“My name is Jeff and I’m a Post-Mormon.”
I’m a great-great grandson of Thomas Ricks, the same guy who Ricks College is named after. Not such a big deal when it’s realized that lots of people are Tom’s descendant. He had 5 wives. Tom also founded Rexburg, Idaho where I was raised in a very devout Mormon family. The story I was told as I was growing up is that Tom was sent to southeastern Idaho by Brigham Young to establish a branch of Zion there. In reality, he was sent there by John Taylor because he’d heard that there was good potential farmland there. I was also told that Rexburg was originally to be named Ricksburg but Tom was too modest to have a town named after him (but apparently a college was okay). According to a Rexburg Chamber of Commerce webpage the name was to be Ricksburg but Tom wanted it changed to Rexburg because Rex is the original German spelling of the Ricks name. So, I guess that means my name could also be Jeff Rex. Whatdayaknow! Learn something new every day. I also think it’s funny that on the Chamber of Commerce page they can’t just call him “Tom”, or “Thomas,” or even Brother Ricks. Every instance of the name has to include the Mormonitial “E”, Thomas E. Ricks. It’s as if anything less would be a sacrilege. I also learned recently that Tom was probably a hit-man for Brigham Young. The Salt Lake Tribune published an article about it but for some reason they took it down off their website and I can’t find it in their archives. Smells a little fishy to me. Fortunately, I’ve republished it here, in this scrapbook: Let’s educate famous writer about his infamous uncle.
On with my story…
Not only did I grow up in a Mormon family, I grew up in a very conservative Mormon family. My father was a member of the John Birch Society during part of my teenage years. But all in all it was a good childhood – no complaints here. When I was twelve I begged my father to hire me to work for him in his sign business so I wouldn’t have to work in the potato fields like most of the other kids my age. He agreed which meant that over the subsequent years he and I developed a good relationship, because of which I pretty much did what I was told. I attended church every Sunday, paid my tithing and eventually went on a mission to Virginia and West Virginia. I was engaged just six weeks after I got home to a girl who just six weeks previous was a total stranger to me. But my mission president, my stake president, my bishop and my family all either told me or implied that my next “duty to the Lord” was to get married in the temple…and like I say, I pretty much did what I was told.
The year before I left for my mission my father and I tinkered with electric cars and finally came up with something that worked well enough that we could use if for driving around town. I actually worked out one of the last kinks in an electronic circuit the day before I left for the mission training center in Salt Lake City (the fix later broke and dad had to hire someone else to do it right). While we were going through our testing and debugging phase a number of newspapers ran articles on the car/me/dad combination. There was even one the church magazine, “The Improvement Era,” (or just “Era”) I believe in 1975. While on my mission, in 1976, I mailed some information about our car to Popular Science Magazine, and a few months later they did an article on the story too. It was because of that publicity that I was able to make around $15,000 selling through the mail, plans for building the car that I had printed up. The money paid for the remaining half of my mission and left me with enough money to get married when I got home. It looked to me like the “Lord” was taking care of me, had plans for me, and that my patriarchal blessing was well on it’s way to being fulfilled. All I had to do was keep hanging onto the iron rod and paying my tithing and I’d continue to be blessed.
Then the rude awakenings started.
On my mission I lived in Blacksburg Virginia for 6 months, where Virginia Tech is, and learned that it was a pretty good engineering school, so while there I decided that I was going to get a college degree in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. Plans where changed when my first child was born with a pinched off aorta, which required major surgery to fix, and we missed being covered by insurance by just two days. I guess the Lord was on vacation at the time. So I had to drop out of school (started at Ricks College then was going to transfer to the Tech) and work full time to keep food on the table and pay medical bills. I realized that I had to pursue an engineering career in a less conventional way…by teaching myself…which I did.
