Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Month Without Mormonism

It's been roughly a month since I decided that I was done with Mormonism.  Before, when I had thought about leaving, I was always full of guilt and fear.  "What if it really is the truth?"  "What if I go to hell?"  "What will people think of me?"  I kept attending church, even though my heart wasn't in it, because it seemed, as my mum is fond of saying "the right thing to do".  Every week I would go, and every week I would come home angry, tired, and bored.
   Looking back on this past month, and all I am is grateful that I left.  My days used to be filled with guilt.  I didn't read my scriptures, I didn't pray before every meal, I didn't keep a clean and tidy house, I didn't revere my priesthood husband adequately, I didn't go to the weekly temple trip, I didn't do this, I didn't do that.  Today?  I feel guilty for stuff I did years ago that I haven't made right.  I feel guilty for blogging and not exercising.  I feel a bit of guilt for being snarky with the cat or the husband.  But I don't feel spiritually guilty.
   The interesting thing about studying Wicca is that it's considered a journey, and that journey is up to me.  If I want to take a break, that's fine.  If I want to study one subject like crazy, that's fine.  There is no one prescribed way to get there.  Coming from an extremely structured church experience, that's bizarre to me.  There are 101+ things that Mormondom expects people to do often.  It's a nice reprieve to not feel obligated to do something ineffective for me, just because it works for other Mormons.
   On an exMo site, I read an interesting analogy.  It said, basically, the Mormon church is like a pair of narrow shoes.  Narrow shoes work great for people with narrow feet.  But people with wide (or really really wide) feet are in pain.  You go to church doctors (leaders), and they say, the problem isn't with our shoes-it's with your feet! Change your feet!  See how well everyone else does in our shoes?  So the people with wide feet (usually the more intelligent and deeper-seeking) are left to figure out if it's them or the shoes.  And after 27 years of walking in narrow shoes, it feels amazing to be barefoot!
   Another thing I'm happier about, as a former Mormon, is money.  Mormondom requires 10% of your income, plus a generous amount of money for fasting on a certain Sunday.  For us, this meant about $500/month was given to the Church.  I'm unemployed, and my husband has a decent job, but we were really, really stretched.  We bought a house hoping we'd get foster kids quickly.  That didn't happen, so we've had 6  months of paying for a house that is really far too big for us.  $500 a month is like an amazing bonus. We can pay off our almost maxed credit cards! We can put money into *gasp* savings accounts! It's amazing how simply stopping going to church has had such an impact on our lives.
   And as to my earlier fears?  I don't think that Mormonism is the only truth. It might have some elements of truth (especially those of hard work and personal improvement), but I don't see it as the end all be all.  I think spirituality is a journey, not a rulebook.  I don't believe in a hell, except for what we create for ourselves by our choices, or the will others impose on our lives.  But certainly not an eternal one!
   I still haven't told my mum and step-dad. I know she'll be crushed. I was the "good child" that did things right. Temple marriage, steady relationship, etc.  It will crush my mom to know that I've gone "astray".  I'm still deciding whether to go inactive or formally have my name deleted.  I keep going back and forth.
   So overall, my first month as a former Mormon has gone really well. I'm happier, less guilty, and slightly richer.  I wish I had done this years ago, when I had first thought about it.  But at least now I can articulate my reasons for leaving, and I have a husband who loves and supports me regardless. Hooray!

10 comments:

  1. I went from a fundgelical upbringing to atheism, but it was a pretty long journey...basically I never really cared about the god stuff and just acted christian because that's how I was raised. Eventually, I stopped feeling guilty about my choices and stopped thinking about god in pretty much any way, shape, or form, but I wouldn't have called myself an atheist. But after some family confrontations I thought long and hard and decided "you know what, this label fits and I'm going to wear it and stand up for it." I'm very happy that I did it, as I think it's empowering to think through your beliefs and forcefully convey them to others without shame.

    'Before, when I had thought about leaving, I was always full of guilt and fear. "What if it really is the truth?" "What if I go to hell?"'

