This is long – if you can’t make it through the whole thing, just skip to the end where it says “Hitting Rock Bottom.” It is my favorite part.
Each transition is an individual journey. I am not sure how similar mine is to other experiences, it simply is what it is.
I never doubted the church, even during much of the following transition that you will read. I had what I believed a firm testimony, an unwavering testimony. Though I struggled to enjoy reading scriptures due to some of the content, I would highlight and read often the ones that brought me peace and joy. We were full tithe payers (even when we didn’t have enough money), held a variety of callings, and kept our temple recommends up to date. We were faithful.
As a full believing member I only had two struggles: the history of polygamy, and the history of the “Lamanites”. Though these two struggles were a very real problem, they did not cause me to question that the church was true, nor did they cause me to leave the church.
My Transition: In the winter of 2012 I had what I considered an intense spiritual experience during prayer. It got me excited and passionate about my religion and faith. I wanted to know everything. I wanted real answers and believed I would be guided and blessed as I turned my life more towards God.
I had majored in Communications at Rick’s College (now BYUI), and had learned all about sourcing in my journalism classes. So I put those skills to use. I only used church approved sources in an effort to avoid “anti-Mormon” literature.
This research went in three phases.The first phase was right after my spiritual experience. I simply looked into Joseph Smith’s wives and their history. Many times over the years I had questioned my husband about polygamy. I brought some of the new things I had found to him and questioned him more. He still had no answers other than faith. Following this he put tremendous pressure on himself to be a better spiritual leader to his family. The shock over the information caused deep pain in me. I took a break from research for a many months, I was heartbroken.
Later in 2013 I began the second phase of research. I was on bed rest with my fourth child, so to say I had a lot of time on my hands is an understatement. I studied all the changes to the Doctrine & Covenants after Joseph Smith’s death, and changes to the Book of Mormon. I also began reading Journal of Discourses. Again, I had to take a break due to the shock and sadness I was faced with. This was not the church I knew and loved. This break from research lasted over a year. I literally avoided what I found.
In early 2015 I came into the third and final stage of my research, and went deep in every direction. I had been unable to reconcile the truth of what I had found. I could not get enough information. Still I never went outside of official and approved church material. From church sources I would follow links, and use the sources they listed at the bottom of articles. I did this to verify the context things were written in and their validity. This was an intense process. To say I lost a lot of sleep is an understatement.
In November of 2015 my son turned 8 and was baptized. This was the first time I became aware that my faith was in crisis mode. I did not want him to be baptized, go on a mission, or marry in the temple. I did not want him to live a life of pressure and stress based on other mens ideas of religion. I did not want my daughters to live the life laid out for them. I did not know how to react to my own emotions. I remember feeling sick to my stomach a lot.
After Christmas in 2015 I opened up to my spouse, I needed help. Up to this point I had kept my research (minus polygamy) largely to myself. Mainly because I did not want to rock his world until I had answers, but I couldn’t find any answers. I thought maybe he could help me. By January my heart was broken, he had no answers either. In fact just the opposite, he now had questions too. With the amount of truth laid out in front of me (a massive binder or articles and notes) I knew without a doubt that the church was not what it claimed to be. By February we both knew we were leaving and began preparing ourselves and our children. I was a wreck during this time. It seemed unreal.
At this time I also found Mormon Stories pod-cast by John Dehlin. For the first time I didn’t feel so alone or crazy for seeing the truth in actual facts. His pod-cast, all the people who courageously shared their stories, this was the support I needed to get through. I listened endlessly to other stories.
By the end of May our children were prepared and we withdrew from our callings. We didn’t want to hurt friends and family still active, so we were vague about why we left. It was so traumatizing and painful, we felt it important that people choose their own path. Not be forced on a new one.
This is where the transition became more difficult. We wanted to protect our loved ones, so we lived in the pain alone. Experiencing the stages of grief many times over. It was like losing a loved one, a part of ourselves. It was all we had ever known. To our loved ones we seemed distant and withdrawn. They had no idea we were protecting them, or the tremendous amount of pain we were in.
I also realized that as a Native American I was not “Lamanite.” That my skin was not cursed. All the shame I had carried for years fell in on me. It was overwhelming. My heritage had been taken. A few of my dearly loved relatives had passed away already. Years I could have spent with them. I had given my life to a church that claimed: I was descended from a people who turned their backs on God, cursed by God with the removal of His spirit from them, and cursed with dark skin. My skin was not a curse anymore. I didn’t have to accept people treating me with racism, and yes, there is a lot I experienced as a Mormon. I spent my life up to this point focusing all my energies on church. I should have spent my time focusing on the amazing family and heritage that was real.
I was lied to. I was broken. Step one, get my Tsimshian family back, apologize, express how I feel. Easier said than done. I was filled with regret. So I started with a cousin I was really close to once whom I dearly loved, I called Yolanda. It was amazing. It was immediate acceptance, love, and forgiveness. It was real.
Hitting Rock Bottom – The aftermath of leaving the only life I had known.
Near the end of 2016, or early 2017, I began to have high anxiety. Or at least began to notice it, who knows how long it was there. In April 2017 I ended up in the ER with emergency level blood pressure. Over the next few days I felt worse, major side effects from the medicine. So I tossed the medicine and began to run.
I didn’t track how far I was going, I just ran until I couldn’t run anymore. I ran faster and harder when my heart felt like it was going to explode. I ran every day, sometimes twice. My blood pressure was going down fast. After a few weeks I tracked my route and found out I was averaging three to six miles a day. Running is extraordinarily therapeutic for me, like meditation but less boring. 🙂 Here is what I figured out…
I am no victim. A victim is helpless. As a child I was a victim at times, and I accept that. I am not trapped or dependent, I am not helpless now. I can chose how to react to anything that comes my way. In many ways I had felt like a victim during my transition. That idea trapped me. It wasn’t reality, it was a prison of my own making.
I am not ashamed. I may be embarrassed at times by the way I viewed humanity. Embarrassed at the way I viewed my own skin. However I am not ashamed. My world view was based on the information I had at the time. My information increased, my view changed. Human growth is part of life. I am not ashamed of who I was, I am proud of always doing the best I could with the information I had. (Seriously though, so grateful that I have an honest view of life now.)
I am strong, stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I believe in myself now. I am not perfect, but no longer feel that I need to be. Not being perfect feels amazing. I am loved. Not just by my spouse and children, but for the first time I love just being me.