The Passion

Passion.

The bulk of my family is trapped in a cult and I have been passionate in my efforts to extract them! If you’ve followed my story, you know this cult to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was once trapped, as well. Unlike my trapped family, the Church ejected me.

And I became free.

And my passion burned hot. I would show my family the way out! Free them.

But they don’t want to be out.

In spite of any evidence contrary to Church beliefs and teachings, in spite of historical problems, in spite of current bigotry, they want to believe. They choose this belief system instead of the tons of contrary evidence, in spite of bigotry.

So be it. They can have it.

My passion has been quelled.

But I will remain and be available when those niggling, pesky questions come up. This Age of Information almost guarantees the questions.

Almost.

Eyes wide shut

Humans. Fascinating, aren’t we? I think so. Particularly the human mind.

The human mind is not a computer. It can do math, yes, but what it is, though, is a powerful pattern recognition machine and “crystal ball” with memory, wrapped into a 3 pound mass of convolutions.

Add hormones and emotions and you might get a hot mess. Add cognitive biases and…

Eyes wide shut.

After being excommunicated from the Mormon Church, I spent the next three years pointing out the fallacies of the Church. They are patently obvious to me and very plentiful. To my believing family, not so much.

Faith is an effective blinder. Choosing faith means my family chooses to be blind.

And there’s nothing I can do!

So nothing is what I’ll now do, and not worry about it. I’ll chalk the last three years up to experience.

And that, ultimately, is the hardest thing about my excommunication.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 11 A Backward Glance

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

What have I learned?

1) Steer clear of narcissists.

2) Seek fidelity in others.

3) Be faithful (non religious context) to others.

4) Find a friend in your spouse.

5) Be a friend to your spouse.

6) Eschew religion.

7) Think critically.

Odds and ends (from my perspective, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)):

1) After a shift in view, from religious to secular, and realizing your family members still remain in the clutches of a cult, don’t be too vigorous in your efforts to deprogram them! The Backfire Effect is real!

2) Gentle discussion and Socratic questioning may avoid the Backfire Effect and promote better, more loving, discussion.

3) Have patience. Loved ones in a cult are not easily removed. It will take time.

4) My own mistakes and missteps in my first marriage and second relationship have left scars on some family members, particularly those involved and some close in relationship. Patience may win them over but they may also choose to hang on to their scars. I will let them. It’s no longer my problem but theirs.

5) Be honest. Have personal integrity.

6) Love.

7) There is nothing inherently wrong with Apostate Behavior. Religion is, ultimately, a leftover from humanity’s childhood. Adulthood (apostate behavior) is preferable.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 10 Rebirth’s Stuttering Steps

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Redemption. Rebirth. A new start.

Call it what you will.

A compatible spouse can make a world of difference. I am the common denominator in two marriages. Moreover, I am the common denominator in three relationships. I lived with a woman between marriages. This relationship brought my youngest daughter into being, for whom I am grateful and who I love, along with my other 5 living children.

It also was the cause for my first excommunication. My Stake President said there were mitigating circumstances for my “acting out” behaviors in my first marriage, due to my struggles with a spouse with narcissistic attributes, but my refusal to break off my growing relationship with a new woman to whom I was not married (I had split with my wife by this time and was pursuing divorce) was certainly cause for excommunication. And so I was excommunicated, for adultery.

Kind of a nasty word, adultery.

So, expanding on my last Chapter and offering more clarity into the murkiest part of my life, I was married 12 years (6 children, 5 living), lived “in sin” (religious definition) for a couple years (1 child), then remarried “in the Faith” one month after rebaptism (no children). And I was the common denominator in the relationships.

I was the same man but did I behave differently in each of the three relationships? Indeed I did!

Marriage to a controlling woman whose favor I was seldom able to gain (my perspective, of course) brought out the worst in me. Living with a free spirit had its perks but carried a lack of commitment. That relationship broke down in my learning of several of her infidelities. I say “infidelities” because I was committed and thought she was, too. My misunderstanding of free spiritedness!

