Life after leaving the Mormon Church

Rachel Velamur

Rachel Velamur
February 15
Born and raised in a strict Mormon family. I write about what life was like as a Mormon and what my life is like after leaving.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 4, 2012 12:57PM

Why Are Facts Anti-Mormon?

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                A couple weeks ago, I reported on the pending excommunication of David Twede, managing editor of the website MormonThink.  I am happy to say that his excommunication hearing for September 30th was postponed, although authorities reserve the right to re-schedule the hearing for a later date. 

As with most of these situations, the details that emerged added a further complexity to the story.  David was new to his role as managing editor; the previous editor, one of the founders of the site, was forced last month to resign his church membership under threat of pending excommunication.  In support of David, this editor has decided to share his story on MormonThink.  In his statement, he discloses a letter he wrote to the local stake president, stating his intention to resign rather than face excommunication.  In this letter, he makes the following point

“You said that MT (MormonThink) is “anti-Mormon, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-LDS Leadership”.  However, you never said it wasn’t true.  The majority of the source material comes from the Church itself, so how can publishing true, historical facts be considered anti-Mormon?”  

                The official reasons for David’s excommunication hearing are murky.  The letter that was delivered to David cite apostasy as the reason for his pending church court trial.  David describes the interrogation by local leaders to be concerning articles he published between the dates of September 11th and 15th.  One of these articles was a piece about Romney’s faith.  Although Romney was never mentioned in the meeting between David Twede and local ecclesiastical leaders, the leader did state “I’m not a political man…”, indicative of the idea that the unspoken issue is likely connected to David Twede’s commentary on Romney’s faith. The reason cited for David’s excommunication was David’s e-mail to another member in the ward, where he provided links to Mormon history, one concerning the controversial subject of the Book of Abraham.  However, although this was cited as a reason for disciplinary action, it should be noted that the link that David provided another member was written by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).  The person who identified David Twede and forwarded David's writing to Church headquarters was Scott Gordon, president of FAIR.  

                I have been watching this situation unfold, from David’s first post on September 11th detailing his experience at church; to his post labeled “The Hammer of Laban”, where he indicated he was facing an unidentified disciplinary action; to the removal of his personal blog; to the news discussed on ex-Mormon forums of his pending excommunication hearing; to the media coverage of the situation; to the post-ponement of the hearing. 

                Last month, I had a conversation with my mother about my reservations concerning the actions of church leaders.  When I cited the September Six - and explained who they are – as a reason for my reservations, my mother told me that I couldn’t hold past actions against Church leaders.  But here we are, twenty years after the September Six, and once again Mormon authorities seem quick to punish any members whose actions don’t conform to the standard script, provided that this punishment doesn’t lead to bad PR.  Once again, the authorities seem loathe to confront the murky history of Mormonism.

                MormonThink is a valuable resource, as the website provides information about Mormonism that is not discussed in church.  There are so many aspects to Mormonism that I only learned about after leaving – their link with Freemasonry, the fact of Joseph’s multiple wives, the multiple versions of the First Vision.  There are also many aspects of Mormon history that Mormon authorities downplay or ignore – the historical reasons for the priesthood ban on blacks, the teachings on blacks by previous authorities, the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham.  MormonThink strives to discuss all of these issues.  These are all issues that Mormons need to know; the decision to support a religious institution is one that should be made with full knowledge. 

                For now, the David Twede story is closed.  The true test will come after the public eye is off the actions of Mormon authorities.  When that happens, what will their actions reflect?  Will the authorities continue to punish anyone that does not stick to the faith-promoting script?  Or will they confront their history – all of it – in a manner that leads to a more tolerant, more human religion? 

                When will the Mormon Church stop labeling historical fact as anti-Mormon?  

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"Just the facts mam, just the facts..." The problem with facts is that they often have little or no bearing on what some people believe to be the truth. Go get 'em, girl. R&R ;-)
Remember Sonia Johnson and the ERA thing back in the '70s? History repeats itself.
people are as sick as the secrets they keep. I think that was Anne LaMott.

