My attitude and beliefs have evolved over time. I do see how the Mormon culture promotes, for whatever reason, a tendency to judge those who aren’t members or don’t keep the word of wisdom. I haven’t taken all the scriptures literally for a long time. Noah and the ark is a good example that Brandon brings up. I believe the scriptures are a combination of the words of God and man, and cannot be considered as coming straight from God’s mouth.

    There are some things that have kept me attached to the LDS faith. I’ve read a lot, and for all the I’ve read about Joseph Smith and church history and problems with the Book of Mormon, I cannot figure out how he pulled it off. I have never read an explanation that makes any sense to me. Usually, that is brushed off with some overly simplistic explanation like he was in a trance, or he had access to a bunch of books that gave him the ideas. It’s a mystery. The other thing is the chance that life could exist just by chance. I believe in science, evolution (maybe not speciation), but scientists agree that the odds that life was created by chance are so astronomical that it’s considered impossible. Certainly more impossible than a God existing.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. I do like these type of discussions and know there was a lot of serious thought that went into a decision this big, especially how important the church was to you. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    • Hi Graham. It’s always nice to meet people who are willing to questions their beliefs.

      You said, “there’s no doubt that Joseph Smith didn’t translate Egyptian to write the book of Abraham, but I see no problem with him being inspired to write it.”

      Sure, he could have been inspired to write it. People write inspirational books all the time. The problem is that he didn’t claim it was just inspiration — he claimed it was a direct translation from the papyrus he was holding in his hands: a blatant deception. If he had said, “Here’s the text of a book I received in a vision about Abraham”, it would be a different story. Unfortunately, there are many other records of his deceit.

      Yes, prophets don’t have to be perfect, but if they’re lying in an attempt to deceive people about something as important as the source of scripture in the religion they’re creating, how much can their other claims be trusted?

      I don’t think it’s difficult to see how he pulled it off. He was a talented and charismatic storyteller (or con artist). People in 19th century New York were superstitious and gullible. Christianity had already built a successful system and he simply expanded on it. Leaders gain followers of millions all the time in everything from religion to business to social movements. (I met a monk in Thailand who who belonged to a religion that gained 10 million members in 40 years, and they get a lot of money and sacrifice from their members, too). It’s not all that unique.

      You ask some great questions, and I agree that it’s fun to search. I certainly don’t claim to know the answers to how life began. And some beliefs can provide a lot of comfort, even if they’re not true. Some people prefer comfort to truth. Others seek truth at all costs. Both paths are fine. But I hope you realize that many of your questions would disappear (or be answered) by shedding (or at least questioning) some of the underlying beliefs that are keeping you tied to them. For example:

      “Why does (God) work in such small circles?” Maybe he doesn’t.
      “Why are ordinances, such as baptism, so important to an all powerful God?” Maybe they’re not.
      etc.

      Enjoy the journey, whatever you end up doing or believing. :)

  54. I really appreciate you responding. I thought maybe this thread was too old. You are absolutely correct that JS didn’t just claim inspiration regarding the Book of Abraham. He claimed translation. He also claimed other translation which didn’t happen. Your answers the questions at the end about small circles and ordinances may very well be right. Those are things, among others, I’ve wondered for quite a while. I was very interested in your journey out of the church in that you went from practicing, very active Mormon to not really believing in a God, per se. I don’t have statistics, but it seems to me that most that leave Mormonism wind in some other Christian belief. I’m not absolutely sure of that, but it appears so to me. I studied a lot of other beliefs, and I considered no supreme being as we think of it, but I never went that far, obviously. I would be really interested to know what the process was. It’s a very deep topic. I love discussing things like this but it’s probably way to involved to discuss on a blog, so I don’t expect you to get into it if you don’t want. I did read your letter a few times. I of course have read all the standard issues regarding Mormonism (inconstancies, polygamy, etc.) a lot but I was really interested in the spiritual side you were discussing. And the happiness you feel now.

