Atheist Kids Wall Art

I came across this quote by Carl Sagan the other day and decided it had to be displayed in my home.  The kids’ room seemed like the perfect place for this little bit of inspiration.  I did find a few pre-made prints online, but I like to make things hard on myself, so I decided to create my own.  Things have been busy around here lately so it was nice to add some creativity back into my life.  What do you think?

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While I was at it, I also saw this quote online and fell in love with it.  I imagine some atheists might shy away from it because of the biblical undertones, but to me that makes the irony even sweeter.  Can’t wait to get these beauties hanging where my children can soak them up.

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Thank You Sheri Dew for Prompting Me to Get Back into Blogging…

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but its also been a while since I’ve been so insulted by things that are said to church members and then passed around the internet by people trying to show how righteous they are for agreeing with what was said. This time, it was a family member who posted a talk given by Sheri Dew at a BYU Idaho devotional this past spring entitled, “Will You Engage in the Wrestle?” My family member commented on her post, “Great devotional! Are you a doubter or a seeker?” In all fairness, after reading the title of the talk, I was sure I would hate it. I pre-judged the talk before I even read it, which was why I actually sat down and read the whole thing.

Side note** Is it just me, or do all ex-mormon/post-mormon/whatever we want to call ourselves people feel like any time a family member posts anything religious that pertains to questions or doubts that they are somehow trying to say “In your face, (insert your name here)! Look at me! I found a way to stay and be more faithful, unlike you!” I’m sure its not totally their intention, but that doesn’t mean that’s not what I’m hearing.

So I read the talk and I can’t sit back and not say how insulted I feel. How condescending it is to have someone imply that because I no longer have a testimony of the crazy stuff that I used to that its because I didn’t want it enough or didn’t study and pray enough. Or worse, she blamed a girl who lost her testimony and got pregnant out of wedlock and said the girl was just trying to justify her immorality! I don’t know exactly how Sheri Dew got to this conclusion about her so-called friend, but I’m going to guess that her friend didn’t flat out admit that she just wanted to justify her immorality. But if that is the case, then I owe Sheri an apology because I guess I just did what she does through this whole talk. I assumed something about her without knowing all that was involved with her experience.

One part of the talk that annoyed me was when Sheri said that “Doubting is not synonymous with having questions. To doubt is to reject truth and faith.” Why such a negative spin on the word doubt? I’m pretty sure doubt actually is synonymous with questioning. I’m not a linguist, so I could be wrong. But when I asked Siri, she said one of the definitions of doubt means to question the truth or fact of something. Why does a doubter have to be the bad guy, the weak one, or the one who wants to justify their so-called sins? I don’t feel love or compassion from Sheri for our struggles, our wrestles, our seeking. Instead I feel disrespected.

So to answer Sheri’s title of her talk, “Will you engage in the wrestle?” I would say “Yes! I engaged in the wrestle for years. It was the hardest wrestle of my life and I feel like I won.” And to answer my family member’s question of “are you a doubter or a seeker?” If I had the guts I would reply to her post with this…


It might be time for me to stop worrying about my family members’ discomfort and be honest with them about this journey.

Is There Anything We Can Do For You?

The other night we got a surprise visit from the sister missionaries. We were in the middle of cleaning up from dinner and getting the kids ready for bed, so the timing was pretty terrible on their part. But we don’t have anything against the missionaries. They’re just doing what they are supposed to do so we didn’t mind letting them in for a few minutes. They showed us a quick little video about New Years resolutions that was refreshingly not over the top preachy or Mormon-y. Then they asked us if we would come back to church. We said no. They asked why. We (well mostly my husband, because I was wrangling overly-hyper children) explained that we have some doctrinal and historical issues with the church and that for us, we feel good about the truth we have sought out and don’t feel like the church has that truth. The sisters were very polite and nice about accepting our position and said they were glad to know where we stood. Then they asked if there was anything they could do for us. We said no thank you and left it at that and they left.

