I've wanted to do this for quite some time, and I am hoping that by posting this, even with revealing some heavy duty flaws, that this will help someone else.
My exit from the mormon church (intentionally not capitalized). It seems I cannot tell my exit story without telling something of a life story first. It just makes more sense with perspective and life content. So here we go...
I come from a long line of mormons on my mother's side. We are descended from the fifth wife of Joseph Lee Robinson, who was, I believe, in Joseph Smith's inner circle. This is a source of pride for some of my believing family members. My father was a convert to the church. He and his brother were the only ones in his family to be mormons. He died a true believer.
I was spoon fed the doctrine from birth by a mother who passionately believes in it all. She is a very good person and she tries very hard to live a good life. She believes strongly in Jesus and talks about him and God a lot. "The Church" is such an integral part of her life as to BE her life. There is no separating the church from her. Without mormonism, my mother simply would not be, I believe. I dearly love my mother. She is a good, kind, decent human being. She would never intentionally hurt anyone. She has love in her heart for all. Her entire family, mormon and non-mormon alike, love her very much. It is not her fault that she is the way she is about church related things. Sadly, my exit from and subsequent scorn for the mormon church tends to put my mother in a negative light. That is unfortunate because I love her very much. It just goes to show that the church negatively impacts everything it touches.
My family was immersed in the mormon life. It consumed every day of our lives. Daily morning scripture study. Daily morning and evening family prayers and mealtime prayers. Church every Sunday, and when I was a young child, it was twice. Sunday morning was Sunday School and Sunday evening was sacrament meeting. Sunday was dedicated to The Lord. No work. No TV. No radio. Secular books were frowned upon but not forbidden. No shopping or eating out, with minimal cooking and only the bare minimum housework. A rare visit to a mormon friend's house or a mormon friend coming over after church. I spent much of my time napping on Sundays.
Every single Monday night, without fail, was FHE. And I don't mean just a game and a snack. I mean full on gospel doctrine lesson and scripture study. Every other night of the week there was always a church meeting or function that someone in our family was going to. Tuesday night was Relief Society. Wednesday night was the youth meeting, whatever they were calling it at any given time--MIA, Mutual, YMYW, whatever. Thursday night was Primary. Friday was the night off. And of course, "Saturday is a special day, it's the day we get ready for Sunday." At some point in my childhood, scheduling was changed and some of the meetings moved to Sunday. They also changed Sundays so that Sunday school and sacrament meeting, and the other meetings occurred in one three hour block of time, with Mutual activities continuing on Wednesday nights.
My mother relied heavily on her religion. She felt very strongly that The Spirit guided her in her actions and decisions. She took her role as mother in Zion extremely seriously. She did not slack for a minute teaching us "The Gospel".
She firmly believed that if we "sinned", it would be her fault. As in Numbers 14:18 " ...Vising the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." She had a lot of guilt over one or two mistakes she made as a teen, and she was absolutely positive that every time I made a mistake--AKA "sinned", it was her fault for her own "sins".
She believed in visions and dreams, as did most church members her age and older. When I was a teen, she would have a dream that something bad would happen if I went or did such and such, and she would not let me go. Sometimes I was trying to go to a party where there would be drinking, and then I'd be convinced that The Spirit did talk to her in dreams and visions, because what I was going to be doing was wrong!
She did not falter or bend the rules. When I was ten or 11, I had a sundress that I just loved. It was sleeveless. It had wide shoulder straps, but was sleeveless, nonetheless. This was long before the weird/bizarre/strange looking practice of wearing a white t-shirt under any dress or top that is not properly "modest", so I had to wear a sweater over the top of the dress so as not to be immodest. I hated that so much. I tried to wear the dress without the sweater to Primary, but my mother saw me and did that disapproving thing she does and guilted me into putting the sweater back on.
When I was seven, and getting ready to be baptized, I knew in my little child heart that I did not want to do it. But not because I didn't believe in the church. It never occurred to me not to believe. There was never any discussion of whether it was "true" or not, it simply WAS. Anyway, I remember feeling so awful that I was approaching the "Age of Accountability".
(I'm using lots of quotation marks! But something like this needs them!)