    As far as prophets lying. That is a problem that I’ve thought about and is difficult to just gloss over. I basically have no argument with everything you said, since they are things I’ve considered many times. I just haven’t been able to figure it all out, and haven’t concluded anything, which which is why your journey intrigues me. Most, I think prefer comfort to truth at all costs, as you put it. Finding truth certainly is not easy, at least for me. Not sure the scriptures are a big help.

    You could very well be correct about JS being a con man. He may have just written all of it himself. That certainly is one explanation, and it is true that those in that era were very superstitious. Honestly I just have a hard time piecing all that together. I know I could never do it, and I’m sure you agree, not you either. That could be another lengthy discussion. I do think that if he made everything up and conned everybody, he was was an extremely talented con man. Maybe one of the best who ever lived. Mohammed? Jesus? Hanina ben Dosa? the Thai monk you met? Who knows? It’s all a mystery to me. In your opinion do you think JS really believed what he was preaching or was he knowingly deceiving?

    Thank you again for your thoughts. I wish you and your beautiful family well.

    • After I lost confidence in the source of the Spirit as I had been taught it, I realized that in order avoid being deceived again, I had to question everything and start with a clean slate (as much as possible), or I would never know the truth. This included my belief in God, Jesus’ divinity, the nature of reality itself, what’s important to me — everything! But this is an ongoing process because once I get through one level of beliefs, another level appears, ready to be challenged.

      If you prefer comfort to truth, then you needn’t challenge all your beliefs. As I said, I still have many beliefs I haven’t challenged. But until we challenge a belief, we don’t really know if it’s true or not. This sometimes requires actually dropping the belief and seeing what things are like from that perspective. Often after doing so, the best you’re left with is “I don’t know what’s true” which I think is a better place to be than “I know this is true”, when it may not actually be true.

      But if all you’re after is comfort, then truth doesn’t matter. Believe what you think will make you happiest, and then refuse to listen to any statements to the contrary. That’s what a lot of people do. (But are they truly happy or at peace with themselves when their foundation is so shaky that it requires such constant protection?)

      As for JS, I don’t know what was going through his mind. He may have convinced himself that many of his teachings were true, especially as his followers expressed their belief and how it’s improved their lives. As a whole, I think many aspects of the church started out as an intentional deception, then continued as an unconscious delusion. Check out this film for some fascinating insight into how this can happen with spiritual leaders and their followers: http://kumaremovie.com

    • Oh, also, according to this survey (http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar2012-1.pdf) only 11% of members who leave the LDS church remain in Christianity. The majority become atheist/agnostic/humanist.

  55. Graham,

    I thought I would take a stab at commenting on a couple of your questions. There are usually rational and logical answers to almost any question, if we know where to look for them. When you wondered if Joseph could have written the BoM himself it reminded me of a lecture I heard, which I believe was given by Craig Criddle, detailing the process by which some linguists think the book was created. Apparently JS was not extremely literate, so it is doubtful he could have written such an involved book. But Sidney Rigdon was very educated and an accomplished scriptural scholar. Because of a string of events that I don’t have time to relate now, but that can be looked up on the Internet, and the fact that the computerized word prints in the BoM match those of Rigdon and Solomon Spaulding, they believe the book was created mostly by Rigdon, using a manuscript he “borrowed” from the printing establishment he was affiliated with and in which the Spaulding manuscript was held. It is thought that he and Oliver Cowdery invited the charismatic Joseph Smith to be the “front man” for the religion they were cooking up.

    As for your question as to whether JS really believed he was a prophet, I read an account written by a visitor to Nauvoo in its Mormon heyday. I believe the visitor was the son of John Quincy Adams, but I’m not absolutely certain. Anyway, the visitor asked JS how he got all the Mormons to follow him so faithfully. Apparently, Joseph winked at him and said something like, “Because I’m a prophet, don’t you know.” I also read that JS said at one time that the Mormons were the most gullible people on the face of the earth.

    These are second-hand accounts at best, but they shed a little light on what may be closer to the truth than the sanitized fairytales we have been raised on.

