The LDS Guilt Factory

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints markets itself as a church of acceptance, a church of grace, a church of forgiveness and a church of love, however, the Church’s largest commodity is guilt, and they export it in mass quantities. The LDS Church is obsessed with personal worthiness, a standard that no person can ever attain, which is why Jesus had to die for us in the first place.

 Unlike Christianity though, the LDS Church is a church of works and teaches that we have to be worthy in every regard and that we have to qualify for the grace of God, or purchase the grace of God, by doing everything we can possibly do on our own. The LDS Church says that, “we are saved by grace, after all we can do,” so by that standard grace is only available to the most pious, and by that standard, I don’t know nor have I ever knows a single person who would qualify for it. Even the most devout has at least one rule they are either unable or unwilling to follow, and the majority don’t even come close to putting their all into the Church. 

Every member has to go through numerous worthiness interviews with the bishop and stake president, and every person in the church is always judging himself or herself. The Church teaches that we must be worthy before we can take the sacrament, and the sacrament is passed every Sunday, so if a person knows of some defect in his or her life they are to abstain  from taking the sacrament. Sometimes the idea of going to Sacrament meeting is a truly terrifying thing, especially if we think or know we have done something that would prevent us from taking the sacrament because we have been taught that taking the sacrament unworthily is one of the biggest sins, yet if we don’t take the sacrament everyone judges us for it and concocts in their own minds what sort of grievous sin we may have committed. 

Some people intentionally arrive late so that they will not be in the meeting when the sacrament is being passed, but most members know that many of those who arrive late is do so intentionally so that no one will see him or her refuse the sacrament when it is passed down their row. As a result of this knowledge, many members assume that everyone who arrives late does so because of some unworthiness and judge them for it. Members, especially the youth, have a great deal of emotional turmoil on Sunday morning because they do not want to offend God by taking the sacrament unworthily but they also don’t want people, especially his or her parents, to see them refuse the sacrament. The guilt is even worse if a young man who feels he is not worthy is asked to bless or pass the sacrament or to do some other function that requires total worthiness on his part. 


Blessing the Sacrament

Most LDS Young men are terrified they will say the blessing wrong or that they are not worthy enough.

A lot of people who are worthy based on the interview questions still feel unworthy because of some thought he or she may have had or for a myriad of other reasons, and every Sunday the majority of members are judging themselves, as do those who attend the temple. In addition to judging themselves, most people within the LDS Church are also judging everyone else, even if they don’t admit it. To be fair though, the farther away from the Mormon Mecca of Utah one gets the more down to earth and normal the LDS people are. 

In the eyes of the Church, confessing serious sins to your bishop or branch president is an  extremely important step in repentance. For the majority of sins, in order to be forgiven, the sinner must go through the Church’s approved repentance program, and they are only forgiven after they have done enough good works to earn forgiveness. What a person must do in order to be forgiven is completely at the discretion of his or her priesthood leaders, typically a bishop or a branch president. However, if you sin while you are on a mission you are at the mercy of your mission president, though the mission president will typically refrain from serving justice and will allow the missionary’s home bishop or branch president to determine his or her fate.

 For the sake of those of you who have never been Mormon and don’t know all of the lingo, a bishop and branch president is basically the same position, which is a leader of a congregation, but a branch is smaller than a ward so it is designated as a branch instead of a ward. 

At some point after joining the Church it occurred to me that there was a huge disconnect from the way in which Jesus forgave people and the way in which the Church forgives people. Yes, Jesus did tell people to stop sinning, but he also did not put heavy burdens on them before he forgave them. There are a lot of instances of forgiveness throughout the New Testament, and the sinner was not asked to perform any works first, nor were any of them able to earn his or her forgiveness. 

One of the instances where Jesus forgave a person’s sins was when the man with palsy was lowered through a hole in the roof to the feet of Jesus and was told that his faith had save him and that his sins were forgiven (Mark 2:5). Another is when Jesus forgave the prostitute who was washing his feet with her tears (Luke 7:48); he did not even insinuate that she had to earn the forgiveness nor did he list off any works she had to do in order to be forgiven, and the forgiveness was instant, not something to be attained at some future date, after she had done enough. 

