Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

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Uncertain
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Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by Uncertain » 30 Mar 2015, 22:26

Hi. Please excuse the grammatical/spelling errors that will surely ensue in the following:

I feel I am at a crossroads between choosing to stay in the LDS faith and leaving, but I am also wrestling with the concept of living somewhere in between. I wish it felt safe to live in the swathe of gray amid the "black and white," but I'm trying to figure out just what that gray area looks like for me. I really need some emotional support as I feel there are few people with whom I can speak openly about this topic. I am "flip flopping" and living in fear, confusion, and mountains of doubt, believing I'm still loved and supported by God, but not knowing if this is the same concept of God I grew up believing in (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Holy Ghost.) I am not sure where to anchor myself and I seek peace and light and a safe place to exchange thoughts and feelings on the matter. Historical inaccuracies and deceitful and unethical practices, all grossly white-washed throughout history and at present by the leadership of the Church deeply plague my conscience and disturb my soul to the point that I feel my world is shattered, but I feel I am trying to preserve myself so I'm feeling somewhat numb about it all. I need a place where I can let the feelings out of hiding without shame and embarrassment. I can't go to TBM family in the Church; I can't go to TBM friends in the Church, and I don't want to take a complete anti-Mormon stance.

I'm a 26 y/o woman, wife, mom of 2. I have long been a stalwart, "upstanding" member. I think up until about 6 months ago I would have defined myself as a TBM who, although always pretty "grossed out" by Utah Mormon culture in many ways, has always felt seriously passionate about the doctrine. Does that even make sense? I live smack-dab in the middle of Happy Valley.

In my current ward, up until about a week ago, I was a Mia Maids advisor for 1.5 years. In previous wards, I was a RS instructor, RS Activities Committee member, Youth Sunday School teacher, Primary teacher, and YW advisor. I was on the missionary/member reactivation committee in my YSA ward 6 years ago. Never rejected a calling, always faithfully accepted. Anyway, just giving some context for my past involvement in the Church. I never served a mission but I seriously considered it, and I sure as hell wouldn't have married my husband had he not been a returned missionary. In fact, he recently confided in me after 6 years of marriage that part of the reason he went on a mission was because he was afraid I wouldn't love him if he didn't serve one (we dated prior.) How sick is that (on both our parts)?! I am sad to say he's probably right based on my mindset back then.

I was married in the temple; I have taken very seriously the commitment to wear my garments day and night since going through for the first time. However, due to many recent changes in my belief in the validity of the LDS Church, I have consistently not worn my garments for about 2 weeks now. I have repeatedly felt sick about it, and I think I know, in part, why I feel that way:

My mother left activity in the church when I was about 9 years old. With that she chose a lifestyle that might be viewed as polar opposite to the squeaky-clean TBM perspective, entrenched in chronic drinking, partying, sexaholism (including viewing and being an actor in pornography,) some drug abuse, an ongoing,
cyclically abusive relationship with my now-stepfather (my biological dad died just before I turned 8,) and chronic child abuse and neglect of my siblings and me. I remember when she took off her garments and how overwhelmingly dark and sick it felt to me at 9 y/o. When I took my garments off a couple of weeks ago, the memory of my mother's actions really haunted me and made me feel as though I was about to "go off the deep-end" even though that hasn't been my intention in the least. Anyway, my business here and in life isn't to judge my mom for her choices as I have for years. While I struggle and disagree with many of my mother's choices because they have harmed her own well-being and that of her children who depend on her for safety, I am now better able to separate her choices as just her choices as not as a direct result of non-activity in the LDS Church. It can't be that B&W, right???

I'm just saying that the LDS Church has been my anchor, my hope for a good life, different from what I had as a kid, and whether I want to admit it or not, my ticket to a life different than my mom's (I'm sorry for that judgment.) The Church has been like "home base" for me. In college I used to listen to half a dozen Conference talks a day just to "feel at peace" and less alone. I got parental advice from General Authorities, so to speak.

