“It may be when we no longer know what to do, that we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” Wendell Berry
If there is one thing I am asked the most, it is IF I would be willing to share a bit of my story concerning our transition out of the LDS Church. I am private and introverted by nature. We all have stories that are equally real and valid. My story is no more important than yours. But I offer it to you today because so many of you have asked for it. It is simple (like me) and personal (argh), but it is yours to have.
I can still remember the moment vividly. John sat me down late one night, after the children were tucked in their beds for sleep. He spoke softly, with a tremble. He wanted me to know that he no longer thought the LDS Church was what he had once believed.
He felt alone and lied to. I had seen John’s pain spread over several months. It was tangible. I knew he was wrestling with the research he was doing with Church history and his seminary calling, but I was still slapped hard in my soul that night. Stricken. Stunned.
I cried. I asked questions. Cried some more. Asked more questions. I asked to see a bit of what John was talking about — to read a bit of what he had read. And this is when John and I began to engage in an honest and sincere conversation about spirituality…one that continues to this day.
I did not know it then, but that moment–that jarring, painful evening–gave birth to a new spiritual landscape for me. I experienced an inner shift. It is said that we often can’t decide what wakes us up–only how we respond to it. It was like I spent years building a huge tower of blocks — principles taught by the LDS Church. I had followed the directions I had been given. I placed certain blocks in the foundation, built it to an impressive height, and it was all in order. It was a good-looking tower. It seemed solid. But after that evening with John, and as I began to open myself up to my life, the blocks began to fall. Hard. One after another. Some fell immediately, others took a little more time.
I felt a number of emotions–
- perpetual panic (I am a total planner. I love structure. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!)
- bouts of anger (At John, the church, the ward, myself.)
- overwhelmed (It felt like too much to process at one time. So many emotions. So many things to consider–none of which were straight forward)
- confused (What was the right thing to do in this moment? What about our children? There were times when I felt in the middle–trying to consider John’s needs, but also the children’s needs. Wait, don’t I have needs too? We did not always match up.)
- unstable (We were IN the church, OUT of the church, exploring new churches, trying home church, back IN the church again?)
- tremendous sadness (I felt like I was losing my past and my future. The present was unknown. Was there anything this loss did not touch?)
My experience is that this stage is not a destination. It is not meant to last forever (thankfully). With any loss, the key is movement. Feel what you feel. Allow it to flow. Over time, the pain should lessen. Get better. Moments of pleasure or joy should return. If life doesn’t improve over time, you might be stuck. Stuck to me means that there may be deeper issues at hand. There may be other losses or pain that have not been fully processed in your life that may be getting in the way. Or you may simply have too much all at once to sift through. Having compassion for ourselves amidst this stage of crisis is so important. A good therapist can be helpful but should be carefully considered.
Amidst this time, a remarkable thing happened. As most of the blocks were falling down around me, I noticed that some blocks or truths remained. The stripping away of one foundation had left another (more basic) one in its stead. So clarifying. Some of these blocks for me were: honesty, compassion, connection, family, openness, curiosity, the value of listening, a commitment to growth, the power of forgiveness, a belief in the importance of doing my own work as a person, a reconnection to the belief that “life is wise.”
I experienced a subtle internal shift as I began to heal. I slowly began to connect to my spiritual life from the inside out. I just followed what I resonated with. Over time, I began to experience a change. Truth, joy and beauty were no longer found in a religion box on Sundays at 11am but EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.
I thought I would share with you a few of the places that I have found healing. They are the pillars of my new spiritual practice. They aren’t for everyone. They aren’t outside my life either–they are part of how I choose to live. They reflect me wholly.
My sharing is not meant to be prescriptive in any way. That defeats the idea that we are fully equipped to make this journey for ourselves, which we are. What I am hoping for is that by sharing a bit of what inspires me, that you will all feel comfortable sharing a bit of what has been healing to you. What makes you feel more loving? What inspires you? How do you incorporate these rituals/ practices into your every day? This is where the journey gets good.
