How I Almost Left the Mormon Church; The First Time

The following guest post is from SilverRain, a frequent M* commenter.  SilverRain blogs at rainscamedown.blogspot.com.

First, I want to say that these events are presented how I remember them. I may not be completely accurate, and this certainly sounds more polished than it was when it happened. I am not filling in all the sordid details, and there is some explanation here that I did not know or connect at the time of the events. But bear with me, please.

I come from a long line of Mormons. My parents are both from Utah. But they both taught me to look deeper than the standard Sunday answers. One of my earliest memories is coming home from Church and reporting on what was taught in Primary. As a Sunbeam, I eagerly told my parents, “Jesus and Heavenly Father love me!” And my dad asked me, “How do you know that?” I think I responded with something along the lines of, “because my teacher said they do,” and my dad said, “That is how SHE knows. But how do YOU know?” When I couldn’t answer, he suggested that I figure it out. I was only three or four years old.

Some years later, when I was six or seven, I remember bringing a question to my mom. Though I don’t remember what the question was, I remember her answer. “Did you look for an answer in the scriptures?” I hadn’t. But I went back to my room and read and prayed until I did.

My parent’s spiritual teachings gave me the courage and other tools I needed to formulate my own testimony and not flinch in the face of unknowns or unpleasantness. When I was an early teen, I began to investigate other churches. My friends were largely not members of the Church, and I attended a few meetings with them. Catholic. Protestant. Episcopalian. I also studied other religions and spiritual paths, some on my own and some with my parent’s support and knowledge. Buddhism. Wicca. Masonry. Mysticism. Even Mormonism.

In my informal studies, I noted how many elements of Mormonism were found in all these other religions (and vice versa.) Subconsciously, I believe I gained an appreciation for the human search for truth, with both an emphasis on “human” and “truth.” Of all the options open to me, the one that appealed the most was Wicca.

Try not to scream “witch” in your head without giving me a chance to explain. Wicca is not dark magic, or evil. It is a disparate religion with a wide variety of faith options. Some even believe in Christ. Primary among Wiccan beliefs is a belief in Lord and Lady deities, and a high regard for nature and natural powers. Male and female power are both respected and celebrated for what they contribute to each other. In Wicca, I saw what was not present in my LDS Church meetings: respect for the feminine and the female body.

During this time, I experienced a level of persecution from church members that seemed rather high for a 14-year-old, and which made it very difficult for me to attend church. My best church friend, partially active herself, freely accused me of sleeping with her boyfriend, getting pregnant, and having an abortion. My non-church friends and acquaintances knew me, rather shy with boys and quite bookish, well enough to know that the accusations were impossible.

Those at church were a different story. I endured whispers wherever I walked in church. The whispers gradually increased to confrontations. They would turn away from me, or move to the opposite side of the hallway to pass. Certain people would sit behind my family in church so they could talk about me where I could hear. I was labeled “Jezebel,” (which was particularly annoying, since hers was not a primarily sexual sin anyways.) I was brought in to speak with the bishop, which interview actually went rather well. He was my main support, outside of my family, at church. Most of the problem came from women, but there were pointed “testimonies,” lessons, and talks given by men and women alike. At one point, my parents even asked me if I would like to stay home from church for a few weeks. I refused.

Just as the worst of it was dying down, it came up that another girl, a few years older, had gotten pregnant. She and her boyfriend moved into her parents’ house to have the baby. (She had run away from home previously.) She tearfully and often witnessed that she had made a mistake and wanted to repent. She was welcomed in with open arms. Unfortunately, the furor rekindled the accusations against me, and unrepentant as I seemed to them, I did not make a good comparison in the eyes of the ward. The repercussions from this never completely faded away until I left the ward to attend college at BYU.

My interest and investigation into religion and spirituality continued throughout my teenage years as I attended BYU. Because my church meetings were incredibly impersonal (as anyone who has attended a large singles ward can agree,) and I was still quite internally conflicted about the LDS church (which is a large reason why I had decided to attend BYU,) I was only partially active for a time. While at BYU, I found a few Wiccan contacts, including one who offered to mentor me, and began seriously considering leaving the LDS Church.

Pondering deeply over my decision and inclinations, I decided to retreat into nature, someplace quiet and apart from others. While there, I had an encounter with the Spirit. While I will not go into details here, I came to understand while on that walk that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was wrong. The church, meaning the members of the church and their commonly taught doctrine, missed many divine concepts of feminine spirituality. (And what those were specifically, I was not told.) But I also came to understand that it was true. I knew that the Church was led directly by the Lord. It is not just another Church built on the desires and appetites of men. It is a Church that was built using humans, with all their faults. But the Savior built it. With that understanding, I knew that despite the peace and personal power I felt in Wicca, despite the pain and helplessness I felt in the LDS Church, the Lord wanted me here. And I knew that all would be right. That the pain was “but a small moment,” and that if I truly wanted to understand and serve Him, there was no other way for me.

And I do not use the term “know” lightly.

That was the first time I almost left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The next time was easier, and yet harder in its way.

13 thoughts on “How I Almost Left the Mormon Church; The First Time

  1. So, SilverRain, do you float?

    I’m sure you and I might disagree on any number of specific points of doctrine and practice–and you yourself might be surprised to see how differently you perceive some of the events you relate when you rewitness them again at the last day–but your account has the ring of truth and goodness.

