Was I “too Mormon”?

I haven’t posted for a long time and I am going to try and gather my scattered thoughts yet again.  I have sat down at the computer numerous times to write another post but each time, as I reviewed what was on the screen in front of me, I realized how angry I was.  I could not get past the negative, and so each time, I clicked that garbage can and walked away.

I had to seriously contemplate why I was so angry.  I am so happy with my life and my choices so I couldn’t reconcile my feelings.  After months of pondering this, here are some of the conclusions I have come to.  Again, let me remind you, these are my own beliefs and opinions, based on my own life experiences.  I don’t expect you to come to the same conclusions.  All I want is for everyone in my life to respect, love and accept each other regardless of religion.

I think I was “too Mormon”.  What does that even mean? Let me explain myself a little better.

I bought it, all of it!  I believed everything I was taught and NEVER questioned.  I had a literal belief of everything in the scriptures, lesson manuals, conference talks, sacrament talks, Sunday school lessons, Womens Conference classes, etc… I soaked it all in and took it at face value.  When President Hinckley told us not to put off marriage and children for education, I complied.  When he told us to take out our second earrings, I complied.  When we were told to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year (can’t remember which one), yep, I complied.  I was the crazy Young Womens leader that would NEVER cancel an activity during the week, even if we had a temple trip planned for the weekend.  The first two years of our marriage, my husband and I spent every Friday night (date night) at the temple.  I am not going to even try and hide my anger over that one. Newleyweds with no kids spending 2 1/2 hours sitting across a room from each other with no chance for any interaction.  Wow I wish I could have those nights back.  My point is, my faith in the church was a verb.  I attempted to live the gospel to the fullest, HOWEVER, I was not perfect.  I struggled with many things including daily family scripture study, family home evening, geneology, and most definitely visiting teaching (I never felt all that strongly about being or having an assigned friend). I will say one thing, I tried!!!  I tried so hard to be the perfect mormon.  We even went a couple years with no tv on Sunday.  My kids remember my husband sneaking upstairs, huddled in front of a teeny tiny TV, watching the muted Superbowl.  That one didn’t stick because I love football too much!!

OK, what is wrong with all of the things I listed above?  Sounds like what all mormons should be trying to do right?  I believe these experiences I had living the gospel are what took me away from it.  Allow me to ellaborate. I had tried so hard and sacrificed so much to try and be a “good mormon” that when I came across information that contradicted my beliefs, my whole world came crashing down.  How on earth could I have been so involved in the church and not know that Joseph Smith married young girls or other mens’ wives, or kept it hidden from Emma (she was my hero for so long)?  I had the opportunity to go to some of the big church historical sites just a few months after I was baptized and let me tell you, it sealed the deal for me.  It made it all real and my testimony grew strong because of that experience.  One of the things I remember about that experience was in Nauvoo.  We were in the Mansion House (Joseph and Emmas home) taking the tour.  Someone from another group asked about Joseph and polygamy.  The missionary leading the tour explained that there were numerous women who were sealed to Joseph because after he died, they all flocked to the temple and had the ordinance performed so they could be sealed to him in eternity.  He went on to explain that this was the very reason that the sealing rules were changed and women could only be sealed to one man.  Well, guess what?  I BOUGHT IT!!! So when I found the true information that has been proven and acknowleded by the LDS church in their essay, you bet I was angry!!!  Someone coached that missionary, a representative of the church, on how to answer that question.  He lied, they lied, and I based my belief on those lies.  This is one of the NUMEROUS reasons I am angry.

I am a big user of social media.  Maybe that is pathetic to some but I enjoy seeing pictures of old friends or reading articles that a family member has shared.  I share pictures and comments and in a way, consider Instagram my online family history.  One thing that has made me realize that I was once “too Mormon” is seeing how many people do not wear their garments.  Hey, if you are on vacation, I guess that means you get a vacation from the garments too?  When the temple worker told me to wear my garments at all times (even possibly leave one arm in during my intimate moments with my husband (TMI??), I complied. I remember wearing my garments to the gym (or swimming pool), changing in the locker room and putting them back on before I left.  I fought those uncomfortable, hot ,sticky things through a trip to Hawaii!!!  Again, I was taught, I complied.  Sometimes it makes me so angry to see someone who has sent me a negative message about leaving the church or posted a super churchy message on their fb page posting vacation pictures in short shorts and tank tops.  It is hard for me not to judge so I remind myself it’s not them, it is me…I was “too mormon”.

