Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Great Unknown


I was called and served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost exactly two years ago. I am posting this on the day that I was originally called to end my service. This date was determined from the day I received my call. But circumstances, of which I will be explaining, caused me to return January 10th, 2015 instead of today. I have taken my time writing this first blog entry because I feel my emotions have been all over the place the past few weeks and writing my thoughts then would have likely led me to say something I would later regret. I have read and reread what I have posted here and feel that it is accurate to how I currently feel about this situation and my relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which I will refer to, here on out, as the Church). I hereby give a disclaimer stating that I will be sharing opinions and beliefs of mine that are considered contrary to the core-doctrines of the Church and that I do not do any of this out of spite or anger to the people in the Church nor to those who have been in direct affiliation with my journey. Please, read with an open heart and an open mind.


Many people I know have shared with me that a mission was the greatest thing for their life to date. I would fall into that category. So what makes me different? 


I was called to serve in the Roseville, California Mission and reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) February 3rd, 2013. I was incredibly nervous to go and had many doubts in myself and my abilities. What kept me going from the beginning was my desire to make my family proud, to become a man, and to serve someone besides myself. I was certainly ill-prepared for the service, but I pressed on. I had no study habits beforehand and I had never lived away from home. A scripture that served me well was Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28, "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward." I was unsure what the Spirit feels like (still) but I have a strong feeling that the drive to good, to serve others without reward, is guidance from the Holy Ghost. I stuck by that. Throughout my stay my desire to love, serve and teach the people I was to meet grew every day.

After a week and a half went by in the MTC approximately 35 missionaries arrived at the Sacramento airport where we met our Mission President and his lovely wife. We were quickly orientated and quickly sent to our separate proselyting areas with our trainers. I was excited to get to work even before I finished unpacking. I begged my trainer to let us go tracting (door to door proselyting), because that's what missionaries do, right? He was somewhat reluctant, but we did it. I remember the exact street where we knocked. Up one side and down the other. We met nothing but empty doors and "busy" residents. I remember being disappointed, yet the flame to share the message was still there. This flame burned within me to share of God's love, though it was hard to do so. Mainly because I was told how amazing a mission was and I felt as if my experiences were sub-par at times, causing frustration with myself and often my companion - though I felt greatly blessed by the Lord for the opportunities I had, seeing myself and others change for the better.

After I left my first area I spent my time with a missionary who was set (and ready) to go home. After that I trained, was transferred again, became District Leader. In that ward my companion and I brought one family and two individuals into the church (five total). That is when I would say the work was most successful for me. My next area I was called as Zone Leader and over a Young Single Adult Ward and I had a blast. I loved seeing the testimonies of people in the same age group as myself and making lasting friendships there. Afterwards I was sent up north. By this time I had been about 18 months out. Things were different there than any other area I had served.

One day my companion and I were discussing the things most companionships do, like Mother in Heaven, Ezekiel 37:16-17, and a question I felt was pretty interesting: Why did Peter, James and John give Joseph Smith the Melchezidek Priesthood when the Three Nephites had the same authority and were already walking around? I posted this question on a Facebook group called Discussion on LDS Doctrine run by faithful, True Believing Mormons (TBMs). I was shut down and condemned by a few for asking such ridiculous questions that should not be asked. This turned me off to these types of thinkers and caused me to search out someone who would be willing to address this, or any question. I hit a group called Uncensored Discussion on Mormon Doctrine. This felt appropriate because it was the censorship in the other group that turned me off. I scanned and found that it was mostly "anti" and not faith-promoting. I searched to find a better one. It was then I realized that there is a lot of people out there that wish to damage the church. I wondered why.

I did what I felt I should do and sought to proselytize in a Mormon/Evangelical Discussion Group. This turned out to be as a pack of wolves attacking myself and my companion. We tried to make theological conversation and share our beliefs, but we were shut down on every corner, which was disheartening, not only because we were made as fools, but because what they were saying often made sense. Eventually I received a copy of the CES Letter and read through most of it in one night. The "letter" is a document compiled by a once faithful member who had some questions about the validity of the church and presented it to a CES Director. Unfortunately the unnamed director did not even reply to his inquiry, so the author, Jeremy Runnells, published the document online. I have read the letter all the way through once and referenced it many times. His points are good. Too good. The first time I read through it, I cried myself to sleep, knowing I had acquired a major wound in what I thought was a solid testimony. That is when my crisis if faith began.

