the religious elephant in the room.

About one year ago, I stopped going to church.

There’s a million reasons why, and if I were to give you the reasons you would either nod your head in agreement or you would give me the standard church answers every Mormon learns within the first year or two of membership.

That is perhaps my greatest issue with the LDS church, it has become more about the culture and stereotypes rather than the doctrine.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

I do not have any real problem with the LDS church, in fact I have the utmost respect and gratitude for it coming into my life when it did. I needed a strict set of rules and guidelines to live my life by when Cody came into my life over 14 years ago and being a Mormon made me who I am today. I learned more about people, acceptance, open-mindedness, Christianity, guilt, revenge, kindness, and empathy from being involved in church and the LDS community than I would have learned anywhere else — however it was never easy for me. I very much played a part, the part I figured I was supposed to play, and I played it well.

I never felt like I fit in at church or within any church groups. I went because I was supposed to, rarely because I wanted to. While I loved learning and the comfort that came from church meetings, I always felt out of place. I much preferred going to the temple, it was far more personal — rather than a giant judgement show of who was the most holy. Never feeling as though I belonged for over a decade was incredibly difficult. While the teachings of the LDS church have always been fairly easy for me to understand, the culture is one I may never fully comprehend.

I’m not saying I’ll never go back or that I don’t believe in anything anymore.

One of the greatest testimonies I gained for myself was the knowledge that God knows me. Individually. And He likes me. He likes me just as much as He likes anyone else and even if I’m not “all in” at the moment He still loves me. That’s the thing about the LDS religion, you cannot be a passive Mormon. You’re either all in or you’re out. There is no ‘Mormon Light’ nor is there such a thing as a part-time Mormon which makes things incredibly difficult for outliers like myself. I have known there is a God from the moment I first hit my knees to pray at 18 years old, the rest of the details are just a little fuzzy right now.

What I’ve come to realize is I’m not alone in stepping away from church, there seems to be a mass-exodus of people my age leaving the LDS faith and it all seems to be for different reasons. Almost anyone within church will say it is a sign of the sinful times ahead and I’m sure someone will bring it up the eternal consequences of my current choices with me soon enough. My reasoning in “coming out” is to say to the others who are struggling with this same issue that you are not alone, and this is really hard.

Many of the people who have taken a step back were raised in the LDS faith and it is all they have ever really known.

From the outside nothing has really changed aside from a few more free hours on Sundays each week. I’m still me. I’m happy (I daresay I’m even happier), I’m healthy, I’m doing really well. I’m still a nice person and I still pray. I keep waiting for something terrible to happen as retribution, and maybe it will someday, but terrible things happened when I went to church, surely terrible things will happen when I don’t go to church.

The guilt is the hardest part. Being able to automatically guilt myself with a response to every justification I make in regards to my decision to stop attending. I would hope it’s a universal religion thing, not just a Mormon church thing, and I’ll never know because I’ve never left a church before. This article has been one of the most interesting I’ve read in regards to the health effects of being involved (and leaving) organized religion.

I don’t know what’s next, I don’t know what will happen, but I know I’m not alone and know I feel better getting this out there.

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MoTab in Indy. {a lovely sounding local giveaway}

We now interrupt this wompy, sad and depressed blog momentarily for a giveaway which is near and dear to my wompy, sad and depressed heart.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is coming to Indianapolis THIS FRIDAY (June 14th) for the first time in ONE HUNDRED YEARS.

This is very big news.

If you’ve never heard the MoTab live, well.

It will basically change your life. I kid you not.

(No, really, I’m not just saying that because I’m a Mormon. My agnostic mother once got mad at me because I didn’t take her to more Tabernacle performances.)

I have two tickets to give away.

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what my religion is for me.

Sometimes I think about all the ways life would be easier if I weren’t a Mormon.

Mormon with a beer at 10 am. I like my chicken drunk.
Not in a serious way, but in a “Is this really the way I live my life?” kind of way. Which sound serious, but I promise it’s not. (Also easier does not equal better. At all.)

Depending on your experience, being Mormon may look hard. There’s an awful lot of church things I do on a regular basis, there’s about a thousand church related things I *could* be doing, a lot more I probably *should* be doing and a whole lot of stereotypical things you will never find me doing. (I swear it’s not in the handbook that Mormons have to be crafty because hi, me.)