It was interesting reading some of the comments on his blog (the link). It's frustrating that churches will sometimes drive away the very people who have integrity and want to speak the truth in favor of those who (like Romney) can tell all color of fib with panache.
Sounds like another Mormon has had a 'Planet of The Apes' moment when he rides horseback up a stretch of beach and sees the top of the Statue of Liberty, Mostly buried in the sand and comes to realize what an utter farce all it, truly is> Mormonism like every other form of "formal religion/cult preys upon and dictates specific conformities that gives comfort to the human species in a way that indicates, status, distinction, consistency and Control(!). Group think, coupled with uniform (and expected uniform) behavior... defines them all, whatever the stripe or flavor. Gotta love how "convenient" it is for God to give his blessings to you for paying a tithing... (10% of your gross income for them to receive tax free!) So David Twede! Get out, this is a good thing. There is freedom, true freedom on the other side.
Your headline betrays your intent and that of wannabe martyr Twede. You both seek to undermine the faith of the Latter-day Saints.

Let me put your activities in their true light. It is like filming your parents in an intimate moment and posting it on YouTube. When they accuse you of betrayal, you blink your eyes innocently and exclaim, "Why, I'm only posting facts! Since when are facts anti-parental?"

The Church of Jesus Christ has not only the right, but the duty to excommunicate those who attack it under pretense of "constructive criticism."

The reason that neither you nor Twede will ever be able to leave the Saints alone is because attacking our faith is the only way to mask your pain from having betrayed the living Christ.

Tracy Hall Jr
Klagenfurt, Austria
The facts are not the problem. It is the half-facts that are presented as the whole truth. If you tell someone that Christ died you have told only half the fact. If you say that B. H. Roberts wrote a paper about the Book of Mormon with some very serious questions that could not be answered, then you have again provided only part of the fact. You have left out the cover letter that accompanied the paper when it was presented to the leadership of the Church that explained that he had no doubts about the Book of Mormon, and that many of the questions he raised have been answered by the advance of science, and you have also let out the fact that B. H. Roberts continued to preach and testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon until the day he died. This is analogous to what Twede has done, and by his own words he did it to undermine the faith of other people. The whole facts are a danger to the falsehoods that are presented as facts. Tell the whole facts not just the part that furthers your agenda.
Arizona: History does repeat itself - all too often in this case.

dolores: It is frustrating. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

innerrockstar: I think, in terms of David Twede, he feels that Mormonism is part of his heritage. You see a lot of that in multi-generational Mormons.

Tracy: I really don't see anything wrong with constructive criticism. In any area of life, constructive criticism is essential to improvement. Why should the scenario be any different with a religious institution? The very fact that members cannot question authority and cannot offer constructive criticism fosters a situation that is rife with the potential for abuse.

Russian: I am assuming that you are referring to B.H. Roberts, in which case I would like to point out that he lived before the age of modern science. And as such, there is scant scientific evidence that the civilizations described in the Book of Mormon ever existed. If solid, verifiable evidence does come up that these civilizations existed, then I would be more amenable to agree that Book of Mormon is, at least, a historical document, which is a description that I would extend to the Bible. But the truth is, the evidence is sorely lacking and I am not one to take something on faith rather than evidence.
Boyd K. Packer said it best when talking to a group of LDS teachers. "The truth is not uplifting. The truth destroys." Any organization that fears "the truth" and tries to hide it from the public should be avoided. The ironic thing is everybody already knows about the skeletons in the mormon closet. We know about Joseph Smith's polygamy, the black priesthood ban, the complete lack of any archeological or DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon, the utter failure of the Book of Abraham. This stuff is all well known, yet the church is still trying to keep it a secret. The mormon church is like Richard Simmons trying to pretend he's straight. We already know about this stuff, so why try to hide it? Embrace your history.
jonh: Hopefully they will. And once they do, I think they would become a lot more tolerant religion. But what they are doing now is not sustainable, especially in the Internet era.
Tracy, I do not see how you can connect the dots with an invasion of privacy and post published historical LDS materials written by LDS prophets as the same thing?

Truth is any organization that makes a claim LDS, evangelical, catholic, etc. Should be willing to stand by those claims not call it anti LDS or church. If LDS claims to have a living prophet who leads and gives continued revelations then those revelations which claim to be God given and stated publicly cannot be considered anti-Mormon if they disprove the very claim the LDS makes about themselves.

