I Thought I Had to Leave My Faith

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What I'm about to share is incredibly personal.  (Naturally, it feels like putting this on the inter webs is a nice way to rip off the band-aide. . . Or maybe that's just me!) I guarded my feelings carefully for so many years, too afraid to share with anyone beyond my spouse (who happens to be a great listener).  But I also believe it's relevant to what so many are experiencing who are apart of my Mormon faith.  I've learned that far more good than bad comes from opening your heart to others, so with a deep breath, that's what this post is about for me.  

I'd like to share my own faith journey of the last ten+ years.  What I'd love to hear is how others have worked through their own journey, regardless of the ending.  But I'd also love some heart-felt sympathy toward every person who might have a similar journey but a different ending, as I know that most people are truly doing the best they can with what they believe, and that no one's faith journey is simple.  No one's.     



The past 10+ years, I spent countless hours on my knees praying, cried thousands of tears, and lost hundreds of hours of sleep debating on whether or not I was an apostate of my own religion.  This was apart of a soul-wrenching journey I never expected to take, as I have deeply cherished the religious faith I was brought up in as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, AKA the Mormons.


I always loved being a rule follower.  Rules kept me safe. They helped me make a lot of important decisions before I even encountered pinnacle choices in my youth and young adulthood.  I never had to worry about drugs or alcohol, never had to wade through the emotional complexities and physical risks of pre-marital sex. I carried with me throughout my life a sure belief that this life is only part of a bigger plan, so I never feared death. I believed in God completely, so I prayed to Him not just daily, but throughout my days.  Studying the scriptures was a daily ritual of my life since I was eight years old, a ritual I sincerely prized as it carried me through life's difficulties ranging from a little rejection from a boy at school to the tragic deaths of a cousin and later a friend.

I never thought that I would one day question if I really belonged to my Mormon faith, a faith that I had firmly held on to my whole life, but also a faith that gradually grew to feel far more painful than helpful.

But, I did question.




Despite being a rule-follower, I am also a thinker.  Let me rephrase that: a THINKER!  Absolutely, totally, 100% born that way.  I like to learn, research, and analyze things.  I like answers.  I remember asking big questions at a very young age, questions that I ruminated over for a long time before even bringing them up.  But I was also exceptionally loyal to my church and my beliefs, so I largely escaped big spiritual tumult until I was a young adult.


My faith struggles started with my first real earth-shattering heartbreak as a freshman in college eleven years ago.  I sunk lower than the dirt.  I was drowning in sadness while physically withering away, my body made small and fragile by a heavy sorrow.  I still believe to this day that I was dying from a broken heart.  The darkness around me was so thick that my insides felt like they were getting squeezed.  It even hurt to breathe.

I prayed like my life depended on it, because it did.  The only thing that got me out of bed each morning and to my classes was a long prayer and listening to a talk from a religious leader.  Between classes (and silently sobbing in bathroom stalls), I read talks and scriptures, seeking some relief, some comfort, even a sliver of it.  But it never came.  Never the descendance of peace I'd always heard about.  Never a soft voice whispering of my Heavenly Father's love for me.  Never a divine aide I was so desperately looking for.  The heavens were closed, but it wasn't for lack of me trying.

Time helped my healing the most.  I slowly dug my way out of that heart ache and moved on, still clinging to my faith.  I dated another good man.  I learned I could experience love again, even though that relationship didn't work out either.  And I never gave up hope in my religious beliefs, despite feeling like I had been abandoned.  I reasoned it as a test of my faith.  I hoped that one day I'd look back and see God's hand in things, and that He really was helping me more than I could understand in that moment of time.


Struggles are a part of life though, and I soon became neck-deep in eating disorders and all the other mental ailments they bring.  I thought I could pray, fast, and study my way out of them too.  I truly sought God minute-by-minute, begging for help and pleading for healing. (I've got the journal entries to prove it, too!) I wanted and believed my righteousness to save me from these demons if I was faithful enough.  And I did everything I could do be faithful enough.

But again, that peace never came.  I was swimming in the dark, reaching for the stars that I "knew" were there but were too far away to grasp as I slipped into deeper waters.  Yet again, I reasoned that hindsight would be 20/20; God surely must have helped me more than I could see.


