An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Leaving Mormonism’

Jumping Ship

For many years I was a reasonably happy Mormon. As a teacher, I had status at a time when few Mormon women in our various wards had college degrees. Then I became stay-at-home mom to a swarm of adorable tots and babies. But life goes on. The adorable tots morphed into gangly adolescents with empty stomachs, loud mouths, rapidly growing feet, and crooked teeth. We needed not just two, but three or four incomes to keep up. I returned to teaching, which I loved, but which left me with no time or social need for church activity. Pressures of church demands on our time and money drained me.

I struggled for years to maintain activity in a church which became a burden. I didn’t know how to quit the only church I knew. Reading Mormon blogs like this http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=7095#more-7095  , I find other Mormons struggling as I once did.

To a lesser degree, Mormonism resembles a cult in making it difficult for dissatisfied members to leave. First of all, is the fear factor. Leaving the church not only jeopardizes a member’s chances for salvation, it impacts the whole family’s eternal prospects—and anyone considering such a step must be influenced by Satan.

The second, and possibly more important factor, is that the Mormon lifestyle leaves no time for outside contacts. Sure, Mormons are encouraged to make non-Mormon friends—but only for proselytizing purposes. Except for work colleagues and neighbors—and not even those for Mormons in Utah and parts of Idaho and Arizona—many Mormons have little or no acquaintance with nonmembers of high moral standards who lead fulfilling lives.

Jumping ship before finding a place to land is unwise, and Mormon culture leaves members unaware of other choices. I kept attending church for years thinking it was good for our kids to be involved in church activities, although—in all honestly—only two of the five enjoyed the activities. Even after our kids were grown, I hesitated to visit other churches where I might feel awkward not knowing the protocol.

I encourage Mormons who are happy with their church participation to continue, of course. It’s to those who struggle that I offer a bit of advice: Don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. Say no to church callings you don’t enjoy and spend time doing something of interest to yourself. Maybe God calls you in a different direction from the rest of your family or ward members.

Toe Hold

Mormonism offers many benefits to members—upbeat theology, firm moral guidance, and strong sense of community among others. It’s a firm foundation for a moral life. But the time comes, for some members, when Church doctrine doesn’t answer every question or meet every need—or when Church policy doesn’t square with one’s individual conscience. At that time it’s best to move on—to scale other cliffs.

Most lifelong members don’t make that move quickly or easily. I kept attending when I no longer believed testimonies of God locating lost car keys or providing miraculous healings so devout members could fulfill Church assignments. How could a loving Father be so helpful to members of one group while allowing innocent children outside that group to starve or be mutilated by the bombs and flames of war? Why didn’t the Church speak out against war and poverty as threats to the family? I kept attending, but my questions went unanswered.

When I learned items of Church History which contradicted the official story I’d been taught—facts like the papyrus source of the Book of Abraham not supporting Joseph Smith’s translation and Joseph Smith’s three different accounts of the First Vision—I felt I’d been had. But I kept attending.

Most of my family and friends were firm believers. And I had nowhere else to go. My resentment grew. I’d spent years trying to live up to the precepts of the one true church—letting my kids go without things they needed in order to pay a full tithing—sacrificing hours of time each week to fulfill callings—and for what?

With missionary zeal, I studied Sunday School and Relief Society lessons beforehand and attended class prepared to expose historical and doctrinal fallacies. This strategy did little for my emotional and spiritual well-being—or my ward status.  Eventually the still, small voice whispered: “These people are here because they enjoy what is being taught. It meets their spiritual needs even if it doesn’t meet yours. Leave them in peace.”

I started reading Buddhist philosophy and found a meditation group with which to study. Filling the void left by my loss of Mormon beliefs helped me let go the need to convert ward members to my way of thinking. I even developed a degree of tolerance for the neighbor who putters in his yard with the volume of his radio loud enough so neither he nor I miss a word of Rush Limbaugh’s wisdom.

I keep a toe in the Mormon Circle—spending time with ward members at socials and service projects. Home teachers who press for explanation of my meeting nonattendance are told I prefer to spend Sundays in other places. George is tolerant of my unorthodox spiritual practices because he was never able to conform 100% to Mormon rules and regulations. We support our active Mormon daughter and son-in-law in their efforts to bring their children up in the faith. I never mentioned my loss of faith to my elderly father. He had enough problems at that stage of his life.

I’ve moved beyond my earlier Mormon beliefs, but I value the opportunities the Church gave me to develop skills and talents and to experience love and service. Every member must make her own decision, but I’m leaving my toe in.

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