I did not have much of a desire to really do any work. I began to question everything I was taught. I was angry at church leaders, myself, even God. I questioned his existence on multiple occasions. I did not share my thoughts or feelings with my companion. Soon after my first exposure I stumbled upon a presentation online given by John Dehlin about Why Mormons Question. I loved the angle that he took at the presentation. It was not to shut down people's belief in the church, but to give faithful members the opportunity to understand the less understood. I felt as if he was describing me. It was then I joined the group and was received by many people willing to support me in my search for truth and understanding. That is when I joined the Mormon Stories Podcast Community.

Eventually my first companion in the area left and my new companion joined me. Near the beginning of our adventures together I opened up to him, telling him I was unsure of the core doctrines of the Church. He reacted, I felt, somewhat poorly at the time, yet understandably so. He told me he had gone down the road I had and that he did not want to be there. He told me to stop thinking about those things that contradict the Church and put it away. His reaction caused me to talk about the hard things with only those who were online.

Our companionship was a great one. We had tons of fun and had one baptism along the way. During conference time something changed. My companion noticed that I was in MSPC and decided he wished to join as well. Straight off he posts on the page that he has had doubts about the church and wants to know the best way to tell his family. The group blew up! Our presence was made known. Many members of the group commented on the post, reaching over one hundred comments in about an hour. We conversed with many group members, gaining support. That night we were called by our Mission President and told that someone from Kaysville, Utah, a member of the Church, reported that we were participating in "an apostate group". We were reprimanded and told that he was going to be talking to us soon. This caused great panic and John Dehlin himself contacted us and we talked to him on the phone the next morning, apologizing for the breach in privacy and counseled with us about how we should proceed. I got a little fired up when he shut down my idea to be straight up with President about my concerns, but he advised me not to because "authenticity is not well received". We ended up having our talk with President a few days later for our regularly scheduled bi-transfer interview. The whole situation was not even brought up with my companion, but President was not happy with me. (In part because I posted a pic of me and my comp in nonproselyting clothes watching General Conference with the caption "I love Pajama Church!") I was asked to leave MSPC and that was about it.

Later in the transfer we received a call from President telling us he wanted to talk to us again. He showed up and told us that he had received many complaints, most about us playing basketball after curfew with other Elders. Also, he was notified that my companion had downloaded YouTube on his iPad. Ha! He didn't like that and thought it'd be best to take away our iPads. He told us that if we did not want to serve our missions any more that we could just go home. He told us to think about what we had done and get back to him that night about what we wanted to do. I was tempted to accept the offer to go home, but I knew I wouldn't do it. We decided to finish out the transfer together and shape up. I ended up writing a letter to President that night explaining that my poor behavior came not only from my need to be a little rebellious, but that I have had doubts about the validity of the Church. I told him I was going to follow up with him December 12th, 2014 and let him know if I feel that God still wants me to serve. He mentioned nothing of the letter, except that he received it.

After my companion went home when he was assigned I was sent down south again, into the same zone as the Mission Office, probably so President could keep an eye on me (that is what is advised for one to do in the Mission President's Handbook for insubordinate missionaries). I was in a stellar ward with a fantastic companion. We got along very well and had many great experiences. But I was torn inside. Every time my relatives would tell me how proud they were of me I would wince, because I knew I wasn't giving my all like I had in past areas, and that they saw me as something that I was not. My faith in the truthfulness of the Church did not grow, but I saw many great things come from the members. I realized that I love the people in the Church and wish to be with them, even though it is hard for me to trust the institution itself at this time.

December 12th came around and I told President that I was going to stay. I was happy where I was and the words of my mother reminded me that this is a one in a lifetime opportunity. He did not ask how I was doing with my faith, so I did not elaborate. Eventually it was about halfway through my last transfer when I asked President if I could have my temple recommend renewed. I was wanting to go to the temple trip and the end of my mission with the missionaries I came out with, and thought I best be prepared with a recommend. The interview was hard for me. I lied, straight up, when he asked if I had a "firm testimony of the restoration of the gospel". Most of the other questions revolve around that, so I was dishonest with the rest of them as well. Though I do not believe that the covenants made in the temple, nor the ceremony thereof, is necessary to live with God, I enjoy the spirit I feel there. I received a recommend. The guilt I felt from my lying is what pushed me to do what would get me sent home early.

