Guest Post: Today, It Feels Like I Have No Place.

By LMA

Today, it feels like I have no place.

I had to choose whether or not to go to a ward dinner after our meeting block. I have been taking a break from going to church for almost a year. I’ve only been to church a handful of times during this time period. At first, I thought I would have my quiet time away and then be ready to go back. After a while, I did go back a few times. It felt like people maybe thought I had had my necessary alone time, and now I’m ready to be back as myself again. I even thought maybe this means I’ll be more involved again, even if not at the same level I was before.

As time has progressed, it still doesn’t feel right to be fully involved and active in my faith. There is so much pain involved in being there. Being misunderstood and hearing people verbally discuss unhelpful stereotypes and misinformation is really difficult. Sometimes when I’m there, it feels like I’m somehow saying it’s okay the way our Church treats women and other vulnerable people (children, LGBTQ+ folk). Sometimes it feels like by being there, I’m saying that it’s okay for the Church to use their lawyers as a way to avoid legal and spiritual responsibility for wrongs done in the context of our faith. I don’t want to say any of that is okay, because it’s not.

Even if I were to be there, there’s only one dear friend who knows the kind of pain I’m talking about. Everyone else is primarily unaware or uninformed about the things that cause me and others so much pain (“Who is Joseph Bishop? I don’t know who that is” or “Somebody is trying to change the bishop’s interviews. What is the Church supposed to do, put cameras in the bishop’s office?”). These sources of pain are really important and a life-and-death situation for a lot of people. It’s so isolating to know most people don’t even know about it, or if I exert the emotional labor to explain, most don’t want to deal with what that really means about our faith.

Part of me really wanted to go to that dinner because I miss feeling a part of that community and those people. Being an active member of our Church has been such an important part of who I am. Now that I’m trying to figure out how I really feel about this, I feel really alone. They are having the dinner right now, and I’m alone at my house. I feel pretty sad about it, so I’ve tried to make my room cozy. There’s a vanilla candle and soft lamps on and I’m sitting in my bed, my cozy and safe place.

I am really proud of the fact that I think for myself, and I’m taking the time and effort and self-work and self-care to understand how I would like to relate to Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and my faith.

If someone like me were to read this, these are the things I would want someone to say:

You are so brave to try to understand yourself and what works best for you. That takes so much courage and softness and self-awareness and power.

You ALWAYS have a place inside yourself. No matter what others inside or outside of your faith think or say or do, you belong to yourself first and foremost.

If it feels good to you to think about it, know you belong to your Heavenly Mother. She is safe and good and soft and wants you to be as you are.

Institutions created or maintained by people are not designed to or always able to hold and understand human pain and complexity. You are more complex and beautiful and intricate beyond these structures.

These things bring me a little bit of peace. I hope we all can find a little more peace in our safe places, too.

 

LMA is PhD-holding boss lady that teaches child development to university students. She cares deeply about issues that affect women inside and outside of our Church.

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5 Responses

  1. Diana Villafane says:

    Dear LMA: I am proud of you, because you have the courage to face reality, to look at it square in the face. You have the courage to question the status quo. Anybody who does that will have to pay the price, because the powers that be, the people in authority, do not take questioning the status quo well. Think of Jesus. He dared question the status quo, and we all know where that led Him. Do not let the steepness of the price keep you from standing up for what is right, regardless of where it may take you. You may be ostracized for it, but the world does not begin and end in the LDS church. I wish you the best.

  2. SC says:

    You are not alone, Sister. These exact issues are the reason I no longer sustain the brethren. When men use their pulpit power to oppress God’s most vulnerable children (LGBTQs, women, singles, divorcees, abuse survivors, the infertile, etc) and then insist that the most important thing we could be doing with our lives right now is changing the name we go by (???). When they spend our offerings on shopping malls, defending abusers, and 12 new great and spacious buildings wherein members will pledge more fealty to church (not God), money that could do so much good in places where people go to bed starving or without any shelter at all, it makes a person question one’s religion. Your doubts and concerns are very valid. We are with you, Sister. The brethren are losing many women to their uninspired choices/decisions lately. Many of us are seeking true Christ-followers to lead and guide us, something that we can barely find in the general leaders of the CojColds!

  3. Ari says:

    It sounds like you are in much the same place that I am. I have finally decided it’s okay to outgrow the church. It’s painful, because they’ve been my community for so long. It’s going o hurt at least until I find a new community.

    Last night I listened to the latest “A Thoughtful Faith” podcast. It was an interview with Jan Tyler, who said that she “self-graduated” from the LDS church. I really like that metaphor because it’s like leaving high school and going to college. What do you do when you make that transition? You find a new community.

    That’s what we have to do now. It’s not easy. But, we are not alone. There are a lot of people like us out there. I read about people like us right here in the pages of this blog, as well as a few other blogs. I hear the stories of people like us in several of the various Mormon-ish podcasts. I just haven’t found many people like us in person yet, but I’ve only recently started to look.

  4. Mary says:

    You are not alone. I’ve recently left, as well. It feels so good to not have the internal struggle of reconciling the things you mention. I feel so much more at peace, now that I am no longer silently giving tacit approval for things I see in the church I see as hurtful. I stayed silent, because my neighbors would be too uncomfortable to hear the things I have to say. I know. I’ve tried. Also, if I keep speaking up, I can be accused of apostasy and my membership brought into question. So, the options are stay silent and seated and give tacit approval, thereby, or simply refuse to attend.
    The members in my ward know my reasons. My reasons are for abuse and they were complicit–guided by the man who was my bishop, at the time–in seeing to it that I understood full well that divorcing for abuse was a divorce they considered frivolous. Since, I’ve come out and said that what they were saying through their actions was that the church is okay with abuse, they did an about face and started treating me better, but I still heard hurtful teachings at church and that my neighbors cannot change.
    So, I no longer attend and it is new enough a development that I still get unwitting phone calls and visits. They tell me they love me. They tell me they hope I can work out my issues and that they are praying for me. I thank them and shut the door, hang up the phone, close the PM chatbox. I know they mean well, but they don’t realize I am the one who is finally making the choice that reconciles with my most deeply held values rather than to be unquestioningly obedient and letting toxicity continue. There is nothing for me to work out with the church. I will never be okay with how the ones who are perceived as weak are treated in this church. Never. I’m proud of that fact. Yes, proud. Even though I’m told it’s a sin to be proud, but I listened to the lessons I was taught in my life about being kind and loving and emulating the Savior.
    You are not alone. There are many others out there and their numbers are growning.

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