What Did I Sign Up For?

What did I sign up for?

What did I commit to?

If I intentionally signed up to perform a task, deliver a product or help a friend, I should do that without much confusion or hesitancy. Both parties are on the same page.

What are you expected to do that you didn’t sign up for?

Are you expected to go to a certain college or study a certain discipline because that’s what would make your family proud?

Are you in a relationship because you’re expected to be? Did you have children when you wanted to or when you felt others expected that of you?

Do you drive a certain brand of car or dress a specific style because that’s what people in your line of work or neighborhood expect?

Do you attend a church because you signed up to attend? Or is it the church of your parents, and you never really considered anything else?  For years, I assumed I’d found the only true church and was rocked when I began to research its history.

Did you sign up for your political affiliation, or was it handed down to you?

Consider what you’ve actually signed up to do. Is it what you want? Or are you doing it to please someone else?

It’s not easy to say, “Hey, I didn’t sign up for this.” You may lose friendships. Others will shun you when you step outside their tribe.

But it might be the best thing you ever do.

Telling My Story on the Wardless Podcast

During my faith transition, I’ve found support in a number of podcasts. Most focus on why the person left their religion which can bring up a number of charged topics. That makes it difficult to share with family and friends who are still involved with the Mormon church.

Then I found the Wardless podcast. They are different because they focus on “what’s next” in a person’s life. And after over five years since my transition, I’m much more focused on “what’s next” than any doctrine or policy concern I had years ago.

Last week, I was invited to tell my story through an interview with Oliver. I’m really proud of how it turned out and have shared it with a number of close friends of various degrees of Mormon belief. Their reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so I’ve decided to share it here with the rest of you.

The Joy of the Warriors

Chris Paul is back from an injury just in time to give James Harden a rest from taking 30 shots a game for the Rockets. I tuned into a Rockets game and they have the most predictable offense in the NBA.

If Harden brings the ball down, he performs some fancy dribbling well out past the 3-point line. Sometimes he can beat his man to the basket, but he’s often looking for the foul. He’s an amazing talent, but he’s the biggest ball hog we’ve seen since Kobe retired.

Occasionally Chris Paul brings the ball up the court. He’s more likely to pass the ball, but he too will dribble around trying to get to his spots for an easy jumper. Both Paul and Harden are rare talents who can get their shots most of the time.

But I can’t imagine it’s very fun playing on the Rockets unless your name is Paul or Harden. Contrast the way the Rockets play to that of the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors have three of the best players in the game: Curry, Durrant, and Thompson. Curry and Durrant could get a shot every time down the court, Yet both are fantastic passers. Not only are they great passers, but they genuinely enjoy getting their teammates involved in the game.

The Warriors unselfish plays make for a much more entertaining game of basketball because you never know where the ball is going. When your star players are unselfish it becomes contagious with the rest of the team. While the Rockets are built to get Harden and Paul a shot each time down the court, the Warriors are built so that every player on the court can pass or score.

Other teams are trying to replicate what the Warriors have assembled, but it’s not easy to do. The Warriors have won 3 NBA Championships in the past 4 years so their approach to the game is working. But it still takes the right players buying into the coach’s philosophy of unselfish play.

It makes me wonder why any player would leave the Warriors to play for another team?

Coffee

One benefit of leaving Mormonism has been discovering coffee. I began drinking coffee one evening on a drive home from Vegas. I pulled over in Mesquite and ordered a coffee from McDonald’s to keep me alert during my drive home.

I’m surprised that first cup of coffee didn’t destroy my desire to try coffee again. I tried different roasts and types over the next couple of years from local roasters. Of course, I made a lot of trips to Starbucks as well.

I enjoy a number of coffee drinks both hot and cold and my two favorites are nitro cold brew coffee from Starbucks and a Perks Americano with heavy cream with no sugar. The flavored drinks are too sweet for my tastes today.

One fringe benefit that’s come from drinking coffee has been the time spent with friends, sipping coffee over discussions about sports, politics and whatever the hell is on our minds. There is an entire culture around coffee that I’ve yet to find elsewhere. When I visit Seattle, I love to meet my old friends over a cup of coffee.

