Jordan and I went to high school together. He has one of those personalities that draw people to him. He recently shared what you’re going to read on Facebook and I asked if I could share it too because I am proud of his honesty and bravery. I believe in sharing what our souls go through, regardless of how others might respond (which is hopefully with love and understanding). Jordan Stuart was born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He comes from a long line of Mormons. It is in his blood. He served a mission in Brazil in 2009. He married the love of his life in 2012 in the Bountiful Temple. They currently have 2 kids and live in Ogden, UT. He loves running, mountain biking, and spending time with his family.
This is my story of what many call a “faith crisis”.
Spoiler alert- I am still Mormon. But I’m not the same kind of Mormon I was 3 years ago. If you care to know more about the person I am today- here is my story. Don’t worry, you won’t find the specific concepts that triggered my crisis in here. This is just a glimpse into my personal story.
3 years ago I discovered something regarding polygamy that I believed, declared, and defended… was actually false. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a huge issue. However, I felt stupid for having taught and defended something so adamantly that was in fact… false. So, in order to avoid future ignorance, I dug deeper into polygamy. After learning more and more I realized I had been believing, teaching, and defending something I knew almost nothing about. I decided I needed to know “everything”. I no longer felt like I knew what the LDS church was. I didn’t feel like I could continue to put my name on the line for a religion I didn’t truly know for myself. So I decided “I’m going to be the guy that knows everything to know about Mormonism.”
Over the past 3 years I studied relentlessly. I dove head first into what I quickly discovered was a deep, dark hole. There were times in that first year where I couldn’t even function. I couldn’t focus at work. I couldn’t sleep. All I wanted to do was study the church. What I was learning was consuming me. I tried my very best to stick to “approved materials” like the church essays, church approved books, and other resources found on lds.org. When I branched out I vigorously researched the sources of all the information. I was determined to avoid the “anti-mormon material”. But my world was crumbling. I was depressed, defeated, betrayed, and absolutely furious. For those of you who know me- you know I love running. Running was literally life saving for me through all of this. My morning trail runs became therapy. I would listen to religious podcasts both critical and non critical of the church . I also listened to various books from Deseret Book. I run for about an hour a day so that’s over 1000 hours of learning. There were multiple occasions on my trail runs where I was forced to stop- not from fatigue, but because I was emotionally, spiritually, and mentally exhausted. I would find secluded areas and just cry, or yell as loud as I could. I can hardly explain the feeling. I was numb to the world, but I was on fire inside. The fire raged on inside me for months. Without running I think I would have gone into deeper depression or had a complete mental breakdown.
The fire left me burned and empty inside. I have tried to rebuild the belief system that the fire engulfed, but it looks nothing like it did before. My new belief system is complicated. Intricate. Some call it “New Order Mormonism” or “Nuanced Mormonism” or “Unorthodox”.
After going through all that- I get why people leave. In fact, I have tremendous respect for that choice and the people on that journey. Despite what people think- it’s not the “easy way” out. It is the hardest decision many people will ever make. I stood face to face with that decision and trust me, it’s easier to stay in the church than to leave it. On the flip side, I also have respect for the people who stay. Living in a paradoxical world is not for the faint of heart. I do want to make one thing clear – I do not understand nor respect those who vilify or degrade the other camp for their choice to stay or leave. It is not your job or responsibility to pass judgement on anyone.
As for me (and my family), we are staying. I do acknowledge the following privileges that allow me to stay: I am white, male, RM, cisgender, and heterosexual. I also have a wife who is committed to our marriage, patient, and understanding. Not everyone has those privileges, and I will be the first to empathize with those who have been harmed because they lack any of those privileges.
While I have chosen to stay, what I believe does not fit the traditional Mormon mold. I have put myself in a gray area. A middle ground of sorts. No man’s land. As I sit in here in a metaphorical no man’s land, I understand I won’t be accepted by either side. The faithful Latter-Day Saints will see me as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The exmormons will see me as a fool. But this is MY choice to believe what I want to believe and worship where I want to worship. I do not know where this journey will take me. I just know this is where I am now.
During this time, I have had a friend. One who was traveling the same road at the same time. I was able to lean on him. Vent to him. Learn from him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I hope to be that friend to anyone reading this. I write this in hope of strengthening friendships, and making new ones. And if you find this hard to hear, rather than pushing me away I hope we can work together and come to an understanding instead.
I am not advocating that everyone go and search for the faith shattering problems in Mormon doctrine and history. However, if you do decide to go down that dark hall I’ll grab my light and go with you. If you choose not to, I respect your decision.
For those of you who have left. I love you. I have had lunches, long talks, phone calls, texts, and email conversations with many of you. Honestly, many of you have been much more supportive and loving as I went through this than anyone else.
I would love to go to lunch or text or talk on the phone with any of you about these issues. I will never bring doubt into your life, force my views on you, or judge you in any way. If you’re currently on this road (regardless of where your road takes you) I just want to walk with you through what was one of the loneliest, hardest parts of my life.
“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed.”
– Apostle Hugh B. Brown
As a side note- I cry tears of joy today as the reversal of the Nov. 2015 policy has been announced.