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Brooke's Story: How did I get here?

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

How did I get here? I never thought that I would leave the church, but now I can't imagine staying. My exodus story began about 4 years ago, but my journey in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been lifelong.

I was born and raised in the church by "goodly parents.” Truly, my parents have raised me to be Christ-like, patient, and to love unconditionally. The church was my life. It encompassed my every thought and decision, and I took everything I was taught at face-value. I didn't question any of the doctrines or policies I was taught, and doubting the church (and therefore God) was a taboo and dangerous path to walk. The church teaches that the only way to have "true joy" is by living the teachings of the gospel. If you stray from full belief in any way, you no longer qualify for true happiness or for God's subsequent love.

Now, you may be saying, "This doesn't explain why you would even consider abandoning your lifelong faith." And you're right, it doesn't. But it does explain why I spent my entire life believing in the Mormon church without challenge or question. But ignorance is not actually bliss.

"When we choose to make our beliefs the be all end all, we close the door to all the other good things that could make our life rich. Just because something doesn’t specifically align with what we think doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It just makes it different." -Kaila Proulx

Shortly after getting married, John-Michael expressed some doubts regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon. This was honestly shocking to me. I didn't even consider the fact that maybe the Book of Mormon wasn't a historical document, and his questioning scared me so thoroughly. My whole life had been built on absolutes, and having my eternal companion be vulnerable with me about his doubts terrified me. He continued to attend church with me and remain faithful despite his doubts regarding the Book of Mormon.

Over the years his faith waxed and waned as he sincerely tried to figure out how to reconcile his doubts with the truth claims of the church. I spent those years by his side encouraging him in his faith journey, praying that God would touch his heart and help him come to the conclusion that the church was, in fact, true. Each Sunday as I partook of the sacrament, I wept as I pled with God to give me direction as to how I could help restore John-Michael's belief in the gospel. And each week I was met with confusion as I tried to figure out what to do. I couldn't understand why God wouldn't answer my prayers on something that was as vitally important as my family's eternal salvation. The best way I felt to proceed was to love him unconditionally and let God work in him.

I felt peace in this decision, but each time we talked about the state of his testimony I became devastated all over again. Our marriage and life outside of talking about the church was stronger than ever, and I could tell that John-Michael had become happier than he had ever been. After our daughter was born in 2018, I developed severe postpartum depression. It was hard for me to feel motivation, joy, or meaning in my life. I had always been taught that being faithful in the gospel was the only thing that brought true joy into our lives. But I felt numb. It didn't matter how involved I was in church, I couldn't experience the joy I had been promised.

Now, these incidents didn't drive me out of the church. I continued to have full faith that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true and living church on the earth. After starting medication for my depression, I did feel slightly better for about eight months or so, but my depression returned with stronger vigor than ever before. In an effort to protect myself and keep myself from spiraling, I had to completely shut down emotionally. If I had given any credence to my feelings I may not be alive today. Suicidal thoughts pervaded my mind daily, and thinking about the church only made my life seem more worthless.

John-Michael was amazing during this time. He comforted me in my time of despair and encouraged me to seek the help of medical professionals in the field of psychiatry. After pinpointing the medications that worked best for me, I finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Although I was feeling more like myself, the thought of my family's eternal salvation weighed heavily on my soul. I knew that if my husband never regained his testimony, I would be alone in heaven even though I did everything right.

I continued to feel spiritually vacant as I grasped at the happiness modern medicine had opened for me. I had become very apathetic when John-Michael and I talked about the church. I knew that if I allowed myself to feel, I would once again be crushed by the devastation I felt over the loss of the life I had chosen. One night, during a conversation, John-Michael asked me a simple question, "What do YOU believe?" At that moment I stopped in my tracks. I had been told what to believe my entire life. It had never crossed my mind that happiness was truly possible outside of the church. But now, even the thought of the church made my soul ache in pain. The church was not bringing me happiness.

At this point, I gave myself permission to challenge my faith. If the LDS church was truly the only true church of God, all the evidence I found should point to that truth. With this motivation, I decided to think critically about the gospel. I had always taken everything that was taught to me without challenge. But could I be truly converted to the gospel if I had not really searched for the truth myself?

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed." -J. Reuben Clark

I expected that my findings would bring me closer to God and help me have a more sure testimony of the truthfulness that the gospel claimed. I wanted my investigation to be one where I sought truth rather than just simply confirming my long held beliefs. I checked every source I came across to authenticate it as a primary source that can easily be linked to the church's website.

What I found rocked me to my core. I learned things about the restoration of the gospel that I had never learned before, in all my years in Sunday school, seminary, institute, or even through regular temple attendance (the highest and most sacred experience on earth). I felt deceived and betrayed by the one thing I had held fast to my entire life. I concluded that John-Michael's original disbelief about the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Mormon was not only valid, but completely accurate. There were no horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, or iron in America before Columbus brought those things with him. This alone invalidates the historicity of almost every story found in the Book of Mormon. That is just one thing in a very, very long list of provable facts (i.e. truth) that disprove the claims of the church that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of a Hebrew family that traveled to America in 600 B.C.E. Of course, that is not even close to where the problems end for Joseph Smith and the early church.

I wept. I wept for the deceit I had endured my entire life. I wept for those that the church has ostracized in the name of God. I wept that I had allowed the past few years to be so filled with pain for something that was simply not true. I wept for my siblings that have left the church that I had likely misjudged. I wept for the members that remain in church that continue to be hurt and deceived by modern day prophets who claim they speak for God. I wept for the rift I had allowed the church to place in my heart against my husband, the most caring and selfless person I have ever known. I wept because I almost let the church tell me that my family was not as important as they actually teach it is. I wept for the tithing money I had paid that went toward building a commercial for-profit mall rather than aiding those in real need. I wept for the loss of my entire worldview, one that encouraged me to judge others rather than love them. I wept for my parents, knowing that my search for truth had led me to facts that they would not believe. I wept for every person who has been taken advantage of by church leaders, and everyone who has been disowned for being authentic to themselves in the search for truth.

Losing my faith wasn’t just disorienting; it felt like a massive hole had appeared in the floor and swallowed me whole. The lenses of my world view had been shattered, and I was left to grapple with a reality I had never considered could be true. My life had been spent believing that beauty and happiness outside of the church was not possible. I had spent years with crippling depression trying to "fix" my husband, fearing that the forever family that I had planned on would no longer be a reality. And I realized that during that time, I should have been enjoying every bit of my marriage. I could have been much happier.

In my search for truth, I had found that joy does not come from an organization that claims it has a monopoly on true, lasting happiness. Losing my faith had actually helped me find the happiness and understanding I had been seeking. Since removing the blinders of religion, I now allow myself to move forward without regret as I find comfort in being unapologetically, and authentically me.

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