In the past when I would struggle with all the things I was expected to do as an LDS woman, including but not limited to:
- Tithing (#1 on the list for a reason)
- Daily Scripture Reading
- Daily Prayers
- Visiting Teaching
- Temple Attendance
- Weekly Institute
- Monthly Relief Society Activities
- Planning the Above Stated Activities
- Having No One Show Up For Above Stated Activities we just planned
- Feeding the Missionaries
- Attending Firesides
- Watching Conference
- Having Desire to Do Any of This Stuff
I would often use the excuse, “Spiritual stuff must not come naturally to me” and” I just don’t think I’m a very spiritual person”. I don’t think I knew what being spiritual really meant. To me, it was doing all the stuff listed above. My problem was that I never understood compulsive tithing. I only did it because you have to in order to have a temple recommend. I don’t know that I ever did it to show I loved God. I just didn’t see it that way. I think if it wasn’t fricking mandatory for temple worship I might have been more willing to pay it on occasions when I felt compelled to do so out of gratitude or something like that. I have never enjoyed reading the scriptures (SO BORING), and I always took prayer with a grain of salt. My personal thoughts on the subject were, well….. I’ll try to pray, but I’m probably not worthy enough for an answer, so I’m not gonna put too much effort into it for fear of giving myself false hope. I struggled with the temple because even when I was living the checklist I felt I wasn’t doing them for the right reasons and so as a result I would often suffer through temple sessions or shifts as an ordinance worker, feeling unworthy to be there the whole time. It was spiritual torture. I spent so much time planning activities that barely anyone would show up for. Not that I really blamed them, often the only reason I would be at an activity was because I was in charge, not because I really wanted to be there. I would feel bad for not really wanting to watch conference or go to firesides or go visiting teaching, but I would go because that is what good mormons do!
Now, that is not to say that it was all bad, and it was all torture. I have had some positive experiences at church and in the temple, I have been to some fun activities, and I really did like institute classes most of the time (except when every week the teacher would ask us to write down how many days we had read the scriptures that week, I never turned mine in because it was always ZERO, and I was embarrassed to admit it). I made some good friends. I went through a time when I was really motivated to really try to commit. So I tried to do it all, and when I would fail, which was EVERY DAY, I would feel really bad. I thought this was how it was supposed to be. In order to be repentant, you have to feel sorrow, RIGHT? This is how I interpreted the LDS gospel. It was a constant cycle of SIN, FEEL BAD, maybe REPENT? and repeat. This was MY experience.
When I would go bawling to my bishop because I had sinned AGAIN, he would tell me to stop beating myself up so much. So I tried. I tried to not feel so bad for my sins. BUT THEN HOW CAN I TRULY REPENT IF I DON’T FEEL BAD???? This is the definition of madness to me. It was a no win situation in my eyes.
This cycle of craziness is what fed my desire to leave religion. Learning about all the historical crap in the church’s past was just further motivation and justification. What it really came down to was, my religion wasn’t helping my relationship with God. Period. It was hindering it. I felt like such a constant failure I couldn’t focus on what really matters.
Since leaving, it has been a process, and I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I can see God in my life more clearly than ever. Even though I don’t pray in a kneeling down kind of way, I feel like I’m more open to communication. I have accepted that I think God knows my heart and what I’m going through and that meeting the daily checklist isn’t important. I pray out loud when I feel compelled to do so, and I don’t feel bad anymore that I don’t do it very often.
I see God in my friends and coworkers, I see God in nature, I hear God in music, I feel His love for me, even when I’m drinking coffee or wearing a sleeveless shirt. You can see this as misguided if you want, but for me it is enough for now. A start to figuring out what a relationship with God is all about. All I know is that I was wrong about my spirituality, I think spiritual things come easier to me than I originally thought, and I think that is a beautiful thing.
I don’t know if God is a man or a woman, or a non-corporeal being, if He is synonymous with Jesus or is a separate entity, but to me that is not important right now. The only thing I believe is that there is some kind of higher power. That isn’t something I can prove or justify. But having a belief/hope that there is a higher power out there that takes some interest in my life gives me hope that theses experiences have purpose. I’m on a journey, and my beliefs will probably change over time and I welcome it. I just want the messages to come from God and from within my soul, NOT from a religion.
I welcome feedback! I am interested in different perspectives, even if I don’t agree, we all have to live our lives in a way that works for each of us!