- Yoga/meditation/exercise/healthy living–when I was in crisis stage, my anxiety kicked up quite a bit. My mind felt like it was exploding. John and I now do meditation for 10 minutes each day. Science backs up numerous benefits to meditation. I use the guided form as it helps focus me a bit more. Yoga works like meditation with movement for me. While running saved my life (another story), I feel like yoga has given me a life. I do it at home. I don’t love gurus. Just the practice, pure and simple. Running burns off excess anxiety too. I think it is key to pick an exercise you enjoy. Hiking is a favorite of mine now as I can add a little nature–and I am one soothed girl. Eating well is grounding. It feels great, and is the ultimate form of self-care, really. Whole foods. Simply prepared. Lots of plants. Ease into any changes you make– with compassion being the nest where you lay your head.
- Reading/Exposing myself to new ideas–I am an avid reader. This was a crucial part of restructuring my brain a bit. What suits you is of course, deeply personal. I started by exposing myself to a lot of different books. Some scientific, others based on experience. Parenting books. Relationship books. Journey books. TED talks. On Being podcasts. I am a big fan of the well-written memoir.
- Relationships–are some of our biggest teachers around. Largely because they are unavoidable. Relationships have the potential to heal us. I really like this idea. We can remain largely unaware/unconscious and do a great deal of harm. But in general, our relationships are where the rubber meets the road. It is harder to hide. In time, our spouse and children tend to shine light on our wounds of life. How? What we react to (get upset about), usually points to our own pain and suffering from past relationships and experiences (Harville Hendrix idea). We often marry a person who most triggers our pain, so that we can truly heal it. It has helped me to get curious. Be present about what triggers me. Listen. Seek to understand. Go deeper than just the immediate situation at hand. Healthy relationships are such a wonderful space in which to offer meaningful service in this life due to the deep connections that are forged. I think it helps to find loving people. Surround yourself with them. Let them assert your wholeness and worthiness again and again. Minimize those in your life who reinforce the lie that you must earn their love.
- Connection to Nature–As a young girl, I would spend most days in the forest of our back yard. We had a creek that I would walk beside, freely dipping my toes in the water. I would climb trees. I imagined all day. It soothed me. My dad would often swim in our pool with us late at night. We would lie on our backs and gaze up at the stars. I have always felt peaceful out in nature. I just lost that for a while. And now, years later–I feel that I have come back to myself. Nature calls us to be present. We listen, smell, and feel in a way that is difficult to replicate anywhere else. I make time each day to get outside, for whatever time I can.
- Try to be as present/grateful as I can–In our home, at any given time, we have gratitude journals going. They are a common ritual. The way we do it is that at the end of each day, we list five things we are grateful for. It sounds hokey, I know. But our brains are evolutionary in nature. We are designed to think for survival, which often means that we are critical as to point out what is amiss–this used to save our lives. But it may not be the best recipe for contentment. A gratitude journal works to reverse this inherent tendency. It has you look for things in your day that went well…or made you feel good. It is a gentle rewiring. Amazingly, what we pay attention to–grows.Here are some items that are always making it on my gratitude lists.
- hot drinks in the morning
- a hot bath at the end of the day
- reading myself to sleep
- hikes with John
- really looking into my children’s eyes when they are speaking to me
- bedtime musings with the children
- yoga time
- reading a book out loud to the children before bed
- my memories (my dad is suffering from late stage Alzheimers/Parkinson’s disease so this has become more and more precious to me these last few years)
This blog post is much longer than I had planned. My hope is that we don’t suffer alone. And that if someone is amidst the messy part of transitioning, that they will carry inside them a small seed of hope that things will get better soon. The hard won’t last forever. Let’s rally. And share what has helped heal and inspire us forward. I feel like in most moments, we are asked to grow (love bigger) or die (shrink and tighten). We make the decision, whether we are aware of that or not. We are ON a “spiritual” journey no matter what. We are alive now. We are breathing. I say we embrace it. Let’s make it the adventure of our lives. We may not be able to choose what wakes us up–but we can decide what to do with it. Let’s make it a masterpiece that best reflects us. Yes?
So, tell me. When things fell apart for you, what helped you? What makes you feel more loving? What inspires you? How do you incorporate these rituals/ practices into your every day?
Very touching, Margi.
I applaud both of you for this difficult, fulfilling journey you’re on. And I doubly applaud both of you for the obvious love you share with each other (and your kids).
Something to emulate. Frankly, more than anything else – from anywhere else.
Wow, this post was soothing to me. I’m at a very similar stage in the journey and I related to the fears and pain from the past. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Margi. This post is wonderful on so many levels. I love your emphasis on every journey being unique. Thank you for sharing your practices. It’s helpful to see several options for new sources of inspiration.