Chances are you fall into one of the following categories:

A) Mormon. If so, hi!

B) Mormons don’t drink coffee or alcohol which NO THANK YOU, LEAVE NOW, AMEN.

C) I’m very happy with my own religion, thank you very much.

D) I’m very happy without any religion, thank you very much.

Mormons are big on missionary work, hence the nicely dressed young men and women that have probably come knocking at your door during naptime (sorry about that.) You see, you never know who’s going to be looking for religion or where they might be, so those missionaries have to knock on a lot of doors to find the people who need or want what they have to offer. They’re always going to be painfully optimistic if you open your door because YOU MAY BE THE ONE (even if you’re not) and since talking about church is basically their job for two years they’re terribly enthusiastic about it.

It’s a very green eggs and ham type situation, but hopefully no Mormons in your life are as pushy as Sam I Am. The missionaries and other Mormons will keep on offering it up, and occasionally someone will give it a try and likes it.

Growing up in Utah, Mormonism was offered to me on an almost weekly basis in various ways. It wasn’t until I met Cody that I decided to give it a try, and what do you know, I liked it.

I also know a lot of people who have tried it, hated it, and have wanted noting to do with it ever again Sam I Am.

Missionary work in the traditional sense makes me terribly uncomfortable. For the longest time I had this idea that missionary work was like saying “I know better than you, I live better than you and I’m going to give you the opportunity to live as well as I do.”

Icky right?

Some people I know are amazing at walking up to someone and starting a conversation about religion, I am not one of them.

On the other hand I am more than happy to sit behind my computer screen and show several thousand strangers what being a Mormon is like for me. It’s sometimes very hard, it’s sometimes very frustrating, it’s usually very rewarding, it’s generally very easy, it’s very rarely crafty and it is so much a part of who I am that I can easily give credit to God for every good thing in my life.

Even my agnostic best friend who claims foreveralone. Yep, God gave you to me. Not sure who gave me to you, but you know my end of the story so go with it.

At times I’ve thought that I should leave church to the people who really know what they’re doing. The people who do everything they’re supposed to be doing and live their lives according to all the handbooks (yes, there are handbooks.)

In my younger years I was a dancer. To this day every part of me wants to dance and even more parts of me miss dancing more than I miss certain parts of my youth.

the tutu moosh
I was never the right body type for what I really wanted to do, which was classical ballet — but I did it anyway.

I watched as the tall thin girls who were all legs and no boobs went off to college with dance scholarships then on to promising contracts with various ballet companies.

Does the fact that I don’t perform to audiences every night lessen my love of dance? Absolutely not.

I am not on the front lines of Mormonism. I couldn’t throw down in a heated gospel debate nor could I teach you everything there is to know about scriptures, church history or doctrine. There are still parts of it that confuse me, confound me and sometimes make me a little angry.

But I love it. It is very much a part of who I am and I could never just walk away from it, just like I can’t step-ball-change away from my love of dance or walk away from the man who confuses me, confounds me and sometimes makes me a little angry.

From a worldly perspective it would certainly be easier to quit this whole church thing. Sundays free, less guilt, beer with pizza, sundresses, 10% more money each week and fancy coffee drinks.

But I would lose who I am. Because I am so much more than my love of beer and pizza, cute sundresses and sleeping in on Sunday.

Consider my missionary work this: finding so much joy in something you are a part of that it becomes you and you could never walk away from it.

That’s what my religion is for me.

*

**

***

Of course, if you want to know more there’s some eager youngn’s that would love to speak with you.)

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the one about baptism and why tradition isn’t always a good thing.

To anyone unfamiliar, the age at which a child can be baptized into the LDS (Mormon) church is 8.

I’m not sure how deep I need to go into doctrine, reasons and whatnot to have this post make sense as so many of you come from such different backgrounds, but I will say this: there are many traditions and rituals that are very much a part of my religion, probably any religion. Many of them make me very uncomfortable as I did not grow up in the LDS church despite living in Utah where traditions and rituals are most prevalent. There are assumptions placed on people from the moment they turn eight.

