Owning My Truth: Why I Left the Mormon Church

Recently I decided I wanted to learn a little more about makeup, so I joined a course by Michelle Money - The Money Method. I didn't realize that the course was about more than just makeup, but it is. A huge part of the course is about learning more about who you are and becoming more confident in that person. I'll talk more about the course in another post, but a section of the course was called "Own Your Truth" and was ultimately what prompted me to finally sit down and write this post (which, truthfully, has been a long time coming).

First, I want to make it very clear that I am going to be completely honest with my feelings in this post, and not all of those feelings are going to be rainbows and butterflies. This post is going to be raw, real, completely authentic, and, yes, probably long. My journey out of the church was 100% my own, not prompted or encouraged by anyone else. It was, by far, the most difficult thing I have ever done. I think a lot of people believe that those who leave the church are doing it because they want to sin, have fun, or take the "easy" way out. They think that we are lost, troubled souls who need saving. In fact, none of that is true - at least not in my case. If you're looking for the short version of why I left, here it is.

TL;DR: I don't believe the Mormon church is the church of God. I don't believe that there are prophets on the earth today, and I believe that, while it does a lot of good for a lot of people, it was doing more harm than good in MY life. I set out to find true happiness and joy, and it turns out that, for me, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was not the answer. 

If, however, you are feeling a little nosy and want to know all the things, go ahead and read on.
Let's start at the beginning, for it is a very good place to start. I was raised LDS (short for Latter-Day Saint, AKA Mormon). Growing up, my family went to church for three hours every week. I attended primary, I was baptized into the church at age eight, and I learned all about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I was taught to serve my fellow man, to love my neighbors, and to be a good, moral person. The church provided me with an avenue to discover my talent in music, my leadership abilities, and my talent for teaching and public speaking. In addition to all of that, without the church, I never would have met my amazing husband and I wouldn't have my kids. The church did provide me with a lot of good - there is no doubt there.

In addition to the things listed above, though, I was taught that our church was the only true church, that any marriage not in the temple wasn't an "eternal" marriage and that people married outside the temple would be separated from their spouse and family at death, which is really incredibly sad. I was taught that coffee and tea were bad, that sex was not something to be discussed or even thought about until you were married, that people who had piercings and tattoos had committed a grave sin, and that modest clothing was super important, because, well, if a girl didn't dress modestly, then those darn boys would be tempted to sin. I was taught that a woman's greatest calling in life was motherhood, and that that's what every woman should aspire to - to an eternal marriage in which the woman stays home and raises the children. There are a lot of other things I was taught, which, looking back, never really quite sat right with me, but ultimately, it was the things I was not taught that made my shelf crumble (my "shelf" is where I stored all those somewhat annoying things that I didn't necessarily like or agree with, but weren't big enough issues for me to question my belief in the church's teachings), so let's start there. Before I delve into my main issues, I want to point out that, growing up in the church, it was made very clear that anything that portrayed the church in a less than perfect light was considered "anti-mormon" material - even if it was a scholarly article full of reliable sources. Because of that mindset, ALL of my primary research took place on LDS.org, and many of my issues stemmed from the historical essays that the church has recently provided to the public.

Let's talk about polygamy, because goodness knows that it was kind of a taboo subject when I was growing up. I was taught that polygamy occurred because there were widowed women who could not provide for themselves financially, and these selfless male members of the church were marrying these women purely to care for their financial and emotional well-being. Well, imagine my shock and surprise when I learned that good old Joseph Smith was not only marrying multiple women without Emma knowing, but he was marrying women WHO WERE STILL MARRIED TO OTHER MEN and girls as young as 14. I could go on and on about my disgust and issues with polygamy, but I'll spare you the details and encourage you to read the LDS.org essays on polygamy, then head over to mormonthink.com if you'd like to learn more. Basically what I learned from this essay was that I no longer believed Joseph Smith to be a godly man, let alone a prophet.

My research on polygamy led me down a sort of rabbit hole, and I discovered much more of the church's unsavory history. I cried, I prayed, I read everything I could, and I ultimately reached the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a good man. I felt sick to think that I was part of a church who has hymns like "Praise to the Man." That was not a man to whom I could ever shout praises.

I pleaded with the Lord to help me find any reason to stay. I thought to myself, "Maybe I'll stay for the kids - surely the church could do good things for them?" I went to church the next week, and as I was preparing for my calling as primary chorister, I was flipping through the primary songbook and came across the song "I Love to See the Temple." I sat there for a second and realized that I had my answer -I needed to leave the church. I hate the temple. I hate it. I remember the first time I went into the temple, I was so excited. I thought to myself, "This is it - THIS is where I have waited my whole life to be." But as I went through the endowment ceremony, I felt anything but peace. I listened to the covenants and felt uneasy. I went to the temple a few more times, thinking that things would surely get better the more I went. In fact, the opposite was true. Every time I went to the temple, it was more uncomfortable than the last. I later realized after reading through the scripts that, as a woman, I wasn't covenanting with my Father at all, as the song said. In the LDS church, women can't get to the celestial kingdom unless they have a man to get them there. There are many other things about the temple ceremonies that made me uncomfortable, but because they are sacred to members of the LDS faith, I will not discuss them here.

