4/14/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy SP ~
Thank you for your wonderful site. It has helped me tremendously. The articles and comments I have read have not only been inspiring and educational, but they have also been empowering. Although I know my experience is not unique, I would like to share how I was able to realize that I had developed a faulty sense of reality due to my dependence on religion to think for me. While my childhood was filled with mostly positive experiences, my life as an adult became unnecessarily difficult, partly because I was afraid to step outside a world that was familiar and seemingly good.
When I was fourteen, I made a conscious decision to believe in the Mormon church. Little did I know that I based this decision on my experiences and limited ability to reason critically. For example, I believed God was the source of all truth and light; making him my only resource. The problem with that is there is an obvious conflict of interest. Even as I lumped moral behavior with religious belief, I confused logic and reason with objective truth. This lack of distinction enabled me to accept the testimonies of others based upon opinion alone, making myself vulnerable to persuasion. So, if God is good, he must stand for morality and be the source of all righteousness; therefore, those who represent him (Jesus, prophets, scriptures, religious leaders, great people) must be telling the truth. I then had to decide which church was “true” and came to the conclusion the LDS church was (big surprise there). Once I made that commitment, I stuck to it through thick and thin, even as doubts began to surface and accumulate.
Although my parents were not active in church, my roots run deep in the Mormon faith, all the way to the beginning of church history, with family of both heroic and infamous variety, such as Butch Cassidy. As an army brat, visits to Utah were like going home to enjoy great memories with my wonderful extended family, all of whom I love dearly and am extremely proud! My best friend, who was also Mormon, has been a huge influence for good in my life as well. Their love and examples helped shape the person I am today. It was not until I got older and started to notice problems with doctrine and The Plan of Salvation, that cracks in the marble of my belief began to appear.
Since my husband and I married young and began a family (Within eight years, we had six kids!), my growth in the church leveled out rather quickly. I never got into Temple worship or advanced teachings (I was too busy living); I guess you can also say I had a middle school education in the gospel, although I was extremely loyal and lived the values. To the nonmembers, however, I was a diehard Mormon (although I was not trying for that image). We lived in the Bible Belt and my husband’s family is Baptist. His family put us through so much grief; I might as well been openly atheist or Satan himself.
Now, our children are young adults and, along with my deconversion, I have been able to sort out and deconstruct the mental processes it took for me to adopt the belief system I held onto for so long. My husband and children have been extremely supportive, even wondering what took me so long. Since then, I have grown in ways that I never could have as a Christian. The church used to tell me the reasons people apostatized, or left, were because they were disillusioned or lazy or immoral or just plain rebellious. None of that is true for me, nor have I read that into any of the exit testimonies of others.
Eventually, I was able to see how my emotional, familial and cultural ties were the hooks that kept me believing, even as the threads of my faith were unraveling. Although I had a great childhood in which the church was a big part, I still did not come through the other end unscathed. For example, I internalized many teachings, carrying them around like extra baggage. The most insidious was the idea that God (or any spirit, for that matter) knew all of my thoughts and was watching me, holding me accountable for every little thing. Not only did that produce a private, unwarranted guilt complex, it was the filter by which I sifted everything. One can only image the problems that caused. Next, was how my place as a woman was generally decided for me by the church. While such beliefs made life easier for those around me, the emphasis on service to others and perfection, both fairly unique to Mormonism, weighed heavy on me. Even so, due to family circumstances, I usually remained on the fringe of LDS culture.
There was another problem; not only did I not quite fit in my Southern Baptist community (although I was respected for my values), but I also did not quite measure up within my own church circle because my immediate family was not considered the ideal Mormon family. Still, there is something in the core of me that loves life and people and, even though I sensed these things, was often oblivious to the cause of the undercurrent. It was not until I had lived through some experiences, and had time to evaluate them, that I was able to make such connections. I also learned that many of the gospel principles did not translate very well in real life, with real people. Even so, I have to say that my desire for goodness was the common denominator in determining what truths I held dear and love was the driving force by which I was able to remain true to myself at some basic level.
Then, one day, I got the rug pulled out from under me. Ironically, even as I struggled with my mortality, I was able to set myself free from religion. I needed to get away from everything, to decompress and learn to think things through to a logical conclusion. I needed to have nothing left to lose. I had to recognize the fear instilled in me by the church for what it was: an attempt to control and put me into a convenient category. I had to break the emotional ties one by one. Also, the internet gave me access to resources previous unavailable: original documents and editions, letters and journals as well as the support of my immediate family and blogs like yours. Not only was I older, more mature and better able to reason, but, for the first time, I had the courage to question. I had the confidence to look.
There have been two crossroads in my life. I was fourteen when I choose the first path. Since I attributed the very essence of life and goodness to God, my question was not whether to believe in him, but which version. Since I was already Mormon, I had to make the best choice I could, given my circumstance and ability to reason. I chose to be a Mormon then. Thirty years later, I came to the same crossroad; this time, I realized the road I took as a teenager was really a detour. Now, I take the road less traveled; what a difference it has made.
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