My story is both long and painful in many respects. I wish that I could say that leaving was easy and a happy decision (I personally like to think of it as a “transition” rather than “decision”) but it is not my happiness that I have witnessed diminish. I would like to preface this story with the facts that: a) I do not agree with nor associate with anti-Mormon literature. b) I believe the church is a useful tool for many individuals to feel fulfilled in their lives. c) I am still very supportive of those that remain active. With that being said, here’s my story.
I remember as a child singing the song “I am a child of God” there is one verse that states:
I am a child of God.
Rich blessings are in store;
If I but learn to do his will
I’ll live with him once more.
This was my first question in the church. I had been taught that we were given FREE WILL when we chose to come here to earth, this verse directly negated that teaching. I was about 9 years old when I noticed this along with many other songs, teachings, verses, etc. mirroring the same inconsistencies. As the years passed, I wanted to leave, I felt trapped. Part of it may have been teenage rebellion, or the need to not have anything controlling me. Regardless it became a spiral, by the time I was 17, I was miserable every time I stepped foot into a seminary building, temple, or church. By 18, I moved out of my parents home. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was a very broken individual. Around this time, I was introduced to a Baptist church in the area. The first time that I went, I was listening and analyzing their Worship (singing time before Word). Suddenly that “burning feeling” I had been told I should be experiencing throughout my Mormon years erupted out my ears to some of these Christian Rock songs. I had a realization that this was how I actually felt about my higher power, about my God. It was that simple, this was how I felt about God, the LDS church did not fulfill that feeling. This first time of leaving the church was ugly, painful, and hate-filled. I was basing every action and reaction upon feelings. I lashed out at my family. I lashed out at my friends. I felt attacked from every direction. To the point that I felt God hated me and I gave up on everything. Throughout all this I did have one friend that came into my life, he was a very good Mormon man that had just come back from his mission due to an injury. He wanted to go to church one Sunday and was not capable of driving himself, due to the injury, I agreed to go with him. I sobbed through the entire Sacrament Meeting.
I was more confused than ever. This loving friend tried to help me sort through my feelings, but in the “barely-off-his-mission” way that really just led me back to the church. My thought process through that journey was that it would make my family happy. I also looked at this man and thought I would never be deserving of a man like him if I didn’t go back to church. Shortly after this, I met my now ex-husband. He said all the right things, he acted the right way, he let me think I was a partner to him. We were married 11 months later in the Bountiful, UT temple. And this is the point where hindsight became 20/20. Where my feeling-based decision-making skills faulted.
My ex-husband asked me to pray about getting married to him, he then asked me for my feelings. The tricky part here was that he asked me while I was sitting on a bench in Monterrey, CA listening to the waves crash on the rocks and feeling the wind on my face. I have in later years realized that day it was not the still, small voice I was feeling, but just the comfort I always have and will feel from realizing how small I am next to the giant beautiful ocean. I told him I would marry him based on a feeling, a feeling I have every time I sit by the waves and consequently had not one thing to do with my ex-husband.
The time progressed, and my ex-husband professed to be a good returned missionary loving husband. Behind closed doors, he had multiple extra-marital affairs and was incredibly abusive, both physically and mentally. I deteriorated, the bipolar disorder swung out of control, making me look frail and frankly crazy. My ex-husband was the strong one taking care of his struggling wife. I also had not gotten married to get divorced, therefore I tried everything, including literally losing my own mind to keep my marriage together. To keep my temple covenants intact. It was not meant to be. He left me after his brother’s temple marriage, shortly after our 3 year anniversary. I dove further into my chosen religion, attending the temple weekly (a 35 mile drive from my house), going to meetings, meeting with my church leaders, and going to counseling. All that was happening was a stronger anger and hatred when I was being told to support my spouse and that my eternity was based upon my being sealed in the temple. All the while he was cheating, lying, and abusing me. Our covenants were effectively broken. What was my eternity now? A lesser degree of the Celestial kingdom because HE had screwed up?
This anger continued until one day I realized that the anger was what was driving me to awful things. I got off of all of my medications and went back to a non-denominational church where I had remembered feeling such strength in the music. Months progressed, I went to both LDS and non-denominational churches. I remained faithful to the LDS church until I saw such inconsistencies in the temple (a place I used to go running to for peace) that the red flags in my mind and heart couldn’t be hidden any longer. I slowly just retracted from everything having to do with the LDS faith.
I just kept all of these realizations to myself for a very long time, soon I was hired as a flight attendant (for an airline that is based out of St. George, I’ll let you do the math), and therefore able to just brush off the consistent questions about going to church. I had to work on Sundays, there was no way around that. Eventually I decided that I had lied as a teenager to satiate those around me and that as an adult, this wasn’t necessary. I have been very open and honest about how I do not agree with the pain I have seen caused by religion towards children and friends that have left the church. Towards my friends that I covered their homosexuality by being their “girlfriend” because they knew what would happen with their family if they came out. In recent years, my heartbreak has not come from leaving the church, that has been one of the most freeing decisions I’ve ever made, but has come from the sadness I see in my faithful LDS family and friends that truly believe that I am lost. I understand their hurt, sorrow and discomfort with me. That part of all this makes me sad.
It was not hard for me to tell the missionaries that showed up to my door the other day that I was not active and had no plans to be active in any religion in the foreseeable future. I have lost most of my hope for religion, not just the LDS religion, but all of it in general. I see much more sadness, judgement, and torment come from it than I do happiness, comfort, and the loving acceptance that Christ dutifully taught and lived. I choose to live my life based on being a good person and loving those around me because they are who they are. If I end up being wrong in my life choice, I don’t believe that I will be faulted by a higher power for treating others with love and care. I choose to be happy. I have been off of any kind of medications for bipolar disorder for over 2 years. I find balance in the things around me. I still read the Bible, Book of Mormon, Qur’an, and any other form of religious writings I come across because I know there is always space for knowledge and more truth. I am still on my journey, I wish that there was a way for it not to cause so much pain for my family that I love so dearly. It brings me to tears just writing this and knowing that it could possibly hurt them further, but I also know that there are many that were in my position. Confused, hurt, feeling trapped, unable to face their own questions regardless if that led them away from the church or helped them stay stronger within it. My hope is that we can all find our own peace. To this day I am very open and positive about the LDS faith, I answer many of my coworkers and friends questions regarding the faith. Some have actually joined the church based upon our discussions, while others have had the same views that I have upon their own further investigation.
My general belief now is that I have a severe intolerance for intolerance.