Thursday, April 27, 2006

FORMER LDS LADY TELLS US HER STORY

I joined the church at age 8 with my family. My parents were trying to salvage their marriage and they thought that perhaps the church might help them. Unfortunately, they were beyond help and eventually divorced. Over a period of time, all my family members stopped going except me. I found acceptance at church and as long as I could get a ride, my mother let me keep attending.

I attended early morning seminary for five years, studying the scriptures and church history with other kids. (I lived in a small town in West Texas and there weren't enough students to have a class unless eighth graders were allowed to attend, so I started a year early.) I also attended MIA classes and sunday meetings, serving as sunday school teacher, class president, etc. During this time, I dreamed of going to BYU and getting married in the temple.

Upon graduation, I desperately wanted to attend Ricks College. My parents were opposed to this, so I was forced to attend my first year of college in my home town where my father still lived. (By this time, my mother had remarried a man in the Air Force and they were stationed elsewhere.) I saved my money and got my parents to agree that I could go to BYU the next year.

I attended BYU and held various callings in my wards. I attended most devotionals and firesides, trying very hard to obey all the commandments. I didn't date very much although I wanted to. Some of my roommates didn't either, so I always had friends to do things with. We were all average-looking women with reasonable intelligence. You know the type--the "sweet spirits?" That was us.

Needless to say, I graduated without getting married. I moved to a small town in Utah where I taught school. I dated much more thaan I ever had at BYU, but still didn't meet the man of my dreams. I entertained the idea of going on a mission several times and came to believe that I would never marry till I had served in this way. On the other hand, I had never received a burning of the bosom or anything despite much prayer and study. I didn't feel I could honestly say I knew the church was true, so I decided not to go.

After five years of teaching school, I decided to leave teaching. I went back to graduate school at the University of Utah. By this time, I was 27 years old. Most of the people in my classes were already married or much younger. As a result, I didn't date much then either. I attended a singles ward and tried hard to take advantage of opportunities to meet eligible young men. However, most of the men who were the right age were already taken. There were a few interesting men available, but the competition for them in a singles ward made up largely of women was very heavy. The "sweet spirits" were rarely successful. Still I continued to attend, hoping Mr. Right might come around at any time. I accepted callings, attended meetings, and tried to obey the commandments, constantly praying that I could be married in the temple as I knew I should be. I began to be disillusioned with some of the ideas of the church, but still believed it to be true.

During this time, I continued to feel that I would never be blessed with marriage until I served a mission. I made bargains with the Lord, promising to do certain things if he would only send my "one and only" to me and if he would let me know the church was true. Since I could never seem to achieve Moroni's promise of the burning in my bosom, I thought something was wrong with me and that God didn't love me anymore. I secretly thought that perhaps I had done something so horrible, God had already relegated me to outer darkness. But then some other prayer would be answered, so I then thought I just hadn't shown God I deserved a testimony. I was eventually called to be relief society president for my singles ward and I told the first counselor that I was not sure my testimony was up to that calling. He told me that serving as relief society president would help my testimony grow stronger.

After a few years in the singles ward, the church came out with the idea of sending singles back to their home wards if they were over 30. Although I had enjoyed serving as relief society president for my singles ward, I welcomed the idea of going back. I didn't feel my testimony was any stronger. I was even more disillusioned with the church and began to seriously entertain the idea of leaving. I returned to my home ward, attended for about six months and then finally decided (after much soul searching) that the problem of gaining a testimony was not with me, but with the church. I stopped attending and became inactive.

I tried to sort out my feelings about the church for several years. I was still living in Utah though and whenever I saw former BYU friends or people who knew me as a relief society president, I felt guilty. I decided that to be free of the church and to be truly objective, I needed to leave the state. At this time, I was 35 years old. I found a job in another western state and moved.

I did not visit my new home ward and tried to fade into the woodwork. I was successful, except my new boss was LDS. However, he never tried to get me to come back to church and for that, I have great admiration for him. He now has a leadership position in the stake, but he still doesn't try to push his beliefs on me.

About five months ago, I wrote to have my name removed from the church records. I have not yet received confirmation that this has happened. I expect to be writing again to the bishop in a few weeks, asking again. I am confident now that the church really isn't true. When I left the church, my vision really broadened and I could entertain ideas I had never considered before. I feel sad in some ways that I wasted so much time in a religion that caused me to question whether I had offended God in some horrible way. I experienced some damage to my self-esteem which I have yet to overcome. On the other hand, I am not afraid to speak in public and I have had some valuable teaching and leadership experiences for which I'm grateful.

I am now 41 years old and have never married. I blame the church partially for this, but I mostly blame myself. As I have gotten older, I have become more reserved. I still attend a singles activity occasionally, but have tried to carve out a satisfying existence without a significant other. I have also not joined another church. I don't know whether God exists or if Christ was His/Her son. On the other hand, I must confess to a leaning towards Christianity. I attend a protestant church fairly regularly and I find comfort in listening to the sermons. Sometimes I take communion.

I wish anyone who reads this and who is considering leaving the church, the best. I know it is hard, but I believe it is the wisest decision I have ever made. I only wish I would have made it sooner. I believe if I had, my life would be much different than it is today. I am also very glad I never married while in the church. I think I could not have left so easily if I had had to deal with a family who still believed.

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