Smith and former LDS founders made some pretty interesting claims. Smith claimed that he alone restored the church, that all others were apostate and only LDS was the true church. Sorry those claims will be challenged. And if someone can use LDS's own history and writings to do it, then in fact LDS's own writings are anti-Mormon.
Ms. Velamur considers that "The David Twede story is closed" only because Twede's duplicity has been exposed. There never was and never shall be a "Romney angle" to his disciplinary hearing. Twede's own boasting about his purposes damns him, as reported by FAIR:

"So that is one of the reasons I remain in the church. It gives me greater credibility when I speak about my own religion instead of it being my former religion. We all know as soon as I leave it, I am labeled as someone who left because of morality, tithing or some other issue rather than the historical problems of the church....By subtly mentioning things in meetings I may raise some doubts... ."

"I'm taking my fight to the media, and there, hope to encourage the LDS church to repeal their decision to discipline me over my free speech."

Here is the press release that he and ex-Mormon critic Steve Benson crafted:

"The LDS Church is taking punitive action against one of its members for something he wrote. Last week, on September 11, 13 and 15, David [last name deleted], the managing editor of MormonThink.com posted a series of articles on the political history of the LDS Church, as it relates to Mitt Romney’s campaign and Romney’s stubbornness of keeping his tax forms secret as it’s tied with LDS historical policies. As managing editor, David is a life-long, fifth-generation Mormon in good standing." – Posted by Steve Benson of Recovery from Mormonism, Sept. 20, 2012.

FAIR further reports:

"The Huffington Post noted that Twede did not respond to a request for a second interview, and on September 27th revised its previous article to reflect the fact that Twede had changed his story several times regarding the relationship of his scheduled discipline to Romney. Once it became apparent that Twede had played the media for attention using the Romney angle, the story rapidly became of less interest to them."

Twede's claim in his press release to be a "Mormon in good standing," coupled with his boasting of why he maintains his sheep's clothing, is what his disciplinary council is actually about.

Tracy Hall Jr
Klagenfurt, Austria
Here's the link to FAIR's report: bit.ly/SPpycw
Tracy: The simple fact is that people who choose to leave the Mormon Church - or who lead atypical Mormon lives - are marginalized within the confines of Mormonism. I had to face these same issues when I left - people assumed I left because I was immoral or deluded or just plain stupid. No one (including family members and close acquaintances) ever asked about my reasons for leaving, choosing instead to draw on the broad brush-strokes that Mormon authorities use to paint those who leave.

An apologetic's job - such as with FAIR - is to prove that the Mormon Church is true. As someone with a background in research, I can tell you that this attitude would not fly in an objective, fact-based environment, and would be the downfall of any researcher seeking to advance human knowledge, as current attitudes (and conventional wisdom) are in fact false. Quite frankly, the minute I stopped trying to defend the truth of the Mormon Church at all costs and began to look at the evidence and logic, that was when I realized that I did not believe.

And I would like to make this clear - I am not here to convert or de-convert anyone. My only objective is to tell my story, along with some of the attitudes and teachings that shaped my experiences. I realize religious belief - and lack of religious belief - is different for everyone. What works for one person will not work for anyone. However, I do feel that people should be given the freedom to explore what is best for them, rather than growing up in an environment that is based upon fear. And fear was my primary experience within Mormonism - I felt that if I didn't conform to the expectations of the authorities, then that meant something was wrong with me. And that is wrong. The person I am today cares just as much about humanity - and goodness - as the person I was back then.
apostasy ..

the best religious thinkers/feelers/ KNOWERS
are apostates.

i wish i could be one, yet i got no religion to fall from.

my parents' gift to me. to raise me in a spiritual vacuum.
i am not as optimistic as u, rachel, alas when u say
"issues that Mormons need to know; the decision to support a religious institution is one that should be made with full knowledge. "

i see no joy in supporting religion. i experience the glory of
God's mysterious ways daily, with only speculative philosophy
to explain this feeling to myself

Old a n whitehead said it best.

