Agreeing with Spurgeon
The Mormon Mirage is not the only book I wrote about Mormonism. In another, Why We Left Mormonism: Eight People Tell their Stories(Baker), I interviewed seven other people to find out what was effective in reaching them while they were LDS, what mistakes Christians made, what advice they offered. In another, After Mormonism, What? Reclaiming the Ex-Mormon’s Worldview for Christ(Baker), I applied the worldview categories of James W. Sire (The Universe Next Door) and formulated questions and lessons for helping new Christians coming out of Mormonism.
I learned from painful experience, though, that in my own life, nobody knew how to address the needs of a heart broken by a church.
The unarticulated and un-targeted sense of betrayal I felt became the permanent inner garment of my soul. Charles Spurgeon articulated it best: “If God be thy portion, then there is no loss in all the world that lies so hard and so heavy upon thee as the loss of thy God.”1 I have tried to describe the state in which I lived for years after leaving Mormonism by comparing it to the aftermath of the discovery that your “forever” lover has left you and will never come back.
When Christians ask me how it felt, I ask them to consider how it would feel to wake up tomorrow morning and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God of the Bible did not exist. (Never did; was a beloved fiction that just might closely resemble the truth, but with enough of lies as to be untrustworthy.) How, I ask, would one assess all the hours of church attendance, all the vulnerabilities of prayer and fasting and secret sacrifice, all the people whose lives changed because of persuasion and diligence and risking of relationships just to get them lovingly wrangled into serving that God?2 How utter the sense of loss, how unrecoverable the hours and years, how foolishly squandered the hopes.
Who do you blame when you have been duped by a church?
For me, I couldn’t find anyone to blame. Not my Mormon friends. I knew their good hearts. Not Church leadership – at that time I found it incomprehensible that people I knew– my bishops, stake presidents, regional representatives — could be aware of what I had found out. But how far up the chain of command would I look to find the ones who did know these things and had hidden them? Could it be possible they were unaware too? I had no way of knowing where the line of inner-sanctum complicity began.
I couldn’t blame myself, though the responsibility surely lay there. I wanted to reproach myself for being suckered – but how could I hold responsible the trusting eleven-year-old? The trusting teenager? The trusting college student?
If there is no loss as great as the loss of one’s god, there are few tasks to compare with setting out to learn to serve another One. If you’ve been burned by a god, how do you learn to trust another one? Make no mistake about it, I knew I needed what only He could provide: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, church and community based on truth, not beloved fictions.
I knew I had been bested by a superior, One who held all the cards. . . I knew from the beginning that I would walk with a spiritual limp the rest of my life, the price I paid for being there, and believing. From this I have learned a truth that those who hope to bring faithful Mormons out of Mormonism must acknowledge and somehow negotiate: The power of its sociology – its cultures, its traditions, its people – is of such intensity and persistent power for those who love it, that doctrine can pale in significance unless truth is more important than any other thing.
In tomorrow’s blog, I will explain why I chose the avenue of fiction in my novel, Latter-day Cipher, to try to depict the cost of leaving Mormonism.
For more information, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today (Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.