The next week, on January 7th, we had out bi-transfer interviews with President. Mine happened to be special because it was going to be my last one; a little bit longer and certain papers were to be filled out prior to the interview and presented then. There were four things asked of us to fill-out. An outline of growth I have seen throughout my mission, my goals for the future, my most cherished moment while on my mission, and my sacred testimony. The latter two were hard for me, and would be what gets me in trouble.

President had the habit of taking too long in interviews and as a consequence of this, my interview that was originally at 3 o'clock happened instead at about 6:30. We started the interview with prayer and he praised me for being such a great missionary. Then he referred to the papers I had filled out, saying they were like a personal Patriarchal Blessing to me. Then he read my most cherished moment where I explained an epiphany (or, revelation, if you will) while I was contemplating the validity of the church and its truth claims that whether I came to the conclusion whether the church were true or not, that it would not be fair for me to give up on God. I noticed right as he realized what I had written because he became very uncomfortable, and appeared so. "Have you been questioning the validity of the church, Elder Tesch?" I told him I had. "Why?" I told him a few reasons. He asked for my temple recommend, then asked the interview questions again. When he asked if I had been honest in my dealings with my fellow men, I confessed that I had obviously lied in my last recommend interview. After horribly failing to answer the questions correctly President informed me that I am on the road to Hell. He also told me how sad and worried he is about me. I mostly sat and listened and only spoke when asked a question. He told me many times that he loves me, but that the things I had said would likely get me sent home. I understood, and understand still, that he does love me, and that he was only doing what he was told to do. We ended with a prayer in which he was very emotional, asking for my protection and guidance through this "hardship" I was experiencing. He embraced me for a long time, telling me how much he loved me, over and over. Before we left the room he told me not to "sow seeds of doubt" to my companion or any other missionary. On the bike ride home I told my companion that I was likely being sent home. I contacted President that night telling him I would like to represent myself when he spoke with the higher ups about my early release,  in hopes that I could persuade them to let me stay my last three weeks in the mission. I didn't want to go home. Not like this. John was right, they do not take well to authenticity.

The next day was killer. I felt sick, confused, afraid. The day was long. Honestly, I cannot recall much of anything that happened that Thursday. Though I did write a note that day that I will quote right now (I have changed the names to maintain confidentiality):
1/8/15
While at Johnson's for a lesson with Mark, Brother Johnson read a portion of a book called The Middle of Eternity: A Doctor's Journey Through Illness, by an LDS man named Kevin R. Anderson, and there were two paragraphs that hit me hard, for obvious reasons:

"I believe that God has a path, specifically for us, which if followed, will lead us to places that we never thought possible. These are often deviations from the path in life that we had planned for ourselves. Often, there is a sense of risk in these unknown uncharted waters. However, God often will provide two things to help us in choosing to follow His path rather than our own. First, he may send a person to suggest or offer an opportunity that we may not have considered or had had hoped for, but did not know how to achieve. This person could be a friend, parent, sibling or mentor. However, occasionally the person is a complete stranger: someone, recently met, whose kindness it would be to open a door, hold up a lantern and backing us on. I have come to see these individuals who have helped shape my life as compassionate strangers. That have no particular reason to help me, but somehow our paths cross at critical junctures in my life. The signal and sometimes facilitate necessary course correction, and then we part. Only later do I realize the full import of their momentary influence.
The second guide that God provides is the still, small voice that confirms to our souls that "this is right." It just feels right. Many individuals choose not to follow that feeling because of fear. Sometimes it is fear moving from their position of comfort and safety.
They fail to see beyond next Thursday and never lift their gazes up to the horizon to imagine themselves beyond it. These small momentary alterations of course ultimately result in magnificent effects upon our lives. Yet we only truly see them in retrospect."
This quote was a sign to me that the path I had chosen to take was one paved by God - that He has not given up on me.

Friday morning, the 9th, President called and asked for my father's cellphone number. He then confirmed that I was to be sent home and he wanted to contact my dad and see if he could arrange for someone to pick me up at the airport in Salt Lake City the next day. He then told me that we needed to meet at a nearby church building so that I could call my dad and tell him why I was being sent home.  I started packing and doing laundry right then. I told the Elders whom we had gotten very close to to come over before we left to the church so I could explain the situation. When they showed up I told them I was being sent home "in a state of apostasy" the next day because I have doubts and questions about the church, though I was careful not to be specific as to what those concerns were. They were not happy and also saw the cruelty I did in forcing me to call my parents, telling them that I had lost my faith in the Church. They stayed with us as I packed and when the time came for me to leave, we knelt in prayer and I broke down and cried as I said the prayer, thanking Father for the bounteous blessing it had been for me to serve my mission. That I was able to serve and love many people. I felt joy for the experiences and sorrow for the quick, unexpected ending.

