Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Can I tell you a secret?

My hands are shaking as I write this post. Its nerve wracking and I feel completely exposed. Naked, really.

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.

63 comments:

  1. Beautifully put Ashley! Everything here resonates so well with me. Our journeys from the church and our belief system (and potentially from friends) can be very painful. There is still so much from the church's beliefs/teachings I wish was true. But wishing doesn't make it so and I'd much rather live truly and authentically. Life since leaving the church has been so much more REAL and I've never been more happy than I am now. I'm thrilled to hear you're finding that happiness as well. This rebirth, coming out of a box, or whatever you want to call it is truly amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a former ex mormon myself, I have to say well done. I also hope that those you know can be supportive of your decision, which I know you didn't come to without a lot of pain and soul searching. I just hope that others can be motivated to do the same thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow 4 years he didn't dare tell you! There is so much fear in the church that you might not believe it.

    I know personally how tough it is to bare your soul. You are brave and now authentic.

    Congrats on being brave enough to face the facts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Darren! I know can you believe that scoundrel! ;)

      Delete
  4. I think your so brave for bearing your soul here and opening yourself up to criticism. I applaud your bravery. You are braver than I am xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its been a process and if you had asked me even a month ago if I was ever going to do this I wouldve called you crazy! What I think is brave is when people allow themselves to question. Thats the hardest part of it all.

      Delete
  5. Ashley, I love you! Although, I am surprised, I am also amazed by your bravery to post this. But you have always been brave in my eyes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Clare! You're pretty awesome! <3

      Delete
  6. This is great! I hope someday I'll be brave enough to make my own blog post to my friends and family and come out of the apostate closet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is something I've worked up to and I didnt decide to do this in one night. I wrote this post and sat on it for a few days that way I didnt regret anything in it. I'm glad I did it when I was ready. You should do it when youre ready too. :)

      Delete
  7. William D. BatemanDecember 4, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    I believe without a doubt that HAPPINESS is the "object and design of our existence", and that starts with following YOUR truth. Living an authentic life can be scary, because many are threatened when someone close to them comes to a different conclusion than they have. The greatest truth is LOVE, because love transcends all religion and world views. Thomas Merton say it best, IMO.
    "The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." Thomas Merton

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow! What an incredibly heartfelt post. It was well-written and so respectful towards others, regardless of where they are on a religious belief spectrum. I hope others who comment here will maintain that same level of consideration and respect. Best to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you bite me! haha I have to admit I read your name and thought crap this guy is sending me a message with his name. Not so! Thank you! :)

      Delete
  9. Good work! I love what you said. Sometimes being authentic is scary because some people who we love can't handle the truth of who we really are. But at the end of the day you can't please everyone, so it's most important to be the kind of person that makes you happy. I wish you luck and I'm glad to have met you. Seriously if you want to get lunch sometime, let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks my fellow st georgian apostate sista! Cant wait to do lunch! It will be epic I'm sure!

      Delete
  10. I love the bravery in this post. You are a beautiful person inside and out! Your journey sounds so similar to mine and many others. You are not alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks ShaRee! Cant wait to meet ya and hear your story!

      Delete
  11. Your post is filled with honesty and love, Ashley. I would expect nothing less from you. I wish you the best.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love this. You are brave and courageous and I'm so glad you are able to navigate this together. It's an exciting and sometimes ambiguous world out there which can be new and scary since we've had the "answers" in the church. Give yourself time to navigate and accept it and you''ll find it's actually wonderful to have things wide open for you and it's OK not to have all the answers. You get to choose for yourself. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree with this Alison. Life is so much more fuliflling with all its mysteries. Its scary at times but makes me appreciate life for the time we have.

      Delete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ashley, Over the last few months, I have frequently thought of doing what you have done here today. Your words are in many cases literally the words I would choose; your overall approach is, in total, what I feel. The truth when you say "I will admit I was angry it wasn't true. I was sad it wasn't true. I wanted it to be true" rings resoundingly to me. I told my stake president that very thing when he came for his final official visit.

    A brave lady you are. It is evident that just as we have, you have found new friends, worthy of your friendship. It appears you have maintained some friendships also, as we have done. Shunning is not a Christ-like action. Many understand this and will value you, your family, and your friendship for many years to come.

    My best to you...warm thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I very much appreciate your kind words and I agree totally. It was scary pressing the publish button. In fact I had a countdown with my husband before I clicked "publish". Its been an emotional exhausting day but I've been shocked with the love and support i've gotten from people of both sides of the spectrum. People are amazing!

