Anthony Miller

John Dehlin THRIVE 6 Comments

I am a 53 year old entrepreneur with a financial planning business in Billings, Montana.

My parents joined the LDS Church when I was 3 years old, and I grew up as the oldest of 4 children in a faithful, literalist believing family in Mesa, Arizona. I served in the Barcelona Spain Mission from 1986-1988, after which I attended what is now Utah Valley University, followed by BYU and Utah State University, for a degree in Spanish. I completed an MBA while my wife simultaneously completed her MFA in Modern Dance at University of Utah in 1994.

My wife, Susan, and I will celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary this year. We were married in the SLC Temple, and are now empty-nesters with 2 adult children, Nelson and Rachel. Nelson and his partner, Jaydon, are software engineers, soon to live in the Seattle area. Rachel is a dance major at Utah Valley University.

We moved to Billings, Montana, 24 years ago, and during my years here as a faithful Latter-day Saint, I served on the Stake High Council, as High Priest Group Leader, as a Temple Ordinance Worker, as Ward Mission Leader, and as Adult Gospel Doctrine Teacher. I was an all-in true-believing, Benson/McConkie/Hinckley/Packer/Monson Mormon.

On April 29, 2016, our son, Nelson, came out to us as gay. In my search for resources as to how to best support him, I stumbled across the Church History Gospel Topics Essays on the Church’s website. The information in the Essays, the footnotes, and from the cited sources triggered an acute, existential faith and identity crisis for me that would lead to a complete faith deconstruction that culminated in my decision to formally resign my Church membership 20 months later.

My wife, Susan, remains an active believing member of the Church, and she presently serves in the Stake Relief Society Presidency and as a Temple Ordinance Worker.

I created and co-lead our local Mormon Spectrum Support Group, and I regularly participate in post and progressive Mormon communities.

My Mormon Stories interview includes episodes 1159-1165.

What parts of the Mormon experience were most important or useful to you?

Growing up in Mesa, Arizona, our family was nearly always quite poor. Save only a few years, we were “that family” who wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas were it not for the generosity and kindness of our LDS Wards.

My parents divorced when I was a teenager. For the several years that followed, as the oldest of 4 children, I would mow lawns and deliver pizza, while my mother did sewing and alterations, as we worked to try to support ourselves. We felt fortunate for the months we did not have to rely on the Church welfare system.

The Church took care of us. Our Wards took care of us.

After I graduated from high school, my mother remarried a good, faithful believing widower who also had 4 children, and we moved to his home in Tempe, Arizona.

Soon after, I chose to move to Sandy, Utah, to live with my father, where he helped me learn to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost as I searched and pondered text of the Book of Mormon. I had a strong testimony I needed to serve a mission, and and my father and my Bishop helped me prepare for my Mission.

From that time forward, my experiences on my Mission, followed by decades of opportunities to serve in Ward, Stake, and Temple callings would become completely enmeshed with my sense of identity, belonging, and purpose in life.

My reputation, my roles, and the paradigms through which I experienced and perceived life were completely enmeshed with my belief in the Church and that it was what it represents itself to be.

My testimony was firm and immutable—although my metaphorical “shelves” continued to accumulate topics where I placed them in faith that I would receive further light and knowledge someday.

My relationships, and my sense of community and belonging were enmeshed with the Church—not just with my family, my siblings and parents, but also most of my friends.

  My experiences in the Church helped me develop habits, skill sets, and relationships that would help me  become a successful entrepreneur and educator. (For 7 years, I worked as an adjunct Finance professor, in addition to my financial planning business.)

What doctrinal or theological parts of Mormonism did you believe that were most important to you?

Spiritual experiences represented reliable, repeatable, divine witnesses of the truthfulness of the subject matter, authority, topic, and/or discernment of teachings and doctrines.

The doctrines of the Atonement and the Fall were foundational to me. The experience of forgiveness, combined with grace and mercy for following the repentance process, and participating in the Ordinances were immutable for me.

The doctrines of the Temple, the Spirit World, of the need for vicarious ordinances, of genealogy, eternal families, and the power and necessity of the Priesthood were completely integrated with my testimony and my sense of personal existence.