The Church has done many wonderful things for me. I wrote and gave a whole Sacrament mtg. talk about it in Nov. 2013, shortly after I moved to my current ward and just before I was called to be YW advisor here. (Based on the bishopric member who met with me to extend my calling, the content of my talk was the catalyst for me being called to YW.) The talk was all about how I wouldn't be where I am today without the Church, and I think that is valid. The Church paid for my therapy for YEARS; we're talking within AND outside of LDS Family Services, and including visits to a psychiatrists for extended periods of time. That is HUGE for me, something for which I'll always be grateful. I wonder if I'll always feel indebted. I've been able to make huge strides by attending therapy and "bishop pay" made that possible for me when I was a poor, struggling college student and newlywed. I've looked to bishops and bishopric members as father figures, leaning heavily on inspiration from PH blessings I've received, including my decision to marry my husband. I mean, this being a member of the Church shiz has really impacted my life! The Church has been like a parent to me where I've felt abandoned by my real ones.

What I've read about the Church in the past few months has made me feel doubt and damaged my testimony to an irreversible degree. A couple of years back I inadvertently came across stuff online about the ex-70 member Hans Mattson and grew curious and started feeling doubts about the Church, but when I talked to my husband about it his testimony helped me hold on and put my questions on the shelf. (For the record, my husband has all but removed his name from the records of the Church at this time.) About 6 months ago my husband started reading things online about the church that caused him to feel troubled. He largely stopped participating in church and eventually took off his garments. I was afraid he was going to go the route my mom did but quickly learned that that was not only unnecessary as part of the distancing-oneself-from-the-church process (now I almost LOL at the thought!) but not realistic for my husband who still believes and wants to live by many principles taught in the LDS Church even though he doesn't want to participate in the religion itself. I gradually started to feel more weary about the Church but gave my doubt little heed and continued in my calling, but preferring only to teach on specific principles, like honesty and service, that didn't focus on exclusively-LDS doctrine. A couple of months ago I asked to be released from my YW calling so I could spend more time at home and in 12-step service. A couple of weeks ago I read the "Letter to a CES Director" that has circulated on Facebook and that is what did me in with regard to trusting the Church and giving it the benefit of the doubt. It was funny timing as I was about to be released from my calling anyway. I have not gone to church since and have gone through intervals of immersing myself into reading other things about the deceit and inaccuracies of the LDS Church.

This has led me to feel the need to remove my garments (except for once-in-a-while when I feel really guilty and shameful and decide to put them back on, or when I go to an extended family function and just don't want to deal with any questions as I'm not ready to be approached in that way yet.) Wearing them part of the time makes me feel further tormented. One day I won't wear them because I want to gauge how I feel doing so and then the next day I wear them because I feel like without them I'm losing some kind of emotional security blanket even though they represent covenants made in a religion I no longer believe is fully true or right. I am sorely conflicted.

This past week I listened to the 5-part interview of Richard K. Bushman (author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling) by John Dehlin in the Podcast section of this website. I became more conflicted, thinking there might be a way I could stay in the Church but not exactly sure as to where I fit in. After listening to it I considered for the first time in almost a month going to the temple again. The details of thinking about the temple, though, make me feel sick to my stomach. I don't want to go and uphold covenants to a Church I am so deeply doubting; I feel like it would be difficult to have integrity in doing so, and yet I yearn for the naïveté of the days when I'd go to the temple for "peace." I want it to be that refuge again (even though much of the time I felt I had to force myself to feel that way about the temple because I thought it was the "right" thing to think.) I don't know what to do when it comes to attending the temple.

I have been in recovery from an eating disorder for several years and have attended the LDS 12-step addiction recovery groups for support. The meetings have gone from being a rock and a place of solace to me to an atmosphere of confusion and fear. I love the principles of the recovery program but feel tormented when I hear "I know the Church is true" and "the highest service is done in the temple" intertwined into the 12-step rhetoric of the meetings. I wish I didn't feel that way. I wish I could go back to feeling like they are a safe place. Today when I went to a meeting I did my best to take the "good part" and detach from that which I no longer hold to be true, but it was extremely emotionally taxing for me. I don't know if I can go back and feel "safe" again, and I am extremely sad about it.

