(The following is an excerpt from Jack B. Worthy’s The Mormon Cult: A Former Missionary Reveals the Secrets of Mormon Mind Control. Near the end of his mission, former Elder Worthy fell into unworthiness. Here, he describes his miserable homecoming. We’d suggest that non-Mormons read the preceding post, Mormonism and Chastity, prior to reading this. We’ll publish follow-up posts in the coming days.)
Returning Without Honor
It’s not hard to guess what my twenty-four-hour trip home was like: lots of time to think, lots of time to shudder at the thought of facing my parents. Lots and lots of time, but still not enough. I didn’t want the trip to end. I wanted it to last forever. I didn’t want the plane to land. Ever.
When the trip finally did end, I sat on the plane and waited until everyone else had exited. I couldn’t keep the flight staff waiting, so I forced myself up and dragged myself off the plane. When I neared the end of the exit tunnel, just before rounding the final corner where I would be in view of the people waiting in the reception area, I stopped. I set my luggage down and leaned against the wall. I didn’t want to walk around that corner where I knew my parents were waiting—I didn’t feel I could take it. I wanted to lie down, close my eyes and vanish.
I knew I couldn’t stay inside an airplane exit tunnel forever, so I walked past the corner to face what lay ahead. I immediately saw my parents standing there all alone. Everyone else had left. This meeting was terribly hard on them as well, and my making them wait so long had made it even worse.
Dad forced a little smile. I know mom wanted to, but she couldn’t. It was obvious she’d been crying, and I’m sure she had shed many tears during the previous two days.
Unlike some other missionaries, I was blessed with wonderful, loving parents, both of whom welcomed me home with open arms, glad to see me return to them alive and healthy. We exchanged big hugs and then they took me home. They certainly still loved me, and they made sure I understood that. They never once said or did anything to make me doubt it. But my mother’s dreams had been shattered. I would later discover that she wrote in her journal that it was the saddest experience of her life. Nevertheless, her love and concern for me had not diminished in the slightest.
An example of how closely my mother stood by my side was the fact that she was angry about my being disqualified from returning to Brigham Young University, and therefore had to forfeit the academic scholarship that BYU had previously awarded me. That was because excommunicated former members and disfellowshipped members are not allowed to attend BYU. She was also frustrated and disappointed by my treatment as a disfellowshipped member of the Church. Many Mormon families would have stood by the Church in all its “righteous” judgment and ostracization of an “unworthy” son, but my parents stood by me as much as could be expected of active and devoted members. I will always be grateful to them for that.
The Unpleasantness of Church
The first thing a missionary does when he or she returns home is to give a homecoming talk. I didn’t. I wasn’t even allowed to pray in church, let alone give a talk.
My mother no doubt had been talking excitedly to people in the ward about my return. I’m sure the fact that I would soon be returning was announced to everyone at church. (I wonder how many noticed that I returned a week earlier than I was supposed to.) The ward members were no doubt all expecting to hear me speak on the first or second Sunday after my return. Instead, my return was merely announced by the bishop during sacrament meeting.
I stood up for everyone to see, then sat down without saying a word. Minutes later the sacrament was passed around for all worthy attendees. Because I was a disfellowshipped sinner I was unworthy to partake, and the fact that I merely passed the trays of bread and water on to the person sitting beside me was a physical manifestation of my unworthiness.
All of these obvious signs sent a clear message to everyone in the ward: the newly returned missionary had sinned. Every time I attended church, I was wearing the figurative scarlet letter I had stitched in Victoria Park with Mandy.
People at church were nice and I made some friends, but on the whole it was socially awkward and I hated going. I only went to make my parents happy. I knew I had hurt them enough. I didn’t want to do any more to them than I already had. So I went through the motions.
None of this did my self-esteem any good.
Prelude to Excommunication
Before long I met a girl and we started to date steadily. The relationship developed, and sex became a regular part of it. I was sinning while on probation.
My probation period involved regular interviews with the bishop and stake president. For a while I lied to them and said I was doing fine. Before long, though, I decided I had had enough. I no longer wanted to lie just so I could continue to participate in a charade that I wanted no part of. I wanted to end it all. So I confessed.
It is probably hard for nonmembers to understand, but at the time I had absolutely no harsh feelings against the Church. I had been programmed to blame myself for my unhappiness, and that’s what I did. I wasn’t angry at the Church or any of its members, but I hated my life, and wanted to stop play acting. Something had to change and confessing was the only way I knew to change things. Asking to have my name removed from Church records and my membership cancelled never crossed my mind. I was still following the programming from my life-long indoctrination and was ready and willing to accept whatever judgment the Church pronounced on me.
I had not yet concluded that the Church was false, but I was very unhappy in it and I wanted out, at least for a while. In the back of my mind I still felt that if any church were true, then it was certainly the Mormon Church. I believed it was the most rational and logical of all religions, offering better, more thorough answers to all the deep theological questions. It explained very clearly where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going after we die. At that time, though, I needed a break. I decided to step away from religion entirely, believing that if I ever went back to religion, it would definitely be to the Mormon Church.
* * *
I now look back at my belief about the Church and laugh at it for two reasons. First, I had not studied other religions, so my assumption that the Mormon Church possessed the best answers was based on what I had been told by the Mormon Church itself. Second, I hadn’t even studied Mormonism (which is typical of the vast majority of Mormons), so I believed it to be logical and rational—again, based on what it said about itself. So I allowed myself to remain in confusion for years regarding a belief system that is anything but logical and rational, a belief system that is in fact very easy to refute.
I foolishly postponed investigating the Church. For the time being I just wanted out, and as long as all my unconscious baggage remained, confessing seemed like the most natural thing to do. Unfortunately, I waited ten years to do my investigating; I say “unfortunately,” because recovering former believers of a particular belief system must come to terms with the question, “Is it true?” Until they do that, they will always carry around a ball and chain—of various weight and size depending on their experience with the organization in question, and the nature of that organization. When I finally did my studying and saw how easily the Mormon Church can be seen for what it is, I kicked myself for not doing it years earlier. The truth really does set one free.
(to be continued)