I Want My Church Back

saltlaketemple

I think about the time, back in 2007, when I was first introduced to the Church. It was all so new and exciting. It was revolutionary. In all honesty, it was love at first sight.

People always ask me what initially drew me to the Mormon faith. And I respond in the same way each time: “It just felt right. I knew this is what God wanted me to do.” There was no specific idea or doctrine that led me to the Church. It was literally just a good comforting feeling and a knowledge that this was the path I was supposed to be on. I suppose some would call that the Spirit, but whatever it was, I just knew I was supposed to be Mormon.

Fast forward nine years and I’ve definitely become entrenched in the LDS Church. I was baptized, I graduated from BYU, I received my endowment, I’ve gotten my Patriarchal Blessing, I’ve had callings, I speak the language, et cetera, et cetera. I am fully Mormon.

But also in that time, between all those significant events, I’ve come across hurtful things members have said. I’ve seen the Church declare war on feminism and homosexuality. I’ve seen them throw out faithful members for asking honest questions while still keeping those on the roles who take hostage government facilities and encourage violent standoffs. I’ve seen the priority go from loving and following Christ to loving and following the Brethren. I’ve seen the “Doctrine of the Family” come to power when I joined under the guise of the Doctrine of Christ. Every Sunday, it’s confusing as to what we as Mormons actually believe and find important.

I visited Salt Lake City last month, and stayed only 15 minutes away from Temple Square. I remember walking around and seeing couples and groups of friends coming out of the temple, smiles on their faces. I saw countless happy brides and smiling tourists walking around that sacred ground. I waved at peppy sister missionaries as they laughed with each other.

I felt so jealous.

I was jealous that all these people could find happiness and contentment where I now find pain and confusion and doubt. I stared up at the Salt Lake Temple and then turned my head toward the towering Church Office Building. My heart felt drawn back to the temple, but my mind knew that the policies of the Church Office Building would never let my heart win this battle of doubt.

On that day, at that moment, as I stood between the two symbols of the faith, I so badly wanted to go back to when I first joined. To when it was all new and good and peaceful. A part of me wished I never knew the things I did or felt the things I felt. I desired so fiercely to go back into the temple and worship. But then I looked back at the Church Office Building and walked away. The same spirit that I felt when I knew I had the join the Church was the same spirit I felt in that moment when I looked at the temple. There is still that hope and belief within me. And it is that hope and belief that keeps me from abandoning what I know and love. It is what keeps me pushing along hoping for change and the return of the peace I once felt.

Still, I can’t wait to have my church back. I can’t wait until I am able to feel again the Spirit of Love and Peace. I want nothing more than for my Church to teach me of the Christ that has redeemed me instead of modesty lessons, of marriage, of politics. I want my Church back.

East River Lady

24 years old. LDS Convert. New York Native. Mormon Feminist.

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23 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    “My heart felt drawn back to the temple, but my mind knew that the policies of the Church Office Building would never let my heart win this battle of doubt.”

    You do know that it is in that self-same temple, and not the office building, that the 15 Prophets, Seers and Revelators meet? That it would be in there that the decision to add policies to the handbook would have been taken?

    “I’ve seen the Church declare war on feminism and homosexuality.”

    I haven’t seen that. I have seen the Church continue its war on sin. And on the temptations and portrayal of how life “should be” painted by Satan.

    “I’ve seen the “Doctrine of the Family” come to power when I joined under the guise of the Doctrine of Christ.”

    Unlike you I have grown up in the Church. I can testify that I heard much more on your so called “Doctrine of the Family” than I did the “Doctrine of Christ” in Primary and my Youth.

    I hear a lot more, and teach it myself. I have in the last two months taught the Doctrine of Christ in sacrament meetings in three wards in my stake. I have also included it in teaching three youth classes in three units in my stake. What you say may be true where you are, but it is not true globally.

    I have never stood in Temple Square, or in any other part of Utah. So maybe I am sheltered from the storm that Satan appears to be raging there.