After drying my tears, my companion and rode our bike to the nearest meetinghouse and waited for President to arrive. When he did he took me into a private room, and he explained that he had contacted my dad and said that I was coming home and that I was to then explain to my father why I was being sent home. This was, and is, the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Disappointing my parents. I called my dad on President's phone and told him that I was safe and healthy, but that I was being sent home 'in a state of apostasy'. "When did this happen, Josh?" I told him it has been happening for some time and that I told my Mission President about it which led me to where I was. I could tell how hurt he was over the phone and I apologized many times, telling him that I wish I didn't have to tell him like that. After I was done talking to him President told him what had happened and what was going to happen to me. He informed my father that I had rejected many of the truth claims of the church and is now considered in a state of apostasy. He grabbed my dad's email address so he could get him the flight information and ended the call.

Afterwards we went directly to my favorite family in the ward, whose daughter we had baptized, to tell them I was going home a little earlier than anticipated. After that we had a lesson, that I was hardly present at, and told the Brother who drove us that I was going home early, that there was a 'family crisis'. I packed. Said more goodbyes. I called a good friend, my "Mission Mom", over to talk to about the whole thing, and explain to her how I felt. She was kind enough to let me use her phone and talk to my mom, which I did. The first thing she asked is if I was safe. She did not seem angry or upset, but told me that she was excited for me to come home and that everything was going to be alright. That made the day so much better. We stayed out past curfew (sue me) to play with another great family in the ward. I had a restless sleep.

The next morning I was elated. I felt so good! I did not understand it. But I felt peace and comfort - and excitement! I was going to see my family that I miss so much! I saw this change, not as a setback, but a grand adventure. I sang as I packed the remainder of my things. The other Elders came over to say their last goodbyes. I gave them ties and other things normal people don't use often. We took pictures and said our goodbyes. I thanked my companion for everything. When President showed up we loaded up his car and made our way to the airport. At the security checkpoint he gave me $20 for food, a hug, shared his love, and told me to wave to him when I got to the other side of security. I did that and then I was on my own for the first time in almost two years.

The plane ride was long. I remember tears coming to my eyes when I saw the snow-capped mountains. I missed those mountains. Now I was home. 

After landing I made my way to the gate, took a picture of Cafe Rio (which I also sorely missed), and ran to my family when I saw 4/5 siblings, my parents, some cousins and 3/4 grandparents waiting for me at the bottom, "Welcome Home Elder Tesch" signs and all. I embraced my mother first, both of us sobbing. Afterwards I hugged my dad. It was very emotional. It felt good to cry.

I made it home. I never thought it would happen - especially like this. Since then my parents and I have had a few good conversations about how I am feeling and where I am at. I talked to my Stake President as well as my Bishop. I will not be having a homecoming talk because of the circumstances of which I was released. I am unsure if I am allowed to have a calling. I certainly do not have a temple recommend.

I am excited for the future. I have noticed God's hand in my life still and continue to search for it. I had a job handed to me, strangers have helped me when I was in need (locked my keys in the car...long story), and I do not feel as if I am alone. I know He is with me, and as I choose to listen I will be guided to truth and light.

Keep up your head up
Don't take your eyes off the road
Oh, you're never gonna change
By doing what you're told
You don't want let yourself down
So don't be scared to stand out
There's a thousand voices saying
The time is now
So let go
You're on your own
There's something waiting for you
There's something waiting for you
So let go
Of the world
You know
There's something waiting for you
In the great unknown
The great unknown

- Jukebox The Ghost


Please, I would ask for any and all to message me here or over Facebook about any questions you have. Thank you for reading. This is the first of many posts in which I explain what I call the Mormon Condition during my own journey through it.


Note: I feel the need to clarify that I have not chosen to leave the church. I do not feel the need to do so, yet. I wish to participate in activities and go to services like others do. like I mentioned, I love the people of the church, I see light in their eyes. I love being around successful people. I would like to branch out and seek light elsewhere at the same time, though. I hope that I am well received, even after I have chosen to speak out.

