I suppose I can’t really call this a guest post, as I am essentially just lifting this from my dear friend’s personal blog, but I’ve wanted her to write a guest post on this topic for months and am re-posting this with her permission (thanks, love!).
This friend of mine, whom I’ll call Victoria (her chosen pseudonym), is one of the bravest people I have ever met. She grew up in a very religious community in our very small conservative hometown, and yet she has taken the most glorious, adventurous, incredible risks. She has lived all over the world. She has traveled endlessly. She has flown by the seat of her pants. She has spent the last several months living out of the country with the love of her life – a man she met while working on a tropical island she moved to all by herself. She is beautiful and brilliant and a fantastic writer. She is honest and hilarious and wonderful. She is, quite obviously and always, bursting with kindness and goodness.
I want to be her when I grow up.
The topic of this post is controversial and probably divisive, but I believe my friend has expressed herself gorgeously and painfully and so I ask that even if this inspires some feelings, please be kind to her and to me in the comments.
Slowly, painfully, like life-giving blood oozing from my body. And, like a mortal wound, it gushed out at first. Frustration, pain, longing, loneliness, despair. And now, with each pulse of my spirit, my whole soul aches. The last little bit of that part of me is leaving.
Let me explain what I mean.
When I was barely 19, I had my first anxiety attack. It was crippling and horrible; my breath caught in my throat, my fingers and toes began to go numb, and it felt as if someone were constricting my whole body at once. I was in sacrament meeting when it happened.
Over the next 2 years, I phased in and out of activity in the church.
I submitted my mission papers after a period of 8 months where I didn’t attend. My bishop approved, because one of my best friends had just attempted suicide, and he thought it would be good for me.
I went on my mission. My soul rejected my actions every day. I love that time for what I learned about myself and my God. I hate that time for what it forced me to become.
Ever since my mission, I’ve been struggling with the church. Silently, most of the time. It seems to me that mormons are nice to everyone except people who doubt, question, or leave. So I kept it to myself.
And yet, it was still happening. When I talked to people about what I felt, it was as if they were trying to help me solve a different problem. Here is an example of how the conversation seemed from my end:
Me: “All my fishes are dead.”
Friend: “It’s okay! I’ll help you find them.”
Me: “No – I know where they are, they’re just not alive anymore.”
Friend: “Don’t panic – I’m sure we’ll find them. Where was the last place you saw them?”
And so you see, I couldn’t really talk to anyone about what I was feeling. Partly because I didn’t know what I was feeling, but partly because no one seemed to understand what I was saying.
And so, I planned to leave. To leave Utah, to leave everything I knew and loved. To separate myself from the situation, to clear my head. I needed everyone else’s voice out of my head, so I could get some quality time with myself and with God.
Last summer, I think I knew it was the end of something. That’s why I wanted to relish it. Why I wanted to spend every waking moment with the people I believed would shun me after they realized how I felt. I spent joyful days, hours, and moments with friends who may hate me after they realize who I am.
And then I left.
And I found a world I didn’t know existed. A world of people who lived because there was life, and swam because there was water, and breathed because there was air – and never seemed to think twice about being happy!
I was angry and jealous and wanted to blend in. Happiness seemed always, to me, a glimmering prospect just out of reach. Something I had to concentrate on, and focus on, and every 3 months or so, I’d have a moment. But these people – they were happy! Really, really happy! Why? What was I missing?
I started to question everything, piece by piece. I’ve visited all the anti websites. I’ve read all the damning articles you could find on the internet. I have considered, and pondered, and prayed.
And here is my conclusion.
I love the gospel. I love my God. He is nice, and he is kind, and he loves everyone. And he doesn’t like when we’re mean or exclusive or unkind or judgemental. Because he never was. I love Christ. He is strong and gentle and constant. I love the restored gospel. I love that God speaks with men.
I do not love the church.
I can’t love the church. It makes me feel wretched and awful about who I am. I can’t be a good mormon if that means supporting the idea that people can’t choose. Agency is everything in my mind. I can’t be a good mormon if that means trying to deify evil things – like witholding the priesthood from black people, or making me swear my sacred oaths to my husband rather than directly to my God. I can’t abide an organization that controls young people so rigidly so as to overpass the most rigorous regimes. I can’t look back on my mission experience and all the indoctrination that was done there without feeling wretched and bitter.
I feel trapped and suffocated when I attend church, and I feel trapped and tricked and something close to rage when I wear my garments. I feel like the God I know and love wouldn’t ask his children to do or support or say the things my church wants me to do and support and say.
I can’t do it.
And so here I am, sobbing, as I write this blog. I feel so alone, and so hopeless. And yet so much freer and happier than I have ever felt.
I will always believe in God.
But I cannot believe in the church.