I’m still in the “things falling apart” stage. Whats helping me right now are some of the points you mentioned. I’m just discovering yoga and loving the time invested there. Healthy eating is a must and keeps me physically fueled when I feel emotionally depleted. I’m exposing myself to new ideas by listening to podcasts and relishing in all that resonates (Mormon Stories has been a lifeline).
Again, thank you. I’m going to share this with my husband who is in a similar boat as you were in the beginning.
Margi, amen sister. To everything you said. What you shared resonates so closely with my transitioning experience as well. I don’t think anyone could have said it better than you did here. So beautiful and so wise.
I am past chaos, my mind has calmed. But I still feel adrift. I am unsure how to spend my Sundays, what to tell my children, how to explain to my parents. I need a new sense of self that does not include Mormon in the description. I have forever let Mormon define me to others and often sought places to live and go to school where I would be the only one, where my Mormon identity would be unique. I now cringe over that identity, I don’t want to be associated with the negative cultural markers that identifier carries in 2015. Now my midlife crisis includes a very unformed view of myself. It’s a journey I am excited to embark on.
I so identify with this, Nan. When meeting new people, inevitably, mormonism comes up and I wish deeply that I could be better at moving the conversation beyond what used to be.
I also struggle with not being able to talk to my parents about this. I’m a full grown adult, yet those conversations are still difficult.
Okay, so my heart has moved beyond Mormonism. Now what? New identifiers. Amen.
Simply. Beautiful. Thank you. 🙂
Another great article for the wandering soul! Developing more self-awareness has been huge for me. Learning to trust myself, accept who I am as ME and realizing I can make decisions that are the best for me and have nothing to do with religious dedication. Podcasts relating to mindfulness in parenting, life, marriage, and health have been helpful to me.
I really appreciate your words Margi. Seeds of hope. We all need those. And this post is one for me. Thank you.
As for what inspires me? Authenticity. Boldness. Compassion. I love to people watch and read memoirs. Finding these in others bring me peace and hope. And incorporating more color in my life- literally and figuratively.
I love metta mediation (loving kindness mediation) to try to cultivate more compassion, love, and charity. There’s no belief in a deity required. It’s like a secular prayer to expand your love your neighbor and learn to better love and forgive people who have hurt you. It leaves me feeling peaceful and uplifted, even though it’s difficult for me to concentrate during mediation.
Thanks for this beautiful and helpful post, Margi.
Hi Margi!! LOVING your blog posts! I love hearing about your spiritual journey. We are kindred spirits. 🙂
The best advice I ever got was while I was heart broken over the book “In sacred loneliness”…I was only on Joseph Smith’s wife #7 (out of 33 that all had stories and histories that I was incredibly interested in reading) but the book was making me angry and sad and hurt. My friend said “you’ve got the gist of it… burn the book.” It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to get that book out of my house. I had this need to learn everything, know everything, and be hurt by everything I could read about all that the church had done wrong…but I realized that day that I could live the rest of my life in pain and hurt or I could choose to walk away. The night after getting rid of the book, I sat down and found a podcast called “Sounds True”…every time I listen to it I am uplifted…and instead of spending my time learning about things that ultimately tear me down, I try to spend my time just learning about the things I am interested in. I thought the church stuff would consume me forever until I took my friends advice and “burned the book.”
Your story resonated with me so much Margi…I left the Mormon church a couple years ago when I was interrogated by the bishop for a month after being told on by a ward member for my Facebook feminist posts, and being told on for being a part of Ordain Women. The Bishop told me that if I didn’t take down my profile that he would take my temple recommend. (My story is here if your curious http://songsofaletheia.blogspot.com/2014/06/why-i-am-leaving-mormon-church-despite.html) I realize that was the start of a spiritual journey where I finally realized that no matter what they (the church) did, they could never take away my relationship with God. At 16, I had a near death experience because of my father. At the time when I had that near death experience,it felt like I was held by love. (God) I have come full circle. I have realized for myself that in my mind, we complicate God and put all these conditions on God, when it really is men. To me organized religion is just men pretending to play God. In the end, to me it is simple. God is LOVE. My whole experience helped me to realize that. I also meditate (I do Oprah and Deepok Chopra meditations (I like that there is a centering thought- todays centering thought is “my soul sees only light everywhere” I do silva meditations too…I am an excercise teacher. I teach Nia. (Martial Arts, dance arts, healing arts (yoga) It teaches pleasure instead of pain and listening to your body. It is an incredible mind body spirit connection… my husband and I go for walks in the morning, and then sit under a big maple behind our house in a protected forest and say what we are thankful for every morning. (We say 5 things too :)) We have cut out church, but on Sunday we go for a walk in nature. Better than any church I’ve ever gone to, and I finally feel at peace. 🙂
Thank you for sharing. This is beautiful.
