Category Archives: faith transition

My wife and I are really anguished over gender issues in Mormonism. Help?

My wife is a Mormon feminist, and I share many of her views. We have two children who we love very much and we want to raise them in a way that will keep them in the faith and close to the Spirit, while still hoping to instill in both of them progressive, compassionate views. We want them both to feel valuable and loved, by us and by our Heavenly Parents, despite whatever cultural pressures may be placed on them.

Obviously, there are some cultural elements of Mormonism that make some of these goals of ours difficult. Sometimes I look at my daughter and my son and simply don’t know how to teach them in a way that will help them find the deep spirituality and closeness to God that I have found within the core doctrines of the Church, while still helping them see and avoid some of the destructive attitudes and double standards that are applied against women in the Church. We want our son to see women as peers, as equals, as friends, not as opposites to somehow balance out prescribed, enforced gender roles. We want our daughter to feel the liberation of being her own person, living a life of intelligence, spirituality, and self esteem, feeling like she can do good both in the home and out in the wider world. We want that for both of our children. 

Sometimes I find my wife crying in desperation and anguish over the conflict she feels inside. She has a deep testimony and has had many spiritual experiences that have kept her in the Church. But there is a constant tension, as she resists some of the hurtful tendencies of Mormon culture and the persistence of certain sexist attitudes. She especially feels the ache towards our Heavenly Mother. She wants to get closer to Her, this figure of Divine Feminism, whom we give quiet lip service to in the Church (but not publicly, and not too loudly). She is hidden behind a veil and She has become taboo, which wrenches my wife’s heart. 

I want to help her. I want to help my children as they grow up. Frankly, sometimes I also want to help myself. These questions aren’t so easy for me either. I have put forth a great deal of prayer, and felt inspiration at times, but I would also love to hear other perspectives.  Help?

Warmest Regards,

Seeking a Better Way

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I’m a 19 year old progressive Mormon woman, and I’m so frustrated at church. Help?

Dear AMG:

I am 19 years old, studying global health at [Ivy League college] and am struggling with my testimony.

As the fortunate progeny of faithful, intellectual Mormons, I was taught to never shy away from the big questions within Mormonism and within the world. The past few months have been a whirlwind of grappling with tough topics for me. Last summer, I worked in Ghana doing orphanage reform work and saw firsthand the plight of special needs children in Ghanaian orphanages. Seeing such deprivation and poverty forced me to realize the stark contrasts in the situations under with God places his children, and I struggled to refine my understanding of suffering and the Atonement. Then, I spent the past several months working with leading researchers to analyze a survey on the experiences of LGBT/SSA individuals in the Church. The narratives I read in this study were so heartbreakingly honest and the stories of shattered testimonies so poignant that they have made me increasingly critical of the church and its stance on homosexuality, among other issues.   Continue reading

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I’m a 66 year old lapsed Catholic. I’m not a conventional believer, but I miss my Catholic home. Help?

A funny thing happened last week after this little profile of me appeared at CNN.com:  I started hearing not just from Mormons, but from people of faith of all stripes who recognized in my story something very similar to their own.  Because, friends, it’s not just Mormons who face crises and transitions in their faith.  It’s not just Mormons who wrestle with belief and doctrine and institution.  It happens in just about every faith tradition on the face of the earth.  We are not alone.

Witness this letter I received from a man named Mark:

I’m a 66 year-old “Ex” Catholic. I decided to distance myself from the Church for many reasons:  I believe in married priests, women priests, and family planning beyond the abstinence pushed by the Catholic hierarchy. I’m not at all certain that the Catholic Church is the “one, true church” and that all others, Mormonism included, are somewhat defective since they were not established by Jesus. I believe that other gospels are relevant and good. And I’m not into the belief that the host in Mass is truly Jesus’ body.

For years, I sat in Mass and listened to preaching of the above and more. One day, a couple of years ago, I finally realized that my quietly listening to such talk was being read by others as agreement or submission. I told my wife that I could no longer allow my presence to be misread by priests and others as support for their beliefs.

I feel bad about the disconnectedness from the community that I was involved in for more than 60 years. I feel like a bad person sometimes. But the Church response is that if I choose to be Catholic, I must believe the tenets of the faith.

How would you answer this dilemma? 

