I grew up Mormon. I was raised, from the time I was born, in the LDS church.
My dad was a bishop when I was little. I was baptized at 8 years old by my grandpa. We sat in the 3rd pew from the front EVERY Sunday without fail. I went to seminary (scripture class) in high school … getting up at 5:30 am so I could go before school from 9th grade until I graduated. We had family scripture study everyday and quoted prophets and scriptures in our daily life. I went to an LDS college after high school in Idaho. I met my husband at church and we got married, 4 months after we met, in the Seattle LDS temple.
I grew up not wearing tank tops or short skirts or double earrings so I could be “modest.” We didn’t drink alcohol or coffee or caffeine in our house. We didn’t swear, we didn’t watch rated R movies, we didn’t “break the Sabbath day” by shopping or eating out on Sundays … The rules were pretty “strict” if you see them that way … I didn’t mind them. They were just my life and I was really very happy and fulfilled in that life.
I spent my life as a young wife and mother going to Relief Society (women’s meeting) and teaching there and playing the piano for the Primary (children’s meeting) and serving when asked, playing the organ in the main meeting, and playing the piano and singing for funerals and other functions. It was my WHOLE life.
I left the church 21 months ago.
When I left I didn’t really tell anyone besides my family. I quietly slipped away and just stopped going. I DID tell the bishop so I could have my name removed from the church’s records, but besides that, I never mentioned it, I didn’t broadcast it, I wasn’t angry, I didn’t have darts to throw at the church, I just made a decision for myself and followed through and moved on with my life.
I sent a letter of explanation to every person in my family after I resigned. I wanted them to try to understand WHY I was doing it and I wanted to open the door for each of them to come to me and ask questions if they wanted to or to just to talk to me still. I was sort of hoping they’d still see me as “Honor” and would not pull away.
Being Mormon though means you make covenants with God and “breaking” those means you’re lost, essentially. They’re not meant to be broken and if and when you do? It’s unacceptable to God.
Almost 2 years later, I have this irrational fear that people (I don’t know what people I care about finding out, but you know? THOSE people) will “find out” and … I don’t know … “think” about me? I don’t exactly know what my fear is about. I am happy with my choice. It was absolutely 100% the right choice for me and my journey, but there is still that fear of rejection and judgment …
The thing about being Mormon is, it’s not just your church, or your Sunday worship, it’s your LIFE. Literally ALL that you do is associated with that. It is a whole culture. And not just a mortal life culture, but an “after-life” FOREVER culture. So leaving that left this HUGE hole … I didn’t have my social circle anymore, not really. I didn’t have the “community” anymore, not really. I didn’t even have my “forever after-life with my loved ones” because I chose to leave. I rejected God (as perceived by those in the LDS church) when I broke my covenants and left.
The ones who knew I had done this, my family, didn’t understand why I would do this and they could really only see the changes and did not think they were positive ones.
Even my husband felt blindsided initially. My husband and I have since gotten past all that, of course, but at the time it was like a bomb went off and everything I had known my whole life, my family, my friends, my familiar surroundings was blown to bits and what remained bore no resemblance at all to the previous life I had known.
I was left rifling through the ashes and remains of my life with little support and a LOT of grief and mourning.
It was by choice, of course, yes, but it was still the hardest thing I’ve done. It was me stepping outside of the culture I was raised in, all the while almost everyone I knew was still within that culture. It was daring to believe the voice inside of me even though the people who knew me and that I loved told me I was wrong, the voice wouldn’t tell me that, I couldn’t talk to God anyway so who was I following?
It was trusting what I knew to be God over every other voice outside. It took GREAT faith and courage … and I actually sometimes can’t believe I was even able to do it.
I have felt alone. I have felt sad. I have felt like I lost everyone and the “new” me was now an insignificant nobody that all of the people in my life wanted nothing to do with. I do realize that it was awkward for them and they didn’t know HOW to approach me or what to say … so because of that we just didn’t talk.
(Silence is actually VERY loud if you’re listening.)
I have this “new” life now, with no resemblance to the previous life or the picture I had in my mind of what my life would be … when I pictured it 10 or even 5 years ago.
I couldn’t have predicted this outcome, and yet, I am relieved, I feel this freedom and peace that I hadn’t known before. I have this “comfortable in my own skin” feeling that I didn’t know was missing, but it was. I feel like I am more ME than I was. I am more kind, less judgmental, more full of love. I feel more unity for ALL humans, not just Mormon humans. I have this desire to serve everyone and just relieve suffering if I am able. My understanding and relationship with God continues to increase and expand and I am grateful I’ve had that connection to see me through this transition. The peace has been ever present and that is the ONLY reason I’ve gotten through this … God provides, I’m grateful for that.
I am not a typical ex-Mormon apostate, at least what Mormons perceive those who leave the church to be … I am not angry, I am not determined to see the church “fall”, I don’t have a desire to change anyone’s opinions of what they feel they should be doing, I don’t think people should “follow” my pathway, I’m not sitting here constantly judging them and looking down upon anyone … my goal in life is to be authentically me, to spread love, and to aid in healing the world. This is the way that I have been lead to do that.
I have had this “dream” of being understood by my family and old friends and have wished they would want to talk to me and when they talk to me they would see who I am and what I’m about and realize that I am the same … my goals are for love and unity … my desire is to be compassionate and kind … but I realize now, that I can’t be understood, not really. And I am NOT the same … I am completely different. To think that I could be “the same” is crazy talk. And to think that anyone could understand me fully is silly … they haven’t walked in my shoes, no one has received what I’ve received … my journey is unique to me.