On what I thought was the tail-end of those eating disorder struggles, but really turned out to be the beginning of the end, I married a good man.  A VERY good man.  A man who accepted and loved me for a flawed human being who was doing her darnedest, but still in need of a lot of work.  A man who most definitely didn't "fix" me or even seek to do so, but who stood by me as I clawed my way through a long road of recovery.  A man dedicated to never leaving my side, and I him.


Our first year of marriage, Brad often came home to me in tears.  While destructive thoughts and behaviors would still be part of my roller coaster for the next eight years, I was also struggling with something more, something on top of all that.  I was struggling with my identity as a Good Mormon Woman.

With my upbringing and my church's culture, the Good Mormon Women I knew were incredible mothers.  Yes, they were also leaders in their community.  Yes, they were brilliant and talented.  Yes, they espoused their views and made a difference.  But mostly, their greatest importance was placed on their role as mothers.

For the first time in my life, I didn't know where I fit in to that.


I was 21 years old, an almost straight-A college graduate with promising dreams of academia.  I wanted that.  I also wanted to be a mother someday.  I didn't know how to mesh these apparently-clashing dreams.

Even though I didn't feel like I necessarily had to have kids right away, I struggled to figure out my place of importance as a Good Mormon Woman.  I was already mourning that my life would be all about washing dishes and changing diapers, even if that was very much what I wanted to eventually experience.   I battled thoughts that told me I was a second-class citizen within my belief system.  And I was distraught that there seemed to be a lot of evidence around me that that was the case.

But a Good Mormon Woman doesn't think like that.  A Good Mormon Woman who values her role doesn't ask questions, she doesn't doubt, and she definitely doesn't challenge the norm.  This is what I believed.

So I prayed, I fasted, I studied.  I cried and cried.  I talked to my husband and parents, I talked to my sisters.  I talked with my amazing Relief Society President.  I made some tough decisions.  And then I made peace with those decisions.  I could have it all, but not all at once.  Some dreams were put on hold for other dreams, dreams of little toes and little fingers.  These are choices I do not regret, but they left wounds on my spirit.  Those wounds would be opened time and time again for the next eight years.


I became a mother at 25 years old.  I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and she truly was my whole world.  I held my precious daughter close to my heart, smelled her sweet smell, rubbed her soft hair, marveled at her . . . and I struggled.  I struggled because of my old wounds.  My wounds had words, and their words seemed to be echoing within my church with other women, but women who were far braver than I about challenging the cultural norms of my faith.  These women were often looked down on, criticized, or--worse--brushed off completely.  They were often deemed as "unfaithful," "misled," or "apostates," even.  I read the articles about them and was startled to see that I tended to agree with them.  They were speaking my inner thoughts, they were sharing my heart.  I was also taken aback because they clearly were not considered to be "Good Mormon Women" within my faith.  I didn't know how I could be both.

So, again, for years I prayed and prayed.  I fasted.  I studied.  And I wept.


I was so afraid.  I didn't want to leave my church!  But there were so many voices crying against these women, women whose thoughts I had thought the majority of my life, long before I had even heard of a feminist movement within my church, long before I read a single word from or about them, longer still than when I was willing to adopt their title as my own.

I was so afraid because I thought that even sharing similar thinking made me an apostate.  I didn't want to struggle with these thoughts, criticisms, and doubts.  I didn't want to feel the way I felt.  I didn't want to challenge the norm.  I didn't want to carry these wounds.

But once again, the heavens were closed.  God didn't seem to be hearing my prayers or aiding my studies.  He didn't seem to be reaching me or speaking to me in any way, correcting my feelings that I didn't matter, that my thoughts were unfounded.  Knowing this made me think that perhaps the real message was the very thing I had feared all along: I didn't belong.


I thought I had to leave my faith.


But I wasn't going down without a fight.  We moved towns, leaving one great congregation for another, a congregation where I opened my eyes to see Good Mormon Women who were also different.  They believed, they doubted, they shared, they were real.  They weren't giving up on their faith, but they were being themselves.  I saw Good Mormon Men too, men who were faithful, vulnerable, and so very human.  They believed, they doubted, they shared, and they were real.  I saw acceptance.  I saw courage.  And I began to see "me."