    • debo says:

      The “Doctrine of the Family” is pretty pervasive in Relief Society. By saying, “what you say isn’t true globally because I don’t see it,” you are trying to couch things in your experience, which I appreciate, but you’re still minimizing what East River Lady said. The way you’ve said it makes it sound like you believe her experience to be the outlier when perhaps your experience is the outlier. Please spend some time in Relief Society first before dismissing what’s pretty much a universal experience there as being “not true globally”.

      • Michael says:

        Exactly. Reminds me of Stephen Colbert saying (facetiously of course) that there’s no hunger ’cause I’M not hungry.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Andrew, in all sincerity, I want to ask you what you hope to get out of reading this blog. I’ve seen you and others do nothing but dismiss our writers’ heartfelt experiences. If you want to argue with someone’s personal experience, please go do it somewhere else.

      If you want to learn something, ask some questions to better understand statements you find untrue or make you uncomfortable instead of arguing with writers about how wrong they are to feel the way they do.

    • Spunky says:

      Where do you live, Andrew R?

  2. Emily U says:

    ERL, I sense and share the loneliness in your piece. I miss the feelings associated with many of my former beliefs. I don’t miss the beliefs themselves, but I do miss the comfort and security. However, we can only go forward. The Church for you and for me will never be what it was, because we have changed, it has changed, stuff has happened. But I do have hope that the Church stays relevant in my relationship with God and in my efforts to live as a disciple. For me that means I set the boundaries of my relationship to the Church, not the other way around.

  3. Clara says:

    Nice way to totally invalidate her feelings, emotions, and experiences. I congratulate you on your skill and technique.

  4. Cherisa says:

    This. This is how I feel. Thank you for putting words to my emotions.

  5. Lily says:

    “I’ve seen the “Doctrine of the Family” come to power when I joined under the guise of the Doctrine of Christ.”

    This is the crux of the problem.

    Andrew: “I have grown up in the Church. I can testify that I heard much more on your so called “Doctrine of the Family” than I did the “Doctrine of Christ” in Primary and my Youth.”

    How embarrassing for us as the Lord’s Church. This isn’t ok, whether its been going on a long time or only recently. Christ should be the center of everything we do and I am convinced it is why the Church is having a hard time right now. The focus is completely wrong.

  6. Ziff says:

    Great post, ERL. It’s so disappointing to find the Church to frequently be so badly behaved when it has such great potential and such high ideals. I’ve had a broadly similar experience, but over a different period of time, and it makes me wonder if unfortunately the reality of the Church failing to live up to its ideals is constant and it’s just a question of how soon we stumble on that fact.

  7. Heather says:

    Seriously Andrew R? Seriously? East River Lady I love your honesty and willingness to recognize the ways the church has failed you but still long for the spirit it once brought you. Thank you.

  8. sylvia cabus says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful essay. It really articulates so much of what I’ve been feeling over the past couple of years. I joined the Church almost 20 years ago and I miss the time when I was secure in my testimony, and the doubts were explained away or prayed away.

  9. Marivene says:

    During the week that precedes Easter (Holy Week to me, as I was baptized at age 18 & raised as UCC), I find myself pondering how the original 12 disciples felt.

    On Palm Sunday, it seemed that all Jerusalem was excited to welcome her new king… By Thursday, not so much. I think as mortals, we often “think we understand” long before we actually do.

    This year I have come to appreciate anew that the Savior suffered not only for my sins, but also for my pains & my disappointments. For the times when I would be “troubled.” He knew that I often would not understand, but He loved me enough to go thru Gesthemane – – for me.

    Raised as a Protestant, I was taught to ponder “holy mysteries”, but not to expect to understand them. As an adult member, now in my 60’s, I find that concept comforting – – that everything does not need to be crystal clear right now. As I told my oldest grandson a few years back, nowhere in The Book of Mormon does it say “Marivene must understand.”

    I appreciate Andrew for pointing out that policy decisions are made in the temple, not the office building. I had not thought about that, but now I will add that to my pondering list. The temple has always been a source of comfort to me, from my very first visit, I felt like I “had come home.”

