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"Brother John, it is the unanimous decision of this council that you be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."   I felt my heart sink, my eyes broke contact, my expression fell, my chest seemed to sink and as I went numb I felt the air pass out of my lungs like I had just forgot to breathe.   I didn't know what to do next.  I stood up from where I had been sitting, I didn't wait for anyone to grab me or try to
shake my hand, I bolted from the room.  All I could think about was getting out, finding the door, getting away from this meeting, this room, these men.  I needed air and I needed to be alone.  I couldn't stand them looking at me like some road kill on the side of the highway.  Like a robot my hands pushed the panic-bar on the door and felt it open to the cool night air.  I watched myself leave the building going down the stairs as if I was watching from a distance almost a third person view.  I stumbled on the bottom step and practically fell in the direction of my car.  My eyes were growing moist with tears and I couldn't find the damn keyhole.  When I finally got my car started, I drove on auto-pilot, not even thinking of what I was doing or where I was going. 

Fifty-four years of active church membership had just ended.  All that I had believed, everything I had held sacred, my baptism, my mission, my Temple Marriage.  Over 10 years teaching the Gospel Doctrine class, being the High Priest instructor, everything was crumbling around me and I was powerless to stop the destruction, it was like I was standing in the middle of the street during an  earthquake and watching everything around you being destroyed before your very eyes.  My whole world was crumbling and falling to pieces before me.  Tears were streaming down my face.  Feeling guilty for letting my long deceased parents, my children, and most of all, my wife down.  Not being the strong, righteous father they thought I was.  The reality of what was happening to me at that moment was causing me to quake and tremble with grief and fear.

Finally at home, I knelt beside my bed to pray,  I begged for understanding and strength, but, as was the case so many times before, the plaster of the ceiling seemed to absorb my words before they could leave the room.  Where was my God, why was I feeling this emptiness in my soul.  Surely He did not condemn me after so many years and the warm feelings of forgiveness which I had received earlier. 

It was now late evening, the disciplinary council which had ended my membership in the Church had run long beyond the appointed hour.  I suppose there was much discussion and argument following my confession when I was excused from the meeting so the High Council could deliberate in private.   I had confessed to being sexually promiscuous, doing things that most men only dream about when their marriages lengthen and passion dims. 

I was locked in a long, but sometimes cold marriage, and I had forsaken my marriage vows to find warmth, excitement and passion in the arms of someone who was not my wife.  At the time, I didn't think about the hurt, the pain and anguish I would cause my children and my wife.  All I could do was think about my self.  My selfish needs and my desires for something that I felt I was missing in my life. 

When my wife confronted me with undeniable evidence, I said to myself,  it's time to face the music.  I knew I wanted to be done with these relationships, I knew it was time to stop, indeed I had stopped before but the ache of my unfulfilled passion had driven be back.  I confessed to my wife and told her the details.  She was crushed.  I had hurt the only woman who really mattered to me, and I could see in her eyes and the expression on her sad face the deep pain of betrayal.

In her anguish she had sought council from the Bishop, which started me on the road to Church Discipline.  As the Bishop requested, I met with him a few days later and confessed the details of my transgressions.  I was a little shocked when he pressed for more.  More details, more specifics, more occurrences, taking me back before my marriage, back to days before my mission, matters which I thought had been totally disposed of in the correct and proper way.  When I rallied my strength enough to ask him why, he said that all my prior sins are returned even if they have been disposed of properly. 

As I sat in the Bishops office with him grilling me about every event, every transgression of my entire life,  demanding intimate details, thoughts, feelings and motivations.  I could feel myself sinking into a morose despair.   I was being chastised, humiliated, and my self esteem was slowly and systematically being de-constructed.   The Bishop did his job well, when I left his office I felt unworthy to live.  I was convinced I would be better off, and the world would be a better place if I was dead.  In parting the Bishop gave me the predictable assignment to read the Miracle of Forgiveness, I didn't tell him I had read this book several times before.  I knew it would only make me feel worse about my whole situation.  I said to myself at the time, "I'm not reading that crap again!"

The Bishop said he would confer with the Stake President, and I would be informed of the next step.  He tried to fake a smile as he offered his hand.  I think I shook hands with him, but I was so numb I don't even remember.    About two weeks later I received a notice that a Disciplinary Council which was to be held to consider my transgressions and the appropriate punishment.  I was invited to attend.

At home, my wife said she wanted a divorce, she had lost trust in me, and didn't think she could trust again.  I moved into our guest room while I tried to make arrangements for a place to live.  Our marriage of 35 years was also crumbling before my eyes.  My family became estranged, two of my children said they wanted nothing more to do with me, while the other two were noticeably tentative in their interactions.  As I assembled some clothing and personal items, I was preparing myself to live the  the rest of my life alone.

Within a few weeks, the little remaining daylight of my life had turned to darkness.  Ultimately there was nothing but blackness for me night and day.  My life was over, my sins had been too much.  Too much for my family, too much for my wife, and too much for the Church.  I was thrown out, cast overboard in the middle of the storm.  I could feel myself sinking lower and lower every day.  There was nothing I could do, no medication, no therapy, nothing would heal my broken heart and broken soul. 

I couldn't help but think if it had gone differently, if the Bishop had showed compassion, if the Stake President had not been quick to cut me off, maybe, just maybe my marriage could have been saved.  I wanted to repent, I wanted to beg forgiveness of my dear wife, I was willing to work harder to prove my repentance to her and my family, but no.  None of those options were offered to me.  The Bishop encouraged my wife to divorce me.  The Stake President seemed all too eager to excommunicate me, and within a few weeks, the damage was done.

At Wal-Mart, I found a propane camp stove just  $19.87 on price roll back.  The sale included a bottle of propane.  Both the outside of the package and the instructions contained warning notices to be sure and ventilate this device adequately.  "Not this time", I thought to myself as I drove into the canyon.  

After driving around for a few hours, I settled on a nice secluded camp site, an old worn redwood camp table,  large fire pit and no view of the road.  I should be able to be here for several days before being discovered.  I tightly rolled up the windows of my little Volkswagen, lit the camp stove, and swallowed a handful of sleeping pills.  I never planned to wake up.  I closed my eyes with tears running down my cheeks as I considered my ruined life and having lost any chance of eternal forgiveness because the Church had decided to cut me off rather than help me repent.  "In love" I was thrown overboard and out of the membership. 

The sun was setting in the west and the woods slowly became dark and silent.  As I fell asleep, my life, like the woods, slowly became dark and silent.

Fortunately, the author of this essay stuck around to see other sunsets, though the pain is suffocating at times.


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who we are

Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.

There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.

You belong here.

If you have ever loved someone who endured a faith crisis, you know that there are a lot of gray areas. Uncertainty is the dominant force; black and white become moot points.

Those who have walked the same path share a common bond, understood by few who have not traveled the same road.

This is the place to share common experiences, to find a voice, to be heard. This is the place to seek after peace, and to find it in the common ties we share.

This is The Peacewriter.

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