I have found extreme healing in discussing the future with my children. For my entire life, the future has been bleak. I knew that eventually things would work out, but not before enduring tremendous afflictions. I often felt bad for bringing my children into this big bad world. Since my faith crisis, I have had to construct an entirely new view of the future, and it is amazing. I no longer fear it. I no longer feel bad for my children. In fact, I am envious of them!!! I can’t imagine what they will be able to see and experience in their lifetimes that I won’t be alive for. We are constantly having discussions with them about the wonder of this world and the amazing opportunities they will have available to them that human beings haven’t had before now. It is so refreshing to view the world with such wonder and desire to explore all that it has to offer. It also helps to solidify my desire to raise them free from the dogma of the church, despite how difficult this can often be for my personal relationships.
Thank you, Margi, for sharing something so personal with us. It truly helps to know that our reactions to similar situations are not uncommon. I have had a couple of times in my life when it all went to pieces. For me, doing something to better my situation helped, but in the case of the death of our son, there was nothing to make it better. Sometimes I think it is okay to accept that things are not okay. When I allowed myself to be not okay, that is when the healing started. Very slowly. Tiny, tiny baby steps. It has been 15 years since our son died, and I am still not totally okay. The faith transition I am going through is easier in some ways because I can be actively doing something to clear things up, to make myself feel hopeful of the future without Mormonism. Thank you again. Not only for your story. Thank you for sharing your family time with us too.
Margi, I’ve always wondered about yous story. You have remained surprisingly quiet during John’s stuff. I know you have a voice, a story. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you for your courage to speak up.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, for sharing a part of your self.
Thanks for your words Margi. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Uplifting relationships have been especially helpful to me. I love it when people “get” me…and like what they get. 🙂
I am more of a big city guy than a nature guy. While there is great peace in nature, I felt “the spirit” equally strong out in the observation deck of the empire state building as I did in the celestial room. Sure, nature can build mountains, but it can’t make a tower straight up in the air in under a year. I love walking busy cities and seeing hundreds of thousands of people. Looking up and seeing scores and scores of apartment windows and realizing I’m so small and the world is huge. All of them are unique and have their own perspectives, and I am no more special than any of the billions of people out there.
Thank you Margi! Your experiences, responses, and learning really resonate with my recollections of this challenging transition. John’s work has helped immensely – particularly since we lived on the same floor in Chipman Hall during our freshman year at BYU 🙂
The mindfulness practices, hikes, On Being (and MANY other) podcasts, lots of reading (philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, buddhism) have all been helpful. Noticing, recognizing, appreciating people and breath and trees and beauty and skill… there is so much in this world that is amazing – and this can feed us.
I’m not too active on the social side – which is a pity. I have a great family and a busy professional life, so I’m hesitant to commit to a community that could be tough to fit into a busy schedule. And yet I feel the lack of a wider connection, so I need to find a way to scratch that itch. I would love to join a Mormon Transitions retreat at some point in the future. Creating these communities of positive, constructive interest is a great next step in the evolution of this project.
Margi, it was so wonderful to hear “your side of the story.” Thank you so much for being vulnerable and letting us glimpse a little further into your transition. It’s hard, but so worth it! I’ve found a lot of peace and fulfillment doing a lot of the same things you recommended here. Hopefully this won’t be your last post 🙂
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful story Margi. It felt so genuine and true. I appreciate you exploring all the facets of your experience – both the soaring encouragement and crushing disappointment.
A couple things that inspired me ‘When Things Fell Apart’:
1. Carl Sagan. When nearly everyone I knew and loved told me “this is the way the world is”, and I couldn’t seem to square the circle, I had a hard time not thinking I was losing it. Listening to the “Carl Sagan Tribute Series” every night before I fell asleep really moved me and made me feel like there was more to this world than what I had become.
