You ready for this?
I’ll start off by saying that this post is meant to be a celebration! Yes.
It’s about a journey and about a life.
It’s about great PEACE, JOY, and finding TRUTH.
It’s also a celebration of connection. I write this post with a desire to connect with YOU and sit around the table with you and share authentic life stuff with you. And, also with a desire to address several questions that have come in over the last year in regards to me being a Mormon.
So if you’d like, grab a cup of tea!
I grew up Mormon in Arizona, in a large Mormon family with deep Mormon roots who lived in pioneer homes and went to historic Mormon churches. No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t get the Mormon “testimony” to work for me. I was supposed to just know that the church was the one true church, but it didn’t work. At age 18, I was asked to be a keynote at a Mormon graduation event at a high school in Mesa, AZ. I told them no. “Why?” they asked. “I don’t believe in this. I can’t fake this anymore.”
I grew up again in NYC in my twenties and it turns out that I did return to Mormonism many years later. This time, I had a spiritual awakening under my belt that took place outside of the Mormon church. That awakening included meditation while walking the streets of Manhattan and smiling from ear to ear while reading Eckart Tolle on the train (all the while with divorce docs in my bag and fresh infertility drugs in my fridge that would go unused) – and through it all, I began to seem some beauty within the Mormon church…beauty that I hadn’t seen before.
During those years, some of the BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE took place because I was a Mormon. Yes, it’s true. The Brooklyn Mormon community is pretty rock star, as far as Mormon communities go. Most of the people are open and accepting and feel like family. Combine that with opportunities for teaching, learning, soul searching, connecting, speaking, stretching, planning, shoveling, painting, feeding, mentoring, serving, loving and you just might feel absolutely rich with experiences and friends and community. I did. And it truly, truly was extraordinary.
Honoring it All
After my divorce, I used to stand and sing hymns with Brooklynites so dear that tears would just stream down my face at the beauty of life and the beauty of humanity.
I used to mentor young girls and feel all the purpose in the world as I taught them and mentored them. The very day I got word that my divorce was final, it kinda didn’t phase me because my home was packed with a gathering of Brooklyn kids and Christmas decor and baked ziti. (A hip hop dance-off was also definitely involved.)
I had the opportunity to start a Women of Faith Lecture Series in Brooklyn that led to THE. MOST. INCREDIBLE. evenings of our lives as women spoke openly and authentically for the first time about their journeys with faith – in and out of challenges such as money troubles, a failing marriage, anorexia, being gay in the LDS community, twins who were born prematurely, breast cancer, suicide of family members, infertility, depression, motherhood, or being a feminist woman in the Mormon church. There is more. And I cherish every word. It was raw and real and the connection felt between us all and the stories of faith were so empowering I can hardly describe. It was history in the making.
The women in our Brooklyn congregation cared for a woman and single mother dying of cancer. We’ll never forget it. Coordinated pick-ups and drop-offs for chemo at Kings County Hospital became sacred. Rotating caretaking for her 15 year old autistic daughter became our world. We held a gathering for the woman to honor her during the last weeks of her life. She insisted on making soup for all of us even though she had few resources (and very little energy) to make the soup at all -and she made it special for me with no gluten. I truly have no words.
After Hurricane Sandy, the New York Mormons cancelled church and went full force into the hardest hit areas. It was literally the National Guard and the Mormons in those early days. Weekend after weekend, people went out. They even came by bus from areas as far as Pennsylvania. We ended up in a truck with some guys that had driven all night to get to Staten Island. We were headed to rip out a house full of wood floors. Um. Us city folk were in over our heads. The men laughed. They were full blown carpenters from the sticks with country accents and a truck full of real tools. And off we went to rip out wood floors and dodge rusty nails.
Every Sunday in Brooklyn I would walk or drive across the Gowanus Canal from the Mormon church on Court Street and feel like my heart was just ripped open to the max – like I had just been filled to the brim with friendship, fellowship, and the beauty of people giving their best to the world. Nothing else mattered more. Nothing else was more beautiful than connection with humanity.
With all my heart, I honor and cherish every experience I’ve ever had associated with the Mormon Church. Even times in my life where I felt spiritually inadequate according to their models. Or felt confused. Or in turmoil. Or embarrassed. Or spiritually not fulfilled. Or deeply disappointed. Or shamed. Or treated as ‘less than’ as a woman. Or censored. Or silenced. Yes, there has been that, too.
But it has ALL made me who I am.
It has ALL led to greater growth and spirituality; a stronger voice; greater human development; greater opportunities to learn how to live and speak my truth.
I couldn’t be more grateful.
As I continue on my spiritual path, for quite some time I have found myself feeling not as moved (and even repelled) by many of the teachings, principles, doctrines, beliefs, phrases, proclamations, practices, culture, policies, structure, and procedures that once were just so much a part of my life and conditioning that I barely noticed them, like freckles on my hand. Yes, I believe in serving others and singing hymns. But it’s the words spoken in between that are now vastly different than the truths I want to align with.
And so, I honor the fact that it doesn’t resonate anymore. For me, I easily and freely follow that part inside me that doesn’t yearn to participate like I once did. Going against my own grain is not something I really ever do. So I am at peace.
What does that look like for me?
-I remain curious. I remain a seeker more than ever. There is good to be found all around in this big, beautiful, wide world and I want to continue finding it. I want to seek after experiences that feel true to my own spiritual path and the truths that I hold near and dear. Energy is too precious to do anything else.
