Archive for the ‘“Enigma”’ Category

by “Enigma”
This article was originally posted on the (aka “RfM) discussion board back in 2005 and quickly went viral. It’s the autobiographical account of a Born-in-the-Covenant Mormon who is forced to remain an active Mormon to maintain his marriage. This is an unfortunately common phenomenom – so common in fact, that the term that’s developed over time for Mormons in this situation is “Shadown Mormons”.   It is our hope that this article will impact and enlighten you in the same way that it has thousands of others to the pain and quiet despair that Shadow Mormons must endure. 


I was born into the church by parents whose lineage goes back to the founding of the LDS church. While they had their faults and mistakes, I was raised in a loving home with a very dedicated mother and father. They were wonderful examples to me of faith and endurance in trying circumstances and they tried every day to center their family’s life on the principles of the LDS Gospel.

I was born with a membrane disease in my lungs that nearly took my life at birth. My parents, extended family and several members of their local LDS congregation fasted and prayed many times on my behalf. My parents had already endured the devastation of losing their first-born son two days after his birth and they begged God not to take me. By virtue of the fact that I am writing this, I am there miracle baby. I was spared.

I went through all of the LDS Church rites of passage: Baptism at 8, priesthood at 12, president of my priesthood quorums, Seminary graduate/scripture mastery, mission at 19, and marriage at 23 and two beautiful daughters by the age of 28. By all accounts I was on the highway to heaven. I was the good son with the ideal family, budding successful career, faithful service in church callings, and extensive understanding of the LDS gospel.

In January of 1995 I prepare to go through the temple for the first time in preparation for my mission. I have been taught through the years that I would learn all that was necessary to gain my salvation by going through the temple. I believe it to be the pinnacle of true worship. I have expectations of learning great things through the covenants and true order of prayer as these parts of the temple have been quietly intimated to me through the years by my parents and teachers.

My parents, grandparents, various uncles and aunts and I meet at the Idaho Falls Idaho temple on a bright clear Saturday morning. I am a little nervous about the unknown but tremendously excited that I have reached this point in my life. I have one older sister who had made some serious mistakes and fallen away from the faith during her teen years. I am the first of my parents children to “make it” to the temple and it is the healing balm for their souls to see their oldest son “staying the course”.

“Let me take you now through my first experience in the temple”

I get my temple clothing packet from the rental counter. The first two whispering questions surface to my conscious mind…

“What is this clothing for?”

“Why are there moneychangers in the temple?”

“No matter” I rationalize, I am here to receive enlightenment and make covenants in the House of the Lord. I go with my father to a small room that serves as some kind of office. There, the temple president explains to me the sacred nature of the Garment and the need to wear it from this point on as a shield and a protection. I go through the Washing and Anointing and New Name ceremony without much concern. I accept these ordinances based on references in the bible regarding the washing and anointing of priests and the periodic assignment of new names to various biblical patriarchs in the Old Testament.

I proceeded to the waiting chapel to sit and meditate until the time of the next session. The time has arrived and the company of people assembled in the chapel is ushered into the creation room (the Idaho Falls Temple still has separate creation, garden, telestial and terrestrial rooms with the video and audio segments appropriate for those parts of the ceremony queued up in succession). I sit and wait.

washington-mormon-temple18The company is seated.

The lights grow dim.

I sit silently in the darkness…

This is the beginning of the end.

“You will be required to take upon yourselves sacred obligations, the violation of which will bring upon you the judgment of God. For God will not be mocked.”

I feel fear in the darkness.

“If any of you wish to withdraw rather than receive these covenants of your own free will and choice, you may now make it know by raising your hand.”

I look around in the darkness.

I see my family silhouetted in the darkness.

I feel fear in the darkness.

I remain seated in the darkness.

I witness the creation and go into the garden room. The fruit is eaten. The fall has commenced.

“Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick! Hide!”

“Brothers and Sisters put on your aprons.”

I obey Satan.

I make my first covenant to obey God’s law and keep his commandments. I see the sisters bow their heads in submission to their husband’s. I am now ready to receive the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name and sign.

What is a token?

What will I do with it?

I receive the first token: A secret handshake.

A secret handshake?

I make the sign. I make the covenant. “I, Jesse, solemnly covenant before God, Angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that I will never reveal the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name and sign”

A secret combination?

All my life I have been taught from the Book of Mormon that secret signs, oaths and societies are from the devil. They are responsible for the destruction of civilizations and untold misery.

I have joined a secret society?

I am now a part of a secret combination?

I feel fear.

Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. I go into the telestial room.

This is the entire Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony (with movie) that is in every temple in the world except the Manti, Utah and Salt Lake City, Utah temples. (Those two temples have temple workers act out the endowment ceremony instead of showing a movie in those two temples.)

Michael Ballam playing Satan in the 1990 Temple Endowment Movie

Satan is looking at me.

“I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant that they make at these altars in this temple today, the will be in my power”

I feel terror.

Satan is cast out. I receive more tokens and signs. I put on strange clothing.

I look at my father.

His face a mask of concentration, staring resolutely ahead.

I look at my mother.

Her face devoid of emotion, following by rote.

