Monday, March 1, 2010

Shoulda Known Better

...than to think that letting go of church would be easy...

So much for my last post! But this is my continuing journey, so here goes...

As mentioned, the first three weeks were been rejuvenating. I attended a Relief Society service project the Saturday after my first absence. It was comfortable and I enjoyed being there.

The kids have gone to church every week (to their classes but not to Sacrament meeting). They continue to attend Scouts and Young Women activities, including Stake Temple day and baptisms for the dead this past Saturday afternoon. It has all been their choice to do so.

I went to a birthday social at the Relief Society president's house Tuesday night. Again, comfortable and fun, but even after only 3 weeks I realized how much I missed being in the loop, and found out that I missed the call of a new primary presidency, new young men's presidency, and who knows what other major changes.

I realized at the social how much I enjoy being with (most of) the people and miss seeing them every week. But I don't miss the lessons, the teachers' interpretations and the comments from class members. I don't miss running into the Stake President or former Bishop or a certain Relief Society teacher. I don't miss the panic attacks, and the frequent crying episodes on Sundays. I have enjoyed reading and pondering the lessons on my own. But still, I began to wonder if maybe I won't stay away as long as I thought. Maybe at least start going to Sacrament meeting so that my kids will go too.

Well, yesterday the kids didn't want to go at all. We watched Testaments, which ended up being kind of cool since our recent family scripture study has been in 3rd Nephi.

But I was kind of unsettled all day. Scott and I have spent Sundays hanging out and talking. This time was different, and I'm not sure why, other than the kids being around and us all being tired and lazy from the party the night before. I guess I have some other ideas too, but I don't feel I should mention them here.

As I wrote most of this last night, I was sitting in the chapel at "new beginnings", a church young woman thing that happens toward the beginning of each year. There is nothing that should bother me, just teenage girls giving talks on the young women values and relating them to real-women-examples of those values. But there I was, unsettled as usual as I realized that I am in a different place in my life than I ever would have expected to be when I was my daughter's age. And then there is the constant reminder of the "recommend," and the bishop speaking of how the main purpose of the Young Women program is to help them prepare to go to the temple.

It did that for me, but now look at me. I found out again this weekend just how inconsistent local leaders are. A friend of ours mentioned another friend that is in a monogomous gay relationship, and his bishop lets him keep his recommend because he is faithful to his partner. A friend's mother's Bishop told her to love her son, support and rejoice in his engagement and upcoming marriage to another man.

And then there is Scott and I, Scott being denied his recommend as he is asked "but do you ever fantasize about men?" And me, me being denied because I went to one affirmation conference, because I told the Stake President that if I had to choose between supporting my gay friends and getting my temple recommend renewed, that I would choose my friends.

And when we appeal to a general authority we are told to "listen to our wise and inspired stake president."

Does anyone else think it is all so F'd up?

And so I thought I let go, and I started thinking I was ready to start heading back for the sake of my children, for seeing my friends, for being in the loop.

But then I realize how bitter and hurt I still am, and I have no idea what the hell to do.

And the Stake President is confused why 30 seconds in his office a month ago could be "torture."

Oh, God.  Please help me.  Please help me let go and be perfectly okay with never going back, chopping all ties for me and my children, or help me forgive and forget so that I can go back.  Help me figure out what I need to do for my children, for myself, for my marriage, for our eternal salvation.

When will this nightmare be over?

22 comments:

Beck said...

For all involved, I hope it will be over soon and you can come to a resolution that brings all involved to a place of peace.

Sarah said...

Thanks Beck. I keep hoping that I won't spend the rest of mortality on this roller coaster, thinking for a while that I have found peace and then discovering again that maybe I haven't.

Why do we get the most anal church leaders ever, instead of the compassionate and merciful ones, the ones that make decisions based on what is best for a family rather than ours that insist on following the strict letter of the law.

Or, what if they really are inspired, acting as God has told them to, and if so, then why is God doing this to us? What do we need to learn? Is it merely so that we can have true compassion toward others that have rogue leaders? And if so, is it worth the cost to our family? Will God take this all into account at the final judgement? How will it affect our posterity if we sever all ties with the church for the sake of eventually finding peace?

Bah.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Sarah, this post makes me want to drive down there and give you a HUGE hug...and your "wise and inspired" Inquisitor a piece of my mind!!

Reina said...

I just wanted to say that my heart really goes out to you.

Grant Haws said...

The inconsistencies between Mormon leaders surrounding the whole homosexuality issue is the most frustrating aspects of dealing with the Church. I wish before you moved into a particular ward or stake, you could check online and see just how anal the particular local leaders were.

I think what you are doing will be best for your family, even if it is hard at first. You are following what gives you peace, and if that means finding joy outside of the technical bounds of the "Church", good for you and tell your Stake President to suck it. ;)

MoHoHawaii said...

