I do not BELONG to THE church..

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Just the other day my brother posted his testimony (for the second time in one week) and his wording, while very typical TBM wording, made me think. He started it with this: 

I Belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

My initial response was to roll my eyes and continue to scroll through the meaningless posts filling my feed. But I later came across it again and I realized that the wording he used, the wording used by nearly every Mormon, rubs me the wrong way. As a TBM, I never would have thought it weird to say that I belong to the church. However, from the outside looking in, I have a completely new perspective. I have friends who associate with many different religions, but never once have I heard one of them say that they BELONG to their church. Most say “I go to [insert church name here].” In fact, if you google “I belong to the church” you will yield results that are almost completely LDS related, whether it be a primary song or a nursery lesson. This is something that at one point in my life I saw just as displaying loyalty to the LDS church, but now I see it more as a way to indoctrinate the members of the Mormon church. And when you really think about it, as terrible as it is, members of the LDS church really do BELONG to the church. The LDS church owns its members because they have their members convinced that if they don’t give 10% of their income over, they won’t get into the Celestial Kingdom. They own their members because they can tell them what kind of underwear they need to wear in order to be saved, and the members will listen without so much as a blink of the eye. The church owns its members, and every single day members say so, without really thinking about why.

That isn’t the only thing that rubs me the wrong way about that sentence. Since leaving I can’t stand hearing or saying the words “THE church.” From a young age they get into into children’s heads that the LDS church is the only church. Yes, they acknowledge that there are other churches and religions in the world, but members are indoctrinated to believe that their’s is the only church worth belonging to. They tell you time and time again that they are the only church with the fullness of the gospel. They are the only true church. This isn’t something that common members go around saying(well, most at least), but you can tell that this is the attitude when you talk to them about their religion. When talking to a Mormon about what they believe, they will constantly say “THE church believes…” This was something of a habit for me when I was still practicing, and unfortunately it still is. I often find myself biting my tongue. I have to remind myself to say “the LDS Church” or “the Mormon Church.” In leaving I have realized that any religion that encourages you to be a good person, is one worth belonging to. 

The Greater Strength

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I believe it takes a lot of strength to have faith, but there is something that takes even more strength. 

I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At the age of 8 years old I was baptized into the church and confirmed as a member. I wasn’t the most obedient, but for the most part I did what was expected of me. But then, at the age of 15 I began to question the doctrines that I had been taught since before I could even speak. I believed, as the church taught, that if I did what I was supposed to it would all be clear to me. I though that this doubt was coming from the devil. I believed that because I was dating when I shouldn’t have been, I let him into my life and allowed him to leave me astray. This doubt continued off and on for two years. After breaking up with my boyfriend, I was sure that I would gain clarity. I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do, he would bless me with the truth. But this never came. I began to google what I had been taught all my life was “anti-mormon” but when I did so, I was plagued with guilt. I would read for five minutes, exit out and delete my browser history. I continued as if I hadn’t read anything at all. I went to seminary, sacrament meeting, mutual, etc.. At this time in my life, guilt and confusion filled me. 

It wasn’t until I left for school that I really started to look into what I had been taught my whole life. I visited mormonthink.com and /r/exmormon. I read the CES Letter. I stopped going to institute and Sunday meetings. I started to realize that what I grew up believing, was a con. The guilt and confusion I’d been feeling for the past 3 years floated away. That left room for anger, sadness, and worry. Initially, I was furious. I was partially angry at myself for being fooled, but mostly at the LDS church for fooling me and millions of others. I was devastated, I wanted so much to hold on to the church and its teachings. I wanted my dream of being married in the temple, because what girl doesn’t want to be married inside of a castle? At first, it scared me to realize that everything I thought I knew about life, was now a mystery to me. But most of all I was, and still am, worried. I know have a huge weight on my shoulders that will not be lifted until I tell my family of my disaffection. There is no doubt in my mind that they will not understand. They will believe that I have left because I want to “be of the world” and that I just want to sin. They will view me as weak for not having the kind of strength that is required to look past the things that led me away. I can’t blame them though… Four years ago I would have thought the same thing. 

Yes, I believe that having faith does require a lot of faith… But in my mind, greater strength lies in admitting that you may have been wrong. Greater strength comes from leaving everything you were taught and accepting that maybe you don’t know everything about life. My strength has come from figuring out what I don’t believe, despite the disappointment I will cause my family. It isn’t easy to realize that you will never get to attend your siblings weddings, to know that there will always be a gap between you and your family. Yes, these things are hard to accept, but I wouldn’t go back because for the first time in my life I can actually be myself.