Ryan Bush

John Dehlin THRIVE 23 Comments

Thank you for this opportunity. I am 43 years old, born and raised in the church, served a mission, and married in temple. My wife, Susan, was also born and raised in the church. We’ve been married 22 years and we have four sons, ages 20, 17, 15, and 12. I work for a medical device company as a Regional Sales Manager and live in North County, San Diego, CA. We decided to leave as a family about a year and a half ago for various reasons, many of which are listed below.

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

It provided stability and pretended to answer all of life’s greatest questions (Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?). As Richard Rohr talks about, I also think I benefited from being part of a high demand religion where it asked enough that a commitment was required and allowed me to really engage in it. It instilled in me a strong moral foundation and desire for personal betterment and for that I’ll always be grateful.

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

First and foremost, I believed it was the true church due to the restoration of the priesthood, we had the authority. Once on the mission, I developed a strong interest in Joseph Smith through the Truman Madsen lectures, which instilled a love and curiosity for him, his life and teachings. Madsen succeeded in creating a version of Joseph that was easy to love, flaws and all. Smith’s Universalist theology resonated with me and the gospel, as taught by JS, seemed so fair in its reach, allowing everyone an equal opportunity to accept Christ, whether in this life or the next. Serving in the South with a high Evangelical presence, I experienced a lot of the exact opposite, specifically that if you didn’t accept their version of Christ, you would burn for eternity and that seemed ridiculous to me. Obviously, understanding that most don’t accept Mormonism in this life, I never worried about my friends or non-members as I knew they’d eventually accept it in the world to come, once they understood it in its entirety and without sociological or cultural bias preventing them from seeing the truth.

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

I am a feeler and somewhat emotional in nature and learning from youth that those swelling feelings were fruits of the spirit, I experienced much “beauty” and “goodness” which for me, equated to ultimate truth, as I understood it. My epistemological experiences were vast, which allowed me to hold on for so long after two troublesome decades studying church history and doctrine.

How did you lose your faith in Mormonism?

I served my mission in Florida and was introduced to a lot of “anti” material, which I appreciated as it challenged me and I wanted to know my religion. I wanted to be able to engage people who presented things which I knew were obviously false with better answers rather than simply bearing my testimony and running. This began my deep love for scripture power and Mormon doctrine and my eventual obsession with church history and Mormon apologetics. Over the last two decades, I’ve spent thousands of hours devouring church history and doctrine from an apologetic standpoint, seeking better answers to the issues causing so many people to lose faith. I desperately wanted better and answers and believed truth could withstand scrutiny as long as I held to the rod. I dove head first into the rabbit hole, not anticipating just how deep it went and fascinated by every detail. I loved it then and love it still. I was able to see past the troublesome history largely due to accepting that Joseph Smith was a complex man, whose name would be known for good and evil, and I believed God’s ways were not our ways. There was a quote from the Madsen tapes that I held onto, which I believed shed light on the many doctrinal and historical complexities. He quoted Joseph Smith speaking to Brigham Young where JS told BY that if he told him everything he knew, that BY would turn his back on him and leave the church. BY responded, “Then don’t tell me because what I know, I know.” The mystery allowed me to accept that there were things that we couldn’t ever know or fully understand when it came to God, His prophet and His gospel and this idea, along with my spiritual witnesses allowed me to hang on and shelf my concerns. Ultimately, it wasn’t until I began to understand epistemology when I finally allowed my overloaded shelf to come tumbling down. Now, it’s almost embarrassing that I didn’t figure it out sooner. The psychology of belief has been one of the most interesting things to learn about in all of this and in my opinion, something too often overlooked.

What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?

Looking back, I think the most harmful thing for me was trying to seek and understand the trickster Mormon God with so much fervor. I was a good member, I kept the commandments, held to the rod, magnified my callings, held FHE, paid my tithing and was actively seeking God and was constantly frustrated with life not being easier, why my prayers weren’t answered or why my marriage wasn’t getting fixed, as if my problems should have been resolved through my obedience. I believed “the Lord was bound” when I did what He said and was regularly confused at what I had missed when things weren’t going well. It seemed obvious that it was my fault and I’d pray to recognize what I was doing wrong or missing. Additionally, my wife was affected by feeling as if she didn’t have an equal voice. Even if I wasn’t always the culprit, it was deep in our culture and doctrine and she believed it, which directly caused a lot of pain and grief in our relationship without either of us recognizing until after we left.

