For those who don’t know me, my name is Justin. I was born into an LDS family here in the state of Deseret. My father served as a bishop and high-priest. My mother served as relief society president, stake primary president, and many other positions. My mother’s family has a long pioneer history going back to the cross-country Willy and Martin Handcart treks.
For those who do know me, I am sure it is not a surprise that I no longer consider myself a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Besides a few funerals, I have not attended a sanctioned church event in 20 years.
Acknowledging this, some people might be curious as to why I get angry when I read some of the recent noteworthy essays from The LDS Church, supposedly attempting to explain some of their more controversial and baffling past/present policies. The latest of which acknowledges that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and married teenage girls as well as the wives of other men whilst in Nauvoo.
Prior to that it was an essay on the authenticity of The Book of Abraham. The essay admitted that those images were taken and “translated” from nothing more than common Egyptian funerary texts.
Prior to that, an acknowledgement that the priesthood ban on African Americans was nothing but racist bigotry and had nothing to do with gospel or God’s plan.
These infuriate me for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that I was taught exactly opposite of these things when I was growing up. When I dutifully went to church each week. Whilst I served in the office of Deacon’s Quorum President, Teacher’s Quorum President, and Priest’s Quorum President. Whilst I studied the Book of Mormon. Whilst I read the D&C with my mother each morning at breakfast. Whilst we read the official church history.
I remember specifically asking if Joesph Smith had other wives and was told, no, there was no one but Emma. I remember specifically the lesson that told me that The Mark of Cain was black skin, and that bigfoot might be Cain (a ‘fact’ quickly and rightly dismissed by my father), and that the black skin of African Americans was a punishment for unrighteousness – just as darkened skin was for the Lamanites. I remember repeatedly pondering and studying the images and text in The Pearl of Great Price, amazed at the rich cosmology built there.
(I stopped going to church for none of these reasons and contradictions, but for reasons that belong in a different and much longer missive.)
But, I think the real reason I am infuriated is that I will upset people simply by writing this.
The facts are these:
I was taught lies, plural. Not just differences of philosophy with now I disagree. Not just pedantic logical arguments and fallacies. I was taught multiple admitted concrete falsehoods – as if they were gospel truth. I have little doubt that if a common member were to have read those essays, word for word from the pulpit when I was yet going to church, they would quickly have joined the ranks of excommunicated Mormons. Imagine for a moment that the essay on African-American priesthood prohibition has been written and read by a ward leader in 1960. What do you suppose would have been the result for the author? A Mormon man named Douglas Wallace was excommunicated in 1976 for bestowing the priesthood upon a black gentleman – apparently doing the true, inclusive will of The Lord – whilst the appointed leadership of the church continued to lead the membership upon an immoral path of racial bigotry and discrimination.
Whether those lies were spread knowingly by the good people in my ward or whether they themselves were misled by their leaders, I can’t possibly say. It is my contention, however, that this demonstrates a concerted effort to cover-up history, distort facts, and mislead entire congregations of good, well-intentioned members of the church – including many members of my family.
There are so many other things that I could write regarding my various views of The Church – but why bother? These are confessions. Written, uncoerced, by The Church’s own hand. They are lies and damned lies by The Church’s own standards.
But most damningly, I hate that by simply publicly acknowledging these facts, I will upset people and be viewed as an anti-Mormon apostate. I hate that some people will think I have some agenda other than pointing out the clearly obvious truth – that the foundation of “The Church” is built upon a sand-bank of admitted lies, and governed by admitted liars. And I hate that these new essays will not likely cause more than a fleeting moment of pause.
I am not “anti-Mormon.” I am pro-truth. I never set out to disbelieve, and I never set out to break my family’s heart. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand me.
“It is astonishing what force, purity, and wisdom it requires for a human being to keep clear of falsehoods.” – Margaret Fuller, 1842