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.
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.