On the fence

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jander
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2019 9:14 pm

On the fence

Post by jander » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:22 pm

Hi all,

I have really enjoyed reading everyone else's posts and comments for the past few years, and just decided to go ahead and make a post of my own, if for no other reason than to just be able to speak openly and freely - something I don't get the opportunity to do very often. This may end up being too long of a novel for anyone to read, but I feel like the process of expressing my thoughts and feelings externally will be cathartic.

I was raised the youngest of 8 in a TBM family in Utah. My whole family is still very much TBM. I did everything that I was supposed to growing up, because thats just what everyone around me did. I never really got into trouble, I graduated from seminary, am a returned missionary, married in the temple, etc. I didn't even know anyone who wasn't LDS until I went to college, and all of my friends growing up were pretty strait-laced as well.

About a year or so after getting married though, I started having some serious doubts. This was mainly brought on by the fact that I didn't feel like I had ever had any real communication with God. (I know, I'm not sure why that didn't become an issue for me long before then either). I have always been suspicious of a 'warm and fuzzy feeling' as confirmation of truth, because when I was in middle school I called home sick pretty regularly saying that my stomach hurt. After telling myself that my stomach hurt for long enough, sure enough, my stomach started hurting. I believe the brain is incredibly powerful and can manufacture whatever feelings we want it to. I didn't want to convince myself of anything based on emotions I was forcing myself to feel. I wasn't really expecting anything groundbreaking or huge, but at least something that I could recognize as being outside of and not manufactured by myself. I had lived my whole life following the testimony formula, and had never felt anything more substantial than indigestion in answer to my prayers. This caused me to start questioning if God even existed.

I eventually stumbled upon the CES letter and was fascinated by all of the information that (obviously) is never taught at church or in FHE. While I found the contents interesting, they didn't cause me to question anything any more than the fact that I was getting nothing but silence from the heavens. My personality is such that I don't really have to have the answer to all of those questions - if I felt like I prayed and God told me to not worry about those details but that the church was true and everything would make sense later, that would be enough for me. I would be perfectly satisfied with that. But obviously, no such affirmation came regarding even his existence let alone the truthfulness of what I had been taught my whole life.

I was pretty open with my wife regarding my crisis of faith, and she was supportive of me as long as I was continuing to "live the gospel", make the church a priority in my life and in our home, and continuing to do the things the church teaches to get a testimony. I didn't want to break up our marriage, because I was afraid that I would then come to find a testimony again down the road somewhere and realize I allowed my marriage to fail for no reason. So I settled into a state of trying to be comfortable just not knowing one way or the other, and keeping up appearances for the sake of my family.

Now four years later, we have a daughter, I went back to school in an effort to change careers, and last year we moved in with my in-laws in Nevada while I finish school. The pressure to keep up appearances is even greater with our current living situation, and I am just feeling exhausted. I feel like I have recently taken a step away from not knowing one way or the other, and stepped towards believing that I have been deceived my whole life. (ironically, this came about a week after starting to read the Book of Mormon all the way through again - at a pace of about 15 chapters a day).

What does this mean for me now? I don't know. I don't think I would live my life drastically different if I was to get divorced and leave the church. I don't have any negative feelings for the church or the people in it. I just want to feel like I am free to be authentic. And right now, I don't.

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jfro18
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Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:41 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by jfro18 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:55 pm

Hey!

First - welcome!

Second... and I'm speaking mostly for myself here, but I think as you work through things, post here a lot. This is a great place not just to vent your frustrations and feelings, but it's a place I would have *killed* for before I talked to my wife.

Everyone here has been through this to some degree, and so you can bounce ideas off and while every situation is different, there are many common threads through all of us (and our believing family) that it really can help a lot to learn from what others have gone through.

As impossible as it seems, take your time and use this board as a place to escape while you figure it out. I would give a lot to go back in time and be on this board before I ever talked to my wife, because I of course let emotions turn my talk into a machine gun approach of everything I learned, which of course led to the backfire effect.

So get comfortable in here and post about whatever is on your mind whether it's doctrine, history, or family issues... it really does help a lot to have a smaller group here that is good to talk to as opposed to the exmo reddit which is more meme and anger oriented (in my opinion)

I hope that helps on some level, but from my experience the thing I would tell anyone going through this is to take it slow and try to talk to others before talking to your wife/in-laws so you don't make a lot of the mistakes we have.

Good luck and welcome!!

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Angel
Posts: 250
Joined: Thu May 31, 2018 8:26 am

Re: On the fence

Post by Angel » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:03 pm

welcome jander, wish you would have started posting earlier! I have found many friendly and comforting people here, and it is so good to know there are others who have gone through similar situations and emotions. Sam Young taught me a new term "trauma bonded" - and going throug a faith crisis counts in that I think.