2. Looking into the eyes of people. You touched on it when you mentioned doing it with your kids. I’m not sure I believe in an ‘immaterial’ soul, but I know the way it makes me feel when I gaze into the eyes of another. I feel connected. Making these brief but powerful connections daily helped lift me up as things fell apart.
I hope to feel more of the peace you feel Margi. I am still struggling a lot. I am living a more agnostic life as I am so skeptical of everything now, but when I hear a certain song or even just see the elders walking down the street, I almost break down in tears.
I miss my spiritual life so much…yet I am so terrified of being duped and deluded.
I just want to know the truth….but I really just want to be happy.
Thank you for sharing. I’m on a similar journey, but I’m somewhere near the beginning (hoping more like the middle) and ready for some healing. I appreciate your vulnerability. It’s always comforting to know your feelings and experiences aren’t so foreign.
I have wondered about your journey and how things were working out for you with John going through his stuff.
I don’t know if he appreciates just how ridiculously fortunate he is to have you as a partner to go through this with. I was not so fortunate.
My wife divorced me…my children treated me like I was evil…even some of their spouses were brutal. I’ve felt so alone and lost.
I think it was all stress related, I got so ill, I ended up in the hospital several times and neither my wife or children visited me. Most all my friends had been in the Church and so no one from there visited me either. I’ve said it before, the personal growth has been overwhelming and even miraculous.
I find peace in creating art…listening to music.. doing service…hiking…reading.
I wouldn’t give you a nickel to repeat it but I wouldn’t give you a million dollars for all that I’ve learned. Incredibly tough stuff. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing Margi. It really helps.
Margi, thank you for sharing your journey. I love when you said;
“My experience is that this stage is not a destination. It is not meant to last forever (thankfully). With any loss, the key is movement. Feel what you feel.”
One thing that has similarly helped me is acknowledging my feelings, thoughts and ideas and believing they have as much validity in my life as the ideas I had before my transition.
Took me about 5 years to get past my feelings of anger and betrayal. Today I practice meditation. I am into cycling and am always listening to a podcast or audiobook dealing with some aspect of spirituality while on my rides. I also love to go out in nature and close my eyes and feel the presence of god all around me.
These kind of awakings are good to document. I had a very similar experience and eventually realized that the truths I clung to were some of the same basics I had been taught inside the church. 10 minutes of daily meditation follows the principle of daily prayer. Strong relationships follow the principles of strong eternal family bonds. Like you and John, I was stung hard when I realized that some of the historical facts of the church didn’t fit the tidy narrative I had been taught all my life. But in my two year “transition” to replace Mormonism with some form of spirituality it began to occur to me that the basic truths I was gravitating to were the truths I had been taught my whole life, but now they had a new name. The realization gave me serious pause, and started a yearlong path BACK to the Church. I am now happily married and serve in a Bishopric, which has been a humbling experience. We are all on a journey… Good luck to you on yours!
There is an Afghani proverb that says: “Pain shared is halved, happiness shared is doubled”, thank you for sharing.
Margi, you have so much courage and grace. Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me hope that one day my life will be as fulfilled as yours.
I just read your post Margi and it is beautiful. You are such a talented writer and your writing is soothing to our souls. There was so much you said that resonates with me too. When you wrote that,”it felt like too many emotions to process at the same time,” I completely agree. In my case, as I transitioned out of the Mormon church, I felt like I was spinning, dizzy trying to make sense of, and reconcile, how I could have experienced so much good and growth, only to find out that it was all based on untruths and deception. Sorting all this out has been an arduous journey. It has taken Time, Sweat and Many Tears. But it’s been worth every second of it. And as I’ve sifted out the good from the bad, I’ve decided to take the goodness with me, the precious stones, so to speak, that you spoke of, Love, Kindness, Empathy, A Forgiving Heart to name a few, and to let the rest fall by the wayside. Everyday is so exciting because my mind and spirit are on the same page! The world is my oyster–our oysters, as there is so much to see and experience. And the icing on the cake is Mormon Transitions, sharing our stories of pain, supporting one another, and the making of new friendships, some of who we may never meet in person. There is no doubt in my mind that we are all here together at this time, and it is no coincidence. I feel so privileged to be a part of this and I’m looking forward to all the growth, both individually and together, that we are going to make. Thank you again Margi, for your heartfelt words of inspiration!
Lovely and resonant!
