Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dwindling in Unbelief

I almost feel like this should be the new name of my blog, except that I noticed there already is a blog with that name, and I don't want to change mine anyway.

Ahem. What I mean to say is... I have finally come to the conclusion that I don't believe anymore. I don't believe the things that make Mormons Mormon.

I don't think Thomas Monson is in contact with God. I believe that the General Authorities are good men—I don't suspect them of deliberate deceit or having conscious ulterior motives—but I don't believe that God is talking to them any more than s/he talks to anyone else. I just can't not believe that if God really were directing a church to the extent that the LDS church claims to be directed, that church would be the first to recognize and denounce oppression and inequality in every form, instead of defending it tooth and nail (*cough*ERA*cough*). The LDS church is not exactly on top of things in this department, by which I mean that they are completely backward and even further behind than some other churches.

I don't have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, either—but then again, this is one thing I don't think I ever had, even when I was fully active and orthodox. And while I infinitely prefer the Bible to that book, I am also now very aware that the Bible was written by men, and therefore approach it with a significant amount of skepticism.

I've had this post—everything before this sentence—sitting in my drafts since the end of February, and I hadn't read it since I took a break from the internet at the beginning of March. Today I did, and it still fits, so I guess it's really true. I'll admit, I did a bit of backpedaling after first reading through it; not that I don't still feel that way, just that the words sounded a little stronger than I want them to. It's like... rather than believing actively that it's not true, I just lack the belief that it is. Which I'm pretty sure is just a copout response that tries to soften the blow but essentially says the same thing.

A couple days ago I was on my Goodreads profile and the section with my favorite quotes came up. I saw one from Brigham Young—and I realized that I no longer felt that sense of ownership I used to feel when I came across someone or something related to Mormons. Funnily enough, I still think the words of the quote are great in spite of the irony that goes with them:

Remove this quote from your collectionBrigham Young
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” 
 Brigham Young

I guess I used to feel some kind of... something, you know? when I read the name of one of the prophets somewhere in the secular world. Especially that one, because my university was the one bearing his name. But this time, I didn't.

Anyway. The great thing is that, thanks to this internet break, I've spent an entire month developing a kind of apathy toward the church. Apathy doesn't sound like a great thing, but since it's replacing anger and hurt and the manic frustration that comes with helplessness, it is indeed pretty great for me. The real triumph will be when I can maintain this apathy—at least to a certain extent—without the crutch of avoidance (which is what I've been doing for the last month). When I can read Feminist Mormon Housewives and the news without freaking out about the patriarchal shit being consistently shoved down everyone's throats, I'll know I'm good. Right now I'm shooting for medium-level avoidance, trying to break myself back in slowly and painlessly. We'll see how it goes.


  1. Crazy. I have a very similar post for my own blog in the works. I've come to the same conclusions myself. I like how you put it "rather than believing actively that it's not true, I just lack the belief that it is".

    I think the apathy is a good thing. At least for me, it's the only way I can keep myself from getting hurt or angry. It's been a difficult process, but I've been learning to ignore perspectives that I disagree with. I've realized I'm not going to change anyone's mind unless they are open to changing it. Or, that I'm not going to fit everyone's criteria of what a good person is, and that's okay. I'm going to life according to my own morally.

    I also love that Brigham Young quote (irony and all).

    I wish you the best with everything.

  2. Thanks, Taylor, and I you. Looking forward to reading your post when it goes up. I've been going through that same process, too. The problem before was that... well, I still felt Mormon, you know? And I felt this really intense sense of obligation to help bring about change so that others wouldn't have to go through the same thing I have. I still wish I could do that, but I think maybe it's something I'll have to deal with later, once I've come to terms with things a little better. For right now, I can't focus on that kind of activism, because I'm not detached enough to be able to do it healthily. I need to separate myself first.

    Two more quick things:

    1. I noticed that one of the labels on this post is Joseph Smith, but I never actually mentioned him. That's because I was going to address how I feel about the Joseph Smith story testimony-wise, but I never ended up doing it because the answer is I don't know. I don't think I like the deranged liar theory, but I obviously don't believe in the prophets or anything, either. I really have no idea what I think about it. The closest I can come is what my aunt told me when I had a Skype conversation with her about why she and her husband left the church several years ago; she said that she doesn't know what, but she knows that something happened in that forest. I think that's all I can manage for now, as far as unraveling that particular knot.

    2. This sense of ownership thing—it's clear to me now that I haven't completely gotten rid of it. I think the Brigham Young quote was a temporary thing, but I am still hopeful that I'm going to continue to go in that direction.

  3. There are a lot of good things about the LDS church. There are a lot of bad things as well. The same is true of every organization. The key for me was coming to the realization that membership in the LDS church is not "necessary" for anything - not necessary for salvation, not necessary to please God, not necessary to have a happy family life. The LDS church is just another church, for all the good and bad that comes with that.

    You are obviously a very thoughtful person, Miri, with a good heart, and a good mind. Best wishes to you and yours.

  4. Thank you, Levi. This is one of the reasons I know I need to figure out how to separate myself from all the Mormon baggage I've got: At this point, I can't see anything good about the church that isn't somehow tainted by something bad. Logically I know the LDS church isn't any worse than any other Christian church (or, most probably, organized religion in general). I need to get to the point where my emotional self can understand that, too.

