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.