The question of authenticity is one that many here struggle with I think. I was the first to leave the church in our family, and it was really hard. Now of the 5 of us, only 1 still goes to church. It has taken around 2 years, 2 kids are still "on the fence". I'm really lucky that my job allows me a diverse crowd of people to interact with so I have not been quite as isolated as some here have been. Branching out and making friends outside of the church might be a good first step? We had Muslims over for dinner on Saturday, and went out with Jewish friends for B-Shevat on Sunday. I have been really embracing Taoism as of late, and have replaced my BoM scripture study with the Tao Te Ching (short book, many translations to explore). everyone knows I love everyone, so hopefully view my new path not as leaving, but as embracing more. I came out on fb as "spiritual but not affiliated" and was given a friendly farewell by most (even got the Hosanna shout from one old LDS friend). Keeping everything positive - reassuring everyone that I am still spiritual, not "losing my faith" but instead "changing my faith", and showing gratitude for all the good with the LDS church has helped in not burning too many bridges.

If you are respectful, and grateful to everyone. If you stay sooper positive - avoid too much negativity about the church, and instead point out all the positive things about other religious groups and within the rest of humanity -

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
— Maya Angelou

I have talked through Fowler's stages of religious progression with a few people, as well as justifying all of the different religious faiths with the new belief that all groups are perfect enough to take everyone the first few steps, but also faulty enough to preserve individual freedoms and testimonies - that in the end, there is no borrowed light - everyone has to find their light within - and sometimes that requires a solo journey.

The warm fuzzies - I think they are real, and not limited to the LDS church. I have felt them within other groups too... Have to be careful not to interject your own will into it, or assume guidance goes farther or more than it does (just as it is easy to assume and misjudge any person you talk to). My testimony has grown incredibly sense leaving the church - I no longer feel the need to convert anyone, can see God's light shining in so many new places. No dogma, no particular set of scriptures needed, no leaders telling you what to do - "not affiliated" is to start seeing the divine in and through all. No respecter of persons. Just. Merciful. Loving.... and I am rooting for a 100% success rate at the end of this thing - no degrees of glory, just everyone refined and joyfully together. I don't see how "all tears wiped away" could exist in any other scenario.

Blessing to you our fellow traveler, and wishing you well on this exciting journey!!
“You have learned something...That always feels at first as if you have lost something.” George Bernard Shaw
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ghost
Posts: 282
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:40 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by Ghost » Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:08 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. A lot of it sounds familiar to me. I also find myself keeping up appearances to some degree, but I can imagine it would be exhausting if I were living with some of the people I'm keeping up appearances for.

I'm going on about 15 years with my own experiment with remaining on the fence, seeing if I can keep what I value in Mormonism (mainly relationships at this point) while taking things on my own terms. Honestly, I expected to be forced into some sort of confrontation years ago, but that never seems to happen. The balancing act has worked for me in some ways, but has also led to some problems that would be a little much to articulate here.

It took me quite a few years to admit to myself that I had actually reached some conclusions, and even then I didn't know how to act on those conclusions or even whether I wanted to act on them in any way. I've adopted just enough nihilism along the way to convince myself that it doesn't really matter what path I ultimately take. I think that has been helpful in some ways and unhelpful in other ways.

At any rate, welcome to the site. It's always nice to hear from someone else going through a familiar transition, wherever they are in the process.

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Red Ryder
Posts: 2776
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:14 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by Red Ryder » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:26 am

Welcome!

May I suggest a different fence analogy?

Rather than sitting on the fence, install a simple gate that allows you to visit either side of the fence.

Once you do this, you’ll find it easier to open the gate for 2 hours per week to be a practicing Mormon. Sit with your family at church and enjoy the moment with them.

Then when you get home, change out of your Sunday clothes, pull your garments off, put normal clothes on and walk back through the gate to the real world.

On the real world side, savor your relationships, find new hobbies, and become indifferent to the church like you’re currently indifferent to the Amish, Tupperware, and Nikki Manaj.

Build a replacement life to fill the void.

Remember that “no” is a complete sentence.
Stop caring what others at church think about you.

The world is a beautiful place to see when you have awaken from the Mormon slumber.

Last,

Take it slow is usually a good way to go.

