Back in March of this year my husband and I decided to leave the religion we grew up in and dedicated our lives to. We decided that Mormonism just isn't for us.
There I said it.
I know that people who are mormon have the first reaction to feel sorry for apostates. Please don't. Please don't feel sorry for me. I'm not sad about this decision. One bit. And I don't regret it for one second. What does make me sad is that I may lose friends or respect over this. That is what makes me sad.
I could get into the hows and whys but I don't think that will result in any good feelings and I have no desire to "deconvert" anyone.
I will say though, that I think the mormon people are great. They are people and make mistakes. This has nothing to do with the people as many may think. I was not offended.
To be honest, I just simply don't believe the major truth claims of the religion. I found out some disturbing things about some of the doctrine and history that was contridictory to what I believed and that I was not aware of before. These have been things I didn't find on purpose and wasn't looking to leave the church over. It really just fell in my lap and when I found out it was such a painful experience. It effected me so badly that I literally felt sick, but I couldn't turn my back on the truth. I morally could not lie to myself or to my conscience.
I will admit I was angry it wasn't true. I was sad it wasn't true. I wanted it to be true. So badly. But it just isnt. It simply is not true.
If you are a believer and you are still reading, I'm sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. I know it's probably uncomfortable to hear this but it's what I believe. I respect the belief that people may worship how and what they may. Now I ask...will you respect mine too? I'm not asking you to agree with me or even to understand where I am coming from, but will you love me unconditionally and without strings attached?
"The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them." - Thomas Merton
Chase has had a much different experience in regards to the church. I don't want to speak for him and to be honest he doesn't really care to talk about it much. When I found out about some of the uncomfortable truths of the origins of Mormonism I asked someone who had left the church (who I will remain unnamed in case they dont want to be revealed) and asked him what I should do. Should I fake my way or should I tell my husband what I was going through and risk him leaving me (which sadly is a reality for some who come out of the closet of unbelief)? He said that I should fake it so I didn't ruin my marriage. It hurt, but I continued on going to church and faking it as best as I could.
About a month later we were talking to some inactive family about church. We got onto the subject and I let it slip that I didn't like going to church. Chase turned to me and said, "Well then why are we going?" At that moment I felt the tension release and I knew I could finally be my authentic self. We stayed up until 1 o'clock in the morning and talked about what we both were hiding from each other. Turns out Chase was doing the same thing I was doing. He hadnt believed for 4 years of our marriage.
I will admit I was terrified of what leaving would do not only to my social life but to my belief system as a whole. What did I believe now? What is the purpose of life now? How scary it was to go from knowing all the answers to not having any.
Those were some dark times but I will say I've come out of that darkness and have found a love for life so full and that I never knew existed. I've come to realize that I don't need to have all of the answers to have a fulfilling life. To the contrary actually.
I live life every second of the day because I don't know if it will be my last. I hold my kids close because I don't know if it is the last moment I'll ever share with them. I am more adventerous because life is about experiences and seeing the beauty in the world, instead of what is so wrong with the world. I am kind to people because it makes me feel good to give to others and not because I'm being told to so I can go to heaven. I can accept people unconditionally without the desire to change them. I can love people without qualifiers or the fear that their chair will be empty in heaven next to mine.
I quickly realized that some of the most authentic relationships I had were built on love of the person and not love of the church. I realized that I had been very unfair to my fellow men because I was so occupied with judging their choices or how they looked compared to others. I was so busy doing that when I was mormon, its an unspoken part of the culture, that I overlooked some damn good people. That was unfair of me and I'm sorry to whoever I stepped on the way to get to my heaven.
I liked Dieter Uchdorf's general conference talk this October. In his talk he said:
"The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.
One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”
Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.
Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."
I didn't leave the church because I was offended or wanted to sin. Thats a huge misconception and one that I have been guilty of assuming in the past. Sinning was so far gone from my mind. In fact it scared me to even think those were possiblities to me. I liked the rules. It was easy to follow. In fact, even now I don't drink alchohol or coffee, smoke, or sell myself on the streets. Although I'm sure I would go for a pretty penny these days....I'll think about it.
Uchdorf also goes on to say many DO leave because of unanswered questions:
"Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others."
For me, when I was presented to with the "facts" it was pretty plain as day but not everyone sees it that way. Which is ok with me. I'm following what I believe is truth and what I believe to be correct. I came to a point where I had to look objectively at the situation, without any preconceived notions or expectations. When I did that the truth could not be changed to fit what worked for me.
That's not to say I think everyone should come out of the church behind me. I don't want that. I want to follow the dictates of my own conscience which is where I am today. I love others no matter what they believe. They can believe the flying spaghetti monster is their God and I would still love and support them. Its kind of like "love the sinnner not the sin" but instead "love the worshipper not the religion".
For me I was all or nothing. I couldn't fake my way through sunday school every week knowing I didn't believe what was being taught or what I believed was only half truths just to retain some friendships.
I was appreciative of the openness of the first presidency to squash the misconceptions of why people leave, but its not enough.
"Faith is believing in things you don't see. Delusion is beleiving in something even when there is a mountain of evidence against it." -Jeremy Runnels "Letter to a CES director"
This is an uncomfortable post to write and not one that I have been looking forward to publishing. Honestly I wasn't even intending to come out about my unbelief because I felt I didn't owe anyone an explaination about my personal relationship with God, but I felt in order to be my authentic self I have to come out and share my thoughts. It's hard when you've given everything up until this point to Mormonism to just up and walk away. It's almost been like a death in my life and something I've had to grieve for some time.
I also have been scared of the backlash. I know it's hard when people voice something that is so against your thinking. It's hard to not take that as a personal attack. I hope this doesn't come off that way. I have to be true to myself and my beliefs and not be scared into silence. There are so many people that are scared to say anything and just drift away slowly from mormonism. And I'm at peace knowing that if someone cuts me off or doesn't want to be my friend then it wasn't a friendship with that much substance anyways.
Please be kind. Be my friend. Love me for who I am. Don't judge me. I'm still the same Ashley. I haven't died. And I think if you really stay to look you'll find we actually have more in common than we don't.
And I do like cookies. Just please cut the strings off before you drop them by.