Tag Archive: love

I am right-brained. I am artistic and very creative. Although I’ve been labeled “ADHD”, my IQ has tested as very high. I feel connected to others in a way that others might find unusual. I have a keen sense of foresight. I am extremely sensitive, both a blessing and a curse. I am spiritually sensitive.

Peeling back the illusion of self, has enabled me to see these parts of me, especially as a whole, more clearly. I am just beginning to understand, explore, and fully accept the uniqueness of me. For most of my life, these elements of myself have caused discomfort in others. My uniqueness has never really fit into any of the molds of expectation from others. This misfit has been labeled as me having problems with authority.

I feel as though I’m finally on the path of self-acceptance and self-love. Who knows what doors this will open for my own personal growth. Exciting!


True Happiness

True happiness comes from within. Its origins cannot be found in others. Try as we might, lasting happiness will never be found in anything outside ourselves. Fleeting happiness may be found in external sources, but can be nothing more than a temporary fix, a metaphorical band-aid on our soul. I have discovered so much about myself since I left the LDS church three years ago, and the greatest gem I’ve uncovered is my path to true and lasting happiness. Of all the searching for truth that I’ve done, the one universal truth that I stand by unequivocally is that true happiness only comes when:

  1. we genuinely know ourselves
  2. we are true to ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)
  3. we let go of any hope of an outside force (person, place or thing) providing happiness/peace for us

It may sound simple, but the more my eyes are opened to the world and the people in it, the more I see just how elusive this truth can be. I can only speak from my own experience, so I will share how my journey has brought me to this knowledge. Every one’s journey is different, but I believe that all journeys to true and lasting happiness will end in similar wisdom.

1- Genuinely Knowing Ourselves

My journey to know myself, like all humans, began at birth. And like all humans, I was immediately effected by the culture and society into which I was born. Most of the societal influences were harmless upon my emerging self and did little to hamper my growth. But, over time, certain pressures, teachings and influences (many of which came from my parents and the LDS church) came to distance me from my own self. For example, I was taught the extreme importance of unquestioning obedience by both the church and my parents. I was taught that adherence to a rigid code of conduct and checklist of works were necessary to win God’s love and eternal salvation. To some personalities, these influences might not be so rough, but for me, a questioner, a thinker, and a highly intelligent being, they were stifling. As I tried to shut down my own personality in order to comply with the expectations of my family and church, I became increasingly estranged from my own self. As an adult, this felt like a vague sense of dissatisfaction in my life, underlying frustration and a noticeable split between my private self and my public self. I found myself giving more and more energy to word choice and self-censoring.

A disassociation with oneself begins with a misfit between one’s true self and the expectations from others whom we see as meaningful in our lives. For some it may stem from a feeling of not living up to career expectations from parents or issues with being born homosexual into a family who is less than understanding.

Three years ago, I did not fully understand my dissatisfaction with life. The key to beginning the path to knowing oneself is to recognize the symptoms of living a life that is out of harmony with our innate selves. The symptoms can be depression, anxiety, dread, or anger. In extreme cases, symptoms can also look like acting-out behavior such as drug abuse, self-harm, and other risky behavior. Sometimes this disassociation can manifest as lying, bragging, or exaggerating.

Once we recognize the symptoms within, we can begin to take steps toward being true to ourselves. Even if we feel blind in the beginning, with every step of throwing off the chains which bind us, we will come closer to knowing ourselves. With this knowledge, we can cultivate a loyalty to ourselves that will result in true and lasting happiness.

2. Being True to Ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)

The first step in my journey involved throwing off one chain that had kept me in bondage for decades. That chain was a belief taught to me by the LDS church and strongly reinforced by my LDS family and friends. It was the belief that questioning church doctrine was evil.

I’d always been taught that God would not allow our prophets or other church leaders to lead us astray.  I was taught that Joseph Smith, and all the church leaders which came after him, were God’s mouthpieces. In other words, even the desire to question doctrine, could only derive from one source: the devil. This belief caused me guilt and agnst when I felt doubts about Joseph Smith, the book of Mormon, and other issues with the church surface. I’d prayed, studied, and even faked my way along for many years. I just didn’t feel that burning in my bosom that so many Mormons in my life talked about. I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly declare a testimony of these things. As my activity in the church became more active and broad in scope, I found myself increasingly dancing around certain doctrinal points, many of which were central to the church.

Hand in hand with the cultural norm of infallibility of church leaders, was the strict admonition to avoid any non-church sanctioned publication or source for information. Yes, it is taught and widely accepted in the church that it is only appropriate to seek information regarding church doctrine and history from the church, itself.

