the thinker

Bruce Holt

How To Be Excommunicated In One Single Facebook Post

bruce holt

My name is Bruce Aaron Holt. I add the middle name to prevent confusion as there are others I know of with my given name and surname. Surprising, right?

My early history is unimportant. Suffice it to say I was raised in the Church. My family history on both sides goes back to the roots of the Church and I am 6th Generation Mormon. I was excommunicated in January 1989 for adultery after my marriage fell apart and I took up living "in sin" with a woman. I was re-baptized in 1991 and married my second wife (not the same woman I lived with) the following month. This coming September (2016) we will celebrate our Silver Anniversary. I'll just say here that after my second baptism it took a decade before my Priesthood Blessings were restored by Neil Anderson, while he was an Area President, and he mentioned my situation, if not me specifically it certainly could have been a generic story applicable to many, in the October 2009 General Conference Saturday afternoon session in his talk "Repent … That I May Heal You".

From the time of my re-baptism to the time I had my blessings restored and up until 2013 I was actively engaged in "the work". I held several responsible callings, including the Executive Secretary to the Bishopric, Councilor in the Elder's Quorum Presidency and the last calling I held was the First Assistant to the High Priest Group Leader. My favorite calling, though, was the Gospel Doctrine Instructor.

During this time I was employed as a Developer in the Information Services department of a well known luxury retailer. During my 7 year employment there I went from a developer position to a support position on a team that supported several systems that tied into or somehow "touched" the main database that was the core of the Order Entry, Inventory and Fulfillment systems. I worked in an On Call rotation as Primary one week, Secondary the next and not On Call the third. Later, when the Database Administrator (aka "DBA") left for another company, I was moved into that spot. I was then On Call 24x7x365. I loved the work! It did, however, require some odd hours. I would usually get calls shortly after midnight if the database threw an alert after the midnight system restart. Projects managed by other teams usually were implemented in a maintenance "window" right after the midnight hour. Program changes were promoted into Production right after the midnight hour. Bigger projects usually were implemented at midnight Saturday night into Sunday morning. Monitoring the database after these projects meant I stuck around my computer well into Sunday.

I still managed to fulfill my assignments and the HP GL didn't want to release and replace me with someone else. I attended, but not as frequently as I wanted. So, in 2013 the Sunday School adult course of study was the D&C and Church History. In order to keep up with and go even deeper as well as to maintain my spirituality in a time when attendance was spotty, I undertook a reading project that was a bit ambitious. I had a Kindle Fire at the time (still do!) and along with the Gospel Library I downloaded the 7 volume History of the Church, the 6 volume Comprehensive History of the Church and the 26 volume Journal of Discourses. I also had some single volumes in my LDS book library at home that I also read, like the History of Joseph Smith by his Mother and some journals and diaries of Pioneer ancestors. So, I read all that plus the entire Standard Works. The project began in January of 2013 and finished in March of 2014.

In the meantime, my wife and I had moved from Texas to Colorado due to the ill health of my in-laws. We bought our current home in August of 2014.

And my mind was whirling!

It took some time for the whirlwind to produce some correlations and to begin to "settle". I re-read things that related to these new correlations I was now seeing and finding they were true! What I thought I had read I had read indeed! It was mind boggling! My unbelief now started bubbling up and I tried a few times to talk about them with my wife, but she really didn't want to hear them or discuss them. She felt uncomfortable with them. So I mostly kept them to myself and continued to study.

Early July 2015, nearing mid July, I discussed my unbelief with my wife, letting her know I just couldn't believe any longer. I next spoke with my Bishop. About a week later, my Bishop called and asked if the Stake President could come visit. He would bring our local Area Seventy who was scheduled to speak at a Stake Youth Fireside. I agreed and the appointment was set for the next Sunday, July 19, 2015.

That Sunday during their visit I did most of the talking. Elder Brent J. Hillier left it to our Stake President to do the heavy lifting on their side. I mentioned some of the things that troubled me. They bore testimony, never offering any rebuttal in fact.