Thank you for this post. I left the church around 2005 and at that time Feminist Mormon Housewives was a pretty new blog and was a lifeline for quite a few years as I transitioned out. Also, psychotherapy is a huge source of my healing and growth! From that safe place I was able to incorporate many other things that helped me gain a sense of my true self and a create spaces of community. Some things I continue, others have faded away, but all were pivotal to my progress and health: Yoga practice and visiting Kripalu Yoga Institute in MA; meditation and studying secular Buddhism; joining a volunteer service choir in NYC (Peace of Heart Choir); working with the blind and developmentally disabled; taking up long distance walking in NYC with ‘The Great Saunter;’ podcasts (This American Life, Speaking of Faith/On Being, Interdependence Project NYC, the Moth, New Books in Psychoanalysis); and joining a goddess circle (women’s group that meets to celebrate the turning of the seasons and aspects of femininity.
Thank you for sharing about walking your own path…
” If the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s.” Joseph Campbell
Truly beautiful post, I loved it. The things that have helped me find peace after my transition – in addition to all the wonderful ideas you shared – are reconnecting to my love of science, learning, art and music, and discovering a love for psychology and humor. 🙂
Thank you for sharing a part of your journey. Your writing is so eloquent. So much of your post resonated with me, especially the Harville Hendrix ideas from his book “Getting the Love You Want”) about how our marriages can actually be perfect environments to work through family of origin issues. I began my transition a little over a year ago by researching online and reading about Church history, starting with Todd Compton’s book, In Sacred Loneliness. About four month’s into this process, I was very lucky, my husband was ready to transition as well. We began plotting our departure, which occurred about 10 months after I started researching. The hardest part was telling my mother, who has been a TBM her entire life. The only way I could tell her was in writing that my husband and I decided to take a break from church and church-related activities for the health and well-being of our family. We have not spoken about it yet. I’d like to postpone that conversation as long as possible.
What has helped the most during this process is reading the following books:
Dr. Eboo Patel’s books
When Things Fall Apart (Pema Chodron)
The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown)
Dance of the Dissident Daughter (Sue Monk Kidd)*** (a recommendation on Feminist Mormon Housewives)
Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach)
When Women Were Birds (Terry Tempest Williams)
Daring Greatly (Brene Brown)
I Need Your Love – Is That True? (Byron Katie)
Thank you again for your beautiful and authentic words. They are healing words. I am grateful to have read it.
Thanks, I was searching for something to give me hope tonight. This does it.
Its so nice to hear from you. I have been so worried about you and how you are dealing with all that has happened to your family. My husband and I drove from Provo to Logan to be at the church the night the two of you met with the stake president. I was so upset to see you go through that. My separation from the church (about a 1 1/2 ago) was a pretty clean (I can say that now), not too many people I had to break it to, but enough though, that all the shock, anger, sadness, embarrassment was sometimes too much.I felt so panicked sometimes and it has given me such an understanding for other who do or try to leave Mormonism, Fundamentalism, Religion, Cults etc. I’m so grateful for my husband who waited for me to come to this conclusion for myself and for all the years and experiences that led up to it and for loving adult children who took it pretty well. I have never been so happy to be rid of something in all my life.
Thank you Margi for you message and all the others that take time to tell their story, they make all this so much easier.
You are one amazing woman, friend! I am thankful you are in my life!
Many thanks for your honest and heartfelt emotions about leaving the LDS church. I am a gay man, widowed, father of 5 great kids ( with whom I have a wonderful relationship), grandfather of 10 wonderful grandkids, former bishop, and continue to do much to give back to my local community with the homeless.
I related to so many of your thoughts on leaving. I went through many of these same emotions, even though I was booted from the fold.
I remember the first thoughts I had when the fateful letter of excommunication came in my mailbox. I stood on my front porch thinking that i had just fallen off the face of the earth; that I was damned to eternal outer darkness.
I went to several congregations of other faiths over a two year period. I left most of them with a feeling of not having been fed; much like I felt week after week in the LDS faith. I also came to see religion as people who gather in bands, circling the wagons inward, and ignoring those left on the prairie. It seemed to me that control was the major objective of most faiths.
In the grief cycle that is explained by modern psychology, about the cycles involved with loss, we know that denial, anger, resolution and acceptance are normal stages. Any loss in life can have these emotions. A major faith transition can be earth shaking. We can feel unmoored and drifting due to the habit of ‘busyness’ that we sometimes get into within a local congregation. It’s like being on a hamster wheel.
