Many Ex-Mormon blogs start with a list of Mormon “credentials” to let the reader know the dimensions of their former commitment, and how hard it was to disassociate. So I went on a Mormon mission for 2 years in Indiana, acted as an executive secretary to a bishop, bought a season pass to BYU football games, and attended BYU for 2 years before I stopped believing in Mormonism. I was fully saturated.
I graduated from BYU with a Bachelor’s degree in 2012. During the course of my studies, I was privileged to associate with many genuine, likable students and teachers. While I was discontent with certain elements of the Mormon paradigm, I nonetheless embraced its central tenets as absolutely true, and was committed to being a lifelong adherent. In 2011, I began to explore the foundations of my faith more intently, which raised many new questions and concerns that I had not previously considered. It quickly became apparent to me that certain questions and conversations were totally off-limits to my community. I concluded that the existence of these conversational boundaries, and my inability to traverse them without provoking hostility and social dissonance, indicated that I was not welcome among my peers at BYU.
In January 2012, I spoke with my bishop about some of my concerns, but was stopped short of addressing the heart of my inner conflict. He turned the conversation back on me, and explained how I had not truly been converted, and warned that my countenance would become dark if I pursued the answers to my questions. He prescribed more service to my fellow man, and gave me a printed talk “When Thou Art Converted”. It seemed that my informal education would put my formal education in jeopardy.
One day in February, after reading some historical accounts that disturbed me, I stayed home from church. It made me physically ill. I wanted to resign from the church that very day. But I could not, because I was in the middle of my last semester at BYU. My bishop continued to schedule appointments with me, but I wasn’t sure whether the meetings were going to threaten my academic standing. So I embraced silence. I occasionally made passive-aggressive comments in Sunday school. I battled in my own mind every day for months, trying to find a piece of Mormonism that I agreed with, so that I could graduate with a clean conscience. I came up with several concepts of God and transcendence that temporarily allowed me to stay afloat, but on the day that I walked as a BYU graduate, I did not believe in Mormonism at all.
For the past couple years, I have resented how BYU forced me into such an awful predicament. To this day, I don’t know whether this confession can affect my transcripts. Do they have the power to nullify my degree, even though I acted in accordance with their honor code?
I was very grateful for my job, my housing, my roommates, my teachers, and my classes at BYU. I would harbor much less resentment if I would have been allowed to make the transition out of Mormonism peacefully. Students should not have to choose between integrity and academic achievement.