Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Story

Okay, so how did I get here? How did a nice Mormon girl like me turn to the dark side of agnosticism? Conversely, how did a nice agnostic girl like me get so hopelessly tangled up in Mormonism?

I was born into the church. Mine wasn't exactly a "typical" Mormon family--my parents were divorced and I was raised by a mostly single mom. But I went to church every Sunday of my entire childhood. That was no question. My mom was, and is, super duper devout. I mean, you should see that woman's food storage.

I was baptized at eight, earned my Gospel In Action award, earned my Young Womanhood award, voluntarily went to the temple by myself as a teen to do baptisms for the dead.

I graduated from seminary. Oh boy, did I ever graduate from seminary! You guys, seminary made me into a bit of a religious zealout. I was obsessed with the gospel as a teenager. I was so righteous. You wouldn't believe my teenage righteousness.  I didn't watch PG-13 movies. I read Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS, if you ever get your hands on my high school scriptures and see the references all over the place), cover to cover. Twice! For real. Super righteous straight arrow over here.

Luckily for everyone who ever did or ever would know me, I then went to BYU and that toned it down a little. Go figure.

I served a mission. Then I came home from my mission and promptly married the stake president's hot son...IN the temple.

So, do you believe me? I was as Mormon as they come.

So was my husband. Did I mention he was the stake president's son? His family was a "typical" Mormon family--eight kids, perfect mom (she really is fantastic), do I really need to keep going?

We were pretty righteous newly weds. We went to church every Sunday, we read our scriptures, we prayed together.

Okay, now I have to get kind of serious, because this is when things changed. Long story short, my father-in-law (to whom I had been very close all my life) died suddenly and unexpectedly while serving as a mission president. Three months later, we had a little preemie. His name was Simon. He lived for five days before we made the choice to release him from this life.

This rocked my world.

I know a lot of people experience similar things--even worse things--and it strengthens their faith. And you know what? At first I thought it strenthened mine, too. We made our decision very prayerfully. I actually felt peace as I held my baby and his heart slowly stopped beating.

But after the first few weeks, things started to change. I had a lot of questions. I knew the Mormon answers to those questions--I had been giving them all my life. It was like one side of my brain would ask a question and the other side immediately, before side one even finished, spit an answer back at it.

Contrary to the most popular assumptions, I wasn't angry at God. I really wasn't. I never believed in a God who would intentionally rip his child's heart out. I was taught to believe in a loving Father, and in my world, loving parents just don't do that. They may allow their children to suffer through hard things in order to learn or grow, but they don't inflict suffering on their children. And certainly not as some sort of sick test of their faithfulness. Ick. That's not the God I believed in. I believed that if anything, God was sad for me, the way a loving parent aches when their child is hurt.

So it wasn't about bitterness. It wasn't that God didn't heal my father-in-law or my baby (despite a priesthood blessing from an Apostle commanding my father-in-law's body to be healed.) But those things made me wonder about prayer and about ordinances and about the priesthood. And let's face it, in Mormonism, once you start questioning the legitimacy of the priesthood, it's pretty much downhill from there.

My brain began to ask questions at an alarming rate, and gradually, the Mormon answers just weren't cutting it for me anymore. When thoughts of my eternal happiness became more real to me and rested on the truthfulness or untruthfulness of the things I had always said that I "knew", I realized that I didn't know anything at all.

I continued to read my scriptures daily and pray morning and night, assuming that I was just going through a "spiritual low" and that I would eventually come out of it. But instead, it got worse and worse, to the point that nothing at church felt real to me anymore. I felt like I was faking it. I felt like a liar. Eventually, I realized that I was only wearing my garments because I didn't own any other underwear. Out of respect for the people who view them as sacred, I stopped wearing them. Not long after that, I stopped attending church. (My husband was relieved. Turns out he never really believed any of this stuff and was just waiting for someone to give him "permission" to stop pretending. Poor guy.)

I was initially really traumatized by my decision, but only because it was so surprising to me. Me? Not going to church? What??? I literally lost my religion, R.E.M.! But once I recovered from that shock, I was actually quite comfortable with my choices.  I felt like I was the same person with the same values, the same lifestyle. I was comfortable with my agnostic acceptance that I didn't know the answers to life's big questions, and I didn't believe anyone else knew either. I actually found a lot of peace in some of those things.

But after awhile, I began to miss the community. It got especially bad when we left Utah and moved to the East Coast. Oh, was I lonely! I tried several times to go back to church, but it never felt like it was working. For one thing, I don't know if you guys realize this, but Mormon church is LONG! Three hours?!? And frankly, it's kind of boring. But the worst part was that I just didn't believe it. I couldn't sing the hymns (and I used to love singing the hymns.) Everything that was said just rubbed me the wrong way. I even tried attending some other churches for the community, but they just didn't compare for me. They weren't what I was used to and comfortable with.

At one point, I decided I was just going to fake it until it all came back to me. That didn't work. I'm not a good faker. Then I decided I was just going to attend for social reasons and ignore all the rest of it. That didn't work either. It's kind of a big investment of time for the social return. And then there's the problem of my kids being indoctrinated while I'm socializing. Uh uh. Didn't work.

Then, after six years of this madness, I discovered my hope testimony. And here I am, coping with a new kind of madness.

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