Okay so when I was a Mormon I knew EXACTLY why I was here and what I was suppose to be doing now I find myself without purpose and very depressed about the whole thing.I mean before I was proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead for crying out loud and perfecting the saints, how much more important could one's life be? Now I honestly see no reason for being here.

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Hi Leanne!  I have occasionally faced this question myself.  The answer that I usually gravitate back to is that our purpose is whatever we make it to be.  Follow your heart, dreams or abilities to create joy for yourself and others.  Whether that's through a life dedicated to relieving suffering and hunger in Africa, or serving delicious sandwiches in a New York deli, the choice and purpose that fulfills you is up to you.  I hope this helps.
To quote Sartre: "Existence comes before essence."  Who we are as individuals and our purpose in life is what we make of it ourselves.

For me, it is to go from the cradle to the grave and make it work for me as much as possible.  If it does not work for others, then God bless them, but God bless me first!

You still have purpose and definition, you just lack someone telling you every move to make and what to think. :)

 

Don

 

Leanne,

I'm pretty new at this and still trying to figure things out myself, but here's my two cents... The part that was hardest for me to accept was that it's okay to not have a purpose. If I want a purpose, I can choose one (or a dozen at the same time) but I have to remind myself that it's not absolute and I can change my purpose if I want to. I don't have to be locked in to whatever I choose. 

 If you really want to have a purpose right now, might I suggest one of self-discovery? See what your likes and dislikes are. Make sure they come from your authentic self and not the leftovers of the mind-altering indoctrination.  See what you feel strongly about, and what you couldn't care less about. Take a few of the more reasonable personality tests, then take them again a month later and see how you've changed as a person after just trying out a few new things. 

You don't have to go out right away and get knock-down-drunk (which you can do if you want), but try something small first if it's scary.  Listen to a CD that was on the "forbidden" list, or watch a movie that was also on the list.  Evaluate it from your new perspective, see if it still bothers you. If it does, that's okay. If it doesn't, that's okay. If you have absolutely no feelings either way about it, that's okay too! Evaluate that experience and take another step to try another new experience. Choose each new experience based on whether or not you liked the previous ones and you'll find yourself developing a little more direction each day.

Good luck!

-Whitney

thanks that makes lots of sense i need to find out who I am without the church.

 

 If you really want to have a purpose right now, might I suggest one of self-discovery? See what your likes and dislikes are. Make sure they come from your authentic self and not the leftovers of the mind-altering indoctrination.

That has been true for me also

almost everthing I was taught I now believe differently usually almost the exact opposite.

Good luck

Hi Leanne,

Your beliefs, and probably your social relationships, changed, but the nature of life, itself, didn't. Before, you were connected to a lot of people who were reinforcing the belief that life had an extrinsic purpose. Now, maybe it feels like you're in a wilderness, all by yourself, lonely, alone, lost, and afraid.

Whether or not there was ever a grand purpose to life that transcended ourselves doesn't really matter EXCEPT our beliefs about that. Let's say that there is some purpose (whether known or unknown). If there is a purpose, but it's not known to you, then it still feels like there's no "reason for being here." If there isn't a purpose, and you believe that there isn't a purpose, then you're in the same situation. Either way, it's your beliefs about there being a purpose or not (regardless of the truth, which we have no way of knowing, anyway) that are the determining factor about your feelings, actions, and (sadly, with respect to Mormon coercion and shunning) other people's feelings about and actions toward you.

You didn't wake up one day and decide that Mormonism was false. You discovered that belief within yourself over time. It was a natural conclusion, given your feelings and the evidence that you knew about. You can't suddenly decide that you believe that the Church is true. Your conclusion was never a decision, but a discovery from within.

None of us know whether or not there is a grand purpose to life that transcends us. If there were, that would get into questions about the existence of a god and an afterlife. Again, no one knows. Some people can cope well with ambiguity, and others have a much harder time. A lot of the latter wind up in religions because those religions offer a prefabricated road map for how you should live your life, what you should believe, etc. It's the easy way forward. But there's a difference between being comfortable and knowing the truth.

We have no way of knowing the truth about the existence of a god or an afterlife. Religions may be comforting to many people, but most of their propositions about cosmology and the nature of human life can be proven false by science. If you abandon religion and have a low tolerance for ambiguity, and you've been conditioned for your whole life to "follow the prophet," then it's easy to understand why you would believe, now, as an unbeliever, that life has no purpose.

I think that when people talk about life's purpose or meaning, what they're really getting at is this: "My life feels empty." I emphasize the word *feels*. It's a feeling. Some feelings are good, and others are awful.

I believe that the meaning of life comes down to the *feeling* of life: happiness, or sadness.

That fluctuates, as always. The only real suggestion that I can give you (and it's different for everyone, but there are only a few main options, I think) is that life can feel meaningful if you're surrounded by similar people who share your beliefs and values--people whom you like and value. If you have such a supportive community, then that community will undoubtedly experience problems that it will work to resolve. This, in turn, generates purposes--projects. And if those projects align with your strengths, interests, and values, then you'll be able to pursue and derive satisfaction from them. If not, you'll feel frustrated.