I also like to make coffee in our French Press. I’ve tried making one cup at a time using an AeroPress which makes a delicious cup of coffee but requires a good deal of patience.

I can’t believe I waited so many years before enjoying coffee, but I’m making up for lost time. If you ever make it the St. George area, make sure to try a coffee from Perks.

My Mormon Culture & History Resources

Since leaving Mormonism about five years ago, a number of people have asked me why I decided to leave after four decades of active involvement in the only church I know.

That’s not an easy question to answer. There is no smoking gun. My reasons are complex and may or may not apply to anyone else. But when anyone leaves a high-demand religion like Mormonism, there is a kinship to be found in others who understand what you’re going through. I hope these resources might help someone like me who was searching for help during a traumatic time of my life.

Note: If you are happy with your involvement in the Mormon church, please don’t read any further. I don’t want to drive you away from an organization that adds value to your life.

So who is my intended audience? Those who have questions about the historical truth claims of the church. If you have questions that can’t be answered in Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine class, this post might be for you.

This post is simply a collection of resources that helped me find truth as it pertains to the historical claims of the Mormon church. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of  resources. These are the ones I found most helpful, and they greatly influenced my decision to step away from the church. Your mileage may vary.

Gospel Topic Essays

These are topic based essays the Mormon church has created over the past few years to help members better understand some of the more controversial aspects of their heritage. Each essay is posted to the official LDS.org website.

Which essays had the largest impact on me?

Books

Books about Mormonism have been a series of hits and misses for me over the years. Some books that came highly recommended to me didn’t hit home, while others had a big impact in my beliefs.

Here are a handful of books that helped me construct (or deconstruct) my beliefs. Some books have hostile sounding names which is unfortunate because it will drive some people away. I didn’t agree 100% any of these books, but they pushed me, made me uncomfortable, and helped me learn about myself and why I belive the way I do.

Podcasts

As I struggled to come to terms with my beliefs, I listened to dozens of podcasts as I walked around my neighborhood to get some exercise and clear my mind. Of all the resources listed here, these podcasts had the most impact on me. Particularly, the first podcast listed below. I’ve listened to all six episodes multiple times. Brent Metcalfe is one of my heroes and his story brought me to tears each time I listened.

  • Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews Brent Metcalfe, who is a former Mormon historian who worked at the church office building in Salt Lake City. He had a front row seat to the horrific Mark Hofmann murders in the mid 80s while working as a researcher for Steve Christensen, who was killed by one of Hofmann’s bombs.
  • Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews Dr. Michael Coe, who was a Yale anthropologist who specialized in the Maya and areas of South America where the Book of Mormon claims to have taken place. Coe takes a gentle and respectful approach to the subject.
  • Mormon Stories – John Dehlin interviews John and Brooke Mclay. John worked for the Church Educational System for 14 years. He also served as a counselor in the stake presidency and went through his faith crisis while serving as bishop. I enjoyed every second of this interview.
  • Year of Polygamy Series with Lindsey Hansen-Park. The amount of effort Lindsey put into this series of 100 podcasts is astounding. The podcasts focus on the individual wives of Joseph Smith. Many are heart wrenching, but each is fascinating and insightful. As you can tell my now, polygamy was a major stumbling block for me as a Mormon.
  • Wardless – This podcast is a recent discovery that I really enjoy. It takes a more nuanced approach to leaving the church and includes a panel of smart people who discuss various topics about Mormonism. Wardless touts itself as a “field guide” to leaving Mormonism, and does so in a respectful manner. I especially enjoyed the episodes about telling your spouse, friends and family about your changing beliefs in the church.

I could list dozens of podcasts from Mormon Stories because Dr. Dehlin interviews so many experts in Mormon history. Plus, he’s been at this for over a decade now so he’s compiled a list of over 1000  podcasts. It’s hard to go wrong with any listed on his Top 25 most popular and important podcasts.