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

Most religious believers experience feelings and many of those feelings don’t align across belief systems. That’s such a simple statement and one that even LDS believers may recognize, there are people who blow themselves up due to how certain they are that their particular belief is true. But until one understands the psychology behind those feelings (aka the Spirt) or elevated emotions along with recognizing that the data, science and history reveal a very different Mormonism, it’s almost impossible to recognize the church for what it is.

For example, I believe it’s a matter of great significance that we don’t see Archeologists, Anthropologists, DNA experts, Mesoamerican experts, or Religious Historians who grew up outside of the church converting to Mormonism. I.E., those who are educated in the data and accurate histories and who didn’t grow up inside of the church, don’t believe it to be true. I’ve asked several apologists over Facebook to provide a single example of someone who joined the church with their eyes wide open and they can’t because there aren’t any. The only people who join do so with a very incomplete and inaccurate understanding of the church. That says something. Furthermore, it’s only those who have been heavily influenced by the beauty and goodness inside of the church, who learn about the issues much later in life, who then perform mental gymnastics in order to retain some form of belief in it. This nuanced version of Mormonism doesn’t reflect the masses or what is being taught over the pulpit and they are a tiny minority compared to the thousands who simply leave once exposed to the truth. This is why we don’t see Richard Bushman’s version of Joseph Smith being taught in Sunday School. Even though the church acknowledges him as an authority and respected scholar of Joseph Smith, they don’t want the masses to know this version because the real story doesn’t create as good of a feeling as the one correlation has created. For me, this is perhaps the greatest evil. People should have good information before making life altering commitments and the church doesn’t provide that and even seeks to keep people from it. They sink their hooks with a lie so deeply that once truth is presented, most turn away from that information because it’s uncomfortable.  

I recognize the feelings I had that were directly associated to the beauty and goodness I experienced as an active member to be just that—feelings brought about by beauty and goodness. Admittedly, there’s a lot of it inside of the church but there’s just as much in other traditions and outside of religion all together if we look for it. I continue to experience these things regularly while no longer having to dismiss facts, logic and reason.

What was transitioning out of Mormonism like for you? What was most painful about it?

By far, the most painful thing for me was losing my religion and learning that it wasn’t true. I was so certain and had devoted so much time and energy to understanding the gospel, discovering ultimately that it wasn’t true and the implications that held was extremely difficult to grasp and caused months of grief. More specifically, losing the LDS perception of Jesus I held, my heavenly older brother who I believed was always looking out for me and at the helm of my ship was devastating initially.

Losing the community wasn’t as difficult for me as I had many friends outside of the church who supported me and the relationships that really mattered have remained intact. My wife has struggled with this loss more due to the structure for our kids but for me, a community that values shared beliefs more than its members isn’t one worth being a part of anyway. I believe “big tent” Mormonism will happen someday with time but regardless, it still isn’t true and that matters.

What was most healing or joyful about the transition?

Letting go of the trickster Mormon God and the associated confusion that came with attempting to recognize His hand in all things, good or bad. Realizing that pain is universal and not brought about by God testing or cursing me for disobedience and realizing that I was on my own to tackle life’s problems, simplified life and stopped the mental anguish that came with seeking a God who seemed to play games.

Also, discovering that Satan hadn’t seized my heart and turned me evil once we left was another amazing revelation. I was still good and wanting to pursue righteousness and I found greater joy in choosing the right out of my own heart, not because of commandment, future rewards or blessings. I have to think that if the Mormon God was real, he would be happy with who I am other than not believing in his church anymore but he would also have to understand why I and thousand of other have lost belief in this.

Additionally, I let go of the “us and them” mentality and saw myself as a part of the whole human race and experience, which has been so rewarding and love inducing. This seems to be another common experience for people who go through a faith transition. I felt a connection to the entire human family and no longer believed that anyone’s life was incomplete if they didn’t have the church. We’re all in this life together, not just the 0.2% of Mormons.

