Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Journey Out of The Mormon Religion

Here is an update that is long overdue, and will explain things to a fair few people who have been asking.

At the risk of continually repeating myself, I felt it more pertinent to write this blog post and make my explanations here.

While I understand that this may shock and offend some reading it, it is not my intention to hurt anyone. This is simply my story, my experience. I still have many friends who are members of the church, and I love them dearly (even if they chose to no longer associate with me, my friendship will always be open to them); and to them I only wish love and happiness.

To a fair few, I may be looked upon as a "traitor" to my faith, and an even greater sinner for "luring" my husband away from the Mormon religion, and thusly I will burn in the depths of hell for eternity.

To you, I will only say that I wish you peace; and that if you decide to continue reading, you do so with an open mind and heart. This is nothing but MY story and MY experience. How I have envied those of you (over the years) who have your faith so firmly planted, who have not continually been seeking, how I have wanted to BE YOU, with your peace and your confidence steeped deeply in the church's teachings. But alas, that was not my journey.

To start at the very beginning, I have to go back to the end of May/beginning of June 2010..

Two weeks after we were sealed, I fell into a deep depression which seemed to come from nowhere. I mean, we'd just been sealed in the temple right? It should have been the happiest time in our lives and I should have felt elated and on top of the world, in a new "honeymoon" period. But instead, I felt myself withdraw deep inside, I wanted to see no-one, I wanted to speak to no-one, and I became a literal hermit in the privacy of my home.

As the time was leading up to our sealing, excitement was exchanged for almost dread and fear. These emotions were so incredibly far from the dream of the 16-year old girl who had first learned about being married for "time and all eternity". A dream I had held on to for 20 years, like some fairytale, and kneeling across an altar from my "Prince Charming" as we made a solemn and eternal vow to each other.

I tried to dismiss the feelings as "pre-wedding jitters"; the only thing was, Ben and I had been married for 7 1/2 years already by that time. Then I dismissed it as Satan trying to step in between us, and the more I had these feelings, the more "right" what we were planning to do was.

Originally, my dream was to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, I mean, that is the "princess - fairytale - castle/like" temple right? It is THE temple that is synonymous with the Mormon faith. So we tried every which way to make it up there, even having a huge garage sale over two weekends to raise capital to make the trip. But we fell way short. My dream of Salt Lake City was slowly dissolving into thin air. I exchanged my fairytale castle temple, for a "shoebox" temple.

I wondered if my disappointment was clouding the fact that I was going to be "sealed" to my husband for time and all eternity? Was I simply acting like a spoiled-brat in my mindset and protruding bottom lip?

And we were fighting more and more often too. Neither of us were at a point where we even wanted to go through with this any more. We turned to the young missionaries who had practically made this their "second home", and were assured that it was nothing more than Satan interfering, but we had to persevere and once we were sealed, "everything would change".

On the way to the temple the afternoon we were to be sealed, I was almost sick to my stomach, I did not feel like this when we married the first time; what was different? I had to wear my mask and dismiss the nerves as nothing more than excitement; show our guests a 'good face'. I was excited too, I can't deny it; but it just felt "weird".

Afterward, we did feel the "glow" of the experience, and in realising that we had been connected and joined together as a husband and wife for all of time and eternity. That idea does still give me somersaults in my stomach, but I no longer believe that it is something that man can divide, and I know with every ounce of me, that we WILL continue to be together forever.

I wanted to go back to the temple immediately and do a "session". To be with my eternal companion for the first time together in the celestial room, AS eternal husband and wife. But Ben kept pushing that notion away. He felt he was not "ready", and this lead to the fighting again... not even a week after we were "re-married", the honeymoon was "over". He told me that if I wanted to 'go to the temple so much' he'd drop me off, but that was not the point. I had worked myself into a place of that fairytale romance that would now (finally) begin our eternities and I wanted desperately to be together in the Celestial Room with him to experience that "sealing" of our eternal union.

He could not understand his feelings, but he kept resisting.

We never did return to the temple.

After my Dad passed, the very next morning I had a most profound experience, which I learned later in the day, my Mother too had a most profound experience and that they both happened at the exact same time concerning the same thing - she on the east coast of Canada, and me here in the South-western part of the United States!

It lead me to want to learn more about Islam and in it gain a better, and deeper, understanding of my Dad; and in doing that, learning about my history and who I really was. What I did not reckon on finding were the answers I had been seeking for most of my life. And therein, I found a deep seated peace and a belonging; I finally felt that I had found "Home".

When I learned that Islam was more a way of life than a religion, that the word Islam simply means to "submit" and is from the Arabic root word for "Peace"; and a Muslim is simply "one who submits to Allah [God]", I felt every ounce of myself KNOW that this was truth. While man-made religion dictates so much, in Islam the relationship lays between an individual and God. In the end, it ONLY matters what is in a persons heart and Allah knows best.