I see good news and bad news in the amount of inconsistency on the part of LDS local leaders. I see it as evidence that change is in the works.

Sarah, NOBODY changes their relationship to the Church easily. The social infrastructure is carefully set up to make any level of pull out painful. At least you know that you are in control now and can decide what kind of involvement makes that makes sense for your situation.

Evan said...

Sarah, I find myself in such a similar dilemma. I've tried a number of different things... If I go, I feel frustrated. If I don't, I feel guilty. I don't ever look forward to Sundays now. :(

Gay Mormon said...

Sarah,

A good friend gave me some wise council when I voiced my concerns which were much the same as yours. He looked at me and simply said, "Follow the Peace", take a deep breath, clear your mind, and then Follow the Peace.

Mister Curie said...

FWIW, I think it's F'ed up too.

Letting go is never easy . . .

Bran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Yes, bran, I definately have an attitude. But I am pretty sure it came from the attitude the bishop had with us 18 months ago. It is hard to not be bitter and have an attitude.

Your comment helps me realize that my place is not with the church right now, and maybe that affects my eternal salvation as well. But I'd much rather be in a lower kingdom with my friends than in the celestial kingdom with people like my bishop and stake president. That would literally be hell for me.

Thanks for helping me figure this out.

dcr said...

you said it exactly right, " But I'd much rather be in a lower kingdom with my friends than in the celestial kingdom with people like my bishop and stake president. That would literally be hell for me."

that's what i tell myself, all the time. best of luck to you!

Scott said...

I know you mean well, Bran, but you're out of line.

If you had seen the anguish and torment that Sarah went through for five months over this whole thing you wouldn't be questioning how important the temple is to her.

...in my mind, a more humble way of approaching this would be to go in with an attitude more like this, "Bishop, the temple is a very important and sacred place to me. I want to have it as part of my life. Being a support for my gay friends is also very important to me. But I am willing to do what is needed to go to the temple. Could we talk about the boundaries that you feel I would need to set in order to go to the temple while still associating with these fine children of God?"

More than once she did almost precisely this--asking "what do I need to do to get my recommend back?". The answer kept changing, and at least once the answer was simply "attend your meetings, fulfill your calling, do your home/visiting teaching"--all of which she was doing at the time. (The answer was directed at me, and I wasn't doing those things, but she's the one who asked the question).

You know nothing of the situation, and it's extremely presumptuous of you to assume that you understand Sarah's "attitude". Like most "faithful" members you assume that the leaders are always right (and therefore we must be in the wrong). Perhaps someday you'll learn from experience that this isn't always the case.

I suppose I can thank you, at least, for reminding Sarah how judgmental and condescending members of the church can be, thus strengthening her resolve to be done with the whole thing.

(I apologize if I've been overly harsh--Sarah was hurt by your remarks, and I don't react well when someone hurts her).

Bran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

Sarah,

I don't envy what you're going through right now, at all. I was inactive for a couple of years because I felt that I also was being judged harshly. The guilt was all-consuming. I felt that I could never do anything right and that my bishop was mistaken in how he treated me. Even still to this day I look back on that time as one of the hardest, most disparaging moments in my life. So, I chose what many others do and I stopped going to church.

For a while the guilt really did leave, I really did feel better about who I was. I started leading a lifestyle contrary to what was taught to me as right and true. And guess what, I loved it! I really felt that my life was going so well. And then, after a while, everything came crashing down around me. Everything I had given up the church for--friends, boyfriend, partying, freedom from guilt, and more--fell apart. I truly found myself completely empty with no where to turn.

Since first leaving the church I had moved to another town. I had lived there for over a year. I even had visiting teachers who would call from time to time but I would always ignore their calls, notes, etc. In that very week when everything was falling apart I received a phone call from my new bishop asking if I would like to come in and talk with him. I had no where else to turn so I said yes.

He was very loving and compassionate though also very firm about what needed to be done and how I needed to do it. He was exactly what I needed at the time. As I looked back, and still do, to those months when I first left the church, I still felt hurt for what had happened but I also was able to see that a lot of the guilt and shame I felt was from me--not from God, not from my Bishop, not from anyone else. Surely there were better ways for my Bishop to handle things. Surely! But with time I was able to see the good intentions that bishop had for me and the people who's lives he was able to touch but he was human and he made mistakes. I still wish it had never happened. I wish I hadn't felt that guilt and that hurt but now that hurt is replaced with understanding.

My overall thought in all of this? Keep trudging through. As hard as the guilt and hurt was to handle at the time, nothing can give me those years back and I very much regret many of the decisions I made in that time.

That April, after a couple months of returning to semi-activity (it took me a while to feel comfortable coming back on a "permanent" basis) I had a moment of inspiration. I felt the Spirit clearly speak, "Amy, you need to go to church and even if you feel guilt or shame, it's not going to be any better by avoiding it. Promise now to always attend your meetings and be active in the church." I promised myself that day and have held to it since then. It hasn't always been easy and there have been many times when I have questioned my testimony but then I remember that promise I made to myself one April morning.

