Friday, May 30, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Why I Left The Church

Sifting Through Life segments are about my life and how I have dealt with certain situations.  The topic changes weekly and they don't always include food or recipes.  It is a segment that allows me to talk honestly and openly.  All opinions are my own and are just that, my opinions.  This is my voice talking about my life.  ENJOY!

This is a two part post.  The first part was shared last week and can be read HERE.

This is my experience as a member of the LDS Church (mormon) who decided to leave.  I still have a great number of friends and family that are active members.  They are amazing individuals with strong testimonies of the doctrine and practices.   I respect a handful of people that I hold as dear friends who stood by my side during this time in my life.  They may not have agreed with my changed ideas but they always loved me without judgement.  They know who they are and I am eternally grateful for their friendship.

The answer to the question "why" is a simple one. I changed.  That is the bottom line.  I tried to be something that I no longer believed myself to be, a good mormon.  I could not, in good conscience and fairness to myself, god and my family, stay in an organization that I no longer felt connected to.  I wish the answer was something more profound but it is not.  Change is what influenced me to leave the church.  I could have stayed and tried to dance to the music that I no longer felt connected to, but in the end I could not betray myself, my family or the Being that continues to guide me.

Change is what led me to make the hardest decision I have ever had to make.   I knew with this one choice I could lose the people that mattered the most to me.  Our family has grown through this experience but not without some heartache attached to it. This was never our intention but it did happen.  Words have been exchanged in anger and frustration, judgements have been made.  My hope is that time will heal the hurt on both sides.

I can only speak for myself and express my own opinions in regards to the questions below.  I appreciate all types and forms of spirituality. I am not angry towards the church in any way.  I still have the missionaries over every week for treats and conversation.  I still have visiting teachers that have become great friends.  I think that our spiritual journey can be found with a variety of people, friends, conversations and expressed views when what we are looking for is joy, love and acceptance.   Discovering these feelings again, through the most familiar and unfamiliar places, has made this journey an adventure.

I have come to believe that spirituality is a very personal journey.  I also believe that organized religion is not for everyone.  I now have a clearer vision of who I am and in what image I was created.

I just am.

I want to be.

I will become.

I will try to answer some of the questions I get asked the most.  I know that this is a short list and there may be other questions and comments.  Feel free to leave those in the comments below.  I just ask that the comments be respectful.   We are all walking a different path and what works for one person may or may not work for another.

Were you offended? 

This is the first assumption made, mostly by those who are too afraid to ask us themselves, why we left. I was offended, not by the doctrine,  but by the people that lived a dualistic lifestyle.  I believed in a system that had worked for me in the past and was, at that time in my life, crumbling around me.  I felt like I was a caged animal.  Have you ever trapped a wild animal and watched its reaction to being confined?.  This is how I felt.  I began to melt down.  Emotionally and spiritually I was cracking at the seams.  I was finding it hard to trust and see people for the good they were doing.  We were all making mistakes and those mistakes were all that I could see.  I wish it was different but at the time it was not.

Did living in Utah contribute to you leaving the church?

I don't believe it did.  Our mistake was moving into an area that was predominately one voice.  There was not much diversity.  For the most part, we had the same foundation and belief system. With that being said, our interpretations of the gospel varied.  This created, at times, a hostile environment.   The same people who were our neighbors were also our co-workers, church friends, restaurant servers, mail carriers, police men, etc....  As a community we did everything together.

It was wonderful and confusing. As a group we could celebrate, come together as family but that same group could rip into your soul and leave you feeling worthless, judged and hurt.  People, myself included, are human.  We make mistakes.  Trying to see beyond the faults and humanness of people is a complicated matter in a community that thinks of themselves as righteous.  Someone is always judging.  It never stopped.

We judged and, in turn, were judged.   We played the game too.  We woke up one day and realized that we were becoming something that we did not like.  We did not like who we had become because it was not in teaching with what we had been taught.

Did you lose your faith? 

 I love this question.  We have been told so many times that we "just lost faith".   That we breathed in satan and our lives were taken over and that our faith was not strong enough, we were told that we were/are weak.

The reality of this is that we renewed our faith and realized that the church, the doctrine and people, were not in line with who we had become.  We were searching for something more personable.  We were seeking after spirituality.

The concept of organized religion was losing its appeal.  We felt like we were living a lie.  We no longer wanted to lie to ourselves and to the universe.