During my transition is when I stumbled upon Stoicism which has brought some of the greatest joy and peace in my life. I believe it resonated with me more due to the recent loss of faith and my grief at that time allowed me to embrace this beautiful philosophy. It has helped me tremendously in processing everything and dealing with the pain of a faith crisis in addition to significantly helping with all aspects of life in general. I read some form of stoicism daily and it’s transformed my perspectives and has helped me thrive in tragic situations, that in the past would have been devastating for me. It has provided much of the beauty I felt inside of the gospel but without the BS. For me, its teachings are more effective in helping navigate life than Mormonism ever was.

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

We’ve had very little interaction with anyone since leaving, which has been harder on my wife due to the support and love we once felt disappearing almost overnight. We understand that we were the ones who left but I suppose we didn’t fully anticipate the friends disappearing the way they have. The fact that so few reached out to her, even as a friend, was really painful initially but she understands the fear associated with people leaving. I’m more outspoken and I understand that my willingness and interest in engaging others in discussing church history might make some uncomfortable and may be why they keep their distance but I’m completely ok with that. I served with our Bishop for years and he is a great guy and was a good friend but he has not studied the issues in depth and seems reluctant to discuss or dig into the details.

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

Our bishop was very kind and loving and has respected boundaries for the most part. When I was trying to stay and after sharing I had lost belief with him, I offered to meet with him and anyone within the Stake or from CES or whoever to discuss the issues but nothing came of it, which is probably best.

We remain friends with a select few who have done the research and understand why we have left and they support us. There are also a couple of others who are legitimately just trying to remain friends.

What resources were most helpful in your transition out of Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?

The handful of close friends who were either in a similar place or a little ahead on the path were the biggest help through my transition, for which I am forever grateful. This process is very painful without having people you love and trust to talk, mourn, rage, discover and laugh with.

Podcasts played a significant role. I began listening to Mormon Stories religiously about 10 years ago and through it, was introduced to several scholars and their works, which helped reveal a more complete picture of Mormonism. I listened to just about every Mormon Discussion podcast and countless Mormon Matters, A Thoughtful Faith, Naked Mormonism, and Year of Polygamy. I also listened to numerous progressive Christian podcasts like the Liturgist, the Bible for Normal People, The Robcast, and Evolving Faith.

I read Givens and he helped me hang on as a nuanced believer, I even referred to myself as a “Givenite” for the last three years of activity. I also read Greg Prince, Patric Mason and Adam Miller, the neo-apologists helped me feel like I had a place in Mormonism. If they still believed, so could I.

I read countless publications from BYU Studies, Dialogue, the Joseph Smith Papers, rational faith and others.

I found Jeff Lindsay’s website while in college and read every word along with JosephSmithsPolygamy many years later. I wasted more time on FAIR Mormon than I care to admit (which hurt my belief more than it helped), trying to find better answers. Mormonthink had much better explanations than all of them.

Strangely, Jon Ogden’s “When Mormon’s Doubt” played an important roll, introducing the simple stoic approach to life by balancing truth, beauty and goodness. More importantly, it cracked the door to epistemology by sharing the testimonies from those of other faiths that sounded identical to LDS testimonies. I found the videos of these testimonies on line and then began searching for more information to better understand the relationship between feelings and belief. I maintained a shaky and nuanced belief but this was the beginning of the end and I never fully recovered. It seems silly to me now as I knew other people had strong convictions but it was difficult to see beyond my own ethnocentricity as a believer.

Charles Harrell’s book, “This is My Doctrine” played a large role as he effectively demonstrates the evolution of Mormon doctrine and what little resemblance Smith’s early theology has to the current LDS church. He also uses biblical scholarship to show Smith’s gross misinterpretation of the Bible when introducing core doctrines. I believe this was the book I was reading when I finally went in and told my wife that I no longer believed the church was true.

I read Bart Ehrman, Peter Enns, and John Shelby Spong, which helped me deconstruct the Bible and Christianity along with the Christian podcasts mentioned. Ehrman’s historical research on Christianity is so amazing and insightful for the seeker of truth. Spong’s research is equally impressive and his interpretation is courageous and hopeful. His Jesus has become one that is not only believable but one that I love again and can fully embrace.

