I won’t say it was easy to leave the Church, as it took me years of feeling I didn’t belong, uncomfortable and awkward conversations with my parents, and the act of finally sending in the letter to the Church for me to do so. But it was still easier knowing that it wasn’t where I belonged than trying to decide where I do and what I believe now.
It was easy giving up the three-hour long Sunday Church services. It was easy to stop paying my tithing and skipping the weekday activities that they have occasionally. It was a simple thing to quit observing the Word of Wisdom because, hey, coffee is good. The hardest thing for me has been coming to the realization that Joseph Smith was such a charlatan.
In the Church, he’s been promoted to demigod. He’s looked on by everyone as the prime example of humility and holiness. Much like Nephi, the first main character in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith has been elevated on a pedestal and Mormons practically worship his memory.
Growing up, my family had a collection of storybooks that came with audiotapes about the prophets of the church. My favorite was of the founder. Ever since I was little, I looked up to Joseph. He could do no wrong in the eyes of the Church, and hence, in the eyes of its members. It wasn’t until the last couple months when my view of him has really taken a hit.
In the South Park episode, I thought they were just using their typical irreverence when they portrayed Joseph as dictating the Book of Mormon with his face in his hat. That’s never they way it was told at Church and his seer stone was never a topic of any conversation. The story I knew was that he “translated” it across the table from his scribe with a dividing curtain up so that the plates weren’t visible to the other person. He used to Urim and Thummim as a tool to aid his translation, but had to rely on it less and less as the translation progressed. Never did I hear of his not even having the supposed plates on the table as he instead stuck his head into a hat with an egg-shaped rock in it in order to write the Book of Mormon.
Bring other truths into the picture, about the fact that “Reformed Egyptian” isn’t a real thing, that the early Church denied polygamy but it a well known and accepted fact in the current Church (though that’s not to be confused with current practicing of that teaching in the “mainstream” church), and that the Church has buried the truths and contradictions found within the early days of its founder under countless layers of carefully selected history and whitewash.
This is something I still struggle with, and something I’m sure that I’ll get flak over. It’s also a subject I’ll visit again, most likely both here and on the podcast. Logically I know that the Church hinges on him. If the Church is true, then he was a prophet of God and received revelation from a hat. But if he’s a charlatan and a con, then the Church is a fraud. Even after stepping away from the Church and finding the religious nones more relatable than the god-obsessed masses, I still have a hard time admitting to myself that I was so completely scammed for thirty-five years.