You are eight, you will now be baptized.

You graduated from high school, you will now go on a mission.

You got back from your mission, you will now get married.

You got married, now make a baby.

You had a baby, now make more babies.

Included with each of these expectations is a sort of blueprint way of doing things because it’s the way things have been done for generations. It’s a breeding ground for stereotypes and unrealistic expectations. I hope this is making sense to you.

The thing is, there is a HUGE difference between tradition and ritual as opposed to ordinances and covenants.

When it comes to a baptism, there is a very short list of what has to happen to make the ordinance count in the eyes of God. This includes witnesses, a body of water and a prayer.

When it comes to the baptism of a child (or anyone really) in the LDS church there is a very LONG list of things that traditionally or ritualistically happen. Songs, talks, programs, an open house, small gifts, a new dress or suit and a lot of fluff and stress that really has nothing to do with the actual 10 second part of the baptism that actually matters. Much like a wedding, all that matters in the end is that the right words are said by the right person and a piece of paper is signed making it legal. Everything else is fluff and fun but some people take the fluff and fun and blow it up to enormous proportions if only to outdo those around them. Many LDS women I know run themselves ragged trying to outdo the last thing that was done or come up with the next great thing, leaving them exhausted and everyone around them feeling as though they aren’t doing enough. It’s a terrible cycle.

I’m not saying everyone does this, but I am saying the wedding industry has gotten a little out of control. So have some people within my church, which is probably true of any church or organization.

My fear was that Addie was approaching her baptism with the idea of parties, cookies, presents and adoration at the forefront of her mind. She told me about what her Sunday School teacher promised to buy her and she began planning what cakes and treats she wanted and who she wanted to come and what she was going to wear. She has grown up in the church being told “When you turn 8, you get baptized, everyone comes and at the end we eat cookies.” whereas my thoughts have always been “When you turn 8 you have the opportunity to get baptized if you would like to.”

Deep.

To say Cody and I have gone to blows over this one for the last 6 months would be an understatement.

I wanted to make sure Addie understood it was up to her and I wasn’t going to force her, I just wanted to know she was doing it for the right reasons, not for a party and cake. There was also a part of me that remembered how much my friends resented their parents for forcing/expecting them to get baptized the moment the calendar changed over to eight. I didn’t want that for Addie.

Her birthday came and went and whenever someone within our church found out she had turned eight, they excitedly asked her about her baptism. “I didn’t get baptized.” she would respond. I could always tell who was in the “TRADITION!” school of thinking and those who approached the topic the way I did. Even the bishop pointed at me in the hallway at church one week and boomed “We need to get that kid of yours in the water.”

“It’s complicated.” I responded.

He didn’t ask about it again.

Last week Addie said “I want to get baptized next Saturday, okay?”

I began making arrangements based on tradition (because honestly it’s all I’ve known) I began asking her who she wanted to give the talks, what songs she wanted to sing and who she wanted there. She responded with “I don’t want any talks, I don’t want any songs, I just want you, daddy and Vivi there. Maybe my teacher if she can make it.”

The kid didn’t want tradition. She wanted the ordinance without the rituals.

She suddenly sprouted some young lady where there used to be nothing but child.

For anyone who may be totally lost, basically what Addie decided on was the equivalent of going to the courthouse with only the people you love most in the world and getting married. Forgoing all the stress, expense and fanfare of a traditional wedding. Sometimes you just want to be with someone for the rest of your life. While weddings can be fun, you don’t need a big fanfare to make a marriage real.

Addie wants to take her first major step towards her own relationship with God, no fanfare, just the basics. No one told her to do it and no one told her how to do it.

One of the greatest privileges in life is to watch her grow and be at the center of her universe for these few magical years.

We may not fit the traditional mold of an LDS family, but we fit with what God expects of us, we try to do our best and that’s all that really matters.

**********

Curious about Mormons? Find out more here.

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the one about prayer.

I spoke in church today.

I read a talk that I composed on my laptop from articles on the Internet and then presented it through Evernote on my tablet.

The man that spoke after me was an adorable grandfather who gestured at my Xoom and said “I don’t have any idea what that thing she just used is called.

He talked about technology and how connected we are today.