Colossians 2:13 says that while we were dead in sin Jesus forgave us, and Romans 5:8-10 says that while we were still sinners and enemies to God that he forgave us, not after we did the prescribed about of penance. Another example of forgiveness was at the end of Jesus’ mortal life when he forgave the sinner on the cross next to him. 

I think if a bishop or any other Church leader were to tell someone that they were forgiven based on his or her faith and did not require some sort of penance he would be immediately released from his position. The Church is all about works and makes everyone feel guilty about not being able to keep all of the rules. It is commonly said within the Church that if a man is twenty five and not married than he is a menace to society, and the church does all it can to make sure every man is married before then, yet another of the many rules that must be followed. 

As soon as I returned home from my mission, before I was even officially released, I started getting pressured to date, and every few weeks or so my bishop would ask me how many dates I had been on the previous week and then would urge me to date more. I felt like the church wanted me to make finding a wife my full time job. I went on a lot of dates but I did not have much success because it would quickly become clear to one or both of us that we would not work out. I did date one girl for a few months before she informed me that she was breaking up with me to marry one of my friends. 

I had been home from my mission for about a year when I started dating Chelsea, a girl from my singles ward, and after a short while we got engaged and the ward leaders were happy for us. Chelsea’s parents, however, were not on board with the wishes of the Church about having a short engagement, despite the fact that her father was the first councilor to the bishop, and forced her to push the wedding out to some future, unknown, date. The Church firmly states that once a couple knows they want to get married they should have as short of an engagement as possible, just long enough to properly plan for the wedding, but not long enough to get into trouble.

 The major reason the church suggests a short engagement is they want to prevent the couple from having any pre-marital sexual relations as that would make them unworthy to get married in the temple. The church goes so far as to suggest that once a couple is engaged that they never spend any time together unsupervised so they don’t have an opportunity to mess up. 

Whenever Chelsea and I would visit her parent’s ward we were treated like sub-class citizens because we held hands in public and were not married. Keep in mind, the church has no rules against holding hands or kissing before marriage (making out is prohibited but kissing is not). It is difficult for me to believe that anyone would ever get married if they had not at least held hands, unless of course it was an arranged marriage. Anyhow, the ward treated us poorly and the Sunday School president would never call on us, even if we were the only ones to raise our hands. At this point we had done nothing that the Church would consider to be sin, yet we were treated like the most vile of sinners. Eventually we started commenting in Sunday School without being called upon and the teacher would yell at us, in front of the class, and say that he had not called on us and that we should keep our comments to ourselves since we were not worthy to speak in church. Chelsea told the Sunday school teacher we knew he would never call on us, even though he had no legitimate reason, so we decided to contribute anyway, and that we were indeed worthy. 

Whenever I would try to set a date for the wedding I would be told to not be hasty and to just wait, and to just enjoy being engaged, something the Church thinks is a horrible idea. Chelsea and I were in the same singles ward, and our bishop and stake president continually pressured us to set a date and to get married as soon as possible, which was the exact opposite of what her parents wanted. I am not sure if they knew it, but I harshly judged Chelsea’s parents for treating the council of the Church as if it did not matter, especially since her father was in leadership and knew better than most what the council of the Church would be.

To me, refusing to set a date meant that there was no commitment and the wedding would never happen. We did not set a date until I finally got tired of being strung along and told Chelsea that if we did not set a date I would have to assume that she did not want to get married and would break up with her. Again, the Church teaches that the reason for dating, the only reason for dating, is to find a spouse, so in the eyes of the Church if we were not going to get married than I was wasting my time and flirting with sin. 

Even after we finally set a date, whenever it would get close to appointed date, Chelsea’s  parents would force her to change the date for at least six months in the future, a classic example of shifting the goal post. Chelsea and I were really close and spent a lot of time together, and eventually our hormones got the better of us and we made out and touched each other in ways that are inappropriate for unmarried people to do. We both felt bad about it and decided to do what the church teaches and we went to the bishop. 

