I'd like everyone to offer a kind welcome to Enochville, who has graciously allowed me to post his story here. I think this makes an interesting companion piece to Ann's guest post earlier in the week.
Without further ado, here is Enochville's post:
Leaving the Church was a lot to give up, but I am pretty much at peace with that now. The only thing that is making things hard now is the way my wife's family and my family are dealing with it. The greatest consolation is that my wife is leaning towards the same conclusions about the Church that I have come to. It is just taking her a little longer to give up the desperate hope that her old beliefs might still be true. It is one of those things that one has to study out for one's self, and I had about a six month head start on her. She knows where her research will lead her; it is just a matter of emotionally preparing to accept it.
What caused me to come to the conclusion that the Church never was true had nothing to do with my inability to become ok with something Joseph did. I had the capacity to become ok with Joseph using his magic peep stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon, his hiding his plural marriages from Emma, and a host of other things. It was not an inability to match the scriptural record with any hard archaeological evidence. I found ways to perform mental gymnastics around no DNA evidence for a common ancestor for all humans that lived 6,000 years ago, or no DNA evidence that any native inhabitant of North or South America descended from the Hebrews, no evidence of pre-Columbian horses, elephants, or barley, etc. I could look past or around a ton of things and found the uncertainty or ambiguity in the arguments against the church so that I still had enough room for faith, however unlikely my explanations had to be.
But, I eventually came across evidence so strong, so indisputable, that it left no room for doubt/faith. I read all the pro-LDS explanations from Hugh Nibley to John Gee and none of them worked because they each ignored parts of the evidence that made their theories untenable. I emailed informed apologists to try to discuss these things, but the case is too strong. I combed it through, checking and rechecking, examining every assumption that might be flawed, trying to get my hands on every source material that I could. Eventually, I had to come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, seer, or revelator.
I went back and re-examined all the evidence I thought I had that the Church was true. I found that I could no longer rely on the what I used to call the Spirit as a reliable source of truth, and all the supporting evidence of multiple witnesses of heavenly manifestations, the reintroduction of "lost truths" held in the primitive church, the "miracles of the Priesthood", the archaeological findings that supposedly support the Book of Mormon or other scripture had easy non-supernatural explanations.
Once I knew that I could no longer believe I talked with my wife about it and when she knew that she could never believe again either we discussed what we should do now. We considered faking it, acting like we believed and going on like nothing happened. But, I could not do that. I had to act with integrity. I could not knowingly mislead my friends and children. We considered just being released from our callings and being the "foyer members". But, that is too uncomfortable, because everyone suspects that you have sinned and keep trying to encourage you into greater activity. So, I decided that I would talk to the Bishop, turn in my recommend, and leave the church altogether.
The Saturday following conference, we talked with my mother-in-law about it. She wanted me to fast and pray, so I did, but by that point I had no faith in the Spirit. She did not understand that I had already been through all that and that I can still feel "the Spirit" just fine, but recognize the "burning in my bosom" as the psychological emotion of elevation, which is no more a reliable source of truth than any other emotion, such as confidence in your answer to a quiz question that you later find out is incorrect, or the sensation of your dreams being real.
I miss the sense of community in the church, the moral values that are reinforced in the Primary and Youth programs, the emphasis on service, and the feeling of elevation. And though I do not believe in God anymore (which would require a separate explanation), I am learning how to create the feelings of elevation and reverence and awe without a belief in the supernatural. I spend my Sundays now creating family home evening lessons for my future children that reflect my new beliefs and my new foundation for morals. I am in a sense creating an Atheist church, of which there are a few already in existence, but I am dissatisfied with them and they are far from here.
I purposely have not shared with you my evidence. I respect the right of Mormons to believe as they wish. Leaving the church ruins a lot, and most would rather stay content with what they have, and I can't say that I could blame them. I began this quest so that I could be a great apologist and help struggling members resolve their concerns. I had been good at that on my mission and when I taught in the MTC. I thought the church could stand up to any criticism, or at least that the anti's could never disprove the church was true so I would inspire faith in that opening. The church does not have a banned book list like the Catholics so I felt free to read anything so that I could point out the flaws in their arguments. I never dreamed in a million years that it would be the anti's who were right all along.
Anyway, I am doing fine and will be better when my family finally accepts that I am no longer a part of the Church. I am so glad I have my wife. Strangely, she means even more to me now than ever before.