I knew with certainty that the Book of Mormon was true and that the Brethren had keys, divine appointment, and mantles of discernment, due to my spiritual experiences with them. I completely trusted the Brethren, their integrity, their honesty and transparency, and that they were exactly what they represented themselves to be.

I didn’t believe they were perfect. However, I did believe that when they were speaking with the Spirit, and acting specifically within the limits of their stewardships and responsibilities as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, that D&C 1:38 applied, and they were the mouthpieces for God.

What spiritual experiences did you have as a Mormon that sealed your orthodox commitment to the church?

There are many, but I’d share 3 here.

First, before my Mission — When I was in high school—possibly in an attempt to “save” us from the Mormon faith—my Mennonite aunt offered to fund the cost of my attendance at a Young Life youth camp in Northern California. (Young Life is a non-denominational Christian youth organization).  One evening, after our evening sermon and praise singing worship meeting, the Young Life leaders invited us to spend some time in quiet contemplation out walking through the forest paths near by the Camp.  As I pondered things of God and Jesus, and in a private moment in the forest, I knelt in prayer to ask Heavenly Father what He wanted of me and to better understand Him.  In those moments of prayer, I sensed a deeply moving answer, a spiritual experience that filled me, that simply expressed to me that I needed to serve an LDS Mission, and that God loved all these other high schoolers who were there with me at the Camp.  I knew I had to do whatever I needed to do to be able to serve an LDS Mission.

Second, on my Mission — In a similar way that my father had helped me identify the influence of the Spirit, and understand the construct that those experiences represented divine witnesses of truth, I increased my capacity to do the same as a missionary. This, combined with some fantastic training from my first couple companions, and my Mission President, led to my experience of unusual and consistent success as a missionary, and of training other missionaries how to help investigators experience and identify the Spirit, and commit to Baptism.  Several months before the end of my Mission, I found myself—as a person with a natural tendency for perfectionism—struggling to know whether my offering of my mission service was acceptable to Heavenly Father. Would He be able to say, “well done thou good and faithful servant”?  So, I spent several days in prayer, with fasting, and with scripture study—seeking an answer from Heavenly Father.  After a few days, I found myself on an evening of joint visits (we called them splits) with one of the missionaries who was an Assistant to the Mission President. We visited a family whom we had baptized a few months earlier, and this couple was on fire in that as member missionaries, we ended up teaching several other investigators in their home—many of whom would also decide to be baptized.  About the time we needed to leave to be able to return to our respective apartments on time, the wife asked us to wait because she felt prompted to share something with us.

  She left the room and returned with her journal, turned open to the entries for the day of her baptism, and she asked me to read what she wrote.  She had written about her experience of receiving the discussions from us, wanting to recognize the Spirit, recognizing it in the Sunday meetings the day of her Baptism, the feelings she had as she emerged from the water, and how when I was confirming her a member and conveying unto her the Gift of the Holy Ghost, that she wished that I would never remove my hands from her head—her experience of the Spirit was so strong in that moment.  I wept and was moved as I read her journal entry from that day. I felt filled by the Spirit, and I felt an answer to my questions from Heavenly Father.  My answer was that it wasn’t mine to judge whether or not my offering of my mission was a fully worthy and acceptable offering to Heavenly Father—and even that it might be a little of a prideful thing to consider. My answer was that mine was simply to be grateful for the opportunity to participate in the lives of others, and that this was what my mission was about—gratitude, and an opportunity to participate.  I always returned to that answer to my prayer, and it proved foundational for my life. It still is a deep part of my experience and paradigm about life and meaning.

