Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"What Do You Believe Now?"

"I can't even talk to you; you've changed so much!" My best friend typed. "I mean, what do you believe now that you're anti-Mormon?"
   This is part of an exchange I've recently had with one of my friends. It started by discussing some of the challenges I'm facing with the foster kids, and she gave me a traditional churchy answer. I was wondering what to teach the kiddos about smoking and drinking, because they come from a family of druggies and alcoholics.
   My friend said "Duh. The World of Wisdom." Which is the Mormon creed of no tobacco, drugs, alcohol, or caffeine. Of course, if you actually read it, it actually talks about small amounts of meat, abundant vegetables, and heavy on the grains. But that part seems to get pushed under the rug in worthiness interviews. I've actually told Bishops that I don't keep the WoW because I'm a carnivore that likes sweets, and was told that I should probably eat better, but it was more important that my body was kept free of drugs and alcohol. (I've always thought the picking and choosing of importance was odd).

   Anyway, after she said that, I was taken aback. She knew about my recent break with the church, and my current (complicated) feelings about it. So I was shocked that she would offer a Mormon answer to a common problem. And I told her as much. That's when she hit me with the above line.
   I had no idea what to say for a minute, and then I wrote:
   "I believe that making personal choices is more important than following blindly. I believe that people should decide for themselves how they are going to live, and then accept the consequences. I feel that children should learn that drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, etc-are big decisions that require a lot of thought. I believe that peer pressure doesn't always come from the person handing you the joint-it could come from the Sunday School teacher telling you to "Just Say No". I believe that children should be taught what is healthy, and know their family history, and choose for themselves (when they get older). I believe that all I can do is give them the tools for making the healthy and safe decision and then I have to let them make their choice."

   She hasn't talked to me since.

But that started me thinking, about what else I believe now. And some of this may be repeats from other blogs. Yet this is the first time (well, these past 5 months, really) are the first times that I've been able to define my own beliefs and feel personally OK with that.
   So what do I believe now?

  Well, I believe that I'm a good person. I know that lying, stealing, cheating, and murder are wrong. I know that there is a bunch of gray between "good" and "evil", and that my choices tend to be in the middle. And that's OK. I believe that there is some type of God and Goddess, but they are less concerned about my every action (and needing to repent), and more concerned with my journey.  I believe that deity is more than just the "vengeful Father" I was taught as a child, and that I can forge a loving, respectful, healthy relationship with a higher power, that doesn't require me to feel abased.
   I believe that I am in control of my destiny, and that there is no fore-ordination of choices. I know that I will have consequences for my choices, and that that is natural and acceptable. I believe that life is hard, because it's LIFE, not just a trial period of aforementioned vengeful God. I believe that while I can learn from other's examples, nobody can dictate to me what my choices should be, though it is my duty to be respectful of the Earth, and her inhabitants.
   I believe that men and women should be treated equally, and that if two people love each other, it shouldn't matter what their genders are, because I believe love knows no bounds. I believe that the needs of the mother, and the potential life of the fetus after birth should be more important than the growing group of cells.
   I believe we all make decisions, and those decisions affect others. I feel everything is connected: grass, trees, animals, people, water. I believe I should respect other's points of view, opinions, and choices; as I hope they respect mine.
   I believe I am trying my best, and that will have to be good enough, but that I am capable of improving. I believe that change is hard, but possible.
   And I believe that I have the right to change these beliefs as I see fit.

Oh, and I'm not "anti-Mormon". I believe the church encourages people to be responsible and decent. But I feel it is held back by the man-driven patriarchy that rules and reigns. If anything, I'm a saddened-former-Mormon. Saddened, because there are beautiful doctrines in Mormonism (eternal learning and creation, families forever, etc), but they are overshadowed by a never-ending list of "rules" that are required as a benchmark to eternity.

Reading this all, it really shows how far my opinions and feelings have moved from the patriarchy-driven Mormonism of my childhood. And perhaps some relationships just aren't worth the fight. But there will be other friends, other conversations, and other chances.


  1. This is beautiful. I love that you've carefully shaped your own values rather than accepting the prepackaged church version. And even if you were a believing Mormon (or any other religion) I do not feel it's appropriate to impose your own religious beliefs on foster children. Plus it's extraordinarily unhelpful. These kids have firsthand knowledge of how harmful drugs are. People don't use drugs because they don't know they're bad. They do it because they don't know how else to cope or have the confidence to resist peer pressure.

    Sorry about what you're going through with your friend. In my experience your leaving the church puts people into shock and raises uncomfortable questions. If what they're taught is true then your beliefs are a result of sin or hardening your heart. Yet they know you and that doesn't seem right. It's threatening. Some of my friends have since come around and others haven't. If you want to try and salvage your friendship then you might consider sending an email telling her how you feel. Outline your beliefs like you have here and explain that you don't expect her to agree but you would like to feel that she accepts you as someone who's just trying to do what you believe is right. There are very, very few of my old friends that I can actually talk about religion/morality/spirituality with but there are some that we've essentially agreed to disagree and focus on other topics. And then there are others who absolutely can't let it go. Good luck.

    1. We didn't feel it was right to say to the kids "You live here now-you will live and believe in XYZ because we do!"
      It was actually sad. One day the kids were talking about their future, and they were arguing over who would be the biggest alcoholic. We had to sit down and tell them that just because their parents chose to drink and do drugs, it didn't mean they had to, as well.

      I never thought about the issues that people have with themselves, while trying to figure out why I left. Because it's true. People believe those that leave the church are bad people, or at least wanting to sin. And yet they see that I'm still pretty much the same. I never even thought of that as an issue. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      I'm glad to hear that there are people who are OK with "agreeing to disagree". Hopefully some of my friends are among them.