So now that I have acknowleded my anger, some of you might be thinking that I have turned into one of those bitter, angry anti-mormons.  Yes and no.  It is so hard not to be bitter and angry about sacrificing so much for something that I now believe is not true.  I have life long consequences from those sacrifices, some good and some not so good.  So lucky to have my four awesome kids because I don’t think that would have happened if I wasn’t “too Mormon”.  So greatful that I learned how to speak in public and not throw up or organize meetings and lessons and activities.  I also learned to work with others who I might not have anything in common or possibly not even like.  On the other hand, it is hard to not become bitter because I never pursued that college degree or had a Mothers Day dinner at a restaurant (oh we make up for that now)!  We also owe numerous family members money that we will never be able to repay because tithing came first (rather than actually paying off debt) or using our own slim salary to purchase hundreds of dollars in supplies needed for our “family” of ten on a  pioneer trek. How awful it is to owe money to family!! BUT, and it is a big BUT, I have never been happier and more at peace with my life. I love the freedom I have and I completely embrace the loss of guilt that I carried around trying (and always coming up short) to be “too Mormon”.

I hope that my story, opinions and insight will continue to help others that are struggling.  I enjoy hearing from so many of you, friends, acquaintances and even strangers and have such a strong desire to help you any way that I can.  I will continue to talk about this as long as I need to and as long as I feel like it is doing some good.  Thanks for your love, support and respect.

I am attaching a link to a youtube video that was sent to me tonight from a friend from high school (so very very long ago) that has left the church as well.  I sure don’t have his talent but I do understand his feelings all too well.

My conversion story; why I joined.

Since leaving the church, the one question I have been asked more than any other is how I ignore or explain my spiritual experiences that convinced me to join the LDS church.  After all, I chose to join. Believe me, I gave this a lot of consideration before I made any decisions.  In order to better explain this, I need to give a little background.  Most importantly, I need to be honest.  The things I am going to write are very hard to admit and actually quite embarrassing but it all needs to be said.  Honesty brings healing, right??

Growing up a non-Mormon in Utah was quite an adventure.  Religion was not a big part of my life so I had no way to understand how involved most Mormons are in their church.  I never understood why nobody could play on Sunday, or why everyone went to the church on Tuesday nights for primary (revealing my age). I actually remember asking a friend what the CTR stood for on her new shiny silver and green ring.  She told me I couldn’t know because I wasn’t a Mormon.  Don’t get me wrong, my friends were great and as an only child, they were so very important to me.  I just always felt a little on the outside of everything.

After my parents got divorced I spiraled out of control.  To say I was wild is an understatement.  My early teen years were filled with decisions and activities that got me involved with friends that were as dumb as I was!  I won’t go into detail but I am actually surprised I made it out without any permanent damage!!

By my sophomore year, I was exhausted.  I didn’t want to live my life like that anymore.  I started to straighten up and find different friends.  More and more I started to find myself hanging out with Mormons.  Again, they were great friends but I still felt like I was on the fringe.

My junior year in high school my life began to change.  I met and started dating a senior boy and I fell hard!  He was a very active Mormon as were his group of friends.  In fact they had a nickname, The Bible Boys.  At first, I felt a little uncomfortable around this group because quite honestly, I didn’t feel good enough.  I had a lot of regrets from my earlier decisions and it affected my self worth.

i’m not really sure how he introduced me to the church but eventually it became a big topic of conversation.  His family began to get involved and I spent a lot of time talking about the church (especially with his mom).  His family took me in and made me feel like I belonged.  They were so kind to me and I wanted what they had.  I think I began to associate the church with a big happy family that I desired more than anything.