      Delete
  15. Ashley, I love you no matter what...always have always will! I try very hard, to not wear ” judger pants”, love and accept people as they are! LOVE is a message and a lesson that is given by a Higher power. I truly believe that the world is full of good people......to quote one of our favorite Musicals....” ....to love another person is to see the face of God!” Leaving the church doesn't mean that you leave God and Jesus Christ out of your life, or that you no longer believe in a higher power, I know that you have that as a foundation......it's always a good place to start! Love and miss you guys....give those little scrumptious girls a big hug for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Denise! Love ya auntie poo! :)

      Delete
  16. Lonely roads are often more authentic and so, take us where our souls need to go. I'm far enough off the TBM track that I have had to face it and explain out loud where I am, or be unable to continue with what felt like charade. I am still able to continue as a member but I am almost unrecognizable to my ward; they cannot fathom my actions, my beliefs or my path and that is OK with me. They can choose to accept me or not, and I accept them even though I don't believe what they believe. It is a delicate thing and I don't know where I will be in a year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have incredible respect for people who know the issues and make it work for them and continue to attend. That didnt work for me but I have the upmost respect for people that it does work for.

      And I like to say change happens from the inside out. If people don't offer dissenting views then who else will? And isnt diversity so much more interesting as a whole? Good luck to you and I wish you the best in your journey!

      Delete
  17. Ashley, i don't know you but you and I are going through the same journey. I have been wanting to tell my family for so long, but I just haven't been able to find the words to do it right. This post is so brilliant and kind. I hope you don't mind if I send a link to my family members, you said it so much better than I ever could. Good luck in your journey, life is so much more interesting out of the church. Its not a black and white world anymore -- its technicolor and I love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely Porter! Its there for the taking. I know how hard it is to tell family. That was one of the most heart wrenching news to break. Especially since we had been married in the temple, have kids, etc. It was tough but I think *so far* no damage has been done to our relationships. Maybe a few bumps and bruises at first but those heal and offer experience, right. Good luck in your journey. Its scary being authentic but its been rewarding finally being myself.

      Delete
  18. I appreciate and respect your authenticity. I understand the challenge, the fear of disappointing people, hurting family, and worry about the social repercussions. I loved your words and thought the post was great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Josh! Yes very scary but worth it!

      Delete
  19. my wife and I did the same thing. I hated church, I didn't believe in the church or in God but faked it to keep her. It was a wild next couple days. Lots of late nights talking. Kind of like falling in love again. Congrats on stepping out. It's tough. My mother won't speak to me or see me so it's been rough but we're in a much better place outside the church

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear that about your mother. Its a shame when people do that. They arent even living their religion if they do that and are really into the control aspect and not the principles. Its a shame but ya know those who matter dont mind, right? :) Best of luck to you and your family!

      Delete
  20. Well done. Nicely written.

    I think those of us that leave are often not given credit for the incredible amount of pain and heartbreak that comes when we decide the church is not true. Oftentimes we are cast as taking the easy way out, or choosing an easier path. It is very much the opposite, to sit in fear of what a spouse or family or friends will think. To have to readjust your entire world view and rethink everything. It's scary, it's hard. Never did I pray more or read scriptures more than just before the end, and rarely do we get credit for trying, for truly making every effort to salvage the faith. Sometimes, it just falls apart and you move on.

    I am glad you are happy. I am too, in my own case, because my life and attitude and mental health and view of the world have improved dramatically since shedding mormonism.

    Best of luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with everything you wrote. I also agree were happier our of the church. My husband deals with severe anxiety. It put him in the hospital at one point. At the time he told me he didnt know why it had gotten that bad. Later after we left, he told me it was because of his beliefs and having to hide it from me. Since we left he hasnt had any more attacks and his anxiety is so much better. I'm sad what he privately had to go through but glad we are much happier now!

      Delete
  21. This is extremely brave of you and I applaud your choice. As you can see by my Anonymity, I'm not quite to your level of authenticity. My wife and I had a very similar experience and feel exactly the way you have written this. She came to me and said she was struggling with believing. At first I wasn't very receptive, however, I knew her better than anyone else and knew that if she was bothered by these things, then there must be something to them. I began studying and it wasn't long before we were both on the same page.

    Thank you for sharing what I have felt. Good luck with your family, friends, and neighbors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been where you have been. At first I felt like if I visited online exmormon support groups I had to look over my shoulder and hope my thoughts would stay private. Its a process coming out and even if you decide not to thats up to you. Not everyone needs to do what I have done to be true to themselves. I'm so glad you and your wife are on the same page and you can love and support each other. Shes very lucky to have you I'm sure. Unfortunately it doesnt always end up good like you and i have experienced. Best of luck to you my friend.

