Recovering from Mormonism, or any religion I suppose, is akin to finding out you were adopted. Who am I? Where do I belong? My entire childhood was a lie. Yes it was a lie that helped make me who I am.
It's strange to think that every trusted adult... my parents, every beloved teacher, friends' parents, respected co-workers all believe in a history, a religion I find is an ongoing fabrication of man. All religions are. For the rest of my life I will walk the fine line of expressing my feelings, my truth, whilst trying not to offend the truths of those I love. It's a line I don't feel like walking, mostly because I just don't have the balance and probably never will. Sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I understand and even appreciate the structure and sense of right and wrong that Mormonism created in my life. More often than not it all makes my head spin like the possessed girl from the Exorcist, but the last thing I need is a priest. Or bishop.
Do I respect their beliefs? Yes. But not for the belief itself, only because it's their belief. There is a hole in my heart where religion used to dwell. Was I happier as a believer? Yes. I felt safer, cared for at all times. My religion taught me that the Holy Ghost is always with me and all I need do is pray to feel the spirit. Although I still feel spiritual, it's in a totally different, loose way. I miss that feeling of assuredness that everything was a part of God's Plan. That He would see fit to make it all right. That I would reside in a kingdom with my family forever. To believe is to give myself the happy ending I so desperately want. But this is life, right? Happy endings are creations of those with vivid imaginations. You know, folks like Ron Howard, Patty Marshall, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard...
My Mormon beliefs provided more comfort to me than a puffy parka in the dead of winter. And now, more often than not, I feel lost. Members would say it's because I've renounced the spirit. I say it's because I'm not deceiving myself with lies that make living in this world a little easier.
Nothing's wrong with placing all your eggs in the religious basket, those eggs will feed your soul during desperate times. Will provide structure to your life, meaning. Religion is basically a life map. It tells you what to value, how to behave when you may have been confused otherwise. Pacification. And that can be nice... dumbing maybe, but nice.
I'll never be over it. Mormonism and the accompanying beliefs are a part of my fucking DNA. Even while writing this I feel the heavy weight of a thousand friends and family members' disapproval pressing onto me. You are SO going to hell. Oh, they won't say that, of course. But the chasm is always there and regardless of who says what, it lurks there, darkly. Conversation sometimes stumbles near the edge and we nearly fall. Sometimes we do fall and arguments are had, but mostly we steer clear. The act of consciously steering clear is as uncomfortable as the falling.
Most Mormons I know unconciously have self-righteousness pumping through their blood. They KNOW their church is the ONLY true church on the planet.
"I know my church is true."
It's a phrase I've heard thousands of times in church meetings. Kids start saying it when they learn to talk, myself included. That kind of immersion is tough to overcome. Mormon guilt lives in my gut, coiled like a venomous snake, ready to release it's poison. The Mormon self-righteousness causes them to blindly behave in ways that would otherwise be out of character for their personality. They say rude things to you because secretly, they believe they are doing God's work. Most won't share it with you, but secretly they pity you, or genuinely mourn the fact that you've "lost your way". Similarly, your "downfall" reinforces their righteousness and that they're headed for the Celestial Kingdom because they wear garments and don't drink.
When I was Mormon, members used to talk about how following the religion was hard work and that's why so many fell by the wayside. I find that not believing is a lot harder. It's difficult to expand your mind. To attempt to resolve your place on the planet on your own without falling back on someone else's plan to make sense of it all. It was easier to have faith that it would be all right in the end. I'd give up liquor, cursing, coffee and whatever other grevious sin I'm currently committing for the assuredness that everything's gonna be all right. But I know better now. Faith is just a religious catchphrase folks toss your way when you start to ask too many questions. "But if it comes from God, how come the church didn't allow African Americans to hold the priesthood for more than a century after it's conception? Wouldn't the church have been on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement? Why did the church allow polygamy? Why does the church hate gay people?"
"You've just got to have faith it's the right thing."
Back when I worked at the local news stations in Salt Lake City, new reporters who'd move there from around the country often expressed amazement at the way Mormons handled the death of loved ones.
"They're so peaceful. So calm. I've never seen anything like it."
It's true. Mormons are certain that life after death exists. They are positive they will spend time and all eternity with loved ones and therefore, death is all a part of God's Plan.
Now, without the religious lullaby, I fear death. Struggle with the concept of losing my loved ones. Will I see them again? Is there anything beyond this life?
Dear God, I hope so.