I don't want to be pushed or pulled. It's a red flag to me when someone says, "Don't leave or you'll lose the light, the Spirit. Listen to the Brethren. Go to the temple." I actually have a friend who said all those things to me, and it made me feel so distrusting of and judged by her even though I truly believe she meant well and to be loving and supportive. Likewise, it's a red flag when someone tells me that I "need to leave the Church fast." It doesn't feel that black-and-white to me. I don't want to be against anyone or anything, save outright evil, but what is evil to me now? The Church has defined every bit of that my entire life. The Church has defined what good is, too. What do I hold on to? I'm afraid of losing my footing. I'm afraid of my flip-flopping feelings. I still believe in God (whatever, whomever he/she his) and I'm begging for help from this being. I don't want to be snowed by the Church or duped by critics of it. I really do want to stay in the light, whatever that looks like. It doesn't look like Ensign articles and raising my hand to the square so much anymore, but it might look like Jesus and certainly service and kindness and charity and self-care and integrity and hope and faith in something greater than myself.

Some people in my family (my husband, a sister, a cousin) have gone and are going through similar feelings and processes as I with regard to the Church, but most are incredibly stalwart in the Church. I am quite close to my extended family on both sides. The culture, worldview and very language of this family is deeply entrenched in Mormonism. I will probably break some people's hearts if I tell them how I feel. I know I'll break my sweet Granny's heart. I will probably break the heart of my little sister, who plans to serve a mission this summer, when I likely tell her I am not interested in going through the temple with her when she takes out her Endowment. Self-seeking as it is, I am worried about these things.

I'm sorry this is so long! If anyone who can relate has experience and wisdom to share, I'll take it! Thanks.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by DarkJedi » 31 Mar 2015, 04:46

Welcome to the forums. I'm glad you found us. I have to say this is the longest introduction I have ever read (and I did read every word). :smile:

This is a safe place to express your concerns and ask questions. There are many here who can relate to what you are going through and who have had similar experiences. Feel free to poke around the threads and use the search function. And feel free to ask your questions and seek advice. The bottom line is that you will need to find your own path, whatever that is. One thing I am really curious about is how you managed to become an active believing member having grown up in a situation which was not conducive to that ideal?

My standard advice applies to you - take it slow, don't dump all at once, and focus on what you do believe.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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LookingHard
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by LookingHard » 31 Mar 2015, 06:28

You have found a place with MANY people that have a very common story to tell. This is not a place to just attack the church, but it is OK to express where some things hurt or bother you. You also won't be attacked if you point out the good things of the church and gospel.

I think you know the church has some really good parts and the cold slap in the face that you have not been told the whole story is REALLY hard to take - most of those here know that personally.

So as Dark Jedi has already mentioned, do take it slow. The enormous emotional turmoil you are in right now is normal and it is part of growing. It will get better.

I found it helpful for me to focus on the Gospel and my relationship with God. Now many TBM see this one and the same as being obedient to the church/leaders/etc. I am not saying go have a beer. But for a bit stop worrying about how many times you have attended the temple. If it helps, go more often FOR YOURSELF and if it does not help - don't go for a while. If walks in nature help calm you down and allow you to think, it is springtime so enjoy that. Focus on having a conversation with your God. If it helps, think of him as your heavenly dad and you are in need of some help. He knows your heart and is NOT displeased with you. It does not seem that you are wanting to sin, but having a hard time digesting some information that seems very counter to what you always believed. Do you think a loving parent would be mad at their child over something like that. My concept of a loving God would be that he wants to help you.

I wish I had more time, but I need to get to work.

Welcome Uncertain and we are so glad you came here. I hope you will find that you are also glad.

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nibbler
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by nibbler » 31 Mar 2015, 06:35

You've certainly been through the wringer.