      Delete
  22. "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." Your love for your family and others shines through. By making this post you have shown that you truly care about an honest and loving connection to those around you. I commend you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Victoria! I appreciate that. Family is #1 in my book.

      Delete
  23. Ash this was such a beautiful post. I applaud your bravery and being authentic. Good for you! I am glad you are living the life you choose to live, and that makes you the happiest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so appreciate your support Kacee! Thank you!

      Delete
  24. I am in awesome wonder! My family recently found out I am in the middle of getting my records removed from a Mormon Bishop sharing information with people he legally shouldn't have. Regardless, family members are hurt and confused by me along with friends. I would like to ask if I can use this aa a template for my family and friends? I feel it honorable, healthy, and in order to both be honest and authentic with yourself and others! Appreciate your bravery and example!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely Danny! I know you are still fresh on this path ( I remember your post) and your seach for truth and compassion shines from you. Best of luck to you. Its not an easy thing to go through!

      Delete
  25. You are so brave. Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ashley, I could have written your whole post:-) Actually, I did, earlier this year, lol. In fact, half the time I was thinking I was reading my own blogpost! Suffice it to say, I know what you are going through. I know what it is like to leave the religion you have known and loved all your life. It is scary and painful. But there is also joy, relief, and excitement as you embark on a new chapter of your life. Wonderous things may be waiting for you just around the corner. And though some people may find it difficult or awkward to be around you now that your beliefs have changed, and that is very sad, just know that there are many more friends to be there for you, and understand what you are going through. You are never truly alone if you open yourself to others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true Sarah! I have found such a feeling of commradory with those that have left. Its scary to be open about it but its well worth it to be true to who you are. I'll never regret that.

      Delete
  27. This is phenomenal. I felt like I was reading something I could've written. Thank you so much for sharing your utterly-relatable thoughts. Best, Regina Samuelson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Regina! It was cathartic to write! :)

      Delete
  28. Ashley,

    I am so happy you shared this. How brave, honest and freeing. You are awesome! I look forward getting to know you better as online friends. If you ever need to chat let me know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ryan. You seem like a pretty cool guy and I see that you are a runner with your runtastic posts. Rock on dude! I've ran a half marathon and plan on getting on the boat and doing more. Running is good for the soul!

      Delete
  29. Good for you for making an educated decision, and then sticking by your choice after the fact, no matter what hits the fan... it is VERY hard to follow through with things like that, when religion and beliefs like this become almost more like rituals/traditions etc...Never mind the feeling and reality of being ostracized by the congregation....I enjoyed reading this...I have never been mormon, or really studied it much, and when i did, I always felt it was a bunch of BS....BUT, some think that about Christianity too, and that is where my beliefs lie...though my relationship with God is not dependant on the church or my involvement with the church, and neither is yours...That is the beauty of it all! =)...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I appreciate your thoughts!

      Delete
  30. Thanks Ashley. We have a lot in common and you have inspired me to open up more with my friends and family. There are so many people who feel alone in their disbelief. I was there for 5 years before I stumbled upon people to talk to. That was a long and difficult wait. By reaching out you give others a chance at finding hope sooner and avoiding unnecessary heartache. Life outside the church has been liberating and wonderful for us as well. Take care of yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I totally agree about the support. I was alone for just a couple months in my thoughts and it was like hell. Then I found online support and found people locally dealing with it that has helped so much!

      Good luck opening up to your friends and family! It's a balancing act between respecting their beliefs but not suppressing your own freedom of speech and beliefs. Good luck!

      Delete
  31. Thank you Ashley for your blog and your bravery in life. I love your blog. It reminds me of starting out in our marriage and dealing with the struggles of raising kids. I'm glad you and your husband are true to yourselves about religion. I left the church 5 years ago. I had been an active member for 45 years. I was a 7th generation Mormon, but the deception stopped with me and I didn't pass the burden and exploitation on to my children. My wife left the church shortly after I did. We are some of the lucky couples. The struggle is ongoing as my family and friends shun me. A year ago, my wife and I left the Rexburg, Idaho area and moved to the Portland area where we could be free from family oppression inflicted by the Mormon culture. I still really love my family and friends in the church, but they are victims of a lie and it's why they say and do hurtful things. I hope you can continue to find your strength. Your blog gives me strength. It also cracks me up a lot. It reminds me of Dooce.com. She is also an Ex-Mormon and is full of piss and vinegar.

    ReplyDelete