These last few weeks, as family, friends, and ward members have learned of my leaving the church, I’m hearing a repeated theme as to the reasons why they think I’ve left. I’m not surprised at their reasoning. I even predicted it. I was hopeful that at least some of the people I love so dearly would actually be interested in knowing the reasons. I was hopeful they would ask. Hopeful, but skeptical.
When I’d finally left my marriage of 29 years, it wasn’t pretty. Obviously, the marriage wasn’t very pretty either; but because we were “sealed” in the temple, it was an egregious act to leave. Truth be told, I’d have left at least a decade earlier if I didn’t have the fear of destroying an “eternal” family hanging over my head. Not to mention the well-ingrained practice of self-sacrifice for the sake of the family I learned growing up in an abusive home. Walking away from a forever family is almost one of the unpardonable sins of Mormonism…even in the case of abuse.
Therefore, I know it’s easier for people to think that my decision to leave is because of the many abuses I suffered at the hands of “righteous” church members and priesthood leaders. But that’s just not so! If the sexual abuse perpetrated by my priesthood-holding father was the reason, I’d have left the church decades ago when my parents divorced. If my reason for leaving was the emotional and spiritual abuse inflicted by my temple-worthy mother and stepfather, I’d have left when I went away to college and was no longer living under their roof. If it was based on the way I was treated by my husband, I’d have walked out of the church when I walked out of the marriage six years ago. And if it had anything to do with the unrighteous actions of ward priesthood leaders, I’ve had a number of opportunities to leave over the course of a lifetime. BUT I DIDN’T, because my testimony was never based on people!
I’ve always had to separate my testimony of Christ from the LDS church and the actions of many of its members. It’s the only way I could survive emotionally and spiritually. In fact, the more abuse I suffered, the more I tried to “balance the scale” with my good works in an attempt to gain favor in the sight of God. That’s why I remained active and temple-worthy, served diligently, studied the scriptures, and did everything else Mormons are told to do to in my misguided attempt to earn God’s grace. That’s why I went to the temple nearly every week even though it ignited PTSD symptoms from the ritualistic abuse of childhood. I wasn’t going to allow any man, woman, tradition, or ritual to separate me from God!
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
Since my leaving the LDS church has become public, some people have shared their testimonies of the “truthfulness of the gospel” in an attempt to bring me back to my senses. Do they not remember that I was doing that very thing not too many months ago? Recently, I’ve heard stories of sacrifice and persecution for the sake of the “restored” gospel that were intended to evoke feelings that would bring me running back to the fold. But I’ve learned that Christ never intended for us to be led by our emotions.
“Come now, let us reason together” says the LORD…” Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)
That’s what I’ve been doing the last several months…reasoning out my relationships with the Mormon church and with Christ through prayer and reading His word. Research and reasoning helped me walk away after the Lord called my name. He has helped me walk away from abusive situations throughout my life one step at a time, and He continues to do so now.
My Mormon friends don’t want to hear my reasons for leaving their beloved church. One friend is willing to maintain our friendship, but laid the ground rule that talking about the church was off-limits. I’ve since realized that what she meant was that it’s off-limits for me, but not for her! Another dear friend has reassured me that I’m not truly an “apostate” because the abuse deadened me to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost so I never really received a testimony of its truthfulness. My bishop shared his hope that someday I’d be able to heal enough to separate my abuse from the church and come back. These well-meaning people are worried about my eternal salvation, but I’m not. I trust my Savior, Jesus Christ, and believe Him when He says:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 (ESV)