One day, I threw off this chain and began my process of questioning church doctrine. It began with buying a book (which was NOT a church sanctioned publication), and quickly exploded into a full-on investigation involving many books and internet sources. My journey brought my  doubts into the light. Since that time, I have learned not to stifle my doubts. I enjoy operating on all cylinders, so to speak. I no longer conform to any cultural norm which requires me to curtail my thinking or put on any type of mask (be fake, in other words).

I have faced opposition in the form of scorn and judgement from LDS family and friends. I have paid a price, but it is one I’d gladly pay again and again for the deep and gratifying peace that has come from being true to myself. There is much to be said, too, for learning to limit ones vulnerability to attempts to inflict pain, guilt or manipulation by those who disagree with our chosen path to peace. I’m still in the process of mastering this area of my life.

3- Letting Go of Any Hope of an Outside Force (person, place or thing) Providing Happiness/Peace

The only person I can control is me. Efforts to control another only end in frustration and in destruction of healthy relations. No matter how deep a love, peace and happiness can only come from within. When we know ourselves and are true to ourselves, then we are in a position of being ready for a healthy relationship with another. Only then, can our happiness stand on it’s own, independent of any outside influence. When we are true to ourselves, we will naturally gravitate to healthy relationships.

Happiness has to come from within to be of any real or lasting value. Listen to yourself. Know yourself and be true to yourself. When you do this, letting go of outside influences on your happiness will come naturally.

Why do we as humans seek first external verification of our self-worth before we can learn to love ourselves? Is is because we come into the world as helpless infants, completely dependent upon our parents? Why is it that this external love must come first before we are able to love and accept ourselves unconditionally? This is my general impression of humanity, one which, I’m sure, does not include all individuals. There may be those who escape or are immune to outside forces on their own self esteem, but I believe they are rare indeed.

Religion is such a big part of the external verification by which so many govern their own self worth. As created by man, God’s will can be twisted into a standard by which we measure our own worthiness for love and acceptance. In my experience, religion does far more damage than good in this regard. At an early age, many of us humans are taught strict guidelines for earning not only our parents approval but also the thing that matters most, God’s love. Unfortunately, sometimes these criteria reach far beyond simple behavior into what makes up the fiber of our souls. When this happens, we learn to push down our true selves. The longer we do this, the more distant we become from not only knowing ourselves but also being true to ourselves and living in peace. Guilt, rebellion, and self-harm are all by-products of the self-loathing religion can instill.

Now that I’m out of a legalistic church, I can clearly see that man-made religion is at the root of much of what is wrong in the world today. Much violence and hatred is perpetrated with the belief that one is doing God’s will. Likewise, there is much less visible suffering that is woven into the daily life of many who are striving for perfection in God’s eyes. In Mormonism it may look like a housewife juggling 6 kids, 2 church callings, being the perfect wife, and shouldering guilt for falling short with her temple attendance and visiting teaching. It may be a young gay teenager living with self-loathing and fear that he’ll be rejected by his family if they know the truth, or a middle-aged, single woman or man living with the feeling of ostracization from his church community simply for enjoying being single.

What would the world be without religion? I think it would be a better place. I find it ironic that Jesus went about his work, taking every opportunity to criticize organized religion. He left behind a simple concept: all we need is love. He taught that God loves us unconditionally and that salvation is a free gift for all. Again and again, he shot down the Judaic concept that salvation comes only after strict obedience to multiple laws. Although Mormons claim to follow Christ, the LDS religion is even more legalistic than Old Testament Judaism. Not only do you have the multiple laws to obey, but you have ritual upon ritual to complete as well. So many rituals and works, in fact, that the work does not end at death. I wonder what Christ would have to say about the frantic efforts of church members today.

Is religion really a good thing? Is it of God’s idea or man’s? I believe that God and religion are independent concepts, and that many will be surprised that Heaven may actually be a place devoid of religion.

A common belief among Mormons is that good comes to those who are righteous, and bad ultimately comes to those who are wicked. This belief applies as much to this life as to the life to come. It is one of those subjective ‘truths’ that a devout Mormon uses to reinforce their own good standing in God’s eyes and their beliefs regarding the plight of those who sin against God. It is a belief system in which I, myself, was indoctrinated as a Mormon youth. Never mind all those bad things that happen to good people. Such events are often over-looked or brushed away as trials sent by God to strengthen one’s faith and character. But, when bad things happen to one who is a known sinner, well… that’s testament of God’s wrath raining down what one deserves.