  2. As a missionary I met someone practiced wicca and we became good friends. Previous Missionaries had apparently told her that being a ‘witch’ was devilish and so she was hesitant at first to speak about her religious practice. I remember sitting on the steps with her through the summer talking about faith and religion. It was a lot of fun and as she was interested kabbalah as well it made for good discussions. I think your post highlights a (perhaps) hidden prejudice in Mormon culture toward this type of practice. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. I really enjoyed hearing your story. For some people, being in the church is a trial, but a trial God wants them to face. I too stay in the church only because I have felt God tell me that He wants me there, in spite of it’s imperfections. When you hear the call “come follow me,” you have to follow, even if it doesn’t always make sense to us.

  4. For the record, I grew up in an area where being a Wiccan would have been considered very normal (or at the least not at all shocking). As I have said before, the LDS church is a “big tent” church. God is a “big tent” God. Every one of us has made mistakes, and we all have our own paths back to Him.

  5. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    I think the best lesson I learned from my search for truth is that imperfection in the Church does not mean that the Church is not true. It was a very personal encounter with the principle “that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things. . . .” We don’t have to know everything now, nor do we have to be perfect now.

    What matters is that we know God’s will concerning us individually, and that we gain a testimony whether or not He is truly leading this Church.

    Another thing I learned (which will come into play in my next post on this topic) is that the Spirit is not always a comfortable feeling. In fact, in my experience He has most often guided me towards what is least comfortable.

  6. My heart ached as I read of your treatment among the rumors in the ward of your youth. How fortunate you were to have some personal enlightenment to help you find your way despite your experiences. I’m impressed by your parents’ approach to your spriritual learning.

  7. I”m sorry your ward members were not that nice and participated in rumor-mongering with you as their victim. I know you said your bishop was a big support for you, but did he come out and tell these ladies and girls to cut it out? I know I would have had a very serious come to Jesus meeting with them, had I been in his position.

    Would you say as well, that the lack of respect you feel/felt toward women in the church was more of a cultural thing or an acutal doctrinal thing. I have often felt frustrated with the whole, “boys will be boys” mentality that is pervasive in our ward, but I’ve never felt that it was a doctrinal issue, just men being stupid (for the most part), it is and had gotten much better in our ward with new leadership over the years.

  8. It is important to distinguish Wicca from the more historical traditions. No one expects Wiccans to burn a green man or sacrifice a year king, for example.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and your testimony again.

  9. I enjoyed your search and trial — and look forward to part 2. I believe in the priesthood power and that women share in that through the temple ordinances, and that those in the church are a mixed group of people. Leaders are often not inspired, but then often are inspired. I am currently reading Rough Stone Rolling and love the book. Just finished Hugh Nibley’s One Eternal Round and loved that. There is so much there to learn from other religions and Egypt and Kabbalah. I feel it is a private journey and many Mormons never embark and search further.

  10. Thank you Silver Rain for your story and testimony. I am sorry you were the victim of such horrible gossip. I have seen similar situations happen to other young women and none of those young women ( so far) have managed to stay with the church. In one case, the entire family left the church. It takes an incredibly tough young woman to withstand such persecution/abuse.

    I understand where you are coming from on a spiritual journey as LDS-Wiccan. I am LDS-Jewish. I have found this combination to deeply and profoundly teach/witness to me how gospel truths are diverse and eternal.

  11. Paul—I’m impressed by them, too. I hope I do half as well with my children. :D

    Joyce—The bishop, as far as I know, did not tell them directly to cut it out. I’m not sure he could have, or even knew the extent of it. It is likely that he saw that I was struggling, and was largely unaware of why. The things that were said openly were sufficiently general to not clue a third party into the subtext. And it is entirely possible that much of what was said wasn’t meant as an attack on me at all, but that I was sensitive to it because of what WAS an attack. I don’t remember for certain, but it is possible that he may have met with one of the primary instigators. But people who are determined to hurt another person are rarely persuaded to cease and desist.

    Thank you for pointing that out, Stephen. At the time, I never questioned the existence of a Savior, and had I become Wiccan it would likely have been a rather unique brand of Wicca. By its nature, the religion allows for many different individual beliefs. So some might very well practice druidic ritual, while others follow the Trinitarian, or Christian path. I never got very deeply into Wicca, as I received my answer from the Lord at the point where I was deciding whether or not to sincerely investigate it.

    Thank you, deila and JA,for your comments. I think it is important for everyone to truly explore what they believe. Otherwise, one’s religion is a culture more than it is a discipleship.

  12. Geoff, where I live, the church is not a big tent church. Silver Rain, your last sentence certainly defines my experience being a member in southern Utah.

  13. Thanks, Silver Rain. I think many of us have experienced or know others who have experienced bad things in the Church. My high functioning autistic/ADHD grandson was shunned by his cub scout pack and Primary leaders. I was visiting just a few weeks later, and had a strong discussion with some of the leaders of that ward about charity and what Jesus said about offending small children (tying a mill stone around the neck and being tossed into the sea…). Sadly, it hasn’t made things better for him, and they are looking at moving out of Utah back to where the saints are often more saint-like.

    For me, the key is to develop my own spirituality. I do not expect to be spiritually fed in Sunday meetings, except during the Sacrament. I must feed myself. And I serve as best I can, in hopes that my efforts may make a good difference in others’ lives, perhaps to offset the poor efforts made by others.

    The Church and its people are not perfect. But the Holy Spirit is. And it guides us according to what we are ready and willing to receive. And for that purpose I am a very active member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

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