Why Am I So Sad?

I’ve been an atheist for about 2.5 years now and I’ve gone to church through it all. I’ve been weaning myself away very slowly. I was thrilled when our third child was born a few months ago and I didn’t even have to try to come up with any excuses for not going to church for about 6 weeks straight! There are 2 major reasons I still go to church.

The first major reason is family. My in-laws are in our ward. We only very recently told them that we have issues with the Mormon church (although they noticed the lack of garments a long time ago and expected this all along). My family has their suspicions about us, but no one has had the guts to ask (or maybe the lack of guts is on me…). We don’t live near any of my family members, so going to church for their sakes is harder to articulate and I won’t take the time to try to hash that one out on this post.

The second major reason is my calling. I’ve been the Relief Society activities leader for a couple years now and I generally like my calling. But since we plan monthly activities, we usually have a planning meeting once a month during church. So once a month, I’m expected to be there. I don’t like to let people down. I’m a Mormon, the kind of person that if I commit to help out, you can count on me to do my part. So I go to the meetings.

A few weeks ago we had one such meeting. My husband was working so he couldn’t be there, and to be honest, I needed the 2 hour primary babysitting break from my older 2 kids. The husband has been working a lot of weekends lately and with the new baby, I’ll take any break I can get. Even if it means my kids get a little indoctrination in the process.

Well, after this particular week I don’t think even the 2 hours of free babysitting is worth it. Here’s how my Sunday went.

Sacrament meeting consisted of me holding the baby in the hall the whole time while the 2 older kids sat with grandma. Not terrible, but the whole time I was thinking about how I could have been at home letting the baby play/swing/nap NOT in my arms.

So then the Sunday School hour rolls around and we have a very quick meeting about our upcoming activity, a meeting which definitely could have occurred through email. The baby is getting pretty squirmy by now so afterwards I sneak off to the nursing room to feed the baby and rock in the big chairs and read Mormon Stories Facebook group posts. There’s no way I’m going to Sunday School.

When Relief Society starts I find a seat and get a lot of comments about how big the baby is getting (we’ve only taken her to church 3 times in her life so they haven’t seen her much) and the lesson starts and I zone out. The lesson is on the sacrament. Sacrament doesn’t mean much to me as an atheist so I am bored.

Finally the 3 hours is over (why do I put myself through this!?!?) and I go to pick up my primary kids. As we are walking to the car I ask them what they talked about in class. My son said they learned about the word of wisdom and the teacher told them that coffee is bad for you and then he asked why Daddy drinks it. My response was “Why do you eat donuts?” (Later I told him that coffee is not bad for you unless you drink a whole ton of it and that his teacher was wrong…let the deprogramming begin). My daughter tells me that they also talked about the word of wisdom and she ate 5 packs of fruit snacks and a bunch of pretzels in class because those are healthy snacks. I don’t think I can take them back to primary ever again…

That was my breaking point.   So fast forward a few weeks to now and I haven’t been back to church. I know we’ll go back at least a few more times for various reasons, but I’m hoping we’re done with primary. I want to be done with it all. But that thought makes me sad. I want to ask to be released from my calling, but I feel like if I am, I won’t have any excuses left to see my church friends. I don’t live in Utah where all my neighbors go to church with me. The family in the ward that lives closest to us is still a 10 minute drive away. I’m not particularly close with anyone in the ward, but I still consider them my friends. And I will miss them.

It was hard to skip church on Mother’s day.  I knew the kids wanted to sing on the stage but the husband was working once again and I just didn’t have it in me to get 3 kids up and ready for church on my own so we could drive 25 minutes to sit through an little over an hour of boring sacrament meeting just so they could sing. And then drive the 25 minutes back home because I wasn’t about to stay for the whole thing. So I stayed home and felt sad. Sad that the church isn’t what I want it to be. Friendly, open, accepting, uplifting, inspiring (I used to think church was all of these things).  Instead I find it boring, superficial, judgey, annoying, and dishonest.  If we took away all the doctrine and just taught each other how to be good people instead of how to be good Mormons, I would be happy. But that will never happen in my lifetime and so I mourn the loss of my spiritual home. Sometimes atheism is so freeing and awesome, and sometimes it just sucks.

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A Conversation: My Story, part 2

“Hey babe?” the husband says in an insecure tone as if he’s asking my permission to speak, unsure of how I will respond.

I look up from my phone at my husband sitting in the chair across the room.

“There’s something that has been bothering me the past couple days and I really need to talk to you about it.”