At this point in my life I had a difficult time accepting responsibility for anything because, from my experience, whenever I accepted the responsibility for anything, I was thrown under the bus and shown no mercy. While I was most definitely a willing participant, the act was most definitely Chelsea’s idea as she had a much higher sex drive than I did. I know everyone thinks that the drive is always higher in men than in women and that men are always the ones to initiate, but that is often not true, and certainly not in this case. Anyhow, I mentioned the fact that it was her idea when I confessed to the bishop, much like Adam when he tried to shift the responsibility to Eve, and the bishop was not amused. 

The bishop yelled at me for half an hour and told me that no matter what Chelsea did or how persistent she was, everything was my fault because I was a priesthood holder, had gone to the temple and had served a mission. My bishop said that even if Chelsea locked me in a room with her and took off all of her clothes, if I were to do anything other than close my eyes and protest, that the bulk of the sin would be on my head, not hers. With all the time I spent in the bishop’s office he had no interest in helping me with the Church’s repentance program and just told me not to take the sacrament until further notice. 

From this point on, we pretty much decided to just ignore the rules and completely give into our desires for each other. We knew it was wrong, but we also knew that the only way for it not to be wrong was to get married, which her parents were not about to let happen anytime soon, and we knew the only way we would be able to keep from doing things we knew we were not supposed to would be to stop seeing each other, and neither of us could bear the thought of that. We decided that there was no reason to try and repent at this point because we knew the bishop was unwilling to help us repent, and we knew that we would do it again. 

As I mentioned briefly earlier, the LDS Church has an official repentance program for anything that is serious enough to require the person to confess to the bishop, and in order to be forgiven, the sinner must willingly comply with anything and everything the bishop or branch president asks him or her to do. Spencer W. Kimball, one of the prophet of the Church, said in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness it is sometimes years before the person has done enough good works to be forgiven, which leads me to the conclusion that Mr. Kimball was confused as to the definition of a miracle. I work a full time job and I never say when I get my paycheck that it is a miracle that I got paid because I worked for the money and my employer is obligated to  give it to me. If we earn our forgiveness than it is not a miracle, we are just being paid for a job well done. That is neither forgiveness nor a miracle, just a business transaction. 


Spencer W. Kimball

12th President of the LDS Church and author of the book designed to make people feel guilty, The Miracle of Forgiveness. Oddly, from reading the book one would have the impression that Mr. Kimball does not understand what the words miracle or forgiveness means.

Kimball said, “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes,” (p.325). 

Chelsea and I were engaged for over two years before I finally admitted to myself that a marriage would never happen and that, despite the fact that she loved me, her love was not as strong as her fear of her parents was. There was a series of events that happened in a relatively short span of time that led me to breaking up with her, and to going inactive for a while. 

I agreed to spend Christmas with Chelsea and her family with her grandmother and aunts in Arizona, several states away from where we lived in Idaho, and that turned out to be a nightmare. Everything started out fine and Chelsea’s parents were nice to me initially, and by the time I realized the trip was a mistake of epic proportions I was too far in to change my mind. We were over half of the way to the destination before Chelsea’s mother started making off hand comments about me and being overly critical of me. I am not sure why, but one of the things Chelsea’s parents had against me was that I was abused as a child, as if it were somehow my fault. 

As soon as we arrived at Chelsea’s grandmother’s house I came to the sudden realization that things were about to get much, much worse. Apparently Chelsea’s mother had been talking to her family about me for quite some time and their opinion of me was poisoned before they ever met me and they had jointly come to the decision that they would dedicate the entire Christmas vacation to breaking us up. I could do nothing right, and I mean nothing. Chelsea’s family wanted me to fail and they not only looked for opportunities for me to fail but manufactured them when they were not available organically. 

One day I went on a hike with Chelsea’s family in the barren desert and I asked if something were to happen to me if they would they save me or just leave me out in the desert to die. Chelsea’s father said that he would save me, but strongly suggested that he would only do so because Chelsea would never forgive him if he did not. 

