I was born into the church, and was always the one who tried to set an example to go to everything. I believed the church was true based on everything I knew and felt. There were minor inconsistencies, and things that I disagreed with, but it wasn't enough to make me doubt my testimony. I wasn't perfect by any means, but I served as a missionary, one of the few women Assistants to the President, I saw amazing things happen, miraculous things, that I don't doubt even now that they were spiritual. I taught gospel doctrine quite often, taught spiritual living in relief society, was the primary President a couple of times, in the Young Women's Presidency, almost any calling you could name I held at some time or other. I was not really offended when leaders made mistakes, I knew they were human. I don't think people have to be perfect to be spiritual.
There were several devastating things in my extended family, that really helped to formulate my personal values. Six of my relatives in Utah committed suicide. One of them killed herself and her baby. She was my favorite aunt, and I cared a great deal about her. At the time, the church taught that people who killed or committed suicide would go to the telestial kingdom, and could never be glorified or become like God. I could not wrap my mind around the idea that I would be willing to do anything I could to help my aunt, but that God, who ought to be better than me, would stop trying to help her return to his presence. I had a distaste that I felt for the snobbery of the Southern Utah mormons. I was someone who wasn't from Utah, I had a somewhat broader view of the world, and a slightly less "us and them" perspective. There was a lot of family abuse and assault among my family in Utah. My desire was to be an example and change the direction that this generation was taking. That was why I wanted to be a missionary. I asked a couple of times and was told I should get married. Finally I got engaged when I was 25, and 3 months later my fiancee died. Then everyone supported my desire to be a missionary. It was a very good experience, but while I was on my mission a couple I knew were excommunicated. I didn't know the whole story, but 2 weeks after my mission, I visited them, and was sexually assaulted by them. My Bishop was a good man and helped me as if I were his own daughter. I was numb for years. I questioned my judgment about everything, but I kept going to church, and married in the temple. My husband was the Elders Quorum President when I met him, and I believed he was a good person, but he was a weak person, and I regretted marrying him in the first year. I stayed married, and in spite of health problems, I supported our family most of the time, and raised our sons. My oldest was very mellow, but my youngest we adopted and he was very troubled. He was bipolar, and became insulting and aggressive. My husband would not back me up in disciplining him, and became more of a hindrance to my son and myself than a help. He basically passively allowed my son to be abusive toward me. I learned about bipolar, became a psychiatric nurse, and did everything in my power to help him. But as my son became more out of control, he began to threaten my life. No one stepped up, most sadly not my husband. The bishop suggested giving him up to the state to a group home, but I could not do that to my child. Finally after him threatening my life I realized that he was escalating because he was trying to get my husband to react, and help him gain control of himself. The memory I will never forget is my husband turning his back on us to garden, to can tomatoes, for food storage, while my son was calling me horrible things, throwing things at me, and I was shaking all over. I took a long trip, and thought hard about things. I gave my husband an ultimatum, which 6 months later he had still ignored. The church could not help. We went to therapy, which helped me see clearer that my husband was not strong enough to help me save my son. My therapist was not a mormon, but he helped me to open my eyes and see reality. I had to reach my own conclusions, but I knew that I had to leave my husband who was only a mormon on the surface, because he could not find it in himself to be the man he needed to be to save our lives and our family. I had to leave the church because the religiosity, facades, and the hypocrisy was literally making me sick. I saw all image and no substance everywhere I looked. On the day that I left I learned that my husband had been surfing porn and letting me think it was my son. How could a decent man and father do that to his own child? It was seeing all the utter helplessness of the "Priesthood of God" - taking my son to live where no one was giving him a silent "go ahead" to abuse me. There he began to recover, to take his medications and to be the sweet boy he was before he got sick. We are so close now. Both of my son's do not attend the Mormon Church since that time. I never criticized it to them, but they were less indoctrinated than I was, and saw how little help there ws in all of the superficial traditions, when what was really needed was genuine active and powerful love that didn't give up, or bury its head in the sand or hide behind promises that things will be better in eternity. My son and I helped to save each other many times. I was in therapy for 7 years total, and they were not mormon but they were people that truly cared, and that could be trusted not to wash their hands of us. That is basically my story.
I so appreciated your story. Your comment, "I saw all image and no substance everywhere I looked," says it so well for me, too. I have spent many years trying to suck nourishment out of the "superficial traditions" you spoke of that just cannot give me what I yearn for. I always blamed myself...you can always find some weakness to blame your lack of feeling spiritually fed upon. I remember reading a long time ago of a teenaged Mormon girl who was healed of a skin disorder on her face at a meeting in Salt Lake City by a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. She followed him and studied with him and eventually became the leader of this yogi organization in California. She said it gave her exactly what she was looking for, that she still believed many things the Church had taught her, but she longed for a deeper experience of God than just going to Sacrament meeting gave her. This speaks to my soul, too.
Thank you for your story, Abbie, Godspeed. Nell