Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
I was strongly encouraged by a therapist to start writing again. I need an outlet for the many many words inside my brain that need to come out in some form. I went to university to be a writer, but that dream fell short when I was expelled from BYU-Idaho, ran off with my now ex-husband, eloped at the SLC courthouse, and then had my first daughter a year later, and divorced a year after that… all by the time I was 20 years old. My life sure has been an adventure! I’ve been told that I need to write down my life story, but I am kind of afraid of having that be on paper!
I’ve been asking myself for 2 weeks what I should write about for this first little challenge I was given. The challenge was to write something that the public would read. Sometimes I’m afraid to really say how I honestly feel out loud, for fear of my thoughts, feelings, and opinions offending someone or resulting in being treated differently by the people who live near me. I have SO MUCH TO SAY. I have so many thoughts that stew for weeks, months, or even years. Writing feels natural to me, and it makes me feel alive. I’m not sure where this little writing challenge will lead me, but I’m excited to see where I end up.
As far as the subject for today, I’m torn, but I think I’ll approach subjects that people either don’t want to talk about it or are afraid to talk about which sometimes means they need to hear it. Subjects that make you think. Subjects that make you reassess and dig deep. Are you intrigued or nervous? I’m both!
Okay, let’s walk to the end of the massively high diving board of life and peek over the edge, deciding if we are ready to jump….ready?
Church. Gasp. The Mormon church. Double gasp. Don’t do it, Carmen. Don’t go there.
Well, I am. So buckle up, people.
To preface this, I will say that I was born and raised in the Mormon church. It was the only life I knew. I had a lot of questions while growing up, and never quite felt like I fit there, but I did my best and most of the time, I was super happy. I am grateful that I learned morals to live by and the importance of family and God. I learned to pray and keep Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ close to my heart in times of gratitude and in times of need. It makes me so happy to know that the Church can bring so much true happiness to people’s lives. For some, the Church IS the answer they’ve been searching for their whole lives. What a beautiful thing, right? It can be a light in the dark for some people who are drowning in life and need something to pull them out of the frigid water.
That being said, some people lose their faith in the Church and decide to leave the church. I think this is going to be directed mostly towards those people. Knowing me, I will probably bounce around with my thoughts, but stick with me. I have watched for years as people I know leave the Church and I’ve observed their words, actions, and overall countenances as they leave and start a different life, usually outside religion entirely…and to be honest, I’m disappointed in how they are acting, speaking, and treating people who still have a testimony of the LDS church, and the Church as a whole.
I remember being very active in the Church and having the thought, “Oh, it’s so sad that they left the Church. I feel so sad for them.” I think that’s the reaction of most members when the word gets out that someone isn’t going to church anymore or have “left.” I’ll admit I might still have that thought, but I’m sad for a different reason now. To explain this, I need to mention something that happened to me personally.
Last year, in October 2018, I was excommunicated from the LDS church. It was horribly painful. I’m still processing the grief that came with it. Things were said to me by leaders that have cut deep and I’ll never forget them and the sadness it brought me. Having something like that happen to me made me feel all sorts of emotions. I’m not Mormon. Wait, what? If someone asks if I’m LDS/Mormon, and I say “yes,” I would be lying. What an odd thing to comprehend. Being Mormon is all I’ve ever known. It was who I identified as for 31 years…but who am I now? Who am I without being a member of the Church anymore? Holy crap. Time to reassess life.
So, now that you’re aware of that not-so-little tid bit of information about my personal life…let’s get back to the, “I’m so sad for he/she who left the church” thing… I used to think that life outside the Church was horribly sad and devastating and dark and lonely. Uhh, no. I was very wrong. You CAN find happiness outside religion, well, according to me, you can. But that’s me, that’s my journey, and my experience. It may not be that way for some or most members, though, and I respect that.