Of course, after they left I thought of what I really wish I had said. Because yes, there actually are a few things you can do for me.

First–and I mean this in the nicest way possible–don’t assume that you know anything about how I got to where I am with my beliefs. Don’t assume that of anyone. You don’t know my story. And even if I tell you my whole story, I doubt you will be able to fully understand unless you have experienced a major loss of faith yourself. Don’t assume that my testimony wasn’t strong enough. Don’t assume that I just hadn’t been feeling the spirit at church. Don’t assume that I hadn’t been reading my scriptures or praying or fasting. Don’t assume that I was led away into temptation. Don’t assume that I wanted to sin. Don’t rack your brain thinking of how you can stop others from going down the same road that I have. It is such a personal journey and anyone who goes through it has different reasons and different stories and I don’t think you will find a solution that can effectively stop people from being hurt by church history or doctrine or policies. Don’t assume, just accept.

Second, don’t talk about me and my family in ward council. I don’t want to be the subject of ward gossip, even if it is just among the leadership. I don’t want to be anyone’s project or the subject of pity. I don’t need it. I don’t want it. The only thing I want from church are the people who were my friends before I stopped attending to still be my friends now without judgment and without pity.

Third, stand up for people like me in church. When someone starts talking about their family member who left the church and who’s life has fallen apart as a result, raise your hand and say that is not always the case. When someone makes a comment about the “fence sitters” who choose only what they like about church and ignore the rest, that they need to “pick a side,” please raise your hand and say “we’re glad to have anyone here, no matter what their beliefs are.” When someone calls out people who support women’s ordination and say they aren’t following the prophet, raise your hand and say “everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we want them to feel safe to voice their opinions. It is not up to us to judge. A healthy dialogue is good for everyone.”

That is what you can do for me.

Top 10 Signs I was Destined to Leave The Mormon Church

So I’m a few days late for a countdown since New Years Eve came and went in a blur of craziness this (last!) year. But I’ll give you a special top 10 anyway. Over the past few years I’ve asked myself this question a number of times. Is there something about me and my beliefs that predisposed me to leaving the church?

Here are the top ten things that I feel made me more prone to leaving. I’m sure these things are not true for everyone, but for me, the writing was on the wall and I never saw it.

10.  Evolution

I remember a time in high school when I was watching a documentary on TV about a skull that had recently been discovered from a pre-human species. It was fascinating to me but it definitely didn’t fit my world view and my literal beliefs about Adam and Eve. I remember my mom telling me that science doesn’t always get things right. And that didn’t sit well with me. I remember doubting my mom that day. But I was a good Mormon girl and put the theory of evolution on the infamous “shelf.” I decided that when I died, evolution was the first thing I would ask God about.

9.  I believed that God was bound by scientific laws

Science has always been very convincing to me (as you can see from #10). But I found a way to fit it into my religious beliefs. I just assumed that all miracles has some kind of scientific answer and that if we couldn’t understand it, it must have just been some field of science that we mere mortals hadn’t discovered yet.

8.  I always thought church was boring

Aside from the extremely rare lets-have-class-outside Sunday, I have never especially enjoyed church. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy socializing at church, because I definitely liked that aspect. But overall, the churchy part of church has always been a little bland. **see exception in #2

7.  Garments

I have a feeling that I don’t really need to explain here. No one actually likes garments, right?

6.  My spiritual experiences were all me-centered

As a Mormon, I felt entitled to spiritual experiences. I had the special gift of the Holy Ghost that none of my non member friends had, so I expected these “miraculous” events in my life. The experiences that had the most profound effect on me were all centered around me. Feeling like I had been forgiven, feeling like God loved me, feeling like I had made a good decision. At the time, I knew it was from God. Looking back, I now believe that those experiences were not from God, but from ME. But I still hold them dear because no matter where they came from, they helped me gain confidence in myself.

5.  My favorite scripture as a TBM

Mosiah 4:9

“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”

The only thing I ever consciously put on my “shelf” as a TBM was evolution. But I clung to this scripture. When things didn’t make sense I went back to this scripture. This scripture was holding my shelf up and I had no idea how much it was actually holding.

