Hi, call me Ella.
I'm a grad student and aspiring engineer. I love hiking, travelling, and chocolate. I was a mormon.
My family has been "in the church" for generations - crossed the plains with the saints, huge polygamists families, all of it. Growing up my immediate family was also extremely devout. Dad was bishop, mom was relief society president. There was never any question that the church wasn't true. I had 100% seminary attendance, served a (Spanish) stateside mission, worked in the temple, and graduated from BYU. Following the rules was easy for me.
On my shelf
On the Mormon Spectrum
A year after I returned from my mission I started having anxiety attacks during sacrament meeting. I was serving as a counsellor in the relief society presidency of my YSA ward, working a weekly shift in the temple, and trying to pass my BYU classes while also working part time. Church was supposed to be a safe place full of peace and rest, so why was it the most stressful part of my week? I had friends, a fulfilling calling, and was living the standards perfectly. I did only my religion homework on Sundays, read the scriptures in my mission language daily, and had never tried even a sip of coffee or alcohol. I'd been taught that if you lived the standards and had faith, the Spirit would be with you always and you would find true joy. So why was my heart pounding during "How Great Thou Art" and my mind telling me to run? There was no rational explanation for what was happening, but it got to a point where I couldn't ignore it.
The week after a particularly insensitive fifth Sunday meeting on finding an Eternal Companion (BYU lol), I decided to skip church without a good reason for the first time in my life. I felt guilty, but that guilt felt soooo much better than the intense anxiety I normally felt on Sundays. I started trying to understand why I was having such a negative experience at church. After lots of prayer and scripture study, and continued church attendance, I still didn't have an answer. Then the pandemic started and church went online. After a few weeks of glitchy meetings I stopped attending. The anxiety and guilt I normally felt on Sundays went away.
A few months later, graduated and out of Utah, I finally had the thought; What if it isn't true? I'd read the gospel topics essays when they came out. I'd served a mission. I'd seen miracles, felt the gift of tongues. But suddenly I realised that nothing that I truly and completely believed was exclusive to the LDS church. I stepped back and started examining my faith from an objective perspective. What did I truly believe, and why? What did the church teach?
I believe that there is a God and that he loves all humans as his children. I believe that most of the teachings of Jesus show the "right" way to live - with kindness and selflessness. But I was never comfortable with the teachings on the priesthood, the restoration of the gospel, prophets, and the temple ceremonies, despite working hard to try and accept them. As a woman and engineering student I also never liked the church's stance on gender equality, and the roles of women in God's perfect plan of happiness. While trying to understand my faith I also realised that I'm asexual, so the whole marriage to a man and bearing children for eternity was another point of concern.
Eventually, I allowed myself to research historical problems with the church and interact with other former believers. In this community I have found clarity, reason, love, support, and happiness. I feel free. I'm living the way that makes me happy, and in a way that allows me to love other people without judgement or ulterior motive.
Questions I've answered
How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon? More was mormon answers about 'How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?'
People in all religions have spiritual experiences. Mine convinced me that there is a being I identify as God and that this God loves us. While I was in the church I took these spiritual experiences as confirmation that the things I'd been praying about - the book of Mormon, gospel questions, etc. were also true. But looking back the only actual answer I got was that God loves me. It's like when I was a kid, proposing some crazy theory to my mom. She would listen, laugh, and then tell me how much she loved me. The response was true, but had nothing to do with the question asked.
I'm not sure what I believe about the nature of God. Honestly I'm a little exhausted trying to figure that out. But I do know, with more certainty than I ever felt to the contrary, that the answers are not found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And that the spiritual experiences I had aren't invalid because they occurred at a time when every spiritual question I asked was framed so that any response would further belief in the church.
Have you had any profound spiritual moments in your life? More was mormon answers about 'Have you had any profound spiritual moments in your life?'
Yes several. On my mission I experienced an undeniable "stupor of thought" while trying to teach someone. Our lesson plan that night had been on the word of wisdom, but when we tried to teach it the words literally would not come. It was like something came over us and physically stopped the words from forming. My companion and I turned to each other and then started just talking with the woman about God's love.
There was another where I was in the celestial room in the temple and really wanted a spiritual experience. This was while I was in the MTC about to leave for the mission field. Again, it was like a presence guided me to thoughts of God's love and a realisation that I didn't need to see or hear anything dramatic to know what was important.
Were you offended? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Were you offended? Is that why you left?'
I always felt welcomed by the community and shrugged off any interpersonal issues. So no, I wasn't offended in that sense.
But I was offended by some of the doctrine, or at least certain people's interpretation of it. There was one fifth Sunday (BYU YSA ward) where we were told in advance to prepare questions about relationships - any kind of relationships, family, friends, romantic, whatever. Then when the lesson came, the bishopric spoke for the entire time on why our salvation depended on getting married, why now was the best time to do it, and gave some really bad and sexist (to both men and women) advice on how to do find someone to do it with. Besides being asexual, I was also 21. My roommate was 18. My best friend a pew over was openly gay. It was almost comically out of touch, but everything was from the words of the prophets so we didn't dare laugh. Offended might be a good way to describe how I felt that day. When I got home I thought to myself, "Is this really what the church teaches?". I didn't leave over that lesson or others like it, but they certainly contributed.
Are you lazy? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Are you lazy? Is that why you left?'
Maybe a little, but never in religion. When I started having a faith crisis I worked extra hard to try and believe. Because I had concerns with the temple, I asked to become a temple worker and spent 5-6 hours a week there performing ordinances and talking with other workers, trying to understand. I read the Book of Mormon again. I served as first counsellor in the relief society presidency. I kept all of the standards, plus some extra ones as a BYU student.
I left because trying sincerely to grow my faith and live worthy of the Spirit couldn't change the fact that it isn't true.
Are Mormons Christian? More was mormon answers about 'Are Mormons Christian?'
Yes, as much as the average modern "Christian" religion is. Members teach about Christ and believe that he died for their sins. Most try to live the way he taught.
How do you currently feel about your church service? More was mormon answers about 'How do you currently feel about your church service?'
I don't regret most of it. There were skills I developed through church service, like public speaking, learning a new language on my mission, and volunteering when things need to get done. I also developed relationships and interacted with people I would not likely have met otherwise.
Are you happy? More was mormon answers about 'Are you happy?'
Yes! Everything good from before is still good. I've just removed some things that were making me unhappy.