So, now when I learn someone has left the church, I hurt for them, but because I know how painful and confusing it is to no longer be something you always were. It’s sad to lose the sense of community/family within the Church. It’s sad to question everything you were ever told or taught or once believed and try to figure out what feels true to you now. It’s sad to know that people will treat you differently. It’s sad to know that people will judge, and judge hard. It’s sad to know that people will whisper and spread rumors in most cases. It’s sad to no longer be a part of something that literally encompassed your entire life from birth. It’s sad that people assume you will no longer be happy because you’re not going to church every week. It’s sad to hear people think that your children are now going to have terrible childhoods and won’t be raised right. It’s sad to be on the outside now and watch how many members judge harshly and blindly instead of loving and accepting everyone despite how they are choosing to live or what they believe. It’s sad to know that people who leave the church will struggle with internal conflict, confusion, and the worst feeling…shame.
Now, let’s jump back to the people who leave the Church and how they act once they “leave”…Here’s where I might lose some fans and make people angry, but I feel like I need to use a loudspeaker and yell out to all of the “inactive” or “used to be Mormons” and say this–
JUST BECAUSE YOU NOW HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEFS AND ARE HURT, CONFUSED OR ANGRY, DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO BASH THE MORMON CHURCH!!!
I. Can’t. Handle. It.
Can you feel that? It’s all the people starting to rage against me to come back and yell things at me like-
BUT THE CHURCH LIED TO ME.
BUT THE CHURCH IS A CULT.
BUT THE CHURCH CREATES SHAME.
BUT I WANT TO WARN OTHERS ABOUT THE “TRUTH” OF THE CHURCH
WHY WOULD I WANT MY FRIENDS/FAMILIES TO SUFFER LIKE I DID?
BUT THE BOOK OF MORMON ISN’T EVEN REAL.
BUT JOSEPH SMITH WAS A PHONY.
I honestly don’t care what anyone’s opinion is of the Church. It’s theirs. They have every right to believe what they believe. I’ve heard soooo many opinions. Most I don’t agree with, but even if I did agree, you won’t hear me preaching about it. Now, yes, I have vented with close friends about my feelings/beliefs that are contrary to what the Church teaches, but I don’t feel it’s necessary to bash. The bashing and being disrespectful towards the Church is something I won’t tolerate any longer. I will walk away from the situation I may be in if it happens, or I may speak up and ask the person to change the subject. I avoid the latter because I worry it’ll create an argument.
BASHING, DISRESPECTING, MAKING FUN, OR LOUDLY RANTING ABOUT THE MORMON CHURCH IN PERSON OR ON SOCIAL MEDIA WILL NEVER CONVINCE A CURRENT MEMBER OF THE CHURCH TO LEAVE OR CONVERT THEIR BELIEFS TO MATCH YOURS.
It’s rude. It’s disrespectful. It’s not what we want to see when we go on Facebook or Instagram, and it’s not what we want to hear when we are out and about trying to live our lives. It makes most of us uncomfortable and wish you would just stop talking, if I’m being honest.
I do not hate the LDS/Mormon church, nor will I ever. I don’t hate the members or the leaders. It’s just simply not for me. I tried and tried and it just wasn’t a fit. I couldn’t be the real, true, authentic me while being a member of the Church, but please don’t walk away from this long novel of my thoughts and think that I don’t still respect the Church and its members.
I strongly believe that if being a member of a church, any church, makes you happy and it feels like it’s where you belong, stick with that for life. Don’t ever abandon it. Hold strong to your beliefs and your testimony. If it is near and dear to your heart, don’t let anyone take that away from you. Protect it, defend it, and don’t apologize for it.
MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS ARE STILL GOOD PEOPLE.
EX-MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS ARE STILL GOOD PEOPLE.
NON-RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE STILL GOOD PEOPLE.
RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE STILL GOOD PEOPLE.
My whole point of this rant is that everyone, no matter their beliefs, deserves respect.
Can we please just be nicer? Be more accepting? Stop judging. Stop bashing. Stop tearing people down for their beliefs.