I also began opening my mouth.  Just to very close friends, at first.  Later, a bit to my parents and siblings.  I still felt "different," but I wasn't made to feel like an apostate from these people I loved and trusted.  Even if they appeared alarmed with things I said I felt (and they did!), they didn't shun me or make me feel like I simply didn't have enough faith.  Because I already knew better, that my faith wasn't going to fix these issues for me.  However much that helped, I still felt like I was in a spiritual purgatory.


Most intently the past ten-plus years, I have battled self-hatred, depression, ANGER, sadness, cynicism, doubt, doubt, doubt, and an alarming amount of apathy.  I have worn out my knees in prayer.  I have stayed up all night with fear over what I was feeling.  I have raged over getting divine guidance.  I have numbed myself when that guidance never came.  I have questioned myself over and over.  And I have even questioned if God exists, because despite me checking off all the right boxes (sincerely praying, reading, serving, and attending the temple), I seemed to be duking this all out on my own.


But then I recently made a choice.


I was never going to leave my faith.

Not ever.


I decided answers to my questions however basic or complex may never come; changes I'd like to see happen within my religion may not ever arise; people might balk at or be scared of my heartfelt feelings; and I might never fit the old mold of a Good Mormon Woman simply because of who I was born to be as a questioner.


And yet I decided to believe.


Because this is my faith.  This is my identity, my community, my culture.  This is what I so want to be true.  This is the best way I know how to live.  This is the best way I know how to raise my children.  My Mormon religion may not be perfect, but it is filled with good people who are doing the best with what they believe.  And their best is pretty darn amazing.

I decided that this would be good enough for me.  I decided that true or not-true, living my faith was a whole lot easier than leaving it behind.


A Good Mormon Woman, or a Thinker? I decided that I could be both.  I could be "me."  There was a place for me, even if it was somewhere in the middle of these two identities.  I couldn't be wrapped up in a perfect bow and neither could my beliefs, but that was OK.

Since making that decision, I have felt great relief.  I now have the confidence that I can ride these faith storms because I have already made my choice to stay, wounds and all.


It seems that there is a place for many things I long-believed could not live cohesively.

There is a place for questions.  There is a place for doubt.  There is a place for challenging.

There is a place for belief in spite of all of that.


There is a place for you, too.

45 comments:

  1. Love this post. I'm glad you didn't leave Monica! The church needs more people like you.

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  2. Monica, What a heart-felt post. Your honesty is bold and raw and very moving. You're a writer in my book :)

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    1. Laura! That means SO much to me! Thank you for being such a supportive friend through the years. You really are an amazing woman.

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  3. Beautifully said. Faith is a lot of things, but it is first and foremost a choice. So kudos to you for forging ahead, despite your doubts. And for having the courage to share your doubts. I have no doubt (haha--no pun intended) that one day, all your questions will be answered.
    I believe that struggles like depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, etc. can overwhelm the feelings of the spirit (I heard one friend comparing it to trying to taste a grape in your mouth while simultaneously chewing on a jalapeño). I believe this because I experienced it firsthand when I struggled with debilitating anxiety. I don't judge or "throw shade" at *anyone* leaving the church for any reason (the struggle is real), but especially those who are also struggling with mental and emotional demons at the same time. Because I totally understand. To them, they don't feel the Spirit testifying to them of the gospel's truthfulness, so their conclusion to the leave the church makes sense in a lot of ways. So for you to make the decision you have just beyond impresses me. You describe yourself as questioning and doubting, but your decision to remain faithful to the church despite your doubts makes you, in my book, one of the most faithful people I know. You are truly extraordinary.
    My stake president said he didn't receive a spiritual witness about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon until he was in his 50s. After having served a mission. After having served as a bishop. How interesting and yet how admirable. When he did receive that witness, I'm sure he became more glad than ever that he had chosen to remain faithful, despite the lack of answer he had received up until that point.
    The miracle comes after the trial of our faith. For me, even after I was out of the forest of debilitating anxiety, it was a long road of recovery. Two steps forwards and sometimes one step back, but sometimes it was three. And even after I'd mostly healed physically and emotionally (which takes time--these things have very real, physical neurological pathways in our brain that take time to heal and for the new, happier pathways to become more worn and used than the old ones). Anyway, even after healing, it was some time before I felt like I really felt the spirit again. And even then, I mostly felt the spirit in the form of thoughts in my mind of (1) promptings of how to help others or (2) as truth as I studied the gospel. I had to learn how to trust and act on those promptings. And even then, it wasn't an instant switch. It was probably years of feeling it nowhere but my head before I experienced those more overwhelming, undeniable "burning in the bosom" type feelings. And I find that, still, those are most often associated with the payoff of following promptings to help others (which makes sense when you think about it since I that is Christ's most important work and ours). Those moments are few and far between, but they are the sweetest feelings in the world--more than worth all the pain and suffering it took to get there.
    Anyway, I guess I'm saying is my money is on you experiencing those feelings of the spirit you seek for in this life, maybe sooner, maybe later--unfortunately I don't think the ball is in your court, since you're doing everything you can to be worthy of it. But there is the real possibility that you might not and it looks like that is what you had to (and have) come to terms with. And I think that is awesome. And that you will be blessed for it, not just in the next life, but in this one as well. I know you already are a blessing to all those that you share your thoughts and feelings with. You're awesome and I look up to and admire you so much! :)
    Sorry my comments are always novels! We seem to be sharing so many experiences, I can't help but ramble.