Eventually, after getting acquainted, mostly long distance, I got to know the woman who became my second wife, third relationship. We had become best of friends. This, prior to treading the path of romance.

This last brought out the real, and best, me. It seems I dislike being controlled. I am no longer. It seems I value fidelity. I now have that.

Being married to my best friend is the best scenario I can imagine! It has worked for over 27 years by this writing. I can’t imagine it NOT working for the rest of life.

Even though she and I married “in the Faith” and I have since been excommunicated for Apostate Behavior, or marriage is solid. It seems she loves me for who I am, really am, and I love her for who she is, really is.

That makes all the difference in the world!

I am grateful.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 9 Life, the Universe, and Everything

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Hang on. This will be a fast trip! There will be a lot said and unsaid.

I was a fifth year Senior in college with a young, growing family. First, a son. Then my first daughter and second child was born 16 weeks too early and lived only 6 hard fought hours. School, by then, became a lower priority. I left with 6 credit hours short of a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with minors in Accounting, Economics, Computer Science, and Spanish so I could find work to support the family. Life was handing me a lot to handle and I was not handling it all very well.

I burned out.

With a spouse who had (still has) narcissistic traits and saw me as someone moldable to her mental image/ideal, life was not ideal. After 12 years of marriage, 6 kids (5 living), I was very, very near a breaking point. Along the way, my mental and emotional states were betraying me and I did things of which I am certainly not proud, one of these things sent me to jail (2 weeks with work release). My boss got wind and I lost my job. The inner darkness was so complete I attempted suicide. I admit it was half-hearted and, obviously, it failed.

Life was unraveling. I was failing. I couldn’t take it anymore.

But I managed to pull myself up and I struggled along, changing my career path, doubling down religiously, doing what I thought would make things better.

Again, after 12 years of marriage, the Faith I was brought up in confirmed my failure. I was excommunicated, divorced, and lost another job, all in the same month. Details? To painful to discuss publicly. One on one, I might open up but there really would have to be a purpose in the asking. Suffice it to say that if Hell existed, I made the trip.

Like a dog to it’s vomit, as the expression goes, a little over two years away from the family Faith did not enlighten me enough to stay out after the excommunication. I was rebaptized. I recommitted myself to living that Faith fully.

And I remarried.

The Angry Still Apostate

While “repenting” my decision to delete my FB account (too much of my history is there, too much of my journey out of Mormonism and then religion in general), this did not assuage my anger. Family should understand their hypocrisy. WWJD? Certainly not what they’ve chosen to do.

Another very good reason to never trust Jesus. Another good reason not to believe he existed, at least not as believers believe him to be today.

Mormons. Judgemental. Holier than thou. Passive aggressive. Behaving just as poorly as I am now.

But I’m angry, for the moment. It will pass. The lesson has been learned. Respect for my family’s feelings will come as they begin to respect mine.

The Angry Apostate

Today I will delete my Facebook account. I ranted to family last night. It was, quite understandably, poorly received. Research the Backfire effect for the reason why.

I knowingly ranted. Why? Censure. I’ve been effectively censured by family. For three years. I’m emotionally full to busting!

And now I have gone from just an Apostate (or “that” Apostate) to a damn, rabidly ANGRY Apostate.

So, right now my account data is being collected into a file I will download. Once that file is downloaded, my account will be deleted.

I need time to emotionally heal.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 8 Transition

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

How does one transition from two years “serving god” to the everyday routines of life? Every Mormon missionary has to do it upon returning home. Before leaving, the Mission President reinforces the idea that the returning missionary should maintain scriptural study habits, prayer, and being a member missionary. At home, the Stake President does the same. Both encourage marriage and place education/work as much less important in life.

This can mess up a young person. Big time. It did me but I didn’t realize it until much later, when consequences were larger. I’ll mention some things now but will explain more fully in a later chapter.