This began my journey into Islam and my "coming home".

On September 13th 2010, I reverted back to the religion of my birth, the religion of my father, and the religion that is locked deeply within my very Be-ing.

While the video of my conversion/reversion was posted to You Tube, and I have had 'witnesses' to my reverting from all over the world, I did not feel any need to go and tell people from the church, or my bishop. I was "inactive" and that was pretty much where I was happy to let it stay.

After my husband's journey, and final reversion to Islam, the cards began to stack against us as far as friends from the church began to seep out and verbally, and openly, attack us. We kept our respect for one and all, and we kept a level head.

This past Sunday (November 14th 2010), we received a surprise visit from the bishop of the ward; he wanted to know if the "rumours" he had heard were true in that we were studying about Islam and were we doing it for knowledge sake or the reason of conversion. While Ben did not tell him that we'd already reverted he did admit that he was looking at it for the reason of conversion. At which point, the bishop immediately demanded we turn over our temple recommends and when I came out to give them, he told me that we had to write him a letter asking for our names to be removed from the church records and if he did not hear from us, we would "hear from" him in no uncertain terms (in other words if we do not willingly resign as members of the church, he will convene a church court to excommunicate us). To which I responded "that's the only time we ever hear from you people".

Over the years, we have had a myriad of issues with this bishop; and while some can be claimed to be misunderstanding, there is a definite "dislike" for us on the part of this man. And he has been trying for years to find ways to get us to "disappear" and out of the church/ward.

He has burdened us with abusive words over and over again during our years with this ward. While he has been somewhat "pleasant" on the one hand, on the other, he has been emotionally, verbally, and psychologically abusive.

In the past, we have gone inactive because he has pushed us away, and in the time that we were gone from the church (one was a 2-year absence), he only ever came to our door one time. I recall the date freshly in my mind, July 4th 2004. I had borrowed a sewing machine from the church and had not been at church to return it, so he came round on that day simply to pick it up. He did not bother to stay or to even ask how we were doing, seeking after our welfare as a bishop... the "father of the ward", should be doing as he "tends to his flock". This bishop would rather lose two of his flock than to search, seek, and bring those he has lost back.

We have several Muslim friends who were born and raised Mormon, a couple have successfully completed full-time missions for the church and NONE of them have been asked to have their names removed from the church records. They have simply been allowed to be, and are classified on church records as being "inactive".

While this week has brought a myriad of emotions, most of which have been anger at this person, and finally releasing and letting go of that which was deep within me; I am trying to also find the peace and harmony of this release. I have been a part of the church for 21 years, and I fought SO hard to BE a member and then to STAY a member, but I now have to look back and wonder what all that stemmed from and what was the "fighting" really for? Was it the need for a 16-year-old child to feel wanted and to be a part of something, to simply belong? Or was there more to it?

It has been a week of learning, knowing, releasing, and then be-ing; only to return and complete the cycle once, twice, thrice more.

The biggest feeling of relief has come in, for the first time in my life, finally feeling free to be me. No airs, no graces, no masks, no "double life"; no conforming into what those in the church deem to be appropriate. I have finally shed that thick layer of skin that I created in conforming to being the person that they dictated me to be. The burden is released, and the reaction has been fantastic on my psyche.

Many have felt that the main reason we left the church has solely been because of the people and us having had a "bad experience" with the church. I have to make a correction here, while we have had a terrible and devastating experience with the WARD we were in, and the bishop; what I consider my "home ward" was/is wonderful. The people were true as we read in the wonderful "fairytales" that we are taught about in the history of the church, or in the monthly Ensign. The people in my ward in Ottawa, Canada are living the gospel as it is supposed to be lived. They are welcoming, inviting, engaging, and loving. You must understand that I have been seeking, for years, many answers to questions, and I could not find within the walls of the Mormon-faith. The people had a lot to do with how easy it was to look outside of the faith, and to continually push me/us away, but the only reason why we left had nothing to do with the people, it was much deeper than that.

But yes, my experiences here were devastating to me who had grown to know the members as being a strong foundation of what was my world, and my faith.

It was devastating when the very first time that I attended the ward here, NO ONE bothered to say "hello" or "welcome", I was observed like a freak at a side-show. The woman with whom I shared a pew sat staring at me in a freakish way the entire Sacrament meeting (I only spoke with her for the very first time in 2009 when someone introduced us, and this after 6 years of being members of the same ward). Then, at the close of that first Sacrament meeting, she literally climbed over my lap/legs to "get out". As I got lost in the maze of corridors trying to find Sunday School, no one stopped to ask if I needed any help or was I new, I was left completely and totally alone.