Third, from when I served on the Billings Stake High Council and as a Temple Ordinance Worker — While on the High Council, I reported to a member of the Stake Presidency whom had been my friend for a long time. Not long after I moved to Billings, he was serving as the Young Men’s President in our Ward, while I was Ward Mission Leader. We called him “Bishop” because he had recently served as Bishop.  We went camping together with the youth. We were friends. I was friends with his wife too. She was kind and thoughtful, and one of my favorite substitutes to call during the years I served as Gospel Doctrine Teacher.  One Summer Sunday, as a member of the High Council, I found myself assigned to speak in my home Ward. 2-3 days before that Sunday, while on a rafting trip with the Stake Young Women for Girls Camp, this 50 year old friend of mine, as member of the Stake Presidency, suddenly and unexpectedly died.  I was devastated. The Ward and Stake were devastated.  What would I say that Sunday to a grieving Ward, a grieving family, and a grieving widow?  I can’t say whether it was the most sincere prayer I’ve ever given, but it was close. I pleaded with Heavenly Father to help me know what to say when I spoke in my Ward that Sunday. And, I felt guided.  It was a sacred experience that Sunday—at least for me it was—as I felt guided and inspired by the Spirit of the things to say in my talk.  Not too long after that, I found myself as the #2 Ordinance Worker in an Endowment Session in the Billings Temple. That day, my dear friend, the widow, attended my session.  As the #2 Ordinance Worker, that meant that I led the Prayer Circle. I had a habit of including the needs of the unmarried and widowed members of the Church in my prayers, and I did that Friday morning as well. My widowed friend was in the circle. It was a deeply spiritually connecting experience.  When it was time to bring the patrons through the Veil, as #2, I was assigned to act on behalf of the Lord on the women’s side of the Veil.

 While standing at the Veil, my widowed friend was brought forward, and as we conversed through the Veil, I recognized her voice, that it was her.  And during the Veil ceremony, I sensed my deceased friend, Scott, standing next to me at the Veil, and it was if I was acting vicariously on his behalf to bring his wife through the Veil. I knew in my heart that it was Scott. It was if I could smell him and hear his voice. I was overcome by the Spirit as I brought my widowed friend through the Veil.  From that moment, I knew, without any doubt that the Spirit World was real, that the doctrines of the Temple were true, that the power of the Priesthood was real, and I believed that some of the promises of my Patriarchal Blessing were being fulfilled with that experience.  I knew it was too sacred to share with anyone. It was just for me. If my widowed friend experienced something going on, that would be for her.  For years, I didn’t share that experience with anyone. I would wait to share it—if ever—until I felt prompted to do so.  Eventually, I felt prompted to share it with my wife, and I did.  It wasn’t until after my faith crisis, when I reconciled that neither the Church nor the Temple were what they are represented to be, that I shared that experience with anyone else. I desperately needed to understand what that experience was—if neither the Church was true or the LDS Temple was more than man-made.

These and many other spiritual experiences were and still are treasured to me. I just interpret them differently now, and I filter them through different constructs, paradigms, and understandings now.

How did you lose your faith in Mormonism?

On April 29, 2016, our son, Nelson, came out to us as gay. In my search for resources as to how to best support him, I stumbled across the Church History Gospel Topics Essays on the Church’s website. The information in the Essays, the footnotes, and from the cited sources triggered an acute, existential faith and identity crisis for me that would lead to a complete faith deconstruction, culminating in my decision to formally resign my Church membership 20 months later.

The moment everything crumbled was as I was reading the Race and the Priesthood Essay, and Brigham Young’s speech from February 5, 1852, used as cited source #9.

Seeking to understand the context of the Speech, I learned that he delivered it the very day after he established Utah as an official Slave Territory—the only one in the West.

 As I read the Speech, I recognized that he taught false and disavowed doctrine after false and disavowed doctrine.

I also concluded that a partial phrase from the Speech was pulled out of context and placed in the Essay in order to dishonestly mislead the reader to believe that Brigham Young prophesied of and would have supported the lifting of the Ban in 1978.

As I read the balance of the Race Essay, where today’s Brethren were easily and summarily disavowing the doctrines, teachings, spiritual witnesses, testimonies, and official proclamations of past Brethren as “theories,” I recognized that this meant that we could have no confidence that future Brethren would not easily and summarily disavow the doctrines, teachings, spiritual witnesses, testimonies, and official proclamations of today’s Brethren.

I also recognized that for more than 125 years, the Brethren individually and collectively had no actual discernment, that they harmed people in the name of God—with zero intervention from God—and that we could have no confidence that today’s Brethren had discernment that was any different than the Brethren of my youth and before (I was 12 years old in 1978).

I also recognized that while spiritual experiences had demonstrably been something other than reliable divine witnesses of truth, that they had failed me as well. Spiritual experiences weren’t reliable divine witnesses of truth at all. They were something other than that.

