I was born into the Church in 1957. I am the youngest of six children who are all active in the church, married in the Temple, etc. The whole time I was growing up I never really had a testimony of the church, and as I got older I was even embarrassed to admit that I was a Mormon. I guess it was because of the "sixties", short skirts, peace, love and freedom that I felt restricted to the dress standards, the word of wisdom and being forced to go to seminary at 6:00 in the morning. I remember my grandmother who was a member of the church, but who I was very close to as she was an invalid and I would spend the night there alot to help her with things, saying "What an un-Godly hour of the morning to have to get up and go to church." I thought she was pretty cool about that.
I ended up moving out of my parents house on my 18th birthday. I couldn't wait to get out from under the suppression. My parents were and are very nice people, both educated but they were so busy just trying to make ends meet(my mom went to work as a school teacher when I was in kindergarten)with six children, that they really didn't have time to give us alot of individual positive attention. I felt that the only thing they cared about was making sure we went to church and were involved in all the church activities. In high school I wanted to join this Christian club; they would go on picnics, hold hands in a big circle and talk about Christ out in a field of wild flowers. I thought it was really cool and alot of the nice kids at school were involved. But my parents didn't want me to join because it wasn't an LDS activity. They were so afraid to let me do anything that wasn't church related. I ended sneaking around just to feel like I fit in.
I had graduated from high school a year early and my parents sent me to BYU. I went for one semester and then came home as the money was running out and I needed to go to work. I never even thought about continuing my education at BYU as I didn't register for classes for the following semester and there was no mention of even attending the local community college. I was young and naive and having been raised to grow up and get married, education was not the first priority for me then. I think my parents were hoping I'd find a nice return missionary and get married. I look back now and wish they had discussed education and goals for my own future more rather than worrying about my commitment in the church.
But on my 18th birthday I moved out. My boyfriend came with his van and I left with a few of my belongings to go live with my older sister who was not active at all in the church. I eventually ended up living with Dave for about 6 months before we got married. I was totally in love and completely happy. We have been married now for 20 years. We are still in love and happy although we've been through alot together and have had our ups and downs like most couples. After we were married for about six months we moved to Michigan and lived near my husbands relatives. They were all either Baptists or Pentecostals and so going to their churches seemed a little different. I thought that if I was going to start going to church that I would rather go to my church. You see by that time I was getting homesick for California and after having my first child I felt like I needed my family. So I guess the church was the closest thing to that. Dave ended up getting baptized as he couldn't find anything in the Book of Mormon that contradicted the Bible. We were sealed in the Washington DC temple and ended up becoming very active in the branch; Dave was Elder's quorum president and I was in the relief society presidency, we were both visiting teachers, etc. By the time I had my third child I was becoming very depressed. I would come home from church on Sunday and end up crying as it was all too much to take. I couldn't do it all. I was trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and member of the church. I would end up scolding my kids if they interrupted my when preparing the "perfect" relief society lesson. I would can our home garden vegetables, make bread and use cloth diapers even though I could buy vegetables, bread and disposable diapers at the store! You know the saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"? We made a cloth banner with that saying at a RS homemaking meeting.
Dave's family was not very happy about our membership in the church, but they pretty much left us alone about it. They were very loving, caring people that didn't judge others and accepted people even though there were differences in opinions of religion or politics. There was only one time that an aunt and uncle tried to show us some "anti-Mormon" literature, but I couldn't deal with hearing anything negative about the whole essence of my upbringing, so of course I wouldn't even look at the information they were trying to show us. After that they never mentioned our religion but only loved us and loved me like I was their own daughter and niece.
Anyway, about the time I was overwhelmed by the church, we moved back to California. It was really easy to not go to church and so we didn't. It was such a nice feeling having that freedom and be able to spend all our time being involved with our children and building our life here Northern California. My husband was very busy with his business and I've been able to be a stay at home mom. I've tried taking a few college classes, but I am going to wait and go back after the kids are all off to college. Right now my oldest daughter is getting ready to graduate from HS, my son is a junior and will be graduating next year and our youngest is a freshman and will be gone in about three years.
I feel like I'm getting boring so I'll try to get on with it. I guess I'm writing this not only to tell you my story, but to bring how I feel together in words.
Anyway, a few years ago, about three, my husband and I were not getting along very well. There were a few things in our lives that were causing stress on our relationship that I don't have time to go into now. We came to a decision along with our kids that it might be nice to start going to a church. We thought this might be the thing that would help bring us together and maybe adding a spiritual dimension to our life would be good for the family. The kids don't really remember going to church much in Michigan, as my oldest was about 5 when we went inactive.(At the time I remember thinking that I didn't want my kids baptized in the LDS church and go through the same guilt trips that I had.) The kids suggested we go to the Mormon church since that was the church that all their cousins went to on my side of the family. At this point I thought it would be all right to go because I thought the kids probably wouldn't like it, (I hadn't at that age) and because of the problems we were having I thought that maybe it would even help. Well, on our way out of the church that first day we went back I asked the kids how they liked it and my son had already made an appointment with the missionaries for the next evening! This missionary was really "cool", a snowboarder and also rode dirtbikes. Right up my son's alley. I thought to myself "oh boy, here we go again!"
For the last few months I've been mad at myself for making the decision to go back to the church, but on the other hand maybe it's OK because by going back for the second time I have been able to deal with all those haunting questions I've had about the church my whole life. We ended up continuing to go, the kids all got baptized and my husband and myself went back to the temple.