33 comments:

  1. Unfortunately I feel as if I am in a tight spot. I fear to express my thoughts because people like me have been vilified by General Authorities and even some scriptures. I have been told that I am on the road to hell, that I have become disillusioned by God, and threatened to be kicked out if I were to speak of my specific concerns to any of my siblings living here. I do not feel like the jabs I have encountered are personal, because those things were said by those who have been taught to fear different ideas. I likely would have thought the same things two years ago.

    Some things I have learned are harder to accept than others. I have decided that to reconcile the dishonestly and manipulation that brought forth and sustained polygamy in the early days of the church, but still maintain Joseph as any sort of a prophet, is to declare him as a fallen prophet. That polygamy never has been and never will be inspired by God.

    My trust in the church and the doctrines taught have been greatly compromised. I am unable to trust what I thought might be the Spirit speaking to me, when I see similar "feelings" compelling others to do horrible things or using those "feelings" to manipulate others.

    I have a hard time with the historicity of the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and even the Bible.

    Though the essays the church has published on most controversial topics are a step in the right direction, I feel that they have put me off even more because of their lack of transparency and bending of the truth.

    I am not comfortable at this time with paying tithing, for I do not know where the tithes go. I am uncomfortable with General Authorities telling their members “...if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing." Even when a promise that the Lord will bless you follows -- especially when the higher ups enjoy many luxuries.

    These are a few problems I have with the Church, but I do not want to give up on it. I wish to remain in the Church and when the time comes, make a stand to create a greater understanding between TBMs and Unorthodox Mormons, which is what I call myself.

    The Church's discrimination against homosexuals is not okay.

    Though I am not 100% women receiving the Priesthood yet, I do feel that women are not well represented in the church.

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  2. My heart goes out to you Elder. I believe in following the path the Lord puts you on and it isn't always the path that members of the church thinks it is. Thank you for your beautiful faith promoting post.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. You're in a tough place, but there many more than you might think who are young and thinking for themselves. My daughter, who is eighteen and a freshman in college, has s blog explaining her "post mormon journey". You can read a sample post here, and then click around some more if you're interested: http://mypostmormonjourney.blogspot.com/2014/07/ask-right-question.html?m=1

    It was a long journey for her but she is in a really healthy place spiritually and emotionally now. She no longer blogs about Mormonism. She's moved beyond it and has a new blog about her insights on everyday life.

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  4. Josh, thanks for sharing your story. I'm a returned missionary, too, and now have left the church as well. The difference is that you figured it out a couple decades earlier than me! This speaks highly of some fundamental traits that you possess.
    In fact, although it's probably tough for you to see right now, you have more courage, wisdom and integrity than anyone else you mentioned in this blog, certainly more than your mission president. These traits will serve you well throughout your life, although they will make for some tough sledding from time to time as you feel called to stand against injustices that most people just accept. You are seeing things differently and more clearly at a young age than most do. I feel your pain, and I celebrate your courage. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. Best wishes on your journey!

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  5. Welcome home Elder. Take it slow. It's disorienting when one changes course. (Come on over to reddit and say,"Hi". )

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  6. What a great post ! I hope we continue reading more about the rest of your story because this is just the beginning.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. Came here from reddit/r/exmormon.

    I read your story and had a few of my own "mission flashbacks." I have an observation - take it as you will.

    At this stage in your ... life... progression.. whatever... You may want to differentiate "good people in the church" from "good members of the church."

    The former are friends who will support you no matter what. These are people who will sit and listen to you for hours and help you work through your problems. They may also be members of the church, but enforcing its dogma isn't their #1 priority.

    The latter are people like your mission president. They may not even be aware of it, but their #1 priority is to enforce the doctrines of the church. This isn't consciously malicious, it just makes sense - it's how they were raised, and who wouldn't want to gain eternal life, etc. etc. These people use words like "love" in a way that is very different from the way most others use it. They love the church. By loving the church, they feel they're helping you. They can do some incredibly insensitive and hurtful things to you, but they don't see it that way.

    So the advice I have is this: as you're still trying to work through things in church - even if you decide to stay - learn the difference between these two types of people. Learn to say "no" when appropriate. Develop a healthy sense of distrust. Yes, there is such a thing as healthy distrust, even within the church.

    Good luck.

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  9. Came here from reddit/r/exmormon.

    I read your story and had a few of my own "mission flashbacks." I have an observation - take it as you will.

