Matt, Student of Life
I jumped at the opportunity when I heard I could be in one of these videos, but once I thought about it for a while, I became worried. I’m the only one in my family who has left, and I still know a lot of people that are still unaware I’ve resigned, and I worried that some, or even many, of them would think of and treat me differently.
I was born into and raised in a mormon family, and had been “true blue” all of my life up until I finished high school. I had some back and forths with believing and doubts, and really struggled with self esteem and feeling like I was good enough as a person, so I couldn’t bring myself to go on a mission, and it made me feel like a failure, a disappointment, and an outcast. For a while I thought I’d moved on, but I was still mormon on the inside.
Fast forward a few years later, when I was struggling in life, as most everyone does at some point or another, and I had decided to give up. I had no idea what to do with myself, so I just quit. It happened to be that night when the missionaries stopped by unannounced to see if I was ok and if there was anything they could do for me. I hadn’t been to church in a while so this was a surprise to me and I wondered if they were prompted to come to me because of my despair.
That started what seemed like a very long, yet at the same time, very short, journey to the end of my belief. I very much like to read and learn and think, and it revived those interests in me full throttle. The layers of belief unraveled, one by one, until I had to start from scratch.
I’d always thought I had a lot of integrity and I was pretty honest, but recognized that I was fooling myself and others in a lot of areas of my life by being disingenuous and inauthentic. Taking a long, hard look at the church’s extraordinary claims, eventually, I came to the conclusion that my experience was easily coincidence. I had moved into a new house and it follows that when my records were moved they sent the missionaries to check up on me. It didn’t have anything to do with my emotional or spiritual state. Then all of my other deep, very real, intense spiritual experiences that I had had in the past seemed to unravel and unfold and I understood them and could explain them better than before.
I had so many questions, that didn’t seem to have adequate answers, or peoples’ responses weren’t adding up. Things like, “Well, are you reading your scriptures?” or simply “We’re to walk in faith in this life, not by knowledge,” and all the others, as if my behavior influences what is true and what’s not. Whether or not a person is doing those things, doesn’t change reality and doesn’t change the truth.
Since becoming willing to look every perspective, including information and material from outside the church, and broaden my perspective about a lot of things, I started to see that a lot of reasons not to believe any other religion apply just as equally to any sect of mormonism.
I realized, prayer just simply is not an accurate nor reliable tool or method for revealing truth or influencing the outcome of future events, the same with fasting, or paying tithing, or patriarchal blessings, or fast offerings. My behavior has no impact on what is true and what is false.
After that, I realized faith is not a virtue, and I just couldn’t live by faith anymore, believing without evidence, and oftentimes even in spite of evidence to the contrary. I mean, “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge, when ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Once you look past the surface, upon reexamination and pondering a moment of deep thought, it is unfalsifiable, and eventually becomes baseless circular reasoning: it’s not to have a perfect knowledge, so what you hope for must be true… but how can you know what’s true so you can hope for it? By having faith. And around you go…
There might be a lot of good things about the church and gospel teachings, and good people in it, but that doesn’t make it true. Sometimes an idea that’s passed around is that the church and mormonism have the exclusive rights to happiness and prosperity. As if, if you leave the church or aren’t a part of it, you aren’t really happy, or if you’re living a happy, fulfilling, successful life, “Well, that’s just temporal, that’s not true joy. True happiness is lasting, and eternal, and that is only achieved through the gospel of jesus christ and the [mormon] church,” when that simply isn’t true.
It’s interesting how so many mormons have developed this “sixth sense,” this fear and aversion of what they don’t know or what goes against their beliefs and values. It’s as if they’ve come across a terrible disease. It reinforces, contains and protects their previous ways of thinking. There shouldn’t be any fear involved if all you’re working with is truth. Nothing other people say or do should be able to taint that; it stands on its own. So many aspects and flaws of human psychology, such as logical fallacies, confirmation bias, and wishful thinking, to name but a few, take over and run rampant.
If you never allow yourself to entertain new and foreign ideas, how will you know if you’re right? How will you know if you’re wrong? If you find the reasonable balance between gullible and hardheaded, known as open minded, which doesn’t mean you let anything into your head or believe everything you hear, you can supplant good ideas and beliefs with better ones, replace bad ones with good ones, and reject bad ones when you realize what you already have is right because you’ve given yourself the chance to compare it to others. Truth stands on its own and stands up to criticism and scrutiny. You really can’t see the full picture without looking at it from different perspectives.
After going through all of this and resigning, I’ve noticed I’m even more outgoing, less reserved, and I more readily and easily see myself in others. I feel more honest with myself and others as truth and my integrity go hand in hand. I’m less judgemental and really deeply care about people and life and the world and my place in it. Realizing that it’s quite possible and very likely that, I am finite, makes everything so much more beautiful and important. I can think for myself and never stop asking questions. Instead of hoping that it will all be over soon, I can be rationally optimistic and hope that people can actually make a difference, that everything doesn’t need to reach the point where it needs to be destroyed. I don’t need to believe things because I’m told to or because of fear. I don’t need to be saved.
My name is Matt Harrison, I’m a truth seeker, a wanderer, a student of life, and I am very happily an exmormon.