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Trigger reasons for apostasy from ‘Zelph on the Shelf’…“When they wouldn’t let me choose NOT to get baptized when I turned 8.”

“I remember being in primary and something about the parables like hummingbird suicide and the primary songs felt wrong. I stopped singing them so I could listen to the words and got in trouble. I felt like primary was less about the gospel than about doing what I was told, that truth wasn’t to be understood but to be obeyed.

“Getting closer to 8 years old, I was taught that baptism would wash my sins away. But I didn’t feel like a sinner…I felt like a good person. When I told my teacher I didn’t have any sins, she said I had the sin of pride, and that lying to myself was a sin too.

“The concept of atonement didn’t make sense to me either. I couldn’t understand how a loving father in heaven would have to torture and kill his own son before he could forgive someone else.

“But the kicker was when I prayed and received no confirmation that it was true. Even worse, I actually felt sick inside when I thought about church and baptism. I was so conflicted. I didn’t want to make a lifelong commitment to something I didn’t know was ‘true,’ but I didn’t know how to tell my parents I didn’t want to be baptized.

“When I finally found the courage to speak up, they made me talk to the bishop and gave me two more weeks to think it over and pray about it. But it still felt wrong. My father then promised that my testimony would come after the act of faith, and that I couldn’t wait any longer. He was going to baptize me and he set the date.

“I remember changing slowly into my white jumpsuit before the baptism, delaying the inevitable. I remember slow steps into the water, wetness creeping up my clothes, the staring eyes of the crowd, my father’s firm grip.

“Then a gulp of air, my father pushing me down, slipping feet, heavy clothes, then back on my feet, gasping breath, eyes stinging from chlorine and tears.

“I couldn’t stop crying in the changing room, silently, while my father changed in the next booth. I felt forced, violated, trapped in a covenant I didn’t want to make and unable to speak.

“They had to send someone back in to get me for the confirmation. I walked out still crying while the crowd sighed at how spiritual I must feel. As my father laid heavy hands on my head to confirm me a member of the LDS church, I watched the door to my choices close.

“I hadn’t found the strength to refuse, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave for a long time. And the seeds of self-doubt had been firmly planted…what if I was wrong…what could an 8-year-old know?

“I knew enough.”