After that day, when it dawned on me that I needed to leave the church, I didn't just let it go. I wanted so badly to find something that could justify a decision to stay. Why? If I didn't believe any of it anymore, why in the world would I want to stay? Because staying in the church is easier than leaving. When you leave the LDS church, you become a project and an object of discussion. Your name is brought up in church leadership meetings, and suddenly people who have never cared to talk to you pop up out of the woodwork because they are concerned about your eternal salvation. I've seen parents and families disown and shun their children. I've seen neighbors and friends talk behind "apostates'" backs. I've seen firsthand the judgment and speculation that happen when people leave the church. I've seen the disappointment, the subtle attempts to bring people back, and the outright disrespect that people have for those who have decided to leave. So, yeah... if I could have found any reason to stay, even one, I think I would have. Because sometimes it's easier to just not rock the boat.

When I realized there was nothing that could keep me in the church, I decided to stop wearing my garments, and secretly hoped that I'd have some sort of crazy prompting to put them back on and go back to church. That didn't happen, though - what did happen is that a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. As I got rid of them, I realized that I was living authentically for the first time in many, many years. I was unapologetically me. I felt an immense amount of peace with my decision to leave the church in that moment.

Over the next several months, I underwent the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance for those of you who need the refresher), spending a large amount of time going back and forth between anger and acceptance. Now, about nine months later, I feel that I'm in the "acceptance" stage about 95% of the time. There are certain things that trigger me (mostly topics regarding sexuality/motherhood/LGBTQ), but for the most part, I can think about the church without being consumed by anger and grief.

I want it to be known that I have never felt so truly happy, at peace with myself, and loved as I do at this time in my life. I am able to live authentically and be completely true to who I am as a person. This has led me to some of the most beautiful, honest, and genuine relationships I have ever had. I don't beat myself up over little things, I don't have a constant sense of shame or guilt hanging over me, and I am a better person for it. I find that, since leaving the church, I am much more open-minded, I am more empathetic, I am less judgmental, and I am ultimately more understanding of other people. I know now that truth is not universal, and neither are beliefs. Truth is not a one size fits all type of thing, and neither is joy. What brings one person joy will not bring everyone joy, and that is also true of religion.

You may be wondering what I do believe if I no longer believe the teachings of the LDS church. The truth is... I don't know. I believe in kindness, positive thinking and positive energy, respect, and love. I believe in authenticity, friendship, and honesty. I believe that religion and beliefs don't define a person, but actions do. <3 


RadiantKristen said...

I just love you so, so, so much. And I'm proud of you for how brave you and Mike both had to be to come to your own decisions about your faith, and how to raise your kids. I know it's been a lot, and a rough road. Hugs.

Kaity said...

I actually just read a similar post from a blogger I follow last week. I can't find it now to share with you, but it seems like it was a tough, but freeing experience for both of you. I'm not familiar with the LDS church (though I'll be honest, my impressions aren't great), but I feel like I'm at a similar place in my faith. Which is kind of no place at all. I do feel a lot of doubt, but I don't feel guilt or shame in my lack of faith. I'm just trying to focus on being a good person and a good example to my babies. Maybe one day, I'll find a faith to call my own, but right now I'm content and at peace with where I'm at.

Good for you for doing the hard, right thing.

rooth said...

Thank you for sharing your very honest story. I know a few people who have gone along the same journey as you have and I think for everyone it's different. Can't wait to see you back here blogging more often :)

LMW said...

This is the first post I have read from you and wow. The bravery and sheer raw emotion is so refreshing. I grew up within 5 miles of a temple and attended school with lots of mormon students and it was always interesting that as soon as they reached dating age they were no longer allowed to date us catholic children. Proud of you for doing what you knew was right for you.

Laura Bennett said...

Rejoicing with you, Alyx (and Mike & kiddos). This is really, really big. You're strong and brave to embark on the journey and stronger and braver still to share your journey with others. I'm the only one of my siblings not still participating in the fundamentalist version of Christianity I grew up with (more akin to Mormonism than perhaps most Christian denominations) and it's hard to be the 'outsider' sometimes, even when I'm definitely living a more authentic life now. I hope we can talk about this over the phone sometime! Sending you love & hugs.

Lourdes said...

Firstly, I have not read blogs or even updated my own blog in forever and finally got the urge to do so (at least start another post) today. Before I started my post, I decided to see what my favorite bloggers were up to. Yours was one of the first I checked up on.

And lady... this post is amazing. I do not know anything about Mormons and I was never fully into the Catholic Church. (Sure, I went to church every Sunday with the family, went to church events, Sunday school, confession, communion, etc. but it did not absorb into my everyday life. I have my beliefs but let the church community and people be separate from my everyday life). From what you describe...WOW. I can only imagine how hard this could have been. I give you props and admire you for doing something so difficult.

I read your last paragraph OVER AND OVER. Loved it. Very powerful.

Thank you for opening up. <3

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