What did I do, after the mission?

I needed money for school. My parents had probably sacrificed a lot of money, just for the mission, so it behooved me to find work fast. Coming home in April meant the rest of Spring and all of Summer could be dedicated to work to earn that money.

But then there was the girl. She did not “wait” for me the two years I was gone but had attended BYU and spent one semester at BYU Hawaii. She was still unattached and we began to date.

A friend of mine from the Chicago area, who I’ve mentioned prior, also had a sweetheart and he was freshly returned from his mission, so we four went on a few double dates. He was head over heels over his girl and I was falling for mine. She was the first girl I ever dated seriously. I should have let that relationship run its course and either end or mature, to be able to gain experience with dating other women or to better know this girl.

But the Church puts pressure on RM’s (returned missionaries) to get married ASAP. I was dutiful. My girl seemed a lot of fun and we got along well so, feeling “the Spirit” confirming a suitable choice (yeah, more likely confirmation bias coupled with hormones), I proposed. She accepted. After we divorced twelve years later, I discovered through a third party (reliable) that she was not in love with me when I proposed but thought I was good husband material, I could be molded into what she wanted, and she was following god’s will, too!

God’s a putz.

(Life plot note: He’s also imaginary)

Day two of our honeymoon revealed a totally different woman than the fun girl I had dated, proposed to, and now had married. That’s when the manipulation began. With the image of the man she wanted firmly in her mind to compare with me, she subtly molded me. But there was the inner me, wanting to grow and become what I wanted to be, the natural maturation process. The two efforts, being incongruent, resulted in something being broken.

In the meantime, children began joining our family.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 7 The Missionary in Australia

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I felt my proficiency in Spanish was good. I was raised speaking English (US version). However, I was yet unprepared for communication upon arriving in Sydney! Going through Customs I had to ask the official to repeat himself at every question! Australian English was foreign to my unaccustomed ears, as alluded to in the prior Chapter.

My first discussion in Spanish was the same. Book learning and practice don’t always accustom the ear in the presence of a native speaker.

But it didn’t take long to become accustomed to both Spanish and Australian English. My days were spent speaking English unless my companion and I had a teaching appointment or encountered a Spanish speaking person while we were tracting (in LDS Missionary parlance, this is the going door to door activity with the hope of entering the home to teach a “Discussion”) so my ability to communicate improved greatly. By the time my two years were ending, I was frequently complimented on my Spanish and was told I had an Ecuadorian accent (most of the Hispanics I taught or conversed with were from Ecuador; Argentines and Uruguayans followed). As a result, I was asked to translate for Church General Authorities at a Church Area Conference held in Sydney in April of 1976, just prior to my return home. Specifically, President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder William H. Bennett, an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles (a group later to become Quorums of Seventy).

My relationship with the other Elders (missionaries) and, later, two Sisters (female missionaries) was good. I enjoyed each of my companions (none of the Sisters was a companion, somewhat obviously!). I am connected to some of them on Facebook today. There were a half dozen or so, plus or minus at any given time during my mission, that were Spanish speaking like me. Eventually I became a District Leader (oversight over multiple companionships geographically close) and later a Zone Leader (oversight over multiple Districts). At no time did I get a car. I traveled by bicycle, public transportation (bus or electric train), walked, or some combination of these.

I greatly admired and respected my Mission President, Earl C. Tingey. He was/is the same age as my Dad and so, away from home and in a foreign country, it was easy to place a natural trust in him. It helped that I believed then and still believe now that he was and is an honest and good man by nature. He was and is deluded by the LDS cult, as was I.

Two years, less the two months in the LTM, were spent doing what I thought god wanted me to do. I was not a total goody two shoes, as my first “greenie” (new missionary) could attest (he was a strict by the book missionary at first but loosened up later). Life was easy. I would get a monthly check from my parents and would take it to the bank to exchange it for Australian currency, to pay rent for our”flat” (apartment/room), buy food, pay for transportation, repair/resole shoes, take care of any needs.

