faith, family, love, Struggles

Leaving the church sucks

I wish that I could say that leaving the church has brought me increased happiness.

I wish that I could say that my life has deeper meaning and purpose.

I with that I could say that I have found a new set of beliefs to teach my children.

For a long time, I even wished that I could find another church to turn to, for comfort, answers and a sense of belonging.

But, I have not found any of that.

What I have found, is that leaving the church sucks. It sucks for so many reasons. It’s hard and it hurts, but sometimes hard things are good for you.

Reason number one:

It sucks that I don’t have any answers. I used to know the answers… or I thought I knew. I had such a perfect picture of where we came from, why we were here, and what would happen when we died. The church gave me the answers. It gave me temples, prophets, and promises of eternal families, and eternal happiness.

And then one day, I learned it wasn’t true. I, of course, didn’t like this new information, so I resisted. I didn’t want to let go of my answers. I liked my world just the way it was, so I clung to my beliefs. I held on tight, like a child clinging to her mother’s leg on the first day of school. But I couldn’t prevent growth and I couldn’t prevent truth. Just because it is scary and difficult, does not make telling a lie, right or true. I have had to learn and accept that I no longer have the answers.

I do not know why we are here, where we came from, or where we are going after we die. No one knows. We hope, and we believe that there is more, but we do not know.

Reason number two:

It sucks that I don’t know how to be a good parent. I used to know exactly what to do to be a good parent. I had a little hand book that told me. I had a list of 13 things that I needed to focus on. I was supposed to read, pray, sing and discuss these things with my kids every day. I taught them what they couldn’t drink (coffee), couldn’t wear (tank tops), couldn’t say (swear words), couldn’t do (masturbate), couldn’t view (rated R movies) or couldn’t be (gay). The world was so black and white. I knew how to raise my kids and I had lots of other adults helping me. They taught my kids in Sunday classes, weekly activities, summer camps, and early morning lessons. I even had a bishop regularly questioning my kids to make sure they were following all of the rules.

Now my husband and I have to come up with all of the rules of parenting by ourselves. We have to figure out what to teach our kids, and we have to do it all by ourselves.

Reason number three:

It sucks that leaving my religion has caused a significant amount of distance between me and my family, in-laws and friends. We all used to be in the same club. We all shared the same culture. We had the same goals for our kids and for ourselves. We agreed on what was right and what was wrong. We were all on God’s team.

Now, my Mormon friends and family believe that we are wrong. They think that we are making a terrible mistake that will eternally affect us. They believe that we will not be able to get into heaven because we revoked our temple promises.  They believe that we are preventing our kids from having a deeply meaningful life.

How can I have a real relationship with someone who believes that I am living in a way that will keep me and my family out of heaven? I can’t. They can’t. Our conversations are all superficial because it hurts too much to be honest. It causes deep heartache and sadness.

Reason number four:

It sucks that my Mormon friends and family cannot fully accept my gay son. They are not allowed to. The belief that homosexuality is wrong is constantly preached, even today. They can not fully love and support someone whom they believe is living contrary to God’s plan.

What really sucks, is that they cannot see how perfect he is. They can not accept that my son’s sexuality is not a sin. It hurts me to my core. My husband and I are virtually the only adults in my son’s extended family that truly believe that his gayness is not inherently evil, sinful or wrong.

But…it doesn’t all suck

I am not always happy, but I do have my family.

I didn’t force my husband to leave, and he didn’t force me. We waited until it was right for both of us. We didn’t tell our kids to stop going to church, instead we offered to keep going to church with them. They chose to stop attending church, they chose to learn and grow and change with us. They chose to love and support their gay brother.

My family struggles together, laughs together, and fights over who’s turn it is to do the dishes, but we are happy. We are searching for new purpose and meaning together.

I don’t always know what is right and what is wrong, but I love making my own decisions, like an adult.

Sometimes I make a terrible choice… and then my teenager has to tell me that I acted inappropriately, and then have to apologize and make a mental note to avoid doing that thing again, but at least it was my choice. I can decided what is right and wrong for me. I can choose what I want to believe.

I have accepted that I don’t need to find a deep meaning and purpose to this life, all I really care about is love. Just love. That’s the only thing we have control over anyway; whom we choose to love and how we show that love.

I have not found new beliefs and rules to teach my children and I don’t need to.

Everyone of my kids is different, and I need to parent them all differently. I want to teach them to know that the world is diverse and full of grey, not just black and white. I want them to know how to work, how to be safe, how to make healthy choices, and above all, how to be kind. I get to make the rules, bend the rules or change the rules. I can parent however I want.

Leaving the church sucks, it’s hard and it hurts. Some days are worse than others, but it’s getting better. I am learning and growing from all of it. Sometimes I just have to accept that doing the right thing sucks.