About how “Sometimes smart people with smart phones do dumb things.

Amen to that. (Politicians.)

I came home and googled a thing or two.

20 trillion text messages are received every day.

200 million tweets are sent per day.

42 million pieces of content are shared on facebook EVERY HOUR.

And those numbers aren’t slowing down.

He went on to say if we can believe that this kind of connection can happen even though we barely witness a sliver of it ourselves, is it really so hard to believe that whatever higher power we believe in listens to us when we talk to Him/Her? (Of course in our case it’s God that’s listening and we talk to Him through prayer.)

Roaches are pretty much the only things that have been around longer than prayer in some form.

When I’m having a hard time it’s really easy to come here and write. To call a friend an talk. To make brownies and eat. But sometimes it’s best to hit my knees and pray.

It really is the oldest form of therapy and connection.

It’s free, you don’t have to shower to do it and it never breaks or suffers from technical difficulties.

Unless Heaven or the being you believe in starts selling Missoni, you always have an open line of connection with someone who loves you and will always listen without interrupting.

All you have to do is start talking.

 

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one can’t forget about us.

This is a story I’d never thought I’d tell, either because it was too sacred or it would scare people off. A woman hearing voices while driving on the freeway tends to land her in the “yay! crazy!” sub genre of society. But allow me to explain.

Cody and I had been married several years. I was having some sort of early 20′s crisis over “is this it? this is all there is? an eternity more of this?” Don’t get me wrong, “this” was good, but a lifetime of Hamburger Helper (I didn’t know how to cook yet) and Friday night movies (come back Friday night movies!) seemed…well…boring.

I was talking to a friend about my crisis (I feel the needs to put air quotes around the world “crisis”) and he said “Did you ever think maybe it’s time for you guys to consider having kids?

PFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTT!!!!!!!” with a bunch of spittle sprang forth from my mouth. “KIDS? ME? I don’t even like kids! Why would I make one of my own that I am responsible for!?” (There was also an underlying fear that I wouldn’t be able to have kids due to several surgeries to remove benign tumors from my cervix.)

But after I was done talking to him I started to think, “Kids…huh. There has to be a reason people have them.” So when Cody got home I brought the topic up. He was totally not opposed to the idea, especially considering how babies are made. But we were still unable to look each other in the face and say “Let’s make a baby.” So we decided to go to the temple separately to pray for an answer.

My drive to the temple was a sunny one, blue sky, big puffy white clouds. I was mulling this kid business over in my head as I was driving when I heard “Yay! Mom’s going to know about us!” in the tiniest sweetest little voices. To say the wind was knocked out of me would be a dramatic understatement. I’ll also say it was a good thing I was already sitting.

The tears started…”Mom’s going to know about us.” and they didn’t stop. Not when I got to the temple, not when I went through the session and especially not when I was able to bow my head in personal prayer at the end. When I finally lifted my head I noticed I was surrounded by nice old ladies who worked in the temple, worried about when the snotty lady in the corner would finish it up already and “I wonder if she’s really okay?

I mean, there’s being touched by the spirit and then there’s being knocked flat to your knees I dare you to feel any other emotion but the overpowering love of God touched by the spirit. Whew, still wears me out to think of it almost eight years later.

I knew Cody and I had someone waiting for us. He had gotten the same answer but with far fewer emotions attached to it. Addie came into our lives within the next year (not without struggles of course) and we were happy. But I never forgot that those little voices in the car that day said “Mom is going to know about us.” Meaning more than one.

That tiny little moment filled with those tiny little voices carried me through the last six years. Addie was meant to be part of a them. Part of an us. A pair. Of course I was frustrated that I was promised an “us” and that “us” came much slower than any of us expected.

But I grew up, I changed, I learned. I was shaped by the experiences and the people I met and even now I am learning more and more about my capacity to love and hope and dream. Both of my babies have been trapped inside my broken body at some point. While they’ll never remember the experience, I will. There are times when I hug Addie and remember how we made it through one of the darkest times of my life together, literally.

The same will be true of Mozzi. That first moment I hold her I will be able to look at her and say “we did this, together.

I was talking with a beloved friend this last week and she mentioned that her first baby was her heart and her second baby was her soul.

