Hello Reasons to Stay LDS readers. I have a special treat for you today. This blog post will be a bit different from the norm.
I met MisterFake 372 online a few months ago, through this blog actually. He left a comment, and I gave him my email address, and blah blah blah...
We ended up meeting in real life, and one night we had a nice visit for about an hour and a half. We talked about the Church. He's kind of a non-traditional believer, with an interesting life story. He actually formally resigned from the Church about five years ago, due to historical and doctrinal issues, but now he's on the path to re-baptism. He's planning on getting baptized next month.
Note: If the fonts are weird, um... it's because I don't know how to fix them. I'm not that good with computers. Remember the advice from the title page of the Book of Mormon: "If there are faults, they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God."
How were you raised? Were you raised in a strict Mormon home?
I was born and raised LDS. Both my parents were LDS and very active.
My Dad was the only one in his family who stayed active. His Dad died right after he was born. His Mom died when he was twenty-five. He has only one half sister, who is in a same-sex marriage. (That’s an important detail because that affects my attitude towards the church later on.) He went on a mission to Japan and did everything he was supposed to. He was a great Mormon role model. Never smoked, never drank, never got in trouble. He graduated from BYU and became an English teacher. In 1995 started the first charter school in Arizona. He was smart.
My Mom was the perfect “molly mormon.” She was quiet but always attended church and accepted any calling. I knew she believed, but I never heard her talk about it. She was the perfect example, but did not have the “missionary” personality.
My Mom and Dad were married in the Mesa temple. They had five boys. I’m number four of five. It was a typical Mormon family, as I can remember. We all caused trouble or rebelled from time to time, but my parents were steadfast in their belief and attitude. It wasn’t a strict upbringing, but we knew what our parents expected from us.
How old are you?
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona
What do you do for a living?
I’m self-employed. I do transport, moving, and delivery.
Why did you leave the Church? How did that all play out?
This is a very difficult question to answer with a simple sentence or two. So, here’s a long drawn out explanation.
I was married in the Mesa temple at twenty years old. Growing up I was not wealthy. After getting married, I worked hard. I was successful. I was very blessed. Married life was great. In December 2010, I took the wife out to dinner and explained that I had not paid tithing. I had just “forgot”. Work was so enjoyable and the year flew by. I told her I’d pay it if she wanted me to, but I didn’t think I was a bad person if I didn’t pay. Although, if I didn’t pay, then we would not get our temple recommends renewed and on and on. It just seemed silly that we’d be “not worthy” for not giving money. We attended church, did our callings, did everything asked of us, we believed, but just did not pay tithing.
She didn’t say anything.
A week later she came to me and expressed some of her concerns on the church. For the next year we had fun looking into church history and talking to people who had the same concerns as us. It was “bonding”. We grew closer. We were more honest with each other than ever before. So, we decided not to go to church any more because their were so many “red flags” in the church history and doctrine and such.
We had our first child in 2008. She couldn’t teach our daughter LDS doctrine without feeling like we were lying or misleading her. My wife’s family was not LDS. So they did not attend our temple wedding. That was very difficult for her. She did not want to do that to our daughter.
My aunt is in a same sex relationship and has been for fifty years. She’s the nicest lady and very involved in her community in San Francisco. Proposition 8 was a big deal for me. I felt like I was indirectly “fighting” my aunt. If I gave the church money, then that, in my mind, went to “fighting” same sex marriage. That's another reason I left the Church.
How did your relationships change with family and friends after you left?
Nobody in my family confronted me. Everyone was pretty easy going. Everyone from church disappeared.
Why did you resign, instead of just go inactive?
At first we just stopped going. But people from church would randomly stop by. It was annoying and inconsiderate. They were doing what they felt was right, but to a non-believer, it was rude.
So we heard other people would actually remove their name from the records. At the time it seemed exciting. I thought, “All I have to do is write a letter and suddenly everything I’ve done in the church vanishes? How true can a church be if writing a letter and putting it in the mail can erase all the covenants I’ve made and such?” It seemed so superficial and silly. But that seemed like the correct thing to do. We wanted to live our lives and be true to ourselves.
What started your desire to go back to Church?