    Keep dwelling on this...really. Even if god exists, is he someone you want to be forced to worship for all eternity? If he's so willing to send everyone to hell, will you really feel guilty for not following him? My wife's friend was having her 3 year old daughter baptized this weekend...the purpose of baptizing kids is "just in case" they die before they can get salvation. So my question was, do you really want to serve a god that would send a kid to hell, even though that kid is barely old enough to speak, let alone grasp the ins and outs of salvation theology? My answer is "absolutely not." Even if the christian god exists (although he almost certainly doesn't), I'd want nothing to do with him. I'll roast in hell on principle if that's what it comes to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's kind of the conclusion I've come to. If an all-powerful, all-knowing God wants to guilt trip me into worshiping Him for eternity, I'll take my chances with hell. :D

      Delete
  2. "But at least now I can articulate my reasons for leaving" This statement says to me that you were right for staying and right for taking the time to consider your beliefs and actions before making a rash decision. Many times I see people come to a nature-based religion simply because it's that most different from their previous religion and they can't tell me why they're choosing the path. Changing one's path of interacting with the Divine is not a small thing and I admire people like you who have taken the time to really think about the deeper 'why' before just jumping ship.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sounds so familiar! I actually was hoping not to have to tell my mom ever, but after only a few weeks she noticed I wasn't wearing temple garments and so I had to out myself. It went pretty badly. Her basic response was "Out of all my kids I felt like you cared the most about doing what's right but I guess I was just deluding myself." No amount of reasoning could convince her that I was leaving for any other reason than pure selfishness and she's been trying to reconvert me ever since. My sister on the other hand was very disappointed but also supportive so it really varies from person to person how they'll handle the news.

    As far as having my name officially expunged from church records I haven't done that because I feel like if my parents found out it would be a huge slap in the face and I don't want to add insult to injury. Also it's a pretty arduous process and the church is notorious for dragging its feet, losing paperwork, and sending people to your home in an attempt to dissuade you (in some cases I've even heard of them contacting your family to have them talk you out of it). For me I think going through all that hassle would stir up a lot of anger and it's not important enough for me to deal with that at this point. I totally see why others would feel differently though. I'm not entirely comfortable with my name being used to pad church membership records and I've even had a couple of arguments with people who doggedly insist that I'm still a Mormon despite how I've chosen to identify myself. A few weeks ago the relief society president came over to introduce herself and invite me to come to church. I politely thanked her but indicated that I am not a Mormon. Her response? "Why you certainly are! I have you down right here in our records."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does it ever get easier, with your mother? I'm sorry that it didn't go well for you.
      As for the topic of expungment, those are pretty much the reasons I keep going back and forth. I don't want to be love-bombed, but I don't want to keep getting visitors either. Though I think it's horrible they call up families and try to get them to guilt-trip!
      I also think it's ridiculous that "you're a member as long as you're on our roster." I'm fairly certain 6 years of inactivity speaks loud and clear what your view of Mormonism is...

      Delete
  4. My mom's a very unique person in many ways so it may be very different with your own mom but I would say that in some ways it has gotten easier but not in others. On the one hand the emotions are less raw. She's a lot less angry with me and no longer subjects me to tear-filled guilt trips. Also, I don't know how many examples I heard over the years of faithful church-going people who started out by neglecting their daily scripture study and little by little were led astray until they're running illegal gambling and prostitution rings as well as cooking meth in their basement. Or they committed suicide or wound up a homeless drug addict or some equally fitting fate. I think that at first there was a lot of anxiety that I was headed down that "slippery slope" and by now that's pretty much subsided.

    On the other hand she still spouts off ideas that are absolutely repugnant to me. She believes that gay=child molester and has told me I need to have as many babies as I possibly can because white children are dying out and soon Muslims will take over the world (Just to be clear, these are pretty extreme views even within Mormonism and are not doctrinal). She cannot be reasoned with but occasionally I can't help myself and engage with her which is always a disaster. Also, she refuses to see my decision as anything other than a "rebellious phase" and has received revelation that eventually I'll return to the fold. She never misses an opportunity to tell me about some act of service or humanitarian aid the Church has performed and insist that the LDS church renders more aid than all the rest combined. And she also tries to proselytize my kids and tells me that if I really care about them I'll go back to church. These things will probably never change although I have gotten better about avoiding mine fields and changing the subject. Also, I'll probably always feel like I need to hide certain things from her. Whenever she comes over I always make sure to stash any coffee or wine out of sight and make sure never to wear sleeveless shirts around her even though I'm in my 30's and have 2 kids of my own.

    As far as the Church records go I'd suggest you tell the bishop to place you on the do not contact list. If he tries to pressure you or ignores your request you can say, "If I have to I'll get my name records officially expunged but I'd rather you could just stop sending people over. If I ever change my mind I'll know where to find you." You'd be surprised at how fast the visitors will stop then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea. Next love-bomb, I'll try this. Right now I'm in the "Is she really leaving? Let's give her a bit of time to sort things out" stage. As far as I'm concerned, it can last forever!

      Delete
  5. Good post. Describes me exactly. I feel better when I don't go to church, so why would I go to church? I'm not an atheist, but if something is making me grumpy, I'm not going to go there. If church makes other people happy, then I would tell them go ahead and go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! What works for me doesn't have to work for everyone, and that's OK.

      Delete