I put off Dan Vogel for years due to his “critical” approach but once I allowed myself to watch his youtube videos, he made more sense to me in 30 minutes than Bushman made in all of Rough Stone Rolling and all of his interviews combined. Vogel seemed much more fair with the data, which was a huge surprise believing all critics were extremely biased. I read Making of a Prophet and found every interview I could on Vogel, which wasn’t much until Mormon Stories. Those interviews are pure gold, great work, John! Discovering Vogel’s work was absolutely critical as he painted a much clearer picture to the never ending mystery that was Joseph Smith.

All of these resources and several others helped me discover truth, which was always the most important thing for me. I love the words of Carl Sagan, “If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.”

As I mentioned earlier, Stoicism has been tremendously helpful through my faith transition and in reshaping my perspectives and approach to life. Secular Buddhism and mindfulness have been great tools as well. I still pursue virtue and I seek to be a good and honest man. I’ve embraced my fate (Amor Fati), including my past and see the good in all of it, including Mormonism. Remembering death (memento mori) is coming and tomorrow is not promised helps me live in the moment and appreciate every single day.

We’ve also found a group of friends locally who have also left the church and they have been a big support and are all wonderful people.

What significant mistakes did you make in your transition?

I wouldn’t say significant but I was very vocal on FB for a while, which I chalk up to being part of my grieving process. I wanted to argue with apologists and perhaps solidify my reasoning but I pushed too hard with some friends and family members and that probably strained some of those relationships. Attempting to convince anyone with facts is not effective if they’re not interested in learning about them. For some, comfort is more important than truth and that’s ok. I mean that, I really don’t think one way is better than another, I just know what works for me.

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

My father passed away years ago but my mother is an angel and was completely supportive as she knew how much I had researched. One of my brothers is a bishop but very progressive and has also been very supportive. Another brother and sister have left around the same time we did and my oldest sister has been inactive for years. I have one brother who’s been my best friend since adulthood who’s still active and our relationship has been strained but I take responsibility for some of that as I’ve been pretty combative towards his faith and I know how hard it can be losing someone you love to disbelief as a believer. He’s a really good man and our friendship was special, I believe it will continue to mend with time.

On a positive note, all of my relationships outside of the church with friends and coworkers have deepened, Mormonism is weird to most and now that I’m out and everyone knows it, it’s allowed me to have some very open and vulnerable conversations with curious friends/coworkers and even clients. I’ve apologized to a few for things I now recognize that were insensitive and that’s brought healing to some who I unintentionally hurt. I’m really grateful for this.

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

I’ve told all of my immediate family and close friends that we’ve left and why. After years of deep research, I could no longer defend it and stopped believing it was true. That’s typically as far as it gets with the believers, nobody wants to discuss the details.

I’d recommend to take it slow. Don’t try to bring anyone down this road until they’re ready and don’t share details unless asked. As I’ve said, facts don’t change people’s minds and it will only make them distance themselves from you. I think if you want to be outspoken, you should definitely do your homework so you can speak intelligently to the matters but the best thing you can do through these transitions is continue to love and support others and be a good example as an apostate and perhaps someday, they’ll recognize that you really are better off and maybe even that you’re not deceived. If not, that’s ok too but love is always critical.

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

Being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men.

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

Very little has changed other than Sunday’s are now truly a day of rest and absolutely wonderful. I’m also not sure how I lived for so many years without coffee. 😉

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

I’ll never deny the possibility that a God, or some greater source exists that is behind all of this. There are lots of things that can’t be explained and that science doesn’t satisfy for me so I leave that door open and I hope I always do. I’m not a fan of certainty on either side of this argument and I’ll continue to be open to new thoughts and information. I like the pantheistic idea that the interconnectedness between humans and ultimately, that love is from a divine source.