For two years now I’ve been able to figure out what I want and where I want to take my life. Being married at age twenty, life was about “us”. I didn’t know how to "take care of myself” emotionally? I’m not sure how to explain it. I didn’t know what I truly wanted. I had never been “single”. I always had a girlfriend. I’ll try to be humble when I say it, but, I always attracted women :)
Now at age thirty, I feel more alive. I feel more aware of my surroundings. I have more years under my belt to make better life decisions. This has been the most exciting time of my life. The first six months going through the separation, I was bitter and angry. As soon as I knew the separation/divorce was “final”, not legally, but emotionally, and we were done, I felt free and I was happy and optimistic.
I’ve done a lot of self-reflection in these last two years. I’ve woken up and thought “I can do anything I want today. What do I want to do?” So, I’ve traveled. I’ve dated. I’ve interacted with people more. I’ve seen different lifestyles and ways of living. I know I want to get married again and settle down sometime. So, knowing that, it has made me think of how I want to live my life, what personality type of wife I want around, and what I want to be doing daily.
I dated so many non-LDS women. I had so much fun but something was missing. I dated a Catholic girl that went to church regularly. So I went. I actually missed going to church. I then started looking into dating some LDS girls. I met quite a few. I danced around the topic of me not actually being Mormon when they asked me.
But it finally happened. I met a beautiful, perfect, temple worthy woman.
We dated for about three or four months. She had three kids. She prayed often, read Scriptures often, attended every church activity, and her family was all active.
I fell in love fast!
Her and I talked about church and religion often. I wasn’t sure what I believed in at the time. I knew that was the type of woman I wanted though. It’s true the Spirit radiates from these women. It’s beautiful to a non-believer. I had no intention or thought of getting re-baptized while dating her. I told her friend that I’ll never be able to take her through the temple. She broke it off with me though because she needed a strong priesthood man.
She asked me one question that I’ve pondered often. She knew I had quarrels with the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. So, she asked “What do you believe in so strongly that no one could ever change your mind?” I quickly responded without hesitation, “I know my Dad is still alive”. My Dad passed when I was seventeen, but I’ve always believed in life after death.
I then pondered "WHY do I believe my Dad is still alive?"
Five things happened to me, or rather, I did five things, after she left me and we broke up.
First, I realized that I had been around such a spiritual person and that I had felt a heavenly spirit that I hadn’t felt in years. When she left, that spirit left. One of the things her and I talked about was the Holy Ghost. I felt like anyone should be entitled to feel that. It shouldn’t be contingent on LDS activity.
What I realized around this time was that I did occasionally feel the Spirit, but that it would quickly leave. I read somewhere in the scriptures that after being baptized the Spirit would guide and protect me… that it would stick around…. something like that. I wrote down the exact scripture in my journal. I realized I gave that up when I resigned. When I was a believing, active member of the Church, I had always had that spirit. I never knew what it was like to NOT have it.
Second thing that happened: I craved that spirit and peace. I attended church. Sacrament was so spiritual to me. I cried at church. I attended two wards on the same Sunday. I couldn’t get enough. I read EVERYTHING. That’s one way I found your blog, Reasons to Stay LDS (even though you don’t believe in the Church anymore.)
Third, I went and saw the bishop. I knew that was the direction I wanted my life to go. I didn’t go back to Church in hopes of getting this specific girl back. She was already long gone.
Fourth, I got my daughter involved. A couple weeks after getting my daughter involved, the ward had the primary program. I cried all the way through that. I thought of how horrible it could have been to have my daughter miss this lifestyle growing up.
Why do you want to go back to Church?
There are so many reasons. It all boils down to this: I’ll a better father, husband, and individual for following the teachings of the church. Read any general conference talk. Read any church article. Listen to anything taught on Sunday. Nothing is harmful! Everything is meant to better the person. Everything is meant to keep the family together. Everyone at church is trying their best. Everyone wants the best for others and wants to serve.
What’s your testimony like now?
Stronger than ever. I’ve felt the spirit SO strong. I’ve always tried to avoid getting to close to the Spirit. It makes me emotional and for some reason I thought I was supposed to “be a man” and toughen up. But, being sensitive to my daughter's feelings and emotions is being a man. So, I’ve embraced the spiritual side and let it guide me. I’ve felt the Spirit so strong while driving that I’ve cried. I’ve been at home and out of no where, I feel it and get teary-eyed. Ever since truly following the Spirit, life has fallen into place. It’s peaceful.
When we met in person, you told me of the miracle that happened when you first started paying your tithing again. Can you tell us this story?
I’ve always had enough money. I’ve never had to worry about bills. After this LDS girl left me and I first started going to church, however, I had unexpected bills from the divorce, truck repairs, on and on.