4.  I was fascinated by Book of Mormon evidences

You can see by now that I had a propensity towards science. Not that I have ever (or am now) particularly knowledgeable in any field of science. But I trust it. I like evidence. I have always hated when people say that God doesn’t give us evidence so that we are forced to have faith. So when I would hear rumors about how a Mayan artifact was found with the translation of “And it came to pass,” I ate it up. I loved the theories of where BoM cities were. When I traveled to Guatemala I wondered about every ruin I saw. What if this is where Alma lived? Did Jesus come to the Nephites here? So you can imagine my disappointment when I actually researched the topic…

3.  I was a literal believer

I believed everything in a very black and white way. That’s how I was taught. I never even considered that you can still be religious without literal belief in the Bible (or BoM). The moment I started actually thinking critically about the stories I had learned growing up, it was obvious that they were not literal. And the extent of the obviousness truly hurt.

2.  I loved deep doctrine

I vividly remember the Sunday when the Bishop called our young women’s class into his office for a special lesson. We were all prepared for a long awkward talk on chastity when he taught us instead, that we could be like God. He taught us President Lorenzo Snow’s couplet “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” I had never been so excited about church in my life. My mind was blown. As a youth I remember we also had a series of firesides on deep doctrine and they were so fascinating to me.  Finding out about the actual translation of the Book of Abraham was the final straw for my testimony desire to hold on to Mormonism.

1.  I never believed the “anti-Mormon lies” about Joseph Smith

When I read about Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives, I thought it was an anti-Mormon lie. Learning the truth was the beginning of the end.

The Brethren Are Not Always Right

With the recent handbook leak and everyone on social media sharing their two cents about not letting the children of gay couples get baptized, I’ve noticed I’ve been rolling my eyes a lot more frequently as I read my news feed. And honestly, I’m not that interested in this recent drama, so I’m not going to go into my opinion of this rule. But the thing that has bothered me is the responses of so many of my TBM friends saying stuff like “we need to trust the Lord’s time,” or “I follow the prophet who speaks directly to God and so I know this is what God wants,” or “I am just so grateful to be a part of a church that is led by a prophet of God who can receive revelation from God and not be influenced by what is popular.”

It makes me sad that I used to think these exact same things without ever questioning the brethren. The culture of the Mormon church is so much into hero worship of its leaders that so many people don’t even bother to think through issues for themselves. They rob themselves the opportunity of forming their own informed opinions. (I am generalizing here. I know a few church members who truly do wrestle with some of the policies and teachings of the church, but they are few and far between, in my experience.)

When I started to find out about some of the messy history of the church, I finally allowed myself to ask “what if the leaders were/are wrong?” I cannot express how freeing it was to simply allow that thought into my mind. One particular issue that I had always been uneasy about as a TBM was polygamy. I would explain it away by saying things like “I don’t know why the Lord commanded it, but it must have been important at the time because he would never let the prophet lead the church astray,” or “There are so many things that God comprehends that we cannot even begin to understand, and this is one of those things so I will just trust the Lord.” But at the same time, I remember telling my husband before we got married that I didn’t think I would be okay with practicing polygamy in the afterlife. The thought of eternal polygamy was very heartbreaking to me, but I sucked it up, and trusted that the Lord had a plan for me and I would follow it.

So when I read the stories about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, I was horribly conflicted. The prophet that I had been taught to revere and love and respect was not the man I had learned about in Sunday school. The two biggest issues I have with polygamy (there are way more than 2, but these are the ones that really make my blood boil!) are that Joseph kept a lot of it hidden from Emma, and that he claimed an angel with a sword threatened to destroy him if he didn’t marry certain women. I read many apologist essays on the topic of polygamy, but when I was all researched out, it came down to 2 conclusions:

Either Joseph Smith lied about the angel threatening his destruction or he was telling the truth.

