Emily (Sister)

Growing up I thought I had the truth. I thought that out of all of the religions on the planet, the only true church was the Mormon one. I believed in it because that is what I was taught to believe, and I had many experiences that seemed to seal my “faith”.

For 23 solid years, I was completely devout. I attended church weekly (with few exceptions), read from the Book of Mormon daily, and prayed earnestly.  I was even labeled the family tattle-tale – Sneaking peeks at my older sister’s diary and revealing all her adolescent secrets to my mother – Among other things.  I was considered by most to be self-righteous and judgmental, but I didn’t think I was.  I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, even though I had a hard time figuring out how.

Over time, I continued on the Mormon path, and after surviving adolescence and some family struggles (including witnessing multiple divorces, finding out my father was gay, taking on a sibling-raising role while my mom was trying to keep her head above water), I did what most 22-year-old unmarried Mormon women do – Sign up at ldssingles.com to find an Eternal Companion.

Okay, so most LDS women don’t do that, but since I felt like an old-maid at that point, and I longed for some normalcy in my life, I took the route of online dating and met a match.  We pursued a long-distance relationship and after 10 long months of dating (in Mormon terms), we were married.  A whole 2 weeks later I was pregnant with my one and only child.

Soon after marriage, I came to the stark realization that it was not what I was expecting and more than I could comprehend.  I started having conflicting feelings about how and why I could doubt something that had been engrained into me since childhood.  After all, I had prayed and fasted, been through the temple, made covenants, and lived my life in as pure a way as I could manage and here I was – feeling alone and unfulfilled.

Those feelings set the course for more feelings to flow, and questions to arise.  All of the doubts I had brushed off before and explained away with “church answers” would not take me shrugging them off again.  They demanded introspection and attention.

When I sought out those answers, through church text, church leadership and even apologist church forums, all I received was veiled criticism or outright bullying.  It always came down to what *I* was doing wrong.  And over time, I realized, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was being human, and I wanted to be treated humanely.  I wanted to be heard, and I didn’t have a willing audience.  It was very lonely and frustrating.

From start to finish, my process of leaving was 4 years.  So *763 words is not going to tell the whole tale, or describe every agonizing detail.  I will say that it was the most painful experience I’ve ever had and there were countless nights where I agonized – tearfully mourning the loss of a lifetime of “knowledge” and trying to navigate a new world where I was the master.

I don’t have it all figured out, but at the very least I feel a sense of a freedom that I never felt before, especially with humanity – to be someone who doesn’t have to look at another person through the glasses of self-proclaimed superior knowledge.  I am free to see someone because of who they are, not what they believe, who they love, or who they worship.  I only wish I could be seen through the same eyes by those who believe.  But to them, I will always be a sinner or apostate who will have to answer to God at some point – denying us the opportunity to truly connect.  And so it is.


(read Emily’s blog here)
(read more stories here)


8 thoughts on “Emily (Sister)

  1. Honest and beautiful. I know how painful is to figure something out and be criticized and bullied about it. I have been through something very similar…told not to follow my husband to hell and many other things. I lost a portion of trust in many relationships that I had cherished. Also had to mourn that I wasn’t who I thought I was, or rather who they thought I was. It’s awful to be put in that position. I’m still not perfect at making sure those around me don’t feel judged, but I am grateful for my experience, so I can better understand how to communicate my beliefs in a productive and uplifting way, and that I am a better listener because of those things. Love you Emily.
    I’ve always wanted to know more about your story-and it helps that Jefferson is an amazing writer. This is a real treat for me.

    1. Thanks for your input Rachael. No matter which side we’re on, the emotions and feelings are real – and too often relationships are tarnished because people forget that. And ya . . . I wouldn’t have wanted to write out their stories for them! I enjoyed each one.

  2. I was one of those who reacted harshly, Em, as you certainly knos. While I did view you as judging and sometimes harsh toward others who didn’t live the religion as strictly as you felt to be required, my much greater concern was that you judged YOURSELF very harshly as a young woman. You could never be perfect enough. This was, in fact, a reflection of the self-disappointment that you had seen me turn upon myself, through your whole life. That self-dislike is one of the things that eventually I got to evaluate during my own process.

    Then when you began seeking answers to your concerns, some in response to the way you were “guided” by church leaders during your marriage, it seemed to me that you stopped judging PEOPLE (including yourself), and turned upon the church. I had considered you my spiritually-minded daughter, a friend in that way, and now that was changing. I felt angry. And devastated. And afraid. I had buried my own concerns about the church for decades, and I did NOT want them to surface.

    Fast forward to a few years later, as we were driving together north from SLC, and I related to you the heartbreak I experienced as I sought answers to my own questions and came to believe that the corporate church (not the people in my own circles) had deceived me, all of us. I began to cry and you did, too, and you said “That’s exactly what I went through, Mom, and I was all alone.” I, your mother, had judged YOU and left you to face this alone. I am so sorry, Emily. I wish I’d been developed enough as a human being to listen to you without judgment and without fear, as I was able to do later on, with Jefferson. I think you have forgiven me, and I think you even understand. I am grateful for our relationship today, and I love you very much.


  3. I really like getting a peek into the WHY of some of the family members that have left. Thank you all for sharing. I am sorry for all of the pain it caused you. That is part of why I am curious, because while there were painful moments for me, I was not tortured by my deciosion to leave. Probably because I was never very invested in the church in the first place and I always had issues with what I was being taught. Thanks, Jeff, for putting these stories to good use.

  4. My dear Daughter; In reading your story, and the stories of others here, I am disturbed at how distracted I was by my own struggles, to the point of being unable to offer assistance or counsel. I feel and share your pain now retroactively. Just know that I am proud of your strength and resolve, and the honorable way you live your life.

  5. Em, I have really appreaciated the few talks we’ve had and though we are not super close I have always appreciated your tenacity and “edginess” or rather your guts. It takes a lot of strength, resolve, and at times blind courage to pursue what seems to go against what we are taught. Many would give up, or give in. Many are not brave enough to see it through and so I admire that quality in you to pursue what feels most right to you and not being apologetic. Though we may hurt others along the way in our decisions, however unintentional it may be, we would not move forward if we stopped for anyone who was ever in disagreement. Kudos to your fortitude! I hope you are doing well 🙂 We should catch up!

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