Friday, February 20, 2015

Not all those who wander are lost

My deep love of and admiration for JRR Tolkien is no secret. I've been fairly obsessed with him for years now (and could tell plenty of stories all about my extreme nerdiness!). One of my favorite things about his writings is that he includes so much poetry/music (which sadly was not translated into the movies, for the most part). My personal favorite is the poem about Aragorn in Gandalf's letter to Frodo, which he receives at Bree at the beginning of his journey. The most well-known line of this is, "Not all those who wander are lost." It's been on my mind a lot lately as I've been navigating a long and very scary personal journey.

Most definitions of 'wander' include references to aimlessness. Lack of purpose. Idleness. Carelessness. These definitions don't fit with my "wandering" (although they may describe this blog post).

Over the past couple of years, I've been more vocal about my uneasiness with certain things in the Mormon church. First was my vocal support of marriage equality, and then my participation in the Ordain Women movement. Many family and friends saw these actions as some horrible choices that were going to lead me away from the church. I lost friends. Many friends. It brought a lot of pain with it, but it was still the right choice for me.

In truth, Ordain Women has not led me away from the church. Ordain Women is the reason I was able to stay for as long as I did. It allowed me to hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, the institution I'd been raised in and had played such a large part in my life could change for the better. It helped me see that you could be faithful without agreeing with every single thing the church and its leader do or say. That there is a spectrum of belief, and that that's okay.

But it's not.

Or it is, but it's not okay to talk about it. Or it's okay to talk about it, but not in public. Or it's okay to talk about it in public, but not if other people might agree with you. Or if you do it in the wrong tone. Despite President Uchtdorf's assurances that "There is room for you," there just isn't.

I have made the decision to leave the LDS church.

I cannot remain a member of the church and be authentic about who I am and what I believe (or don't). I have worn a mask for too long already, and it is exhausting. My reasons for leaving are deeply personal and I don't really care to go into all of them in a blog post. Suffice it to say that in addition to have some major problems with the inequality in the church, there is a lot of doctrine that I either don't believe or don't agree with. If you would like to have a personal, mature discussion about it, I am willing to discuss it with you. But I will not allow myself to be attacked.

It's common for members of the church to assume people leave for one of several reasons. 1) I must have committed some horrible sin. 2) I WANT to sin and don't want to be disciplined for it. 3) I don't know the doctrine well enough. 4) I haven't tried hard enough to gain and strengthen a testimony. 5) I was offended by someone. 6) I read anti-Mormon literature.

All those "reasons" are untrue. I have not "sinned". I have studied the scriptures and the gospel for over two decades. I have read the scriptures faithfully. I have fasted and prayed. Having not received the witness I was promised, I continued operating based on Alma 32:27: "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."

So I did. I wanted to believe. I wanted it so badly. I wanted a witness. I wanted a testimony. I believed Boyd K. Packer's words that, "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" I have functioned for over 2 decades based on these things. If I just keep trying. If I just keep bearing my testimony. If I just keep attending the temple. Maybe if I fast more often. Maybe if I pay more tithing. Maybe I'm not devoted enough in my calling. But nothing helped. Nothing I tried led me to that "witness".

Many would point to things I've read and cry anti-Mormon literature. Nearly everything I've read, every disturbing discovery I've made regarding the church's history and that of Joseph Smith, has been admitted by the church and can be found in the new essays in the Gospel Topics portion of the church's website. So unless the church is now posting anti-Mormon literature on their own website, that argument is fallacious.

Here's the IMPORTANT part:

I'm still me.

Who I am has not changed. I'm still a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a burn survivor, a student, a reader, a writer. I still love meeting people, throwing parties, baking cakes, hanging out with friends, watching hockey, and jamming in the car (yes, even to Let it Go). I'm still a nerd. I still snort a little when I laugh really hard. I still cry. I still dream.

While I have left the church, this doesn't mean I'm now an anti-Mormon. The church doesn't work for me. But I also recognize that many people, including many closest to me, find meaning, comfort, and peace within the institution. While I disagree with many things the church does, I strive (with varying degrees of success) to voice my opinions without bashing the church or those who believe in it. That will not change. I won't attack people for their beliefs, just as I expect (and demand) not to be attacked for mine.

Not all those who wander are lost. I'm not lost. While I have "wandered" away from the church, I am not lost. My departure is no one's fault. I'm not seeking to take anyone with me. I'm not suddenly some wicked, sinful person who should be kept away from anyone faithful for fear I'm going to..I don't know, eat babies or something. "Infect" people. Lead others "astray". Be a "bad influence". I'm not suddenly amoral.

I'm still me.

I'm finally me.