Hi, my name is Christopher

ChristopherMy Journey to the LDS Faith

Born a Catholic, I withdrew from my practice in my early teens. I spent the

next 10+ years as a spiritual atheist, finding divinity and profound

connection in the natural world and all things around me. My practice of

spiritual expression changed greatly when I met a certain lovely lady,

devout in practicing the tenets of the LDS faith. While I fundamentally

disagreed with the Judeo-Christian ethos, I was drawn by her spiritual

gravity and invigorated by her passionate communication of her

convictions. She and I were smitten <3

 

Her faith was a critical element to her, and I sought to make a life with her.

Thus I made a good-faith effort to understand and support her spiritual

needs. In doing so, we attended LDS services regularly at the Salt Lake

20 th Ward, and I was welcomed into a very loving and accepting community

(one like I never saw in any other LDS community in the years that

followed). I found an LDS spiritual mentor whose earnest faith, liberal

views, immeasurable analytical mindset, and honest heart helped me to

hone, repackage, and operationalize my atheistic spiritual practice into the

prism or strictures of LDS mythology (I don’t mean this pejoratively), faith

hood, and faith expression (crudely speaking, on how to effectively strive

to attain the ideals and aims of the LDS faith).

 

Despite a critical and seemingly irreconcilable ideological divide between

my convictions and the teachings of the Church, I took a leap of faith and

joined the Church. I shared some common faith beliefs with the Church,

those of love, charity, service, brotherhood, compassion, faith, and eternal

connection to all matter in the universe. I held faith that my cognitive

dissonance with the teachings of the Church on gender expression, gender

equality, and sexual orientation expression would someday reconcile.

Further, at the more fundamental level of mythology, I wanted to believe

that my faith would go beyond a metaphoric interpretation of the Gospel

and Godhead into and into a literal testimony. Despite the prevailing views

of lovely lady’s family, I joined the LDS Church in earnest faith. Much to

their chagrin, we were shortly thereafter married in a civil setting (and not

the Temple, although that happened a year later).

 

Attending BYU and Living a Life of Cognitive Dissonance

My next two years living in Utah County in Orem, Utah were some of the

hardest years of my life. I met some really great people during that time,

but felt alienated and was not able to express myself. In my experience, I

felt stuck in a culture that prided blind adherence to religiosity, narrow

interpretations of doctrine, rigid policing of gender and sexual norms, and

an opposition to diversity of thought and being. I longed for a community

that extolled the fundamental precepts of love, tolerance, and charity, one

that valued curiosity and diversity.

 

I felt closeted in all aspects of my life at BYU and in Utah County:

  • As a bisexual man, I quietly endured weekly sermons from Church

leaders, parishioners, and peers on the moral failings of

homosexuals and their deviant behaviors (and more often than not,

these sermons preached outright profane bigotry); and I was afraid

to voice my views for fear of retribution.

  • As a nontheist (one who does not believe in God), but who strove

earnestly to believe and adhere to the Church teachings, sharing my

non-traditional views with this orthodox culture typically resulted in

fierce social rejection, so I faded away to avoid shunning.

  • As a family who strove for gaining higher education before growing

our family, we were openly shunned in our community and shamed

at the pulpit (in front of Church leaders). Thus, we quietly and

tearfully endured with what leaders recognize as long suffering.

  • As a family who was later found to be infertile, our sexual

reproductive status was the common-second question asked in

introductions with fellow parishioners, another painful daily reminder

of our awkward misalignment with the predominately pro-natalist

culture.

  • As an imperfect being who felt isolated, I felt continually patronized

by the lectures from leaders, parishioners, and peers who

proclaimed that all my ills would be solved if I essentially prayed

harder and lived more faithfully; that those who didn’t follow the

straight and narrow path were getting their just deserts through

expulsion, excommunication, or banishment to eternal darkness.

  • As a person who felt unable to explore and express my views

openly, honestly, and critically, I feared losing my degree, temple

recommend, and social standing in an LDS context (in school,

family, and career).

  • As a person who sought a safe and open means to explore, edify,

and cultivate my faith, I felt that the BYU Honor Code could be used

as a means to suppress, silence, and remove me from a university

that sought to promote faith and reason.

 

In my closet and without anyone to confide in other than my wife, we

counted down the days to leaving Utah County… And my faith slowly

dwindled day by day.

 

Accepting My Testimony in a Life Beyond the Church

Less than two years after I graduated, I decided to leave the Church. I felt

in my heart the following to be true; truths in my mind that were

irreconcilable with my experience in the Church:

  • We are all interconnected and interdependent; I believe we are

stronger when we join together rather than reject/tear each other

apart.

  • Nature values and thrives on diversity in all living things and ways of

being; I believe we as a people should encourage diverse and

contradicting viewpoints as it often makes us stronger.

  • If God truly exists, I believe She/He would love all living beings and

not discriminate on them based on the way they were born to love.

  • All major faith disciplines promote universal elements of spiritual

goodness and truth for those who connect with a particular faith, as

such, I believe:

  • The practice or operationalization of one’s spiritual faith should

be complemented by religious rites and not vice versa.

  • Further, the culture of faith or operationalization of spiritual

practices by religion via the masses should not overwhelm the

spiritual/religious freedom of the individual’s practice of faith.

  • Lastly, the cultural expression of one’s faith isn’t one size fits

all; faith practices like people evolve and change over time,

and one moment or cultural context at this point in time isn’t

going to fit everyone.

 

My Hope for Those Who Question Faith at BYU; and For BYU

Administrators

For those who question their faith, I hope that my story provides a context

to you:

  • That you are not alone,
  • Things will one day get better, despite where your journey leads you.

My hope for the Church and BYU administrators responsible for upholding

the values of free conscience, free will, and religious expression is that

you:

  • Promote a safe and open environment of tolerance, love,

exploration, and free exercise of religious expression (or lack thereof

if one so chooses)

  • Encourage faith and conscience rather than retaliating or disciplining

students who question/explore their faith in earnest

  • Seek administrative reforms for those who disaffiliate so they will be

able to pay non-LDS tuition while still complying with the Honor

Code, rather than face possible expulsion from the university,

eviction from their homes, and/or termination from their work.

In the words of Joseph Smith, “I teach them correct principles, and they

govern themselves.” I hope the BYU Honor Code will soon gain greater

alignment with the spirit of faith rather than rigid adherence to doctrine.