Addie is my whole heart and everyday with Mozzi inside me the capacity for my soul to thrive grows.

moosh 1.0 t-shirt and moosh 2.0 onesie

I will never be able to thank them enough for letting me know about them before I even knew of my capabilities and blessings that would result from being their mom.

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enveloped.

It feels as though there are invisible hands choking me.

The grip is tighter sometimes than others.

At this moment? It’s tight. I’m afraid to move for fear of it truly overtaking me again like it did on Friday.

It gets tighter when Cody isn’t next to me. And at the moment he’s not. And tomorrow he’ll be back at work.

I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.

Some may say codependency, I say he’s the only safe thing I know when the real me is lost.

I’ve been slinking around the Internet reading the words so many of you have written. I want so desperately to be able to reach out to you, to help you the way you’ve helped me. I occasionally stare at twitter and skype wanting so badly to get involved with my friends and with people whom I’ve never met who are pulling for me. But it doesn’t last. I can’t keep it up.

Maybe you know what I mean?

And sleep isn’t coming easily. Which makes this even harder for me. Being wide awake with my misfiring brain when the rest of the world is fast asleep? It’s hard. Last night an owl kept me company. Which in theory sounds like a lovely thing to have keep you company, but if you’ve never heard an owl? They’re unsettlingly loud. Add the whole dark mysterious forest in the back yard to to equation and I kind of miss the fire trucks, modified mufflers and domestic battles that lulled me to sleep in the city.

This time is hard. Because I don’t know how or when it’s going to end. Or what the future holds for my brain. So much talk goes around about postpartum depression, and I didn’t do so well last time. But if you’re one of the lucky ones who has exasperated antenatal depression? Well. It’s kind of like coming up with a battle strategy for leaving the fire for the frying pan, where you have to bring a tiny little baby and your family along with you.

I want desperately to be worrying about nursery colors and arranging bitty baby clothes, not “How am I going to make it to Friday?”

I am grateful for the tiny little reprieve I got between the shock, the worry, the transition, the sickness, the something may be wrong, the anxiety and now this. My memory is pretty talented to have blocked out so much of what I went through the first time. It covered my postpartum fears with delivery fears and it covered those with antenatal depression fears. It then covered those fears with the fear of miscarriage or something being wrong. Those were covered up with the deep and abiding fear of being sick while the whole situation was covered in the giant overwhelming fear that I would never have another baby of my own to rock to sleep.

As I tear through the layers, vividly remembering each one I also remember there’s a reason I wanted to do this again. There’s a reason people have more babies. There’s a reason people fight and spend and never give up hope to get babies here.

Which also reminds me. Baby books, especially the parts about delivery? Are not a comforting distraction when your brain is wrecked.

This never will be easy for me, but at least someone promised me somewhere along the way that it would be worth it.

(At 1:31…just watch it.)

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the one about the gays.

I was having a particularly rough day in high school when a boy named Jacob Orosco noticed how down and out I was. He performed an ice skating routine for me right in front of the office to cheer me up complete with singing and a grand finale.

The next week he was gone. He had taken his own life. Rumors flew about as to how and why it happened, but the biggest rumor was that he was never accepted for what he really was, gay.

This is the same high school where instead of allowing a Gay/Straight Alliance as a school club (Jacob was one of the founding members) they did away with extra curricular clubs altogether. I remember one administrators stance was that “If we let the gays have a club then we’d have to let the KKK have a club as well.” Awesome. Way to lump GLBTQ people in with the KKK. Students from our rival high school, West High, started a club called “SAFE-Students Against Fags Everywhere.”

FHA however (Future Homemakers of America) were still allowed to meet regularly on school property.

In the last three weeks there have been five suicides by gay teens.

Jacob took his life in 1997, this most recent news is nothing new and it’s not getting any better.

***Edited 10/07/10***

Mormons Divided on LDS Apostle’s Speech on Gays.

Yep.

***Edited 10/08/10***

I was criticized heavily for my personal feelings that President Packer’s choice of certain words were ill timed and insensitive, I simply disagreed and was uncomfortable with his choice of phrasing at times. I wasn’t alone, and my feelings were not completely wrong either.

Apostle’s Speech on Gays Changed on LDS website.

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