“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.

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15 Responses

  1. Justin says:

    I admire your courage to be real to yourself. I have been on a very similar journey (started Christian Reformed instead of LDS) and it has been incredibly rewarding. Being real will allow you to experience life in vastly amazing ways that were never possible under the authority of organized religion. Congrats and more power to ya!

  2. Libby says:

    Sherry, thank you for letting us share your story!

  3. Caroline says:

    Sherry, I’m so glad you shared your story with us. Faith transitions are hard. And when you’re married in the temple and then those transitions occur, it’s even harder. It’s so fraught for Mormons when one spouse stops believing or affiliating since we have this idea of eternal families and that our eternal families are in danger if one spouse stops practicing. I’m glad you and your husband have been able to stay together despite the shift in faith.

    Have you found any other churches that are appealing to you? Or are you done with religion period?

    • Sherry says:

      Caroline,
      I attended a Christian Church last fall twice. I was extremely uncomfortable because the pastor only seemed to want to bash Mormonism. I went the following week and it was the same way – I left with a feeling of even more uncertainity about Christianity, religion, both organized and not.

      I haven’t been to my ward since last April. My bishop knows my situation and he respects my desire to be left alone. I think my husband has finally gotten to that point, as well.

      I’m more interested in philosophy and the rational consideration of religious/spiritual/moral ideas, and the ways that human beings built them up over time – and how those ideas have changed, and continue to change.

  4. Jenny says:

    Sherry, thank you for being authentic and sharing your story with us. When you’ve been through the painful process of a transitioning faith, it helps to hear other people share their stories that are similar. I’m sorry that it’s rough on your marriage relationship, but I’m glad you are still together and seemingly making it work. I hope it evolves into something beautiful for your relationship over time.

  5. Faith transitions are unexpected and the Mormon faith is so all-encompassing, that it can be really disruptive when transitions happen, especially when you’re right in the middle of raising a Mormon family. I admire your grace.

  6. Kristin says:

    Sherry, isn’t it nice to have a place where you can share and not be judged? I too have had a paradigm shift in how I feel about the “Church” and it has been challenging. However, I now feel truths in the “Gospel” that I didn’t before. Some think I’m a little lost, but I feel I’m on a more “authentic” path then ever before. It’s very hard to discuss with my hubby and close church friends. One girlfriend snapped her fingers and told me to bite my tongue when I brought up the idea that a bishop’s wife may be a help to the bishop, say, when counseling sisters in the church, if the bishop’s wife was ordained into the Preisthood. I have been lucky that I found a book group, completely outside my circle, full of intelligent LDS women who let me speak my heart and don’t condemn me. Instead, we discuss things further. Imagine that! I feel I was led to this book group for a reason…it has been a safe place for me.

    • Sherry says:

      So very true, Kristin.

      Only we know what works best for us. I’ve learned over the years that no one else gets to make my decisions for me.

      I’m extremely grateful for being able to share my story with all of you. Writing this has been somewhat of a healing process for me, as well.

  7. spunky says:

    Sherry,

    Reading your liberation from the narrowness that sometimes encompasses Mormonism reminded me of breaking away from my own metaphysical church bondage to find a space that is spiritual rather than cultural or judgmental. In your words, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my own shoulders. Thank you for reminding me!

    I’m grateful for your story, and hope you feel at ease in sharing more of your thoughts here!

    • Sherry says:

      Thank you, Spunky.

      I just want others to know that they are never alone. I remember feeling so alone in the beginning. I felt like I was the only one who had ever experienced something like this (faith crisis/transition). I didn’t even know there was a name for it until after I found some online support groups. I have so many wonderful friends who have gotten me through some seriously dark times. Having a place like this to share experiences and thoughts and knowing that it’s a safe place makes it even better.

      Best wishes.

  8. Tamara says:

    So much of your story hits home. I, too, am in a totally different place with the Church than my TBM husband. It’s so sad that this is the biggest stressor in our long term marriage. Sherry, any chance you’re going to Sunstone in SLC this weekend? Would love to connect with you some time.

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