If he lied, then that is not a man I want to have anything to do with. There is no excuse.

If he told the truth, then that is not a God I want to have anything to do with. There is no excuse.

To me, Mormon doctrines (past and present) about polygamy are a deal breaker. The prophet Joseph Smith was wrong. The prophets who have tried to cover it up are wrong. The prophets who defend it are wrong. I cannot hear (or read) someone say that they trust the prophet no matter what without feeling sick about polygamy. I want my friends and family who are still in the church to wake up and make their own decisions. Maybe they will decide that they agree with the decisions of the brethren and maybe they will disagree. But I just wish they felt free to disagree. As distressing as it has been to leave the church, it has been equally heartening to gain the liberation and confidence to form my own opinions about issues without guilt. And that is something I hope all members of the church can experience someday.

Day of the Dead–Time to Teach My Kids About Their Mormon Heritage

First off, let me apologize for being a slacker on updating the blog lately.  I’ve found that I go through waves of interest and disinterest in Mormon-related matters, and it just so happens that the past couple months have fallen into the disinterested category.  For anyone out there reading who is just starting a faith transition, I am here to tell you that, yes, the obsession with all things Mormon/Ex-Mormon/religion in general fades.

But alas, with holidays on the horizon, I am making a conscious effort to plan how I want to approach religious related topics this year, especially with the kids.  So I’m starting off the holiday season in a non-traditional way, but using it as an excuse to bring the kids up to speed on religion before well-meaning grandparents and relatives start filling the kids’ heads with churchy stuff this Christmas.  So This weekend, we celebrate the Day of the Dead!

My kids have had some previous exposure to Day of the Dead celebrations in a homeschool co-op that we are a part of and they’ve seen the movie “The Book of Life” and enjoyed that, so they already have a small background knowledge of the Mexican holiday.  But what I want to emphasize with them this weekend is the ancestor part of the celebrations.  I doubt my kids even know what the word ancestor means at this point, so we’ll start very basic this year.  We have a lot of pioneer ancestors, so I’m thinking about telling them about some awesome things I know about my grandparents (like how my grandmother was the hardest working woman I’ve ever met and so selfless and kind) and about my great-grandparents (like how my great-grandmother loved to travel and show them the lovely silver pin I have of hers that she got while visiting Texas), and about my great-great-grandparents (how my great-great grandmother made the trek from Missouri to Utah sitting on top of one of the stoves that her father was bringing to Utah).  I plan to then talk a little bit about why they traveled the Utah and tell them that Mormonism is a tradition that many of our ancestors passed on to their children and all the way down to us (along with good work ethics, cooking and baking skills, and an appreciation for education).  Then comes the tricky part–explaining that traditions are a great way to feel connected to our ancestors and that we might not necessarily believe the same things that our ancestors did, but that we can keep their traditions in our hearts and show respect and love for them and how their choices have effected our lives.  Well, it sounds tricky to me, but I doubt my young kids will think anything of it at all.  I also think to add some fun to the conversation I’ll print out some blank skulls and let them decorate them as one of the ancestors I tell them about.  (Maybe draw peony flowers around the eye sockets for my grandma who had the prettiest peony bushes in her yard, or drawing a funny mustache for my great-grandpa.)  And then I think we’ll paint their faces Day of the Dead style and re-watch “The Book of Life” for fun.

**Also, as I write this, I’m realizing that I have never heard stories about any non-Mormon ancestors that I have.  And now I’m curious to learn about them and the interesting things they did.

Looking ahead…Before Thanksgiving I’m going to teach my kids about prayers (and be respectful during them) in anticipation of the “special” prayer that will be said at grandma and grandpa’s house at our Thanksgiving dinner.

As far as Christmas goes, I’ll write another post on that one later.