  5. Valentine (I'm going to address you as that because I find the reference beautiful and I'm not really sure who this is),
    I haven't read your other comments on this for fear my words will have already been said, and I very much want to say this.
    I feel much the same. I have for a long time, and one day it felt like everything crumbled. I cried and prayed, quite desperately. Nothing seemed to work. I felt like I couldn't just walk away because of my family. I also felt I couldn't just walk away because of the what-ifs of the matter. What if I wasn't praying hard enough? What if I wasn't trying hard enough? What if I was too sinful, too prideful, too hard of heart? I couldn't walk away and risk a rift coming between my husband and me, and later down the line my children being told that I will not make it to the same level of heaven as them.
    But I was so Angry. All. The. Time.
    I waited and waited. Finally, I have come to a place of believing in good. I think the 10 commandments are great rules. I generally think the WoW is a good guide. Besides the faith-based questions, I can get by in a temple recommend interview. But the truth id, faith in this truly strange and judgmental church is difficult at best. It was hard, but I have finally accepted that about myself. I am okay with where I am. I don't feel the need to shout it to the rest of my ward, and that makes for a very lonely road. I don't feel angry anymore. In fact, I where more content with where I am than in the past three years of my membership. I feel acceptable to me. And hopefully, God's okay with that.

  6. We're Facebook friends, Blythe, so I just sent you a message telling you who I am. :) And thank you for your comment. I understand exactly what you mean, I think. The what-ifs... Oh, yes, I'm familiar with those. What if the reason I've never felt comforted after praying/never felt like I've gotten an answer to my prayer is just that I'm not doing it right? That was the overwhelming question of the approximately ten years of junior high through college. What if it's true that, because my husband and I aren't married in the temple, we won't be able to be together forever? That was the question that panicked me the most when I started realizing that I didn't like what the church was telling me.

    I'm in a pretty weird place right now, to be honest, because I'm actually feeling pretty comfortable with the fact that I don't believe the church is "true". I keep saying it to myself, and it keeps feeling right. But this has all happened pretty much completely inwardly; you all know, my online friends know, but none of my real-life friends or family know (except the ones who read this blog). And I think what scares me is that it feels like the transformation is already complete, if you will—that, rather than just a questioning Mormon, I am now someone who officially doesn't believe in the church anymore—which means... I don't know how long I can bluff it with my family. I almost wish I would have let them know I was questioning right from the beginning, so that when I hedged about things, it could have been honest. Is this making sense? I'm not sure it is but I can't think of a better way to explain it right now.

    I'm not feeling angry anymore, but this might be because I'm just avoiding the issue. What I am still feeling is... resentment, I suppose. Like I said to Levi, I can't see any of the good things about the church right now. But I'm wondering if that's because I haven't been to church in about five years now, and maybe the good things have to be felt. I don't know. We really don't like our ward here—it's the ward I grew up in and my husband has worked at a really crappy job with several of the guys in it, which is awkward sauce all around—so we're just pretty much waiting until we move out of it. I'm planning on trying it out again once we do, though, since I still haven't decided how I'm going to swing it once my family knows; do I keep going to maintain family relationships? separate myself completely? do that thing where somehow I consider myself Mormon via culture/heritage, but not religion? (That seems like it'd be a weird thing to do, since I hate Mormon culture. :) But you know. Trying to figure it all out.)

    ANYWAY. Thanks so much for your comment. It is really good to know that there are others who are in a similar place.

  7. Good for you, for being able to & willing to say all this. I haven't been living like a Mormon for a few months now, but I just make excuses when I see people from church, and I avoid talking about it with anyone who doesn't already know I'm 'out.' A couple of weeks ago a friend told me to finally come out to my family already, but I'm afraid. I just don't want to deal with the disappointment.

  8. Oh, don't worry, I'm a coward too! I have told exactly two cousins and one aunt, all of whom live far away, and only because they've left the church too and I went to them for advice and support. Only my fMh friends know, and I have no immediate plans to tell people in my real life because... Well, the idea makes me panic. They're doing okay with my total inactivity, although that took them a while, too, and probably a big part of their ability to accept it was that I told them the reason I stopped going was because of my anxiety (which is true. But that's not what's kept me from going back). They are not going to take it well when they know the whole story. :/

  9. That ownership thing is/was huge for me, and I really like how you said it. I used to feel like a PR rep. - I couldn't be publicly critical of the church because I'd spent so much time promoting/defending/living the faith, and the cognitive dissonance of openly questioning was too great, not to mention the lack of a safe venue for such discussions. Then there's the weight of responsibility for other people's testimonies, potential testimonies, or lack of testimonies, etc.
    What I've found as I've come out is:
    1. As more people know, it has become less important to me that everyone know.
    2. Those relationships secured by the Mormon lynch pin were pretty flimsy to begin with.
    3. The relationships with more substance, especially where there is a mormon/religious component, have become better because not having mormonism in common has forced me/them into new avenues of connection/friendship.

    These are all things that I didn't anticipate. I thought it would hurt more when people didn't seek out my company or actively avoided me because I wasn't attending church anymore. But it turns out those people kind of suck, and I don't really miss litmus-test friendships. Also, a lot of people have surprised me with their capacity for compassion. Coming out as a non-believer has, in these cases, restored my faith in the church to support a morality/community I can believe in. That is a belief I thought was lost forever, and I am happy to be wrong.