To the Mormons I Love
It’s never easy to tell people something you think they may not like. In fact as I sit here writing this post there is a part of me that is not sure I will ever be brave enough to actually hit publish. But there is also a part of me that has felt stuck and trapped for a long time, and a part of me that feels that it is time to stop being so afraid.
Two and a half years ago I stopped believing in the LDS church. It happened at a time in my life when I was searching for something, but I wasn’t sure what. I had come to realize that I was living my life in fear, and I wasn’t sure if I was following God because I loved Him or if I was following Him because I was terrified that I would be punished if I didn’t. I deeply believed that motivation mattered and so I began to try to unravel my fears and to find the place inside myself that my patriarchal blessing told me was full of love.
At around the same time I came across the “essays” put out by the LDS church. They had caused quite the stir in my Facebook circle and I hadn’t really thought much about them until one night when I just decided to read them on a whim. That whim changed my life. I remember reading the essay about Polygamy in Nauvoo and by the time I was done I knew something was wrong. And over the course of the next few months I fell down what many post mormons call “the rabbit hole of church history”. It is a big hole. And months later I knew there was no bottom. It was the most difficult time of my entire life. It felt like I had lost everything.
I remember standing in my bedroom looking out the window crying, knowing that everyone around me who believed in the Mormon church would be disappointed in me. I had been taught my whole life that apostates were bad people. That Satan had his fingers grasped around their necks. I knew that people would think I had not tried hard enough to gain a testimony of my own. They would think my faith was weak, that I hadn’t prayed hard enough or spent enough time reading my scriptures. They might think I had been offended and I didn’t have a very forgiving heart, or that I had committed some terrible sin. By leaving the church I was basically branding myself with a scarlet letter. I had spent most of my life trying to be “good enough” and now I realized that in order to follow the path that was being placed in front of me, I would have to be brave enough to let everyone around me think that I was bad. For two and a half years I have struggled with this thought.
I have started to write this post numerous times. A paragraph here and a paragraph there, but I have always been unable to finish. I never could figure out exactly what I wanted to say, or exactly how to say it. I guess I mostly want the Mormons in my life to know that I love them:
To the Mormons I Love,
I was standing by you as you started to talk. I listened to you speak about all the things Mormons like to talk about. Primary callings, Relief Society, Home Teachers and my heart began to ache. Because I miss you.
I got an invitation to a relief society hotdog roast. I hung it on my fridge. I looked at it for days. I thought about going. I remembered a time when I would have gone. When I would have gone and laughed and been surrounded by friends and the best part is, I wouldn’t have had to make dinner. I stared at the invite unsure, but as the clock ticked on I knew I wasn’t really going to go. I wanted too. But things were too different. My heart ached and I went to bed sad because I had missed it. Because I missed you.
I wake up and it is Sunday. I used to cry every Sunday because I was sad and mad and hurt by the church. But now I put on my yoga clothes and I go to a different version of church. I close my eyes and I take a deep breath. I breath in and out, and then in and out again. I put all my worries on hold for just a little bit. I find calm. I find peace. I drive home just as you are about to leave. You are dressed in a suit and tie. As if where you are going is important. It is. You are going together. To be together. I miss you. All of you. I watch as one by one you pull out of your driveways and I am left standing alone. I wonder what I’m doing. If losing all of this is worth it. I don’t mean too. But sometimes I still cry.
I wish sometimes I could tell you why I left. That you would want to know. That I could sit with you and tell you everything from the very beginning. That I could tell you about all 32 of Joseph’s Smiths wives and how learning about their lives changed everything about mine. How their stories broke my heart and how their stories also in a strange way healed me. I wish sometimes I could scream all the things I want to say. It is hard to keep it in. But I know you wouldn’t hear me if I screamed. And so I breath in and I breath out. And hope that one day I can find the words.
My daughter doesn’t know the words to I am a child of God. It used to be one of my favorite songs. My heart aches as I realize I’m the one that didn’t teach her. I hope someday she will understand why she doesn’t quite fit in. That she will believe in a God that is big enough to love everyone. That she will know love is what really matters, that fear is not a good motivator, and religion isn’t always what it seems. I hope she will understand why I had to choose. The choice wasn’t easy, but it is what I felt was right. Sometimes the path you feel is right can be the hardest and loneliest one to follow…at least for a time…
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, to walk away from the church. To loose my tribe, and have everything in my life break into pieces. It is true that I miss being a part of my Mormon “family”, and sometimes those feelings make me incredibly sad. But the church itself taught me to stand up for what I believe is right and the church taught me to seek for truth; in essence teaching me all the values that I would need to stand up and not regret one moment of walking away. It may seem strange for me to say, but I am happy, happier than I have ever been. Happy because I am now on a spiritual path that feels good to me. Happy because I can finally trust my heart to lead me. Happy to know that I don’t have to seek for answers or even acceptance and love from anyone outside of myself. Happy because for the first time in my life I feel that I really am enough, and I am learning that it doesn’t matter how many people think that I’m not. But happiness doesn’t come without embracing your sadness, and I am learning to hold tightly to both.
Besides letting the Mormons in my life know that I love them. I also want those who are struggling with their faith to know that I exist. That people like me are daily walking around you. Thousands of us. You are not alone. And you are going to be okay. In fact you are going to be great. I love you all.