My advice that may or not be liked by all–
To the members of the Church– please stop trying to “bring us back” to the Church if it’s apparent that we aren’t interested. We don’t want to feel like your next project. We will come back if it’s what we really want in the end, but also please don’t avoid us or think we don’t want to associate with members of the Church anymore. That’s just silly. (And if you are one of those people who wants nothing to do with Mormons anymore, um, that’s not very nice. See my ALL CAPS statements above about how we are all good people despite our differences!)
To the ex-members of the Church– please stop trying to convince people to join you in your current beliefs about the Church. If someone has doubts and approaches you about your beliefs, by all means let them know how you feel, but please don’t give your unsolicited negative opinions of the Church to the rest of us who didn’t ask for it. Instead try finding positive and happy things to talk about for a change!
****** OKAY, HOLD ON…TIME OUT.******
I feel that I need to take a breather and say something to the people who have left the church and are feeling like I am attacking them and being a hag after that last paragraph:
I feel you. I hear you. I know the pain you’re feeling. I know the confusion you’re experiencing. I understand your anger. I understand your desire to warn everyone about what you learned or now believe. I know you may feel alone and want others to understand how you feel. I know that your whole world feels like it’s been turned upside down. I know you’re questioning everything you have ever known. I know you likely were hurt and offended by members or leaders. I know that you likely feel shame that is miles thick around your heart. I don’t want you to think I’m trying to portray myself as some perfect, amazing person who hasn’t felt what you have felt or are still feeling, but we have to have reign the hurt and anger in a bit when it’s being projected onto other people. I have probably had moments during the last year when I have voiced my opinion of the church too loudly or even joined in with poking fun here and there, I am not without fault. But moving forward, I want to be respectful of this church that means so much to so many people. We need to be respectful of the millions of people who are still members of this Church who are deeply rooted and believe in it fiercely. Let them believe it. Let them keep their faith. It is bringing them happiness. It is making them feel complete and loved and comforted. Why would we want to take that away from them? You know how you don’t want a member of the church to tear you down and bash you for no longer being active or not having a testimony or for no longer being a member of the Church?– well, members of the Church also deserve that same respect from you for wanting to stay in the Church and continue to be active members and live their lives how they choose to. It’s all about respecting each other. Treat others how you want to be treated. So simple and so basic, yet it can be really tricky to do sometimes, I know!
In conclusion– the last few years of my life have been a wild ride. I have had to look inside and question everything. I have had to decide what kind of a person I wanted to be. What do I want to be remembered for? Do I want to be the bitter and negative “used to be Mormon” lady? Do I want to make people feel uncomfortable and question their own beliefs because I won’t shut up about my own that differ from theirs? Do I want to be judgmental and angry towards all of the active members of the Church that I’m mad at for being judgmental towards me/others? Pot calling the kettle black much?
I do think that if someone feels like they want to express their feelings of love towards the Church, they should be allowed to do so without someone coming along and crushing their world with harmful words and opinions.
I also think that if someone feels like they want to express their feelings of hurt or pain they have experienced from the Church, they should be allowed to do so without someone coming along and attacking them and telling them they are wrong or are just being “too sensitive or offended too easily” with their harmful words and opinions…
Sharing experiences and feelings calmly and nicely, whether they are happy or sad, is key, in my mind. Yelling, attacking, bashing, degrading, and berating won’t get any of us anywhere other than keeping us in a world full of negativity and anger and hatred.
As far as I’m concerned– I want to be loving. I want to be accepting. I want to let people live their lives how they want to without making them feel bad about it. I want to try to be Christ-like towards everyone. I want people to walk away from a conversation with me feeling good and happy and loved.
I will fail. I will have my moments of weakness. I won’t always be Christ-like. I will mess up. I will go off the path that I want to be on, but I will always try my best to be happy, positive, loving, and accepting.
If you find that I’m getting a little off that path…call me out on it, but be nice. Pull me aside and tell me to snap out of it and remind me that I need to get right with Jesus. 😉
“Respect everyone’s feelings, even if it means nothing to you. It could mean everything to them.”
P.S. If I have offended anyone with my words, I’m truly sorry. That is not my intention. I am simply trying to encourage love and respect to everyone because we all deserve it.