Oh, and to buy our cartons of Books of Mormon which we sold for 50 cents Australian each, or would give them away at times, if the situation warranted.

We met people from all over the globe and from all walks of life, mostly blue collar workers. We would assist Hispanics find work, get medical help, find housing. At times, anyway. Actually very few. Mostly, we tried to peddle our brand of religion in Spanish.

But the people were great! I loved the Hispanics I met, “member” and “non-member” alike. I loved the Aussies too. All in all it was a great experience for me as a 19-21 year old. I grew from a painfully shy introverted boy to a confident young man.

I returned home in April of 1976, to a new Ward, my family having moved into the new house built in Centerville, UT. Prior to returning home, I was interviewed by President Tingey. During that interview I was counseled to go home, maintain my standards acquired as a missionary, and to get married as soon as possible. Education and work were secondary to marriage.

I suppose it was good I had a girl, not exactly”waiting” for my return, but we had dated prior to my mission. And she was still “available”.

She would become my wife.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 4 Return to Zion

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

A move to the Deep South halfway through fifth grade and then 5 years in a western Chicago suburb gave me experience “in the world” while learning how to bifurcate worldly life from religious life (Mormon concept: as members, we are advised to live in the world but be not “of it” – this idea probably stems from the New Testament, see the book of John).

Chapter 2 ended with me heading to college. I was accepted to Brigham Young University. The fall semester of 1973 would be the only semester I would attend prior to my mission call (see LDS Church website topic on Missionary Work – calls are not based on the desires of the potential missionary but are “inspired” by the Missionary Selection Committee). As I mentioned, I lived with the second eldest of my mother’s younger brothers (Mom was the eldest of my grandparents’ 9 children – 5 daughters, 4 sons) in Pleasant Grove, Utah to save some money to help support me when my mission call was issued.

However, prior to moving to Provo, I attended Church in our new Ward in Bountiful, the Bountiful 13th Ward. There I met the girl who would become my wife after my return from Australia. She was tall, blond, and pretty, with big pretty eyes. She was friends with the sister of one of my friends who also moved to Bountiful from the Chicago area and whose family were members of the West Suburban Second Ward (later becoming the Naperville Ward) with my family. Their father was a counselor in this new, to us, Bountiful Ward Bishopric.

Also before heading to BYU, I took a language aptitude test. I don’t recall if I received the results or not, but it doesn’t really matter to my story. That they needed to test my aptitude does. In my own opinion, it goes directly to the idea of “inspired” calls.

Just hold that thought for a bit.

BYU.

Dallin H. Oaks was the University President. You remember him; he was a counselor in the Chicago South Stake Presidency while my family lived there. For a bit of a biography, look here, here, and here.

Anyway, I attended my first BYU semester and prepared for my mission call. College was quite different from high school! I had to be more self-directed and I that did not come to me easily. I was an introvert, as I have mentioned before.

My mission call came in the Spring of 1974 after that first semester ended. Here is the certificate from the front of my Mission “White Book”, which contained general Church rules of conduct for Missionaries (there was a separate White Book specific to my mission!):

mission call

My call was to be a Spanish speaking missionary in the Australia East Mission, which was headquartered on the north shore of Syndey Harbour in Sydney Australia. Hmmmmm, Spanish-speaking in Australia? Weird, eh? I thought they spoke English! One of my uncles, the very same one I lived with my first BYU semester, also served a mission to Australia, about 10 years earlier. I knew they spoke English!

This call was interesting in that my own internal desire was to serve a Lamanite mission (Hispanic or Native American) outside of the United States. This call fulfilled that desire. Also, I apparently had an aptitude for language But, was my Spanish-speaking call inspired or was it based on the results of my aptitude test?

One wonders!