I felt a lot of the same feelings you shared when going through my crisis. This part especially stood out to me:
I'm just saying that the LDS Church has been my anchor, my hope for a good life, different from what I had as a kid, and whether I want to admit it or not, my ticket to a life different than my mom's (I'm sorry for that judgment.) The Church has been like "home base" for me. In college I used to listen to half a dozen Conference talks a day just to "feel at peace" and less alone. I got parental advice from General Authorities, so to speak.
Despite facing the immediate turmoil of a crumbling faith I could still see through the settling dust from a fallen shelf to recognize the value that the church had added to my life. I found comfort in my faith in many dark hours but a faith crisis was different. It's still a dark hour in our lives but the problem is that the very thing that has always sheltered us in the past just collapsed and lies in ruins. I'm suddenly reminded of the hymn Where Can I Turn for Peace? I've never really thought about that hymn in that context before, teared up a little.

I really like the counsel to focus on what you do believe, perhaps because when going through a crisis so much of my time was spent combing through things looking for flaws. By focusing on the imperfections I started to become blind to all the good. The Old Testament is filled with lots of "thou shalt nots" but when Christ was asked which of the commandments was the greatest in the law he offered up two "thou shalts." You could boil those down to just one, thou shalt love.

Welcome to StayLDS. I've found this to be a safe place.

I like the name. In the beginning uncertainty was painful but now I find there's no other way I'd like to be. ;) Arriving at that path took a little time though.

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SunbeltRed
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by SunbeltRed » 31 Mar 2015, 07:28

Hey Uncertain -

Glad you found us as well. I echo what DJ said; take it slow, don't rush to any decisions.

I think most of us here can relate to your feelings of confusion, isolation, and uncertainty; I know I can. And it's ok to be unsettled for a while. It will take some time to navigate how or if you want to remain engaged with the church, what that relationship might be like, and how to walk that line. I can also relate to sitting in church and feeling like an alien in a strange land (this was most of this last Sunday for me).

I wish I had some easy answers, but a faith transition is a point where we start grappling with the idea that there really aren't easy answers, things are actually more complicated and nuanced than we thought, and that is still a struggle for me and probably always will be. I'm glad that you recognize the good that you have had in your life because of the church. I think that is a good starting point, recognizing what's good, recognizing what's not so good and then taking a step forward from there.

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West
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by West » 31 Mar 2015, 09:25

Hi, Uncertain! I also like your chosen username. And hey, we're almost the same age! I am unmarried and just barely getting on serving a mission in about a month, though, so different life stages. :)

Utah Mormon culture is...very difficult sometimes. We've sort of developed a weird dynamic around here that can be strengthening for those who don't doubt but seem like a suffocating tar pit for those who don't "fit in" or have a faith crisis. I found this forum because I also didn't want to go polar opposite anti-Mormon, because of how much the Church has positively influenced and helped my family and also because it would break my parents' hearts, but also because I couldn't see how forcing myself to just blindly keep being a TBM in hopes everything would work out could possibly be a better alternative. Many of us here stay because our reasons to stay outweigh our reasons to leave; we just have to find our own ways to handle those things that would make us want to leave. Some of us have to step away for several months or several years, and some have found that their best path is stepping away completely. There's no universal right or wrong answer. And that can be a very difficult journey finding out which one is for you. It never really ends.

Honestly, though, I feel it's worth it, and looking back now, I know a FC is sometimes exactly what we need. For me it was. I have rarely felt more spiritual or at peace with my beliefs than I do now that I'm well into the faith transition stage. Of course, I still struggle with what I hear in Church and from my TBM family members about their religious beliefs sometimes (my parents have very lengthy and regular discussions about various Church doctrine). I still feel emotional stress and anxiety when I have to force myself to step back from black-and-white thinking and retreat back into the grey area where both my logic and my faith can coexist in peace. Sometimes, I have to turn to this forum and reading past posts on issues that trouble me to put myself at peace by seeing how varied everyone's beliefs can be and still be OK. It's possible to find peace here in our broad middle way.

Everyone's advice here is solid. Focus on what you believe. Realize that we all experience reality differently, and so we also experience faith and religion differently as well. For some, the Church standard answers and experiences are enough. For others, we plead with God on a nightly basis, and we never will feel the sort of answers others feel or tell us we should feel. We eventually realize that although the Church is flawed, it does not mean it isn't good and it isn't some sort of "true."

