Dear readers, friends, family, etc.,
From a young age, I was a faithful, believing Mormon (hereafter called "the church"). I attended church more than regularly, went to all activities, and read my scriptures almost every night from aged 11 on. I would have regular communion with God and tried my hardest to listen for His direction in my life.
Every Sunday school and Young Women's lesson, sacrament meeting talk, stake conference talk, and general conference address impacted my decisions. If a general authority said something, I would instantly believe it and try to incorporate it into my life. My teachers, bishops, and parents counseled me in all things--and I listened.
Unfortunately, this constant barrage of advice and counsel led to incessant angst as to whether I really was being the best I could be. I would not look forward to General Conference because it meant more emotional beatings as I realized just how awful I was. I didn't pray enough, fully engage in the scriptures, treat people like Jesus did, or respect my parents like the bible taught. Any bad thought basically nailed the lid to my coffin of sin and endless torment.
Yes the gospel purports to teach hope, but I didn't feel much hope throughout my life.
I realize my anxiety and depression were clinical. What I was feeling probably wasn't the intention of those around me. However, in a Church that implicitly teaches leader infallibility (but denies papal infallibility), I felt that what was taught over the pulpit (or in a sunday school class) was meant to be lived exactly. And I tried. Oh I tried.
Another side effect to my experience, was losing myself to everyone else. I no longer had an opinion. Instead, I was a parrot to what Prophets and apostles had taught. I truly did not think for myself.
Occasionally, I would indulge in private meanderings through philosophies and church teachings. But this would often lead to doubt, and ultimately more angst as I didn't have all the answers, so I wouldn't allow these sessions to continue for very long.
When I went to BYU, my professors encouraged me to critically analyze everything. So I did. What this led to was the beginnings of finding out who I really was and what I really thought. I found that I was an intelligent being--woman--who could make decisions. This was difficult. I had always relied on the wisdom of those around me, because I could NOT differentiate between my personal feelings and "the Spirit." When other people talked about their Spiritual experiences, and their moments when they knew the church was true, I envied their connection to God. I thought I was not worthy, because I had never had one of those moments. I consoled myself into thinking that I had the spiritual gift of "exceedingly great faith" (Moroni 10:11).
Over time, little doubts crept in as I truly dissected church teachings: polygamy, Masonry and the temple, a woman's place in the church, and even the word of wisdom. Gradually, I started wondering if there really was a God in the universe. This past May, I began researching teachings of the church to allay my fears. I prayed to feel something, but never heard back. The one person who I wanted to connect to--Heavenly Mother (or mothers? who knows)--I could not contact. And if I did, I was disobeying the prophet. (See President Hinckley's talk.) Eventually I realized that the sum total of my experiences with God amounted to zero. I examined my experiences, read my journal, and tried my best to find Him. He wasn't there. This led to deep despair and a return of severe depression and anxiety. Life without believing in a God isn't simple.
After a while, I noticed inconsistencies with church doctrines. One such example came while critically examining D&C 132. I have had numerous lessons on this section, but none dwelled on what the verses actually stated. And I, for one, only glossed over this section because it made me uncomfortable. Anyway, after reading the first verse, I realized the falsehood of what I had been taught. The "new and everlasting covenant," referred to in the second verse is polygamy, not eternal marriage. Eternal marriage is actually a "condition" of the law, as referenced in verse 7. But the real "law" is adhering to polygamy. According to the section, if a person does not adhere to "new and everlasting covenant...he shall be damned" (v. 6).
That's not the best part. That comes when talking about a woman's place in this law. Starting with verse 34, "God commanded Abraham [to multiply and replenish the Earth], and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. Why did she do it? Because this was the law [the new and everlasting covenant, or polygamy]."
Also, a woman is committing adultery if she is given to marriage to another man while still married, and she will be damned (v. 41). Whereas, if a man does this same thing--marry another woman while he is still married--outside of the "vow," he also has committed adultery, but will not be damned. Additionally, if the woman is proven to be "innocent" and has not committed adultery (but is she married still?), and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many" (v. 44).
It gets better. Pertaining to Emma, and her disgust of polygamy, apparently God told Joseph in verse 52, "And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph [i.e. other wives], and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God."
All these scriptures indicate that a woman must accept and practice polygamy, or she will be damned. She also must marry or she will become a "fallen angel." Since I do not agree with polygamy--and believe the revelation was borne out of Joseph's lust--I could not believe that it was a real revelation. If that wasn't a real revelation, then Joseph probably wasn't a prophet of God. If he wasn't a prophet, then the church isn't "the only true church." I have applied this logic to many other doctrines of the church. This is only one example.
You might be wondering why this is relevant, considering the Church hasn't practiced polygamy since 1890, but it should be known that in the temple a man can marry multiple women--and be sealed to them if their previous spouse dies--but a woman does not have the same privileges. Additionally, the brethren (or the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency), have never retracted section 132, but only stated that we will no longer practice polygamy (except for in the temple) as stated in Official Declaration 1.
Ultimately, I made the decision to stop attending church. I wanted to take a break to fully understand what my beliefs were, not what the church and its leaders told me I should believe. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel horrible every Sunday. I stopped feeling guilty for everything I wasn't doing. Instead, I learned to rely on my natural inclination to love everyone.
I am still figuring out whether I want to keep my records intact, or to have my name removed. I realize that many of you will wonder what happened. I think my case is clearly stated, but you are welcome to--and probably will--draw your own conclusions.
Over time, I hope you can realize that I am the same person. Heck, I'm still coming to this conclusion myself. This decision wasn't easy, it has essentially rocked my world. I feel that my heart is pure and good. If you can't accept this, I am sorry that our friendship is based solely on my church attendance.
I love and appreciate you all.
6 hours ago