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On This Side

I never thought I would be on this side, on the “post-Mormon” side of the aisle. All my life, I was one of the good girls, who followed all the rules. Hell, I made up extra rules so I could do all of them better than anyone else. I believed God and angels were watching over me every second. I believed I had to work myself to heaven. If there was such a thing as grace, I didn’t depend on it. But here I am. I’m trying to acknowledge that some part of me chose this path, even though at the time it felt like there was no other choice for survival.

And here’s what I want you to know about this side. It’s not so bad. Yes, you lose things. You lose a lot of yourself in the transition. It’s scary. It feels sometimes like it would be easier to die. You may wish for death often in the midst of the tempest. People around you may tell you terrible things, that they wish you’d died, too. Or that they’re sorry for you. They may tell you that you just need to “repent” and everything will be fine again. You may even try to do just that, to stay for a little while longer. I tried to stay for so long. For over a decade, I tried to make Mormonism work even after I’d lost faith in most of its fundamentals, from the importance of temple work to the very nature of God. I didn’t want to change. I wanted to go back to who I was before.

I’m highly resistant to the narrative of losing faith being a “gift” of any kind. It didn’t feel like a blessing when everything dropped out from under my feet. Whenever people inside or outside of Mormonism try to get me to admit to phrasing that sounds like being grateful or God meant this to happen or you’ll understand someday, I’m out of there.

But this side has some really good things about it. Let me share some of them with you.

1. I don’t spend time worrying if God is going to be angry with me.

2. I find real satisfaction in making choices because they’re what I want, instead of what I’m “supposed” to do.

3. I don’t feel like I have to fit into some pre-programmed ideal of woman/human.

4. I don’t have to put in hours checking off lists of things that other people have assigned me to do (ministering, callings, etc).

5. I can choose to wear whatever I want, not worrying about if my garments will show or what other people might think of me.

6. I don’t have to put energy into saying no to coffee or tea when I’m out with friends who drink them.

7. I don’t have to think about being a “good Mormon” and how that reflects on the church.

8. I don’t have to worry about if I’ve missed an opportunity to proselytize this friend or that one, and if I’ll be punished forever for not bringing them to the one true church.

9. My sexuality belongs to me and no one else.

10. I can watch TV shows and movies/read books based on if I want to watch/read them, not based on some arbitrary rating system or if they have “swears” in them.

If you were never Mormon, this list probably sounds silly to you. Like, really, you did that? Yes, I did. Every moment of every day. I never saw how much energy it took until grief meant that I didn’t have that energy left. And then I kept trying to tell myself that I was a bad person for not being able to do all those things anymore.

On this side, I also don’t have to make excuses for Mormonism or its leader, its history or its truth claims. This is such an enormous relief. I can spend my time and energy on looking for those who need help or comfort after the blows come from Mormon leadership instead of trying to reconcile what has been said with what is obviously kind and compassionate and dare I say, Christian.

On this side, I hear people argue on one side or the other about changes in the church, and I don’t feel a need to jump in to tell “the truth.” Not my money, not my circus, as they say. Who knew how much emotional energy this would free up? So I can think about how to help my dying parents here and now rather than assure myself that they will go to heaven so it doesn’t matter.

It was so hard to take that tiny step from where I was to where I am now. I resisted for so long, the narratives of the “lazy” ex-Mormon or the “angry” ex-Mormon working so well on me. I didn’t want to be that. And now I am that. I am exactly that. I am lazy. I spend Sundays doing whatever the hell I want. I don’t have to justify my existence by serving others in ways or in hour counts that someone else demands. I can just be.

Being is pretty good, as it turns out. It’s not hard to just let go. The hard part was holding on for so long.

Written by

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

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