Teaching My Kids About Religion

My husband and I have 3 kids. Luckily for us, our loss of belief in the Mormon church happened while they were still young. Our oldest is only 6 years old. We still go to church every now and then so the older two know what primary and sacrament meeting are. Neither of them really love church, so its easy to go sporadically, and as I’ve said in a previous post or two, I really don’t want them going to primary anymore. But even when we stop going to church all together, its not like Mormonism will be gone from their lives. Both mine and my husband’s families are completely active. Whenever we have dinner with grandma and grandpa, we say a prayer. The missionaries stop by to chat. We still have friends from church. With all of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to teach the kids about the positive aspects of Mormonism while still making it clear that we choose to live our lives differently.

So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Teaching About Mormonism, Specifically:

I plan to focus this part of their religious experience on traditions. If they ask why we say a prayer at grandma and grandpa’s house I will tell them that prayer is a tradition. Why do we celebrate Christmas and Easter? Tradition. Why do we go to friends’ and family members’ baptisms? Tradition. If they ask why others go to church but we don’t, I feel safe telling them that those people choose to participate in that tradition, but we choose not to. I can’t speak for the beliefs of our family and friends who go to church, but attending church is a custom of Mormon culture. The passing on of, or intention to pass on customs from generation to generation is tradition. For my kids, Mormonism is a part of their DNA. Their whole extended family is Mormon. Their ancestors were Mormon. We don’t have to abandon all of the traditions that connect us to our families and our ancestors just because we abandoned belief. I want them to know about their heritage, so that is the avenue I plan to use to teach them about Mormonism, for now.

Teaching About Religion in General:

My kids went through a big Hercules obsession a while back (the Disney movie). They have seen it close to 100 times, I’m sure. I realized that it was a great way to talk about gods. So we had discussions about how the story of Hercules is a myth and what that means and how a long time ago people used myths and stories and religion to explain how things in nature worked. We then talked about how we use science to explain a lot of those things today, so we don’t need to make up stories anymore, unless we are just doing it for fun. I also told them that a lot of people around the world still believe in gods and that there are many different religions and belief systems. Yes, I realize that this discussion was probably over my preschoolers’ heads, but they seemed interested enough. Obviously, this is and will be an ongoing conversation. I purposefully check out myths and fairy tales and stories from religions and cultures from around the world from the library and make it a point to say, “this story is a myth (or fairytale, or creation story, or folktale, or historical book, etc.), do you remember what that means?” They were so impressed and excited the other day when I told them that the pyramids from ancient Egypt were real structures, and that the book we were reading about them was from actual history, not just from a myth. I think this is a good way to talk about religion for now. As they get older, I look forward to seeing how their views and beliefs evolve and we can have more in depth, and reciprocal conversations about religion.

As I type all of these ideas out, I am tempted to plan some kind of family home evening lessons on some of these topics and post them on the blog. I like the tradition of family home evening. Before we stopped believing we were never very good at family home evening. We would try it sometimes and my daughter would always say “Can we have family home evening tonight, but without the church stuff?” I think she was on to something…

Spreading the Gospel

I’m so excited and honored to be featured on Youshare Project today!  Youshare Project is a place to read and share personal stories that connect us in meaningful ways.  It is about seeing other perspectives and learning about humanity outside of the small circles of our personal lives.  I love their philosophy of bringing people together through storytelling.  So please, go check them out and be sure to read my story while you’re there.Youshare-Award-FNL-v1-200x2001

Tender Mercies

I woke up this morning to a beautiful blue sky. Birds were singing, the sun was shining and the dog was pawing at the back door to go outside.  I opened the door to let him do his business.  As I closed the door to get back to my morning routine, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  It was my crème brulee torch, sitting outside next to the grill.  We had grilled out the night before and we sometimes use the torch to light the grill.  I subconsciously brushed it off and went about my morning, getting the kids cereal and milk, picking up messes that I had been too lazy to clean up the night before, and getting everyone ready to start the day.  I had a slightly uneasy feeling as I went about my chores and was prompted to look back outside.  When I did, I again saw the crème brulee torch, but this time, I felt strongly inspired to bring it inside right now instead of waiting until another time when it would be more convenient for me.  I followed the prompting.