To make a long story short, several years later I patented an electronics product that tracks coins in vending machines and I licensed the patent to three manufacturers, one of them being Speed Queen, the appliance manufacturer. Eventually I took in a partner, we incorporated, and we decided to quit selling licenses but instead to manufacture the device ourselves and sell it to manufactures of vending machines for use in their products. Note: During this time I was paying a little more than a full tithe just to make sure that the Lord had my back covered. Finally, we found our first customer in Salt Lake, raised some investment capital, tooled up, and started manufacturing the device. It looked like this customer would bootstrap us into a full-fledged business with a cash flow and everything! But I guess the Lord went on another vacation. Unbeknownst to us, our customer, who had been in business for more than a decade, suddenly closed shop. It turned out that they were way over extended financially and we had no way of knowing. We had our ducks in a row and I thought the Lord had my back, but where was he when this thing beyond my control was a brewing? A little whispering of the spirit would have helped a lot. Unfortunately we had bet the store on the joint venture working out and had no more reserves to keep going when it didn’t. The business folded, I lost everything I owned, including my house, and I packed up my family in a small car, a mini-van and a U-Haul truck, and we moved from Idaho Falls to Logan Utah where I now live and have a very good job as an engineer.
Sometime during the relocation and regrouping process, after much soul-searching and fervent prayer asking “why?” I said to myself, “It seems to me that the tithing promise is just bogus. I wonder what else about the Church is bogus?” I needed to know, because if the Lord was one to head to the Bahamas when I needed him most it looked like I’d better get used to covering my own back from now on. For starters, I needed to know if the Church really was all that it claimed to be, so I launched a personal study about the Church and especially its doctrines. From the start I made the decision to only use books that I could get from Deseret Books. This meant that I heavily and unfairly slanted my study in favor of the Church. I wanted it to be true! But two years later, what I had learned in the process made it clear to me that a lot of things about the Church are bogus, like Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon for instance.
The last Sunday I attended church was the day that the guy giving the elder’s quorum lesson said something like, “There is one person who has lived on the earth who’s life we should strive to emulate and that one person is…” Can you guess? No, not Jesus Christ, as I was expecting him to say. He actually said, “Joseph Smith.” That was the last straw for me. I had already come to the realization that Mormonism is fundamentally bogus. That was just the last straw. I left that day with a temple recommend in my wallet that was still good for another six months, and I never went back. It took me a couple of years to make the decision to leave but when I did I was a ‘trying hard to believe Mormon’ one day and the next a fully resolved former Mormon. Fifteen years later I have never for a moment questioned whether leaving was a good decision. It was without a doubt the best decision I’ve made in my life. I claim it as the “best” because not only does my decision free subsequent generations from a life of Mormonism (my kids realize that it’s bogus too), I also call it the best because my life has progressively gotten better since leaving. I’m happier, more fulfilled, financially better off, and in general at peace with life and death.
Okay, this is long, but it’s only the first two thirds of the story, so why don’t you take a break and get some coffee…or postum. I’ll wait right here until you get back.
Okay, let’s continue. During the year after I left Mormonism I tried every angle I could think of to get my wife to seriously consider the problems that I had found with Mormonism, but it was like pouring water on a ducks back. Not a drop was soaking in. Finally, toward the end of that year I got the bright idea that if I could get my wife to attend a local Baptist church with me then maybe she’d like it and would let go of Mormonism. Worked like a charm! As soon as she found out that all she needed to do was just believe to be saved she was in! “Fill up the font and get me baptized!” No more slaving away to follow all the rules that Mormonism required of her. She had found a get-to-heaven quick scheme! And to this day she’s a died-in-the-wool Christian/Baptist/something or other that prominently wears a cross around her neck, reads the Bible regularly, and attends church each Sunday, and seems to be happy. So good for her. For me it’s been a different story.
