Saturday, January 4, 2014
Thanks for reading my blog and considering my doubts. I hope I've made it clear that I made a lot of effort to doubt each and every one of my doubts as best I could for as long as I could. My years of living the Mormon life were perhaps not unlike a game of Tetris. It was so easy to keep the board clear of obstacles at first. I got really efficient at playing the game the way the Church had taught me to. I knew all the answers. I knew how the Gospel worked. I knew I was in the right place. Then things started speeding up. I was learning more and more interesting things about the world. Education and experience opened floodgates of sorts and before I knew what was going on I found myself with an avalanche of pieces to fit together. I worked really hard at it but I inevitably ended up at that point in the game where your only hope of staying in the game is to get a long piece so you can eliminate four full rows and gain a little breathing room. In that moment, when the game board is piled up to the top with pieces, all you have is prayer.
So I prayed. It was the last time in my life that I prayed sincerely (I prayed once more after that). I saw the end coming and wanted to avoid it if at all possible - "let this cup pass from me" and all that. I mentally prepared to ask Heavenly Father for a real witness, to ask God to reveal Himself even if He weren't Mormon at all. I was open to any god even though in my mind the Mormon one was clearly the most plausible. And when I prayed I stayed on my knees and listened. I prayed again and again. I told Heaven Father where I was at and what was going on, even though He already knew it all, and I asked for something real, something that would keep me in the game. At the very least I needed that long piece, but I would have loved to have seen the game board miraculously clear so I could start totally afresh. A loving, all-powerful father would, I assumed, do something like that.
I got nothing all night. Not a whisper, not a burning, not an epiphany, not a sign. Nothing. I realized what I had feared was true: I had been talking to the ceiling my whole life, to bare and earless walls, to the wind, to a Monster in the clouds, a complete fantasy. There was no personal god on the receiving end of my prayers.
I climbed in bed and contemplated what this meant for me. Was I now going to start smoking? No, of course not, smoking's idiotic, and besides the Word of Wisdom still made plenty of sense. Was I going to start stealing and taking as much advantage of others as possible? No, everyone hates those people. Was I going to start having sex with prostitutes? No, but the thought of having sex with someone I admired and cared for sounded pretty reasonable. Was I going to start taking the Lord's name in vain? No, I wouldn't want to offend those who believe, besides who's "the Lord" anyway? Why should I ever pay him lip service again in any form?
That was the end for me, Dieter. No more believing after that. I've never relapsed. Not believing has never been difficult probably because everything started fitting together without me turning it into a game of Tetris. No pile ups ever. Even before learning about Joseph Smith's scryer years, the evolution of his conversion story, the various sources he used in creating The Book of Mormon, the inconsistencies in his "restoration" of the Priesthood, his affairs, his schemes, his opportunism, his plagiarism of the Freemasons, his ambitions to military glory and world rule. My theory after that last prayer was that Joseph was both very intelligent and very delusional. I assumed he had had all of those visions but they were all born of fantasy. I still believed then that Joseph had wanted to do right by God and do good in the world. I didn't realize at the time that there were so many other doubts to doubt.
Dieter, don't think for a moment that I and others like me didn't doubt our doubts. The very first thing we do with doubts is doubt them.
Thanks again for reading.