Leaving Eden

Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Belief, Doubt, grief, hope, Journeys, Mormon women, women | 23 comments

 

"Two Souls" by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

“Two Souls” by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

I have a secret to tell: I mourn not being able to be the Mormon woman I was always taught to be, that I was always told I would be, that I was always patted on the head for my righteous desires to be as a young woman. I wanted to have the lovely home, the quiver full of children, homeschooling, every meal homemade with love. I would lie awake at night when I was engaged to my husband, envisioning a life of fresh muffins in the morning and a constantly clean bathroom (admittedly, this one is still on my wish list).

I know the dream is idyllic and was completely unattainable from the start, but I still mourn the possibility. I never asked for my faith to take a dramatic shift, held together by ribbons of choice and streams of hope rather than anchored in certainty. I never asked for my mind to be so thirsty for more knowledge and information that the easy answers stopped working. I never asked for the postpartum depression that followed my births, making motherhood an excruciating tumble into the abyss of despair rather than a joyous journey in those first months and years. These are not the things we simply pick out of a lineup of potential experiments like cans on supermarket shelves. These experiences choose us and we learn how to stumble our way through as gracefully as possible.

But every day as I work to reason and share my heart with others about the experiences that have brought me to Mormon feminism, I am confronted with the woman that I once thought I would be: the woman who believes so easily, who finds joy and fulfillment where she’s told she would, the woman who is that Mormon woman. I mourn her despite the fact that my life experiences have caused me to cry out, “Please stop defining me by a biological process that, while bringing light and life, also brought utter darkness! Please stop telling me that I ‘just don’t understand,’ when my mind spends countless hours of every.single.day mulling over, praying over, writing over, and pondering over these things! Please stop telling me that I just need to have more faith when I’ve exercised all that I have in me and still, somehow, try to keep my faith together.

I mourn her because her life had a well-laid path and straight-forward answers. When belief was easy, she didn’t have to spend so much of her energy finding footholds. I mourn her because her life was not conflicted: read, pray, follow the prophet, endure to the end. Check, check, check, check.

One night as I shared the profound sadness in my loss of innocence with a friend, the picture became clear. Much of the time when we speak of the story of Adam and Eve, we forget how radical the underlying message is–in order to truly live and progress, we must choose knowledge. We must choose a life of paradox and pain. We must choose to have our eyes opened. We must leave the Garden. We must leave what we thought was the ideal, the simple and well-laid path, in favour of life.

I wonder if Eve, in those moments of toil in the lone and dreary world, ever looked back on Eden in the way that I look back on the woman I was always told I should want to be. I wonder if she thought, “what if my eyes had never been opened? What if I could have continued on peacefully without having to struggle, without being removed from the certainty of God’s presence? What if I had just done what I was supposed to do? Why did I seek out this knowledge?”

But like Eve, we go forward. This is the work of women. Forward, ever forward, eyes constantly lifted to heaven for more understanding, a space in our hearts for that piece of us that could have been continuously content but chose choice, uncertainty, and the height and depth of human emotions.

Forward, ever forward, with faith held together by ribbons of choice and streams of hope.

"Leaving Eden", out of 5 based on 16 ratings.

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23 Comments

  1. This is so good and speaks to my soul today. Thank you.

  2. Oh how this speaks to me! It is so clear that this is the purpose of life – eyes opened, gaining knowledge, feeling pain and joy in all their exquisite heights and depths. The only other way is to be stagnant, blissfully ignorant.

  3. This is very heartfelt and I think would resonate with more Mormon women than you realize. I don’t think that, digging below the surface, I’ve ever really met anyone who was “that Mormon woman.”

    • It’s so true, isn’t it? None of us are what we perceive others are on the outside.

  4. Oh! I’ve been morning the loss of my innocence these past few days. I used to be able to brush sexist things off so easily when curious non-member friends would ask me about them. Now I see it everywhere all the time. Reading this makes me feel a little less lonely. And I love the connection you made to Eve. Thank you, Thank you.

  5. “We must leave the Garden. We must leave what we thought was the ideal, the simple and well-laid path, in favour of life.”

    This is the most beautiful and comforting thing I have read all week. Thank you.

