A Next Step

Dear friends and family,

I want to let you know that I am resigning my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Though likely unwelcome news to many, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise as I have not regularly attended church service in nearly 20 years, and no longer believe in a god.  Why do I feel it necessary now? To officially cancel my ties with The Church? As has probably been guessed, the new anti-LGBT policies of The Church are the last straw for me.

I hurt so much for those true believing children who were just told by the trusted and beloved representatives of their loving Heavenly Father and Savior that they were lesser and unworthy.

I clearly remember my own child-like and singular love and trust in Jesus — so pure and innocent and all-consuming. Jesus, who gave only love and comfort and acceptance; never a rebuke, even in the face of sin.

Because I remember that so clearly, an image comes to me of having that very love and trust bludgeoned by a visit from President Benson, on the day of my Baptism, suddenly breaking the news to me that Jesus won’t have me as a member of His church today.

I can imagine my heart breaking in my chest as President Hinckley shows up at our ward house, and stops my father’s hands, only to tell me that Heavenly Father will not have me as a member of His Priesthood today.

I imagine being filled with such abject misery and hopelessness when my Primary teacher tells our class that “Heavenly Father needs and wants all of your chosen generation, but not you.  Not you.”

Though I no longer believe in the importance of these events, the thought of the children going through less dramatic but nonetheless real versions of those scenarios right now fills me with heartache. That’s why I’m angry for them. That’s why I hurt for them. That’s why I feel it necessary to take this action.

I’ve considered this final step over the years, but this is the reason I’ve finally decided it’s necessary; to protest a church claiming to speak for a God of love and acceptance, which instead seemingly teaches children hate, exclusion, and shame. Teaching them that they will not only be punished for their own sins, but also for their parents’ love.

I understand that we may have different understandings and interpretations of this policy. I have read several different official, semi-official, and unofficial attempts to explain how this new policy is not vicious nor malicious. I’ve watched D. Todd Christofferson’s reaction video. I’ve read the letter from The First Presidency. I’ve read the press-release from Michael Otterson. I sincerely disagree with all of these rationalizations and explanations.

I don’t mean to preach in this letter, but I felt I owed at least a brief explanation before I join the other compassionate and empathetic believers and non-believers in requesting that we no longer to be counted among the membership of this church.

If this hurts you personally, I am truly sorry. It is not my intent, though that may be cold comfort.

Any and all of you are more than welcome to tell me or ask me anything you like, so long as we can remain a loving family in doing so. I love and value and respect each of you and know that each of us is walking our own path as best we know how.

16 thoughts on “A Next Step”

      1. Hi Justin and Mark. I know this is an older post and no one may be reading this, but I thought I would post anyway. I’m not a Mormon, I’m more along the lines of a Protestant Christian. I’m sorry for the pain both of you have encountered, you directly Justin, and you because of the treatment of your daughter Mark. I’m not trying to convert or convince either of you to believe in God. I don’t think that works much anyhow. What I did want to do is let you know that I believe that what Jesus taught was love, that he loves me, he loves you Justin and he loves you and your daughter Mark. I wanted you to know that while cruelty may be common, those cruel people are a terrible representation of Jesus. People of all beliefs can be jerks. I just wanted you to know that there are those in the religious community who love and accept you, regardless of who you are (heterosexual, LGBTQ, male, female, transgender, religious or non-Religious). God bless you. Jeff

        1. Jeff,

          Thanks for reading and commenting.

          Have you heard of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy? I think your comment suffers from this problem of logic. Many Christians, whom I can only take at their word that are Christian, don’t practice this unconditional love. Many do. Many atheists practice this unconditional love. Many don’t.

          Thus, it seems to me, that neither The Bible, The Gospel, God, nor Jesus are necessary nor inspire this kind of love. Thus, I will love my fellow human beings until they give me reason not to.

          Thanks again,
          Justin

          P.S. – A longer discussion on this point: http://www.secular-reality.com/2015/08/05/bowing-to-an-empty-throne/

  1. I left the Mormon church in 1983, due to the reason that all they teach in the church they don’t live by ( Do as I say not as I do )
    Freeagency: the right to chose to or not to. “When I chose not to go to church I was grounded and was forced to go without eating for two meals as a child”. I was also not allowed to play with any friends of mine that did not belong to the church, This to me sounds like a cult or forced religion.

