My Story pt. 2: The Mission

In the LDS church there are many age-related milestones. When I child turns 8, he or she is baptized. 12 is the age when boys first receive the priesthood, or are ordained to be able to use God's power here on earth. At 16, young Mormons are able to start dating members of the opposite sex. However, for most Mormon males, there is an age which is more heavily anticipated (and feared) than any other, the age of 19. It is at 19 that young men are eligible (or obligated) to leave their families and served a full-time 2 year mission for the Church. This mission is self-funded, and most returned missionaries (RMs for short) describe it as the most difficult 2 years of their lives. Women can also serve missions, although their service is not mandatory and a woman who doesn't serve a mission does not meet the same discrimination that a man normally does.

As stated in my last post, my teenage years were filled with occasionally musings as to the validity of the church. A year or so before I turned 19, these musings turned into an all out obsession. If I was going to sacrifice 2 years of my life, I needed a good reason. For a short period, I started to engage in behaviors that were unbecoming of an active, practicing member of the LDS church. This phase didn't last too long as I decided that if I wanted to know if the church was true, I needed to live its rules as a test.

About 6 months before it was time to start applying to serve a mission, I began to prepare (in the Church's way) for this task. I was attending BYU at the time and started to read the Bible and the Book of Mormon daily. I attended all my church meetings and tried to immerse myself in the lessons and discussions taught there. As recommended by my Bishop, I studied talks given by church leaders about missionary service. My bishop also recommended reading Preach My Gospel, the guidebook used by Missionaries which is full of lessons to be taught to people looking to join the church, which I did several times. Throughout this period, I still felt uneasy about serving a mission. Studying all these materials made me more confident in my ability to teach people about the church, but I felt uncomfortable thinking about trying to get people to join an organization which I could not 100% endorse. I discussed these doubts with several friends and church leaders and essentially received the same advice from all of them: "Just go on a mission and you will receive a testimony of the truthfulness of the church as you are serving." That still didn't sound great to me, but I felt tremendous pressure from my parents, church leaders, and friends to go, so I hung on to the hope that I would finally find faith as I was working as a missionary for those two long years.

After application, missionaries are assigned to go to different parts of the world to teach others about the Church. I was assigned to a country in Europe and first spent 12 weeks in the Church's Utah-based Missionary Training Center learning a foreign language and practicing teaching skills that would be used as a missionary. Many people had told me that the time spent in the MTC would be the time when my testimony of the church and faith in God would grow the most, so I looked forward to my time there as an opportunity for such growth. I was horribly disappointed. The center seemed little more than the Church's version of military boot-camp. 14 hours of study a day coupled with lectures that seemed to focus more on strictly obeying mission rules than on being good people left me physically, emotionally, and, especially, spiritually drained.

Once I left for Europe, things improved. My parents had taught me to work hard, and I spent the next two years doing just that. While I may have been physically involved in the work, my mind became more and more estranged. The things the church told me I should focus on seemed more and more foreign to me. Why was I supposed to be telling people that the most important thing in life for them is to be dipped in water? Why when people ask for food or money am I forbidden to give them any and instead must offer them "spiritual food"? Why am I supposed to study the Book of Mormon every day when all I see are holes in its logic? Why does it seem that most of the other missionaries are working hard out of fear, rather than love for what they are doing? Why do all my prayers feel unheard and utterly pointless? These kinds of questions were constantly on my mind, however I had committed to serving a two year mission. I prided myself in never falling back on a commitment, so I persevered for two long years.

Am I glad I served a mission? Yes. Suffering through 2 years of hardship taught me to love the comforts that most of us in the United States enjoy. Living far away from my family in a foreign country taught me responsibility and made me a stronger person. From struggling to learn a foreign language I learned the importance of hard work. By serving a mission, I gained many skills which will benefit me for the rest of my life.

However, upon return from my mission, I was more convinced of the untruthfulness of the Mormon church than when I left. Now I was faced with the problem of deciding what to do with the rest of my life.