I look around at all the other patrons following en masse. All dressed in strange ceremonial clothing. All bow their heads and say yes.

I am in a cult.

My mind whispers quietly: “Please God no!”

“Each of you bow your head and say yes.”

The company chants in unison: “YES”

I am trapped.

My mind screams: “PLEASE DEAR GOD NO!”


I bow my head.

I say “Yes.”

“Raise both hands high above the head and while lowering the hands, repeating three times the words: O God, hear the words of my mouth”

Everyone raises their hands.

I raise my hands.

Everyone repeats the chant.

I repeat the chant.

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect.

I am no longer an individual.

The True order of prayer is introduced. I feel relief. Finally a prayer to sooth my tortured mind. We gather in a circle around the altar. This sisters veil their faces. We do not pray. We make the signs of all the tokens of the priesthood. We each take the hand of the sister to our left in the patriarchal grip, raise our left arms to the square, and rest them on the shoulder of the person to our left.

LDS_TempleThe officiator kneels.

He begins to pray.

“Those in the circle will repeat the words of the prayer”

We repeat the words of the officiator.

Our words are a monotone chant.

I am in a séance.

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect.

I am no longer an individual.

I feel my mind growing numb.

I obey.

I accept.

I pass through the veil after receiving the name of the second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood and go into the celestial room. Family congratulating me in hushed and reverent tones surrounds me. I sit for a moment to ponder.

I am in a cult.

Dear God what have I done?

I am in shock.

I have learned nothing.

I visit the temple repeatedly to gain more insight. None comes. I just accept it all as I have been taught to do and eventually the questions and doubts are silenced as the euphoria of accomplishment enshrouds me.

I made it.

I am one of the elite.

This is the beginning of the end.

After my first time through the temple, I learn from my mother that the ordinances have been changed recently. I simply nod in acknowledgement of here statement, still too shocked to really respond to this revelation. Looking back, it was the perfect time to broach the subject, as I would not give it another thought for 10 years.

While on my mission I become aware of the existence of the Masonic order. I learn that Joseph Smith was a Mason. I learn of the similarities between the Masonic and Temple ceremonies. I learned that the temple endowment ceremony was introduced within two months of Joseph Smith’s induction into the Masonic Order. I learned that Joseph restored the endowment to its full purity from its ancient and corrupted Masonic origins. I am too indoctrinated as a missionary to even entertain a concern about the whole situation. I accept it all.

question-markIn my second year of college in 1999 a fellow student, upon learning that I was a Mormon confides in me that he used to be a Mormon but that he left because of the Book of Abraham. As I listen, he explains to me that is was nothing more than a common Egyptian funerary text and that Joseph Smith’s translation was completely false. He tells me how everybody told him to “read this or read that” writing written by various apologists to explain away the problem but none of it made any sense. He summarizes by saying that maybe he doesn’t have enough faith. He cannot reconcile the glaring inconsistency. My faith was unwavering. I feel pity for him.

By the end of 2004 I am a traditional believing married Mormon Father of two with a home in the northern Utah suburbs and a college degree completed. I am in the elder’s quorum presidency, working in my field of interest and life is good. Over the last few years, I have encountered and “resolved” to my satisfaction a multitude of evidences and questions that would shed doubt upon the divinity and authenticity of the church. I am a stalwart member. In October of 2004 I get a job offer within my company for a position at the corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. My wife and I prayerfully consider and accept the offer. This is the first big move for us. My wife’s father works at the Bountiful Utah temple and he and his wife are preparing to serve a mission. We sell our home during the Christmas season and move to a small suburb north of Atlanta in January 2005. We are now on our own.

Shortly after our move to Georgia, my wife relates to me a phone conversation she had with her parents (they call usually once a week) in which her father mentioned in passing that the Initiatory ordinance had been changed. The comment passes and the conversation continues. All is well.

All is not well.

Deep inside my mind, a thought emerges.

It keeps gnawing at me.

I can’t seem to shake it.

I’ll get over it.

I take the time one day to peruse the junk mail and run across an Oprah mail order book club list. I am browsing through the titles when I come across the title: “Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck. I am intrigued and I read the brief description. I am always interested in why people leave the church if only to reinforce the various arguments I have constructed to bolster my faith. I do a search online at work and find that this is the daughter of Hugh Nibley, the most renowned church apologist. I read a few excerpts online”

There is a crack in the foundation of my fortress of faith.

The Book of Abraham is back.

For reasons I know not, I cannot ignore it this time.

I begin to read. I read stories online about why people leave the LDS church. I read for two months. I collect their stories. I laugh with them, cry with them, I sympathize with them.

I am now in violation of question number six in the temple recommend interview: “Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?”

I bow my head and say yes.

I begin to think.

I begin to question.

I begin to doubt.

I begin to learn.

I begin to awaken.

I spend every available break time at work reading on the Internet. I revisit all of my concerns with an objective point of view. The evidence is devastating. It has been here all along and I have refused to see it in the light of rational thought. I have forcefully refused to use the brain that God gave me for over 10 years. I drink from the fountains of knowledge like a man dying of thirst. I have never felt so liberated. I ask God if what I am doing is right. I feel an incredible sense of peace and love envelope me and I know in my heart and mind that what I am doing is right.