With the receipt of the call, I did not enroll in another semester at BYU. Rather, I went with my Mom to Mr. Mac’s for two suits, a few white shirts, some ties, and a couple pair of shoes that would, hopefully, last for two years. Hardly anything else was needed as I was to travel rather light. The girl I had met and had gone on a few dates with me, several doubling with my Chicago friend and the girl holding his attention, said she would not “wait” for my return and I thought that was fair and mature. We were yet young. I still had hopes she’d be available after the mission.

But before I was to go to Australia I had to be able to teach and converse in Spanish. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school but still had to attend the Church’s intense 8-week language training course at the Language Training Mission (LTM) located on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. I would go there after a three day stay in the Salt Lake Mission Home across the street from Church Headquarters aka the Church Office Building skyscraper on North Temple.

New Year Post Mortem

My last post showed my level of frustration after just shy of three years since my “fatal” (LDS Church membership-wise) Facebook post January 31, 2016, wherein I declared Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. He was a fraud! It’s more clear to me now than ever before! It’s still not a concept my family is willing to entertain, though.

My studies in recent advancements in cognitive and neurological science have broadened my understanding of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Along with the backfire effect, I should have known better than to post as I did on Facebook! I should know by now that I cannot convince my family to think for themselves. They have drunk too deeply the Kool-aid of Mormonism.

I should have known, and I did know! But my hubris overcame common sense and I posted. Stupidly.

My bad!

So I had to apologise and suck up my pride. I will now act as if I was wrong, which I was, in a way. Too much hubris!

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

With you, dear reader! Thank you for spending time with me and my rants and thoughts. This whole process serves to help me grow and mature, as a person and a writer.

Happy New Year!

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 2 Chicago

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

After our two and a half years in Birmingham, Alabama we moved Lisle, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago (about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago). I was about to start 8th grade. Two neighborhood boys had heard (from who?) there was a boy their age moving in and they came over to introduce themselves. One, Ron, became a good friend.

I was somewhat of a novelty, as were my siblings, at school. Our family was one of two in Lisle who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Peet family was the other. A couple other “Mormon” families moved in and back out during our years there but our family and the Peet’s remained, ours until after my high school graduation.

These years are very fondly remembered by me. Yes, I was teased mercilessly and bullied by a few because of my Southern accent (at first, my accent now is rather nondescript), my shyness, and my religious beliefs. But I had good friends. Several still remain in contact with me after all these years!

The LDS Ward we attended met in Naperville, just to the west of Lisle, and was titled the West Suburban Second Ward of the Chicago South Stake. A “Ward” is what Mormons call a congregation. It is led by a Bishop and his two counselors. Several Wards in a local region are collectively called a “Stake”, led by a Stake President and his two counselors. The Stake also has a High Council consisting of 12 High Priests (men). The Stake Presidency at the time and subsequent, just before we moved back to Utah, consisted of several men who eventually moved up in the ranks of the overall church hierarchy, one becoming one of the Twelve Apostles and is now, at this writing, a member of the First Presidency (First Counselor to the President/Prophet). His name is Dallin H. Oaks (any initials in an authority’s name are important, it seems).

The Stake Presidency and High Council structures will become important to my story later, hence my attention to this detail now.

Anyway, it was in Lisle and the Suburban Second Ward that I progressed through the Aaronic (Lesser) Priesthood (young boys ages 12 through 18) “offices ” of Deacon (12-13), Teacher (14-15), and Priest (16-18, sometimes older). This took me through high school graduation in 1973.

The Chicago area gave me a peek at non-LDS scenarios, situations, and ideas. I participated in some academic extracurricular activities, such as an after-school Biochemistry Seminar, membership by special invitation to a special Boy Scout Explorer Post sponsored by Standard Oil. There was a core of students that got invited from regional high schools. Five from my high school, including me. Some of the others from my school were part of the “cool kids” and so, by association, I was able to expand my circle of friends from mostly outcasts to include some of the cool kids. That was helpful to a very shy kid, as was I.