    Do unto others: they do like to kick you in the balls and then ask why you are hurting.

    Well needless to say the church it self having so much influence in brain washing you into believing something with no facts caused my Divorce and the loss of both my children who want nothing to do with me because I don’t believe in that religion. They convinced my wife at the time that if she didn’t leave me that I was going to take her strait to hell because I didn’t go to church.( I never kept her from going )

    My NDE in 1980 woke me up to this fact. not one religion on this planet believes in what I personally experienced, which is why I am spiritual and not religious.

    Thanks for letting me vent here.

    1. Your rant is welcome, and I am sorry for your losses.

      How can people who revere a church so, ostensibly, dedicated to the family let these differences divide and tear apart? My family, luckily, has been much more….tolerant of my pro-reality nonsense.

      Know that you’re not alone – and that, even in Utah, there is a growing population of people who would be glad to know you. Search out a post-Mormon gathering.

  2. I believe in God , but not the church. I adopted a handicapped child and he loves to sign in primary, but they want him in youth group. He is mentally 12 months old. But he has no place in the church. I hate the bishop. They only care for their selves.
    I hate everything about it. I don’t know what to do.
    Any help??

  3. As a current Bishop of an LDS ward in Utah, my heart aches for those of you who have obviously been hurt. I am a father of three beautiful children who I encourage to be their best selves. Each one in our family have friends who are not members of the church and those friendships are encouraged. I believe that all people are children of a loving Father in Heaven. Just like I, as a father, want my children (who are all very different) to work together and love one another, I believe our loving Father in Heaven want us – His children – to love one another and serve one another. I believe it’s very sad when parents – who I’m sure have good intentions – strive to teach in a way that actually hurts. However, I also understand that everyone makes mistakes. Parenting is not easy and so I try to be as forgiving of other’s messing up as I hope they will be as I mess up (as I do quite often).

    I also understand concerns on the recent stance the LDS church took regarding children who live with same-sex couples. When I first read the statement, I felt similar to what Justin describes. I wondered, “Why would the church punish a child for the choices of the parents?” I struggled over this issue and thought about it. I listened, as Justin did, to the explanation Elder Christofferson gave, and also spoke to some individuals who had been directly dealing with issues similar to this. I also tried to put myself into the shoes of the child as they come to church and are taught one thing and then go home and are taught something exactly opposite. I understood, as a Bishop, that once a person is baptized into the church, we as church members, have the responsibility to watch over and nourish those individuals who have chosen to take upon themselves, through baptism, the responsibility of being followers of Christ. Everyone, who has tried to follow Christ’s example, understands how difficult it can be at times. Followers of Christ, therefore, join together in groups to help and support one another. Once a child is baptized, teachers and leaders reach out to them to help them. For a child living in a home where there is such a stark contrast to God’s definition of a family starting with a Mother and a Father, this help would quickly turn into a mental/spiritual struggle for the child that will cause turmoil in the home, church and/or child. If the child truly wants to be a follower of Christ, I realized it is better for everyone if the child waits until they are an adult to make that decision. They will not be denied any blessings for doing so.

    To Dawna (the mother of the wonderful child who loves to sign in primary), I would encourage you to go talk to your Stake President. I believe you have a valid concern and only want the best for your child. When you talk to him, you can reference Handbook 2 (available on lds.org). Search it before you go. There is a lot of information there on how we are all encouraged to “follow the Savior’s example of offering hope, understanding, and love to those who have disabilities.” I believe he will listen to your concerns and respond in a loving way that will be a blessing to you and your child.

    I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinions. I understand that everyone has a right to believe they way they want. I did want to share my experience as I have dealt with these questions in my life. This life is hard enough. We, as spiritual brothers and sisters, need to love and support one another – even with our differences in opinion. I do hope that each person on this earth can know in their heart that God loves them. This life is tough due to both our own choices and others, but I have found great strength as I turn to my Father in Heaven in prayer. I know he loves us and has created this life to help us all learn and grow. He gives us laws that bring us happiness and joy as we follow them. God bless each one of you in your search for happiness.

