My name is Nick Godfrey. I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My dad is a lifelong member, while my mom converted to the church when I was three years old. Throughout my life I chose to believe and participate in the church. I always attended my church meetings and fulfilled my callings. I strove to obey the doctrines and practices of the church as strictly as possible. I drew a great deal of comfort from my beliefs. Mormonism was at the core of my identity.
In July 2010 I started questioning whether I had a solid basis to believe in Mormonism. I concluded that I couldn’t base my testimony on subjective feelings or personal spiritual experiences because first, people of all faiths feel similar emotions when they worship their gods, and read their holy books and if that is the standard of evidence that I accept Mormonism under, I would have to extend the same standard of evidence to these theologies. Second, the emotions and feelings that lead me to accept Mormonism, no matter how strongly they felt, or how externally generated they felt, could too easily be a product of self-delusion, hallucination, miss-perception, pattern-seeking, or wishful-thinking. I concluded that I needed to look for objective evidence if I was going to accept Mormonism.
As I began to study Mormon history and doctrine deeper than I ever had in my life I began to discover many parts of the church’s history that were intentionally hidden from me. I learned that Joesph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from a hat, using a magic rock which he had previously used to defraud his neighbors through a practice known as “money digging”. I learned that every truth claim in the BoM is contradicted by modern archeology, linguistics, and DNA evidence. I learned that egyptologists unanimously agree that the papyrus which Joseph Smith claimed was written “by the hand of Abraham” actually dates to thousands of years after the time that Abraham lived, and not a word of the Book of Abraham translates correctly. The deeper I studied, the larger problems I discovered in the first vision, the priesthood restoration, and every other foundational claim in the LDS church. Eventually I concluded that the historical record is consistent with Mormonism being a product invented by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and their contemporaries.
Once I came to this conclusion I had to decide what I still believed. I began to look at Christianity with a critical eye. I had to confront the problems in the bible. I had to question why god would command his people to commit genocide against innocent men, women, and children, why he condoned and commanded slavery, and rape? I had to question why god had inspired the bible to include such ludicrous stories as the garden of Eden or the global flood, and why the all knowing creator of the world hadn’t included such important knowledge as modern medicine and physics. In the end I concluded that the bible was probably written by primitive people trying to make sense of the world with very limited knowledge.
Then I had to confront god. As I looked through history I saw that at one time god was in every storm, every earthquake, and in every aspect of human’s lives. Then, as we began to explore the world and studied how it really worked, we began to find natural explanations for storms and earthquakes. Eventually we were able to explain the formation of the earth and the diversity of life without any sort of supernatural explanation. I began to wonder why god had hidden the evidence of his existence. I began to wonder why god allowed all the pain and suffering in the world. Why would god allow innocent children to be raped, murdered, and tortured? Why would god allow babies to contract cancer and AIDS before they were even born? I began to study arguments for and against the existence of god. I studied the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the ontological argument, the moral argument, the empirical arguments, the problem of evil, and so on. Eventually I concluded that the arguments against god’s existence were more compelling than the arguments for god’s existence.
At first this was devastating. I went through periods of anger and depression. I wanted too badly for everything I’d been taught to be true, but I could not find evidence to support it. As time went on I became more at peace with my conclusions. I had to restructure my world-view, but I began to find myself more inspired and motivated to work for the good of humanity. Losing faith in the afterlife meant that I only had one shot. and had to make the most of it. Eventually I found others who had been raised with the same beliefs I was, and came to the same conclusions I did. I now have a large circle of close friends who are mostly all ex-mormon atheists going to college here in Utah County. I’ve never been happier in my life. I’ve never been more full of hope and joy. I’ve never been more motivated and optimistic. That’s not to say I’ll never change my mind. But I know the only thing that can change it is empirical evidence, and reasoned logic.
My name is Nick and I’m an Ex Mormon.