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    1. As usual, I have SO much to say back! First off, I've been reading through your hope talk (one page a day, but i'm doing it!) and SO many lightbulbs are going off with every reading. You really have been such a blessing in my life, Lisa! I'm passing that talk on to others as well and can't wait to talk to you about it when we see each other soon! Second, I have not been able to stop thinking about what you said about depression/anxiety clouding the Spirit. I had never made that connection before, but it makes complete sense to me about why that would be the case. (Also, that information coupled with what I'm reading in your "hope talk," about how we can push the spirit away with despair.) Seriously, it had helped take away a lot of the self-blame there, in addition to the anger/sadness about not receiving answers. Third, I love hearing that story about your stake president. I wish that more leaders and fellow-members were more open about their growth in these areas; it's so comforting to think that the time may come. Fourth, I am eager to talk more about your experiences in this area. I am so curious how people grew to understand and recognize the Spirit, especially after feel like they were not receiving it. Learning about others' growth gives me a lot of hope about it all. Like I said, I feel so SO lucky that you've not only read my posts, but commented and emailed. You are a TRUE friend, and I'm so blessed to have you in my life.

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    2. I second the comment on anxiety and depression clouding your mind. There is an article on depression and your testimony in the ensign this year. February or January 2016. How can you dedicate yourself to the gospel when you are broken and not question if it is worth it? Logically I have felt the gospel is true, but my postpartum and anxiety just made me nervous. But I have fought back against Satan attacking me at my weakest moments. I have doubled the amount of general conference I listen to. I have doubled my scripture study and started searching. The scripture study I used to do in college or high school wasn't going to cut it. I needed more spiritual nourishment I have also been afraid to ask questions and deeply think about issues. I have been pondering, searching, and praying. The changes and strength aren't immediate, but each month I feel stronger and stronger. I have felt Satan working on me and I want to keep him at bay. I feel the light of the gospel, which contrasts to dark feelings. Now has been the time for me to search the scriptures, read great books by apostles, and go to the temple every month. I learned I cannot live without these things or Satan will get close to me.

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    3. Great insight, Libby. I'm glad you share! I'm going to check out that article now because I think you are the third person to bring it up. In fact, I've had so many articles sent my way that I'll have enough spiritual reading for the next month--but, I'm grateful for every link and too much to read is better than too little.

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    4. Dude! I had not seen that article in the Ensign! Loved it. Such an important topic/discussion. I feel a bit validated knowing someone else had the same experience with the mental/emotional struggles hampering their ability to feel the spirit. Thanks so much, Libby and Monica, for having the discussion so I could come across that. Now when I talk to other people about it in the future (It comes up often enough--it's a pretty common issue), I have something more official to point them to instead of just spouting off more of my crazy theories. :)
      https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/02/depression?lang=eng

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    5. OK, I'm reading this tonight and in the morning (it takes me that long to read anything these days...)!

