“My entire belief system has shifted”

My name is Sherry. Forty-eight. Mom of three with four bonus children! Happy, fun with a liberal heart and mind. I live in Utah, with my husband, our two cats (Prince Jerry and Princess Madeline). I’m constantly creating, looking for inspiration, and always up for an adventure.

Andy Carter/flickr/Creative Commons

At the young age of 8 years old, I was baptized into the Mormon Church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I didn’t really know much about the church or religion other than I knew it was expected of me to be baptized and my parents were members.

I think I realized around age 10 or 11 that my family was exclusively different from other families in the church. By this, I mean the way other families behaved versus the way my family (parents) behaved.

My friend’s parents would hold weekly Monday night family nights. My parents didn’t do that. My friend’s families would pray together, pray at meals and read scriptures. My parents didn’t do that either.

I learned the word hypocrite at a fairly young age. One morning after a Sunday school class I was called a hypocrite by another young girl. At that moment, I didn’t know what the word meant but I learned later on and it devastated me. I began to dread going to church because of the other children and I always felt like my family was different. I mean, my family had never even been to the temple, let alone, sealed for time and eternity. Nevertheless, I had to go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other afternoon or night that an activity took place. My childhood and preteen social life revolved around the Mormon Church, which at the time didn’t seem too awfully bad.

I didn’t learn about the church history or what Mormons truly believe until just a few years ago. Of course I had heard rumors about Joseph Smith and his mystical and enchanting behavior and obviously I knew about Brigham Young’s polygamy. At any rate, I didn’t give any of it much thought and continued on with my “beliefs” and developed a rather judgmental attitude towards anyone who didn’t believe the way that I did or practice Mormonism.

Here is an example: after my husband I were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 2006 our son (my stepson) had recently returned home from his mission. He met a girl who was not a member of the church and asked her to marry him. I was furious! I was mean to his fiancée and talked behind her back. It breaks my heart now just knowing how mean and closed minded I was. I have since, apologized for my behavior and we are close and I love her unconditionally.

A few years ago, I read a book by Rebecca Musser called The Witness Wore Red. It’s a story about the woman who brought Warren Jeffs, the “prophet” from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), to justice. While reading her book I noticed quite a few similarities between the FLDS and the LDS churches. In fact, almost everything was the same except for the polygamous relationships. It really bothered me. I couldn’t shake the feeling off and decided that I needed to do more research on the Mormon Church’s history.

With that said, after a full year of research, reading and studying I made the decision to be fully authentic with myself. What this meant was that I could no longer subscribe to an organization that had more flawed history than what I was willing to put my trust and faith into.

It has been a journey and a huge eye opener for me. I have some family who continue to accept me and some who do not. It’s taken a toll on my marriage and we have had some tough times. We are still together though. I have learned not to discuss or bring up religion with my husband. I accept him as a person and love him. His beliefs are not my beliefs. My thoughts are that we don’t have to share the same beliefs in order to be a couple. It’s still uncertain to me if he would agree with that statement. We just don’t “go there.”

I no longer believe in patriarchy or that men are the only ones worthy to hold higher positions than women. I no longer believe that “God” only wants straight people or members of the Mormon Church in heaven, or in Mormon terms, the “Celestial Kingdom.

My entire belief system has shifted. I went from certainty to uncertainty in a very short time. I believe I’m a good person and I don’t feel a need to belong to an organized religion to prove that to myself or anyone else and if there is a God, I don’t think he/she cares either.

Read More

Heavenly Mother’s Day: Vision of Her Love

galen-dara-heavenly-mother

Like our poet-prophetess of old, I too seek the “mutual approbation” that comes from our Heavenly Parents to let me know that I’m not alone or without their guiding influence, love, and care.

I have felt the love of God in very strong ways throughout my life, but not always on a regular basis.  I look and pray for the chance to feel God’s love every day by trying to put myself in situations where I believe they can reach me. There are many instances of their mercy and kindness scattered throughout every day life which I do not always recognize, but I wish the moments of witness came with more power and more often.

 

The desire to feel a more fervent love from God occupied my mind one evening on the way to weekly yoga practice.  The instructor focused the class on setting an intention and  visualizing that intention coming to fruition. Throughout the class, her narrative included letting worrisome thoughts leave, focusing inward, and imagining our blessings flowing unrestrained into our lives.

Read More

Introducing our Heavenly Mother’s Day Series

CW: Suicidal thoughts

I moved to Oakland five years ago. One of my first outings in the Bay Area was a gathering at Carol Lynn Pearson’s house where she gave each of us copies of her play, Mother Wove the Morning. It sat on my shelf for months because I didn’t want to open up Heavenly Mother-less wound I had.

When I finally read it, half a year later, I discovered that I was right in that it was an intense experience. I loved reading it and yet I ached. I wanted a relationship with Heavenly Mother, but I didn’t know how. Unfortunately the bigger question for me was “why.” Why should I have a relationship with Her?

Read More

On Being Happy: Reflections On The 40th Anniversary Exponent II Issue

A few months ago when the young, male missionaries were over for dinner, we discussed the upcoming general conference. The boys had just attended a mission conference where the mission president asked them who their favourite general authority was. The boys reflected that each missionary there had a favourite speaker, and they laughed and felt closer to each other when they learned that others shared the same favourite. At this dinner, we all agreed that each general conference speaker was worthy, and would bring spiritual insights to the table. But we also agreed that there were one or more “favourites” who we were looking forward to learning from.

Every issue of the Exponent magazine is like this for me. I look forward to each worthy contribution of art, word, poem and song, and feel uplifted as so many of the contributions stay with me, bringing me peace, making me feel un-alone, and loved. Often the contributors who are previously unknown to me bring me the biggest enlightenment and delights, and I feel like I am making new friends of them as I read their words. But then there are my favourites. A handful of women whose words I save, I save them to read when the children and husband are away, for a time when I can invite them, and they spirit they bring to me. They know me, even if I have never met them. They teach me things that I often didn’t know I needed to learn. They heal me with prophetic wisdom that can only be administered by the spirit. They are my sisters, and I love them.

Lavina Fielding Anderson is one of these women. And this essay is one of those essays.

Read More

May Young Women Lesson: How can a patriarchal blessing help me?

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

by Lawrence OP on flickr https://flic.kr/p/q91R5DBefore the new Come, Follow Me curriculum, the 12 and 13 year old Sunday School classes studied the Presidents of the Church for 2 years. In that time, I remember hearing about prophets who received their patriarchal blessings at the ages of 13 (George Albert Smith and David O. McKay, precisely) and wanting to be righteous, I thought it would be good to want a patriarchal blessing just as early. However, every time I asked my parents if I could start the process of receiving a patriarchal blessing, they told me I ought to be older and needed to wait. I waited until I was 16 and it is very special to me.

Read More

Real Talk

Two Women were chatting in office(1)I confessed to being Mormon at a cocktail party recently. The startled expressions of my coworkers indicated that I had either said too much, or was clearly not in good standing with my religion, or some combination of both. I wondered if I had once again failed at small talk. I valiantly attempt to admire necklaces or recall the weather, but inevitably I end up asking a question or revealing some piece of information that veers the conversation way beyond customary topics and into “Here be Dragons” territory. I had brought up religion. In the Midwest. At a work function. I was courting exile.

An offhand mention of a construction assignment at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church building had elicited my proclamation. Much to my surprise, after the initial reaction, my two female companions eagerly started discussing their own religious upbringing and current involvement. We chatted about families, attendance, and what had shifted for us over the years. Then one of them looked me in eye and asked what I believed in now.

Read More