I was born in a small town in Utah. My mother was from a very dysfunctional family (Whose aren't these days?); in fact she was living with foster parents when she met my father. She had been raised LDS, but neither of her parents were ever active in the church. My father was raised in a strict LDS family, but somehow got away with not going on a mission. He met my mother and they were married soon after, however not in the temple. They were divorced about a year later. I was the only thing that came of their short-lived marriage.
I lived with my mother who was inactive so going to church was never an issue, especially after we moved to Nevada when I was five. The only time I went to church was with my grandparents who lived in Utah, so I never had to go except when visiting them. However, it would just so happen that our neighbors were Mormon and they had a daughter my age, so back I went. They were very religious and made it their duty to bring me back into the church. They arranged for me to have the missionary lessons and took me to church with them every Sunday. They were upset when they found out that I was going to be baptized by my grandfather in Utah rather than by one of the missionaries, they actually argued with my parents about it.
I continued to go to church with these neighbors, even when I moved across town they would pick me up every Sunday for church. When I was a teenager I moved in with my father, because of the crowded schools and I was being a typical teenager so my mother and I weren't getting along very well.
Every one of my friends were LDS in Utah (big surprise), so I started going to church every Sunday. I remember one lesson was about the Second Coming, the teacher was telling us all about the "bad" people who were going to die. I asked her to define "bad" for me; she went on and on about sinners. I asked her what would happen to people who didn't keep the word of wisdom. Were they "bad" too? She didn't say no, she didn't say yes, she merely skirted the whole question. It was at this point that I realized if you want a question answered that isn't outlined in the lesson plan; you better go find it yourself.
It was important for me to know details like that, because both of my parents drank and smoke. I was consumed by the idea that my parents would die in the Second Coming. As I grew older I started to think that something wasn't wrong with my parents, it was the church that made me view my own parents as sinners. In high school I stopped going to church, except on special occasions, i.e. missions, blessings, etc.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I started seeing a former class mate and one thing lead to another and you can guess what transpired next. I was so ashamed afterwards that I didn't tell anyone for 2 months. The thing was, I didn't even enjoy it, I felt dirty and regretted it every time I saw or heard anything having to do with sex. The worst part of it was that 6 months later, when I was in college, I found out he was going on a mission in the next month. I couldn't believe it. Would the church let him go on a mission after only 6 months? Whatever the reason was for him to go, I felt even more guilty. He repented and had come to terms with this long ago and I was still feeling sick about it.
All of my roommates in college were strict Mormons so they eventually got me to start attending church at the institute ward. All of my own faults and shame piled up on me while I attended, so the next logical thing for me was go to the bishop and repent for all of my sins. I had never gone to the bishop to repent because I never understood why it was necessary in the repenting process and I still don't. I decided that a bishop at a college ward would surely have heard worse than my sins, so I might as well go through with it. I went there and sat before a man I didn't know anything about, other than his last name, and told him things I hadn't even told my sister, mother or friends. For all the shame and anxiety I went through to bring myself to that step in the "repenting process" he gave me a sheet of paper with a checklist on it. If I would abide by everything on that list, I would someday be forgiven. How do I know when I will be forgiven? He told me that he would let me know.
A month later I threw his checklist away. God would forgive me, not the bishop.
I married my husband about a year and a half later. We didn't get married in the temple, not because of premarital sex, but because we both knew we weren't prepared to live an LDS life. We both had every intention of going back one day when we had a family. Although I had my doubts, I figured I just wasn't ready for it at the time and the few bad experiences I had weren't worth throwing away my "eternal salvation". When we decided to have a family we would commit to the church once again for the good of our children. It was then that I started thinking about all of the doubts that I had and whether or not I still had them. If I doubted the church, I couldn't teach my children that it was right. I didn't want our children to go to the LDS church, though I didn't know why I felt that way. I couldn't tell my husband my feelings, because I didn't know why I was feeling them so I thought that maybe it was just me.
We moved to another state about 8 months after we were married so my husband could go to school. I started going through the various chat rooms and bulletin boards on the Internet, due to the lack of people I knew up here. I was having a religious conversation and I happened to bring up the fact that I was LDS and this woman started to inform me that my religion was wrong. Well, no one but me can put down my religion, so I argued with her back and forth. I felt that she must have been taking scriptures from the Book of Mormon and Bible out of context, surely the BoM wouldn't contradict the Bible? I argued back and forth with her for 2-3 days, until I decided to find evidence on the Internet that would refute her "baseless" arguments.
The only evidence I found supported her arguments against the church.
I couldn't believe it. How could that many intelligent people believe in this massive lie the church had been founded on. I ran to the library (thanking God I wasn't in Utah anymore) and checked out every book I could find about Mormonism, good and bad. My husband found a few of my books and casually tried to ask me why I was reading so many books against the church. Dreading this moment, I told him about my experience on the Internet and what I had learned. I shared some of the information, not surprisingly, he hadn't heard of most of it. He had never heard anything about the Book of Abraham, Mark Hoffman, and he wasn't even aware of Blood Atonement. He went to church on a regular basis and took seminary classes in high school and he didn't know about any of the things I was explaining. He was calm about it and told me that he didn't mind if I left the LDS church for another church, but to just leave religion altogether would bother him. He feels that when we have children they should be raised in a religion. I will try to look into various religions in the future, for now I just want to feel free and not have the guilt that I always associated with religion.
I had decided to have my name removed from the church records, until I told my husband about my plans a few months after we had discussed my problems with the church, he didn't take it very well and for some reason that surprised me. I remembered that he said it wouldn't be so bad as long as I left for another religion, I guess he never thought I would actually go through with it. I decided that it wasn't that big of an issue since I didn't recognize the church as having any authority anyway. Sometimes I think that all it does is keep my husband's hope alive that I'll come to my senses someday, but I can firmly say that my name being on the records will not change my decision to leave the church.
I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (a cliché, I know). I no longer feel as though I have to be perfect. I don't have to go to their church to be a good person. I know that the people in the LDS religion are no better than any one else. It reminds me of a joke I heard in college:
A guy dies, goes to heaven. An angel gives him a tour pointing out the various groups of people. The guy sees a bunch of people dancing and laughing, so he asks the angel, "Who are they?" The angel says, "Oh, they're Baptist." They continue walking and the guy sees a group of people having a picnic and playing games, so he asks the angel again, "Who are they?" The angel says. "They're Methodist." Then they come upon this great big wall and the guy asks, "What's with the wall?" The angel says, "Oh, that's the Mormons, they think they're the only ones up here."
I have decided not to tell any of my TBM family members. Though it was a big decision for me, I don't believe it changes who I am or the way I feel about my family and friends. There are times I want to let the whole world know, but I don't know what it would accomplish, other than hurt feelings on both sides.
I want to thank you Eric for this site; it has helped me see that I wasn't the only one who thought something was wrong with the LDS church.