I stopped having a traditional testimony circa 2001, after a bit of research I like many others discovered that the truth claims of the church were simply not true.
In my early doubting days I wanted to discus my findings with my fellow ward members and friends, both in church settings (e.g. elders quorum etc) and outside in social settings. I quickly found that my questions were not appreciated, I was told ‘don’t believe everything you read on the internet’ or ‘thats anti-mormon lies’ or ‘don’t be so negative all the time’.
Being shut down, and despite my appearances I am not as confident or hard skinned as I may portray, those things were (and continue to be) hard to hear. I quickly learnt to simply stay quiet, and live by ‘Thumpers Rule’.
Since then 15 years have passed, I am still attending to support my wife, and while the optimist in me thought the church may widen the tent a little, it’s not happened. The excommunication of John Dehlin, Rock Waterman and others, have set the tone for likes of me. The signalling from the church continues to be to push out the doubters and questioners, and especially the queers and their kids!
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about Mormonism, I could do it all day, it’s such a fascinating subject, and its a fascinating time period, watching the LDS church trying to deal with an ever increasing educated and vocal membership. I find it crazy, and very sad, that I am unable to talk about Mormonism with the Mormons themselves, in particular the ones in my local ward.
So there I am most Sundays (though I try and bunk off when I can) sitting at the back, reading a Kindle book on my phone, or reading forums on Mormonisim. People don’t ask me to read scriptures, or comment of questions (I would be happy to, if asked). I guess thats understandable as I have my head in my phone most of the time, but I am not sure what to do otherwise when a lot of the content of the lessons is obvious propaganda. Sometimes I have the urge to comment and offer an alternate point of view, but I have done that in the past and had people shoot me down for being too negative, I do notice that often when I have put my hand up, one of the Bishopric has commented directly after to de-radicalise my comment.
I do get the chance to talk about Mormonisim, there are a bunch of good friends online I converse with daily, and it has become my ‘ward’, we even get to meet in person sometimes and thats good fun. I am starting to reach out to the Community of Christ, as they seem to have it sussed, honouring faithful discussion and dissent, and not being afraid to admit they got it wrong.
If the church has any hope of retaining people like me (I am not sure it wants to though) they must make safe places for us to discuss openly any topic relating to the church. We will continue to take the discussion outside of the church to communities and other church’s that are only going to strengthen and grow over time, and will become a viable alternative for peoples time, attention and tithing.