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.