On a car ride to the mall, Chelsea’s mother laid into me without mercy and, despite the fact that none of what she was saying about me was true, Chelsea did not say one word in my defense. I, however, had an unexpected ally; Chelsea’s father spoke up in my defense and told his wife that they were both in agreement about not liking me, but that if she were going to say things about me they had to be true and that none of what she said about be was true and therefore was unfair. 

Later that night I went on a walk with Chelsea’s father and we got lost and had several hours to talk, and while I can’t say that it made us friends, we did come to an understanding and a respect of each other. Chelsea’s father, I realized, had been hated as much as I was hated before he married into the family and they never did warm up to him and tried to get them divorced, despite the fact that it was against the policy of the Church. Chelsea’s father being the first councilor to the bishop did not maker her mother’s family like him any better, it just made them question the church for putting him in that position. It was then that I gave up on making Chelsea’s family like me and accepted the fact that they never would, even if I were to become a doctor and win the Nobel Peace Prize for curing cancer. 

I thanked Chelsea’s father for standing up for me and said, “I really appreciate you taking my side. I know how you feel about me so I know it was not easy for you to take my side, and I know it put you in hot water with Chelsea’s mother, so thanks.” I also admitted that I was deeply troubled that Chelsea, the one person who was supposed to be on my side, didn’t say one word in my defense, while someone who did not even like me and made sure I knew it had my back. 

At some point in the trip things got so bad that I almost purchased a bus ticket and went home, and the plan was to get up early in the morning and leave without telling anyone I was leaving and without leaving a note. I ultimately decided to cut Chelsea some slack because she was under so much pressure from her family and that it was only fair to wait and see how things went when we got home. 

Shortly after we got home, Chelsea thought she might be pregnant so we purchased a pregnancy test in the most clandestine manner possible. We drove to another town where no one knew us, in the middle of the night, to buy the test. Still, we were not as careful as we could have been and had the curtains open in my apartment when we took the test out of the brown paper bag and someone from our ward happened to be walking by and saw it, and as quick as that, the entire ward knew. 

We had been arriving late so that no one would know we were not taking the sacrament, and some of the ward undoubtedly assumed that we did so because we were not worthy and started to shun us, but once the story about the pregnancy test had circulated, the entire ward became cold to us. No one actually said anything to us about it, but the way their attitude toward us changed over night it was apparent that they knew. 

To make matters worse, Chelsea told her parents that she thought she was pregnant. Our bishop told us that if she were pregnant than we should immediately get married, but that is not what Chelsea’s parents suggested. Chelsea’s parents suggested that she give the baby to her aunt who could not get pregnant and that, if we ever got married, that we wait until after college. The reaction Chelsea had to her parent’s decision for her was more than I could take and it was then that I knew we did not have a future together, or at least not a happy one. 

Chelsea told me that, if she were pregnant, she wanted to give her aunt the baby and wait to get married. In my mind, for two adults who love each other and are engaged, the only logical or acceptable course of action for an unexpected pregnancy would be to get married and raise the child together. When Chelsea told me she agreed with her parents, though I knew she actually didn’t and was just scared to go against their wishes, I knew she did not love me as much as I loved her and never would, and while it remains to this day the hardest decision of my life, I knew that breaking up was the best course of action, for all parties involved.

 I waited until after I was certain Chelsea was not pregnant before breaking up because I knew that if we broke up I would never be told about the baby, and if I had a child I was prepared to fight for it in court. There was no way I was going to let someone else raise my baby, especially someone who hated me. 

After taking two pregnancy tests and then taking a professional test at the university’s health clinic, the result was confirmed to be negative and I broke up with Chelsea. After I broke both of our hearts, I hiked up to the top of the hill overlooking campus and cried. I had never felt so horrible, and while I wanted nothing more than to be with Chelsea, I knew that if we stayed together we would never be happy, or at least I wouldn’t; her family would see to that. 

I wanted to get away from the situation and agreed to take a summer job out in California. I was scared, but I decided to talk to the bishop to start the repentance process to get back in good standing with the church. To my great surprise, the bishop had no interest in helping me go through the Church’s repentance program and instead of helping me he just yelled at me. Despite the bishops’ initial reaction when I first told him we had messed up, I was surprised that he outright refused to help me repent because that is one of his Church mandated jobs and is something the Church says that I could not do without his help. The bishop was basically saying that he would not allow me to be forgiven.