Later into my junior year I was ready to meet with the missionaries.  We joked that I was probably the only person in Utah that had to contact them rather than the other way around.  Wow, I loved my missionaries!!  They were so funny and sweet and kind.  I formed a bond with them that added to the happiness of this whole experience.  I don’t remember much about the lessons, a little Joseph Smith, plan of salvation, first vision, etc…The one topic that hooked me was the thought of eternal marriage and eternal families.  I was 16 and in love and the thought of being with this boy forever was so romantic.  My desire for a family, especially one I could be with forever was exactly what I craved!!!!

The missionaries taught me that I should pray and ask for a witness if the church was true.  They explained that I would know if I felt peaceful and had the “warm fuzzies”.  One night I gave it a try.  I had never prayed that way before, actually speaking to God like a real conversation.  I begged him to tell me the church was true.  I wanted it to be true so badly.  I wanted to be a part of it.  I finished, and felt nothing.  I waited…and waited…and waited. Nothing.  I gave up and went to sleep unbelievably disappointed.  Self doubt crept back in. Maybe I wasn’t good enough after all.   I woke up in the middle of the night and thought of my prayer.  I again begged God to let it be true and I started to feel something.  I felt happy and peaceful.  Looking back now I have figured out what it was.  I WAS happy.  I had the boy of my dreams, a “family” that I was a part of, new friends who were supporting me and the chance to belong somewhere.  I never asked if the church was true, I begged for God to tell me it was.  I am sure that I convinced myself that it was an “answer” because it was what I wanted so badly.

I let everyone know I wanted to be baptized.  Word spread quickly!!  Different people at school started talking to me and congratulating me.  Young Women leaders started bringing me cookies.  Everyone was so happy, and so was I.  This was everything I had ever wanted.

The week before my baptism I met with the missionaries for the final time.  They warned me that Satan would attempt to get me to change my mind and scare me away.  They told me that he went after the really strong spirits because they would hurt his cause the most.  I was ready!!!

The night before my baptism we had a school dance.  I attended with my boyfriend and we ended up fighting all night.  I don’t remember what about but you should see our pictures…no smiles to be found!!  This was not what I wanted because he was baptizing me the next day and I wanted everything to be perfect.  After the dance we went to a friends house to hang out.  Things were still tense and I was determined to change it.  We got in the hot tub and I asked him to show me how he was going to hold my arms and hands when he baptized me the next day.  Now, this is where my story gets embarrassing and I just ask that you remember that I was a 16 year old girl that was desperate to belong and to feel loved. I thought of what the missionaries had told me and I ran with it.  I started to pretend like I had a bad feeling.  I expressed that maybe I shouldn’t be baptized. Again my feelings of inadequacy started to creep in.  Why hadn’t Satan tried to stop me?  Was I not one of the strong spirits that he would fight against?   I started to cry and actually convinced myself that this was really happening.  I started to scare everyone that was with us and I really feel horrible about that.  Someone had the idea to give me a priesthood blessing and I agreed.  Immediately after the blessing I convinced everyone that I was fine and that I had felt this darkness leave me during the blessing.  It was such a spiritual experience for everyone involved and it was all a lie concocted by a girl that was desperate for attention.  I still feel so horrible for behaving that way.  I am not proud of what I did.

The baptism day came and it was everything I dreamed of and more.  So many people came.  I finally had what I wanted, to belong somewhere.  I was convinced the church was true. I had never been so happy.

Why do I share this embarrassing story?  I convinced myself that I was feeling things that weren’t there.  I wanted this so badly that I made myself “feel the spirit”.  I have wondered if that is why you hear of so many converts that don’t have a stable family or home situation or are just plain lonely that embrace the church.  I am telling you, it is an instant group of friends and family when you become a Mormon.  Ward members, neighbors, church leaders all welcome you with opened arms. I was willing to change my entire life based on this without really knowing a thing about the gospel, the history of the church, the doctrine or anything other than the basic “fluffy stuff” included in the missionary discussions.  I based my entire testimony on “feelings” rather than facts.  When I discovered truths that convinced me that the church was not what it claimed to be, what I thought it was, I had to leave my “feelings” out of it.  Facts cannot be overridden by feelings and I know that the majority of active Mormons would not agree with me on this.  I have learned that I can feel the “spirit” just about anywhere.  I always feel the “warm fuzzies” when I serve someone or watch my kids do something great but that is not how I discern fact from fiction.  My goodness, sometimes I tear up over McDonald’s commercials even though I know the food isn’t good for me!!. It is completely unreliable.

