Monday, December 31, 2012

My Faith Crisis


Once upon a time I was a member of the Mormon religion.  I ended that relationship and I wanted to share my story.  My faith crisis.  My spiritual journey.   

I debated long and hard, whether or not to write this.  However, it was two others blog posts that gave me comfort when this all began and I feel it is my time to pay it forward.  It is my turn to be there for someone else who is searching, praying, begging for an answer, to have someone understand their pain and their path.  I owe these two other bloggers for being brave enough to write down their journey and post it on the internet so I could read it and KNOW I am not alone.  They were the reason I kept going.  They were the reason I was brave enough to dig further into the LDS churches history.  I owe them more then they will ever know.


I am not sure when it started.  I would say some time during my early teens.  I believed in God and I believed in Jesus Christ, but for many reasons I did not like Joseph Smith.  I would watch movies on him and I would feel uneasy and almost disgusted with him.  He was arrogant, chauvinistic and disrespectful towards his wife, Emma.  I admired Emma from the first stories I can remember of her.  She was strong and loving.  She did not like the idea of polygamy, but despite her dislike Joseph married other women and said it was a commandment by God.


 I never liked that.  The God I knew would not disrespect another person the way Joseph did to Emma.  The God I knew would not make women feel inferior to man.  The way Joseph depicted God, was not the God I felt I had a relationship with.  I struggled with that for years.  I was tolerant of Joseph Smith, because I believed the gospel of Jesus Christ was true.  However, I could not ever completely agree he was a true prophet of God.


My first experience of hearing anything other than the Mormon beliefs was when I was about seventeen.  My best friend told me she did not know if she believed Christ was our Savior.  I freaked out on her.  I told her I did not think we could be friends.  I was so devastated that my dearest friend would even dream that Christ was not our Savior.  There was no other way in my eyes.  My parents had taught me the truth and she was going against my beliefs in a way that was absolutely terrifying to me.  

We did get past it and she never brought it up again while we were younger.  I think my shunning of her put a wedge in our relationship.  I was so ignorant and so full of myself, that I could not see past the picture my parents and leaders had painted for me.  There was no other path that was right and I allowed my ignorance to hurt my best friend and our relationship.


After I graduated high school, I moved out of my parents’ house, into a duplex with my girlfriends.  We stopped going to church and spent our Sundays sleeping and watching TV.  Actually, we spent most of that summer playing, sleeping and watching a lot of TV.  It was a wonderful summer and I thoroughly enjoyed not going to church.  

Over the next couple of years I did not attend church very often and I met many other people from many walks of life.  Some were Atheist, Jehovah Witnesses, New Age and many people from different Christian practices or religions.  I was still very defensive of what my parents had taught me to be true, but my eyes were opening, very slowly.  

When I was 19, I moved to New York for 6 months to be a nanny.  My employers were non-religious and drank alcohol, which was very foreign to me.  They had intelligent conversations about life, religion and politics and their two boys were very much involved with these conversations.  I found it strange but enjoyable and enlightening.  It was a different view of life and way of living and I found it refreshing.


At 21 years of age I married my first husband.  The majority of his family was not Mormon, but he had been baptized at nineteen and attended once and a while.  Once we were married we rarely attended church.  When we did go, we didn’t stick around for long.  We preferred hanging out with his family and playing on Sundays.  I became accustomed to that way of life and felt it was a much better way to spend my Sundays.  But I still believed the Mormon Church was true.  I believed I would always return and I would go through the temple and I would be a full attendance member.  My life with my first husband was a constant internal conflict.  I preferred the family fun day on Sundays, but had been conditioned going to church and paying my tithing and fulfilling my callings and going to the temple was the only way to eternal happiness in the afterlife.  I was constantly conflicted with what was right.  My father-in-law said his family was his religion.  That seemed far better than going to three hours of church and hating every moment of it.


After my husband and I divorced, I decided to return to church.  I remember walking into the church house near my new home and seeing a girl I went to high school with.  I turned around and walked back out.  My life was a disaster.  I felt I would be judged, because that is what I had witnessed my whole life in the Mormon church.  If you did not conduct your life the way they said you should then your life would be a disaster and Satan would have control of you.  I feared the judgments.  So to avoid the "looking down their nose" from the people in my religion, I chose to stay away from church all together.   


This story just got longer then I expected!  Today is New Year’s Eve and I want to post before the day is over.  This is my healing.  This is my gift.  Whether or not anyone cares is beside the point.  I hope you stick around to read the whole thing...


One year after my divorce something happened that caused me a great deal of pain.  I was very regretful, pained to my core.  I went to my bishop, confessed my “sins” and began down a path of repentance.  It was hard, painful and I felt very guilty.   