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    6. I am so sorry for that dark, dark time in your life! You must have felt so scared and lost!
      I am loving reading all of these comments as well and can totally see how Satan would use anxiety and depression (complete opposites of the Lord's way) to cloud Heaven. I don't believe that Heavenly Father ever leaves us, but Satan is really good at getting right up in our faces and blocking our view, even if we're trying EVERYTHING WE POSSIBLY CAN TO SHOVE HIM OUT OF THE WAY! I'm so glad your faith was strong enough to push through! What an amazing example you are! With that kind of faith? You could move mountains!

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    7. Monica, I don’t know you, I just know Brad and esteem him to be a Terrific Human. I admire your candor and openness in speaking about those subjects which are the very most important in our lives and yet hardest to talk about. I also admire your obvious tenacity and grit. You are not a quitter!
      I wanted to put in my two cents here, particularly about “trying to taste a grape in your mouth while simultaneously chewing on a jalapeño” and the interrelationship between mental health and the ability to feel the Spirit. I have struggled for over a decade with that question. I was diagnosed as depressed as a young adult, had a family history of depression and bipolar, and was put on a low dose of medication to take for the rest of my life. I could not understand how God would let there be something wrong with my brain, and also let it affect my ability to feel the Spirit. Could there be anything more confusing? I leaned on those around me, as I was taught, but the more I leaned, the more I felt the Spirit diminish. And by lean, I don’t mean I wasn’t trying! I was trying exceptionally hard, like your friend Libby describes above. I mean that all my effort still wasn’t working, so I leaned on the faith of others. But honestly, when I doubled up on reading articles, the scriptures, and Conference talks, I was actually just listening too much to other voices besides my own and crowding out my own insight. Yes, other people have great insights, advice, and things we can learn from, I believe that. But the most important revelations we can receive will come from that voice inside of us that comes from God.
      About a year and a half ago, I started to get panic attacks, out of the blue, when I had never had them before in my life. My psychiatrist had no explanation for them, they were not a side effect of my antidepressants. She said I would probably continue to experience them for the rest of my life. My issues were literally growing more issues. Everything was getting to be more than I could bear.
      And then, a long chain of events, starting with the birth of my child, gave me all the answers. First, a miracle taught me the lesson that I had to listen to myself. That I was the only one who had the answers for me. About 8 months later, (I like to think I was getting better at listening to the voice), I had one of the strongest spiritual impressions I have had in my life.
      You are not broken. You may struggle with eating disorders. But God has not taken the gift of His Spirit away from you. The way you will find your answers is by following your gut, your intuition, the Spirit of God inside you. This is the only way we can get answers, When I cleared out all the other voices, trusted myself, trusted that God loved me and began to listen, that’s when I finally got my answers.
      I strongly recommend quiet meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or anything which gives us the opportunity for quiet so that the voice of God can speak to us. I wish you luck. When we are begging so hard for the answers to come and they don’t, its hell. I hope you do get your own strong spiritual impressions and answers (soon!) and be able to know with assurity of the best path for your life.

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  4. I believe that entering the LDS faith as an adult who had previously attended may churches has been my salvation from most of the feelings you have posted. I chose the faith rather than being born to it. I studied the literature talked to people etc and made my choice. However after saying that addmittedly, not everything in the church suits me! Certainly not made in the Molly Mormon image I am a bit of an outsider to those who strive to be. Striving only to follow the commitments I made at the time of Baptism and doing my reading ( as I have time) but praying thankfully each night for those missionaries I met and gave me hope in a hereafter where I would have my family joined with me plus giving me guidelines to live my life and strong spiritual Leaders I have come to believe in....that has kept me in the "basic" faith. I moved to Utah from California. That has been the most difficult move I've ever made. I miss my more laizez-faire friends who would ocaisionally wear dress pants and sweaters to church or ladies suit pants more than you can imagine. Keep stuggling you will find that your core faith will sustain you when you don't want unrealistic attitudes to influence your feelings. Love to you and Brad and your little one.

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    1. I don't know you, I think (can't tell from the profile), but want to say THANK YOU for taking the time to comment and share your own story. I think we all have to struggle (period!), but we all will with our faith. How interesting to hear what that has been for you. UT needs you, and I hope you can feel more at home there! I am so impressed how you can feel that faith and still be who you are.