I owe so many people an apology including those who were involved in my conversion as well as those whom I have shared my conversion story with, whether in person, in a lesson or over the pulpit, If any of you come across this blog, please know how very sorry I am that I deceived you. I am ashamed by my behavior and wish I could take it back.

Do I regret joining the Mormon church? Yes and no. I feel completely duped and actually a bit embarrassed that I believed it for so long. I wish I could go back and base life altering decisions on facts rather than feelings. HOWEVER, and it’s a big however, I would have never met my amazing husband of 23 years and possibly would not have had all (or any) of my four beautiful kids.  I would never change those things.  They are my whole world.  I just hope the church (and especially the missionary program) will become more transparent and upfront with the “hard stuff”.  I feel like it is a lie of omission by not giving all of the information up front to give prospective converts a chance to make informed decisions.  I wish I would have been given that opportunity.

CES Letter

First off, I just want to say thank you for all the support!!  I am seriously overwhelmed by the love I have felt over the last day.  I also want to say that I am stunned by the messages I have received from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers.  I am definitely NOT alone in this.  So many people are dealing with the same things that I have experienced.  My hope is that I can help those who feel alone.  If you know someone who would benefit from my story, please feel free to share.  I truly want to offer my support and love.

I have had numerous requests to add the link to the CES Letter that was so helpful to me.  This letter is not the reason I left the church, I had already come across most of this information, however, it was crucial in being able to share my feelings with my husband and kiddos.  The story about how this letter came to be is the most compelling part to me.  I owe so much gratitude to the author, Jeremy, for his ability to put into words what I could not.

Again, words cannot express my appreciation for your support and love!!!!

http://cesletter.com/

Here Goes Nothing!

This is scary…very very scary!  I am sharing my story for a few different reasons. First, I don’t want anyone to see me as a hypocrite. Second, I hope that I can help someone going through the same experiences. Third, I have so many mixed crazy emotions and I am hoping that sharing them will help me to relax and heal.

Warning!!! This is going to make some of you very angry.  Some of you will feel hurt and betrayed. Please understand that I am just sharing my experiences and my feelings and I am not trying to offend or upset you.  I have had to face some very harsh realities over the past few years of my life and the only way I can move on is to be completely honest.

Here goes!!  You have been warned!

I am no longer a member of the LDS (mormon) church.  One year ago this month, after choosing to join the church almost 25 years beforehand, I sent in my letter of resignation. This was not an overnight decision.  In fact, this was a process that spanned the previous five years of my life.  This was not an easy decision or an easy way out, in fact it was the most terrifying decision I have ever made.  I stepped into the unknown, having no answers after a lifetime of believing that I knew it all.  I did not know how my sweet husband or children (all between 13-20 at the time) would react but I could no longer “fake it” and quite honestly, I wasn’t doing a very good job of it!!  I will share my journey briefly here and then elaborate in future posts.

I joined the LDS church at the end of my junior year in high school.  I am an only child and come from divorced parents so the longing for a family was very strong.  I met and dated a great guy that had the family I had always dreamed of, several siblings, nieces, and a very amazing set of parents.  They took me in and gave me the attention and the direction I needed.  They introduced me to the church (even though I lived in Utah, I didn’t know much) and eventually set up missionary discussions.  I fell in love with the teachings from the discussions, you know, the family is forever thing.  I felt like a received a witness from the holy ghost and was immediately baptized.  Wow did people turn out that day!!!  We had to move the service to the chapel.  I had never felt so much love and acceptance.  I finally belonged somewhere!!  I was so happy!!!