-My spiritual path is this: I want to cultivate peace from the inside out, regardless of circumstances. I want to do what aligns with LIGHT, TRUTH, SEEKING, INTERNAL & SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT, INTUITION, ACCEPTANCE, and most of all, LOVE (vs. fear, shaming, excluding, manipulation, judgement, control, silencing, excommunicating).
-Currently my spiritual path does not involve church attendance, and hasn’t for over a year. The church culture and environment here in Ecuador doesn’t speak to me currently. I felt the same way when we attended church in many cities in the west during our U.S. Tour. On the other hand, in the past I have loved the church culture in Brooklyn, which traditionally has been a very accepting/open culture within the Mormon church. There’s a chance I’ll continue to partially participate to some extent in the community there when we return. We’ll see how that goes. Though I know many open minded people are actually leaving the church, too, in massive numbers these days. It’s quite possible the church environment in Brooklyn may also be quite different when we return.
-Participating at the highest level of worship (in the temple) is not something I’ll be doing as they do have strict questions in place in order to enter the temple. I have had some very beautiful, spiritual, and uplifting experiences in the temple. Though based on my beliefs, I no longer fit the profile they desire for temple worship and would not be considered “worthy” according to their standards.
-For about a decade, I’ve been cleansing any conditioning out of me that I find doesn’t serve me and others. Most things I can easily drop like a hot rock. One or two things were a long process over many years. Though there’s one cultural belief that has some complex lingering affects. It’s the belief that says: I was supposed to get educated, but not really focus on a career – because, you know, motherhood. So a meaningful career was truly never even a thought in my mind. I find that mind boggling now! And I’m now working on that and forging a path.
-I want to accept and have love and forgiveness for ALL those around me. That includes the Mormon institution and believing Mormons, even when I disagree deeply on many accounts. I know they are doing what they believe to be righteous, and they are doing what they have been taught.
-I desire to connect with people in every religion or spiritual path. I want to explore other communities and also form an even greater community here and with those around me. I simply delight in our retreats, as it brings together people from so many different backgrounds. Stay tuned for a retreat in 2016.
Is it hard to share about this shift?
It actually feels really natural and normal to talk about it. I’m ok forging my own path.
I will admit, though, it IS a bit strange to be a blogger and a known Mormon while making a shift. I have many dear Mormon readers here and I know many of you may be saddened by this news. So my heart is definitely full for any of you in those shoes as I know it can bring on feelings of disappointment, sadness, or betrayal. I’ve heard from some Mormons already – some who have even said they can no longer read my blog or consider me an online friend. It’s as though their trust in me has been lost. Well, what can I say? I truly hope that we can still be friends! And that we can continue to share stories about our path through life and our path to live with more LOVE. This blog will carry on as it has before. It has been life changing for many Mormons and non-Mormons alike. I hope that all will continue to feel welcome and included here. I love all of you and accept you – exactly as you are!
Is this a crisis for you?
No, this isn’t a crisis for me. I see it more as exciting and empowering; a new chapter.
Since my spiritual awakening took place outside of the Mormon church, I always knew that the spiritual part of myself was my own and it wasn’t intertwined automatically with a third party like the Mormon church. Unlike most believing Mormons, I have never seen the church as THE way or “THE one true church”, but as a tool that could possibly be a stepping stone. And it was a beautiful one for me. For that I am grateful.
Is there loss?
Yes. I used to rely on the church for quite a bit of inspiration throughout the year. So now, I’m filling those gaps with other things. This loss is actually great as it’s stretching me more and more. I’ve been seeking out new books, people, discussions, meditations, yoga, workshops, nature, retreats, podcasts, etc. And I know there is so, so much out there to explore!! Heck, I may even check out a church gathering of expats here in Cuenca. I’ve never done anything like that! haha. By the way, if you have ANY spiritual recommendations or explorations for me, I would so love to hear from you. Any Brooklyn recommendations will be especially noted. 🙂
Also, I feel loss of the community. Yes, I miss the fellowship. For now, may you know how deeply I appreciate this community here on the blog and the gatherings that we’ve had with so many of you. The care and conversation and connection that takes place here is truly enriching to my life. I hope it is enriching to you, too. It’s my DREAM that we can all gather more and more in the future!
Will you still consider yourself Mormon?
You know, it may look more like this: “I grew up Mormon, but I no longer attend. My spiritual path doesn’t fully resonate with it at this time.” Though much of my family and many friends are Mormon and my husband still attends, so I’ll still be in touch with it to some degree and I welcome that. You’ll probably still catch me at church if someone I know is speaking. Or if there’s a chili-cook-off to be won. Or if there is an opportunity to join with the community through an activity or a charitable outreach of some kind. Hurricanes, bring it on.
I send love to ALL of you! I send gratitude for your friendship and kindness. I send sisterhood to all of you. I send JOY to all of you who are on a spiritual path of some kind. Isn’t it beautiful? I think it’s one of the most beautiful paths there is and I’m grateful to be on this journey with you as we make our way.
It is my hope that this post brings more connection and less distance as we are all sisters in this together. There is room for all of us around the table. I say we all take a chair!
Also, I’d love to hear what your reaction is to my post or if you have any questions.
Ask and comment away!
With all my love,
P.S. See the comments to see how my dear husband feels about it!