I no longer believe in the God of my tradition. The God who only intervenes to sends an angel with a sword to Joseph Smith, commanding him to marry and bed teenage girls but then is absent to an acquaintance I knew who was raped her whole life by a family member despite her prayers. The God who I’d hear about in fast and testimony meetings, who responds to the prayers of a young girl to help her find a necklace or car keys but then ignores the prayers of a desperate mother, pleading for the life of her starving child. The God who tells the Q15 (LDS church leadership) that children of gay parents can’t be baptized and then changes His mind three years later after so much pain/death and all for nothing and then doesn’t even have His representatives apologize for the mix up or error in translation. I think most traditions ruin God for so many by associating such absurdities to the divine. John Shelby Spong once said that any attempt of a human to explain God is like a fly trying to explain what a horse is like. If God does exist, I think He has some explaining to do but I don’t believe in the Mormon version that I experienced, that particular God is not one I’m interested in.

As far as Jesus is concerned, I love everything he stands for and while I believe that he existed, researching the historical Jesus and who wrote the gospels and the context of when they were written, transformed the way I interpret his divinity. Honestly, atonement theology never made sense even as a believer. I stumbled on John Shelby Spong’s video last Easter morning on “Why Atonement theology will kill Christianity” and it resonated with me deeply. I previously mentioned, Spong’s Jesus is one that is completely believable, embraceable and has helped me see Jesus in a refreshing new light.

Nobody said it better and more beautifully than Paul Toscano regarding Jesus, these are my exact feelings: “If he is not God, he should be. Even as a fiction, he is the best of all possible deities. His disciples claimed that he loves us in our sins before we love him and more than he loves himself. He prizes us above his sovereignty. He lays aside the riches of his divinity to assume the poverty of our humanity. He offers us joint heirship in all he has claim to. He transforms a provincial religion of one God of war and one chosen tribe into a cosmic religion of one God of love and many suffering souls. He does not require certainty or purity as conditions of his deliverance, merely that we recognize our lack and long to be filled. From his cross he spoke for all who are assailed by doubts when he cried, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ Jesus may be a fiction but if so he is a fiction against which the banalities of history and sociology pail in comparison, a fiction that transforms reality.”

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

I accept death as a natural part of life that nobody escapes. I don’t need to make sense of the afterlife because I have no idea what it is, if it exists, nor do I believe anyone really does. I remain fascinated by the stories of those who claim to have died but then come back and I don’t doubt their experiences.

As I said above, if life continues after this life—fantastic! If not, that’s ok too. That took some time to accept as we all want to see our loved ones again but my perspective has shifted to focusing on being thankful for every day with those I love and getting to experience the miracle of loving and being loved within the relationships I share. My father died when I was in my mid 20’s and rather than regretting his life being taken earlier than it could have been, I try to be thankful for all the moments I experienced with him. I feel that he lives on in the love our family shared and the memories we hold that transcend and even overcome the finality of death. My dad is always with me, he’s a part of me, as are all of my loved ones.

What I know for certain is that tomorrow is not promised. Stoics consciously reflect on death in hopes to not let a moment waste and to live every day to the fullest. I am not afraid to die and I think that’s due to reflecting on it frequently, accepting that I can’t stop it and acknowledging that I’ve already lived 43 wonderful years, which is more than millions who’ve existed can say. This perspective allows every day to be a true gift. If consciousness doesn’t continue and this is it, then death will be like a deep, dreamless sleep where we can truly rest in peace. Life is long enough when lived well, which I’m working on daily.

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

As mentioned, growing up in the church helped establish the basic concepts of right and wrong so to say that I’ve established “my own sense of morality” wouldn’t be accurate because who I am today is, in large part, how I was raised. On the other hand, the church also teaches that a lot of things are evil that I don’t believe are, such as gay marriage. I believe embracing the good that I received while abandoning false teachings like this and several others has helped me achieve greater morality, in a sense.

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?

I see value in loving others and trying to treat them in a “Christ-like” manner. I feel connected to the human race and as mentioned, I leave room for this being instilled from divinity. Like many, I love surfing, the mountains and being in nature in any setting and I’m often awestruck when I pay attention to the beauty all around us. It’s cliché but it’s true, nature is my church and love is my religion.

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

The church does community very well for those who believe in it but fails the vast majority whose faith transitions from mainstream Mormonism. We haven’t replaced it with a new generic community but we have several like-minded friends and have met a handful of new ones through this process, for which we are so grateful. True friendships take time to develop and goes beyond the commonality of leaving the church; we hope to find more people who we authentically connect with. It’s natural to gravitate towards those who see the world through a similar lens but this doesn’t have to be the end all for community or friendships.

