I personally know of several Mormon Bishops and other priesthood leaders who have ‘lost’ their testimonies:
Some, of the Church;
Some, of the gospel;
Some, of Joseph Smith;
Some, of God and religion!
Some no longer pay tithing or go to the temple because of their disbelief in the Church, yet feel trapped in their callings due to the expectations of Ward members, Stake Presidents and their wives and families. As much as they would like to resign, they fear the repercussions for the members they love and serve, as well as for their relationships with family and friends. There is a deep desire to not let anyone down.
Most of these good men are deeply troubled by the hypocrisy of the situation they feel trapped in.
Some continue because they feel they are doing some good in the Church by staying in their positions of leadership, dispite their non-belief.
I was personally asked by my counsellors after I resigned as Bishop to change my mind about resigning and continue in the role of Bishop, “because”, they said, “you are doing a good job!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
Without a testimony of the gospel I felt compelled by my honesty and integrity to resign. Yet I was being asked by the two men I loved like brothers to continue to serve in the Church despite my certainty that the Church was not true. I personally couldn’t do it.
Other non-believing priesthood leaders are desperate to be released so they no longer feel the pangs of guilt, for instance after performing a Personal Priesthood Interview, or Tithing Settlement. Or after conducting Sacrament meetings, particularly Fast & Testimony meetings, where they are compelled to bear false testimonies to the congregation.
Imagine having to conduct a temple recommend interview, where the questions remind you of your own doubting heart and questioning mind.
Consider how deeply uncomfortable it is to have to stand before a Ward or Stake meeting and pretend to be someone you’re not.
I’ve been in this position. I know how deeply troubling it is. I could not persist in my calling for longer than six weeks without resigning as Bishop.
Some priesthood leaders can rationalise for awhile as a way of coping with the cognitive dissonance. But inevitably it eventually becomes an impossible situation & they look for some resolution. I empathise completely with their dilemma, & offer a listening ear to those who want it.
This problem is a growing one.
Tragically the current belief system in the Church has created it. Mormonism currently doesn’t value a questioning attitude, only authoritarian obedience without reservation or uncertainty.
The Church elevates the pretence of certainty over honest and authentic doubt.
Yet the members still expect and deserve honesty. No matter what I now believe about God or religion generally, I still believe in honesty!
How can members of any Church truly thrive without Truth, Honesty, Openness, Transparency and Acceptance?
This is what we should be striving for.
This is a big problem in many churches as is so eloquently detailed by Daniel Dennett:
Please check out the Mormon Open Letter. A campaign for a more authentic belief system and cultural attitude within Mormonism.
Currently the Mormon Open Letter has 75 Bishops signed up, as well as 2 Stake Presidents. Along with many other members serving in leadership roles both male and female.
My admiration and gratitude go out to all those who have the courage to speak truth to power!
“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, & those who suffer have no power.
“To break out of this trap requires the courage to speak truth to power!” ~ Daniel Goleman