    1. Thank you, sir, for your kind demeanor and respectful words.

      May I ask, however, why a child of divorced parents is allowed to make the decision to be baptized? Their home-life does not reflect the ideal either. Could living in single-parent homes not cause the same mental and spiritual struggle?

      And, if these children will not be denied blessings, why is any child allowed and encouraged to make such a serious decision? Should not all children wait until they are adults to become members? Once they’ve had time to learn all they can about The Church? Once they’ve had time to research and question and weigh the claims, history, and evidence?

      Justin

      1. I must apologize for the long wait you’ve had awaiting my answer. I don’t get a lot of time to spend on the internet. Right now I am focused on raising my family.

        You raise a good question. I’m sure there is some mental and spiritual struggles we all encounter as those around us make choices that are against our own belief system. I know life for those who have been divorced (both the now-separated spouses and for the effected children) is difficult. My heart goes out to them and I reach out and help them every chance I get. I have seen two main outcomes from these situations: Either people turn to the Lord to gain the strength they need or they turn away from the Lord and thus deny themselves access to the very source of spiritual strength they need. Those single parents who have turned to the Lord have been able to lead their little family forward with strength that constantly amazes me.

        As a Bishop, I have had the opportunity to sit with children who are about to turn 8 years old and ask them about their choice to be baptized. I focus with them on the basics of the Gospel – because that is their maturity level. From the scriptures, we learn that the basic choice to be baptized is really founded on Christ: do they believe in Christ and are they willing to follow His commandments. It’s not necessary – nor even possible – to learn everything there is to know about Jesus Christ and His Church before we make the covenant of bapism to believe in Him and do our best to follow His example. In my interviews with these young children, it’s been wonderful to hear they do know God lives and loves them and they are willing to follow Christ’s example.

        After a person is baptized with water by proper Priesthood authority into Christ’s church, Jesus Christ promises they will be baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost (see Matthew 3:11). The Holy Ghost is a gift given to those who are baptized to be a guide, a comforter, a protector, and a purifier (like fire). Listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost throughout our lives leads us to truth, peace and happiness. It’s a truly amazing and wonderful gift that has blessed my life. While I didn’t understand how to effectively use that gift at age 8, I’m grateful that God loves His children enough to give them that gift as early as possible in their lives so it can help them through this difficult world throughout their life.
        I know God lives and loves me. I have felt the promptings and guidance of the Holy Ghost in my life. While I haven’t been perfect in following that guidance, I have found that I have the most joy when I do and so I continue to strive to follow that guidance more. I have also felt the comfort and peace from the Holy Ghost during the tragic loss of loved ones or when I am struggling through other difficult and painful situations. For that comfort and peace, I am eternally grateful. I can also testify that I have felt the purifying power of the Holy Ghost in my life as I have made some difficult decisions to follow Christ instead of the world (I’m still a work in process with that goal  ).

        It’s normal and healthy to have questions like you have. I’m one to encourage questions and seeking for answers. It’s easy in this world we live in, to depend upon the wisdom of men to gain our answers. In the New Testament, James teaches us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God (see James 1:5). I hope that we can all strive to look to God to find our answers and not depend on the faulty and changing wisdom of the world. May you feel and know of God’s great love for you today and in the future as you seek for the truth.

        1. “I’m grateful that God loves His children enough to give them that gift as early as possible in their lives so it can help them through this difficult world throughout their life.”

          These children won’t be given this amazing gift. Does God not love them?

          Or love them less? Without baptism, besides a cleansing of their “sins”, they will also be denied The Gift of The Holy Ghost. They will be denied the “promptings of The Holy Ghost throughout” their lives in order to lead them to truth, peace, and happiness. Does that seem the work of a god who loves all of His children? To deny these gifts to some, simply because of the actions of their forebearers?

