My name is Tom Hopkins. I’m a father, humanitarian, composer, music producer, and guitarist. This is the story of my own journey growing up as a Mormon and finally breaking free.
I was a sincere, knowledgeable, believing, and faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for most of my life. I grew up in a loving, active Mormon family environment. My parents were strict, but good people. I don’t remember seeing my parents fight, or raise their voices at each other in my presence. My father and brothers were scholars in the church. Our home was a well-stocked library of Church books, and my father’s goal was to read every book ever published by the Church and its leaders. I love that he tried to answer our questions and concerns about our Mormon faith, and could show us the source material for the information. He was a long time Gospel Doctrine teacher, Choir Director, and a counselor in the bishopric. He was also one of my best friends.
Even as a teenager I read the scriptures constantly. Before going on my mission, I studied the Book of Mormon from cover to cover at least 6 times. I also studied it throughout my life after that. As a sixteen-year-old priest, I was the assistant to the Bishop, and I proselytized, influenced, and baptized several people. I was a hard working full time missionary in Thailand and I meticulously obeyed all the mission rules. I loved my mission. Before I arrived in Thailand, I was told that the average baptism rate was one convert baptism per missionary, per mission. My average was at least one convert baptism per month. My missionary friends told me that the mission president never missed an opportunity to ‘motivate’ the other missionaries, by telling them stories about me. You can imagine how that affected my social life with some of the other missionaries.
After my mission, I proselytized and baptized the girl I married in the temple in 1985, and we have 4 children. I was a Gospel Doctrine Teacher, a Scout Master, a High Priest and 2nd counselor in the Bishopric, a counselor in the Sunday School Presidency, and Stake Mission Presidency, and many other callings… and of coarse, I was a faithful home teacher and tithe and offering payer.
Despite all this, certain doctrines or aspects of my Mormon faith never felt right to me. But just like every other faithful member of the Church that I knew, I accepted some things on faith, expecting that some day, perhaps after I die, it would all make sense. Though I studied literature that answered many ‘anti Mormon’ arguments, particularly those from other Christian faiths, I didn’t give my own concerns, questions, or negative feelings much energy or credibility. Why?
Throughout my life, I was taught, and I taught others how to ‘gain a testimony’. According to the Book of Mormon, gaining a testimony requires a “desire to believe”, and letting that desire grow in you like a seed. Skepticism and a thoroughly open and honest investigation into the extraordinary claims of the Church are not part of the process.
“When considering the truth of a proposition, one is either engaged in an honest appraisal of the evidence and logical arguments, or one isn’t. Religion is one area of our lives where people imagine that some other standard of intellectual integrity applies.” (Sam Harris)
I was taught and indoctrinated to believe that the Mormon Church represented everything in life that was good and true, and the only way to eternal happiness, and anything that was contrary to the teachings of the Church was false, evil, ‘of the devil’, and leads to unhappiness. So, this means in effect, if I want to be a good person, and live a happy life, and I do, then according to what I was taught, I have to believe in the Mormon Church, and bring myself in alignment with it. And if I don’t, then I am either evil, or ignorant.