Yes, I was fast going to be accountable for my "sins", which were many, in my eyes. And then I might not get to heaven! I would have to constantly repent, repent, repent, of all the things I would be doing wrong. Every day! I would now fall into the same category as others who made Jesus suffer. I knew that the second I emerged from the waters of baptism I would sin. And then I would be filthy again. That upset me and bothered me so much! I am just now realizing how much, as, with the telling of it, I feel sick to my stomach and tears are stinging my eyes.
On the evening of my baptism, in my white jumpsuit, which I hated and felt horribly ugly in (they had just stopped letting little girls get baptized in dresses due to the trouble with getting it all dunked, ha!), I so desperately did not want to do it that I hid in a bathroom stall until my mother found me and then I went to do the inevitable.
I remember being remarkably unaffected by my baptism. It had been touted to me as the most important thing I'd do in my life until I went to the temple as an adult. So why didn't I feel anything? Maybe I'd feel it the next day, in church, at my confirmation. I felt absolutely nothing at my confirmation, either. That didn't stop my little eight-year-old heart and mind from believing. How could I not? I remember thinking it must be my fault for not feeling the spirit, I must be sinning already. And where there is sin the Holy Ghost cannot go.
I grew up participating fully in the church, even when I didn't want to or didn't like it. I felt a lot of anger and hatred towards the church, but believed the reason I felt as I did was because I was rebellious and just wanted to sin. Well, to be frank, I did want to sin and repent later. I got that idea many times as I was growing up. I wanted to do normal things! And since I believed them to be sin, I felt guilty about wanting to and doing them! And felt I needed to repent. I hated repenting and I hated praying.
Growing up, I did not act like a good mormon girl, at all. Premarital sex, drugs and alcohol were all part of my life from my early teens on up. I hated being a mormon. I despised Seminary and Mutual. I refused to do Personal Progress (if that's what they called it back then, I can't remember). However, I was forced to participate in church whether I wanted to or not. I had to attend church, Mutual, Seminary, etc., if I wanted to go out, be a cheerleader, or anything else related to extracurricular activities or a social life.
I went off to college with no plan to get a degree of any kind, I just really wanted to get away. Away from the stifling mormon rules and dogma. Even though I wanted to get away from it, I STILL thought the church was true. Not because of a burning testimony, but because it's all I had been taught, ever. I knew it was true like I knew the sky was blue. I was pretty well indoctrinated to believe it, even when I didn't like it.
At Ricks, much fun, including more drinking, sex and drugs ensued. I broke every rule I could and got away with most of it. Only got sent to Student Life three times. Each time I humbled myself (groveled, with gritted teeth) and lied and wormed my way out of getting kicked out. This was worse than living with my strict mormon mother.
I had met and gotten very serious with a non-mormon man over the summer after my first year of college. I, in all my 19-year-old wisdom, decided I loved him and after a few months of dating, he proposed. Looking back, I cannot believe that he would do such a rash thing after only knowing me, a girl barely out of childhood, for a few short months. I understand why I said yes after such a short time, and that's solely because of my mormon upbringing. If a woman was not married by the time she was 20, she was considered an "Old Maid". A "Sweet Spirit" who could not find a man. That's when they started preparing for their missions. In my youth, the only women missionaries were the sweet spirits, the old maids, the undesirables.
Anyway, he was not a member, but I didn't care in the slightest about the church. And the last, the VERY LAST place I wanted to get married was in the temple. What I knew about the temple was very, very slim, but I did know that I could not have a dress with a train, and I could not wear a veil, I would not be walking down an aisle or exchanging rings. And, to top it all off, none of my friends could attend. Call me vain, but I was a teenager and I wanted a beautiful princess dress with a train. I wanted a veil. I wanted bridesmaids in pretty, matching dresses standing next to me. I wanted a pretty chapel with an aisle to walk down. And I wanted the "with this ring I thee wed" thing.
My dad (step-dad, technically) said he would pay for my wedding if I married in the temple. And if I married in a mormon church building, he would give me $200 towards it. If the very last place I would consider being married was a temple, then the next last place would be in an ugly mormon church building, with my reception on a basketball court. I declined his offer and paid for my entire wedding all by myself, in a gorgeous non-denominational chapel, including an $800 (30 years ago that was a lot of money!) boutique designer princess dress with sparkles, lots and lots of lace, a beautiful long train, and a simple, traditional veil. I even stood up for myself against the bishop who married us and insisted that he change the mormon non-temple wedding vows. In them, the bride and groom are asked some variation of "do you take this person to be your wife/husband", and the bride and groom answer only "Yes". I put my foot down and said either you let us say "I do" or I find someone else to marry us. Oh, and I also made him add a unity candle ceremony. Such a rebel I was!