          Again, I ask the question, why are the children of divorced parents, or even children in mixed-faith marriages allowed to be baptized while the child of a homosexual couple will not be? Even if that child sits in your office, proclaiming a deep belief and love of Jesus Christ and His gospel? Neither is living in an “ideal” home – but only one of those children will be marked by segregation from their peers. No matter how wonderful their young testimony, you, as a Bishop, will be forced to tell them that they cannot be baptized, while all of their friends and classmates living in any other kind of family – loving & caring & ideal or not – will not be likewise prevented. Punished & delayed not for own faults, but for the love their parents share.

          If you read elsewhere in this blog, you no doubt know that an am an atheist and do not believe the existence of anything supernatural, including a god, is likely. If a god, however, were demonstrated to be likely, and this god was the author of this and other discriminatory, sexist, bigoted policies, that god would not deserve my worship, admiration, nor respect. I find this policy, and the author thereof – deity or apostles, to be hateful and hurtful.

          Cheers,
          Justin

  4. I was born & indoctrinated into the LDS church.
    Was a missionary, priesthood holder and married in Temple.
    I always wanted to believe but always thought something was amiss due to double bind psychology that exists and osctracism of those that strayed.
    As a mature middle aged adult I began to pray and question doctrine. Much to my disbelief the more I searched the more I came to realize that Mormonism isn’t what its thought to be.
    To wit, the Bible said in the latter days there will be many false prophets. How are they identified? Simple, their prophesies don’t come true (Joseph Smith has around 9-12 that didn’t happen).
    Modern DNA studies refute that Book of Mormon Nephites (descendants of Lehi) did not come from Israel rather 99% of early North & South American inhabitants came from Asia.
    Its been proved that the Papyrus Scripts translated by Joseph Smith into the book of Abraham were none the less mummies epitaphs (hence book of Abraham is fiction). Its appears since none of the actual archaeology sites and/or people of the Book of Mormon have ever been located that it too was contrived.
    Plural marriage as practiced in the early church days seems to me to be no less than legalized adultery.
    Its common knowledge that Joseph Smith (at one time) was a high priest in the Masonic Order (no doubt LDS temple rituals are all too similar).
    Last but not least, many members of the drunken mob the killed Joseph at the Carthage jail were both former mason acquaintances and ex-husbands of several of the plural wives he’d taken to wed.
    ( Yes! Historical records shows that he actually married other men’s wives, in the name of God! Seems that many of the mob had a score to settle that went beyond religous disagreement……more like revenge….
    Joseph Smith, unlike John Calvin or Martin Luther who were reformers of Christianity, claimed to be a restorationist of the “True Gospel” of Jesus Christ……….(seriously, I doubt it).
    I still believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible and accept him as my Lord and Saviour!
    However, I can no longer believe in a Christian Church that was founded upon decided and still promises its disciples things they cannot deliver (to be gods & goddesses of their own worlds and begat spirit children ….. really).
    If this were so, then their spirit children too would have to take upon them a mortal body, they would need another earth, another Elohim, from another planet (like Kolob) and another son of god (Jesus) to facilitate another atonement. Hmm, there would need to be another Lucifer, another Bible, another resurrection and so on and so on for the multitude of gods & godesses that are presently being prepared in the LDS Churches.

    God revealed in the Bible, “I am the only God, there were none before me and none after me” .
    Seek the Truth and it shall be revealed unto you!
    Read and study the gospel of Jesus Chist as found in the Bible.
    Believe in him and accept him as your savoir and be saved by his grace.
    I pray, your brother, Manaseh…..

    1. Morgan,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you found the courage to question what you had always been taught. I’d encourage you to apply that same skepticism, questioning, and study toward the idea of God and The Bible. J. Reuben Clark’s words not only apply to The LDS Church, but to all ideas; “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

      Cheers,
      Justin

  5. Amen!” to the truth” and “to hell” with deception!
    Lucifer is the “king of all lie’s” and it would’nt surprise me if he might try to masquerade a brand of Christianity as the truth when in actuality perhaps any such entity perhaps should be known as ” the Church of the Devil”.
    Why not create something bad yet call it good?
    After all Lucifer is the master deceiver.
    What young vibrant male (with rationalzed morale compass) would not want to consumate marriage with over 50 wives (some as young as 14, some older, some still married to other men?).

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