I was not supposed to grow up to be an apostate. Both of my parents served honorable foreign missions for the church and were married in the temple. All four of my grandparents were active and orthodox and one of my grandfathers served as a bishop. Before I left the LDS church, my father had served as a bishop and my parents had served a three-year mission in India. During the final stages of my apostasy, my father was a stake president. All of my siblings have been active most of their lives, although several sinned their way into receiving church discipline before eventually returning to full activity in the church.
Before turning 33, I had probably missed fewer than 10 days of church attendance in my life. I had various responsibilities in the church’s youth program and graduated from seminary and Brigham Young University. As a missionary in Rome, I served in every possible leadership position and made an impression of being diligent and conscientious. My mission was maddeningly hard work, but I never baptized anyone; so to anyone familiar with cognitive dissonance theory, it might come as a surprise that I am not spending the rest of my life justifying those two years to myself with incomparable commitment to the building of Zion.
After returning from my mission, I served as an Elder’s Quorom President and believed in those days that the promises of my patriarchal blessing meant that I would probably take on heavier responsibilities in the church as I grew older. I met my wife at BYU, was married in the Atlanta temple, and blessed both of my babies. But somehow, I became an outlier. As my LDS friends with similar backgrounds who turned out pretty much the way any church statistician would expect so poignantly demonstrate, I wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
There was no pivotal event that turned me away from the church. Although there have always been a few people at church I didn’t especially care for (as is typical when affiliating with a large group of people), none of them hurt my feelings in any memorable way. Nobody dear to me got sick or died at just the wrong time and made me angry with God. I wasn’t cheating on my wife, embezzling funds or drinking Mountain Dew and looking for a way to justify my sins. When I finally stopped attending church in the summer of 2007, I was worthy in every way of holding a Mormon temple recommend, except the most important way: the fundamental doctrines of the church seemed as true to me as the mythology of ancient religions.
So instead of any single pivotal event, I suspect that what drew me away from Mormonism was actually a culmination of many different events. In the seven posts that follow I speculate about what some of those events may have been.
Event #1: A General Authority Misleads Missionaries
Event #2: Brigham Young University Backfires
Event #3: Becoming a Father
Event #4: Visiting a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Event #5: Reading Rough Stone Rolling
Event #6: My Wife Refuses to Lie
Event #7: The Fruit of Apostasy (or The Jaws of Hell)