6 thoughts on “Leaving the church sucks

  1. I agree with your truth that leaving the LDS church, or anything that has been such a formative, influential part of life, completely sucks. The growing pains are real, and hard. And yet it simultaneously opens up opportunities, for individual and collective growth, just as you’ve described. I’ve recently come across Buddha’s parable of the raft. Maybe you already know it?

    A man is trapped on one side of a river. On this side of the river, there is great danger and uncertainty; on the far side is safety. But there is no bridge spanning the river, nor is there a ferry to cross over. What to do? The man gathers together logs, leaves, and creepers and by his wit fashions a raft from these materials. By lying on the raft and using his hands and feet as paddles he manages to cross the river from the dangerous side to the side of safety.

    The Buddha then asks the listeners a question. What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river thought to himself, That raft has served me well I will carry it on my back over the land now? The monks replied that it would not be a very sensible idea to cling to the raft in such a way. The Buddha went on, What if he lay the raft down gratefully thinking that this raft has served him well but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore? The monks replied that this would be the proper attitude. The Buddha concluded by saying, So it is with my teachings which are like a raft and are for crossing over with—not for seizing hold of.

    For me, my Mormon beliefs were a raft, they got me across one river. Now my journey, and my own family’s journey, no longer require the raft. And it feels good and right to let it go. Right now I feel like we are bushwhacking through a formidable jungle. It’s a never-ending adventure, right?

  2. Thank you so much for this post! You have put into words a lot of what I am feeling. Leaving has been harder than I thought it’d be. And since I can’t go back now that I know what I know, the only choice is to move forward, however slow or uncomfortable the movement. I hope the discomfort subsides soon, though.

  3. I just wanted to share my thoughts. I’m not skilled in writing like you and will probably get rung through the ringer for sharing differing opinion, but I want to. This post brought me to tears and my heart is swelling and not for the reasons you would assume. I’m not going to tell you you are wrong. I’m not going to preach to you.
    For the record, I’m Mormon and I do NOT think that your son is inherently evil. I do not think if you wear a bikini you will not go to heaven, nor wear a tank top, drink coffee or alcohol.. What brought me to so much emotion is what the gospel is to me and what it never was for you. It is not a hand book for me to be a good mom, I fail daily. It is not a rule book. I’m not sure what my sins will and have in store for me. I’m not sure I can make it to heaven.. I have not sat through every meeting and blindly agreed nor have I sat and passed that judgment onto anyone else. Life is rough. It’s a ride! We are all trying to get through.
    To me the gospel is feeling my father in heaven and the healing power of the savior in my life. You think you know people. You think you sit across from someone in church and can judge their life but you cannot. You have no idea the things I have been though in my life both past and present, in and out of the church and how my savior has carried me through. When I partake of the sacrament each week I can feel that he makes up what I cannot be. What I will NOT EVER BE. That is a real no one can take away from me. I’m sorry that that hasn’t been the case for you. And I don’t say that judgingly. I say that sincerely. If you want real and not superficial conversations with people that may differ from your opinions, that’s real. I love you. And no, again I don’t say that because I’m told to either. Your family was kind to mine and love grew for me through our friendship. I miss your family since we have moved. You have such great kids and I will never forget the love you have for all sweet babies. Congrats on the new blogging job, that is a perfect fit for you! You will do well!

  4. I loved your response. Thank you for being honest and sharing your thoughts. I understand that everyone’s journeys and experiences are different. I blog because I want to share what I am experiencing.
    For most of my life, the church brought me peace and closeness to the Savior. Those feelings of Christlike love, forgiveness and hope were very comforting and very real. Those were the reasons why I loved being a Mormon.
    It wasn’t until my son came out, that I realized that the church did not bring peace and love into everyone’s life. For some, the church is very painful.

  5. I found your blog to be refreshing and insightful. As someone who didn’t grow up near a big LDS population – I have found the church’s influence perplexing. When I first saw you were a blogger with seven kids – I immediately thought, “Oh great, another Mormon stay-at-home-mom who is going to tell us all how to live a perfect life. I’m glad I took the time to read your blog about leaving the church – I have great respect for your open, and frank commentary on your life’s journey.

    I read a quote that God loves people more than He loves institutions. And I wish more people would realize that – and understand that breaking up families over beliefs of a church is not the way it should be. Your son is lucky you chose him instead of the church. Thanks again – I look forward to reading more of your blogs!

  6. I honestly do think it is possible to maintain deep, connected relationships with members of the Church who may not share the same beliefs and lifestyles. My closest childhood friend left the church several years ago and feels very similar to you about the Church. That does not keep us from being connected and having a loving, supportive relationship. I care about her as much as when she was in the church. We do avoid certain topics, but there is still so much to share. I’ll always care about you, Melanie, and your family. I have such sweet memories throughout the years. You will always hold a special place in my heart regardless of your religious status.

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