Early in October I received a letter from Elder Hillier dated October 1. Again, there were no facts or evidence offered. Only testimony. His letter was just over a page in length. I responded with a letter over 9 pages in length and asked for answers.

Silence. My Bishop seemed fearful of visiting, even though he had assigned himself to be our Home Teacher. I heard absolutely nothing from my Stake President. There was no further reply from Elder Hillier.

In the meantime, my in-laws and my immediate family learned of my unbelief, either directly through me or from my wife. Questions started coming my way from family members wanting to know what I had learned that destroyed my belief in the Church. It seems families have rumor mills and mine was no different!

On January 31, 2016 I undertook to head off rumors and give my family and now several friends the news straight from the horse's mouth. I made one post on Facebook (see below for link and content).

March 4, 2016 I received a text from my Bishop requesting a time to meet to discuss "Church related matters." We scheduled the appointment for March 9. During the discussion the above listed post was referenced and he asked if I would mind taking it down or removing my statement about Joseph being a fraud. He looked and acted very uncomfortable. He's a friend and he certainly knew my state of unbelief. I politely declined to remove or alter the post. I asked him if he had read the Essays. He said no. I told him he would be derelict in his duty if he didn't because, in his responsibilities for the youth in the Ward, he wouldn't be familiar with the issues presented. He wouldn't be able to address concerns the youth might have.

March 14, 2016 my Bishop texted me to say he's reading the Essays!

March 23, 2016 I met with my Stake President in his home, in the basement (nicely finished, too!). He told me he and Elder Hillier had conversed and the two were in agreement. My post was apostate behavior. He asked if I would take it down. I declined.

March 30, 2016 I attend my Disciplinary Council at the Stake Center, across the street from the new Fort Collins Temple and am excommunicated.

Here is the audio from Bruce's disciplinary council (mp3 format).

The Facebook Post that did it.

Link to post.

I may need to explain an acronym to some of my friends. Those who understand may ignore this opening paragraph. "TL;DR" usually, depending on the usage, means a post is "Too long; Don't read" followed by a short summary or, if used by someone commenting on a long post, it could mean "Too long; Didn't read". Now you know.

TL;DR - I have had a change of religious beliefs. Most of my immediate and many extended family members already know. Most FB friends don't. For me, this is a personal matter but because of repeated questions and other reasons I am willing to share here. For those who couldn't care less, those who don't like reading such things or those for whom this just doesn't matter, feel free to skip reading. It's an important matter ultimately only to me!

Several months ago I experienced a mental whirlwind. Prior to this whirlwind I was a faithful and believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the "Mormon" church. I come from Pioneer stock. I am 6th generation with ancestors going back to the founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. and with some he included in his inner circle. I say this to show that Mormonism runs through my veins.

To those of you, my friends, who never knew I was "Mormon" and to many of my High School classmates and co-workers in my several places of employment that I've connected with on FB who didn't particularly know I was "Mormon", you may move along. There is nothing to see here. It isn't shattering to you.

To those friends who knew I was "Mormon" and those who became friends in real life within the "Mormon" church this may be shocking. I do not intend to shock, disappoint or offend you but my intentions may fail and you may choose to be shocked, disappointed and/or offended. That is, indeed, your own choice.

So, how did this happen? What went wrong? Was I offended by someone in the church? Did I suddenly develop a desire to "sin"? How in the world could this happen?

My answer is that I was not offended, don't intend to "sin" and really, nothing "went wrong". How it happened was through critical thinking or reading and studying with "eyes open". I'll tell more about that shortly.

I am the same now as I was before. My morals and standards have not changed. I am not experiencing a "crisis of faith". That ship sailed, as you will see below.

What I am is who I have always been, which is at least and hopefully, the best I can be after 61 years of experience.