To be continued...

My Story pt. 1: The early years

I'm about as purebred Mormon as you can find. My ancestors first joined the church in 19th century England and Wales and eventually made it across the plains and settled in Utah and the surrounding area. I grew up going to primary and singing about "following the prophet" and learning about Joseph Smith translating golden plates as a child. Being raised in the church made all of the doctrine seem very logical to a little boy. I have great parents who are very selfless and their devotion made me trust the Church all that much more.

As a teenager, I learned to think a bit for myself. I realized that there were things in the church that didn't quite make sense. Why did the church teach that the earth was only 6,000 years old, when it was obviously much older? (I realize that the apologetics have answers to this question, but it was one that first got me thinking). Why did church leaders seem to discourage anyone who questioned the doctrine of the church? Why was so much based on praying to get a witness of the Book of Mormon? Why was I never happy at church, when I was taught that the Church brings ultimate happiness?

Like most teenagers, I wasn't particularly engrossed with these types of questions. They ate at me for a few hours during church each Sunday and then remained largely forgotten for the rest of the week when more important things such as girls and sports occupied my mind. It wasn't until I neared the magic Mormon age of 19 that I started to really think about religion and the role it was playing in my life. But that's a story for another day.

To be continued...

But why?

I've started a few blogs before. Most fizzled after a few posts because I got bored and didn't feel like I had much to write, even though I've always love writing. I think this one will be different. I'm not writing to promote my business, show off my cats, or talk about my wonderful "marriage", as many people do. First and foremost, I'm writing this blog for me. Writing has always been incredibly therapeutic to me and hopefully this can be an outlet.

Secondly, I am hoping that I can use this blog as a way of talking with other people about these kinds of issues. Sometimes I feel so trapped here, with no one to talk to, that I just want to run off to some far off place. Of course, that'll never do.

Right now my life seems like a stalemate. I'm not happy with where I am, but I don't see or feel like I have any way out that doesn't involve a lot of pain and stress. So I am hoping that my rantings on this blog will be enough to help me eventually reach a conclusion as to what to do.

Lastly, and most importantly, I'm writing this for a girl. You see, six months ago I had a plan. I was going to just sit and bite my tongue and wait to graduate. After finishing my undergrad I would go to grad school at a faraway place and have a few years to sort out my feelings away from the center of Mormondom. But then I fell in love. You girls always have a way of complicating simple things. Now, as our relationship progresses, I am slowly realizing that I may eventually decide that I want to spend the rest of my life with this girl. And at that point (or earlier) I will have to tell her about how I don't believe in the Church anymore. The thought of talking about that scares me to death. Hopefully, after the horrible, tear filled, conversation is over, she can read this blog and start to understand how I feel, understand that I love her more than anything and that my problems with the Church have nothing to do with her.

Now you can see why I'm conflicted.


I’ve been wanting to start a blog like this for sometime. I’ll get into my reasons a bit later. But here are some things you should know about me:

  • I am twenty-something years old, not-married, and currently go to Brigham Young University.
  • I served an honorable two year mission.
  • I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church for short).
  • My family on both sides can trace their ancestors past the pioneers who came across the plains.
  • I have been struggling with doubts about religion since I was a teenager, however it's only recently that I have started to realize that I may actually have to do something about this internal struggle.
  • My friends, family, and girlfriend have no idea about my feelings. Most would probably describe me as a solid member of the Church.
  • I still try to live by all of the commandments (i.e. rules) that the church least publicly. I live the Word of Wisdom (health code), am morally chaste, and go to church weekly. However, in private I have ceased to study the scriptures (I only see holes and contradictions) and haven't prayed for quite some time now.
I feel alone.

I've been needing to do this for a long time

I feel like I should start with something along the lines of “Hi, my name is _____ and this is my blog. Welcome.” However, due to the circumstances, let’s just do away with names. At least mine. So... Hello. This is my blog. Welcome.

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