I attended the Baptist church with her for about year, while in the back of my mind was, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” I assumed that the Bible was pretty much, if not completely true, but the jury was still out. I wasn’t going to buy into any other belief system to the point of doing something like be baptized until I’d kicked the tires and driven it around for awhile to shake out any hidden flaws. And low and behold, one night at a mid-week Bible study that the wife and I had signed up with, we were studying along, examining Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and suddenly there was a loud thump. No one seemed to notice but me. The class continued as I started flipping through pages in the Bible, keeping my concern to myself, then at the end of the class I said, “Wait a minute folks, I think we have a problem here.” Within a few minutes I found at least three passages from the Old Testament that Matthew was using way out of context. He was applying prophecies to Jesus when an examination of those prophecies made if very clear that the Old Testament authors had something entirely different in mind when they wrote them. I told the people in the class that this is a serious problem for me because I left Mormonism for its deceptive use of history and scriptures, so why should I let Matthew get a way with it? Responses were,
*There’s a dual meaning to scripture. I said that’s one of the things Mormons use to justify their misuse of scripture.
*Some things are not yet revealed. I said I’d heard that plenty as a Mormon.
*Some things you just have to accept on faith. Heard that plenty as a Mormon too.
I told them that if as a Christian I’m expected to swallow the same kinds of lame excuses that Mormonism uses to justify itself then I might as well go back to being a Mormon. Life in a Mormon community and ultra-Mormon family would sure be a lot easier! A couple of them seemed to see my point and promised to have answers by next week. Next week came and no answers. They encouraged me to take my concerns to the pastor of the Church, a college trained minister type.
The pastor said that he understood my concerns and would take the time to get me the answers. A few weeks went by and no answer. I reminded him that he still owed me an answer and he promised to discuss it with some people he met in school who are well versed in the Old Testament. Months went by, and during that time I studied the problems up one side and down the other and concluded that there’s only one honest way to call it. Matthew is lying to the public of his day in order to sell them Jesus. Boy did that have a familiar stench! I reached the conclusion that the New Testament is pretty much the same kind of white-wash-sell-job as the Book of Mormon . A few basic common sense concepts and a lot of whitewashing and holy sounding stuff. So I quit going to the church.
Finally, another year went by and still no answer. My daughter was participating in a mid-week program at church that my wife was taking her to, so I decided to go watch her perform. There I ran into the pastor and reminded him that he still owed me an answer. He hemmed and hawed then asked for just one more week. Finally, he didn’t call me in to talk over the results of his 18 months search but instead sent me a page and a half letter that in essence said that it’s okay for Matthew to take scripture out of context because it’s Matthew doing it, implying that guys of that caliber had the right to. Guys like Gordon Hinkley or Joseph Smith don’t have that right. I was so disgusted with his response that I tore it up and tossed in the trash.
Over the months, as I met other college-trained ministers in Cache Valley through my wife’s connections with her church I presented the question of Matthew’s apparent dishonesty to them. One of them flat refused to discuss the issue. The other promised, then promised again, and once more re-promised to get me the answers, then a few months I later learned that he had moved to somewhere near Park City, and I’ve not heard a peep from him since.
I spent a few lonely years as a former Mormon former Christian who hadn’t a clue how to find other people to talk to who had reached the same conclusions I had. And during that time all hell was breaking loose at home as my wife tried to force Jesus on the kids and for unrelated other reasons that would be inappropriate to say here. Suffice it to say that after two years of marriage counseling we divorced and the kids ended up living with me. Since that time the family has gone through a gradual healing process and now the ex-wife is happy as a clam on her own, the kids are doing well, and in general “the family” gets along well and gets together from time to time to eat dinner and catch a movie. And life is good.
Soon after the divorce I started our Cache Valley post-Mormon group and patterned it in part after an Ogden “post-Mormon” group that I attended a couple of times. But mostly it was patterned after a non-sectarian singles group that I was attending in Logan. I used the same format as the singles group. We would meet once per week at a restaurant (next to a bar so we would stay out of earshot of Mormons at the place) and we would just eat and talk – nothing more than that. Also like the singles group I ran an ad in the paper each week to let others in the area know about us. It worked well! I finally started meeting others who had reached the same conclusions as me. I decided it would be good to get similar groups going in other areas so, somewhat in collaboration with the leaders of the Ogden group, I created the first version of our website and called it “Post-Mormon Support Groups” which has evolved into what it is today, PostMormon.org.
And that, I believe, is a good place to end my exit-story..
This exit story was taken from this link on postmormon.org