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

I’m with Robert Ingersol on this one as this quote came immediately to my mind when I read the question: “While I’m opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself and my creed is this: happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now and the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make others so. This creed is somewhat short but it’s long enough for this life and strong enough for this world and if there is another world, when we get there, we can make another creed. But this creed will certainly do for now.”

If you are a parent, how has losing your faith in Mormonism affected how you parent?

While being more liberal as believers than most LDS parents seem to be, we were also very strict and we still are, to some extent but we definitely pick our battles more carefully now and like to think that we are fair. We’ve repeatedly told our boys that just because we aren’t going to church doesn’t mean anything goes. We still enforce rules and virtuous living, including being responsible, honest, hard-working, productive, studious, polite, good mannered, respectable, kind, loving, courageous, hygienic, and considerate gentleman. These are all things we’re hoping to instill in our boys.

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

As stated above, it is better than ever. In the past, I feel like some of our relationship was endured and our issues put off believing that marriage is meant to be difficult and that perhaps someday in the distant future (most likely, the next life) those differences would be miraculously resolved. Realizing that God hadn’t and wasn’t going to fix our problems forced us to deal with them head on, which was a blessing. I alluded to this earlier regarding my own personal righteousness but the same applies here—staying together and working through our issues because we love each other and want to be with each other rather than out of our duty or commitment, has made our relationship feel more authentic and meaningful than before.

How has leaving Mormonism affected your mental health?

I am happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and have far fewer bad days. Again, I owe much of this to the daily practice of Stoicism and changing my perspectives. These changes have been recognized by family, friends, coworkers and even my boss, who have all seen a change in my attitude and overall well-being.

How has leaving Mormonism affected your sexuality?

Not much has changed for me personally but I’m grateful to break from the tradition that instills guilt and shame on human sexuality, regardless of sex and orientation. Children are made to feel less than if they don’t align with a “one size fits all” standard created by untrained men who have demonstrated to know very little about human sexuality and who have regularly contradicted what the experts say.

What aspects of your life are better after Mormonism?

Literally, all of it! I have personally never been happier and I am enjoying every day of the journey. I am more full of hope than ever before and full of love towards all!

Our marriage is better than ever. After leaving the church, we celebrated a full year without a single fight. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true! I don’t believe we went a month for the first 20 years without a good fight so for that to stop completely was extremely bizarre for both of us! We both were happier as individuals but I think a lot of it had to do with abandoning a culture where a women’s voice isn’t equal and feeling equal in a relationship is fundamental. She also went back to school and is thriving.

Our relationships with our kids are more authentic and honest and although we’re dealing with things that most parents with teenagers deal with, it far outweighs the damage of subjecting them to the toxic church environment, in my opinion. We all worry about our kids but I believe in the goodness of our boys and that they’ll become good men and productive members of society eventually. Maybe not but there are no guarantees inside or outside of the church.

My career has never been better and I just got a pretty substantial promotion and raise, all after not paying tithing for the first year of our life. It’s been wonderful to give to individuals at our discretion who really need help.

I know it’s early to call anything a success story but we are currently really happy and many of the things that we were taught and even believed might happen, haven’t. Not that all of our problems went away or that we’ve figured everything out or weren’t presented with new problems after leaving but overall, life has never been better and we are thriving as a family!

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

I am completely content but I also recognize a lot of this is due to Stoicism and my perspective shifting. We have been very fortunate and have little to complain about. I’m married to a beautiful woman who I love deeply, we have four healthy boys and I have an amazing career. At some point, I hope to do more service in the community but it’s been a busy time with my job for the past couple of years and admittedly, hasn’t been my top priority. While I’d rather continue building my community organically, I recognize the importance for my wife as a mother of having structure and community for our kids and I’m open to attending an Episcopal or less Orthodox church but I’m letting her seek that out, if she really wants it. Right now, I have no interest in attending church of any kind.

What final advice would you give folks who are transitioning?