Finally, I perceived that there was dishonesty in the balance of the Race Essay, and as I studied the other Essays, I perceived that there was dishonesty in many of them as well.

Then, I searched for reviews of the Essays, and I found Mormonthink—which does a good job of going through the problems with the Essays and Essay topics.

And then, I found Mormon Stories, the CES Letter, and Fairmormon’s Debunking of the CES Letter—which I perceived as on the whole, extremely weak.

Everything crashed with the Race Essay though. Once I recognized that spiritual experiences were not actually reliable divine witnesses of truth for me or for the Brethren, in large part because spiritual experiences were the construct I held for God and my relationship with God, I experienced the Heavens closing on me.

Simply for reading the Race Essay, I experienced the Rabbit Hole experience—as if I was falling—and God ceased to exist for me, because the only construct that I had for God crumbled.

The days, weeks, and months that followed were filled with 3-6+ hours per day of studying books, watching lectures, listening to podcasts, etc., to try to figure things out, to try to make the Church somehow “true” again. But, the more I deconstructed, the less “true” the Church would be.

A Mormon Stories Faith Transition Workshop, attending the 2016 SLC Sunstone Symposium, and meeting with Facebook support groups in person and online would pull me out of the Dark Night of the Soul period.

It took a total of about 18 months or so to process enough of the Grief and deconstruction to really begin to feel my feet under myself to reconstruct meaning to things.

What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?

There are things in my Patriarchal Blessing that I now consider spiritual abuse and manipulation. There are things that caused me a significant amount of pain and concern in my Blessing as well. From my Blessing, I was sure that I was going to lose my wife to a premature death. I would often plead in prayer to Heavenly Father to not take her from me yet.

The Patriarchy in Mormonism harmed me. I often measured my personal worth and progress by the significance of my callings. While I was an advocate for women’s voices and participation, I still had significant blind spots when it came to the experiences of women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ members in the Church.

The black-and-white thinking of Benson/McConkie/Hinckley/Packer/Monson Mormonism harmed my capacity to perceive and experience the beauty of nuance and spirituality in other faith traditions to the depth that I would have otherwise been able to.

I applied critical thinking to all areas of my life, except for my faith. It was harmful to not apply critical thinking to my faith too.

Also, our gay son was bullied for being gay in the LDS Young Men’s program, and we didn’t know how bad it was, and we didn’t protect him from that.

How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?

I believe that as human beings, we experience a sense of spiritual connection with things, and we filter our perceptions of those experiences through the constructs and paradigms we know.

I believe that we experience the Elevation Emotion (read about it on Wikipedia) when we participate in, perceive, or are recipients of acts of moral goodness. The experience of the Elevation Emotion lines up exactly with the “Fruits of the Spirit.” We experience a sense of peace, love, joy, a warmth in our core, and our charitable disposition and tolerance for others increases. It is a measurable phenomenon and part of our the evolutionary experience of human beings because we needed to be able to better interact with each other. Part of the experience is a release of dopamine in our system. We also have increased brain activity in certain parts of our brains while experiencing the Elevation Emotion.

I believe that if I had different constructs or paradigms through which to interpret and filter my spiritual experiences, my experience with Scott’s widow (from above) would have been been similar, but interpreted differently by me, with different symbols and language.

I believe I would have interpreted and filtered my experiences praying in the forest outside a Young Life youth camp differently, and I would have interpreted my experience reading my convert’s journal differently if I would have had different symbols, paradigms, and constructs.

I believe spiritual experiences are real, but maybe they are mostly Elevation Emotion, or maybe we are all part of some omni-present divine force. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I like those experiences—from both before and after my loss of belief in the Church. I don’t care if it is just Elevation Emotion.

What was transitioning out of Mormonism like for you? What was most painful about it? What was most healing or joyful about the transition?

It was acute and painful.

Using language from Eckhart Tolle and Secular Buddhism, I experienced “attachment to form.”

This means that my very sense of identity was enmeshed with my beliefs, my roles, my reputation, my community, and my belonging to friends and family based upon these “forms.”

When my beliefs crumbled, my very sense of identity crumbled, and it felt as if my heart and soul were violently ripped from me.

I experienced an acute Dark Night of the Soul, or Divine Absence, or God leaving the corner of the room where I once knew him, or whatever you want to call it.