I am an individual!

I am alive!

I am free!

“Alone in a Crowd” by Dennis Wells

I am married to a devout Mormon woman and I have two daughters. I am in the elder’s quorum presidency. I am in a large Mormon family that, with only 2 exceptions, is all devout believers. I start to think again. We are on our own now. Family is thousands of miles away. I begin to hope. If I make the information passively available, my wife will listen to the voice of reason. I share my concern of the changing temple ordinances with her. She is shocked but tries to understand and agrees that I need to prayerfully study my concerns to get the answers that I am seeking. I bring “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” by Charles Larson home to casually read.

I am reading more and more each day. Finding a special thrill in entertaining serious questions and using my reason and intellect along with inspiration to find the truth. I am learning to love absolute truth without loyalty to any organization. It has truly set me free. I can question anything! I can reach my own carefully thought out conclusions! No information is off limits! I can truly exercise my mind! It is incredibly intoxicating.

I know the truth now.

The Mormon Church is a man-made institution.

It has no claim to exclusive authority.

I know.

I am so happy.

By this time I have stopped paying tithing. I am getting a better handle on the family finances as a result. I am cultivating a more tolerant and loving worldview. I am less judgmental. I no longer view life through the confining prism of Mormonism.

The freedom is intoxicating.

I don’t tell my wife.

This is my fatal mistake.

Thursday, July 28th, 2005: we come to an emotional confrontation that lasts until four o’clock in the morning. Because I now hold the church in suspect, my wife tells me that our marriage is based on a lie. She tells me that she wishes that our children had never been born. She tells me that she does not want her daughters raised in a home with an unbeliever.

I read the writing on the wall.

Friday, July 29th, 2005: I come home from work and my wife tells me she has come to some conclusions. We sit and talk. She has read “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus”. She tells me that the truth is anti-Mormon. She has thrown away the book. She tells me that Satan is tempting me with the facts. She tells me her testimony is unshakable. She tells me that in order for her to support me in my journey, I must do things her way. I must study only the scriptures and approved church scripture study guides alone and with her. She tells me I must put aside the facts and the truth for now. If at the end I still feel that the church is not true, she does not know what she will do. She may go into therapy. She may leave me. She may take my children away. She has called her parents and my parents while I am at work. They have all agreed to open their homes to her immediately if necessary. She tells me that my parents are prepared to come to my home this weekend and if necessary, she will go back with them. She has set an appointment with the bishop for Sunday morning.

I am trapped.

Saturday, July 30, 2005 its midnight: I cannot sleep. I go to the downstairs living room. I lay on the couch. I talk with God. I know the truth now. I love my family more than life itself. I would rather die than lose my children.

Truth is irrelevant.

Truth must be ignored once again.

Facts must be buried once again.

Freedom must be surrendered once again.

dying-church-1I put on the blindfold.

I put on the shackles.

I am a voluntary prisoner in my own mind.

I commit intellectual suicide tonight.

I commit spiritual suicide tonight.

I do this willingly, fully aware of the consequences, for the rest of my life.

Freedom and reason are buried under the crushing weight of the foundation of my prison.

I cry tonight.

My soul dies tonight.

I go to the bishop Sunday morning. I say what is necessary. I will conform. I talk to my parents that night. I will conform. Because I love my family more than life itself I will conform. This is the legacy of Mormonism: conformity. I voluntarily submit myself to the horrifically comforting mental conditioning once again. I close forever the covers of enlightening literature. I will read and understand only what is approved.

It is so easy.

It is so simple.


I understand.

I bow my head and say yes.


Buried in the recesses of my conscience, there will always be a bright spark of pure truth.


I know.

To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.

I will always hold out hope that one day, perhaps within my lifetime though not likely, that pure truth will prevail. I hope someday that the desire to understand the truth at all costs will override the desire to maintain tradition and conformity. Until that day I will try to find some grain of happiness somewhere, anywhere, in the spiritual abyss that I have willingly entered into.

I bid farewell to progress.

I bid farewell to truth.

I bid farewell to reason.

I bid farewell to freedom.

photo credit: Talena Sanders those of you on the outside, I thank you. I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your wisdom and insight. I thank you for your compassion and understanding. I thank you for your stories. I thank you for showing me the truth and allowing me to bask in its warmth, even if for a small moment. I love you all. I hope that truth will ultimately prevail. I hope that you and I will live to see it.

Until that time, I go, quietly, shackled and blinded once more into the prison that awaits me. I bid you all farewell.

Remember me.

Remember us.

I feel myself submerge once again into the group.

I feel the darkness close around my mind.


It feels so comfortable.

So familiar.

It doesn’t hurt very much anymore.

I feel my identity slipping quietly away.

I am no longer and individual.

I bow my head and say yes.

A few years after this article was published, an award winning documentary on the plight of Shadow Mormons entitled, “Under the Shadow of the Temple” was released.  This documentary acts as an excellent companion piece to this article.  We give it our highest recommendation. 


Click on image to see trailer

(NOTE: you can read Enigma’s original RfM post here: )