Other Resources

  • CES Letter by Jeremy Runnells – Many people who leave Mormonism mention CES Letter as the reason they fell down the rabbit hole of Mormon history. I came across it later in my search for truth. Jeremy compiled a long list of questions he had about Mormon history with the hope that someone from the Church Educational Systems (CES) could answer them directly. Jeremy was interviewed by Dehlin at Mormon Stories if you want to learn more about this amazing man and how the church treated him once he landed on their radar.
  • Letter for my Wife tackles many of the same topics as CES Letter, but in a personalized letter format from a man to his spouse.
  • MormonThink explores historical facts about the Mormon church and tries to answer Mormon apologists who push back against those with questions.
  • FairMormon is the flip side to MormonThink. It’s written by Mormon apologists who try to faithfully answers questions about church history. Many of their answers left me feeling empty and manipulated.

I plan to update this post as I discover content that helps me formulate my beliefs whether they concern Mormonism or not.

 

Too Much Social

I deleted my Facebook account about a year ago. This past week, I took it a step further and disabled my Twitter and Instagram accounts.

I don’t recommend you follow my actions. And I’m not going to disparage any of the networks because I know many people enjoy them. If they bring a net positive to your life, then stick with them.

But they were taking away more from my life than they were adding to it.

Will I miss things? I’m sure I will. But I found that my closest friends were not the ones I interacted with on any of the social networks. My closest friends know how to reach me.

My hope is that I take some of that time I spent on Twitter and redirect it to this blog. Maybe some of the time I spent searching for that perfect picture to post to Instagram will be better spent learning something new on my Kindle.

I never regret reading too much. I don’t regret spending time with Kim or my kids. I don’t regret going for walks around my neighborhood or jotting down my thoughts here. Maybe I will call my dad and my siblings more than do now.

Wish me luck.

Unintended Consequences

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a business owner about the salary and bonus structure at his company. Like many companies, this owner paid out bonuses at the end of each year. I asked him if he’d considered paying them out twice a year or during the summer months.

The owner said the end-of-year bonus schedule began as a necessity but had become more of a tradition. Wondering out loud, I told him that I assumed he chose the end-of-year because it encourages employees to stay put through year’s end.

bears

And with that, we both came to the same conclusion: Should the bonus schedule reward employees who grind it out through the end of the year, take the bonus and then run? It was an unintended consequence of the schedule he hadn’t considered.

This experience reminded me of another business decision that had unintended consequences.

I worked for a company years ago which allowed employees to spend an average of $75 a day on food. This was not a per diem. If we spent $50 on food, that’s all we could expense. But as long as we kept the average at $75 or less we could eat cheap for a couple of days and then go out for a nice dinner the night before we flew home. This allowed for a level of meal flexibility especially when we stayed in expensive cities with great restaurants like New York or Chicago.

But management didn’t like approving these expensive meals even when we spent far less on some days. So they decided to cap meal reimbursement at $75 a day. No more averaging out to $75. Like before, we could only expense what we spent each day.

Can you predict what happened next?

After the policy change, employees who had casually tracked their meal expenses now went to great lengths to ensure they spent their full $75/day. The new policy made us feel the company no longer trusted us, and many decided to stick it to the man.

During this time, I approved expense reports for about 40 technicians who supported conferences around the world. They often lived out of suitcases, worked long hours and appreciated a nice meal at the completion of an event after living on room service for days.  A few techs complained about the policy, but there was nothing I could do about it.

A few weeks later, expense reports began to trickle in. I was interested to see if the policy would change behavior. Over the first month, the average meal cost per day increased from about $49 a day to nearly $65 or a 30% increase. Subsequent months saw the average inch closer to $68 a day.

I laughed at one expense report that came across my desk. One technician had managed to spend exactly $75 on the day he flew out of Seattle and the day he returned. A closer inspection of his expense report showed that he had purchased $75 (about 5 pounds) worth of cinnamon bears at the airport on his day of departure and another $75 worth the day he returned.

The policy stated that any food was expensable so he was within the rules. I approved his expense report and asked him to bring me a few cinnamon bears.

I can’t imagine this is what management had in mind when they changed the meal policy.

Expense reports with creative meal planning became the norm rather than the exception in years past. I signed expense reports that included pounds of Gobstoppers, Swedish Fish and Whoppers. I also signed reports with $50 worth of food from McDonalds and Taco Bell.

But the only time I recall getting a call from corporate was when one technician tried to expense a couple of bags of Starbucks coffee beans. I considered it food, but someone higher up did not agree.