I don’t fit anywhere in my community.
On one hand, I have my past friends. They are still faithful, and they still believe. They are the good ones.
On the other hand, I have some new friends. They’ve never been a part of it. They’ve lived their lives free from the constraints and indoctrination of my religion.
There is no one who understands.
I grew up a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, as they are more commonly referred. I went through all of the motions. I attended Sunday school and seminary as a youth. I was married to my husband in the temple, and he blessed all of our babies. As a couple we were never extremely active in the church, but we completed all the necessary tasks for appearances and the sake of our families. When you’re a Mormon, it’s hard to do a half-assed job. You’re either all in or you are out. So we went all in, and I guess you could say we essentially believed.
Until we stumbled on Mormon Stories Podcast. It changed everything.
Suddenly we found ourselves listening for hours nightly to others that were once like us. True believing Mormons, fully invested in their faith, who for one reason or another decided to leave the church. The were many reasons like the exclusion policy of 2015 that excluded children of LGBTQ families from being baptized, the church’s overall treatment of the LGBTQ community, or simply the countless problems with church history.
That’s what got to me. The lies. Lies upon lies. Manipulation. Greed. So many sins that I now realized my church was more guilty of sinning than any of its members.
We continued to pore over church history for months, it was so utterly fascinating. Yet, frustrating at the same time. How could I have believed this? How could anyone? A few months prior I had been all in, but now my world slowly crumbled around me. I felt relief and pain at the same time. As Mormons, you are taught that if you are married in the temple you are sealed to your family for all of eternity. Am I still going to see my family after death? That’s a question I can no longer answer, and it tears me up inside.
It’s so difficult to be around people in the Mormon community now. Their lives are so completely entwined in the church and I am now broken free from its grasp. Not all of them know that I’ve left, but I think that some have an inkling. Some know, and trust me, it creates a distance. My family knows, but not my husband’s family; he’s afraid of how they will react and I can’t say I blame him. Some children that leave are completely disowned.
There is also the issue of how you’ll be viewed by members when you leave. You become a coward who thought the church was just too hard. A person that simply desires to sin. Someone that couldn’t put off the natural man. You’re viewed as weak, as lost. An apostate.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth for most people that leave the church. It’s actually incredibly difficult to commit “the sins” you were never allowed to commit while a member.
In the year since I decided to leave, I have finally mustered up the courage to wear a tank top in public. It took a few tries, and a lot of courage, but I did it. I’ve also figured out how to order at Starbucks. Baby steps.
This brings me back to my opening statement.
I don’t fit anywhere in my community.
I can’t be my new self with my Mormon friends. There is a giant pink elephant in the room now. Some may view it as a sin to be around me; after all you’re not to associate with apostates. If I crack open a White Claw in front of them, there is a good chance they will either pass out, or storm out of the room, never to be seen by me again.
I have some new friends that I’m trying to get comfortable with, but they don’t understand why I’m overjoyed to be asked to get coffee with them for the first time in my life at the age of 33. They don’t get why I think I can’t pull off the cold shoulder top, and they don’t understand why I have no idea how to choose a wine. They also don’t understand what I’ve lost. I’ve lost a lot of what my life was built on. It’s been reduced to dust, and I’m left trying to figure out how to rebuild.
If you take away anything from my thoughts, I hope it is this: If you know anyone that is going through a faith crisis, no matter the religion, please understand that it is not easy. Trust me, it’s the most difficult thing they’ve ever had to endure.
I will continue to make my way through the dust of what used to be my beliefs. I will not pretend to be something I’m not anymore. I will be true to my convictions and show my children that they can be as well.
It’s okay if I don’t have a community, as long as I have my integrity.