I don’t immediately grasp the level of seriousness this conversation will hold. I’m waiting for a response such as “I’m not sure about the path I want to take in my career,” or “I’m having a hard time dealing with the pressures of work.” Of course these would be serious topics, but they would not be out of the blue or life-shattering.

“What is it?” I ask, ready to console my husband and tell him everything will be okay.

“Did you know Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and some of his wives were as young as 14 years old?” he blurts out as if the words have been swelling up in the back of his throat like vomit he could no longer hold back.

I am still calm, not sure where this conversation is going yet. “No. Where did you hear that?” I ask in disbelief.

“There’s this article that popped up in my newsfeed the other day. Of course I was curious because it was about Mormons. It said some pretty crazy stuff. But the scary part is, I think a lot of it might be true.”

“Like what?” I am sitting up straight now, my mind and body on high alert. My internal defense system has been triggered.

“Well, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, for starters. And some other stuff. Like, did you know that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone inside a hat?”

“I thought he used the Urim and Thumim. I’ve never heard of a stone in a hat. I don’t believe that.”

“I can send you the article. But what is really bothering me is that I need to know the truth. I can’t believe I’m 33 and I’ve never heard of this stuff. I feel like I’ve been lied to my whole life. I need to do some research and get to the bottom of this.” The husband moves from the chair to the couch and holds my hands in his. “I don’t want to live a lie.”

I am now in panic mode. I wonder if he is really saying what I think he’s saying.

“What do you mean?” I ask, not sure whether I want him to answer that.

“I mean, if the church wasn’t true, would you want to know?” he asks.

My mind says yes but my gut says no. My logic wins out and I hesitantly say “yeah, I…I would want to know the truth.” The words hang in the air as my shoulders fall and my body slumps down along with the sinking feeling in my gut. A voice inside me cries “No, no! Don’t let things change.” But that voice is stifled by the curiosity and reason in me. I know I gave the right answer, even if I didn’t want to.

“Me too,” the husband whispers as he pulls me into an embrace that hides the tears streaming down his face, and mine.

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After reading this post, my husband claims that I make it seem all very abrupt, as if he went from one question about polygamy to total disbelief in no time at all.  He assures me that is not how it happened.  But this is MY story and how I saw it.  Obviously, its not the exact words we said and was written long after the actual conversation so I may have mis-represented him, but I can verify that it accurately portrays how I felt.  Maybe I can convince him to tell his side of the story at some point!

Damn You, Mitt Romney: My Story, part 1

It’s all your fault. I blame you, Mitt. I was totally innocent in all of this!  You see, Mitt just had to run for president, sparking “the Mormon moment.”  And that’s where my story begins.

At the time I was a good Mormon girl. I went to church every week, held callings, held a temple recommend, and even occasionally read my scriptures. I wasn’t a spiritual giant, but I was going through the motions with full belief in it all. No doubts. I knew the church was true.

The election of 2012 was the first time I had really decided to get politically involved–thanks to Mitt. I didn’t want to be that Mormon who unquestioningly voted for a guy just because we knew the same secret handshakes. I wanted to be sure I voted for the person that had the same political beliefs as I did. I didn’t have anything against the guy, I just wanted to be objective. See, I was just trying to be a responsible citizen here. Who could blame me?

At the time, I lived in a state where the Republican candidates campaigned heavily for the primaries. This afforded me a unique opportunity to attend quite a few rallies and town hall meetings.  I even got a picture with the man whose campaign caused my spiritual dominos to fall.

It turns out that questioning your political beliefs is a great way to practice critical thinking skills. It’s also a great way to open your mind to different perspectives. Before this I was lazy about controversial things, mostly because the Mormon church (or at the very least, Mormon culture) tells you exactly how you are supposed to believe when it comes to controversial topics. But now my brain welcomed the exercise. I enjoyed the high that came from forming my own opinions and owning them.  Even if (or possibly because) they were a little scandalous by Mormon standards!  I said I was a good Mormon girl, which is true, but I liked to think I was on the fringe.  I laugh now when I look back at the little things that I thought were so edgy…I had no clue!

At this same time, the husband and I started to talk about our hopes for our children. Our oldest daughter was only three, but her personality was really starting to show. She was so curious and creative and the thought of putting her in school to sit at a desk and be forced to conform the rest of her life made us sad so we started to research homeschooling and non-traditional schools. Another step in the direction of thinking for ourselves.  Little did I know I was caught in the perfect storm for a faith transition. All the ingredients were coming together and I was ripe for the journey that lay unseen ahead.