I handed this question over to a friend of mine named Nadia, a Catholic woman who, funny thing, started hanging out around the Mormon bloggernacle a few years ago.  There was something in our stories and struggles she recognized as her own.  I was lucky enough to meet Nadia last week in New York City.  The world needs an Ask Catholic Girl, I told her.  She wrinkled her nose.  Late last night, I forwarded Mark’s query to Nadia.  And here is her response.

Mark,

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. I am a 21-year-old progressive Catholic feminist. I long for the day when a woman can raise her right hand to bless the congregation with the Sign of the Cross. I worry that The Church forgets how important the sacredness of human agency is. I’ve read the Book of Mormon and the Quran, and they were beautiful. Some days, I know that those wafers are the Body of Christ, and other days that idea sounds crazy.  You and me Mark, we’re the same.

I suspect that when I sit in the very first pew, smack dab in from of my priest in my New York City parish, he thinks I have it all figured out. I don’t. I go to Mass on Sundays to say, “I ask you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to Lord our God,” and to share in a community meal.

Some Sundays, I lay in bed reading Why do Catholics Do That? because the thought of going through the motions feels disingenuous. Other Sundays, when I am back home in Texas, I sit in my car in the parish parking lot and listen to Mormon Stories podcasts while sipping a slushy from Sonic.  

Let me let you in on a little secret. St. Paul tells us, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” Mark, you and me we were baptized into this beautiful, confusing, mess of a Church and the priests on Sunday, uber-devout fellow Catholics, the Pope himself or our own misgivings can’t change that.

What would happen if you went to church this coming Sunday? I vote you come home. Maybe it won’t be this Sunday. Maybe this year you’ll go on Easter and Christmas. Maybe your first Sunday back you’ll slip out after Communion. You have every right to come home. To sit, stand and kneel, even though Church doctrine tells us people like you and me shouldn’t receive the Body of Christ come up to the altar and say “Amen.” The craziness we carry around with us during Mass is for us to ponder and pray about and for God to iron out.

BAM!  Beautiful.  A community meal, as Nadia says, to be shared in across faith traditions.  And what if the point of a religious tradition is having a place to sort out your “craziness,” as Nadia puts it?

Readers, what do we learn when we listen to the experiences of other people of faith?  What additional advice can you give Mark from your own faithful perspective?  And who has three cheers for Ask Catholic Girl?

Follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.  Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com.  Read The Book of Mormon Girl.

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Filed under ask catholic girl, faith transition

After seven years away, I’m hungry to come back to Mormonism. But how?

Before I dive into this week’s query, I want to offer a big thank you to the American Public Media show On Being hosted by the marvelous Krista Tippet who invited me on last week to share my Mormon story. If you don’t know this wonderful program, please check it out. And, now, onto our question:

Dear AMG,

I lost my faith when I was 20 years old, home on summer vacation from BYU. I quit going to church, broke my parents’ hearts, traveled a bit, transferred to another university, married a non-member, and tried to fill the Mormonism-shaped hole in my life, which wasn’t particularly large until recently.

In the past year or so, I’ve developed a desire to return to church, to don a dress every Sunday and maybe even have a calling. I miss my community. I miss my people. This is sort of baffling to me, seeing as how I was “less active” (at BYU, no less!) for a long time before losing my faith, mostly because I found church depressing and boring. It sounds funny, but I have a much greater love and appreciation for the Mormon tradition now that I’m something of an outsider than I ever did while I was in it.

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be an adult Mormon. I don’t know how to start in a new ward, especially since I have no inclination to apologize for or be ashamed of the past seven years of my life. I’m married to a non-member and childless– not exactly a great way to fit in. I don’t know if going back is possible. I don’t even really have any religious beliefs, beyond a vague belief in “something more” and an appreciation for the Christ-story. All I know is that I’d really like to come home.

Am I crazy? Is going back possible? How?

Sincerely,

Outside Looking In

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My husband and I resigned our LDS Church membership last month. Should I get rebaptized?

Dear AMG:

I find myself traveling a wildly confusing path. My husband has taught seminary for the Church since the day we graduated from BYU. The first week of August this year, he resigned his position after we both realized the orthodox approach to religion we’d both so publicly preached and represented was full of holes and a good many fallacies.