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  5. I love your honesty. I have always thought of you as the "perfect" Mormon woman/wife/mother. I think it's so eye opening and refreshing to realize that many of us are struggling with similar feelings.

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    1. Thank you, Adriana! Right back at you.

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  6. Monica! I loved your post! I went through a very long faith struggle (feminist issues, historical issues, and major issues with the treatment of LGBTQ members, racism, etc.). Your story really resonates with me as I had such a difficult time fitting into the perfect Mormon woman mold; I always felt like there was something wrong with me because I felt that I was an equal everywhere but at church. I actually left the church two years ago and I've never felt happier or more free to be who I actually am. I know that everyone who has posted have encouraged you to stay and I want you to be happy and if staying makes you happy, you should do it! For me, being outside has been so incredibly healthy and I am at peace for the first time in so many years! The end to the mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance was such a huge burden off of my mind. I even feel better physically not carrying around all that mental stress and discord. I think you are an amazing person and I feel lucky to know you. I am sending you lots of love and happy thoughts on your journey! And - I am always here if you want to talk. XOXOX

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    1. It is SO good to hear from you, Emily! One of the fears that I had in posting this was belittling how simple it is to come to the conclusion I have, and to demean those who have come to a different conclusion. I absolutely do not feel that my decision is the right one for everyone. I definitely simplified what issues have plagued me (we share them!), and I admittedly am probably taking the cowardice choice here. However, it's the choice that is bringing me the most peace about things. I also believe your choice was the one that brought you the most peace and, to me, that's the right one for you. I love you and have always admired you, and will continue to do so! I'd love to chat anytime, too! Love to you and your family!

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    2. What Emily said. Like, all of it. :) (Except it was more like 18 months rather than 2 years for me.)

      Love to you both! Yay for FA!

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    3. Hi Monica! I just came back to your post for the first time since I left my comment; I feel badly I didn't reply to your response earlier! I don't think that the decision you've made to stay is cowardly in any way. I feel like there is so much bravery to be found in both choices - leaving and staying. And - I know your concerns are probably far deeper than you wanted to express in this blog post. I didn't think you oversimplified your struggle or how you came to your decisions. I know all the ins and outs of saying enough and not too much. I think you are very strong and brave and especially so to voice openly your concerns and to share your faith journey. Xxx

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    4. And so good to hear from you, Kristy! I am so glad you are happy and well and have found the right path for you as well! You FA ladies are the best!

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    5. Thank you, Emily--and thank you Kristy, as well! What a fine group of women we had/have. Looking back, FA was definitely a transformative part of my life. I looked up to you two so much and still do. Much love!

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  7. Very beautiful. Since a michael left me I struggle with these same things. It is weird to read my thoughts written from another mind. Thank you for sharing

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    1. I can't imagine losing a child, Cindy. The fear of it alone literally keeps me up at night. We all loved Michael and continue to love him. If I was going through what you have experienced, I would most definitely be struggling as well. You take care of yourself!

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  8. Very beautiful. Since a michael left me I struggle with these same things. It is weird to read my thoughts written from another mind. Thank you for sharing

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  9. Loved this post, Moni! Read the whole thing, and I love reading about others' faith! It strengthens me. The "good Mormon woman" perception is very culturally diverse. I'm sure growing up in Utah gave you a very different perspective of what that means than someone growing up in Michigan. So interesting how we can all see it so differently! I love being reminded how much our personalities, family experiences, and the culture we grow up in help to define our faith. The more places we see, people we meet, etc we have a much more rounded perspective. Reading posts like this help so much, too! Love you!

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    1. Lisa! You are seriously one of my greatest supporters and friends. I love you for always listening and being there for me. You are right on about how we all achieve a more rounded perspective. Thank you for encouraging me! Excited to see you--September is way, way too far away!

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  10. I have way too much too say! Nothing bad of course! I would love to phone chat with you sometime.

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  11. One of my favorite things about living in Texas and especially in Connecticut is that our ward lacked much of what we see as the Mormon culture (and wrongly assume that is how the Church is supposed to be.) I met so many different women in different walks of life with different perspectives. I loved that. It helped me realize that I am my own person and valuable because of my differences (not inspite of them).