My experiences in the Aaronic Priesthood in the Birmingham Branch first and then the West Suburban Second Ward included leadership. I usually was “called” to be a counselor in the Presidency of the Quorum and before being “advanced” to the next office would wind up being the president. Except for the Priest Quorum. The Bishop of the Ward is the president of that quorum and he has a group leader with two assistants. I progressed the same through the Priest Quorum as I did in the others, leaving finally as Group Leader just before we moved back to Utah.

As a Priest, there were times we were asked to partner up with the missionaries on “splits”, meaning the two missionaries (missionaries are usually found in companionships of two) would split up and each would take a Priest. We would go to teaching appointments but would also be involved in “tracting”, i.e. going door to door. This gave us a little glimpse into missionary life, in which we were expected to take part at age 19.

Which age was just around the corner and followed the move alluded to earlier.

I graduated 14th in my class and a member of the National Honor Society. I had been accepted to BYU (my ACT score was 28, so acceptance was no problem) and I had a good interview with my Bishop (worthiness interviews are required for acceptance). Near the end of my Senior year of high school, Dad got a job offer in Salt Lake City, Utah he decided to accept.

So, after graduation, my Dad took my three younger brothers, loaded a Toyota Corolla with stuff he would need for the new job, and off they went, to pave the way for the rest of us after the house sold. Once sold, we loaded the station wagon, three dogs (miniature schnauzers), and stuff we would need at the new house and drove to Utah, Mom and I trading off as drivers.

Our new home was only temporary, being a rental, while our new house was being built just a few blocks north in Centerville. I wouldn’t see that house finished until after serving a mission for the Church. But first, I went to Provo, Utah to attend my first semester at BYU (Brigham Young University). I moved in with an uncle and his family in Pleasant Grove, Utah. That helped me save some money that could go toward my upcoming mission.

Holiday break

It’s the Holidays in the USA. Thanksgiving was November 22nd. Christmas is coming up soon. Veteran’s Day, November 11th, will be remembered for a while. It’s the day my Dad died. This year.

It was a little sooner than expected, but not totally unexpected. Back in July my wife and I spent a week with him. The day we packed up to return home we found him face down between his toilet/shower area and the vanity in his bathroom, quivering and not very cognizant of his surroundings. Well, okay. I found him. It was a little unnerving.

911 was called and the EMT’s arrived. Dad was not very responsive. They got him turned over and took his vitals. The got him on a stretcher and into the ambulance. Mary and I drove over to the hospital Emergency area, in our van. My next to youngest brother and his wife arrived shortly thereafter.

Eventually he was admittied and spent a week being treated for pneumonia and sepsis. Then, released. Mary and I went home before he was released.

Anyway, he had another episode in August. Then, after moving in with my sister and her husband early in September, Dad had one more episode late in October. In the meantime he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Poor guy!

This most recent visit to the hospital took him to November 10th. He was released that day into hospice care at my sister’s house. Meanwhile, I drove from Northern Colorado to Northern Utah to see Dad and, probably, say goodbye. It turns out I was right. He died, peacefully, the next evening. His funeral was November 17th.

My siblings and I worked together to make all the arrangements. We work well together. No jealousies or other negative relationship issues that other families might experience. I love my siblings and their excellent spouses.

So it’s been just over a month since Dad’s death and just under for his funeral. I have contemplated much during this time. No, my religious views have not changed. I am still convinced religion is just man made myth. And now we head into a time set aside for joy, happiness, and fun.

And that’s what I will experience! I am happy Mary and I got to spend that week with Dad back in July. I am happy I got to be there with him when he died. I am very happy my siblings and their spouses are the caliber of people they are. I am glad my in-laws are also.

This holiday season will be joyful, happy, and fun! For us. In years to come, it will also be memorable.

May yours be filled with happiness, joy, and fun, as well!