As you might guess, bad things are happening in the life of this particular ex-Mormon, and, yes, all of the devout Mormons in my life are quick to point out that I’m ‘just getting what I had coming’. With the perspective of nearly 3 years out of the church, I can plainly see where this line of thinking is coming from and it simultaneously saddens and amuses me. The source of amusement, I would think, to any outsider, would be obvious. The sadness stems from the fact that this type of piety really gets in the way of compassion, mainly compassion from those who mean the most to me.

The fact is that bad and good things just happen. They happen to everyone, regardless of religion, politics, race or gender. Sometimes our choices bring on good or bad; sometimes they don’t.

Another fact is that I am better equipped now to handle anything life throws me than at any other time in my life, especially when I was a Mormon. You see, as a Mormon, I was constantly in a state of interpreting life events as reflecting my own worthiness in the sight of God. I continually asked myself, “Is this a sign from God? Am I being punished? Does this mean I’m on the right track?”. Now, I realize, crap just happens. How we deal with it is what matters. How we deal with it defines our path in life and the character with which we define ourselves.

Regardless of events that transpire in my own life outside of my control, I believe that God loves me unconditionally. He loves me the same as my Mormon counterparts, and the same as all other living beings upon this planet. He shows no favoritism. Likewise, I have learned to love myself without limits, without conditions. I have been freed from my previous pious beliefs and can now love others without favoritism and without conditions. How better prepared could I be to encounter the obstacles of mortality? Despite the hardships that I am facing at this time, I know greater peace than at any other time in my life. Sure, I feel sad at times. I cry. I am human. But when the dust settles, I am secure in the love that engulfs me from the inside out. Nothing can touch that.

Nothing is more beautiful than unconditional love. Nothing is more beautiful than compassion. Conversely, nothing is more ugly than piety.

Family Relations

One of the common challenges that seem to plague Mormons exiting the church is that of family. Fortunately, I’m married to a spouse who has never been a Mormon and has remained pleasantly neutral throughout not only my membership in the church, but in my questioning and exit processes as well. My children have been amazingly open-minded through the process as well and have all exited the church in my footsteps. On the contrary, my parents and one sibling have had a very difficult time with my journey.

Over the last 2 years, my parents seem to have come around to a place of  acceptance with where I am. Although they clearly disagree with me, they’ve had the tact not to show much hostility toward me or my family. I feel like we’ve come to a place of agreeing to disagree. We get together but never discuss religion. On the whole, I’m pleased with how things have evolved with my parents. I hope things continue on this positive path.

My sibling, however, is an entirely different story. She has hardly spoken to me in the last 2 years. She refuses to come to my home and shows obvious discomfort in my presence. Although expressing (through my father) that she is “done” with me forever, I hold onto a glimmer of hope that things will also improve with time with her.

Although pained in the beginning by her animosity toward me, I’ve come to a place of peace and understanding. With the objectivity of 2 years out of the church, I can more clearly see that my sister (and parents to a lesser degree) are simply products of Mormon culture. Their reaction to my questioning and leaving the church has only reinforced my understanding of some of the destructive elements of Mormon doctrine and culture. Among these destructive elements are:

1-     a paranoia of anything which is “anti-Mormon”
2-      the belief that apostates (those who leave the church) are to be shunned
3-     the belief that leaving the church (apostasy) is the worst of all sins and is unpardonable
4-     the belief that family bonds are of ultimate value, can only be preserved through temple sealing, and are surely shattered when a member leaves the church.
5-      the belief that we are saved through our performance and adherence to commandments/rules (such as the word of wisdom, temple rituals, obeying the sabbath, etc)
6-     the belief that men (us mere mortals) can be ordained by God to sit in judgment on one another
7-      the belief that God loves us conditionally (Mormons in turn love themselves and others conditionally)
8-      the belief that the LDS church is the only true church and that all other denominations are “an abomination in the sight of God” (words of Joseph Smith).
9-      the belief that the best angle to investigate the church is from the church, itself (to me, this is akin to asking a homeowner to do his/her own home inspection for a home buyer – no one in their right mind would do this due to obvious bias)
10-  the belief that drinking a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine are indicators by which you judge character.

There are many others, but these are the ones that come to mind now. The list above is ample excuse for the TBM (True Believing Mormon) to sit in judgment on a former member of the church and shun them. The church not only emboldens members to avoid ex-Mormons, it expects them to (refer to temple worthiness interview questions). These beliefs give the member ample reason to resent, fear, avoid, withhold love, and judge not only those who leave the church, but also those who do not strictly adhere to the Mormon party line.

Does this sound like a church of God? I don’t think so.