    In the end, my testimony is that the gospel has helped me to be a better person and given me tools and guidance to bless my life and others. I have tried my best to follow Christ's teachings. Some of my struggles and questions have taken a while to resolve (and are still resolving). But I can't deny the blessings I have received because of following the teachings of the Church. I am a better, happier person because of the gospel.

    You are a strong and brave woman for sharing.

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    1. Alicia, I really love hearing from you! I think you are right about having time in a variety of wards, and what a blessing those wards are. I feel so grateful for the people I have met who have shown me that different is not inherently bad.

      I also love hearing what keeps you going in the Church. For me, I definitely feel like I can't deny the experience my close family members have had, in addition to how the Church has blessed my entire life. It's easy to feel hurt by things, but it's also easy to discover blessings once I push aside all the hurt. Thank you for sharing, too!

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  12. Great post Monica!! Two thumbs up from this gal! I'm also glad you didn't leave. :)

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  13. p.s. Wanted to make sure you're aware of the Mormon Women Project. I wasn't aware of it until one of women in charge moved into my ward. It's basically a series of interviews of women who are active members of the church who are "alternative" in some way or who have endured really harrowing experiences because of their faith. The interviews are so interesting and so uplifting. I think the goal is for women to realize that they're not "alternative" at all, but doing exactly what they should be doing because they're follow the promptings of the Lord. I think the analogy of clinging to the iron rod is confusing to some people because they assume that means we'll all take the same lifestyle path to become like Christ and return to our Father in Heaven--that we'll all have to look and act the same when that's not the case at all. The iron rod is the gospel and for some, clinging to the iron rod will take them off the well-beaten path. And not only is that okay, it's wonderful!
    Their purpose, as stated on their website, is: "This digital library shows that among the 7 million women currently members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is stunning diversity and strength that may not always be recognized. The MWP is particularly interested in highlighting the righteous choices women make in all circumstances and locations. It celebrates women who have made deliberate choices — with the help of the Spirit and personal revelation — to overcome personal trials, magnify motherhood, contribute to communities outside their homes, or be converted to the Gospel.

    To an audience inside the Church, their stories support making personal choices with God’s help that often stand apart from the pressures of Mormon culture. To an audience outside the Church, their stories show the immense strength and wisdom of our people."

    http://www.mormonwomen.com/about/

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    1. So, this is right up my alley! I have heard of them but haven't read much into what they are doing. I tried to find them through podcasts, but I'm guessing you only have to stream through the website. How awesome is it that she is in your ward? I think this is a project I would love to be apart of personally. Lisa, you keep changing my life, girl!

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  14. Thank you for sharing this honest piece! I so needed to read this as I have been struggling to feel like "The Good Mormon Woman" and wondering where my place is in the church.

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    1. Rachel! I'm so glad you found this post when you needed it. You can always email me at packerprogress@gmail.com if you need a buddy!

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  15. A few of my friends posted your blog on their Facebook walls and I'm so glad they did! I don't think I've seen or talked to you since high school. I especially loved this post. Getting married just shy of my 30th birthday, I felt lost within the Mormon church for many years after my mission, and I still feel it today. Many issues and thoughts I have are likely similar to the issues and thoughts you have. Getting married didn't alleviate these doubts, in fact, it made them more apparent than ever. I'm still trying to balance the dissonance and doubts that I have & perhaps taking the stance that you have (never leaving the church) will help me be more at peace. Thanks for sharing! Xoxo (this is Emily (Craghead) Haacke)

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  16. This was so so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your heart <3

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  17. I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to say that I too struggle with my religion (Orthodox Jew), but have come to believe, as many scholars teach, that the struggle is a form of religious practice in and of itself. As long as we are engaging in dialogue with our faith, we are still connecting to it. I embrace the struggle as a sign that I still care enough to grapple with the bigger questions. (Also, I was a SAHM to my four kids and went back to work when my youngest started preschool - it's been the best of both worlds for now!).

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  18. Monica, I just read your post and am struck by your candor and vulnerability in sharing it. Thank you for sharing your faith journey. Sending love, solidarity and sisterhood your way. From one untidy, questioning, Mormon woman to another. - Michelle Brown

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