“You can leave The Church, but you can’t leave it alone.”
The quote above is a common phrase wielded at former members, like myself, who continue to expend time and energy to talk, write, and discuss various Mormon topics.
Members seem to wonder why those of us who don’t believe still care what anyone else believes? This is not limited to Mormons; atheists are often asked the same question by believers of all faiths.
If anyone should understand the impetus to share new knowledge gained by hard work and research, however, it should be The Mormons.
The LDS Church sends out tens of thousands of missionaries each year. Most of those young men and women leave home with the assurance they possess a knowledge that needs to be shared. They know something that much of the world does not and are desperate to hear.
Those of us who have researched unofficial LDS History, other faiths, religions, and philosophies also feel that we have discovered something that many around us have not. We have new knowledge! New information! Many of us grew up in homes where knowing Church History was considered a duty and a virtue. When we encounter facts and writings and events that were heretofore unknown to us, our inclination and desire is to share it – especially with our loved ones – even if that knowledge contradicts and calls into question the claims of that same Church.
I left The LDS Church when young and angry and rebellious. I tried once or twice to discuss my then less-than-scholarly objections with family members, only to feel unheard. I think it discouraged me from being more frank and honest for years. As I continue to read more and more, and learn more and more — and there is ALWAYS something more — I want to share my message. I want to share what I believe to be the truth, as I have it. I want those I love most to know what I know, because, ultimately it has made me happier and more fulfilled knowing that nothing needs be unquestioned. Nothing needs be unresearched. I can try (and fail) to understand EVERYTHING. Just as LDS missionaries believe their message to be, I believe my message is one of joy and fulfillment!
A former ward-member once chastised me outside of the SLC Temple at a sibling’s wedding. I penned an unsent letter in which I wrote:
I am not sorry for questioning my beliefs, past or current, even if it seems unpleasant to do so at the time. I still remember the story of a 14-year-old boy questioning the teachings of those closest to him.
I often ponder Mormons’ seeming distaste for questioning the status quo of their faith whilst simultaneously holding Joseph Smith’s prayer in The Grove in such high esteem. What if Joseph had been too afraid to walk into that grove? Too afraid of destroying what he already knew with what he might learn?
Either knowing Church history is a virtue or a vice. Either questioning is a virtue or a vice. It can’t be both.
In that same letter, I also wrote:
I will grant that, however unlikely, it is possible that someday, due to continued searching and questioning, I may find that the initial teachings of my life were always correct. If so, I will humbly admit my mistakes and return. Having said that, if such a thing does occur, it will not because someone tells me that my father always wanted me to view the Temple, or because I want to see my sister’s wedding. It will be because I have spent hours, years, and perhaps decades in careful reflection of those beliefs. There is no end on the journey for knowledge and understanding; only rest areas.
But you can’t find new knowledge by refusing to look for it.