RR
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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Corsair
Posts: 2914
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2016 9:58 am
Location: Phoenix

Re: On the fence

Post by Corsair » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:14 am

Welcome to NOM, Jander. We hope you find the enlightenment you need.
jander wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:22 pm
Now four years later, we have a daughter, I went back to school in an effort to change careers, and last year we moved in with my in-laws in Nevada while I finish school. The pressure to keep up appearances is even greater with our current living situation, and I am just feeling exhausted. I feel like I have recently taken a step away from not knowing one way or the other, and stepped towards believing that I have been deceived my whole life. (ironically, this came about a week after starting to read the Book of Mormon all the way through again - at a pace of about 15 chapters a day).

What does this mean for me now? I don't know. I don't think I would live my life drastically different if I was to get divorced and leave the church. I don't have any negative feelings for the church or the people in it. I just want to feel like I am free to be authentic. And right now, I don't.
This means that you are in a socially sticky situation where patience, forbearance, and planning will be your coping mechanisms. Living with your in-laws is challenging even if you are a believer. I have family members who spent some transition years living with in-laws. I have seen my own adult children get restless about coming back to their childhood bedroom and spending more than a few weeks of Christmas break at home. Your challenges would exist no matter your beliefs. Unfortunately, a faith transition magnifies all of the problems.

Red Ryder has the right idea. Be a quiet Mormon when you are at church. Enjoy being an agnostic Christian when you are home. Tactically, this is not the time to make a principled stand for your beliefs. Too many Ensign and Sunday School stories have highlighted investigators who defy family authority to join the true Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It makes these devout Mormons sound heroic. But, they are primarily disruptive to families and previous denominations.

Here is my additional advice: do not live in fear of divorce. Don't make your plans with the fear of divorce in mind. No one here is advocating divorce. No, we want you to preserve an otherwise good relationship, especially if there are children involved. Some marriages cannot and should not be saved, but this is not what I am talking about.

Don't let your spouse threaten divorce as a negotiating tactic. This is an underhanded tactic and this nuclear option explodes in the face of believers far more than unbelievers. Threats of divorce should be treated as virtually irrelevant in negotiation. Because she has to actually divorce to make it have any effect. This is the "Mutually Assured Destruction" philosophy that hilariously prevented nuclear war for the last 70 years. In a divorce, your wife would get support from her parents. She would get basic social acknowledgement at church, but that is the thinnest of rewards. She will also be a church widow and passive aggressively urged into a singles group. She has to get a job. She has to arrange private health insurance. She needs a new apartment. She needs a car.

All of these items are a bit easier for you. This is not fair, but it is both reality and the shining flip side of apostasy. Does she think that your apostasy will have less influence on your daughter if you split up? Again, we are not at all urging divorce. However, don't negotiate your life in fear of divorce because it will be much worse on the part of the believer.

Instead, become the person you need to be. Take the time to establish a new basis for moral judgement that does not include LDS prophets. Figure out what you want to do with your life and the kind of person you need to be in support of that life. I suspect that keeping your family intact is part of that plan. A basic non-denominational Christian lifestyle is a pretty good way to live if you in a modern, western democracy.

As Confucius said, "'We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one."

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Hagoth
Posts: 4582
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2016 1:13 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by Hagoth » Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:16 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, jander!

The analogy I used when I was in a situation more like yours was of following a path that's somewhat parallel to the path of a true believer. I could have my own perspective on my own path. Sometimes my path diverged from the norm, sometimes it ran parallel, and sometimes the two paths crossed. Sometimes I felt free to wander and other times I was compelled to drag my way through a tunnel. Like everything else in life we can't always get and do exactly what we want right now but we can revel in the times when we do. Over time my path got broader and more far reaching and I seldom feel the need to conform to the old path. When I do it's usually by my own choosing.

Hang in there!
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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MoPag
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Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:05 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by MoPag » Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:49 pm

Welcome to the ward family!! We are glad you are here! :D
...walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men’s lies...--Ezra Pound

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Evil_Bert
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:40 am
Location: Northern Nevada

Re: On the fence

Post by Evil_Bert » Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:04 pm

Thanks for your story. I saw that you are or were in Nevada. There are a few of us in the Reno/Carson area. Occasionally we might do lunch. If you are in the area, hit me up via PM and we can get a lunch together.
Illegitimi non carborundum.

jander
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2019 9:14 pm

Re: On the fence

Post by jander » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:10 pm

Thank you everyone for the welcome, words of support, and advice. It's been a pretty crappy road to travel on my own so far, so I'm glad I've found a wagon train of kindred spirits that are willing to help put a shoulder to the wheel.
Evil_Bert wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:04 pm
Thanks for your story. I saw that you are or were in Nevada. There are a few of us in the Reno/Carson area. Occasionally we might do lunch. If you are in the area, hit me up via PM and we can get a lunch together.
I am currently living in south Reno. I'll definitely be reaching out!

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