An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Easing Mormonism

My LDS faith and associations have supplied some of the polish my mother would have given me had she lived longer. Church has introduced me to uplifting women who mentored me in faith, service, and social graces.  LDS teachings and programs have lifted me to a higher level of commitment, service and devotion. I have even gained a modicum of competency at tasks I dislike—speaking in front of a group—badgering people to do things they’d rather not.

For years I enjoyed Sacrament Meeting and Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society classes—the camaraderie with ward members and the thoughtful, spiritual lessons. I lapped up gems of wisdom from Stake and General Conferences. As I read each General Conference address, I copied choice passages into a notebook. I saved each month’s wrinkled, dog-eared, underlined Ensign and devoured the scriptures assigned for Gospel Doctrine class. The peace of temple attendance drew me back twice a month. I fasted and prayed for my brothers who were not active church members. I wanted them to enjoy the blessings I received from church activity.

After about 25 years of dedicated gospel living, my enthusiasm for church meetings waned—beginning with Relief Society. Reading the lesson before class became pointless. I could recite the whole lesson including comments from the audience as soon as I knew the topic. I began sitting near the door for opening exercises then slipping out to avoid the tedium of the lessons. At about the same time, the Gospel Doctrine curriculum telescoped the study of both the Old and New Testaments into one year each and assigned selected verses rather than complete chapters for study. Not learning anything there, I also gave up the second hour of the block. General Conference talks developed a ring of familiarity. I found fewer and fewer passages to underline and copy. Sacrament Meeting talks deadened the senses as speakers reiterated General Conference addresses for our enlightenment.

At the time, I believed the loss of meaningful experience with church meetings was the “milk before meat” approach to instruction. I wanted the church to change, to meet my needs. I tried correcting historical misinformation and sharing new ideas in church classes, but found my efforts unappreciated, even annoying to ward members. Oddly enough, the status quo satisfied most of my church associates.

It’s true the church changed somewhat, but I had changed more. I had gleaned most of what my birth faith offered and needed further spiritual food. My brother had married a Zen Buddhist. My dad sent the missionaries to teach her and I wondered what benefit the LDS Church could give Kato or my brother? Kato’s peace and compassion exceeds that of most LDS women I know. My brother has gained much peace from joining her meditation and yoga practice. What would the LDS Church add to their lives besides increased time and money commitments?

Inspired by my sister-in-law’s example, I began yoga practice and joined a meditation group. I find  answers to my current needs in Buddhist philosophy. For me the concepts of nonattachment and mindfulness work better than trying to keep everybody on board for an eternal Family Home Evening. I value the contribution Mormonism has made to my life, but have eased my relationship with the institutional church. Just as easing myself into a yoga pose allows my muscles to stretch, easing my commitments to Mormonism allows me time and energy to exercise my agency, seeking further light and knowledge.    Spiritual development is a process. A particular religion or organization can facilitate growth only to a certain level. When that level has been reached, wisdom says, “Move on.”

Comments on: "Easing Mormonism" (6)

  1. I have enjoyed learning about mindfulness and Buddhism as well. They have enriched my spiritual life. I am very grateful for my mission experience because one thing it really taught me was that it was largely up to me what kind of spiritual life I was going to have. I don’t think I’ve ever been really into MOST of the lessons at church (although there are some now and then that are amazing), so I haven’t really had a big transition… but the practice of my faith has certainly become more personal and I rely less on the preparation of teachers… then again, I’m in primary right now (sunbeams, which I really enjoy), so I haven’t had to sit through too much.

    I also totally agree about spiritual development being a process…

    • I am very grateful for my mission experience because one thing it really taught me was that it was largely up to me what kind of spiritual life I was going to have.

      What a great thing you gained from your mission experience. Enjoy helping those Sunbeams with their spiritual development!

  2. This is a great exploration into how you’ve changed, how religion shaped you, yet how you are able to make choices that soothe rather than conflict with who you are now. I, too, find myself “estranged” from my catholicism. I, too, practice yoga. And I, too, feel comfort more than conflict.

    • It should not threaten religions that some members will need to add to or move on in their spiritual journey. There will always be plenty more people who need exactly what that religion offers.

  3. I’m grateful for my Catholic upbringing; the teachings, rituals and beliefs have given me a base from which I can explore my spirituality. Learning about the spiritual has always been important to me even as a kid but it was more about religious beliefs and laws than true spirituality. I followed all the rules then and learned much about church teaching. My conscience was scrupulous and I tried to live by what I was told to do. Now, I know that my relationship with God and others is what’s important; I doubt God cares if we ate meat on Friday back then or follow the letter of the law today. What matters is how much caring, compassion and love we have for ourselves and all of humanity.

    • I’m grateful for my Catholic upbringing; the teachings, rituals and beliefs have given me a base from which I can explore my spirituality.
      I think most people need a base or rituals and beliefs or it’s very difficult to move into a higher level of spirituality. I’m sure you’re right that God cares most about how we treat ourselves. The rules and rituals are a means to move us to the higher plane.

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