I experienced deep, crushing Grief—including the Stages of Anger and Depression.

At the same time, I lost the support and relationship of my community, and I lost the trust of most of my LDS friends and family.

Some of my friends referred to me publicly as a Korihor, and even as “The Apostate.”

What was most healing and joyful included the experience of recognizing that my identity is my Being, not my “forms,” that the doctrines of the Fall and Atonement had been harmful for me, and that my replacement belief that we are naturally good and connected with each other and divinity is healthier and more helpful.

What was most healing and joyful included experiences of connection and community with other who had experienced pain, grief, and loss—in person and in online support groups.

I became a better husband, a better father, a better friend, and a better human being.

While these things contribute to my experience of healing and joy, in the end, coming to the experience of connection and experience of divinity within myself and with all things has brought me the greatest sense of peace.

In what ways did church leaders or members make your transition more difficult?

I don’t know that my local leaders could have done much better than they did. They were as supportive as they could have been—even though they didn’t understand my experiences, nor had they studied the material that led to my faith deconstruction.

Were there church leaders or members who were helpful to you? If so, how?

Yes. Absolutely. My Bishop—also a friend—supported me in taking a Sabbatical because he saw how painful it was for me to attend Church.

My subsequent Bishop—also a friend—reached out to me from time to time, and he assigned himself as our home teacher for quite a while.

While I didn’t have many who weren’t specifically assigned to me reach out to me to see if I was okay, I did have about a half dozen LDS friends regularly stay in touch with me, sit with me in my Grief—even during the Anger Stage of Grief—and express unconditional love to me.

As I studied David Ostler’s book, Bridges, I recognized how some of my LDS friends and even leaders, practiced some of the things David recommends in the book.

What resources were most helpful in your transition out of Mormonism?

In-person support. This included a Mormon Stories Faith Transition Workshop, Mormon Spectrum Groups, the SLC Sunstone Symposium, and occasionally showing up for things like the Sunday morning meetups that get posted on exMormon Reddit.

Online support and phone calls with people in several Facebook groups. It included for a time, what is now Waters of Mormon. It included Thoughtful Transitions, and I’d suggest for some now, Mormon Enlightenment. It included the Mormon Stories Podcast Community.

Podcasts really helped: Mormon Stories, Mormon Expression, Mormon Discussions, The Gift of a Mormon Faith Crisis, A Thoughtful Faith, Secular Buddhism, The Liturgists, Mormon Matters, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Radio Free Mormon, The Bible for Normal People, RobCast, Sunstone, and Year of Polygamy.

The television series called The Power of Myth, where Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell, was extremely helpful.

Top Books:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
God: A Human History
A New Earth
Recovering Agency
Finding God in the Waves
What is the Bible?
Misquoting Jesus
When Mormons Doubt
The Bible Unearthed

The number one thing of all of them though would be participating in our local Mormon Spectrum Support Group. I’d recommend a local Thrive or a local Mormon Spectrum Group to anyone grappling with a faith transition.

What significant mistakes did you make in your transition?

If I were to do it over again, I would have engaged with a licensed therapist or professional life coach, with experience in faith transitions, from the beginning—at least by the end of the first month.

Early on, I tried to deconstruct, process, and vent about things with my active believing wife. She was my person. I thought I needed to do it with her, and I felt a need for her to see what I saw. However, this resulted in unintentionally wounding conversations that took a good amount of time to reconcile and reconstruct trust when talking about the Church.

If I were to do it over again, I would have let my wife know I had lost belief, and I would have only spoken about my experiences instead of about deconstructing and processing the “weeds” of Church History and Biblical studies.

How has your leaving Mormonism affected your family relationships, friendships, job, neighbor relationships, social life, etc.?

I had a good core of friends who were not members—through work and through recreational activities. So, I leaned on them quite a bit when it didn’t feel safe for my believing friends to interact with me.

I developed a large population of online and in-person friends—though, most are out of State—with whom I have developed meaningful relationships during these last 4 years since the “crash.”

How I engage my believing friends now is primarily with shared topics and activities that are not Church related.

While my faith transition was extremely painful for some of my family members, I believe that I’ve been able to mostly reclaim those relationships where they were strained.

