When you leave the church people tend to make assumptions about you and what you did or did not do to get to that point. I've told my story to anyone who has asked but decided to put it here too as background to any future posts I write about my faith transition.
I've always felt that I was blessed with the gift of faith. I believed easily and without question. Faith didn't require too much work or energy out of me- it was pretty self sustaining.
Shortly after Baby 2 was born that easy faith just sort of...stopped. In hindsight I wonder if it had something to do with post-partum hormones or something along those lines but at the time I thought perhaps it was a test from God. Maybe He wanted me to actually have to DO something for that faith that had always come so easily. I accepted that challenge, rolled up my sleeves and went to work.
I have piles of journals from that time. Scripture journals, gratitude journals, daily journals in which I wrote down the small ways in which I saw the hand of God in my life. With my daily scripture study I added in other books meant to boost my knowledge and faith- church history, memoirs of the prophets, Mormon theology. I attended the temple, planned weekly family home evening lessons, and spent hours and hours on my knees in prayer. I dove in with my whole heart and mind, fully expecting to feel that faith and surety flicker slowly back to life.
But it didn't. After 6 months my insides still felt sort of quiet and empty and I was really struggling to believe what I was hearing at church. I was starting to wonder if I was broken.
Then I got called to be the first counselor in the Young Women's presidency. That time fully opened my eyes to the deep-seated gender inequality within the church but I also discovered something else- teaching brought the fire back. I LOVED teaching! While preparing lessons and then standing in front of those girls, that feeling of faith and spirit came rushing back. Maybe I wasn't broken after all! I was still really struggling but at least I could feel something akin to faith and testimony and it gave me a lot of hope.
About a year into my time in the YW presidency came the first Wear Pants to Church Day. I didn't have any nice pants to wear so I made myself a little pants pin and stuck it to my shirt. It sparked a conversation amongst my YW that was, depending on who you ask, great, horrific, or not a big deal. A couple parents got very upset that I talked to their daughters about gender inequality within the church and I got in trouble (I don't blame those parents, by the way. I walked away from that conversation thinking, "Yeah, that didn't go well.").
A couple weeks later I posted on my personal FB page that I supported the BSA dropping the ban on gay scouts. Parents got upset again. I had a discussion with the bishop and he said he was thinking about releasing me from my calling.
While I waited for the bishop to make his decision I prayed. I told God that being in Young Women's and teaching those girls was my anchor and that if I was released I wasn't sure I would be able to hang on.
The next day the bishop called and released me.
I lasted in the church for another year after that. I wormed my way into a calling in the nursery where I taught the music. Singing silly songs with 2- and 3-year-olds made church bearable. Meanwhile, I really started researching. I couldn't stop! I found out about unsavory aspects of church history. I read about the corporate structure of the church and discovered that my tithing funds were probably not used in the way I thought they were. I read posts by women who felt like second class citizens in the church and I ended up crying quietly in bed while Aaron slept because I had seen and I knew I couldn't un-see.
In July of 2013 my worries and concerns had taken over my brain and I was sinking. I knew I had to start talking to Aaron about it all or I might explode. I got lucky- he brought it up himself. He had a super brief weird moment with the church that year and started the conversation. I didn't flood him with everything but at least the lines of communication were open. He quickly made his peace and went back to his normal relationship with the church while I continued to struggle but at least we were able to talk openly.
That year my physical and mental health tanked. Aaron said later that he thinks I literally worried myself sick over it all. There's a saying in the church that, when something doesn't sit right, you're supposed to "put it on a shelf" in the back of your mind and not worry about it. Except I had piled too much on that shelf and it was starting to creak ominously.
Finally, in December 2013 I went to see Frozen with Aaron and my boys. I know everyone is heartily sick of "Let It Go" but the first time I heard that song that day in the theater I burst into tears. I was exhausted. I didn't want to hide my hurt and doubts anymore. I didn't want to force my brain to do any more mental gymnastics. I wanted to let it go, dammit!
In the car on the way home a very tiny voice in my brain started speaking.
"What if it's not true?"
The thought was too terrifying to acknowledge but over the next few days it kept returning. One sunny morning after Christmas I sat quietly on my couch and thought, "Ok...maybe it isn't. Maybe it's not true."
My brain unclenched. My whole body flooded with relief. The lights in my head flickered back on and that night I slept well for the first time in months.
People learn in different ways. There are kinesthetic learners and auditory learners and visual learners and all kinds of combinations of the three. I think the various religions and philosophies of the world are God's way of teaching eternal truths to His children according to their own specific learning styles. Mormonism doesn't suit my learning style. For me, it isn't true. It brings light and hope and peace to many, but I am no longer one of them.
I am, however, completely surrounded by Mormons who fall all over the faith spectrum and I do my imperfect best to love and support them in their belief and love of God and most of them are trying to do the same for me. It's a learning process and we are learning together.
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