Tuesday, March 3, 2015

# 61: MisterFake373

Some of you just coming across troubling LDS history might be surprised to find that some of your fellow Mormons, though totally active and committed, don’t have traditional testimonies.  I know that for myself, back when I was a True Believing Mormon, the notion that an active Mormon didn’t believe in, say, the First Vision, struck me as  blasphemous.  

(Although, I do remember a guy in my ward growing up who was a little odd.  He didn’t have a social security number because he thought it was the Mark of the Beast.  He wouldn’t let any of his kids get Social Security numbers, and I don’t think he even had a bank account.  He only dealt in cash.  But even still, this same guy taught Sunday School, and he was careful to point out the chiastic passages that supposedly proved the Book of Mormon true.  So, even though he had some funny interpretations of scripture, he still very much believed in the traditional narrative of the founding of the Mormon Church- you know, Christ set up the true Church, it fell into Apostasy, then God restored the true Church through Joseph Smith and a series of extraordinary events, including the First Vision, Priesthood Restoration, and etc.)  

Well, whether you like it or not, some of the members in your ward, or your stake, don’t have traditional testimonies.  For today’s blog post, reason # 61 to stay LDS, I’m highlighting MisterFake 373, not to be confused with me, MisterFake371, or with MisterFake372.

I’ve never met MisterFake373 in real life, but I’ve chatted with him a bit on the online forum for weirdo Mormons, New Order Mormon.  He agreed to answer a few of my questions and have them posted here.  He’s a nice guy.

My intent with doing this interview is to show you that there are really nice people in our Church who don't have traditional testimonies, but who still want to stay involved with the Church and live the LDS lifestyle.  To any True-Believing Mormons (TBM's) reading this, my questions for you are: would you want to kick this guy out of the Church?  Is MisterFake373 better off in full fellowship with the Church, or should he be shunned until he regains his testimony?

Without further ado, here’s the interview.  

Where are you from? 

The Northeast U.S.

How old are you?

I’m in my 50’s.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Were you raised in the Church?

No.  I converted in my early 20’s.

Can you share your conversion story with us?  

I essentially converted due to the influence of a friend who I admired very much. He had actually moved away prior to my conversion, and did not know I had joined the church for a number of months. He was not exactly what you might call a true believer, and although he was raised in the church he did not serve a mission. That said, I was pretty much a "golden" covert, and in my own research I had read A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. The first missionary lesson was about the First Vision, and I still believe Joseph Smith had this experience (although I also believe it has been spun by the modern church).

Looking back, are you glad you converted? 

I sometimes wish I had never converted, quite frankly.

What was your upbringing like?

My family was not religious, but my parents taught me and my siblings good moral values.  Because I was a non-member, I did not go to seminary or Boy Scouts.

Did you serve a mission? 

Yes, I did serve a mission. It was generally a good experience but I always had trouble with the "business" aspects of it and I felt the rules were overboard (and that was then!)

How did your testimony grow and change over the years?

I can't say my testimony grew significantly during my TBM (True-Believing Mormon) years, although I did have what I thought were spiritual experiences and I do believe I was becoming closer to God.  I did believe in Jesus Christ.

When and how did you lose your testimony?

I lost my testimony about ten years ago due to a serious event in my life that I am unwilling to share with strangers. It is enough to say that the event shook me to the core.  

When answers to prayers did not come, I began to question why this happened to me/us and why God was not responding in the way I had been taught He would/should. My loss of testimony was more of a process than a singular event.  I think parts of my testimony dropped away over a period of several months.  At one point I was agnostic, if not completely atheistic.

Losing my testimony was devastating to me and my family. Words cannot describe the pain. The worst part of the whole ordeal was my perception that I was alone in my feelings and others could not or did not understand.  There was nowhere to turn for comfort.

How did you regain your testimony of Christ?

I can't say I regained a testimony of Christ. Not that I don't have one. I do. But now it's different. I did regain a testimony of God. Let me use an analogy. Losing my testimony was like a building being demolished, or rather, disassembled.  I used parts of the old destroyed building (faith/testimony) to build the new one.  But I also used new parts and discarded old parts. Once I had a different view of God (as in Heavenly Father) my view of Christ was also able to be reestablished. My current testimony and beliefs regarding Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are not TBM views.  But I don't really know what others are actually thinking or feeling when they say "I know God lives" either.

Why did you go back to Church?

Frankly I went back to church as a direct result of President Uchtdorf's "Come, Join With Us" talk. Perhaps it was a tender mercy that I happened to hear it, but it was a life-changer. I realized that I was not the only Mormon without a traditional testimony. But more importantly, I realized that I could go to church, even with my doubts and questions.

How were you received when you went back to Church?

I had trepidation in returning to church. I did work with my priesthood leaders before my return and they probably helped pave the way a bit. I was well received. Pres. Uchtdorf is right.

When you’re at Church, do you feel like an outsider?

No.  I don't feel like an outsider.  Although, I do sometimes feel like an observer of those who believe differently. I think my relationships with the people I knew are the same as they were before I lost my testimony. The people I liked and associated with I still like and I still associate with.  I'm not especially fond of some other people, so I keep my interactions with them to a minimum, just like before.

Do you plan on staying LDS for the rest of your life?

I don't know what the future holds. I will probably stay LDS, but activity level is uncertain.

What spiritual things do you do now?  Do you attend church regularly, pray, read scriptures, have family home evenings, etc.?  

