The primary leader stood in front of the small brown and gray classroom of thirty or forty kids wiggling in their Sunday best clothing trying to pay attention. It was in small town Texas in the eighties and there were no windows to even daydream out of to pass the time.
“Let’s have all the boys stand up as we sing this next song!”, she said.
My nine or ten-year-old curiosity was peeked I’m sure. This didn’t happen every week that they would call all the boys up to stand up. Every child was paying attention now as the primary leader said, “Let’s sing I Hope They Call Me On A Mission.”
The music started and I started to sing along with all the other kids just doing their best to be obedient and reverent despite being at church for three hours.
At some point though, I became indignant. I thought to myself, “Why do only the boys get to stand up. That’s not fair. I want to go on a mission, too.”
That was my first memory of recognizing the patriarchy in my church – The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. AKA – The Mormons.
When I was 21 years old, I went on that mission.
One Saturday night in high school, my sister and I went to hang out with friends. We had been gone all day at the temple doing baptisms for the dead. My friends probably asked questions as so many of them did back then. After all, we were different. Very.
We were surrounded by Baptists mostly, and in the minority always. Being Mormon in Texas was weird. I was weird.
The conversation was friendly as our friends asked us questions about where we had been all day and what we had been doing.
Then someone said, “You know Mormonism is a cult, right?”
The day I dared to read.
At 43 years old, the house is quiet. It’s a warm October day and the kids are all at school so I climb back into bed with my phone even though sunlight is pouring through my bedroom windows and I should probably be doing something productive.
I take a deep breath and begin reading. Time passes in an instant as I devour the 84-page letter that years ago I would have avoided like the plague. It is “anti-Mormon” after all.
Stunned, I log on to the church website to disprove the letter, but instead my fears are confirmed. I was lied to. Deceived. Perhaps, my whole life is actually not what I thought.
Questions and thoughts flood my mind faster than I can keep up.
Could it be that it’s not the one true church on the earth?
Was Joseph Smith a conman and I fell for it?
How did I not know these things? Who does know these things?
Is the Book of Mormon not real?
Did I deceive all those people on my mission?
Why am I wearing these garments?
Did I have a testimony in something that wasn’t real?
Did I even believe if I gained unbelief so quickly?
What did I do?
It’s been two months and my world has been turned upside down. I can’t think straight, and I cry a lot. My husband knows my pain. I’ve sobbed in his arms; and spoken numbly about things that used to fill me with hope that I was on the right path.
I have lost my faith.
After 43 years of devotion and surety, it was gone in a matter of days. Devastated is the only word for it. Heartbreak is the only feeling I can make sense of right now.
I have never once wanted to not believe despite all the requirements from my high demand religion.
Don’t swear. Dress modestly. Never drink alcohol, smoke, or even have a cup of coffee. Give 10% of all you earn to the church. Clean the church. Stay pure. Leave people out of your wedding that don’t believe. Be submissive. Go to church for three hours every week. Dedicate your time, talents, and energy to the church. Love God. Obey Him. Always.
I was happy. I knew my path and knew where I was headed. God was always there. I had the answers to all the existential questions. I was unique and special. I have a great husband, a great marriage, great kids. A GOOD life.
I have lost my faith.
Maybe I ruined my life, or maybe I’m free.
I daydream about being out. I imagine telling all my friends in my ward (congregation) and walking away. I imagine being ostracized and alone, like so many have been. I imagine telling a man behind a desk that I’ve lost my way and to leave me alone.
It isn’t that simple though, so I find a therapist that specializes in helping people with faith transitions.
I know this road will be impossible. I know I will be pitied. I know I will be seen as lazy, broken, or wanting to sin. I know my kids might even view me differently now. I worry about my husband.
I have lost my faith. Nothing is easy now.
I wake up at 4 am regularly now unable to breathe and stop the obsessive thoughts. I feel broken and yet, somehow, I feel like I’m going to find my way.
Because those thoughts I’ve been suppressing can maybe be listened to now. Those gut feelings that something wasn’t right can possibly be trusted. The grip of the rod I’ve held onto with determination and steadfastness can maybe be loosened. I can maybe find my footing again.
I can still feel God. I know He hasn’t forgotten me. I feel Him stronger than ever now leading me down an unknown path that I never imagined I would travel. I am afraid; but feel authentic.
I hope one day the path will lead me to myself.
Having your own faith crisis? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share your story.