    At this stage in your ... life... progression.. whatever... You may want to differentiate "good people in the church" from "good members of the church."

    The former are friends who will support you no matter what. These are people who will sit and listen to you for hours and help you work through your problems. They may also be members of the church, but enforcing its dogma isn't their #1 priority.

    The latter are people like your mission president. They may not even be aware of it, but their #1 priority is to enforce the doctrines of the church. This isn't consciously malicious, it just makes sense - it's how they were raised, and who wouldn't want to gain eternal life, etc. etc. These people use words like "love" in a way that is very different from the way most others use it. They love the church. By loving the church, they feel they're helping you. They can do some incredibly insensitive and hurtful things to you, but they don't see it that way.

    So the advice I have is this: as you're still trying to work through things in church - even if you decide to stay - learn the difference between these two types of people. Learn to say "no" when appropriate. Develop a healthy sense of distrust. Yes, there is such a thing as healthy distrust, even within the church.

    Good luck.

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  10. Wow, thank you for sharing your experience! Good luck with everything! I'm glad you are at peace.

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  11. I served in the Sacramento mission about 25 years ago. Reading your post I could feel the anxiety from my mission return. Let me just say I think you did the right thing. Pat yourself on the back and be proud that you were able to stand up for yourself despite the guilt and manipulation tactics of your MP.

    The way I see it, 'The sooner the better'. It took me 25 years to fully confront my precariously hanging shelf which was loaded with all these issue. As hard as it was for you, imagine a situation where the church leaders such as bishops and stake presidents use that same manipulation but instead of 'the mission' being on the line it is your wife and family! I have seen this over and over with many spouses being counselled to leave and/or divorce the spouse with the faith crisis. This is the epitome of "shunning" and happens everyday. Again I don't say this to belittle what you went through as I served my mission for my family and fully understand the pressure but now you are free! 25 years earlier that I was!

    Look at the tremendous waste of time and resources I gave to the church instead of using it for my own education or to strengthen my family.

    I also want to commend you are your believe and faith in God. So many who leave end up so angry for being "taken" that they will also drop their belief in God. The way I see it is there is really NO downside in holding on to the belief in a graceful loving God. Not the petty god of Mormonism that expects members to jump through random hoops and doing random works for salvation but an all-powerful God who's grace and love will give you peace and rest in this life and Salvation in the next.

    The last comment I have is that I may have my 15 year old son read this blog post. Since he is still in the church and doing seminary I want him to be fully informed on what may happen if he decides to do a mission. I have always told him I would support him if he wants to go but I would like it to be his choice and prefer it if we went to a year of college outside the grips of the BoM belt where he will be able to make his choice without the interference of the Mormon Culture peer pressure.

    Again Thanks for Sharing!

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  12. We're having an discussion about your blog post over at http://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/2uqh8r/missionary_doubts_his_testimony_on_his_mission/

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  13. Josh, you are an amazing person. You have been honest and authentic, even when it was to your detriment. I hope your friends and family realize what a treasure they have in you. Your genuine love and concern shines through.

    Don't ever let anyone change that. Continue to be honest and authentic to yourself and to others. Keep your mind inquisitive and open. You will get through this faith crisis, and you will be a stronger and better person for the journey. I'm not sure where your research and thoughts will lead you, but with your morals and integrity, it will be a great place.

    Please keep up this blog.

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  14. What an amazing story, Josh!! It touched my heart deeply, not because of the way your Mission President treated but also for how authentic and honest you are! I am also a returned missionary, but like Mark, I just opened my eyes 22 years after I finished my mission. Now I have a family, which complicates my situation. Anyway, take it slow, you have plenty of time to choose different directions. Once you get rid of the pain, you´ll see a much brighter life. In the church we are taught to see black and white, but now you´ll xperience how beautiful and precious life is with all sorts of colors and options... Hope you enjoy it...

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  15. Thank you for sharing your truth. You are not alone. You are so very fortunate to be gaining this enlightenment while still so young. My "ah-ha" moment didn't occur until January 10, 2014 at age 38. Hang in there. Keep studying church history and doctrine. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it only gets better.

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  16. All the best to you. It takes courage to have integrity. I hope you find peace and happiness in your new journey. If you get a chance read mormonfaithcrisis.blogspot.com you might find some helpful posts there. You have many decisions to make and it will not all be easy. I really hope you are blessed along the way, and continue to feel God's guidance in your life.