It wasn't long into my marriage when I knew it was a mistake. I was not happy. I did not feel loved. Four years into it, I knew I had lost whatever love I had for my husband. I was so unhappy! More than unhappy--I was quite miserable. I made some huge mistakes. I took some bad paths. And I found myself in a situation that made me even more miserable!
I had been inactive this entire time. I had asked to be on my church congregation's no contact list. Here is where my mormon upbringing and conditioning kicked in. Here is how I became a true believing mormon for the next 20 years. These next three things were pivotal in my mormon conversion.
First: I had been taught that wickedness never was happiness. I had been taught that holding onto the "iron rod" was the way to true happiness. I was taught that no one in the world was happy without the "gospel". And now that I was miserable and could see that my "sins" had made me so, I had my confirmation of this fact. I had taken the wrong path. Gotten too close to the edge of the cliff. Gone over the cliff. If only I'd followed the rules. If only I'd never made these choices. If only I'd done this. If only I'd done that. Then I would not be where I was at that time in my life. Then I would have been happy instead of miserable. The church and my mother were right all along. The key to happiness was mormonism.
Second: I got pregnant with my first child. I wanted to be the best mother I could be. And in my mind, the only way to be a good mother was to raise my child in church. The Church. The "Only True Church". I suppose it's only natural to fall back on what you know and were taught as a child. And I did just that. I started going back to church. I started thinking about church in a positive light.
Third: I was talking to a friend of mine--an Evangelical--about going back to the mormon church. She was appalled. She tried to talk me out of it. She was asking me a few questions and brought up the Book of Mormon. I answered her question about the BoM with a phrase that just popped into my head. In my mind, The Spirit put that thought there, as I could not remember every hearing the phrase before. I said, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. After I spoke those words, I felt a literal, physical jolt to my body, along with an almost sound. It felt like something hit the side of the house, or a small earthquake had occurred. I asked my friend, did you feel that? She did not feel it. This was further confirmation of The Spirit. I became utterly convinced that The Spirit had witnessed to me that the words I'd just spoken were true. To this day I cannot really explain what happened. At any rate, this became the basis of my new-found testimony.
And so I went back. I told my friends I would no longer be drinking, even after the baby was born. I told them that I was going to be a mormon again. They tried to be supportive and understanding, and they have stuck by me as true friends this entire time. (Not so my so-called friends in the mormon church, by the way, but that comes much later.) Then I threw myself into mormonism with all of my heart, mind and soul.
For the next 20 years, I was a mormon through and through. I stopped all the things mormons are supposed to stop. Drinking, rated R movies, Sunday stuff, etc. I accepted a calling. I started reading scriptures. I did everything a good mormon woman was supposed to do. I eventually resigned myself to wearing garments, which had been a huge barrier to me going to the temple, and went through the temple. I already knew it was weird and so its weirdness didn't phase me. I tried very hard to learn and understand the deeper meaning and symbolism behind the temple rituals. I believed I was doing what was good and right.
Fast forward to five years ago. My marriage was a sham. I had tried everything to make myself happy in that area, but to no avail. I was on anti-depressants and deluding myself into thinking that I was happy. At a particularly vulnerable point in my and my then husband's life, I met someone online. As the story usually goes, it started out fairly innocent. I felt safe, because he also was a member of the church and a priesthood holder. Which automatically made him a better person than my husband (symptom of mormonism--never mind him being a predator and manipulator and user. But that doesn't have anything to do, really, with my story.) Things rapidly progressed to become a full-blown affair.
I kept it hidden for about a year. Of course we were discovered and it all came out. My husband was reeling from it all and, though not a member, turned to my bishop for counsel and support (also informed on me so as to bring hellfire and revenge down my and the other man's head). They found out who the man was that I was having the affair with, and contacted his bishop. His bishop called him in, of course, and that's when the man cut off all contact with me. By this time I had moved out of the house and was on my way to divorce.