There is a greatness in the lives of those who build up religious systems, a greatness in action, in idea and in self-subordination, embodied in instance after instance through centuries of growth. There is a greatness in the rebels who destroy such systems: they are the Titans who storm heaven, armed with passionate sincerity. It may be that the revolt is the mere assertion by youth of its right to its proper brilliance, to that final good of immediate joy. Philosophy may not neglect the multifariousness of the world — the fairies dance, and Christ is nailed to the cross.

the final good? tis immediately here and now
and any system that dims our sights to this is corrupt
Rachel: You don't have to assume that I was talking about B. H. Roberts because I plainly said I was. Why you thought you had to assume that I was I don't understand.

You missed my point entirely. You went on about about the lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon and the Bible but did not address at all the point I made.

The fact is there are a lot of people like Twede who present only part of the truth as if it were the whole truth. That is the point of my post and the thing that he hopes you will miss. When he asked the Stake President what part of what he said was untrue, he was being deceptive. He probably knew about the evidence that would complete the picture and show his deception for what it was. But he only presented part of the truth and by implication made it seem as if it was the whole truth. The example in my post is a good one. Tell someone that B. H. Roberts wrote this paper raising questions about the Book of Mormon but never tell them:
1. It was never intended for publication but as a document to give the leaders a heads up on question that he could find no answer to at that time.
2. That the document had a cover letter that stated the reason for writing this document and declared his firm belief in the divinity and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
3. That since he wrote this document there have been many discoveries that have answered many of his questions.

If you attempt to tell about this document without mentioning these three points, you are not telling the whole truth. Honest men would want to tell the whole truth. And this is what Twede and those who are like him do all the time. And this is what he is doing now.

By his own admission he remains a member of the Church to give his web site more credibility. Just another deception.

Postponed until after the election, no doubt. Methinks it's high time for a Mormon version of The Satanic Verses. All that said, I don't see where the Mormon hierarchy is much worse than the Catholic hierarchy -- remember the stink about John Kerry being refused communion for his views on abortion? And as a recovering Protestant, I can assure you there are "mainstream" sects (cults) within that brand of the faith that engage in behavior equally reprehensible. See Ralph Reed.
One more thing -- regarding my allusion to The Satanic Verses -- why is it that fundamentalists of every stripe react with such vehemence and so often with violence when their faith is questioned? Why do they so fear their faith being held up to a critical light?

While pretending to defend Mormonism, commenters here are instead offering a vociferous personal attack on Rachel. One can't help but wonder if they wouldn't support a fatwa on her for her "blasphemy".

To those commenters I say, your personal attacks are doing far more damage to your faith than is Rachel. You are making yourselves and your faith look petty and vicious. The best way to deal with criticism is with the truth. By your reaction, you demonstrate you have serious doubts your faith can handle the truth.

To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined faith is not worth having.
Hilarious title and enlightening story, RV. Looks like reality has a liberal bias again. And congratulations on the EP!
Good piece on Mr. Twede, thank you. I recently read Under The Banner of Heavan. Always enjoy John Krakauers writing and this was also superb. We create religions and beliefs to suit ourselves and there are so many examples including Mary Baker Eddy (really disturbed individual) and how about Scientology? This has been in the news frequently of late and it is very distressing to think that such successful individuals require something as bizarre as this in their lives. Amazing.
Mormon trolls! Two greyheads with no other activity here on OS. Only joined to 'respond' to your post.
As a reply to last sentence, I think world would be better off if Mormonism, along with all religions, simply went away. Not the people, the horribly flawed belief systems.
James: I think not having to be an apostate is also a good thing. :)

Daniel: Thanks!

Ice: It's been a while since I've read Under The Banner Of Heaven - I think I might have to re-visit it one of these days.

Myriad: It happens. :)
There are also many aspects of Mormon history that Mormon authorities downplay or ignore . . .

Oh, really? I had no idea.

In all seriousness, Rachel, a well-written, information piece.
Anyone confused about this should google "lying for the lord" and "milk before meat." These are not phrases invented by anti-Mormon or ex-Mormon sources but by Mormon missionaries and promoters of Mormonism. The mentality is "whatever advances the Church is good and true. What inhibits its growth and power is evil."
Anyone confused about this should google "lying for the lord" and "milk before meat." These are not phrases invented by anti-Mormon or ex-Mormon sources but by Mormon missionaries and promoters of Mormonism. The mentality is "whatever advances the Church is good and true. What inhibits its growth and power is evil."