The funny thing is, when I look back on all of it, I believe I was very hard on myself.  What I had done was a mistake, but it was not horrible.  It was not destructive and it wouldn’t have hurt anyone else.  But because of my religious beliefs I thought I was the most horrible person.  I was judging myself extremely unfairly.  

 However, I went through the repentance process, I was married to another man and I went through the Mormon temple and performed their sacred ordinances.  I was disgusted by the rituals in the temple, when I went through but I was so afraid to tell anyone.  I hated every single moment of it and wished I had never gone.  It felt cultish and wrong.  I never felt right about the endowment ordinance and I did not ever want to go back.  But in my mind, it was the true church so I plowed forward and did exactly what I was supposed to do.  I attended church, fulfilled my callings, prayed, read my scriptures and even occasionally returned to the temple. 


Going to the temple was the beginning of the end for me... My questions were piling up.  My doubts were bursting from the seams.  And it was taking everything I had just to keep moving forward as a member of that religion.

The summer of 2011 I began reading the Book of Mormon again for the 4th time.  I always felt it was full of baloney stories that did not depict the God I believed in.  I wanted to read it this time with prayerful meditation.  I wanted to do it right, even though I felt I had done it right the other three times.  I had to know it was true.  I had to know Joseph Smith was a true prophet.  I had to know for sure.  For months I read the scriptures, prayed more than I had ever prayed before and read many talks and books written by apostles of the church.  I was determined to get that knowledge the LDS church was true.  In January I was exploring the internet and typed in “The Book of Mormon” (more curious about what was out there about the book, not thinking I would find anything against it, that is how ignorant I was) and I found this website…




I began reading.   

I READ FOR HOURS.   

I clicked on the Book of Abraham and that was when I wanted to throw up.  I was sick.  I researched for days on end and as my foundation began to crumble, my long time questions began to be answered.  

*The blacks receiving the priesthood was not from revelation
*Brigham Young tyranny and why
*Joseph Smith and why I had felt so disgusted with him
*Polygamy and the truth behind it
*the Book of Mormons discrepancies with the Native Americans, horses, civilizations not existing, etc. etc. etc.  

The days rolled into weeks and my knowledge of the true church history was breaking my heart.  I was devastated.  I felt like I had been lied to my whole life by everyone.  I remember going to the temple, praying it would fix things, but as I was sitting there I KNEW it was wrong.  I knew this religion was not true.  I knew my eyes had been closed my whole life and now they were opening more than ever.  My whole foundation had been ripped out from underneath and I had no idea where to turn or what to do.  

During this time is when I read Dan's blog post, from Single Dad Laughing, about his decision to leave the LDS church.  

http://www.danoah.com/2012/02/whose-life-is-it-anyway.html

I also found another blog post from an exmormon who had told her story of leaving the church.  I emailed her and asked her how she got through it.  I also emailed Dan.  They both replied and gave me their own advice and how they made their life work after being a Mormon.  I will forever be grateful for their courage to write those posts and then to email me back when I needed someone to hold me up.  I felt like I was drowning and I had no idea who to turn to.  They were a light in my life and this is why I have chosen to write this post.


My new spiritual journey did not end there.  

I researched for months.  

I prayed constantly, looking for guidance.  

One day in particular I remember praying all day long.  I cried constantly and I begged for an answer.  I wanted to know if any religion was right.  I wanted to know if I needed to be a part of any religion.  

That night I saw “The Hunger Games”.  During the movie the president was speaking to the gamekeeper and he asked him, “Do you know why we have a winner?”  The gamekeeper said, no and asked why.  The president said in so many words, “We instill fear into them and then we give them hope.  Because hope is stronger than fear.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is exactly what the LDS church does.  They tell people unless they are sealed in the LDS temples they will not be with their families in the afterlife.  They instill the fear and then give them hope.   

Right then I knew!  I knew it was all false.  I had been given my answer.  It was one of the most painful nights of my life.  I cried for hours.  I looked at my picture of Christ, sitting in my room, and begged to know if he was real.  I was pained in a way I never had known before.  My heart ached and I literally felt like a part of myself was dying.  I will never forget that moment.

To this day, I am still researching Jesus’s life and if he was even a real man.


I have done more research in the past year and a half about God, religion and spirituality, then I have done in my entire life.  My life has changed in more ways in this past year, then in my whole life.  It has been a rollercoaster ride and although the downs have been extremely heartbreaking, I would not change a single moment.  I have come out on the other end with my eyes wide open and my life filled with more joy and amazement than ever before.  My life is an adventure and despite the sadness and pain, I know the happiness and wonderment are worth those moments. 