The bishop knew that I had a summer job lined up out of state and told me not take the sacrament and to wait until I got to the ward in my summer area and, perhaps, my new bishop would help me with the repentance.

When I made it to California for my summer job I did not know anyone there and I considered not going to church at all, but since everyone who I would be working with and everyone I lived with were members of the Church I decide to attend the singles branch. The branch president made me tell him all about my sins before he let me know that he would not help me to repent, despite the fact that he knew before I ever stepped into his office that he had no intentions of helping me. It was humiliating to tell my sins, especially when the church teaches that sexual sin is almost as bad as murder. I was also confused as to why two different priesthood leaders, independent of each other, refused to help me. I had always been taught that confession to the church was of the utmost importance and that going through the Church’s repentance program is the only way to be forgiven of your sins, and the Church was, in essence, making it impossible for me to be be forgiven and I had no idea why. 

The people I worked for in California were extremely dishonest, so apparently they lied on their temple recommend interviews when they said they were honest in all their dealings with their fellow man. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was paying for the “opportunity” to sell security systems for this company instead of getting paid for it. One day when I was supposed to be selling security systems, I went back to the apartment and loaded up all of my stuff. I had signed a contract that would have obligated me to work for free and to pay a fine if I were to quit, and even though I knew it was not legal to make someone work for free I did not have any money to hire an attorney. Since the contract had not been sent to the headquarters yet and the boss forgot to lock the office,  I took it with me and burned it. I did not know what else to do so I went back to Idaho. 

I went to great lengths to make sure the apartment I rented was not within the ward boundaries of the singles ward I had attended before going to California. For those of you who are not familiar with the way the LDS Church is set up, where you live determines which ward you are in and you don’t have a choice in the matter; the only way to change wards is to move to a new location in a different ward boundaries. The apartment I rented was not in the boundaries of either of the Young Single Adult Stakes but there was a singles branch, so I decided to go there. I wanted to go to the family ward but the bishop of the family ward convinced me that I would be better off going to a singles ward, both because the Church still expected me to get married, and because young singles sometimes get forgotten in the family wards. 

 The branch president in the singles branch refused to help me with my repentance, so that was three strikes, but I was not ready to give up, not just yet. I told myself that I would try one more time and than give up. The branch president said that he only had a few months left before he was released from his calling as being branch president and that I would have to wait until a new branch president was called, but that he would inform the new branch president that I needed to talk to him. I decided that I would not approach the new branch president and that if repentance was actually as important to the Church as it says it is than the new branch president would call me in for an interview. 

The branch president that was unwilling to help me did tell me I had to show up to all of the Church meetings I was supposed to attend and that I was to show up on time and sit in the front to show the Church that I was serious about repentance. I was petrified because I knew that I would not be able to hide the fact that I fact that I could not take the sacrament and I knew that I would be judged harshly. At this point, I had been sneaking in late and sitting in the back, but now my shame was to be on public display. 

People in the branch were mostly nice to me up until the point that I sat up front and did not take the sacrament, and then everything changed. From that Sunday on I was treated like I had the plague and no one would sit with me, no one would talk to me, and despite the high turn out every Sunday, I felt like I was alone. I had never felt so unloved or so alone. It is far worse to be with people who make you feel alone than it is to actually be alone. 

Anyone who has ever been in the Church knows all about family home evening, or FHE as it is commonly called, but for the sake of those of you who are not familiar with the Church, every Monday the family is supposed to get together and have a spiritual lesson from the approved Church materials, and for the people in singles wards or branches, they are divided into FHE groups or families and meet every Monday, usually at the home of one of the ward or branch leaders, and have a lesson and an activity. One day I made a comment in FHE and the lady who was teaching the lesson rudely snapped at me and said, “From now on, keep your comments to yourself,” despite the fact that my comment was not inappropriate or out of place.  

