related post: how to create a spiritual practice
“Are you getting better?”
If I could count the number of times I was asked that question or how often it was implied with “how are you doing?”
But the thing is, I wasn’t sick.
I just stopped going to church.
And I haven’t talked about it much–losing your religion is a deeply personal and lonely transformation. And it’s not a change that is looked at as growth or welcomed with love, but it’s looked at as a failure of faith.
I became the one who sinned, the one who lost her way, the one with who didn’t have enough faith, didn’t work hard enough, the one who is failing her children, her “eternal” marriage, the one who is losing her blessings.
I became the broken one. The lost sheep to be saved.
Except I didn’t want or need saving.
I needed acceptance and understanding. And even that was hard to come by. People would ask, “what happened?” as if the only way to lose your religion is because you must have dropped crumbs along the path to your eternal damnation…or at best, the telestial kingdom.
**sips telestial tea**
All of the questions and accusations; ‘Think about what you’re doing to your family. Remember that you have children. Did you stop reading your scriptures? Stop saying your prayers and going to the temple? Are you wearing your garments? Tell me all your sins.’
And the answer was always the same. Nothing happened. I just woke up one day.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
The thing is, most people don’t ask questions to hear what you have to say, they ask questions so they can tell you what THEY want to say. It’s been two years since I left I think…I’m not even sure anymore. The days and drama all kind of ran together. Thankfully I had a group of friends I could process my anger, tears, and frustration with, friends who gave me the courage to live and be brave, but aside from them, I had ONE person–an uncle who is just a few years older than me–who genuinely asked me why I stopped going to church–not so he could preach to me or tell me how I failed, but to hear and understand. And that was two years after I left.
And he asked, so what happened with church? To which I responded, “do you actually want to know?” Because the thing is, most people don’t ask questions to hear what you have to say, they ask questions so they can tell you what THEY want to say. But my uncle is a good man and wanted to hear to understand, not hear to speak.
So here’s what happened:
I was doing all of the “right” things–saying my prayers, reading scriptures every day, active in my calling with the Young Women, paying tithing, worthy to attend the temple.
I was doing all of the “righteous” Mormon things. Even after our sister tragically died, I held on. Did it plant the “seeds of doubt” that everyone talks about? I mean, maybe I guess (though actually attending the temple planted more seeds of doubt than anything else, tbh). But I didn’t think about it–I just kept reading, praying, trusting in God’s better plan for my sister *ugh*, going to church, and trying to help others do the same.
I did that for years. And I’m so sorry if I ever caused you pain because of my lack of understanding, or my inability to see you.
I assume most of you reading this already know about the LDS religion, but for those of you who don’t: being raised in the LDS church I was taught from a young age about the “holy ghost” or what other religions call the “holy spirit”–how it can guide you and give you confirmation of truth, guidance when you feel lost, and warn you about potential problems.
I have always been tuned in to this “holy ghost”, even before I was baptized at 8 years old (the age when you are “officially” responsible for all of your sins and the age at which you can “receive” the holy ghost by the laying on of hands”). So I’m familiar with how this guidance, which I now understand as intuition and/or connection to a higher power or source, feels and communicates with me. And while I casually and internally questioned a lot of things the church teaches, this is one teaching that always felt good to me–that we can receive guidance and truth through this connection to a higher power. I have been taught to trust what we call “promptings” my whole life. They only speak truth because it can ONLY speak the truth.
And as I stood at my window one morning, looking east at the sun, it’s that same connection that held me and told me, “it’s not true.”
That’s it. That’s my whole story. The whole moment that unraveled and led me down my path of destruction. *lol* I hadn’t read the CES letter, I hadn’t read the church essays, I didn’t have horrible experiences with men in authority, I wasn’t trying to find a reason to leave.
I literally, just woke up one day.
When I tried to explain how free and good this felt to me, I was told it was because I released expectations of myself and the expectations that god held for me. I was told it was because I didn’t have as much responsibility weighing on me now. Because I was led astray, that my feeling was wrong. Because I hadn’t fully repented and this felt better. Because I didn’t have enough faith.
Everyone had some explanation for why I felt what I did, but no one accepted the actual experience I had.
I continued to go to church because I did think of my family. I did want to have faith. And I did get tired of “Christ-like” people talking shit about me or asking, “why is she even here” when I sat down on the floor between two pews during Sunday School because I was on my period and having horrible cramps–the kind that make you feel like your uterus is going to fall out of your body. Tired of the gossip between members of my own family. Eventually, I went to the bishop of our congregation and told him I could no longer teach the young women something I didn’t believe.
Trying to have faith after I clearly felt that this was not true for me, was hurting me more than helping me–have you ever known you should do a thing, but then ignored that thing? And how it made you feel like total trash? That’s what I was doing and on top of that, all of the gossip and lies being spread I felt it would be better if I didn’t even exist. I wished so many times I would disappear because I wasn’t worthy to be alive anymore. And I walked a very, very lonely path for a long time.
Honestly, I can’t tell you what I believe now, because I don’t know. But I do know what I don’t believe. And I’m sitting here alone in my house while my husband is at church with our two kids…and yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to know that you’re surely a topic in ward councils, that people at church look at your husband and probably wonder if he’s single lol, then they find out his wife is just an apostate, so they feel bad for him. But what’s harder is trying to fit in a space where you don’t belong anymore.
I’m sharing here–not for those of you who don’t understand because honestly, this won’t change that, and I’m not here to try and make you understand me or my choices. I’m writing for those of you who are open enough to hear me, those of you who have family and friends like me, and those of you who might find yourself on the same path.
And I just want to say, you’re not alone. Your story can be as complicated or as simple as it is. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. And it will be okay. You are worthy of love and your life is meant to be lived your way. So stay.
That’s it I guess.
If you want to throw stones, get in line 🙂
To all of the rest of you, I love you.
Disclaimer: I know and love many people in the LDS Church. This is not an attack on you or the LDS Church, it is simply my experience.