Mormonism and Me (in part)

I posted this as a comment on an awesome blog, and thought that since it’s basically a novel that I would repost it on my site.

I joined the Church when I was 18, and made the conscious decision to do so. I felt strongly that that was what I was supposed to do. I moved away to college a couple of weeks later, and immersed myself in Mormon life and culture. I met the love of my life, convinced him to marry me, and we were a happy Mormon couple, active and strong in our wards. I could have stayed that way. One can rationalize away the problems or flaws in the Church, the logical gaps that one has to make in the Church.

When I started doubting the Church, I didn’t want to. Kullervo had already started doubting, and we had long discussions of how we would live with me as a member and him as a nonmember. We talked about how we’d raise our son. I was determined not to fall by the wayside.

But I started doubting too. And I started trying to understand the things I had always rationalized away, and really get to the bottom of them. I realized that there was a whole world of Christian thinking out there that isn’t discussed within the Church, and is in fact subtly mocked or looked down upon. (This might not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine.) Throughout my entire Church life, I would get angry in Sunday School classes when people talked badly about other churches–since the LDS Church is so quick to say that that doesn’t happen. I liked that practice, and wanted to promote it lol.

When I was looking for answers to questions, I would turn to lds.org and search Conference talks and other stuff. And I would find basic gospel principles that did not have clear answers. I could find one apostle saying one thing, and another saying something totally different. Which one is right? How am I to know which one is right if both are speaking as apostles at Conference? How do I know if they’re speaking as apostles? None of it was canonized; does that mean that none of it is doctrine? If that’s the case, why don’t the do more canonizing? What’s the point of Latter Day prophets if they aren’t actually telling us anything beyond their opinion? I can do that. 🙂 And I’m not talking about opinions on what vegetables you should plant in your garden–I’m talking about things like faith vs. works. The doctrine of grace.

Why couldn’t I find answers about polygamy and why did the Church lie about it when it first started happening? Why does the Church not talk about the polyandry that happened? Why was that okay? If it was okay in the 1800s, why can’t I marry someone else in the temple if Kullervo dies?

I was asking questions, and nobody was answering. I was trying to be strong, and would try bearing testimony to strengthen it. Kullervo and I decided to give it an honest go, really praying and fasting and trying to get answers. No answers were forthcoming. And the Church promises that you’ll get an answer.

Finally, we started trying out other churches. I was still trying to be active in Relief Society, and when we moved out here, we went to our ward a few times. I tried to develop relationships in Relief Society, with other young mothers, with the RS President, etc. I was doing all the right things. But still no answers.

So we stopped going to the LDS Church. We tried out a bunch of churches. When we were at a Quaker meeting, I was praying (after all.. what else do you do in an hour of silence?), and had some really really strong answers to prayer. So strong that I had to take out a pen and write them down so that I’d remember everything to tell Kullervo later. Some of them were in direct conflict with what the Church teaches. And I felt the sweet peace of the Spirit–the same feelings that I had when I decided to join the Church, and countless times after that. (However, people have tried to tell me that that was Satan because God wouldn’t tell me to do things that weren’t in line with the gospel… but I digress.)

That didn’t make it easy though. Mormon culture gets under your skin. It’s nice. I liked knowing all the inside jokes. I liked being part of the crowd. I liked having an automatic group of people who I knew would have to accept me. I went looking for the Mormons at my office, just to talk to them–all the while nervous to say that I was Mormon, because I wasn’t going anymore. I wanted to be their friend. Maybe I wanted to have my cake and to eat it too? I still don’t know why. I was attracted (in a totally non-sexual way, of course) to all things LDS. I wanted to be talking about it. I wanted to be face to face with it. I didn’t want to let go of that part of me.

Maybe it was a fear of failure? Like, I made a decision that I then decided wasn’t right? I mean, talk about a piece of humble pie…

I realized that I was going to other churches (especially the one we’re currently attending), and leaving the church really wanting to be a better person. I left church wanting to go home and read my scriptures–not because it was my daily duty, but because of all of the richness and flavor that I could find. I was becoming a better person. I became more tolerant. I don’t think that I was ever INtolerant–I really hope not–but looking back, I see that I wasn’t always very Christ-like in my attitude. It was a problem with me, and not the LDS Church, but it was happening because of my membership and activity within the Church, so it’s difficult to dissociate the two. I am, without a doubt, a better person now. (For the record, I was without a doubt a better person in the Church than I had been before I joined.)

I drive by the temple every day on the way to work, as I drop off my son at his nanny’s house. For awhile it made me pensive and sometimes sad.

Sometimes–less often–I still get sad. Or down. Sometimes I miss the inclusion factor you have from being a member of something. Sometimes I miss having all the answers. But those times get less and less as time goes on and as I separate myself from the church.

