Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Losing my Religion

I have thought about my journey many times over the past few months. I have been trying to figure out where or how to start telling my story of loss. Many people say that people don't really ever truly believe in religion. They are tied to the traditions, pressured by the testimonies of their families and ofttimes their duality just gets the best of them.

I would hate to admit that I was ever gullible enough to ever believe in the pure crap the Mormon religion piles on you, but I am afraid to say I must admit I was.

It didn't help that the grandparents that I lived with until I was 12 were Mormon. It didn't help that all my cousins growing up were Mormon. All 52 of them, some through marriage. My 7 Aunts and 7 Uncles on my mothers side were Mormon and both my parents were Mormon.

It didn't help that I went to church almost every Sunday until I was 20. I went to Seminary every weekday from 6am- 6:50am, from my Freshman year in high school until Senior year. I went to Mutual every Wednesday night for a few hours. Went to Saturday morning service projects for a few hours each week, went to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School for 3 hours every Sunday and Firesides Sunday nights for up to 3 hours.

In college I traded Seminary and Mutual for Tuesday and Thursday night classes at the LDS Institute of Religion. By which they just mean their religion.

I was a devout Mormon all through high school. I believed. I testified. I passed out Books of Mormon to my unsuspecting friends and fellow band members. I mocked people for not being righteous and I lectured my friends on their potty mouths. I was a pain.

How could I not believe? To hear the same thing over and over as fact. To hear adults testify to their truth. To be told that anything other than what the church writes about the church is Anti-Mormon Propaganda. It was difficult to be a doubter when surrounded by family, friends and leaders who were there at a moments notice to tell you that the devil was making you doubt.

But even with all that 'support', with all the indoctrination and peer pressure, my cognitive dissonance won out in the end.

My doubting began when my high school boyfriend broke my heart. I hadn't kept morally clean while dating him over the course of a year and a half. When he dumped me the summer after our first year at college, I was shattered. I dropped weight and chopped off my hair.

I went into the bishop to repent of my sins. He couldn't see me at church, so he asked that I come to his home. He was cold and preoccupied, even though I had made an appointment. He told me that I could never see my ex-boyfriend again, that I couldn't take the sacrament and that he needed to speak with me every Sunday for at least 3 months.

I called his clerk that week and set an appointment for the following Sunday. Sunday came, I skipped partaking of the sacrament and headed to the bishops office after the meetings and classes were done. He told me that he couldn't meet with me that Sunday, and that he would see me the following Sunday. So I went to the clerk and made another appointment.

The next Sunday came. I didn't partake of the sacrament and waited after church to talk with the bishop. I was doing really well on my path to forgiveness. I had started dating a Mormon guy and he was prepping to leave on his Mission to Galveston, Tx. I was reading my scriptures and praying daily. I even started writing poetry to deal with my pain and guilt. I was disappointed when the bishop blew me off again.

After 4 Sundays of being ignored by the bishop, I started sinning again. Not as bad as before, but still sinning. I didn't feel that my progress was being supported the way the bishop told me it would be. The 5th Sunday of not partaking of the sacrament, my mother noticed. When the bread and water (body and blood) are being passed, the chapel is silent. My mother took that opportunity to loudly whisper "You're not a virgin anymore are you?" after her face had contorted in disgust when she noticed I hadn't taken the bread. I just stared blankly at her. I was 19, felt it was none of her business, and I had no clue how to handle her. So I kept staring blankly. She stood up, grabbed her purse and scriptures and left. Yup, she left me and my brothers at church with no ride home.

It didn't surprise me. She had kicked me out of the house for being 5 minutes late for curfew. Then 5 days later asked me to move back in because my younger brothers missed me. When I had turned to her for comfort when my boyfriend of 18 months dumped me, she said, "Well, now you can date a nice Mormon boy.", then went to bed. No hug or comfort. And now she was punishing my brothers for my personal decision.

Walking home from church that Sunday, I started to realize how much perfection was expected in Mormonism. God made us with imperfections, why would He punish us for them? He made us with the ability to rationalize and think, why would He punish us for using said abilities? By the time my brothers and I got home, my testimony was shattered. My mother never comforted me or supported me through trials, pain and tribulations. Her love felt conditional. The bishop, who was supposed to be there to mind God's flock had totally ignored me for over a 1/3 of my repentance process. My mother and father were divorced at the time, so my father was absent and distant.

How could a God that loved His creations, His children, be absent as well? I felt ashamed for doubting God's love. But that walk home, with only my own reasoning in my head started a snowball that would continue to roll until 10 years later, when I walked away from Mormonism, then finally Theism altogether.

I attended church from that point on with my closest friend. We went to a singles ward. We stayed for sacrament meeting (which I never partook of the bread and water), then left to break the Sabbath by eating at a local restaurant called Islands. It became our tradition. It was honestly the only reason why I went to church for the next year, to hang out with her, talking about life and sharing some of the best hamburgers around.

Then my mother kicked me out for being an evil spirit and bad influence on my brothers and I moved to Georgia.
(The picture is my mother and I outside church one random Sunday in the mid-late 80's.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I hope I can blog post my own some day.

Cheyenne said...

Hi Leilani, I found your blog through Friendly Atheist, and I really relate to your story. I have a lot of parallels--close to the same age, 2 small kids, deconverted in the last year (huge paradigm shift for me), in a religious mom's group, and although I wasn't LDS, I've been married into a LDS family for a decade now, so I'm very familiar with it. (Also, oddly enough, my first name is spelled differently on my birth certificate.) I really look forward to reading your future posts.

Isabel DAngelo said...

I'm not american, I'm not white (I'm brown) and I do not have a beautiful picture like this one. ( you and your mom ) I just have nightmares with a woman who gave me birth.
She had taken actions for me to know how much she disliked me, since I was 3 years old, and I remember every one of them.
How much religion had affected this ?
I've tried suicide, my older brother had tried suicide... just for run away from the things she wanted us to do. But the God I don't believe, seems to want us both alive and bored. I whish I could forget that, but when I read your story... it came like a baseball on my head.

Jody M said...

'Her love felt conditional.' This line really hit home as I have been thinking a lot about my parents and my relationship. That is perfect.

Not/never was Mormon, and I really don't know several of the terms you used in your first post. Reading with interest, thank you! I dropped Christianity...oh, gosh, 20 years ago? I was a teen. It never really made sense, but I *had* to go to church as a choice...

Smorg said...

I'm a never-mo, so to speak, tho investigated the Mormon church a bit after running into a couple of sister misshies. I thought the Mormons pretty nice (actually a bit excessively so as to be rather unnatural), but from all I observed the conditionality of their 'love' bugged me to no end. :oP That, and their default belief that nobody can be as happy and content as the Mormons. I think that was what shook my mishies up the most, that I was both obviously happy and not a Mormon. They had a hard time dealing with it. :oP