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  17. I am not a Mormon, in fact I consider myself a happy agnostic. I've seen how religion has taken a toll on a few friends and it makes me sad how sometimes they question their self-worth. I'm going to tell you what I always tell them: don't worry about it. If there's a God he/she loves you just the way you are. The only rule you should follow day by day is "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." That's it. Respect, help and love.

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  18. Thank you for sharing your story. You would be surprised or not.. how many people are questioning the church and do not feel like a fit anymore like myself and don't have the courage to "come out" in fear of the fall out. Authenticity is the only way to freedom. We must love our truth and ourselves the set ourselves free by using our voice. It will inspire others to follow which of course is what the church (not Jesus) is afraid of. Carry on.

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  19. My Darling Son,

    I am so sorry that you are going through such a difficult time. I am heartbroken to hear that you had such dramatically painful experiences while on your mission that you suppressed for so long. While I cannot fully comprehend your feelings, my heart is so tender toward you because I am suffering my own pain right at your side.

    Since you have chosen this mode of communication as an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, I feel that I must contribute a comment. Whether to help you or others that are struggling in their faith. First, I would ask you to keep this forum of communication in its proper perspective. I cannot help but feel sick inside as I read many of the comments. Ranging from well-intentioned congratulations to cruel vulgarity against people that love you, commentators who are faceless and entirely un-invested in you cannot be trusted as a source of truth. While often influenced by external forces, sacred communications only occur between you and the Lord. Any other source is certain to be counterfeit.

    Second, I promise that ALL of your questions will be satisfied if you are truly seeking answers with a sincere heart. Please be very careful not to confuse honest questioning with seeking justification for poor judgment. Whatever criticism is heaped upon me by the aforementioned faceless commentators: mission rules are in place to protect the young men and women while they are so far from home. Ignoring rules intended to keep you physically and spiritually safe and then “lying” about it while your confusion grew has caused your crisis of faith. Please do not be fooled by soothsayers who place guilt on principles of faith rather than on the transgressor of such principles.

    Third, the LDS Church does not own rights to all that is righteous in the world. There are many paths that the children of God can walk uprightly. However, I have no question that the Priesthood authority restored through living prophets binds our family together. I have earned this knowledge in countless, precious moments of communion with God himself. The temple is absolutely the House of the Lord and the covenants that Dad and I have made and KEEP forever bind YOU to ME. Whatever perceived burden I must carry to stay true to my faith is entirely worth it because YOU are such an important part of the eternal prize. Wherever you go, whatever you do – I will continue to lay down my life for you.

    Eternally yours,
    Mom

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    1. It is obvious you mom loves you, but doesn't understand your conflict. Best of luck in finding your path through this crazy world.

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  20. Sorry about the multiple posts... Not sure what happened there.

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  21. Josh rocks! Be true to who are. My mission President warned me that I was on the path to apostasy. Every piece that didn't sit right with me was in fact not. Those facts were confirmed over and over again these many years later. My path has led me to a greater awareness, more peace, and a broader respect and love for ALL humanity.

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  22. Josh, best of luck to you in your journey, brother. Be kind to yourself and others as you navigate your path forward and you're sure to be at peace, regardless of what happens. #kindnessismagic

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  23. Josh. Thanks for sharing your story. I have a lot of respect for you and for staying true to yourself even when faced with shame and judgement from others. I went through a faith crisis a couple of years ago as well, after years of serving in bishoprics and high councils and my family and I ended up leaving the church. Anyway, I just wanted to say that, although things might seem hard at times now, they definitely do get better. Best of luck!

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  24. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Josh. You and your family have been through a lot.

    Could I ask a question? The Church has a definition of "apostasy" for purposes of discipline. That definition states that a member is in a state of apostasy when they act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church, when they persist in teaching false doctrine, or follow and continue to follow apostate groups after having been counseled to do otherwise. A basic condition of apostasy is failure to follow the leaders' instructions, i.e. a matter of behavior, not of belief or conscience. The Church has been fairly clear that harboring doubts is itself not apostasy or grounds for discipline. If you joined Mormon Stories and continued in that association after being told to end it, or if you were teaching others about the reasons for your doubts after being instructed not to do so, that would seem to meet the Church's definition of apostasy.