  56. Barbara,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interesting comment about the word prints matching Rigdon and Spaulding. I hadn’t read that. I am familiar with the Spaulding Rigdon theory on how the BofM was written, and that is one explanation, since as you said, Rigdon was very well versed in the Bible and according to one biography I read, he may have had a photographic memory. There would have to be a lot of maneuvering behind the scenes to pull it off. For example, there is no evidence that JS met Rigdon prior to December, 1830, after the BofM was published. I suppose if your intention is to pull off a religious fraud, it would not be a stretch to fabricate the history to make it look like they didn’t meet until 12/1830 when they actually met in 1828 or 29. After all, although there was some journal entries as early as 1832, he did not start an official history until 1838. I’m not sure I buy that theory, but it is definitely one explanation, and if the word prints match, that gives it a lot more credibility.

    I have read about Josiah Quincy, Jr.visiting Joseph Smith, and he told JS that he thought it was dangerous for so much power to be held by one man. Joseph responded that he was the only man in the world it would be safe to trust with it. “Remember, I am a prophet,” he said. I had never heard about the winking part. That would certainly change the meaning.

    There is no doubt the church sanitizes their history, which can shock a lot members when they discover the un-sanitized history. I really do appreciate your thoughts and insight.

  57. Graham,
    Thank you for your reply to my post. You seem like a very open-minded person who is not threatened by looking at different perspectives or new information. It is true that Sidney Rigdon denies knowing JS before 1830, but a newspaper clipping from the 1820s has surfaced that lists people who have mail waiting to be picked up at a local post office–notices that regularly appeared in the papers of the day, apparently. On this list it shows JS and Rigdon on the same list, meaning they had post boxes in the same post office at the same time period. The post office was a central meeting place back before home delivery was common, so it would be a safe bet to assume that Rigdon and JS knew each other at that time, which was years before the coming forth of the BofM.

    I think I heard this at the same meeting where the word print info was shared. There is a book called something like “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon” that has a lot of information in it. Sorry I can’t be more specific about references. A Google search or two should turn up the exact sources.

  58. Barbara,
    Thanks.That was a quick response. I had never heard about the newspaper clipping that you mentioned. That would put that piece of puzzle together. As you can tell, I have honestly tried to discover how it would be possible for him to pull it off. In my mind it is very difficult for most fair-minded people, including myself, to think someone could be that maliciously deceptive, if that’s the right expression. If he did pull off a scam like that, he makes Madoff look like an honest guy. Well, not quite, but you know what I’m saying.

    Are you the author of the book referenced earlier? Are you or were you LDS? I will look up the book you mentioned about who wrote the Book of Mormon.

    Thanks again.

  59. Graham,
    I’m not sure Rigdon was maliciously deceptive. I think he was sincere in wanting to start a religion that reflected his spiritual philosophies. He had been a follower of a prominent religious leader of the time (Alexander Campbell, I think), and had differences of opinion with him about doctrine, so he had some motivation to start his own religion. There are reports that he had some type of brain damage as a child from falling off a horse, which seemed to cause some personality quirks that are documented in the book “Sidney Rigdon: a Portrait of Religious Excess” by Richard Van Wagoner.

    And, no, I did not write the book about the authorship of the Book of Mormon. But my husband and I did write a book entitled “The Collapse of Belief: What to do When Your World Comes Crashing Down.”

  60. Barbara,
    It was “The Collapse of Belief” that I was referring to. It was referenced earlier in this blog. I would like to read that. Along with the one on the Book of Mormon. Sidney Rigdon did follow Alexander Campbell for a few years, and I understand there may have been some personality issues that manifest itself a few times over the years. It sounds like you’ve read quite a bit.

    Were you lds? Thanks for sharing your insight. It’s been educational.

  61. This is a time when I wished I had all my references about me (instead of them being packed away in a garage in Idaho)….