Most of all, make peace with your religion before leaving it for something else. Trade up.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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On Own Now
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by On Own Now » 31 Mar 2015, 09:31

Hi Uncertain. Welcome to this site. I look forward to your presence here.

There is no clear path through all this, and as you already pointed out, there are voices at opposite ends of the spectrum (and everywhere in between). I will offer what I think has helped me and if that helps you, great, and if it doesn't help you, then I hope you can find other tidbits that do.

I've come to accept that the Church is not the intermediary between God and me. It is a framework within which I can practice my own brand of spirituality, but I alone and responsible for my beliefs and my interactions with the spiritual. One of the great aspects of that approach is that I feel completely at liberty to put weight in the things I love and ignore the things I don't. The Church and I get along, but we don't always agree, and I'm fine with that (and so is the Church). Treating the Church as a framework, or an environment, or an aid has helped me to separate out belief from practice. I don't believe that priests hold the actual power of God to bless the bread and water, but I still take the sacrament as a symbol of my devotion to the principles of Christianity.

Good luck. I'm pulling for you.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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mom3
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by mom3 » 31 Mar 2015, 10:46

Hello Uncertain,

Thank you for your candor. Please feel no guilt about the length or details. I think everyone of us has a fantasy of being able to tell our detailed story and not be rejected for it. I am glad you could do yours here. I concur with all the advice about go slow, cherish the good, and congratulate you on keeping the good at the present moment.

I have a daughter your age. Your life and hers and different, so I am not comparing, only letting you know that I can picture you very clearly both as daughter and as faith transition-er.

I tend to be the Mom on the board. If you need a good cry feel free to, we've all done it, we've raged, shut-down, given-up, and tried over. I can't think of anything you can do or say, that someone here hasn't been through. Feel free to call us home as long as you like.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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SilentDawning
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by SilentDawning » 31 Mar 2015, 12:01

Been there -- one of my first conclusions was that wearing garments wasn't for me, and I don't bother anymore. Part of it was their fit with my body.

But as far as the name removal/staying condundrum goes -- I see no benefit to name removal for the vast majority of people. All it does is make it harder to come back if you want to. Just remember, just like you probably said there was no way you would forsake the gospel years ago, and now, feel at a distance from it, you can say now, there is no way you will go back. That may well be false also... I leave myself open for life to take me back in full TBM-ship again, even though right now it seems pretty unlikely.

So, name removal only decreases your options -- it doesn't expand them. I "liken" it to mobility theory in chess -- you make moves that consistently increase your ability to move the pieces on the board -- and you can beat your opponent by living that principle alone. I think the same concept applies to one's relationship with the church and life in general -- pick the alternatives that give you the greatest freedom in the church without surrender. Freedom to return, to take a calling, to belong, ecetera -- if you want. Name removal only places huge barriers between you and a more committed future, if you ever want it. And I also think it may even deepen disaffection as one no longer has anything to lose in their relationship with the church.

So, that leaves being in the gray area -- I'm comfortable there -- but you have to cross a threshold first - that threshold where you no longer care what the church. GA's and Apostles and Prophet might think of you. You have to march to your own drum, acting on what you truly believe, and feel is right, placing the pursuit of happiness at the top of the list. This will lead you down different paths, but they will be unique ones.

Good luck, the next step is to break your issues down to the individual issues -- garments, callings, being in the church but not of it, -- how to do it -- processing, and arriving at your own conclusion. Post individual issues one by one. Then comes a certain amount of peace.

And remember, you don't have to decide on your relationship with the church all at once. Take it in small pieces. There is no urgency...and the discomfort you feel right now is not urgency, just discomfort.
Last edited by SilentDawning on 31 Mar 2015, 12:21, edited 1 time in total.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

Roadrunner
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Re: Uncertain and Unsettled and New to this Forum

Post by Roadrunner » 31 Mar 2015, 12:21

Hello Uncertain.
Thank you for your introduction and post. I won't add much because others have provided good advice. Your intro makes me wish we could all meet in person. What a ward it would be. Welcome.

Roadrunner

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