I don't regret making that promise. My life surely hasn't been perfect since then but I'm certainly happy now. I know that this will all play out for you in one way or another but I hope it doesn't take you away from the church because I can tell that you have a testimony and you want it. I wish I could take some of this hurt away for you. I know that as you keep trudging through you'll find your way and someday you'll be able to look back on this and see why it had to be so hard. I truly wish it didn't have to be. I can't help but cry even as I write this because I KNOW it hurts. I know that frankly, it sucks! But, I promised myself once that I would always try to help others avoid the greater pain and anguish I experienced upon leaving the church. It's an answer and it certainly will take away some of the hurt for a while but I can almost promise that your life will be better by working through it than by leaving.

I wish you and your family all of the peace possible. You will be in my prayers.

Sarah said...

Oh, Bran. I wish I had commented sooner when I first saw scott's comment. I wish you hadn't deleted your posts. I knew you weren't trying to hurt my feelings, but rather offering your own observations. I know there are many people who agree with you. In fact, a sister in my ward said something similar to me in a relief society lesson in december. I was going to blog about it on my private blog at the time but never did. Maybe I still should. Anyway, that is maybe one of the reasons that your comment affected my emotions. Add my pregnancy hormones and all of the pain this has all caused me, and I tend to over react.

Just a couple of comments...

First, I have blogged about the details of our interviews on my private blog, which I believe you are invited to. If not, I would be happy to invite you.

Second, I wasn't really asking for advice from my readers. I was venting and asking for an answer from God. Sorry that you misunderstood my question.

Please don't feel bad. I got over it pretty quick. Thanks again for trying to offer suggestions and support.

Sarah said...

Amy, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I'm glad you are happy having found your way back.

I don't think that the answer is the same for all of us, though. I was trudging through for months and months. By the last few weeks I attended, my children were very worried about me, as I cried through sacrament meeting, enduring panic attacks and nausia.

I assure you taking a break over the last month was essential for my mental health. Now I just have to figure out when and if it is right to go back. Something will lead me back when it is time, just like you. Thanks for trying to spare me possible suffering.

Ian said...

Aww Sarah!!! I just read this and about cried! In a way I have an understanding of what your talking about since I had struggled with some of the same things myself. I love you and your family! I couldn't ask for better friends than you guys! I need to come and see you next month. In fact I'll just plan on it!

AmbiguouS One said...

Don't feel guilty for not going to church; feel empowered that you are exercising your independence and wise judgment.

After having not attended church (except for special occasions, like Mother's Day) for nearly a year, I had a brief chat with my Bishop at our ward Christmas party just a few months ago - and for the first time I felt like I was on equal ground with him. It was amazing!

Hang in there.

Bran said...

I just wanted to let you know that I think that it is so cool that you work so hard to have such amazing sabbaths at home. I think it is so great that you have your family watch church movies and have established study going on. Yeah... super cool!

Southern Belle said...

Again I find myself up late at night reading about your life. This post really struck a chord with me. I have been inactive for two years or more (I've lost track) and I was in the same place you were when you decided to be done. Every Sunday I would go to church, sit by myself, and feel like a complete and total loser for not having a husband and 2.5 kids. I cried every single sunday on the way home from church. I HATED going. I felt guilty if I didn't go and miserable if I did. It felt like a lose/lose situation. So I stopped going. I felt relieved! Happy and relaxed even. But in the back of my mind I am always questioning if I have been deceived or let Satan "get" me. I don't feel like I'm off my path, but the church pretty much teaches you that if you are not going to church and following your leaders then you must be misled. There is no room for personal revelation when it goes against Church policy. When you are doing what is best for you, you are just decieved by Satan, at least that is the message I feel like I have gotten over the years. The idea that there is only one way to happiness and one checklist for a fulfilling life for all these billions of people seems so strange to me now, when only a couple of years ago I felt that it absolutely had to be true. At the same time I feel the Church is this oppressive machine, and despite that I feel horrible for proclaiming any form of disloyalty to it! When I think of my life outside of the church thus far, it has been good. But when I think of my future without the church in it, it scares me and I feel lost. I feel like I can't be happy in the church, but the church has taught me all along that I can't be happy outside of it, and if I think I am, it is only because I am fooling myself! This kind of circular reasoning makes me crazy and I don't know how to deal with it. I'm sorry that this post is all over the place. I haven't really tried to put my thoughts on this into words before. It's just so deeply personal and I want you to know that I feel some understanding of what you are going through.

Sarah said...

Wow, Southern Bell. You have worded it exactly right, exactly how I feel. And your writing in circles about it all is oh, so appropriate.

I wish there was a clear answer for both of us.

I will pray for you!