My bishop had called me in, as well. At this time, I didn't know that this man had absolutely NO authority over me and I didn't have to say or do anything I didn't want to. I thought he was my religious leader, and that he had authority from God. I also thought that I wanted to stay a member of the church. I thought of how hurt my parents would be if I left the church. I still thought it was true, even though I had strayed very far away from the "iron rod" this time. My bishop pressured me and pressured me to confess, confess, confess. Like the nuns in GoT. Confess. Confess. Confess. I had a warped sense of loyalty to the man I'd had the affair with and resisted confessing for quite some time. I share that story here: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1760649,1761218#msg-1761218
It was a mutual decision. I did not feel sorry for or want to repent of my affair, and I would have still been involved and would have done it again if given a chance. I was excommunicated. Once it happened and I told my parents, the worst was over and I felt like I could move forward with my life. And remarkably, I felt no sadness about being excommunicated. The trauma and emotional abuse of the process was much, MUCH worse than the actual event, which felt about the same as my baptism--it didn't.
Several things were happening all around the same time, quite rapidly.
My bishop gave me a list of things to do to start the "repentance process". One of them was to study the New Testament. My mother was so eager to help me and I just could not disappoint her so I agreed to get on the phone with her a few nights a week and we would read the New Testament together. As we read, I found myself rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of the Bible. I got sick and tired of hearing, "Oh, you wicked and perverse generation." It began to sound simply ludicrous. It seems that my leaving/being kicked out/whatever you want to call it started a process of a lifetime of indoctrination to peel away and I truly felt as if blinders had fallen off my eyes and I could see it for what it was, smoke and mirrors, a man behind the curtain, superstitious, hateful nonsense.
I watched a documentary on the myth of Jesus. I was shocked to hear of how many virgin birth stories there were. How many son of god, savior stories there were. And much more! This is when I realized there was no Jesus. I realized there is no such thing as a God at all!
I read a book by Grant Palmer called Mormon Origins. In that book I learned everything I needed to know about the truth of mormonism. Once I finished that book, I knew that my entire life had been a lie. The mormon church is a lie. Started by a filthy predator for his monetary and sexual gain. The spin my parents had put on everything was just that--spin. And the truth was glaringly obvious and ugly.
I realized there was no such thing as SIN! No, I don't mean no such thing as doing wrong or hurting or harming others, but no such thing as SIN. My actions did not make an imaginary, fabricated being suffer and bleed and die. My actions do not require me to grovel and beg forgiveness to a nonexistent god. That concept was so unbelievably freeing! I could love myself. I could like myself. I could stop mentally flagellating myself for not doing all I should be doing to strive for perfection. I could also deal with the things I did do wrong in a healthy way.
As I recovered from the break up of my affair, which was absolutely devastating to me, I also realized that I was happy. I didn't need the mormon church and its rules to be happy. I was happy. I also began to have some successes in life. All my life I'd been taught that success was a byproduct of following the mormon rules. Here I was, definitely NOT following the mormon rules, and good things were happening to me! And still are!
My sister told me of a General Conference talk by Uchdorf, in which he gave the now infamous "Doubt Your Doubts" speech. When she told me about it, I had been out long enough that just hearing the words "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith" screamed CULT!
And you might find this slightly amusing, but here is what severed the last teeny tiny thread that connected me with the mormon church. I picked up an Ensign and on the cover was the title of one of the articles and it was about...self abuse. Self abuse!??!!! Isn't that an antiquated term from 100 years and more ago that the Catholics made up? Wasn't the church backing off on its ridiculous witch hunt with people and masturbation? I am well aware of the harm done by this hideous, abusive practice of punishing someone who masturbates as if they'd committed a sin next to murder. And once I saw this rhetoric I was outraged. And at that moment, I felt the snap of the last little silken thread that had combined into a chain that had imprisoned me in mormonism.
I was free.
I've spent hours reading the truth that's out there if only you look. I've learned so much about the darkness and abusive nature of the cult of mormonism.
I have embraced my atheism. I am so happy to be free of religion. Free of mormonism. Free of guilt and shame and self hate. I have embraced reason and compassion and logic.
I do not have to wait until I die to get to some VIP heaven paradise and be happy. I am living my life for the happy times I have NOW.
And I am happy.