That was the first thing that bothered me. I noticed that the temple ceremony was different. A sister told me they had made a new film but I noticed that the ceremony was also different. I didn't say anything to anyone because your not supposed to discuss those things outside the temple, and I felt strange bringing up the question in the celestial room. That was not the time to question anyone. I had also forgotten my name but my husband remembered that. I didn't realize until I read one of the letters on this website that the name you received when doing an endowment for the dead was given to everyone. Here I would try so hard not to forget the name and all along the person sitting next to me had the same name? Unbelievable! But the very first time I went through the endowment I was pretty freaked out. I remember the "penalties" and at the time felt it was really cultish. I was never prepared for that, but my mom and dad were there, so I thought they understood everything and it was something they did all the time. I never really questioned it until the time we went through again and realized that part of the endowment had been deleted.
That was about a year and a half ago and as I had become very active again that feeling of the church controlling my life was starting to take over as it had in the past. As I was feeling controlled by the organizations many requirements, the old questions started creeping back in my mind. What about the Blacks and the priesthood? Why would God hold the descendants of Cain accountable for his transgression? Weren't all the people on the earth God's children? Why did He decide that in 1977  they all of a sudden became worthy to receive the priesthood? And what about polygamy? I didn't agree with that. Also, as a Young Women leader I saw things I didn't agree with. There was a lesson at Girls Camp on "How to correctly bear your testimony" The girls were told in a real nice way exactly what they should and should not say. That seemed a little too much like mind control for me. Then when I realized that the pressure was on to have my son prepare for a mission I started thinking. Between the changes in the temple ceremony, polygamy, the blacks and the priesthood, I began to have my doubt's that the church was the ONLY true church on the earth. What about all those other people of other religions that are wonderful, caring and giving? People like Mother Teresa? I don't think God will hold someone like her back from eternal happiness because she's not a member of the LDS church. I asked my Bishop why all those people work so hard all their lives doing genealogy work and doing all that temple work for the dead when there's no way they will ever have the names of all the people who lived and died since Noah? The church leaders say that somehow that will be "taken care of", we don't need to worry about that as long as we do all we can to get the information that is available. Why not just say "It's all taken care of."? It would sure save alot of work. My Bishop said maybe it's "to keep people busy?" He didn't have a very great answer for me.
My husband and I both feel that if our son is going to go on a mission for 2 years in the prime of his life, spend at least $15,000, put off college for 2 years to come home, get married,(he'll need to do that to stay worthy), start a family(the pressure is on for young couples to start having a family-that's what the church is all about)only to have just one year of college under his belt, struggle to finish school with a young family, then he had better make sure the church is REALLY true! I feel that is NOT the only true religion on earth, that all religions are true to a point, because religious leaders are only human and are fallible. That's where faith comes in.
So I quit going to church, it feels like stepping out of quick sand. My husband feels somewhat the same, but it's easier for him as he was a convert. Growing up in the church has had a deeper effect on me. The church has a lot of good things, but having all the decisions made for me growing up has made me insecure about making my own decisions and given me alot of guilt trips for not doing more, being more, etc. I feel that my children have only seen the sanitized version of the LDS church, the fun youth activities, EFY, girls camp etc. They really don't know the deep doctrinal foundations of the church. They wouldn't know some of those things until they go on missions, go to the temple, hear things in the adult gospel doctrine class that they really didn't get in seminary or Sunday school. And they would only see what the church decides to show them. When they do big reports for school, they are always required to have usually at least 5 sources of information for the bibliography. I feel that we need to see some of the other sources of information in regards to the church to make an intelligent, rational, life changing decision.
A few months ago I told my husband that it would sure be nice to talk to some other people about how I feel that have been where I am now. We know of a few people in our community that are inactive because of intellectual reasons and to talk to them would be interesting. But I felt that this is such a personal thing, it might be intruding to ask people we really don't know personally about why they left the church. So we just kept it to ourselves. Then one night my husband found your website. It was what we were looking for. After reading some of the stories I finally felt validated about my feelings. I was glad to see that there were other people that had the same feelings and questions as myself. I ordered a few books such as "The Refiner's Fire" and "No Man Knows My History". Also some stuff from the Tanner's about the changes in the temple ceremony that finally spelled out my own findings. It's all so interesting to realize how the church has rewritten its history, although it really makes sense being how perfect Joseph Smith sounds from the lessons at church. I was so tired of always hearing about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the pioneers, the church programs, meetings, meetings, meetings instead of Jesus Christ and his teachings only once in awhile. It just seemed out of balance. Even when I was in primary, when I got to the class where they start teaching you about the Doctrine and Covenants, etc., I never liked all that hell, fire and damnation! It just didn't sound as Christian as the New Testament.
So even though I'm not a scholar or historian I've had those doubt's even before seeing any real data that challenges the church's claims. I feel it's like a sixth sense, a woman's intuition, I don't know, it's just something you feel, but have to research in order to know for sure. I've always been too trusting and taught never to question authority, so it takes effort for me to be assertive and not give in to other peoples expectations. I feel really good right now about stepping outside the boundaries and looking in from another perspective.
Right now my only problem is my kids having their bubble burst. Taking off the rose colored lenses and looking at their new religion with rationality and not just emotion. My youngest child is not having too much trouble with this whole thing because she doesn't like being told how to dress, talk, feel, etc. anyway. My son is not sure about a mission anyway, but he's one of those great kids that wants to do the right thing and doesn't really want to deal with finding out what he believes is true, may not be. My other daughter is now 18 and wants to believe, so I don't quite know how to deal with this other than just continuing to love them alot and talking to them as adults and hope they can have an open mind.
You have my permission to share this letter on the website and I would like to hear from anyone who might have similar feelings or experiences as myself and want to communicate with me in a positive way.
This has been an exciting last few weeks for me after finding this website and it's been great to be able to put into words some of my feelings and experiences. There's alot more I could go into, but for now I feel like this is a good start.
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