I met and married my sweet returned missionary husband when I was 19.  We had ten dates before we were engaged and were married three months later.  We spent the first years of our marriage learning how to fit the mold of the young LDS couple, church callings, tithing, weekly Friday night temple dates and trying instantly to have a family.  We had the first of our four children when I was 21.  We proceeded to have three more children by the time I was 28 and my husband was 30.  I will elaborate more on these wonderful, amazing children in further posts.

Life was hectic, busy, crazy, fun, and stressful.  My husband and I never finished our college education and were always scraping by on whatever we could get.  Still, we managed and felt like we had made the right decisions. We moved from state to state looking to better my husbands career and stay on top of things.  We still were very active mormons.  We held many callings, spent countless hours in church service, gave our ten percent tithing, read our scriptures, said our prayers, fasted (most of the time), taught and baptized our children, etc…

In 2007 things started to change for me.  Quite frankly, I was burned out.  I was tired of leaving my kids at home to attend youth activities, tired of using my Saturday nights to plan lessons.  I was sick of being at church for three or more hours (meetings) on a Sunday only to have to attend a youth fireside (meeting) later in the evening.  I was working full time for the first time in our marriage and I just wanted to have some time home with my own family.  I was having a hard time finding the motivation to serve.  With that came the guilt, so much guilt.  How could I feel like this?  I shouldn’t feel like this! I am a horrible person because I don’t love going to church! I am a horrible mother because I didn’t hold family home evening!! I am a horrible wife because we haven’t gone to the temple in six months!!  I am a horrible friend because I didn’t go visiting teaching after work!  The list was endless.

I started to question why I was doing all of this.  I started to get annoyed with the lessons that were being taught on Sundays.  I started to pull away.  I made some pretty stupid mistakes that I beat myself up for for years to come.  I then started to feel very unworthy and blamed my sins for being the reason that I didn’t enjoy church or feel the spirit.  More guilt… Then all hell broke loose.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 36.  Wow!!  I was sure that I was being punished by God for my sins and for my feelings about the church.  I really expected to die.  Surgery, six months of chemo and a whole lot of yuck in between, I was in remission (happy to say I am still cancer free six years later)!  During this time my husband lost his job.  I was so sick I had to resign my full time employment during chemo.  We were in big trouble.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for help.  I begged for God to help my husband find work. I prayed to figure out a way to keep our house. I pleaded with God to take my cancer away. Time after time I felt nothing yet I would go to church and listen to people bear their testimonies that God told them to take an umbrella to work or to know which car to buy. What?!?! How is that possible.  I started to hate church and seeing everyone on their best behavior.  I despised the lessons that seemed so ridiculous to me.  I was so tired of hearing about how we would be blessed if we were obedient. I would find any reason or excuse to not attend without upsetting my husband or kids.

About this time I started hearing about Proposition 8 in California.  I had very mixed feelings about this. I had formed some great friendships with gay coworkers in a previous job and I adored them.  One in particular had been in a relationship with his partner for 20+ years and they had raised a son.  They were such an amazing family.  I felt extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the church fighting this.

I’m not sure how or when I came across the next pieces of disturbing information about the church.  I didn’t go looking for it.  Somehow I came across information about Joseph Smith and his polygamous relationships.  I was stunned.  I actually started to look for information to explain this all away.  Instead, I found more, so much more.  Why had I not been taught any of this by those missionaries so many years ago??

Somewhere inside, I still blamed myself and my lack of repentance for my lack of testimony.  We had moved to a new city and I decided it was time to see the bishop.  I just knew that this would be the answer and fully expected to feel my testimony again.  After an incredibly embarrassing meeting with basically a stranger, all I felt was horror.  I was so embarrassed and uncomfortable.  This was the beginning of the end.  I did not want to attend church anymore.  I pulled away as much as possible without rocking the boat too much at home.  I sat in the hall during Relief Society and Sunday School and again found any excuse to stay home.  I stopped praying, reading, etc… I took off my garments much to the dismay and sadness of my husband (he felt like we were losing our eternal relationship).  I finally came clean to him and approached him with some of the things I had discovered about Joseph Smith and the history of the church.  He was so angry and felt so betrayed but still loved me and promised we would work through it.  Seriously, I have the best husband!!  I decided to tell my kids because I didn’t want them to see me as someone who was lazy or uncommitted to my beliefs.  Without elaborating, it was a difficult conversation.  Lots of tears and confusion but I knew they still loved me.