A week after his resignation went through, we resigned from the Church. We did this quickly, stemming from a desire for integrity. We’d always stood for that which we believed, we didn’t want the youth taught and nurtured by our example feeling confused in any way by our obvious lack of attendance at church. Two weeks later, in the throes of absolute torment, in a place somewhere between asleep and awake, I feel God offered me connections that clearly taught the power of some of the Church’s teachings. I woke with a clear realization that we’d done wrong in completely cutting ourselves off from the Church. So, this week, we are packing the house and moving from beautiful Colorado Springs to the great basin of Utah to get our children close to family and try to sort some of this faith transition out.

We’ve met with general authorities, bishop, and stake president, all of whom want to see us rebaptized as soon as possible. In one breath, we want to do it. We want to please all of these good people around us whom we love so dearly. In the very same breath, we hesitate. Because we’re not the same. We don’t believe the same. We may not ever want to return to garment-wearing, temple attending life. But, there’s not a darned thing we want to change as far as our lifestyle. We believe in all of the teachings of the church that fully support a strong moral code (excepting a few, like the current views & politics toward the LGBT community). We want our children to love and embrace all of the good of their LDS heritage. Heck, we even want them to be baptized members of the church (if they so desire, and even this choice is becoming a struggle for our 13-year old, who struggles immensely with so many of the concepts of the church which seem to entirely defy current scientific understandings). So, our question is, do we hurry and rebaptize everyone to right the hasty decision we made to resign from the Church? Do we return to the temple as ones who see so much good in the Church, while still not fully believing in many of the ordinances (and maybe prophets and maybe even the actual historicity of the Book of Mormon?) And I don’t even know where to START in what to teach my children about some of the doctrines, though I hope so entirely they’ll be able to accept and love all of the good, beautiful, truly inspiring aspects of our church/ethnicity/history.

MD

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I’m at a tricky spot in my religious life, and I’ve let my temple recommend expire. Now, my best friend is getting married in the temple. Help?

Dear AMG,

I was born and raised in a fairly orthodox Mormon household in Southern California. My parents are still active, but three out of their five children are not (I’m counting myself as one of the “active” ones). I married an LDS man in the temple, but he has since left the church. His questions led me to question and now I’m not entirely sure what I believe. I attend a few Sacrament Meetings a month, but don’t hold a calling or pay tithing, and basically fly under the radar at church. My temple recommend expired this last May. My brothers’ inactivity has been pretty hard on my parents. As was my husband’s decision to leave. I consider my parents to be pretty open-minded, and they’ve always been very loving and accepting, but I know they are saddened by this on a daily basis.

This brings me to my current predicament—my best friend will soon be getting married in the temple and I have to make some choices. I have been pretty quiet about my questions about the Church. I don’t live near my childhood friends or family, so it hasn’t been very hard, but I am absolutely dreading this wedding which will be held in my hometown. I will either have to A) go talk to my bishop, be honest about my situation, start paying tithing, and see if he still decides to give me a recommend, or B) be honest with my parents, siblings, and friends about the fact that I don’t know if the Church is true and make everyone sad and upset. I don’t think either option is very palatable. The thought of feeling like I let parents down is heartbreaking, as is the thought going to the temple when I feel this way. I don’t know what to do.

I would love to hear any advice you may have.

Thanks,

K.
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Ask Mormon Girl: I’m no longer an orthodox believer. How do I tell my parents?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl,

I don’t know how to tell my family that after years of doubting, praying, reading, pondering, and finding support and justification from Sunstone and Mormon feminist havens like fMh and Exponent, I no longer believe. My heart was in a constant state of breaking while I was trying to be Mormon. And that’s to say nothing of the cognitive incongruities that also spurned my agnosticism.

I’m a junior in college right now (going to BYU worked wonders with my fledgling deconversion), and my ideological distance from my parents is beginning to affect me even more than the geographical. I claim to have left for moral reasons, yet I’m basically lying to them. Lying is painful. But telling the truth will be even more painful. I’d hate for them to wonder what they did wrong when in reality I’m the way I am because of what they did right, like encouraged open-mindedness and sensitivity.

I know there’s not a way I can break this to them easily, but I desperately need suggestions of how to do it in the least painful way possible. Thanks.

Sincerely,

Honest
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Filed under faith transition, family, parenting