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.

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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.