“OK, I will do just that,” I said and I got up and left and did not attend FHE again the rest of the time I was in the branch. Out of the entire branch, there were only two people who were kind to me and showed any interest in being my friend, and they were siblings. Though they had done nothing to be considered unworthy, these two young ladies were shunned by most of the branch as well, and I never really knew why. All I know that it was not because of me that they were shunned because they were shunned before I ever started attending that branch, long before they became friends with me. 

When the new branch president was called he had one of his councilors call me to schedule an appointment with him, and a week or so before the appointment I went with the branch on a Church sponsored whitewater rafting trip. At this point in my life I had a lot do deal with, my recent breakup, the way I was treated in the Church, and I was going to school full time and working two jobs and got very little sleep, so I was not in any mood for pranks. It was not a very warm day and we had not been out on the river long before someone decided it would be hilarious to throw me overboard. I immediately climbed back in the boat but I was cold and shivered for quite some time before I dried off. 

Every time I had dried to the point that I started to warm up someone would throw me off the boat again, so when some of the people were making fun of me for being cold I said gruffly that I would not be cold if, insert expletives here, would stop throwing me off the boat. The other occupants of the rubber raft gasped so loudly that it could he heard over the roar of the river and they immediately rebuked me for swearing, yet acted like throwing me off the boat into freezing water on a cold day was a perfectly wholesome activity. 

After being thrown over board three of four times I decided to swim for shore instead of swimming for the boat. One of the people in the raft, one of the people who had thrown me out after I asked them not to, called to me and begged me to get back into the boat, so I loudly yelled back and told them where they could go and what they could do to themselves on the way. I hitchhiked back to the parking lot and ate my lunch while I I waited for everyone else to make their way back. I happen to know for a fact that the branch president was told about the incident, with the slant that I swore at them for no reason, yet he never mentioned it to me, which was a surprise. Apparently he knew the truth. 

When I finally had the interview with the new branch president he agreed to help me through the repentance process, but first threatened to excommunicate me. At the official Church court a week or so later where I had to, once again, confess my sins to the branch presidency, the stake presidency and the heigh council. In the meeting, the stake president asked if I would be willing to remain in the church and work my way back if I were to be excommunicated, and I said that I would, but I was not sure that it was true, despite the fact that I wanted it to be. Looking back, I doubt that it was true and I almost certainly would have never gone back. 

Anyhow, I was asked to wait outside while they decided my fate and an hour or so later I was called back in and they informed me they decided to disfellowship me, which meant that I could not take the sacrament for a year, could not comment or pray in any official Church meeting, including FHE, and could not go home teaching. I was again told that I had to come to church on time and that I had to sit in the front. 

I thought that the branch members had treated me horribly and judged me before when I did not take the sacrament, but now that I could not even speak in church I was judged on a whole other level; where before I was mostly just avoided, now I was not treated like I was the worst kind of garbage. Previously the branch had assumed that I was unworthy, but now the Church had confirmed it for them. All of the other branch leaders were informed that I had been disfellowshipped so that they would not call on me for anything, and that news raced through the ranks at breakneck speed. 

There is a huge difference in how Church discipline is handled between men and women, and women do not have to go through the meeting with the high council and the bishop or branch president alone makes the decision, but there has to be a council to make the decision for anyone holding the priesthood. Also, men are commonly disfellowshipped or excommunicated for sexual sins but it is a lot more rare to disfellowship or excommunicate women for the same offenses. Chelsea was only asked to not take the sacrament for three months where I was not allowed to take the sacrament for a year and a half and was disfellowshipped for one year, and excommunication was considered in my case. 

I discovered that the way the church accepts and shows “unconditional” love is a farce and that once you are not in good standings everyone treats you differently. I hate to admit it, but when I was super into the church I treated people differently when I knew they were not worthy, but I never realized that I treated people who were not considered worthy differently until I myself was in that situation and experienced it in reverse. However, while I did treat people differently if they were not in good standing with the Church, I never treated anyone with the disdain with which I was treated when I was going through my repentance.


Temple Recommend questions

1 Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

2 Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?

3 Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?

4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

5 Do you live the law of chastity?

6 Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?

7 Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

8 Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?

9 Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?