We never lost our faith.  If anything, it grew stronger the day we looked at our lives and ourselves and decided to be religious for the right reasons.

Are you worried about your kids salvation?

The day I stopped going to church I also kept my kids from going.  Why?  I won't mince words.  It was not a healthy place for them to be.  They were confused with the religion. People were not happy with my decision to not go anymore and they talked.  A LOT!  The things my kids tell me now makes me sad and brings me to tears.  Humans can be hurtful when they don't understand the full situation.

My kids have had a strong foundation.  We have raised them to think and believe for themselves.  I encourage them to ask questions and to question everything when it comes to religion.  As it stands now our two older kids are agnostic.  Isabella has the sweetest spirit and believes in God.  She has not been exposed to the concept of organized religion and probably won't until the choice is hers.

I don't worry about my kids spiritual journey because I believe that this is a personal and individual matter.  They have enough knowledge to seek after a path if that is what they want.  We will never hold them back or judge them for trying or finding something other than what we believe.

What about your husband?

It is true that I decided to leave first.  Cory's decision to leave the church was his own.  Let me repeat that because there are some deep speculation amongst family and friends that I made him leave.

Cory left the church on his own.  Of course we talked and discussed every decision that we made in regards to our future in the church.  I knew this is not what he signed up for when we married, at the time, 23 years ago.  I encourage him to keep attending if this was his desire.  I encouraged him to stay true to what he believed. I never asked him to leave.  NEVER.

Were politics involved?

Yes.  We became more empathetic with the world around us.  This changed the way we saw people, situations, economics and politics.  We became more and more liberal and this was not received well.   The rights of all people have become very important to our family.  Proposition 8 was hard to watch while living in Utah.  It did contribute to the process of us leaving the church.

Are you happier? 

Happiness is relative.  I was happy in the church and I am happy out of it.  I find myself happier with who I am today, more so, than when I was an active member.  I am more at peace.  I feel that I am honest with myself which allows me to be happier each day.

Are you going back? 

I never thought I would leave.  I don't know the answer to this question.  Right now my answer is no.  I don't care to be involved in any organized religion.  Time may change this feeling and if it does, then yes, I may find myself seeking out a church to attend.

Where does your faith stand now?  

Today my faith is my own.  It is not tied to any organization, to any schedule, to any group of people. It is not tied to a list of do's and don'ts.   My spiritual journey is evolving daily.  I am learning to listen to that small voice that guides me.   I continue to study and read things of a spiritual nature that allow me to grow daily.  I won't stop being faithful to a higher source but I will think long and hard before I find myself committed to a religious organization in the future. I never want to feel the pain and heartache I felt when I left 4 years ago.

I hope this answers some of the questions of why we left.  It is complicated, especially to those that have found comfort and spirituality inside a church that they love.  There was a time that I was angry, hurt and heartbroken because of how my family and I were treated.  I lost people that I thought were our friends.  I went through a very dark period trying to figure out what went wrong.  In retrospect, I now believe that this journey, I found myself confronted with,  taught me so much about myself, my family and the power of a Celestial Being.

I never thought I would find myself saying that I am glad I had this experience of leaving and discovering. Discovering who I am and finding what is really important to me.  My family will always be my first priority and if, I decide to return, it will be to an organization that accepts ALL members of my family and not just a few.  Looking back I know that I could not have done it without the support of my faith in a higher power, the support and loving care of my husband and kids.

I was told that we would never be happy if we left.  We were told that our souls would be lost forever and our family was sentenced to eternal damnation unless we returned.  We were told a lot of things that we just don't believe anymore and that are simply not true.  Fear is a terrible weapon that is used to hold people hostage to a supposedly greater life.  The church is not for everyone and the ideal of free agency needs to be practiced and not just preached from the pulpit.  There is no such thing as unconditional love if it is always given with conditions.  People have strong opinions and this is one subject that they have felt entitled to voice it loud and clear.  We have heard their words and listened to their advice.  Now it is time for them to let us live our life and stop trying to drag us back to something we no longer believe in.

I love this quote, "Not all those who wander are lost", a line from the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter, written by J. R. R. Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings.

We are not lost.  Our family is in a much better place emotionally, financially and spiritually. We are very happy.  Our lives are blessed beyond measure.  We see that our lives are inspired and protected by a higher source.  We recognize this and say thank you daily.  

Written by Sherron Watson

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