Have you worked out, in your own head, what the implications are of the possibility that there is neither a god nor an afterlife? If so, where does that lead you? If you believe that there may be a god or afterlife, then would it help you to join a community like the Unitarian Univeralists?

I agree with Micah's advice, but I know that it can be very difficult to follow your heart, dreams, or abilities to create joy when you feel alone. Know that you're not alone, Leanne. We're all in this together--not just those of us "here," but the Queen of England, orphans in Russia, the gay men dying of AIDS in San Francisco as I type, Tom Monson, Tal Bachman, Richard Dawkins, the Pope, miners in South America, primitive tribes in the Amazon jungle, the starving babies in Africa, billionaire and icon and cancer victim Steve Jobs, and children dying of leukemia in China. And you, Micah, and I. And not just humans. Pets. And all the rest of life. All of us. We're all in this together. No sentient being is spared the vicissitudes of life--neither a criminal, lunatic, genius, billionaire, doctor, lawyer, candlestick maker, woodpecker, or "saint."

All we really know is that we were born, we're going to live for a while--we don't know how long--and then we'll die. We don't know what death will bring, if anything. We can guess at some things about how life will progress: if we live long enough, we'll likely develop cataracts at some point, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Or we could develop dementia, or any number of bad things could happen to us along the way. All that we really have is this day, this moment, and our inner resources and whatever hope we can find from talking with each other and learning as much as we can about our strengths and finding ways to express them.

Maybe you can find some comfort from the stories on www.near-death.com, or www.nderf.org. (But maybe, while sincere, all of those people could have simply experienced hallucinations or be mistaken.)

Maybe we all need to decide--and this is very hard to do--what we want to do in life, especially when we have a vast number of choices, and no map. My best advice is to try to find people who understand and like you, about whom you feel similarly, and life will start to feel like it has a purpose on its own. If you think that it could help, see a psychologist--just for a little while. Additionally, consider a psychiatrist if you feel depressed. Confront your thoughts and feelings. Maybe they might have some good advice.

One day, we'll die. We don't know if that will mean annihilation, or if there will be something "more." But we *will* die. That is a fact. As I see it, the important thing is to live our lives to the best of our ability, in a way that enables our options to grow as we get older: to make more money, to have closer, more meaningful and satisfying personal connections with others, to acquire more knowledge, and to have novel experiences that we find to be fun.

Is there any particular cause that you feel strongly about? Why not become an advocate of it? Is there any particular subject that fascinates you? Why not go back to school and get a degree in it? Do you love nature? Go on a guided tour or hike in Sedona, AZ.You can change things in your life--and you should, to make it suit you better, given your loss of faith in Mormonism.

Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes tragedies. But Leanne, because we truly don't know what the future holds, it makes sense to believe that it *can* get better, which should be enough to give us some hope, so maybe I can sum everything up by saying: Hold on! Life almost certainly *will* get better, even if it takes years to get there. Don't give up! Don't assume that the future will be meaningless or seem to lack a purpose, even though you may feel that way right now.

Take small steps to move in the direction where you feel you belong. Gain some confidence. Get support from others, and stay away from toxic people. We can't know for certain, but we can predict that doing these kinds of things will improve the probability that life will get better.

Is it worth living without a god and afterlife (if that's the case)? If you had the life of your dreams, how wouldn't it be? Yes, it would end, but if you had a great time for many years, yes, I think it would be worth it. We will die one day. Don't squander this "gift."

Meaning and purpose...they can't be handed to you from someone else, unfortunately. And they're not easy to come by. You have to fight for them. Fight to create the meaning and purpose that you feel is lacking right now. Hold on to your hope. Reach out to others. Stay connected.

We really are all in this boat together. It's not just you. We share a common fate, and many common struggles. We're all connected. Some of us just realize it better than others. And some of us don't exclude others from that recognition of connectedness, while others do.

Seek the good, the true, and the beautiful in little steps, and maybe you'll make a gigantic leap and *flourish* before you know it.

Does any of this help?

Best Wishes,

Steve
Thank you Steve, for that very thorough, well putt and enlightening post!
I think that when people talk about life's purpose or meaning, what they're really getting at is this: "My life feels empty." I emphasize the word *feels*. It's a feeling. Some feelings are good, and others are awful.

I believe that the meaning of life comes down to the *feeling* of life: happiness, or sadness.WOW i love that and I am going to use it thanks yes actually you made it quite clear and i really want to thank you for the time you took to think that out and write to me. I am going to print it out and read it several times a day til it sticks in my brain.
I also just want to say thank you to Leanne for asking the question and to Steve for the considerate reply!

You know, this is really good advice Steve.

It reminds me of what I did when I faced the same conundrum;  I read a Kerouac book, then drove from Utah to this little beach near Santa Cruz CA.   (I did a whole bunch of other things)  Then with a stroke of luck met a bunch of other people trying to figure out similar stuff.   

 

@Micah

Steve's writing should be put somewhere special, where it is more accessible to others, on this site.

Not a bad idea Wayne!  I'll see if I can come up with something.

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