Be patient and know that it gets better. Allow yourself to grieve in all its stages. It is part of the process, you’re not alone and without question, you will emerge on the other side a stronger and happier person. Find friends or make new friends to lean on who are in a similar place, they are out there. It takes time but what’s on the other side of this is something so incredibly beautiful and meaningful and know that millions have been on this road before you. For me, the ambiguity and mystery is more interesting than the perceived stability ever was. I love not knowing what’s around the corner or even what comes after this life. If life does, in fact, continue, how much sweeter that realization will be then and if not, we won’t care anyway because we’ll be dead, so no reason to worry about it (Stoicism getting the best of me). 😉 But most importantly, be patient and find others going through the process to mourn with and support you through the transition (Mormon Stories helps!!!!!). Let your voice be heard, validation is a critical part in this process. 

=============

Note: This post is part of the THRIVING after Mormonism project.  See here to browse other profilesTo submit your own THRIVE profile, see this link.

Comments 23

    1. Ryan – tell me as a born again charismatic RC who follows Richard Rohr for decades- did he or his teachings play a role in your faith journey?

      Beautiful story- i hope it gets wide circulation?

      frank mcleskey
      fairfax station

      1. He played a part, no question. He’s one of the wisest men I’ve come across but I found him when I was pretty close to losing belief in Mormonism. I love his take on Christianity, it’s almost closer to Eastern thinking.

  1. I loved this so much and can relate on many levels. Thanks Ryan for sharing your story, and John for providing the platform!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is so comforting to read about how others have transitioned after leaving the church. I am still very new to this and trying to figure things out and also still learning new information has been such an internal struggle. I have three daughters, two are teenagers. I would love to hear more about your boys and how you talked to them and their transition. For me, that is such a worry and heartbreak.

    1. Hi Amanda, it is scary. Feel free to reach out to me over messenger, I’m happy to chat about it. It was actually a really cool experience.

    2. Hi Amanda! With 2 teenagers of my own, our decision to leave was not taken lightly. My wife and I discussed openly our concerns with church doctrine, sometimes in deep detail. One rule that we have in our house is as parents we NEVER say “because I told you so”, so we have a fairly academic/socratic method for teaching or challenging each others positions.

      Our children were in seminary last year and had the opportunity to voice some of their own concerns. We involved them openly and honestly in most of our doubts and transition away from “faith” and into our current “love and work” focus.

      Recently one of my daughter’s good friends made a comment to her “So you found out Joseph practiced polygamy and you left the church, huh?” – to which my daughter replied “If you knew what I know about the foundation of the church and the things that Joseph Smith actually did, you’d have to be a sociopath to then go to church and sing Hymns about the man.” She arrived at this conclusion mostly on her own (I think), but with the help of other members’ Mormon Stories and some Wikipedia/MormonThink/YouTube reasearch. She still attends church dances from time to time and hangs out with a lot of members.

  3. I enjoy the straight-forward simplicity of your piece (ie, you point out that meso-american experts aren’t converting to the LDS church; and this is significant). Absolutely agree.

    Were Joseph Smith’s claims true (golden plates, heavenly visitation) then the Book of Mormon would be the single greatest, most miraculous record ever written by human hands. Instead, it – and the “translation process” – bears marks of duplicity and forgery. And today – with the advance metrics and internet age upon us – honest members are able to simply, easily discover that 1) the church’s foundational truth claims are in-fact false, and 2) the LDS church hierarchy knows and has known this forever but willfully suppresses these unflattering truths from its members.

  4. Hi Bush family, thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure many post Mormon families can relate and it definitely helps to hear these profound experiences from those who have also made this decision in the late family stage with four adolescent kids. In many ways it seems a little more complex although not so unusual these days.
    It’s definitely an adjustment when you feel you’ve lost a ‘built in’ community.
    I just recently came across your story and noticed you relocated to North County San Diego. My family has as well….just within the last year.
    We have a 22, 19, 16 & 13.
    If your wife has any interest in meeting up and making a new friend I am open. It’s nice to have friends that understand and can relate to this big family change.
    Feel free to email me. I’m not sure how to give my info privately or if you’re able to reach out to my email. Hope to connect soon!

  5. Hey Ryan and Susan from Ken and Laura in old West Linn Ward!
    Just read your story, loved it, and loved seeing your beautiful family picture. Happy is a good place to be. 🙂

Leave a Reply to Michelle Miller Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.