Later, in a meeting with a counselor in the Stake Presidency, I brought this experience up and suggested that more needed to be said from the Stake Presidency to the members of the Stake in making people feel more welcomed, and that members truly DID need to live by the motto of President David O. McKay "Every member a missionary". The counselor answered me by saying that my husband and I could be that example in leading the way as we attended our meetings. That there would be no address from the stake presidency and that if we wanted to see the change, we had to be the change and example for others to follow.

As I sat amongst "my people" those who are supposed to by my "brothers and sisters", I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life; and I would say that for me, this is when the first stirrings of questions began to enter my psyche. But, as a "member in good standing" Mormon, those questions had to be pushed as far away as possible.

But the problem with opening Pandora's box is that the flow is continual. Not only was I now pondering, questions that I had lingering from years prior began to intermingle with new questions.

When I sought answers to the questions, many were never answerable in the church. I was told over the years to pray more, fast more, read my scriptures more, go to the temple more. So when none of that gave me answers, I was then handed off the standard, "well we'll find out the answers when we die and are in the Celestial Kingdom."

More and more I questioned my faith, my beliefs, the very things that I had held on so strongly to over the years and what eventually brought me back to the church time and time again from inactivity and seeking questions from outside of the religion.

I wanted SO hard to believe and understand everything. I wanted SO hard to be a part of a religion that I loved, that I did fight so hard to join; that had embraced me, but also abused me; and eventually, abandoned me.

It was a classic cycle-of-abuse, and it kept drawing me back time and time again. And each time, I wore down a little more and a little more; but I still could not find the answers I so desperately sought. At one point, I was even told that I had not found answers because I was not asking "the right questions" or asking them in the "correct way"!

When Dad died, it literally took the ground out from under me. The morning after he died, I had a very profound experience. That experience was the beginning... Over that very busy, and emotion-filled week I had a very strong feeling that after the funeral and celebration of life service we were holding, I would start to look into, and study the religion of my birth in an effort to understand and know my Dad on a different and more deeper level, and maybe begin to understand myself more too.

Through the week of planning, things came up that made this decision to learn become more solidified in me. I never expected that it would lead me to a new path and eventually finding my peace and my truth.

It was almost as if Dad was orchestrating things from the other side, as more and more opportunities were presenting themselves to me.

As I delved more into my past, learning, absorbing, seeking and then finding, I found ALL the answers that I had been seeking in Mormonism. I could deny it no longer, this is where I belonged.

It was an amazing, and releasing feeling, stepping back onto the path that I had been born onto, but my inner-turmoil regarding the church did weigh heavily in me. I did not feel that I had to officially "leave" the church and never felt that I should write to have my "name removed from church records". However, interestingly enough, a friend of mine had contacted me and asked me how she would be able to do that. After some searching on the internet for her, I found her the information. I never thought that I would be the one having to use the information I provided for her.

In speaking with my Muslim friends (sisters) who reverted from Mormonism, I found out that they never petitioned the church for their names to be removed from church records; and, like me, never wanted to.

So, last Sunday, when this man stood at my door telling me that this was what he "required" of us to do, the sting was swift and painful. It was somewhat amazing to me that he so easily "let us go". There was no questions as to why, or what could they possibly do to work with us to help us come back, to ask what it was that caused us to want to leave the church, just simple cut and dry "you're gone".

This bishop has wanted us out of the church for years, but he never was able to find anyway to do it, well now he has.

In this action, if there was ever a remote possibility that we might potentially ever consider returning to the church, aside from the teachings which we no longer believe or adhere to, it has nipped it in the bud completely and totally.

As the bishop stood outside our front door, in his overbearing and manipulative way, attempting to psychologically torment us in the manner that he is so good at; to make us feel "guilty" and chase back after them, plead and make our case for him to shut us down in a final, glee-filled slap-in-the face; something inside of me snapped and instead of the submissive person he had always dealt with, with each lash of his tongue, instead he met with "Me". ME who is filled with balls and who has NO problems speaking my mind (a person he has never met before because in the church's conformity, is not   "proper"), and in a single sentence "That's the only time we ever hear from you people"; this foreboding man cast his eyes downwards and the small glimmer of defeat and shame crossed his face.

To the counselor who requested a hug after my being kicked to the side like some dirty rag, came my reply; a simple, but absolute "NO", shock as he quickly followed up by telling me that he and his wife "loved" me, and my reply "that's nice".

It was an ending. And they knew they had no more room to budge, wished me "the best of luck" as I unceremoniously closed the door on them and the religion, for the last time, forever.



Ben and I right after he had taken his Shahada and converted to the Islamic faith