  6. This is so beautiful, Amy. I too have mourned, but the new light and love that has come with the new knowledge has dulled and very nearly erased the pain now. After the darkness comes the dawn. “Joy cometh in the morning.”

  7. Thank you so much for this. I was just talking to a non-member friend earlier today about how I wish I could go back to life before coming to feminism. You’ve just reminded me why it is worth it to keep going.

  8. This is a work of art, Amy. Beautifully expressed, perfectly articulated. Amen. We leave the Garden again and again. God help us. God bless. Every one.

  9. So beautiful. Thank you for expressing something I have felt, but not yet found the words to describe.

  10. How often eloquence blurs truth. May I ask exactly what you did, or what happened to you to make you separate yourself from sacred covenants with God himself? I am also VERY confused at your betrayal of Mormon women. I know very few, if any, who lives are perfect, easy, and ‘checked off.’ Thats why we have the gospel to get us through this rotten life!!! This is Satans last great trap… The belief that love for yourself and personal ‘attainment’ of what you ‘want’ is more important than the commandments of The Lord. I would love to know what is so amazingly better ‘out there.’ Drinking? Promiscuity? No tithing? Taking out the boat instead of taking your children to church? Because if it wasn’t any one of these, why leave? You are giving up an incredible community of help and support? I can guarantee you are feeling like ‘looking back’ for more reasons than you think.

    • Vickie, I don’t think you read my posting correctly at all. I’m an active, participating, holding-on-to-belief Mormon woman with a family that I love dearly. I never suggested that I have “gone off the deep end,” just that I let go of what I thought was the ideal. I never suggested that I’ve committed any great sin, just that my quest for knowledge and understanding led me to a place where my faith was greatly challenged and that radically altered how I approached life and saw my role in it. I know that this perfect woman does not exist, but she is the emblem of what my unquestioning belief looked like. She’s not real, but a piece of my heart will always long for her, even if I know she can never be.

      • You are right Amy. We are all Eve. Some of the Eve’s are still roaming the garden without knowledge and it’s a nice place. Some are hacking it out in the lone and dreary world where it’s worth it.

    • Also, Vickie, when you ask, “what happened to you to make you separate yourself from sacred covenants with God himself?” you are in violation of the comment policy which states that it is not ok to question another’s righteousness. Check it out here.

      Please keep that in mind when making future comments.

  11. Thank you so much for this amazing post! It brought me so much peace today.

  12. Amy, what a beautiful post. How it resonates with me. Yes, moving forward, eyes opened, compelled by hope. I love these images.

  13. Thank you. You have expressed so very well the thing which has been bothering me. I too mourn the ideal which never eventuated. But I move forward…sometimes too far for some to accept or understand, but I have learned I have to be true to my inner self. Again, than you for such beautiful and inspired words.

  14. Fantastic post!!

  15. Resonates with me on every level. I gave a Mother’s Day talk in my ward this past may addressing some of these same thoughts. Wasn’t sure how it would get received, but apparently it was received well. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  16. So well articulated and expressed – you wrote what I haven’t so easily been able to form into words for myself.

  17. I love this. Sometimes I think that we experience several “Falls” in our life by choosing to leave the garden. I felt that way when I got married – it was something harder, but better, and with more knowledge. I felt that way after I had kids – again, harder but better. I also felt that way after I went to college and studied the suffering throughout the world. I sometimes wonder if that’s why we study this allegory and point back to it so much – it’s so symbolic for how we go through life and open our eyes to new things, all of which heavily complicate our lives, but help us grow and experience joy like we never had before.

  18. This made me so sad to read about this grieving. I don’t think any of us are perfect, nor do we think we are. This talk has helped me so much lately as I’ve pondered it and I’ve felt for over a day I should post it. If the link doesn’t work, it is Elder Hollands talk from general conference April 2013. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng

  19. I’m so glad I stumbled across your pinterest board with links to all your blog posts. I feel like I know you so much more!! And my heart hurts to read that you’ve struggled with depression (I have too… has to be the hardest, yet most growing, experience of my life). You’re a radiant woman and I admire your strength and honesty with yourself.

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