Minutes after posting the “bleeding spirit”, I had a brave mormon friend on FB message me a response. She was expressing her genuine dismay at my pain, and we started a conversation.
There are several popular explanations in mormon culture for why most people leave the LDS faith. These concerns were highlighted in my FaceBook conversation with my friend within a few minutes. These are the most common reasons… I know them because I comforted myself with these explanations as a child being raised in a mormon family and as an adult trying to live and spread the gospel. I now face these false assumptions as an apostate, talking to my family and friends about my choices.
#1. I succumbed to the temptation to live “in the world.” The strict rules and regulations that mormons live by are too difficult to bear, and I am unwilling to sacrifice my time to worship and/or serve the church and it’s members. I can not live without coffee or alcoholic beverages. I can not handle the modesty requirements of temple garments (mormon underwear). Being a member of the One and Only True and Living Gospel is simply too hard for me.
#2. During my time as an active mormon woman, I was not doing my part. I was not living a “worthy” lifestyle. My heart was not pure and contrite and repentant enough. My inability to feel spiritually fulfilled, or even more drastically, the sensation of my spirit dying away, suffocating, was due to my own sin.
#3. I was afraid. I did not understand Jesus’s sacrifice for me, the concept of Grace. I felt too much pressure to be perfect, live perfectly.
The following is part of my FB response with a worried friend, a woman who was also born, raised and married in the LDS temple. Just as I was. I will title it with the most important point, one that I have been unable to get an LDS person to believe.
WE ARE THE SAME.
My inability to be a mormon woman has nothing to do with grace or fear of failure or feeling like I am not measuring up. It is exactly the same thing as you choosing every day to be a mormon. You chose it because it is real for you. You feel comfort and love and a closeness to God. These are wonderful things. I am glad you have this in your life.
Mormonism simply did NOT do this for me. It suffocated me. It made me feel disconnected and distant from God. The same still small voice that we were both taught since infancy to listen to…that voice was telling me to let go, to move on, that it was not the place for me anymore. This voice was loud and insistent and forceful. You and I both were taught to honor that voice as the voice of the Lord. You are doing that, and in doing that, you are fulfilled spiritually.
I am doing that too. Finally.
The fear for me was in stepping into the unknown, of following that voice even when everyone in my world told me not too. Sometimes following your inner guidance is very hard. We are also taught this in The Church. To stand up for what you believe in, at great peril even. Mormons applaud this bravery when it comes to people joining the church, even when they have great opposition in their family and friends.
There is absolutely no difference between you and I in our desire to follow God’s plan for us, to experience spiritual growth and enlightenment, to feel our souls nourished and expanding. You and I are the SAME. We grew out of the same soil. Told the same things, took them into our hearts, believed them. We found good, honest, loving, stalwart, gospel loving men to marry and carry us forward.
The difference lies here: I was told to get off that mormon path. It is not about “worldly things” or “rules and guidelines” or that I couldn’t “cut it.”
It was spiritual.
The same spiritual things that keep you an active mormon woman. The spirit that I was taught to listen to…it was leading me somewhere else. Staying and ignoring that insistent, still, small voice would have been easier than leaving. To leave was to risk every important relationship in my life. My children. My husband. My parents. My siblings. My grandparents. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins. Friends. My SELF. My sense of who I was. It was a stepping off a ledge, unable to see the ground below.
It was the hardest, bravest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
But I did it because as you know, listening to that guidance is at the foundation of all belief. The foundation of who we are.
The only difference between you and I is that your doctrine makes a real conversation about this impossible. I know, I understand that doctrine. I was there. I lived it with every ounce of integrity and love and passion and commitment and worthiness as you are now.
This is what I mean by fear: It is the challenge that I represent…the idea that the one and only true gospel would not work for some people. That the still small voice would in fact lead me “astray.” You absolutely have no room to accept this. You simply can not and will not be able to understand that the SPIRIT guided me away from the gospel.
The same SPIRIT that binds you to it.
The same pain and anguish and darkness you may experience if you left the church and tried to do without it, was what I experienced in being a mormon woman. If you were to leave The Church, the nourishment of your divine spirit, perhaps you would find yourself curled up in the fetal position, weeping in bed every night, feeling that your spirit may cease to exist entirely.
I hope you never experience this kind of spiritual anguish. You probably will not, as you have found and plan to stay in your spiritual home.
I plan on doing that too.
Megan – you are a very strong woman and I am proud of you for standing up for what you believe in. You have made a very hard decision, but if that is what makes you happy then that was the right decision. You are a great example to many people. I sure wish that we lived closer – I have so many fun memories of the times we shared. Hang in there – you are amazing.
Thanks Heather- it is so good to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words, it is greatly appreciated. It would be lovely to see you again, I too have such fun memories of our adventures 🙂
So well said. Thank you. During the time in my life when I was questioning and pondering and seeking, I was lying on my bed early one morning–kind of a time when revelation comes and you know that’s what it is–and I had the distinct thought, “What if the Mormon Church is actually preventing you from truth?” I was shocked. It was the still small voice and that’s what it said to me. Could it be possible that something can be totally great for one person and really detrimental to another? I believe so. Thanks again for your wonderful post that focuses on how we are the same in our efforts to listen to the voice that speaks inside. 🙂
This article is simply amazing. I don’t know you, but thank you SO SO much for putting into words what I have been feeling and trying to explain to everyone around me for the last year, and what I’ve been feeling for a VERY long time, but didn’t recognize it. It’s great to know I’m not the only one feeling this way. I appreciate you sharing this very much!
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so happy knowing that you have connected to my experience, and felt the same frustration. It is such a challenge to help people realize that we are all making decisions driven by the same thing… our inner spirit, directing us to our true path.
Thank you for writing this. I have never been one to externalizing my thoughts, and I appreciate people like you who can, and who do it so beautifully. My mind is so full of clutter now, I can’t sort it. Anger, compassion. Bitterness, respect. After you leave, when do you truly leave? Even when you feel you are 100 percent satisfied with your decision, there is that little seed inside of you, planted so deep and so long ago, that doesn’t let you escape. Even when get to the point where you are 100 percent satisfied that the Jesus you knew is not the same Jesus you know now, because it feels different….when will I stop waking up in the middle of the night, with the words “apostasy! apostasy!” ringing in my ears? Maybe, just maybe, I’ll never really be able to escape? Thank you, Jesus, for being by my side. I need you now more than ever.
I read your comment last night, and it took my breath away. I would say you are quite amazing at externalizing thoughts…beautifully. You captured such a familiar moment…the ache that comes with changing your life. Eight years into my journey outside the mormon tent, I can say that you don’t really ever leave. Because you can uproot a tree, but that does not change it’s composition. We were planted and we grew out of mormon soil. And I have chosen to uproot myself and plant myself in richer ground. But the very essence of my childhood, my beliefs and my ideas about the world were created in a mormon chapel. I can deconstruct that, but you can not take it away. The process is like grieving… it is a cycle of grief, and at the end is acceptance. There will be a time when you will wake and your spirit will chant “I am whole. I am whole.” Hold on to that.