I wrote this to a bloggernacle friend, and have decided to put it on my blog. I want everyone to know the story of my faith transition, especially those who are going through the same thing.
Growing up, I was the golden girl of the
young women's program. I was everything a young Mormon woman should be, I
suppose. Except that I didn't babysit and was adamant
about becoming a geneticist and going on a mission, which threw some
people for a loop. (I identified as a feminist even then, but this was
southern California, not Utah, so I didn't get too much flak for it.)
Well, I got married instead of going on a mission, so I guess that's
another check mark on the list. In high school, I prayed at least twice a day, studied the
scriptures daily, had perfect attendance in early-morning seminary,
was bright and perky and knowledgeable about sacred and secular topics, was
president of the laurel class, was the pinnacle of chastity, was
involved in choir and student government, etc, etc. It's kind of
nauseating to list. But at the same time, I was happy. The church, the
gospel, school, being involved, feeling like I was doing things right,
it made me happy. I had a great group of stalwart Mormon friends, and
we were always doing silly, fun things. I also had lots of wonderful
non-Mormon friends. I got into BYU, and off I went.
I was recently reading the memoir of Mindy Kaling, one
of the writers of The Office, who also plays the ditzy Kelly Kapoor. It's a hilarious read. Anyway, one of the chapters is called
"Don't Peak in High School." Whoops. My mean happiness level has
steadily decreased since high school. Perhaps it's because my little
religious habits have waned. Perhaps it's because my group of friends
has disbanded somewhat. Or perhaps it's just a part of growing up.
Like I thought I was busy in high school . . . psh!
Whatever it was, my testimony did not begin to falter until more recently. I started dating my husband (a democrat with a beard)
about two years ago, and with his influence I began to see life from a new
perspective. He isn't so much about looking righteous externally as he
is about being righteous internally. I think being with him was the
impetus of my faith transition. He looks at life through an unorthodox
yet faithful lens. He acquired this lens from his parents, whom I adore. I
discuss my faith transition openly with them all the time, and they
understand because they've been there.
At some point while we were dating, he confessed to me that he
suffers from depression and is medicated for it. I loved him and tried
not to judge him for it, but being 100% orthodox until then, I believed the folk-doctrines and harbored
some ill-feelings toward the depressed (like that it's because of sin or
self-absorption). Plus, my mom told me growing up not to marry someone
with a disability, because it will make life harder (it sounds so
terrible now, but it seemed practical at the time). Things became worse
after we got engaged. His depression often messes up his sleep schedule. He kept blowing me off for things because he was asleep. I'd
be so excited to see him, I'd wait and wait for him, but he wouldn't come. It felt like having my
bubble burst on a daily basis. I was unsure if he actually loved me, or
if he was just done being single (which he had said repeatedly), and
was settling. I was unsure if I was supposed to marry him. I prayed
and cried and prayed some more, but never got an answer. I felt alone
in my anxiety. I felt like God wasn't listening.
Then I went to the temple. Despite my fear about God not listening
and/or not condoning my choice of mate, I was so excited. I yearn to
know the "mysteries of God", and knew that the temple would be full of
them and would expand my understanding. I had been through several rounds of
temple prep, where teachers had been appropriately frank about
the ceremonies. I had read scriptures about signs and tokens. I had
also been sealed to my parents at age 20, so I knew about the garb. I
thought I was prepared. I don't know what else I could have done, but I certainly wasn't. I wasn't prepared for the sexism I saw
there. The temple told me that God doesn't love women as much as he
loves men. That I am somehow unworthy to minister as a priestess to God
directly. That I am doomed to forever be a servant to my husband.
That he gets the crown and I get to be veiled, hidden, and silent. That
may not be what most see, but that's what I see. I went home, shut my
bedroom door, and cried myself to sleep. I've only been back twice, and
I've cried then too. I met with the temple president about it, but it
only made things worse. Going to the temple puts me in a funk for about
a week. I keep rehashing doctrinal inconsistencies in my mind until I
just about go insane. What about "God is no respecter of persons?"
What about "God is love?" It appeared that exaltation would be hell for
me, not heaven. This compounded the issues I had already been having
regarding God listening to me.
I talked to my wonderful mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law
about it. They all said essentially the same thing: the temple ceremony
is inspired by God, but written by men. It has changed in the past,
and many women are waiting for it to change again. That answer opened
up a whole new can of worms. Prophets are never wrong . . . right?!
But if they do make bad calls sometimes, how can I trust them? How can I
trust anything they've said? How can I be sure that God is actually in
this religion (after all, he didn't seem to want to talk to me, and the
temple God was the antithesis of my God)? And all the questions I had
suppressed my whole life came bubbling back up. Polygamy? Heavenly
Mother? Priesthood ban? Priesthood/motherhood dichotomy? Gay
So for the last several months, I've been re-evaluating my beliefs.
Before the onset of my faith transition, I believe I suffered from
"zeal that is not unto knowledge." Hugh Nibley wrote a great essay
about zeal without knowledge, based off of a quotation by Joseph Smith.
The gist is that if you only have zeal, when your faith is tried you
will "shatter like glass." That is exactly what happened to me. Now
I'm picking up the pieces and trying to reconstruct a new, real faith. I
firmly believe in Jesus, in the atonement, in a Mother and Father God.
I believe that God loves everyone equally, and any evidence to the
contrary is the byproduct of humans not loving everyone equally. I
believe that charity is the most important attribute to gain in this
life. I believe in universal salvation as exhibited in the plan of
salvation (everyone is resurrected and receives glory in the end). I want to
believe in personal revelation, but I'm still working out how to receive
it. With a belief in personal revelation, it becomes much easier to
navigate the prophet issue. I can still believe in prophets as people
who receive revelation sometimes, interpret revelation in funky ways
sometimes, and are left to their own devices sometimes. I must then
use my own personal revelation to determine which statements fall into
which category. I'm still working out the kinks, as you can see.
This whole thing has required a lot of pondering, crying, loathing,
loving, and studying. I've read more about my religion in these past few months than I probably ever did during my orthodox days. Feminist Mormon Housewives has been
indispensable. Husband and I clashed about it at first, but he's
come to see things from my perspective and is now sympathetic and
totally supportive. In fact, I finally feel completely confident in my decision to marry him, because precious few Mormon men could handle the person I have become! I'm the unorthodox one now! I appreciate where my
faith is at the moment: it's less about a righteousness checklist and more about loving
and being genuine. I am not as happy as I was in high school, but I
feel wiser. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.
Your turn. Have you had a faith transition (not necessarily a Mormon one)? What was it like?