I do remember however, after being abandoned by the church, that one of my first thoughts was of understanding for those who felt the need to push me out. I only had a feeling of compassion and empathy; feeling like they simply did not understand. My only hope was that someday each of them would have a family member or friend who they knew and loved, who was gay. I knew that people would change, one heart at a time. They did not need my ill wishes for vengeance. The private battles that they would face on their own would change them — one heart at a time.
Neil Maxwell used to say, “Many leave the Church, but cannot leave the Church alone.” How often I have found this among many who have left the Church. Personally, I have had moments of ire over how the institution is handling many policies, practices and procedures. But I have generally found much love and kindness among many of my neighbors. I try to take each individual as exactly that; an individual. I do this by the same token that i hope I would be given a chance in life. Holding feelings of bitterness or anger simply saps us of energy and focus in life.
My former neighbor, Lowell Bennion used to say, “woe be unto the neighbor of the man who is unhappy with himself.” Amen.
John Dehlin’s work ( your husband ) is of incalculable value and good in this world. You have been a great part of that work, as well. Through Mormon Stories, thousands of lives have been touched for the good. Much hope has been given to many because of this work.
Recently however, I was troubled at the number of sniping blog posts given after each podcast by someone with an apostate view of the LDS church. It seemed that because of wounds, they were trying to justify their own feelings about leaving the Church. I began retreating from immersion into these podcasts and blogs that left me feeling down or bewildered. I wondered when there would be a transition from Mormon Stories to a new phase, with a hopeful future, for people in faith transition — not faith crisis. I was so happy to see the birth of Mormon Transitions! I hope it is a vehicle of positivity, faith, hopefulness and teaches life skills at being a happier and emotionally healthier people.
Over the past 5 years, I have experienced a number of personal losses: excommunication, loss of a business, the death of my youngest son, a long illness and death of my wife, loss of home and any assets due to her medical bills, the loss of 3 nieces/nephews to suicide, and virtually starting over in life at age 60. Through all of this I’ve learned that there is always a silver lining to loss if we are attuned to the love and acceptance that our God holds out to us. I am at a stage in life where I have never been happier or more serene in life’s purposes. While I am not religious, I hold no grudge for those who are. I find myth a fascinating thing. I have never felt more alive and spiritual than I do now.
Trying to gain understanding of an after life and where my loved ones are, caused me to read much about the near death experiences of many, as well as stories of young children’s recollections of a former life. I found that my Mormon upbringing did not entirely prepare me for losses due to death. I can honestly say that I now have an abiding belief in the whole of eternity and in God’s deep love for each of us. My views are broader than when I was LDS. I have received a sustaining feeling of God’s love and felt cradled in His hand through many tough times. I have felt an acceptance and sustaining of God’s love.
For some reason, the book The God Who Weeps, by Terryl ad Fiona Givens, gave me a whole new realization about a deeply personal and loving Father. In a way that my Mormon Faith or upbringing did not give. A God of unconditional love, not a God of punitive means.
I realized that Mormons do not have the corner on the influence of the Holy Ghost. Listening to that inner voice is more real now to me, than ever before. I have received so many daily promptings that have guided me in good directions with family, friends, and life. Listening to the inner voice is the most valuable thing we can do.
I too, have received great peace and spirituality through so many of the things you mentioned: fitness, nature, yoga, meditation, healthy eating and living, an inventory of daily gratitudes, connection to family, humor, and cutting yourself some slack. If you can laugh at yourself when things get too serious, it is a healing balm. The association with good people who enjoy discussing great ideas, rather than taking about other people, is wonderful. Looking for good in all people. Staying inquisitive, with a sense of wonder and amazement each day, can also keep us humble and open to the goodness that surrounds us.
We will never be fully understood by some, as we walk away from the fold of our heritage. To continue to follow our inner voice of faith, to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to bless the poor and entreat each other well; is something that religionists do not have a corner on. The simple gospel of Christ is a beautiful gift of God. All else is of men.
I wish you and John and your family peace and happiness on your journey. You are not alone. Your sacrifices over the years are noted and deeply appreciated. You have truly been instrumental in being Saviors on Mount Zion for so many. Lives have been saved (literally), and lives have been enriched because of your work and support, as a family. God Bless you! I offer my love and thanks!
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