    But the issue of prophets lying is one of the biggest reasons I left the church. The Book of Abraham fiasco was likely the biggest shock to me as I began studying more than the church’s glorified version of it’s history. At the time Joseph Smith produced the Pearl of Great Price, the ancient Egyptian language could not be translated. So if Joseph was a con man (and I believe now that he was), it was safe for him, at that time, to pull one over on many people. He could not have known that in a few short years after his death, the Rosetta stone would be discovered that allowed ancient Egyptian to be translated, and that a few decades after that, there would be experts in that ancient language who could authoritatively pronounce Joseph’s ‘translations’ as a ‘farrago of nonsense.’ He could not have known that in the 1960s, the papyrus he claimed he translated from would be found in NYC, and that modern experts in that language would also declare that he was out in left field on the translation claim, as literally NOTHING he claimed the papyrus spoke of was accurate. He also could not have known that in 100 years, a mysterious someone would take his translation of the Egyptian Alphabet, which was hid away in the church’s vault, and release it to the public. This document was examined by experts who also said it was a load of BS. Not one figure in his alphabet was correct.

    The deception in translation was not the last time. Before he died, some Illinois farmers forged some pieces of metal and brought them to him saying they had found them in a field. He declared them the writings of Ham, son of Noah. And he began ‘translating’ them. He never finished as he was killed first, but that he made the claim only shows he was a con man. The fake plates are known as the Kinderhook plates, and they exist still today. And they’ve been proven to be the hoax their makers claimed they were. The were NOT the writing of Ham.

    In modern times, Boyd K. Packer led a crusade against church historians who actually wrote the truth about the church’s history. Many of them were excommunicated for writing about topics he ordered them to leave alone. It was a purge of what he called the church’s ‘intellectuals.’ He actually stated in a speech that church historians had the responsibility, when writing about the church’s history, to portray events in it’s history in a ‘more faith promoting’ light so as not to harm fledgling testimonies. In other words, he was telling them they needed to embellish the history.

    Not long after, Gordon B. Hinckley in a nationally broadcast interview lied when he said the church had never taught that ‘as man now is God once was, and as God now is, man may become.’ Anyone raised in the church knows that was a lie. We all were taught that principle.

    As Brandon’s mom once pointed out in a discussion we had long ago, isn’t it strange that whenever Joseph’s wife or close associates challenged him on anything, he suddenly had a revelation from God chastising that person, which ended up in the Doctrine and Covenants? It just seems oh so convenient.

    When I look at the Book of Abraham, which provided him an opportunity to anchor much of the theology that set Mormonism apart as scripture (i.e Baptism for the dead, sealings, etc)…. and the Doctrine and Covenants, it is apparent to me he had the talent to produce literature that seems and feels like scripture. Add to that talent the fact that large parts of the Book of Mormon is a quoting of the Bible, word for word….. and it is done in King James’s language, and it is even more unsettling. Also bothersome is that the Book of Mormon would conveniently predict him (Joseph) and his supposed mission. A book I read about it that might help you in deciding on the Book of Mormon can be read online here: http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no72.htm.

    Don’t let the fact that the article was produced by the Tanners bother you. The church has done a wonderful job in tarnishing their character. In fact, they were considered experts in ancient Mormon history and did not hesitate to defend the church when it was right to do so. An example was when the Salamander letter forgery was hoisted onto the world and even the church thought it was authentic. The Tanners were asked to examine it, and they declared it (rightfully) to be a fraud and published their reasons for doing so. I met them and spoke to them, and they truly had no other desire than to bring the truth of the church’s history to light. The same one Boyd K. Packer stated was ‘advanced history’ and should not be studied by anyone but church authorities because it would destroy a testimony. It’s well written, and it raises some very interesting ideas.

    Finally, I would just touch on a bit of that advanced history that could destroy a testimony. Joseph claimed that he translated the BOM with the Urim andThumim… (if I spelled those correctly), but in all the early day writing of the events (journals, letters, etc), the claim was that Joseph was in possession of a Seer stone, which he would put into a hat, and then put his face into the hat, and the translation of the book appeared to him on the stone. Some apparently thought the idea of finding a magic stone in a well that illuminated and was readable when put in a hat might cause a problem. Am not sure when the biblical term Urim and Thumim was adopted. The Seer stones are not in doubt. And their use by Joseph well before the supposed first vision as a means of tricking people in the local area into paying him to find buried treasure are well documented. The church doesn’t even try to fib about them, but they are not openly taught about. The average Mormon would know nothing about a stone in a hat as a means of translating the BOM. The Seer stones of Joseph and many other church leaders of that era who claimed to have them even went on exhibit at BYU for some time. Wikpedia has a good article on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seer_stone_(Latter_Day_Saints). One good article by a Mormon apologist here: http://www.mormonfortress.com/seer2.html. And one from a not so friendly source here: http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon266.htm.