Now moving on from the who to the how, let me explain. The Church's adult Sunday School course of study for 2013 was the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. That course will be repeated next year (2017). I have long had a goal to get more in depth on Church History. So, to keep things as concise as possible, I embarked on an ambitious course of study, taking me from January 2013 to March 2014. I will mention what I read during that project not to boast or brag or to claim I'm somehow a better person than those who haven't read as much. I will mention the material only to show I've done some homework on Church History and am not a novice. It's just possible I may have an actual understanding about Church History! Maybe...

So what did I read? The History of the Church (7 volumes), The Comprehensive History of the Church (6 volumes), The Journal of Discourses (26 volumes), The History of Joseph Smith by his Mother (one volume), The Book of Mormon (one volume), The Doctrine and Covenants (one volume), The Pearl of Great Price (one volume) and several journals/diaries of pioneer ancestors.

I read fast, but it still took a lot of time. 14 months. Sometimes I had to re-read passages just to be sure I understood what I just read. I followed up on certain footnotes, as well. Then, after reading, the information had to "render" or "simmer" in my mind for months.

This means that those who think I have read a few minor "troubling" church history factoids need to re-think. These were facts, not factoids; many, not few; damaging, not troubling. In and of themselves, maybe I could have maintained my faith but taken together and, more than just that, "CORRELATED" my eyes were opened, so to speak. I could not then nor can I now, unlearn what I've learned; un-see what I've seen; not understand what I now understand.

Allow me to present some ideas at this point. They will tie in when I "boil it down" after.

Meaningful quotes:

"The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counter intuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true."

- Carl Sagan, "Wonder and Skepticism", Skeptical Enquirer Volume 19, Issue 1, (January-February 1995)

"When we consider staying in a group because we cannot bear the loss, disappointment and sorrow our leaving will cause for ourselves and those we have come to love, we are in a cult."

- Debbie Layton - "Seductive Poison", regarding her membership in Jimmy Jones' People's Temple

"We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith."

"When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, 'Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.'"

"That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens."

- Gordon B. Hinckley - October 2002 "The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith"

"Well, it's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that's exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That's our claim. That's where we stand, and that's where we fall, if we fall. But we don't. We just stand secure in that faith."

- Gordon B. Hinckley - Interview "The Mormons" - PBS Documentary, April 2007

"Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures."

- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188

"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed."

- J. Reuben Clark, as recorded by D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.

There are many more such quotes but I'll stop here.

I'll now boil it down for all those who question what it was that cost me my faith. Simply that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. Whether he was what some call a "pious fraud" or a well meaning fraud or just someone who fully believed in what he preached he was a fraud nonetheless. PROVABLY SO.

Do I have proof? Yes, I do. Am I going to share it? I made promises to my church authorities that I would not teach these things to faithful members. (emphasis added) Besides, I'm not the kind of person who is going to go out and destroy an organization because I don't believe in it. I take the attitude directed in the church's eleventh Article of Faith:

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

I may add that I claim the privilege of not worshiping. At least for now, for reasons of my own.

Yes, I have spoken with my wife about my unbelief and she remains faithful in the church. To her credit, she still loves and supports me. I think it helps that we became friends first. We remain best of friends!

Yes, I have spoken with my Bishop.

I have spoken with my Stake President.

I have spoken with our local Area Seventy.

I remain a member on the records of the church, having not resigned nor have I been excommunicated over this.

My hope is that this will suffice as an answer to those questions that are repeatedly asked of me. If you're dead set on learning what I know, do your own homework! This is something that shouldn't come easily because it turns out to be a drastic event in one's own life. It certainly has been in mine!

Even after all I've said in this post, there will be many who will unfollow/unfriend me and that's okay. True friends will stand because that's what makes them true. Those less than true are free to do as they please.

For those who have hung in and read this entire post, thank you! Know you are loved and appreciated as a true friend.

Now, let the fallout begin...

Oh, and be aware that your religious posts are welcomed but there may be times I'll add my own comment such as, "Really? REALLY? Have you thought realistically and critically about that?"

But more than likely I'll just hold my tongue. That seems more my style. Live and let live.