That is when things started to change.  The guilt started to disappear and I felt so free.  I was relaxed and calm.  I had no idea what I believed anymore (I still don’t really) but I was ok with it.  Honestly, none of us know for sure what is going to happen when this life ends (just my opinion) but I found peace.

Over the next year my husband and I would have very careful conversations about the church.  I would find a new piece of information and hesitantly share it with him.  He would become defensive and then quiet.  I had promised him that I would continue to raise our kids in the church and attend sacrament meeting because those were the commitments I had made to him when we got married.  It was becoming harder and harder.  I would look around in sacrament and wonder how anyone could believe this?  How many people actually wanted to be here or how many were faking it like me?  That hour and ten minutes became complete torture for me.

Then a miracle happened.  I was online looking at different websites that shared information about church history and the discrepancies that have been taught when I came across the CES Letter.  It was exactly what I needed, all 80+ pages!  Most of the information were things that I had already come across but to have it all in one place, explained so well…thank you!!! I always got so tongue tied when trying to explain things to my husband but now I had this.  I will never forget that night.  He was working out of town so I called and explained about the letter.  I asked if I emailed the letter to him if he would read it.  I just wanted him to understand my feelings.  He agreed.  That changed everything!!

I got a phone call from him bright and early the next morning.  I won’t share his feelings or experiences because that is personal to him but within four days, he had decided that the church was not true and removed his garments.  I can’t imagine what he went through in those few days. He went through all of the emotions that I had gone through over the past five years in a matter of days.  When he returned home we sat our kids down and shared what we had learned and also let them read the CES letter.  I was shocked to hear their responses.  Again, these are their personal experiences so I won’t share much but I could not believe the guilt and torment they had experienced in the church.  My son admitted that he never wanted to serve a mission and was terrified to tell us.  My daughter explained the guilt she felt in lessons because our family didn’t read our scriptures or have FHE.  She was ashamed of our family!!!  How is that a church that claims to bring families closer together?

Why do I share this with you? Why do I need to post this online?  I want people to understand that I am happy, truly happy!! Leaving the church was the best thing my family has ever done.  It has brought us so much closer and our relationships are stronger than they have ever been.  THE GUILT IS GONE!!!!

I am not going to tell you it has all been easy.  I have to work through my beliefs (or lack of) on a daily basis.  Why do I feel this way? Who taught me this? Why am I reacting this way? Do I still believe this? etc… It has also been very scary to watch my kids navigate their way through this.  We live in a little town in Utah that is predominantly mormon so the fear of being rejected by their friends is a worry.  I do find it very difficult to not become bitter.  I feel betrayed. I feel misled.  It is hard not to think about the time and money we lost to the church.  I also get very tired of hearing the same things over and over.  (You left because you want to wear tank tops or drink coffee. You just want to sin so it is easier to leave. Satan got a hold of you. It’s just a phase). I want to clear the air.  I left because the church isn’t true, it is a fraud!!  I feel deceived by half truths and cover ups.  I cannot accept the way that the LGBT community is treated, it is completely unacceptable!!  I cannot accept a god that would split families up in heaven. I do not believe that only temple worthy people are allowed to learn how to get to the highest degree of heaven nor would I ever ever ever want to share my husband with other women when we get there.  So so so many more things helped me realize the lies, too many to share here because this is already way longer than I anticipated.

It is my hope that you will respect me, as I respect you.  I will continue to share my experiences in hopes that I can touch someone that is struggling.  I am still the same person, just a whole lot happier.  Thanks for reading this (very) long post and I appreciate your time and understanding.

My journey in and out of mormonism.

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