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.
Let me get this straight: in the last seven weeks, your husband and you have
• Resigned his job as a seminary teacher
• Resigned from the Church
• Met with general and local Church authorities
• Planned to move your family of six to Utah
• Had powerful spiritual experiences
• Considered rebaptism
Seven weeks! Sweet MD, you are definitely in the whirlwind. Most people take a lifetime to cover that much ground. Seven weeks! Seriously!
I love the energy and integrity-seeking spirit of your letter. I do understand the impulses that led you to resign your membership. I’ve met lots of people raised to be utterly honest and truth-seeking Mormons who resign or break contact with the Church once they encounter some of difficult and complex aspects of Mormon history or find they can no longer maintain a literal approach to Mormon scripture and doctrine. A few invert the sharply black-and-white worldview they held as orthodox Mormons and become equally absolutist non-Mormons. Some never get beyond the rigidly black-and-white thinking they were taught as kids. Others develop greater humility, patience, and tenderness.
And that, my dear, is the point. Oftentimes the how matters just as much as the what. And the new how of your faith life is that you are now taking responsibility for creating a spiritual life on your own terms, not because it’s what you were taught, not because you feel compelled, but out of love, hope, and longing, because you actually want a connection with your Mormon identity and community. You’re right when you say you will never be the same as you once were. “When I was a child, I understood as I child,” said the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. “And then I read Mormon Enigma and everything changed.” Okay, Paul didn’t say that last part, but it remains true that life sends us circumstances that can change everything. And the changes can be bewildering and overwhelming.
Slow down. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We are here to learn by experience, and you need time to reflect and process experience. I’m not saying you should take forever to be rebaptized if that’s where the Spirit (and your heart) is leading you. I am saying that given all you’ve been through in the past seven weeks—I mean, really, seven weeks!–it would be safe to give yourself at least a few weeks more to sort this out, prayerfully, calmly, searchingly, so that you can take these first new steps in your independent spiritual life with a proper sense of peace and power. As for the other questions, about temple attendance, and your children, and the whole Mormon enchilada, you know what the scriptures say: “Line upon line, precept on precept.” Step by step. It will come to you. With each new step forward into the dark, a spot of light will appear. The spot may be small. It may take a while to materialize. It may be big enough for just you alone. But it will happen. Promise. Give it time. Breathe in. Breathe out.
And when you get to Utah, don’t hesitate to look up your local Mormon Stories support community. There are lots of Mormons like you who want to identify as Mormons even as they pass through faith transition and into post-literal forms of belief and practice. The Mormon story is a story about seeking. Your willingness to take brave bold steps in your search for truth is reason enough for me to claim you as my Mormon sister, no matter what your membership status is. And if you do decide to get rebaptized, I’ll be right there celebrating with you.
Readers, who has a word of advice or encouragement for MD? Have you been to the other side of a faith transition?
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