For the most part, I was raised in the LDS church. My parents were converted to Mormonism when I was about seven. At the time, they were Baptist, but not actively religious. From the beginning, my family was devout. Although I had a few, difficult questions arise over the years, I was mostly an active member until I resigned my membership in 2008.

My questions, when they arose, were never quite satisfied and over time, I learned, as most Mormons do, to ‘shelve’ my doubts and press forward. Although seemingly harmless in the moment, training one’s brain to limit doubts and questions is ultimately damaging and leads to a tunnel-vision approach to life. As a member, I felt increasingly dis-satisfied and conflicted, although at the time, I couldn’t really see the reasons why I felt this way. Now as an ex-Mormon, the reasons are all too clear. For the first time, I’m enjoying a life of un-limited questioning and learning. I do not suppress my own thoughts. I live authentically without limits on my thinking. I’ve never been more at peace.

My story is like many others:

Being raised an active Mormon, I began to attend seminary at age 14 (an hour-long class of intense study of Mormon history and doctrine that took place before school each day). I began to wonder about a few things as my study of the church deepened. The Word of Wisdom was a mystery to me. Why did we, as Mormons, only follow selected portions of it? Among other things, the scripture states to avoid hot drinks and meat, except in time of famine. How did that translate into avoiding Coke and Pepsi and not showing any restraint in eating meat? Hot cocoa was ok, but coffee was not. We were clearly not in time of famine, but we ate meat with nearly every meal.

I was confused. It was explained to me, at the time, that recent prophetic revelation had clarified this scripture to include all caffeinated drinks, but the explanations did not satisfy me. I knew plenty of active Mormons who drank Coke and I knew cocoa had caffeine in it. I also took notice that our Word of Wisdom, or health code, didn’t seem to make us any healthier than the general population. In fact, it seemed to me that obesity was more of a problem in the Mormons I knew than in any population I associated with outside the church.

As a teen, one of my very best friends was African-American. Always a missionary, I talked with her about my Mormon faith. She told me that Mormons were racist. Her reaction brought up, the otherwise unknown-to-me, subject of the lower status of African-Americans in the church and the ‘new revelation’ in 1978 by President Kimball which allowed Blacks to finally hold the priesthood. It also caused me to take a second look at racist remarks and attitudes throughout the Book of Mormon which relate the lightness of one’s skin to the level of righteousness of the individual. On this note, I was told at about age 17, by a Mormon relative, that they had noticed that my skin was getting darker and it must be due to my sinful nature. (I remember having the fleeting thought that sinning might be an easy way to get a tan.)

Another issue which became a thorn in my side at this time was polygamy. The whole idea simply offended my senses. No amount of explaining by my Dad or seminary teachers alleviated the deep-seated feeling in my gut that it was wrong and inspired of Man not of God. I knew without a doubt that I would never submit to the idea of sharing my future husband with another wife, and the thought of my Dad having more than one wife made my stomach turn. It wasn’t enough that the church did not currently practice polygamy, the knowledge that I was required to submit to the doctrine of polygamy was not acceptable to me. I knew, from what I was taught, that Polygamy could be reinstated by divine revelation at any time, and if not practiced in this life, would surely be practiced in the next life as the eternal order of marriage.

Another big issue for me as a teenager was not as clear-cut. It was more of a feeling based on deep doctrinal beliefs regarding God. I was taught as a Mormon, that unless one was baptized into the Mormon church and received the ordinances of the temple, including temple marriage, one could not go to the celestial kingdom, the kingdom of heaven where God dwells. This did not match my instinctual view of God, as a being having unconditional love for all people. How could the real God be so selective? What about all those people who never had a chance to hear about Mormonism? What about all those good people who just never had the chance to get married? What about people who marry in the temple, but whose spouses leave the church? The questions were numerous, and I did receive explanations, just not sufficient to quench the doubts completely.

 As I grew into adulthood, and received my own temple ordinances, my questions multiplied. I remember my first time attending the temple. Up to that point, it was the strangest experience of my life, and boy, were things getting more complicated. Not only did I need to keep my slate perfectly clean in order to be ‘temple worthy’ (including avoiding Coke, Coffee, and other dietary restrictions, submit to the idea of polygamy, avoid non-church approved literature, fulfill all my church callings, pay a full tithing, etc) but now I had to wear claustrophobic long underwear and memorize a long list of signs, tokens and phrases in order to get through the ‘veil’ into the presence of God. I was bleakly hopeful that the costumes we donned in the temple were nothing like what we’d be required to wear in Heaven. Surely God did not wear long underwear, a  fig leaf apron and a baker’s hat. The questions and doubts, now frantic and in avalanche proportion, were quelled by the grim warning that nothing regarding temple ordinances was to be discussed outside the temple, not even between married couples.

