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.

 

We’ve Been Here Before

It might feel like America is going down a path with a president for the first time. But we’ve been here before.

Nixon

Trump has given courage to those whose base views had been resigned to the back porch or weekend poker game. The racism and sexism were always there. And then Trump came along called women fat pigs. He called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. He brags about sexually assaulting women he finds attractive. He’s a walking cesspool of every deviant personality trait one man could possess.

Trump is the asshat who claimed Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud. Trump doesn’t believe the rules apply to him, and he’s taken that philosophy with him into the White House and filled the swamp with friends and family who share his despicable views. Watch Jeff Sessions quote the bible as a defense for separating children from their parents at our border to see how far we’ve fallen.

I grew up believing America was the greatest country in the world. That notion was shattered about six months into my mission to Germany. It was there I realized America didn’t have a monopoly on greatness.

Now is a good time to revisit All the President’s Men. Nixon was a miserable man, but he faked it much better than Trump. We didn’t fully understand how racist Nixon was till the Watergate tapes were released. Trump’s tweets are in full view for those who care.

We’ve been here before.

Nixon left a black mark on the presidency and the country. Before Trump is done, he’s going to make Nixon look like Mother Theresa.

We survived Nixon.

We will survive Trump.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

A good friend from high school sent me this poem. I love it.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Night Rides

It’s been four years.

That’s how long I’ve lived in St. George. And I’m still not used to the heat. I can handle temps up to 100. But last week it hit 115.

I can’t do that.

Which means I spend days inside searching for spots around the house in front of an AC vent or directly below a ceiling fan.

I pull out my iPhone to check Dark Sky at least a dozen times each day. Maybe tomorrow’s weather will bring cooler temps or rain showers, the kind where steam rises from the pavement.

When the sun goes down, the kids beg me to take them for a ride. It doesn’t matter where we go. They just want to get out of the house. So do I.

So I pack them into the Odyssey and off we go with no destination in mind.

And the kids begin to talk. I hear stories I otherwise wouldn’t at home. I hear stories that make me laugh and some that drop my jaw. Most have passed the statute of limitations leaving me to smile and wonder where the hell I was when that happened.

Last night we discussed how we go about making decisions. Specifically, how does one know if an action is good or bad? The kids had a lot of opinions on the subject.

“I guess I just know.”
“You and mom tell us.”
“It didn’t feel right so I stopped.”

And my favorite:

“If I know I can’t get away with it, I don’t do it.”

Nothing is off-limits on these night rides. No subject too taboo. I want the van to be a place they can bring up any topic, even ones that make parents cringe. I believe all parents desire to create a safe place where their kids can approach them about any topic.

Our place just happens to be a van driving around southern Utah under the moonlight.