I’ve always had a spreadsheet with my projected income and bills for the next month or two. For years and years I’ve always kept meticulous track of my bank accounts and such. For all these years, my spreadsheet would show plenty of extra cash flow at the end. But, the first week or two going back to church, my projection for the following month showed a negative balance. It’s never been like that. I posted ads on Craigslist to sell a couple of my trailers and other equipment to make up the difference. It wasn’t ideal, but it was needed.
After getting home from church one Sunday, I had a strong impression that I needed to pay tithing. Now, I had just started going back to church. I knew I wanted to be LDS again but I thought I would start paying tithing after I got baptized. I thought I couldn’t afford the extra expense right now. But the thought kept coming to my mind over and over. That’s when I decided that if tithing was the reason I left the church, then I have to put some faith into it and have tithing be something I have to do to prove to myself that I believe.
So, I gave my tithing to the bishop after sacrament. What happened next was like one of those stories I had heard over and over again when I was active. Work became busier. I had more work than the trucks could handle. I had people calling and reserving spots for the next month and paying ahead of time. I did not sell a single piece of equipment that I had anticipated. Everything worked out… somehow.
I even had an old lady call me after I left her house and she said “you did such a great job that I want to mail you a check.” Seriously! I keep meticulous track of my income and bills and somehow I had so many "blessings” pour out that I did not have room enough to receive them. I couldn’t have asked for a better testimony builder than that.
So, ever since, I’ve paid religiously. I don’t expect "physical” blessings like this every time. I am more aware of the spiritual side these days. Paying tithing is more of a spiritual blessing for me. I have a different perspective on tithing now, than I did when I left the church. My thought process on tithing and taking my ex-wife out to dinner to tell her I haven’t paid tithing, seems so silly now.
Just pay it. It’s not about the money. It’s about your personality. Don't put more value on worldly things than on spiritual things. I don’t care where my tithing money goes now. That's not the point. For me, the important thing is knowing that I am more spiritual and can let go of the physical things in life.
What’s the process for getting re-baptized after resigning? What questions have your priesthood leaders asked about controversial Church history and doctrine?
The process is different for each individual and his past. So the process is the same as if you were never a member PLUS a few additional hurdles that I’ll explain. First, just like an investigator, they want you to meet with the missionaries for a while. They want you to read the scriptures and pray. They want you to attend church. They want you to meet with the bishop and he’ll ask the normal questions like fidelity, porn, drug use, and such.
The additional hurdles so far have been meeting with the stake president and multiple meetings with the bishop. They have both asked why I want to come back and asked why I left. They asked if I’ve done anything to hurt the church. They asked who I talked to about my disbelief.
The stake president asked what specifically it was that made me leave. This was an interesting question when he asked. I thought about it for a second and said “Nothing I read says the church is 100% false. So at the end of the day, everything I read, doesn’t matter. I believe my dad is still alive, which means I believe in the plan of salvation and on and on.”
The stake president wanted to get me to say specifics. It almost felt like he wanted to see if there was still some anger or bitterness towards the church. I’m glad he did that because I’m not angry or bitter. It was a very spiritual moment for me. I told the bishop the first time we met that I don’t care how long the process takes, I know I’m where I should be and that's good enough for me. The politics of re-baptism will work itself out.
After meeting with the stake president and bishop a few times, the bishop and I met again. The bishop said that, after counseling with the stake president, he thought I should wait six months before baptism. During the six months, he wants me to have the missionaries over weekly, attend church, and meet with the bishop a couple times to check up on me. After getting baptized, then I have to wait a year before having all my original blessings restored, like, priesthood, temple, etc. So a year from my baptism, then I’ll essentially be exactly where I was before I resigned. So i don’t have to become deacon, teacher, priest and etc. I'll just continue where I left off.
The bishop stopped me at church last week and said he talked with the stake president about me. The bishop said, "Let's meet soon and talk." So I set up another appointment with him. Originally my baptism was vaguely set for December or January. I’m excited :)
Do you picture yourself living the religion for the rest of your life?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t do this if I was hesitant. I know what this entails. I want to be a great example for my daughter. Living the church teachings will do just that.
Are you happy? Do you feel the Spirit more now?
I’m very happy and optimistic. I feel the Spirit more and very strong, but again, it’s difficult feeling the Spirit and then having that feeling disappear SO fast. I remember what it was like to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion and now I can feel the difference. it’s such a difficult topic to explain.
If any of you have questions for MisterFake372, just leave a comment below, and maybe your question will be answered. And remember ladies, he's available!