It was about this same time that I became aware of the blood atonement doctrine that some sins, such as, apostasy and murder, could only be pardoned by God by the shedding of the sinner’s own blood (death – like that pantomimed in the temple). This did not sit well with me. Wasn’t Christ’s suffering and death sufficient to cover all sin? I’d always assumed so from my previous learning in the church. It was explained at this time, when I brought up such issues with my LDS husband, that I was receiving the meat of LDS doctrine, whereas before, I’d only been given the milk.

Another chunk of meat: I became aware of the Adam/God doctrine, which teaches that Adam is God. This was another contradiction, or addition-as some would say, to the doctrine that I previously understood as fact. Although this doctrine is not openly discussed, and controversy surrounds the issue, even within the church, it was most definitely touted as doctrine by the Prophet Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and J.M. Grant.

On the subject of God: Basic Mormon doctrine states that “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” Like all Mormons, I was taught that God was once a man and that if we were righteous enough, we could become Gods, ourselves. Joseph Smith clearly taught that God was once a man like us and that we have potential to become Gods (see King Follet Sermon as one of many examples) Interestingly, Gordon Hinkley, recent president of the church, denies this doctrine repeatedly in interviews. (one example is in the San Fransisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997 edition, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/1997/04/13/SC36289.DTL&type=printable, and another in Time magazine: http://www.lds-mormon.com/time.shtml)

By my late twenties, I’d had several doubts surface, but one message had also come through loud and clear: to question church doctrine, is to question God himself. In other words, shove down the doubts lest you erode your own faith and that of others, because we all know where that leads… to the unpardonable sin of apostasy.

The stage was set while I was serving in a stake calling. Serving in this position, which had great influence over the youth, was a catalyst for me to seriously examine what I believed. My discomfort representing doctrine with which I harbored doubt, caused me to humble myself and make a desperate plea to God for an understanding of the truth. I allowed myself to bring down doubts and questions from the dark recesses of my mind into the light. I fully expected to find answers to my questions which would, in turn, strengthen my testimony of the LDS church. Ironically, I did find truth, but the answers were not at all what I expected.

My investigation began with reading a book, An Insider’s View to Mormon Origins, written by a Mormon, a church education employee named Grant Palmer. Then followed several other books, including, Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck, which had caused a bit of a stir among some of my LDS friends. After reading the book, I looked more into Hugh Nibley’s apologetic effort of the Book of Abraham, which was mentioned in Leaving the Saints. I came across a video on the Book of Abraham and a book, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, by Charles M. Larson. What I learned blew my mind. I then sought to explore Joseph Smith, himself, and read, Joseph Smith, No Man knows my History, by Fawn Brodie. I also came across objective DNA evidence regarding Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon claims (explored thoroughly in a book, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, written by former LDS Bishop and genetic biologist, Simon Southerton. I took time to read LDS apologist rebuttals on all of the subjects that I explored, and was disappointed by all.

I was as thorough and as objective as possible. I read everything that I could get my hands on while avoiding anything which seemed to be hateful in nature. What I learned, completely blew my mind. I quickly came to the conclusion that the LDS church was based on lies upon lies. The layers of deceit and cover-up were mind-boggling. The ‘limited thinking’ encouraged by the church began to make sense.

I decided to resign my membership in the church to maintain my own integrity and remove any implied support of  LDS deception.

My decision to resign was not an easy one. Despite the years of suppressed doubts and conflict this created in my soul, the LDS church is in itself a wonderful organization. It offered much in the way of structure in my life, and removing myself was not a decision that I made lightly. I knew that my resignation would bring on an alienation from most of what I knew in the way of family and social structure. I had not only myself to consider in this decision, but also my 3 children. I carefully weighed my decision and ultimately did what I considered to be the morally right thing to do, independent of what others thought or sacrifices involved.

I can clearly see now, the journey I’ve traveled and the compromises that I’ve made over the years in order to be a ‘good’ Mormon. I can also clearly see the hold that the Mormon church has on the minds of its people and understand the motivating reasons.

In the months that followed my resignation I felt like a load was lifted from my shoulders and mind. I experienced an awakening… a freedom that I’d never known. I felt a freedom of thought: a freedom to question, a freedom to think independently.

I also feel freed from the conditional love offered by the “Mormon God”. I now feel completely and unconditionally loved by God. His love is no longer something that feels just out-of-reach, something I have to constantly earn. I know I am loved completely just as I am, and I, in turn, love myself and others without condition. My initial joy since leaving the church has not faded in the least, and I now know a peace and joy in my daily life that I scarcely glimpsed as a Mormon.

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