I went about the rest of my morning, completely forgetting about the situation with the torch.  I loaded the kids up in the car and we went to the gym.  It wasn’t until we were headed home from the gym that I realized why God saw fit to intervene in my life this morning.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the heavens opened and the rains came down.  The rains came down hard.

Oh the peace and joy I felt at knowing the God was looking out for me.  I was so grateful that I had been in tune enough to feel His promptings this morning.  I know it was due to the fact that I had not let contention into our home this morning so I was able to be in touch with the spirit.  Now I won’t have to suffer from a soggy topped custardy treat.  We will be blessed to have the indulgent crunch of a flame-caramelized sugar crust on our crème brulee.  I will not have to worry about a torch that would have been ruined had I not been spiritually prepared to see the hand of the Lord in my daily life. And for that I am eternally grateful.  #tendermercies

Maybe I should go back to church next fast Sunday so I can let my light shine and inspire others to be amazing, just like me, so that God will sprinkle just a bit more privilege down on their lives, just as He did mine. 😉

Also, here is a recipe for the most amazing chocolate crème brulee EVER!

We Need To Set Some Boundaries 

It’s Saturday night, 9:30.  My husband is out of town on business.  My mother-in-law texts:  “Do you want me to pick up the kids in the morning and take them to church?  I thought you could use a break.”

As I read the text, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I’ve seen lots of exmos on the Internet talk about the need to set boundaries with their TBM family members.  I’ve read horror stories about TBM grandparents secretly having their grandkids baptized behind the parents’ backs or interrogate the kids to find out if their exmo parents drink alcohol or coffee or tea.  My story is not so dramatic (thank goodness!) but really got me thinking about the need to set some boundaries with our families.

A few months back we sat down with my husband’s parents and told them that we no longer believe the truth claims of the church.  They obviously knew something was up, but we finally told them what it was.  The awkward Sunday morning texts of “should we save you a seat?” have slowly tapered off since that conversation, but that just led to these new offers to take the kids for us.  Usually we have an excuse because we have planned something fun to do instead of church, but this time, I had no excuse.  I could make one up, but I didn’t want to lie.  The more I thought about how I wanted to respond, the more frustrated I got.  My response ended up being a simple “no, thanks.”

What I really wanted to say was “yes, I could use a break.  I could almost always use a break.  Can I take you up on your offer to help out sometime besides Sunday morning?  The kids are actually the main reason I don’t want to go to church.  I really don’t want them there.  I might not mind going to church myself every now and then if it wasn’t for the kids.  I miss my friends from church.  I miss the feeling of community.  I think maybe I could even find uplifting messages in the talks and lessons.  But I know how to separate the crazy stuff from the edifying stuff.  My kids aren’t capable of making that distinction yet.  I don’t want them sitting through primary being taught that they are better than everyone else just because they were born into a Mormon family.  I don’t want them taught that modesty is all about the length of a sleeve or a skirt or that their value lies in their ability to repress all things sexual.  I don’t want them to be taught obedience over critical thinking.  I don’t want them to be taught that their parents or their parents’ friends are bad people for drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol.  I don’t want them to be taught about a God who would never let a prophet lead the church astray and then never mention polygamy, polyandry, the priesthood ban, or sketchy banking schemes.  So, no, I don’t want you to pick up my kids and take them to church.  I know you mean well and you think you are being that praiseworthy grandmother who takes it upon herself to make sure that even though her child has strayed, she can at least make sure her grandchildren are raised in the church (you know the one…there’s at least one of these grandmothers in every ward).  Or maybe you just think its an easy time for you to watch the kids for me since most of that time they are in primary and you don’t even have to watch them yourself.  Whatever your motivations, please don’t ask anymore.  If I want the kids at church, I will bring them myself.  But don’t hold your breath.”

In defense of my mother-in-law, and for full disclosure, she does offer to help me out with the kids at other times too.  For the most part, we really enjoy living so close to them, but its definitely time to set some boundaries.