I just got off the phone. Next Tues, I’ll be meeting with my Bishop. What the hell am I doing? I’ve been an inactive member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 10 years.
[Let me preface this whole thing by acknowledging your shock / awe / disgust / disappointment / happiness / whateverness. I get it. I’ve done far weirder things before, so… just go with me on this for a moment…. ]
I wasn’t just “inactive” though… I’ve spent many of those years fighting against The Church in many capacities. Due to my radio / podcasting career, just one month ago, I had a conversation with a very high ranking official at Church Headquarters that, if shared, would be a *serious* blow to The Church.
I didn’t share it.
Are you an angry Mormon? Are you full of questions, resentment, or anger toward The LDS Church? Have you renounced the existence of God entirely? I’ve done all of those things.
Mormonism is in my blood, all the way back. Mormonism is my ethnicity, they are my people, for better or for worse. My great, great grandfather is Ephraim K Hanks, one of Brigham Young’s right hand men. Both sets of grandparents are returned missionaries, as are both of my parents. I served and LDS mission to Philadelphia, PA. Upon returning home, I married my high school sweetheart in the LDS Temple and started a family. Seven years and two children later our marriage ended in divorce.
Yep. I’m that guy.
I struggled to make my way as a Mormon divorced father of two. I was appalled at the lack of good resources for guys who are struggling to figure out the life of a divorced mormon father. No books. No talks. No good info. Just mindless pro-church or anti-church rhetoric. My bishop’s only advice was “Stay close to the Lord”. That’s like telling your kid “Be careful!” as you send him out on his tricycle to play on a busy Interstate highway. I made up my mind that I would blaze the trail myself, and once I’d learned a few things about how to successfully navigate the strange world of being a faithful divorced Mormon dad, I’d write a book about it to help the millions of other men who would inevitably go through the same thing.
It may suffice to say that I grossly underestimated the depth and breadth of the utter weirdness I would go through during my “trail blazing” years. I didn’t even think of it as trail blazing… I was just living, man! If I were to briefly outline “the wilderness” I journeyed through over the past decade, It would go something like this:
- Jack, the finest christian I’ve ever met who doesn’t even believe in God.
- LDS Mission: why was I the biggest failure on paper, yet the top leader?
- Marriage: you’ve been warned
- College and my crisis of faith: I discover that we are all just a rat in a cage
- Divorce: sweet relief, or, the wound that never heals
- Honesty is rewarded with being disfellowshipped
- Baptism of Fire – a divine purging
- The secret underground world of Pickup Artists
- Hey, wearing nylons and high heels is cool, right?
- The Paul Duane Show, it is.
- Making a living photographing naked women
- I’m funny, right? Stand up comedy and the jokes that weren’t funny
- The Gurus – messengers in the flesh, messengers in the dream world
- Burning Man
- my hottest, highest mess moment: I meet my old friend, my twin flame in the most unlikely of circumstances
- Church Headquarters hands me a bomb that I could use on them
- Priesthood Session – my tribe – arriving where I started, knowing the place for the first time
….which leads us to right now. I’m sitting here drinking coffee, patiently waiting on a copy of my Patriarchal Blessing to arrive (which I have not read in many years), and wondering what it will be like to visit with my Bishop next week. Here’s the thing. I have a lot of philosophical and lifestyle differences with the church: “Sex”. “Drugs”. “Adult beverages”. “Prophets” “Priesthood Authority” “Gay marriage”…. to name a few. If, in some remotely hypothetical sense, I returned to church…. I’m sure I’d be the worst mormon at church, every week.
I do believe that we are all “children” of God – we all emanate from The Divine, and this perspective has life altering implications. This is the core of my faith. I LOVE the teachings of Jesus Christ (although I am unconcerned with whether or not those stories are factual – they are useful, and for me, that’s what matters right now). I believe that the minute you have decided that you know it all, is the moment you have become completely blind. I identified as Agnostic for a long time. I always felt that being willing to be agnostic about my agnosticism was the only way to be intellectually honest. That path has led me to being willing to experiment with all kinds of things… philosophies, relationships, drugs, drinks, and now…. The Church. I feel a profound connection to the words of TS Elliot:
We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
So, there you have it. Why am I doing this? That’s somewhat of another story for another day, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve recently had a few experiences that have made me feel really compelled to at least reach out and reconnect with The Church in some way, even if I never become “active” again… I have totally let go of all resentments and I finally feel free to just see The Church and experience it for what it truly is. I’m just going to lay it out to my Bishop. I don’t really know where this is going to lead. I can’t even be concerned with where it’s leading, if I am to be honest about this whole process. To be a TRUE seeker of truth, you cannot have any attachment to what the outcome of the experiment is. You just have to run the experiment and accept the results. So, here I am. Experimenting.
One last thought – I’m sure some of you are wondering “why the hell are you talking about this?” I have consumed so much bandwidth and airwaves in talking poorly about the church. I know I’ve influenced a lot of opinions in that direction. I feel that the only intellectually honest thing to do, is to share this part of the journey too.
I’ll keep you posted.
much love –
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UPDATE – Sunday 17 April 2016
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I went to church today (see featured photo). I went to the ward I live in, in South Salt Lake. I went by myself. I didn’t know *anyone* there. I haven’t been to church on this basis in 10 years.
It’s just as boring and self-congratulatory as I remember it to be. The only major difference is that I was one of the few people carrying around scriptures in print form. All of the old grandpas (which is what this ward is mostly made of) were rocking all texts on their tablets and phones. I was the youngest (and probably ONLY) (not counting the children). The ward is made up primarily of elderly couples, widows, and a few young families. Lots of old ladies in my neighborhood that need to be looked after. I can help with that.
I made a few comments in priesthood and sunday school today. Shit was getting out of hand.
Still meeting with the bishop on Tues.
Seriously have no idea what this is all about. Seems pretty silly. I would make