Interestingly, my relationship with my active believing wife is the strongest it has ever been in our marriage. I attribute my faith transition experience to be a significant contributor to the increase in our relationship and emotional intimacy.

How have you navigated communication and relationships with believing family and friends? Any tips to keeping those people in your life?

I have a couple blogposts on these topics at unpackingambiguity.com

I included a copy of my letter to my active believing mother, and a blogpost on things to consider with regard to sharing with believing family and friends.

My primary tips would be to nourish “shared languages and activities” that offer meaning for both believers and non-believers, to recognize that most of us experience “attachment to form” in that a critique of someone’s beliefs for many is experienced as a direct critique of a person’s very sense of identity, and to recognize that people will “unpack” when they are ready—independent of us.

Keep discussions related to faith out of the “weeds” if you can.

I cannot recommend enough the book, How to Have Impossible Conversations, by Peter Boghassian and James Lindsay, as a source to develop skills to have difficult conversations if you ever decide to delve into the “weeds.”

Which (if any) of your former Mormon beliefs/behaviors have you retained after your faith crisis?

The meaning that I attribute to “God” now leans Pantheistic.  It is kind of like a version of the “Light of Christ” model where there is a divine, omni-present force of which we are all a part, and it exists in and through everything.  Beyond that, I totally reject the idea that our natural state is to be separated from God, because to me, God is simply, everything. Since we are a part of God, we can’t really be separated from God.

Richard Dawkins refers to Pantheism as “sexed up atheism” because there is no interventionist creator god being to worship or who cares about rituals or behavioral litmus tests—like tattoos, or the temperature of your caffeine, or how many steps a person could take on a particular day of the week 2000 years ago.

I do believe there is significant value in service, love, forgiveness, family, and community. However, those aren’t really exclusively “Mormon” beliefs/behaviors.

Much of what I find myself doing in the post and progressive Mormon communities feels like some of the things I did when I served as High Priest Group Leader. But again, those things really are not exclusively “Mormon” beliefs or behaviors.

In what ways have your beliefs/behaviors changed after your faith crisis?

In addition to the above, I have found significant value in things from Eckhart Tolle, Noah Rasheta, Richard Rohr, John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Rachel Held Evans, Brene Brown, Rob Bell, and Joseph Campbell.

Like most of the rest of the world, I drink coffee and alcohol in moderation.

I have redirected my charitable contributions.

I have a greater degree of comfort not belonging to any particular faith tradition.

What are your thoughts/beliefs now about God and Jesus?

I believe they are symbols that people created to provide context through myths, stories, and traditions to make sense of existence and spirituality.

I believe there was an actual historical person we refer to as Jesus, but I believe most of what we have in the New Testament is mythicized history.

I believe the Fall and the Atonement are allegorical, not literal.

How do you now make sense of death and the afterlife?

I don’t know. I don’t know that it matters.

I view it as if we are having the experience of watching a movie that we know will eventually end. However, just because we know it will end, that doesn’t mean I want to get up and walk out of the movie. I want to see what happens next. When it ends, it will be okay.

I hope that there is something more than memories of us after we are gone.

Without the church telling you what is Right and Wrong how do you establish your own sense of morality/right/wrong?

It has to do with the things to which I attribute meaning and value in my life.

I value an approach of not intentionally inflicting material suffering on others. I value offering others validation for their experiences and love, but with boundaries.

I think there are some helpful moral imperatives in Christian and in Buddhist thought that have utility/usefulness in my life.

Do you still value spirituality in your life (spirituality defined as connection to something bigger than yourself), and if so, what are your main sources of spiritual fulfillment?

Yes. I lean Pantheistic, and I find significant value in the models Eckhart Tolle shares in his book, A New Earth.

I experience spiritual fulfillment in moments of being completely present, observant, thoughtful, and aware of my existence and the existence of others and everything around me. I experience this kind of truth, beauty and goodness through things like service, music, nature, contemplating things I read, and being with others.

To what extent have you found healthy and meaningful community to replace the role of the ward/stake in your life?

In person, it is primarily my local Mormon Spectrum Group.

Beyond that, my experience has been that I belong no-where and everywhere. So, I can experience connection dropping in on a service from another Church, or on a hike, or serving others.