"Spiritually" (I'm not sure that's the right term, but I'll go with it), I do attend church regularly. However, I frequently skip Sunday School and often I am looking at something else during priesthood. Depending on the topic and speakers, I'm sometimes looking at something else during Sacrament Meeting as well. These something else's are often church related, but not always.  I do sometimes just surf the net. I pray sometimes, not regularly and not in the way most LDS prayers are said (I never ask for anything). I read scripture weekly, but not necessarily daily and I mostly read from the Bible, especially the New Testament. I sometimes read the Book of Mormon, rarely the Pearl of Great Price and never the Book of Abraham. My children are grown; we do not have Family Home Evening.

Why do you do these spiritual things?

I attend church mostly for social reasons, although I won't deny that I do sometimes feel uplifted by messages I hear there. Likewise with scripture - when I read scripture I am usually looking at something that puzzles me (like prayer) and I am sometimes uplifted by what I read. I believe loving our neighbors to be a universal truth, and I appreciate that Jesus emphasized this principle. I do sometimes feel what I believe to be the Spirit, but it is not necessarily (or even very often) related to being in church, reading scripture, or prayer.

Do you have a temple recommend?  If so, do you have any reservations answering yes to all the questions?

I do have a temple recommend, but I have not actually been to the temple in several years.  I believe the temple to be mostly symbolic. I did at one time have some reservations about some of the questions, but now I no longer do.  I think they're vague on purpose. I have also been known to point out to people that there is no question asking if I believe in the Book of Mormon, if I pray or study scripture every day, if I believe Joseph Smith or President Monson is a Prophet with a capitol P, or if I believe in polygamy, among many other things. In other words, I think people read way too much into the questions.

What advice do you have for those who have lost their traditional testimonies?

I like the StayLDS advice that I see there frequently - take it slow, focus on what you do believe, and don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Something else I learned there is that the gospel and the church are not the same, and I have found value in separating actual Bible-referenced doctrine as opposed to church policies and traditions.

Can you share your current testimony with us?

My current testimony is very simple: I believe Jesus is the Christ, and I believe the most important thing we do in this life is love and care for our neighbors. Anything else is nothing more than an appendage to these essentials.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the good readers of Reasons to Stay LDS?

Well, you didn't ask me specifically about callings or church service.  I don't mind admitting that I'm a high councilor and that my stake president is aware of all that I have told you here.  The rest of the high council is only partly aware of my doctrinal and historical issues with the Church.  (They do all know that I was inactive).  My assignments aren't any different from the assignments that the other high councilors have.  I'm assigned to advise a ward, I oversee an auxiliary, I'm in the regular speaking rotation, and so on.  The talks I give are centered on the Savior and core gospel principles.  Fortunately, all of our assigned topics are aligned with those ideas because our stake presidency believes in sticking to the basics.  My wife is TBM.  I have a son on a mission right now, and another son preparing his papers.  I have a daughter who graduated from BYU and also questions, but not to the extent that I do.

Wow, that's really neat that you're on a high council.  Just that fact alone shows that people with doubts aren't shunned in the Church.  Those with non-traditional testimonies just have to learn how to navigate the Church a little differently, like you're doing so successfully.  Also, it sounds like you have the perfect Stake President for Mormons like us.  Either that, or he's desperate to fill callings.  LOL.  In any case, thanks, MisterFake373, for taking the time to answer all these questions.  And thanks for sharing your story with strangers on the Internet.

You're welcome.

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  1. Thanks for this! I just came across your blog as I have been searching for others like me. It's nice to know I'm not alone out there! It feels like I am. I'm tired of my family asking me if I am going to start paying my tithing again, because "Don't I want to be a family forever?" I'm tired of trying to find answers only to drive myself further away. I don't want a mansion in heaven, I just want a regular house and I don't want to be a God or Goddess, I just want to sit in my house. And I don't want to listen to prayers or make worlds. I'm also really tired of feeling like a fake at church since I am more "in the gray". I just can't be a person who "knows" even when I read the BOM.

    1. Anonymous: Can you please email me? I totally know how you feel and am in a similar boat. It would be great to converse about it with someone.
      Songnoword - yahoo.com

  2. You're welcome! I hope this blog helps.

  3. I absolutely loved this post! I too am from the Northeast and a convert. I have gone back and forth to the Church over and over. I go back to being a Protestant and attending other Churches but something is always missing and God brings me back home to LDS. I have a huge problem believing in many things and then get caught up in over-reading many blogs, some that are true haters--don't care for those. Misterfake you should be called MrReal/Honest. This is the best blog and inspiration I have gotten!!! In my heart I want to be LDS and am not a TBM at all. I tend to say that I'm from the other tribe. God put me right in the place for me to read and understand. So THANK YOU! I too adore President Uchtdorf and find the Church evolving. I think we are perfect for the Church! :)

  4. Really appreciate your Blog. Still trying to figure out where I stand with everything, but reading your blog has been very helpful.

  5. Thanks! Thanks for leaving a comment too. I'm glad I could help. I'm still alive, by the way. I haven't taken the time to write a post lately, but every few weeks I check for new comments... see you later.

  6. Great posts guys. I'm in the same boat as you all. I was born into the church and our roots get so deep that it is too difficult to just quit. I've decided to focus more on Christ and loving those around me more. Worry less about then rigid church structure. I've attended other churches, mainly to see what they are like and I always feel like something is missing. I can't tell what it is, or if it's just that I'm comfortable in the lds setting. Anywho, I guarantee there are a lot more out there that feel the same way, but are too embedded to leave the church. Thanks for the great posts, keep it up.