As I read different accounts there seems to be this notion that 'insiders' identify 'outsiders' as people who have experienced a 'crisis of faith'. The idea started gnawing at me and bothering me just a bit. I've never imagined my leaving the Mormon church as a crisis of any sort. What many say is a crisis of faith to me was a truly enlightening experience. I didn't lose anything; I gained a broader knowledge, a broader perspective and a much more complete, fulfilling and happy existence. Leaving the church possibly saved my life.
I have posted previously about my personal journey; the outline of my trek through inner darkness and a personal hell resulting in my coming out into a glorious world of love and respect for myself and others. If when you speak of a 'crisis of faith' you mean a difficult experience followed by a greater empathy and understanding of life then, I suppose, I did have a crisis of faith. However, if you are thinking that a 'crisis of faith' is a weakness or a failure and the result is a lost sole, then no, I did not suffer a 'crisis of faith'.
The Mormon Church is simply a religion, like many other religions; it is an evangelical entity that believes there is an eternal reward for unquestioning faith. Once you start looking at the stories and the teachings of the church it quickly unravels. My exodus from the Mormon church took place before the internet. (BG-Before the Googles.) The research and study I participated in was scripture, books, discussions and symposiums. Even BG it was easy to dispel the myths and see the inconsistencies and conflicts with reality.My own experience was one of six or seven years of picking and choosing the tenants of the gospel I could believe in and leaving others alone. I looked at every question I had and determined if it was Mormon doctrine or if it was Mormon folklore. If it was the latter I dismissed it, if it was the former I studied it out and determined if it was something I could stand behind or if I needed to turn the page and get past it. Over time there was a lot of page turning and before I realized it there was very little left for me to stand behind.
Was there fear? Was there anger? Was there confusion? Yes to all three. I had spent a lifetime affiliated with a religion quite the opposite of my nature. I had dedicated my time, my talent and my treasure to what? To an entity that I now feel is broken and, at least for me, a place of confusion and unhappiness. I had spent nearly two years of my life proselyting full-time telling others of the truth of the church. My tithing helped fund the fight against women's rights and gay rights. I know... what was I thinking?!?
*The final straw for me was hearing a talk by Boyd K Packer in general conference stating that the three greatest enemies of the church are gays, feminists and so called intellectuals. Three strikes I'm out; okay 2 1/2 strikes, because I don't count myself an 'intellectual'. I was only guilty by association with the intellectual rebel rousers.
That was the last general conference I attended and, not long afterwards, I shed my temple garments and stopped all activity in the church. Since the timing of leaving the church was close to the timing of coming out as a lesbian and asking my husband for a divorce it seemed a good time to leave the church as well. Why not; I might as well get it all taken care of in one big nervous breakdown rather than three smaller ones.
I believe, in my own situation, that the 'crisis' would have been staying in the church. My partner, Suzie, always says that she doesn't understand why anyone would stay in a bad relationship. Her method of determining if a relationship is worth staying in is to ask herself this question: Is your life better, or potentially better, with this person in your life?
Let's take a few paragraphs and extend this question to my relationship with the church. Of course the answer to a question like this isn't yes or no/black or white there is a list of pros and cons. For a long time the list of pros was longer than the list of cons and I was happy with the relationship. It brought me peace, friendship and purpose.
In the early stages of our relationship I felt loved and protected. Of course there were conditions to that love; as long as I did as I was told then I felt the love and protection. It was easy, for a long time, to be what Mr. Church wanted me to be.
Early in our relationship the stories told by Mr. Church were inspiring and faith promoting. I believed so strongly in what he said; I never thought to question. As is true of a lot of relationships one partner grows and learns and develops while the other partner doesn't change at all. Well I grew and Mr. Church refused to change.
As I grew and practiced the principals of unconditional love and compassion taught to me by Mr. Church I started to realize he was all talk and no action. I then started looking at all of the stories and teachings he had given me throughout our relationship and realized that many of them were inaccurate, shameful and some were outright outlandish.
I didn't give up on the relationship right away. I needed to try and make it work. But after six long years of giving it my best effort I started feeling depressed and very alone. At one point during the struggle of resolving these relationship issues I realized he wasn't going to change. I could see so clearly the emotional abuse, the mind control and the bullying that was going on.
I grew stronger and more independent over time and one day just decided that this relationship I had with Mr. Church was more harm than good. So I left the relationship and I have never regretted it. Now, outside of the relationship, I see so clearly what was going on.
Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for the good things that came from our 36 years together. When you break up with someone there are always those things you miss. I miss the friendship and connection I had with the other members of Mr. Church's family. Many members of the Church family are still in touch and I still have a relationship with them. I have also found strong and meaningful connections outside of the Church family.
The more time I am away from Mr. Church the better it gets. I know everyone's relationship is unique and I hope others who are in a relationship with Mr. Church can be happy; however, if anyone else feels the need to leave that relationship I hope they find the strength, courage and support to do so.
I know I made the right decision for myself and my family. I propose that a 'crisis of faith' is only possible if one fails to examine their relationship with the church and then take action to either stay in the relationship or leave the relationship.
My advice; don't suffer a 'crisis of faith'. Figure it out; decide what enhances your life and be honest with yourself and your loved ones. There's no crisis in being true to oneself and doing what is good and right for your life and the lives of your loved ones. Don't live in fear and don't operate out of guilt.
* I don't find a reference for the conference talk by BKP. I have searched and as far as I can tell it is no where to be found on the internet, in official church writings or in conference issues of the Ensign. You'll believe me or you won't. I can only say that I was there, I heard the talk and it had a tremendous impact on me. This was not the talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council that you can find referenced online; however, it is similar in nature and timing. The talk I heard was a general conference address to the general, world-wide membership. The words I use are paraphrased because I can't find them quoted exactly as I heard them.
**Since posting this blog I have learned from an internet buddy (see comments below) that the conference talk I heard may not have been a general conference, but rather, a regional conference.