    These events of early Mormonism that the missionaries do not talk about with prospective members were/are bothersome to me. I think people trying to decide whether or not to make a life long commitment to a church have the right to know about these sorts of things, and hiding them (and having it justified by an apostle as an attempt to protect fledgling testimonies) is a deceitful exercise. I am sure Boyd K. Packer really believes what he says, but is he really the one to decide what people should and should not hear about in regards to the actual history of the church?

    I sometimes hesitate to put into words what I’ve learned over the past few decades about the Mormon church because I get angry when I realize the level of deception (which included me being deceived). And it’s often difficult to mask that frustration. But I am not an anti-Mormon ideologue. I studied these things years ago, and I have not looked at it in a good decade or so because I am not on some mission. But it does me good to see others, like Brandon and his mom Allison, come to the same conclusions as I and others. And I appreciate reading comments like Grahams, from someone who is looking at it with an open mind.

  62. Robert and Brandon,
    Thanks for responding. Brandon, I do believe your comment regarding comfort and truth. I wasn’t implying that I needed comfort more than truth. I honestly do seek truth, and have for a while now. That might not have been true some years ago. Back then I might have not given a fair chance to anything I didn’t want to hear.

    Robert, thank you for sharing your thoughts and research. I don’t have to tell you guys that there are not many people who can talk to objectively about subjects like this. Active LDS usually have no idea what you’re talking about, or get so defensive that it’s not worth discussing anything that is not faith promoting. I’ve brought up the stone in the hat thing before and I got nothing back, so just dropped it. On the other side are those who seem to be so hurt by the church or members of it that it is difficult to discuss anything through that anger. Or the have a clear agenda to attack anything to do with the Mormon Church. Many in this group, I have found, have some of the same problems the mormons have. They filter out everything that doesn’t promote their belief, and some don’t know what they’re talking about. That is not the case here, so I really do appreciate your feedback and giving me your experience and what you’ve learned. I want you to know the questions I have are sincere. I’m not just saying them to engage in dialogue. I have had these questions for a long time, and I have read a lot on both sides of almost every issue I can think of about the LDS church. It’s not a constant thing. Most of the time I just put them to the side.

    Brandon, thanks for sharing the stat on people who leave the church and where they end up. I was way off on that. It was just based on people I’ve come in contact with, who appeared to still be Christian although they left the church.

    As you can tell, one piece of the puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out is how JS did it all (wrote the BofM, D&C, etc). Maybe I’m just over thinking all of it, but it’s not something to take lightly, and it does seem like monumental undertaking. I won’t posting all the time and hogging all the space on this blog, but I truly do appreciate your responses. It is hard to discuss everything in much detail in this format. I wish I could talk to someone to opening discuss this.

  63. I think the fact that Joseph wrote the D&C makes it easier to understand how he could have fabricated the Book of Mormon also. He was certainly familiar with King James English. Other people have done similar things, from Joseph’s time to the present. Check out Chris Namelka who claims to have translated the lost 116 pages. :) http://thesealedportion.com/tsp/index.htm
    Also check out MormonThink’s page on Joseph as the author of the BoM: http://mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm
    If you want more people to discuss this with, there are some great forums out there such as http://forum.newordermormon.org and http://lifeaftermormonism.net.

  64. Another thing that really bothered me is the difference between the 4 accounts of the First Vision that Joseph Smith gave. For starters, the story itself didn’t come into existence until many years after he organized the church…

    Then he gave 4 accounts of it. In one, there were only angels surrounded in fire. In another, there was only Jesus Christ that appeared to him. I cannot recall what the 3rd account entailed…. and the 4th one, which became the one the church pushes.. . That both God the Father and Jesus showed up.