I had a strong desire for a long time to find a replacement faith community. Eventually, I recognized that for me, this was more about “attachment to form” and a sense of identity due to having a role in a community.

I do not presently feel a need to affiliate with any one particularly faith tradition. That could always change.

What meaning and purpose does life have to you now that you no longer believe in Mormonism?

To be grateful for the opportunity to participate in the lives of others.

To create value and make a difference in the lives of others while I am here, and to make a difference for those whom I leave behind after I pass away.

How has losing your faith in Mormonism affected how you parent?

I am a better parent. I am more patient. My love is even more unconditional. I am more focused on listening than teaching.

If you are married or have a significant other, how has leaving Mormonism affected this relationship?

It has been very challenging, but the result has been that my relationship with my active, believing wife is stronger and more emotionally intimate than it has ever been in our nearly 30 years of marriage.

How has leaving Mormonism affected your mental health?

I experienced devastating grief—including the Stages of Anger and Depression.

 However, traversing these things, with the help of resources from Secular Buddhism, progressive Christianity, people like Brene Brown and Eckhart Tolle, has put me in a much better place with my mental health than before my faith transition.

How has leaving Mormonism affected your sexual health?

Better and healthier.

What aspects of your life are better after Mormonism?

Other than having lost trust and emotional intimacy that hasn’t been fully reclaimed in some relationships, I cannot think of one aspect of my life that is worse after Mormonism.

What is your life still missing? In what ways could your life still be improved without Mormonism?

While I feel deeply grateful for the opportunities that I have had to participate in the lives of others through podcast interviews, my blog, and other venues, my next project would be to write a book that could possibly help others.

What final advice would you give folks who are transitioning?

Be patient with yourself.

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Maya Angelou

Don’t let your past be an anchor for you.

“The best thing someone can do when it is raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Find a mentor.  Find an in-person support group.

Spend time with materials from Secular Buddhism and from Eckhart Tolle.

Identify and nourish the things that feed you spiritually. Many of them might be things that were helpful for you before your faith transition—service to others, music, nature, etc.

Know that you aren’t alone.

———-

Note: This post is part of the THRIVING Beyond Orthodox Mormonism project.  See here to browse other profiles.  To submit your own THRIVE profile, click this link.

Comments 6

  1. Anthony, such a thoughtful telling of your journey. Thank you for sharing it. For many of us who have transitioned to other paths, like yourself, it can be unsettling at first, but the rewards for trust and patience with ourselves are so worth the journey. Honestly, I don’t think there is any way to get from point A to B without being stuck by brambles and thorns. Ironically enough, I believe those are brambles and thorns we have allowed to be placed as a part of our LDS lives to keep us away from the “anti’s” and others who might have us think for ourselves. There is such an amazing world out there outside of the church, and though there are still parts of my Mormon past (a few brambles!) and I didn’t realize were there, I have to say that the polytheism of Mormonism prepared me for my current spiritual path in modern Druidry and Neopaganism. Again, thank you for your story, and for the courage it took to be true to yourself.

  2. Anthony I just would love to be your neighbor, so loving and compassionate, thank you so much for your beautiful, and valuable lessons of love!!

  3. I have gone through the exact same transition experiences you described. We don’t have a gay child but I support the LGBTQ community. The only difference is that when I can, I attend church with my believing wife so as to not draw attention to her which she would not want. I am severely disabled or I would always attend. I use that time to refresh my commitment to accept, love and support those I come in contact with. I made the same mistake ranting against false doctrines and practices of the Church. Both historically and now. My relationship with my wife is better than ever. She sees my greater effort to strengthen our relationship in every way. I live each day as if it were my last. I’ve lost my belief in an afterlife and if there is my life is more devoted and loving to all. Wishing the best for you seems so trite a phrase. I trust you know what I mean. Thank you John Dehlin for all the years of sacrifice and excellent service.

  4. This Anthony is the very core and truth of “To Thine Own Self Be True” Thank you for your stories and have enjoyed previous podcasts. My greatest admiration comes to you and you r wife of 30 years. Unconditional love and respect is not always common in the best of marriages. Grateful for you!! Forgive me if I have missed the knowledge of whether you are still a member. You are an asset to both communities in bringing understanding.

    Much respect and regard,
    Vickie Duncan

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