In the same way I can’t fully understand you or where you’ve come from because I haven’t experienced it, you too, can’t fully understand me or where I’m coming from because you haven’t experienced it.
That’s why I focus so much on not judging others and allowing them to live their life as best as they can as they see fit, supporting their goals when I’m able and then loving them as much as possible. I think that’s all we CAN do, and I wish that respect and unconditional love to be experienced by ALL people … myself included.
It’s been a really interesting journey these past couple years. At one point my sister said “couldn’t you just NOT think this way?” And it was then that I realized no one was going to understand and all I could do was allow them their grief in the perceived loss of their sister and try very hard to love them regardless of how they see me.
It’s been difficult, I’m not going to lie, but it’s been necessary for me, and I have grown and EXPANDED because of all I’ve been through. And that’s just it … once you’ve grown, once your mind has expanded beyond what you were, you CAN’T go back to who you were before …you’re a NEW bigger thing with greater understanding and that is unchangeable now.
I’ve really embraced the thought “the secret to change is that you must focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” This is how I’m trying to live … embracing FORWARD motion. Looking to what is happening NOW and living as I am guided, by that infinitely loving all enveloping peace that is within me.
I have moments that I lose sight of that, I had one this weekend and I focused on everything I’ve lost and the relationships that are different and all that is not there anymore. And you know what? It’s terrible. I cried and cried and dwelt on the things that I don’t like about life. That’s not helpful, not really. The best thing to do is to just live in the moment and pay attention to what you have to be grateful for, because there is always a BRILLIANT shining beacon of light somewhere that I can see and that fills me when I cling to it.
I wasn’t ever going to mention being (ex)Mormon on this blog … I didn’t think it mattered. I didn’t think it was relevant. I didn’t think that telling anyone about that part of my life was pertinent to now. I wanted to just give light and spread love and be me without labels attached … but I think that “hiding” of a huge part of my life has been damaging to my forward movement. So now I am just going to own who I am.
I am an ex-Mormon, the way Mormons would describe me. I lived 36 years as an LDS person, and that totally and fully shaped who I am today. Who I am today is NOT an LDS person. That is my identity. I can’t hide from that identity, it is me and I am no less worthy or no more worthy because of it … I’m just me, and the thing about labels is they don’t actually define who a person is, the divine nature of my soul is unchangeable no matter what labels are slapped on.
I realize that in owning these labels I may or may not lose respect or love from people in my life. I guess I have to be ok with that … that is the nature of life after all … we live our lives and allow all others to live theirs, that includes whether you judge me or reject me or love me. I can’t control how you choose to see me. I can just be me and love you however you choose to respond to who I am now.
It feels freeing to really truly own my labels … even though I know they don’t mean anything, in this world, we do label. So these are mine. And now I can move forward knowing that I own ALL of me, who I was, who I am, and who I will become. It is the WHOLE of me that makes me me, after all.
So let me introduce myself as who I am … I’m Honor, it’s nice to meet you.
This might rank in your top ten posts of all time. I absolutely love the way you described your journey. I was lucky enough to know you before and after your major change in life. I remember trying to imagine how you were able to find the faith and fortitude required to make such a dramatic change. You are and will continue to be an amazing example of faith in God. How many others would be willing to give away so much in order to follow that voice? Every time I think about crossing paths with you in this life….I want to shout hallelujah! 😄
Dan you’re always so joyful. I love that about you. Thank you for your friendship, love, and light. I greatly appreciate every bit.
I listened to your story on http://latterdaywitnesses.com/ and read this post. Thank you for your example of courage. I keep a log of some of my favorite quotes. Here’s a few I collected about “courage”.
“Courage is the word we need to hear and hold near our hearts—courage to turn our backs on temptation, courage to lift up our voices in testimony to all whom we meet, remembering that everyone must have an opportunity to hear the message.”
— Thomas S. Monson, “See Others as They May Become”, Liahona and Ensign, November 2012
“My earnest prayer is that you will have the courage required to refrain from judging others, the courage to be chaste and virtuous, and the courage to stand firm for truth and righteousness. As you do so, you will be ‘an example of the believers’ (1 Timothy 4:12), and your life will be filled with love and peace and joy.”
— Thomas S. Monson, “May You Have Courage”
We all admire the courageous person and quite often consider the individual who lacks courage, a coward. However, that is not how Earl Nightingale saw it. He said the opposite of courage was not cowardness, it was conformity. I believe the more you think about that, the more you will be inclined to agree with him. It takes courage to break away from the crowd, to go your own way, to do the thing that may be unpopular. It takes courage to stand up for the person who is being unjustly criticized, rather than agreeing and going along with the crowd. It takes courage for the teenager to say no, when all the rest of the kids begin going down the wrong path. Earl Nightingale was correct – the opposite of courage is conformity. It is one reason so few people enjoy any lasting success. It is so easy to go along with the large group. We don’t have to stand out, to be different. The next time you are encouraged to fall into line, to be a sport and everything in you says no – be courageous and go your own way. There is no compensation in conformity.
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Thank you for this.
I adore and love ALL of you, Honor! I am so grateful our lives have connected. The love and light you add to my life bring me so much joy.
I really like the quote you shared on this post from Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.” The older I get, the more true I am realizing this is.
Thanks for being brave and sharing all your thoughts and insights with us!