A little over a month ago I realized something.  I had not felt God in a while.  I had not felt THAT love and peace for at least a month or two.  

It scared me.  

I sobbed tears of fear for days.  

I sat in my bathroom and begged to have his/her love back.  I felt so alone and scared.  In all my life I had never gone without it and all of a sudden it was gone.  

That is when I was hit with the thought, “What if god was always just inside my head.  What if god was never real?”  The thought shook me to the core.   

I cried even more.  

I pleaded.  

I did not understand how I could imagine god’s love.  It was far more painful of a moment then the moment I found out the church was false.  I had never felt more alone then at that moment.


I carried on with my life, acting like nothing was going on.  I moved forward and pretended I was not in pain.  Then one night a few weeks ago, I was out to dinner with two of my dearest, closest girlfriends.  Towards the end I broke down.  I told them what I had been going through.  I told them my fear of god being all in my head.  For a moment, it was quiet.  But just for a moment.  My two friends are not Mormon.  They left a long time ago.  They have their own beliefs but neither fit into any certain religious category.  However, one thing they agreed on and told me in so many words, is that I had to find God inside myself.


I thought about what they had both said throughout the night.  I had gone over to a friend’s house for a get together and at the end of the night I drove my good friend home.  On the way I told him the same thing I had told my girlfriends.  He listened quietly and before he got out of the car, he told me the same thing they had said, I had to find god’s love inside myself. 


The next week I was at work and I decided to confide into my close friend there.  I broke down, still feeling very emotional about this path I was on and told her how I could not feel god any more.  She listened quietly as well.  At the end, she told me I had to find god inside myself.   

As soon as she said this, my mind quieted.  I thought back to my other three friends who had all said the same thing.  Four people who believe entirely different from one another, had all given me the same advice.   

My two girlfriends, who are spiritual, but believe quite differently in who god is.   

My atheist friend. 

And lastly my Mormon friend.   

There is a UNIVERSAL belief.   

Despite everyone’s different beliefs, they all love me enough to look inside themselves and see where they find their peace and love. 


I was blown away by this!

I had a huge ah-ha moment and at that very moment I realized something. 

We are all ONE.  

We are all made by the same love.  

Whether it is god, the universe, nature… we are all made from the same stuff.  It doesn’t matter what we all believe or how we get there.  All that matters is the love we have for each other.  To feel that love come from the core of your being and showing it, paying it forward to others is what god is all about.  There is no superior being sitting up in heaven judging us and expecting us to separate ourselves from one another by creating these divisions in humanity.  No matter what we believe or who we believe in, it all comes back to love for one another.   

I was looking outside myself for god, while the whole time god was inside me.  God is love and comes from within.  I remember now.  I feel it again and I know I will never go without it again. 


This is my story.  It is not an easy path, but it is a worthwhile path.  I will not apologize for following my inner knowing and being the person I am.  I am this person for a reason and I hope because I have finally opened my eyes, I can be there for others who are struggling to let go of society’s shackles.  I am leaving my past where it belongs and only using it to inspire others.  

It can be done.   

A person can break free.   

It is hard and it is painful, but it is worth it.  

And the best part is, there are many of us free thinkers out in the world!

You are not alone.  If that is what I can give back to the world, then I will know I have done my part.

Namaste, my friends :) 

5 comments:

  1. Niki, congrats on your enlightenment, and thank you for sharing this amazing and wonderful piece of yourself. That is a truly inspiring personal reflection you shared. I admire your courage

    Ryan Lichfield

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  2. Beautiful and fantastic Niki <3 It is all about loving, isn't it. :) Me finally...FINALLY letting go and showing that I could be better than my angry self has made my life so much better. Congratulations on this new journey!

    PS...Ryan^^^^^ You are fantastic as well. <3

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  3. Niki, I find that when my relationship with God feels distant, once I immerse myself in studying and pondering on the scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, and other modern day revelations from prophets)the Holy Spirit returns and I feel as though I'm walking with God again.

    The fact that you are seeking eternal truth is wonderful. From personal experience though, be cautious what you read from outside sources, for many of the writings will toss you too and frow with every wind of doctrine. Seek eternal truth from God and his scriptures.

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  4. Mike,

    Glad to hear reading your church's canon helps you out. I've done all that before and it doesn't work for me. Since leaving I have learned there exists so much more truth and knowledge that is woefully lacking in the LDS church. Your very mention of not reading from "outside resources" is cult-training 101. I hope you can break free from that mind-set and discover some of the many other beautiful truths to life. As you read above, I do not have to find god outside myself, in fictional books like the B of M and the Bible. I found god/goddess/universe inside myself and I am even closer to my source then I have ever been before in my life.

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