    And I wondered… If God the Father and Jesus appeared to you, how could you possibly forget or omit that Jesus and God weren’t in one account, and that God the Father was absent in 3 of them????

    Even with all that I learned, it took me many many years to break off the emotional attachment to it. It was a security blanket. I understand that and don’t want to threaten anyone’s security. But I also feel people have the right to know these things.

    Then there is the new DNA evidence showing there are no living descendants of Middle Easterners in any native tribes of the America’s…

    Brandon, I haven’t had time to look at your links, but how can anyone claim to have translated the lost 116 pages if they were never found? I will check them out next week….

  65. Thanks for the feedback. I guess the biggest challenge I see in someone like Joseph Smith writing what he wrote, especially the BofM, is not as much the King James english, although that would be some challenge, but the hebraisms, chiasmus, etc. that are all over it. I don’t think JS could have pulled it off alone. My personal belief is, if the writings weren’t divinely inspired, that he had help. A lot of people believe that, but there is some argument on who. I think the most likely candidate would have been Cowdery, but who knows? There are clearly unaddressed issues with the BofM (DNA, linguistics, etc.) that are a challenge to anyone who looks at it honestly.

    I suppose, if you determine that it is all a fake, it doesn’t totally matter how he did it, however it is something I’ve thought about a lot trying to close that loop. There have been many theories through the years.

    JS did have different versions of his first vision, as it’s called, which are not all consistent. Not sure why that is. Bushman writes that he came out slowly with the story because of the mockery he had to endure. He was reluctant to say the whole thing at first. It’s been a while since I read that so I’m not 100% sure that is accurate, but I believe that is the gist of it. That doesn’t really explain why God the father is absent in all accounts except the official one.

    Thanks again Brandon and Robert for sharing your knowledge and feedback.

    • “Hebraisms” and Chiasmus appear in all sorts of ancient and modern literary works, including the D&C which Joseph never claimed was of ancient origin. It doesn’t mean the book comes from ancient sources. Here is more on the topic: http://www.mormonthink.com/mormonstudiesdefense.htm
      http://www.mormonthink.com/backup/linguistic.htm

      As for the first vision, it’s not so much that there were different accounts that bothered me, but that he didn’t mention the story at all until 10 years after he said it happened, so the “persecution” was not from telling the first vision story, but from treasure digging and other questionable/deceptive endeavors. And once he started telling the story, it became more impressive with each telling, and included suspicious contradictions. See http://www.mormonthink.com/firstvisionweb.htm

  66. It is true that it doesn’t mean that it’s ancient, but it raises the degree of difficulty to a level that, in my opinion, makes it extremely unlikely, if not impossible, for JS to write the BofM on his own. That was my point.

    There was not first vision account written until at least 10 years after it happened. Not sure why that was other than JS didn’t feel it was necessary, since at the time it occurred starting a church wasn’t in the plan. Of course, I don’t think there was a written account of anything before then. Some of the persecution was from money digging, but the majority of it came after he claimed to discover gold plates, and especially after he wrote the book of mormon. That happen after the money digging activity ended.

  67. Brandon,
    Having recently experienced a similar journey away from Mormonism, I appreciated that you would so openly share your story. As you explained, it is not an easy journey.
    Thanks

  68. Just read what you wrote about free masonry and mormonism. Related thought. If those secret signs were not around til free masonry then how are all the christians that lived before that going to get into heaven?
    More sure than ever that leaving the mormon church was the right thing to do

  69. Brandon,

    Greetings! I found your blog while searching for a humanitarian vacation for my family of five. I started reading a few of your articles and I came across this post. I was a baptist for many years and decided recently to take a huge leap of faith out of organized religion. I blog about it. Here is a recent post http://blog.unbelievablechristianity.com/2014/01/22/mind-matters.aspx. Check it out sometime. Keep the faith.

    David

    • Wow! Beautifully written, David. Thanks for sharing. I especially love the line “We must stop knowing, and start seeing.”

  70. It appears that regardless of the religion, the key attributes that bind us these churches are the same….guilt, fear, damnation. We are herds of sheeple. It is great to walk in “newness of life.”

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