10 Are you a full-tithe payer?

11 Do your keep the Word of Wisdom?

12 Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?

13 If you have previously received your temple endowment:

Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple?

Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?

14 Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?

15 Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord's house and participate in temple ordinances?

Just before I was restored to full fellowship in the Church I moved to a new area and the ward members in my new ward did not know anything about me being disfellowshipped and did not have anything to judge me for initially, but it quickly became apparent that, despite the fact that I paid tithing, had a temple recommend and attended church every week, that I was starting to have some serious doubts about the church. Instead of trying to help me through my struggles people treated me like trash. 

At this point I still really wanted to believe in the Church because staying in the Church was easier than admitting that I had been fooled and adopting a new belief system and being subjected to all of the social ramifications that would be the inevitable result of leaving the Church, but I was having a serious crisis of faith and was actively searching for truth about the Church, and none of the answers I found made remaining faithful to the Church easier. My church attendance through this period was sporadic at best and I did not always follow the word of wisdom or pay my tithing. For the sake of the never Mormons, the word of wisdom is a rule in the Church that prohibits the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, coffee or tea, and I have always loved coffee and it was difficult to give up when I first joined the Church and therefore easy to take back up when I started to doubt. 

When I met my wife, Tonya, I was almost completely inactive and she hated the Church because of the way people treated her for having a child out of wedlock, but we started attending my ward together on a regular basis and it was not long before she was really into the Church. Even though Tonya was on fire for the Church I was still struggling mightily. 

Despite my serious doubts, I very much wanted to believe the Church was true, especially since Tonya was now into it. Tonya was not considered worthy to go to the temple so we got married outside of the temple with the plan to get sealed in the temple a year later when the Church let her get her temple recommend, and we carried through with that plan.

It is common, I think, when a person knows he or she is loosing something to fight harder for it, and that is the way I was with the Church and I tried to be as pious as I could and tried to put away my doubts and grow my faith. My second wind did not last long and my doubts came back with a vengeance. I was even happy when my second job started making me work Sundays because that way I had an excuse to skip church, and it was not long before I went inactive yet again. 

While Tanya may have been concerned with the state of my soul in eternity, she was far more concerned with how the ward would view her for having an inactive husband and she tried to force me to go to Church. Tanya’s concerns were not completely unfounded either as my inactivity became a common topic among the ward members, especially the women, and a lot of members started shunning her because I did not believe and did not attend, as if it were somehow her fault. After a while, I started attending again for Tonya’s sake but went inactive again as soon as we moved to Nebraska.  For an extremely short period after moving to Nebraska I tried to believe, and when I couldn’t I tried to fake it so that people would not know that I had lost my testimony of the Church, but even the thought of going to church made me sick and I could not handle it for long. 

Eventually, through some combination of being disappointed with the discovery that I can’t have children and being dissatisfied with me because of my loss of faith and growing hostility toward the Church, Tanya left me. 

The Church is basically a guilt factory because the standard we are held to impossible to reach and not only are we constantly judging ourselves for not reaching it but everyone else is judging us for it as well. The LDS Church teaches that we not only have to live all of the rules, but we have to strive to live such an exemplary life as to qualify us to become a god someday, truly a Sisyphean task. 

I thank God every day that he rescued me from the LDS Church and showed me the true miracle of forgiveness, a forgiveness that is based on the merits of the one who forgives and not on those of the one being forgiven. When Jesus forgave the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, he said that those who are forgiven of much love much and those who are forgiven of little love little. If we have to work off most of our debt before Jesus can forgive us than we are forgiven of little, and to assume that Jesus can’t forgive our sins unless we first work down the principle is to cheapen his sacrifice. 

Yes, Jesus wants all of us to give up a life of sin and follow him, but we don’t have to work to gain our salvation or our forgiveness, nor could we. Forgiveness and salvation is given to us as a free gift from God and nothing we could ever do could earn it. Jesus paid it all on the cross and there is no need to live in constant guilt and shame. 

Thanks for reading, and God bless.  

Kairos Prison Ministry: Interview with William Rowland

Kairos Prison Ministry: Interview with William Rowland