    So here is my question: Were you terminated early from your mission specifically because you failed to resolve your doubts, and for your earlier lying to get the temple recommend? Or were you doing something that meets the Church's definition of apostasy, e.g. teaching others about the reasons for your doubts or continuing to associate with Mormon Stories after being instructed not to? Even lying to get a recommend, if that lie wasn't intended to cover behavior relating to sexual or criminal misconduct, wouldn't be considered apostasy (I would think).

    If you prefer not to answer, I will certainly understand. But for me this is an important distinction. You clearly found things out about the Church and its history that negatively affected your faith. Were you primarily punished for having unresolved doubts related to this information, or were you punished for something the Church defines as apostate behavior?

    Again, I appreciate your honesty. You seem like a genuinely good and loving person, and I wish you all the best in your life.

    Thank you,

    Lee

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    1. Thank you for your inquiry, Lee.

      You asked if I was terminated early for misconduct.
      I told my Mission President that I did not believe that polygamy was inspired by God in any way, and because I had come to that conclusion that if Joseph were a prophet at all, that he would be a fallen one. He asked more questions regarding the truth claims of the church and I expressed doubts with many of them. Though I had chosen to stay in MSPC, in spite of his request that I leave, that was not brought up in any way. So, my answer is no, I was released for having major doubts and hardly a testimony of the church.
      My MP clearly stated that I was being sent home in a "state of apostasy", meaning that I had fallen away from the beliefs, and that I was not being sent home as "an apostate" because I had not been proselyting my views in any way.
      The higher ups he spoke with seemed to agree that my disbelief is what was called for my early release.

      Josh

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  25. Thanks for sharing your story, Josh. I can feel your sincerity and desire to find truth. I can also tell you have a great mom who really loves you. Best of luck moving forward. It's a difficult path to go down. As others have said, it does get better. Be sure to find people who you can talk to about what you're going through, especially others who have transitioned out of literal belief in the church. It makes a world of difference.

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  26. Josh,

    Welcome home! I just want to say, for what it's worth, that I admire your candid account and especially your uncomplaining tolerance for what I'm certain has been received as heavy handed treatment. I believe in the gospel presented by the scruptures and I know what it is to struggle with even the most basic truths presented in them. I hope that you continue to filter the noise coming from all sides and work out where you put your faith.

    I have come to believe that this is a world where faith is a currency of living. Take climate change. There are few, if any, in this world who have the tools and ability to comprehend the evidence around us. The rest of us study it as far as we can, pick a side, and go on faith.

    Part of the cost of committing to any faith, such as whether there is or is not a God (both matters of faith) is that you will be associated with others who label their faith as you do. It is not a bad thing, but in my experience is a difficult thing. I often have to make the distinction of whether I disagree with others in my faith or with the gospel. Don't let the former be the side that decides what you believe in.

    Cling to what is good. You'll always be sorting out the rest.

    All the best,

    Nate

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  27. I enjoyed reading your blog post. I found it through New Order Mormon. I'm glad you're still involved with Church, and I hope you stick around Mormondom. I've gone through a similar faith crisis, but a less dramatic one. I lost my testimony in 2012, and then about a year ago I started a blog called Reasons to Stay LDS (Even though you don't believe in the Church anymore.) It's at www.reasonstostaylds.blogspot.com. The blog might help you and others like you to stay in the Church. Good luck and God bless you.

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  28. To Josh's mother:

    I am so glad you posted a response here. I'm sure it was very difficult and truly heartfelt.

    When my son resigned from the church it was truly a shock and a heartbreak to my wife and I, but we eventually came to realize that he did it out of sincerity and authenticity. Our bishop came to be very close to him and assured us that our boy acted from a place of honesty and integrity. I was surprised at that response and I came to understand what a truly a courageous and difficult thing it had been for him to do, but that he did it for real reasons. I hope you are proud of Josh for his authenticity and for having the courage to share his experience. I am also sorry that his mission situation wasn't handled a little better.

    When my son left it forced me to take a long, hard look at my own beliefs and motivations, but it was important for me to understand the reasons for my boy's decision. For Josh's sake I hope that you can find a way to not simply write your son off as disloyal of deceived, that you will have an open mind and try to look at these these things from more than one direction, so you can appreciate what Josh has been through. Fortunately the church is beginning to address some of the harder issues. If you haven't already, please read the new essays that the church has published about some of the issues that are causing concern for many members, and the church's official answers for those questions. The links at ldsessays.com will take you directly to those essays on LDS.org. If nothing else, these essays can give you a safe avenue for open dialog.

    My best wishes for all of you!

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