Releasing Religion part 1

My Experience with the Mormon church.

This topic has been hard for me to write about. Part of me wants to pretend that I haven’t gone through these things in my life, denying that they were ever problems, issues, and that it marks me as different from my family and those that I grew up with.

I’m afraid that as I talk about these issues, it may seem like I’m exaggerating, or making something out of nothing. I’m afraid that my voice may not matter as I work the courage to share it. I am choosing, now, to give myself a voice, to share what i have been afraid of expressing to anyone for so long. I’m writing this primarily for myself, and if it helps another, then I will be grateful.

I was raised a Mormon, and I no longer believe in the religion.

From the time I was a tiny baby, my parents had hopes and dreams for me, as most parents do.
They probably thought I would grow up healthily, go to college, follow the teachings of our church, get married in a Mormon temple, and have a few babies just as they each chose to do. This was the way, this was the formula for happiness. This is how I was taught to live life.

Growing up, I lived in a happy home. We always had clothes to wear, food to eat, and a roof over our heads. I grew up going to church each sunday, and to the weekly activities for the youth groups my age. I was baptized at age 8, I went to young womens as a teenager, I never missed a weekly activity, I loved going to church and helping to teach the lessons in class. I finished my Personal Progress before my 16th birthday, and recieved my Young Women’s Medallion. I also worked and received my Honor Bee before I turned 18.

The church was my life. I followed all the counsel that the leaders provided as closely as I could. I would fill a notebook full of notes during General Conference every 6 months. I stayed temple worthy and went with my youth group to participate in the baptisms for the dead. I worked on memorizing different passages of scripture from sunday school. I went to girl’s camp each year, excited to grow closer to my Heavenly Father. I attended the Bishop’s Youth Council to help plan activities and prepare my peers to learn the gospel. I went to and graduated from the Seminary program in high school, I loved learning there.

I wore modest clothing, I would never swear or speak badly of anyone. I gave a portion of what little money I had to the church for tithing. I would go to three hours of church each sunday, and return home to read my scriptures for another hour or two just to continue to feel the spirit strongly. I sang in church choirs, attended service projects, planned activities, went to Mormon Tabernacle Choir Concerts, read the Book of Mormon. I walked to the doors of other girl’s in my ward to invite them to come partake of all that I had participated in.

I was doing what I was supposed to do. I followed all the rules and kept them perfectly. I planned to keep meeting these habits, rules, and expectations for the rest of my life. I had planned to also go to college to meet the man of my dreams (must be returned missionary!) and have a family of my own, and raise them to meet the rules and expectations of my religion perfectly, just as i had done.

I had wanted this so badly! This was my life’s path! It has already been paved before me, and many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) walk this path now. I thought, if I don’t stray from this plan, I will be happy. I did this to feel close to God. I felt passionate about the church and the gospel. The one true church could never lead me astray.

I had gotten my Patriarchal Blessing just before graduating High School. This type of blessing is supposed to outline my spiritual gifts, and define the purpose of my life, as well as potential blessings if I remained faithful. The Patriarch said that I would be meeting my “eternal companion” soon. The man who I would marry and be sealed to for the rest of time, and in Heaven. I just knew I was on the right track. I thought my life would come together without much difficulty, still while I was young. My parents would not have to worry a bit about me.

I had also received a father’s blessing some time after the patriarchal blessing, to help guide me in my next steps in life. My dad promised that I would find my future husband in college, and to choose wisely which school I should go to. In my heart, I knew which school I would attend. The “spirit” had revealed this to me as I was receiving my father’s blessing.

I was set to go to college, it was about an hour’s drive away from where my family lived. I just knew I would meet my husband there. I moved away to attend school, but I didn’t have as smooth of an experience as I would have liked. I struggled to make friends, I was overwhelmed at the new experiences around me, and I generally felt lonely. I was also disappointed that I hadn’t even been asked on any dates, causing dissonance between what my 2 blessings had promised me, and my reality. I did not feel included socially in the young single adult’s ward I attended. I was discouraged from going for social reasons, but in my heart I knew the gospel was true, even if some blessings didn’t turn out the way I was told they would. I had enough faith, why weren’t things turning out?

I returned home, and I started dating a non-mormon boy that I met from work. As I got to know him, I realized that he was happy without the church. I was always taught that people couldn’t be happy without the church and it’s teachings. I never felt it was right to try to change my boyfriend, I just let him be himself, and he let me be myself, still believing in the church to deal my happiness.

Later, I started to not get the satisfaction I had once received from staying faithful in the church. I felt very alone at church. I did not want to date any of the boys I met there. I had never been asked on any dates. None of it felt real to me. I had started to feel guilty for having a non-mormon boyfriend. He accepted me for who I was, which made me feel better then trying to follow all of the church rules all of the time. But, I wasn’t dating the kind of man i was supposed to date in order to be married in the temple. We had never had sex, but kissed “passionately” often, and that weighed heavy in my conscience.

None of this felt wrong, but I felt socially guilty, even though I didn’t tell anyone.

It was the thought of anyone knowing that had me terrified. I couldn’t speak to anyone about this. I could not stand to be singled out and be labeled as bad or wrong.

At the time I was truly living in 2 separate worlds, one where I was discovering things about life, learning to trust, learning to be an independent adult. In the other, I was terrified to speak. I was terrified to reach out for help. In that world, I was alone.

 

To be continued…

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