    I find that when I am trying to understand, even when I am not totally successful in understanding, that I feel more of the “peace” I felt as a young convert. Perhaps in this mortal journey, the inner struggle is more important than the outward success in understanding.

  10. Shonnie says:

    I’ve been a member all my life, and continue to love the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, since returning from my mission I have learned the “truth beyond the truth” and feel deeply hurt by the dishonesty of the Mormon hierarchy. Their determined perspective to lien to their own understanding rather than to humbly seek the spirit and follow after the example of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block for the entire church. Having learned of the vast wealth they receive as compensation for entering the apostleship, and deliberately announcing their mantle of authority to be more important than the truth serves to only further illustrate that they truly do see themselves as “the elite”. And yet our Savior, the greatest of all, humbled himself beneath everyone. How is it that the 15 in the Church Office Building could act against Christ who said, “suffer the little children to come unto me.” Or perhaps the brethren understood better than Christ, that he only meant to bless those born into righteous LDS familes. How is it that those we’ve supported as our leaders would turn away our brothers and sisters and seek to destroy those lives whose commitment to truth has cast light on church historicity issues. While I continue to pray for our prophet, seers, and revelators, I am increasingly disappointed that what they see and reveal is contrastingly different than what Jesus Christ taught us.

  11. Violadiva says:

    I’ve been teaching my children about Holy week this week and we covered the cleansing of the temple on Monday night. I asked the question, “What would Christ cleanse from our temple or church if he came today? what would he cleanse from our homes and hearts? We determined that he would cleanse unkindness, hypocrisy, pride, jealousy, those sorts of things. I think our membership would be so much better off if we could emphasize what unifies us, what heals us, rather than what divides and isolates us. I, too, long for that overwhelming spirit of Christian love and peace — God grant that we all find it!

  12. Liz says:

    Me too, ERL. Me too.

  13. Jenny says:

    I experience the same feelings every time I go to temple square. That old nastalgia for the church that was my home and my comfort, mixed with a sense of loss and grief over what will never be the same again. Thank you for your beautiful words to express what’s in your heart. I feel it in my heart too.

  14. Amy says:

    Thank you ERL. Your experiences are valid; your thoughts are valid. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Spunky says:

    This is powerful, ERL. I want the church of Christ back, too.

  16. Christine Douglad says:

    Beautifully said ERL. It’s like you know my inner thoughts. Thankyou so much for sharing. X

  17. Michael says:

    I’m not all that old, but I’ve seen so much change since my parents and I were baptized in 1969. As an English prof, I blame a LOT of woes, in and out of the church, on a non-reading (or non-studying) lifestyle. People who don’t study can easily believe that how the church is today is how it’s always been, and of course it doesn’t help that contemporary church leaders say so. A big part of the current friction between the Church of the Holy Brethren (or Church of the Family) and the Church of Jesus Christ–as discussed here many times–is the advent of the internet and the broad and easy and at least virtually free access of archival materials. It’s too easy–at least for people inclined to read and study–to see that discussion and understanding of Heavenly Mother was common, that LDS women routinely gave blessings, that the RS was largely autonomous, etc. For an increasingly authoritarian leadership, that easy access to church history interferes with the drive to control information. And for so many authoritarian members, most of whom danced for joy when they graduated–“I never have to read anything ever again!”–church history began circa 1995 (with the exception of some Ur-doctrine from McKonkie), and the readers and studiers are just a bunch of trouble-makers in the thrall of Satan. >Sigh<

  18. Elise says:

    We need people like you at church changing people’s thoughts and ideas. Please stay 🙂

  19. Rachel says:

    I still remember a Sunday from my single-dom, when I returned from church and told my non-LDS roommate how two of the three hours that day were devoted to dating and marriage, and she responded “What’s that got to do with Jesus?” I am pretty sure I said something about eternal families and the LDS view of heaven, but am also pretty sure her’s was a fair question.

    Thank you for your post. xo

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