I don’t know if that helps you any, Joe. I definitely went through (go through) feeling empty. And I don’t think that that’s the lack of the Spirit, because through all of this, I have never felt disconnected from God. My relationship with God is just that–a relationship.

I imagine that some people can continue to grow and develop into better Christians in the LDS Church. I don’t think that at the point I’m at in my life that I can. I was becoming less Christ-like and more prideful as a Mormon.

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11 responses to “Mormonism and Me (in part)

  1. Very good. I’ve studied Mormonism in depth over the years and one of the things I’ve found so interesting is “How do you pin these people down on what they believe?” From Mormons, you generally get a “We don’t believe that” or “You’re persecuting us” in response to pointed inquiries. I’m also convinced that the average Mormon hasn’t a clue regarding the historical picture of Mormon doctrine. Last summer my family and I were camping out west and camped next to a family from Utah. The young woman sat by our campfire one night and talked about how none of her siblings continued in the Mormon faith while their parents had. She related to me how when she was a teenager she came across the doctrine of progressive godhood. She asked her mother about it and her mother just stammered around in an attempt to not answer the question. I think the excuse for not talking about this sort of thing is that a person needs to be at a higher spiritual level to understand these deeper spiritual truths. Unreal.

  2. In reality the average person of any faith has no real clue about the historical context of their religion. The average person has no firm grasp on what they beleive themselves much less what is imparted by their religion. And rilegious ferver is often put up as a mask to hide their own inadequacies. Also much of religion is touched by culture and background. The same doctirine can be understood by two different people in very different ways because of the filter of their personal world view. This isn’t wrong, both views may be perfectly valid. But the goal is to expand our views beyond the strictures of our own personal filter. In a very Zen sense what is needed it to break our minds and alow them to reform to an image that more suitably suits the truth, and not our own desires. No church can do this for us. No prophet can either. This is something we must do ourselves.

  3. I appreciate what you have gone through, as active LDS I am sad that you have decided to part ways with it. Nevertheless, it sounds like you put in great effort and I respect that. Shortly, if I may comment, in the sunday school lessons that I attend it also bothers me when individuals criticize other Churches, especially when they mock them. We should be focusing on what we believe not what others believe. I understand that there are a lot of doctrines that are hard to understand. I have found that when I come across them I have two choices, I can let them really negatively affect me, or I can trust that in time I will understand them. The second choice has always proven the wisest and worked. Usually, the answer to the question comes at times when I least expect it and many years later. Something I try to remind myself of is that we are claiming that this is God’s church, he guides and directs it. God is a lot smarter than any of us, and due to the fact that he uses 100% of his brain and we 6%, there are going to be much that we don’t understand right away. That is why we learn precept upon precept, here a little there a little. In time, when we are prepared to receive a new principle, we receive it. I know that this may not be ideal, but it is the way it is. Challenges like this are an act of Faith.

    When I was a teen I had a lot of questions and big problems with the Church, including polygamy. I talked to my dad and others, one thing my dad said struck with me ever since. He said, “There is a lot that I do not understand, but I know that Christ is my Savior, Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and the Book of Mormon is the word of God. With this knowledge everything else falls into place and I can exercise my faith that all of my questions and uncertainties will be answered in time.” This is the most true statement I have ever heard from my dad. I hope this was remotely helpful.

    By the way I started a Mormon Q&A page at http://www.dryflypolitics.com if any of you have questions. Thanks

  4. But to me, that’s just an issue-dodge that conveniently invites you to shelve your very real concerns and just stoke your basic religious fervor instead. I don;t believe that we should be afraid to tackle the hardest issues head-on, and to me, a belief system that can’t deal with that is a false belief system.

  5. I read Kullervo’s blog, okay, the first couple posts that were there, and I love this openess. This wanting to understand. I guess because I’m trying to get there myself. Why do I believe what I believe? I’m searching.

  6. Thanks for sharing this…

    Just a couple words, Ive join the church very young, and even when is true that there is a lot of teachings that the church doesnt talk about, there still are in the mormon library, available for all the members, about the poligamy, we can find about that en D&C, and besides the personal study, I remember having classes in seminary where ALL those issues where discussed, maybe my teacher was way good. Of course I did prayed for those things.

    Im not saying the church is totally right, my “problems” with the church is not really its history or its members, but the differences between what Joseph taught and what the church did after him, and still does, changes in the temple and how the position of the church change. And something that pull my nerves is the misinformation INSIDE the church, maybe Im more tolerant with the ones that attack the church from the outside because maybe they dont know, but is hard for me to see member that dont know the church. Im totally aware of the history and theories of the church and what Joseph did and did not, even so, that is not my problem.

    And again Im pleased of the way you share your reasons and this part of your life.

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