I was born & raised in the LDS church in Provo, Utah and had a typical Utah Mormon upbringing. I left the church when I was 21, in 1991. It was a crossroads. I was being pressured to marry or go on a mission and I either needed to commit to the church fully and do those things, or walk away. The bottom line was that I wholeheartedly disagreed with the rigid & outdated gender roles/expectations, and with how women, minorities and the LGBT community were treated and viewed by the church. 

 

I'm so much happier and love my life so much more since I left. Looking back now, 20 years later, it was still absolutely the right choice for me to make, and I have no regrets. I learned so much about myself and other people and just about life, from that experience, and I have a lot of compassion for anyone who is struggling with these issues. It's so hard to be true to yourself in the face of so much pressure to conform to someone else's ideal of you.

 

My advice to those who are seeking would be: trust yourself. There is no one right or wrong way, there is only what works best for you.

 

Wild Geese

 

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

© Mary Oliver.


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You're fortunate to have gotten out so young, and it may have saved your life literally from what you described. Glad you made it out and are well on the road to recovery.
I love your story, and I love this poem by Mary Oliver. This is the second poem I have read of hers that has really grabbed my heartstrings. I need to read more of her stuff I believe :).
Thank you for letting us hear your story.
I wasn't raised in the church but had similar experiences in a polygamous environment. We were even considered old maids by the time we were 17 or 18. My husband and I decided to join the church when our children were little. After 8 years we realized that we just could not believe that someone who was God's mouth piece (Joseph Smith) would lead so many astray! So we all at once stopped going.
We live in Cedar and our 19 year old daughter is attending SUU. She says that RM's are quite a hot item, not enough to go around! We haven't been active for about four years but she goes to the singles ward with some friends every now and then. She likes being a watcher. She has no interest in temple marriage or RM's, but those things were the main focus of Young Womens when she was14 and 15. Also, it didn't take us long to not want to send her into the bishop for the temple counseling!
The questions they ask are far too personal! Even though she was always a very conservative girl and had no problem honestly answering them we just felt that it was inappropriate for an older man to be talking to our young girl about her sexuality. I was so glad that she felt the same way.
Thanks Heather, I was thinking that your daughter was lucky to have a mom like you!
Be good ( helpfull ) to others and live life on your own terms. What ever you do as long as it harms no one is none of anyones busness. Why is it so difficult to let people enjoy there lives ? Too many feel their way is right and they just have to save us from ourselves.
I really like this poem. I had a lot of the same concerns you did about the role women are supposed to play in the church. Thank you for your story :)
Heather, your exit story really pulled at my heart. I definitely identify with how you feel... And thank you for posting the poem- it's beautiful and I'm so glad I know it exists... :)
"I would rather be whole than good"- C.G. Jung.

I'm a big fan of Joseph Campbell, and discovered Jung through him. Reading Jung has actually really helped to balance me. I think that many Mormons have imbalances of the psyche because of how it relates them to life. I mean they're not even allowed to be sad, for heaven's sake!

According to Jungian psychology, when we don't acknowledge our "shadow sides", it can lead to things like scapegoating. You see this happen in the Mormon Church when blacks were denied full membership, when the "Lamanites" are seen as "dark, filthy, and loathsome", and in its overall "us and them" mindset.
Thank you for telling of your experience. I am actually reading this from my husband's emails. I've struggled with the decision to separate myself from the church.

I had so many of the same feelings about how women are treated in the church!  

and

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

 

Oh music to my soul!!!  What beautiful words!

Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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