Content Warning: mental health, mention of suicidality, mention of self-harm, religious shaming, sexism
Hello! My name is Maycie Gibson. I’m a nineteen-year-old college student from Indiana, studying psychology and religion. I am working toward a career as a clinical psychologist, specializing in religious and cult trauma therapy. I’m the oldest of four children and was raised in a traditional Mormon household. I come from a long line of Mormons – many born into the LDS Church, with some converts.
What parts of the Mormon experience were most important or useful to you?
Mormonism provided me with a lot of social support. I moved from Arizona to Indiana just weeks before my eighth birthday. As a “new kid,” I was instantly thrown into a circle of kids my age and could see them every Wednesday and Sunday for the rest of my youth. The Mormon community was a big thing for me. There aren’t many Mormons in my area, so it felt extra special. Having a small Mormon community made it a pretty strong one.
I was also raised in the same ward as my dad and the rest of his huge family. I had roots there. All of my uncles were Eagle Scouts. My grandpa was always a bishop, stake president, or president of some other sort. So was my grandma. As an outgoing kid from one of the bigger families in the ward, I often found myself in higher youth callings. Through such experiences, I learned to work closely with others and orchestrate events. Both have proved useful to me today, because I feel very comfortable being in charge of things.
What doctrinal or theological parts of Mormonism did you believe that were most important to you?
Anything that made Mormonism unique was important to me. I found the theology and philosophy of the LDS Church incredibly validating. I, like many others, absolutely glued myself to it. Being told that I had the whole truth about life, the universe, and God made me feel special. Even though I live in a very religious area, I felt like being Mormon put me above everyone I knew. I had the full truth, and they didn’t. Being able to say that would make anyone feel pretty good about themselves. Mormonism provides a lot of people with self esteem. As a kid, that helped me a lot.
The unique theology of the Mormon afterlife also helped me a lot. I lost quite a few people in my childhood but never worried too much because they were either Mormon or children. As such, I believed they would be in the celestial kingdom with me one day. I was also motivated by the idea of living with the greatest and most righteous people who had ever walked the earth. I spent a lot of time daydreaming about that.
In addition, I had a deep attachment to my Mormon ancestors and pioneers. I bawled when, while receiving my patriarchal blessing, the patriarch said I was called an “elect lady, even as Emma of old.” I admired her and other pioneers so much. While I still respect their struggles, I absolutely have a new perspective about the realities of what went on – including the religio-political climate they were living in. Knowing what I know now, I don’t want my life to look anything like Emma Hale Smith’s.
What spiritual experiences did you have as a Mormon that sealed your orthodox commitment to the LDS Church?
In terms of spiritual experiences, I “felt the spirit,” more than anything else. Once when I was extremely young, I thought I saw the spirits of two deceased relatives. I was an extremely imaginative child, and remember having an understanding that it wasn’t real. Even still, I denied this in order to make the daydream last longer. I felt the spirit when listening to music or a particularly passionate General Conference talk. Anytime Jeffery R. Holland spoke, I felt like I was having a personal conversation with God. But, for the most part, my orthodox commitment was sealed through little moments – the “burning of the bosom” that made me feel as though I was in the right place doing the right thing.
How did you lose your faith in Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?
I was an incredibly devout believer. It was in no way driven by teenage angst or a desire to rebel. I loved the LDS Church, and I loved being a member. Everything began during my freshman year of high school. I felt thrilled about being enrolled in seminary to study the gospel, the bible, and their respective histories. I read my scriptures, prayed, and completed scripture mastery assignments. However, the more intensely I studied the gospel, the more unanswerable questions seemed to develop. My first questions regarded the nature of God, not so much the Mormon Church itself. I was studying the Testament, and couldn’t understand why God seemed so cruel. The God I studied was responsible for heinous acts I would never dream of committing. He dismissed war, genocide, and abuse. He was temperamental and unforgiving; things I don’t want to be. I started to wonder: why am I more forgiving and empathetic than my God? What gives him the right to be God, and what makes me worth less than him? It was during this time that I overheard my parents discussing Fanny Alger, and her relationship with Joseph Smith.
With a new question to wonder about, I put my thoughts about God on a shelf and dove into the marriages of Joseph Smith. From there, I researched Book of Mormon history and learned about the lack of archeological evidence supporting its claims. This, along with the Kinderhook Plates, Joseph Smith’s background in fraud and crime, and inconsistent accounts of the First Vision. I sat with my new knowledge for a few months. I was scared to reach a conclusion either way – whether I decided the LDS Church was or wasn’t true. I kept all concerns to myself during this time. I was afraid of disappointing my parents and having to speak with my bishop.
I remember the exact moment I lost faith in Mormonism, at the age of 15. Sometime that winter, I was eating dinner with my family, unable to focus on anything but my thoughts about the LDS Church. I was scared that my mind might be read through facial expressions – that the pounding in my heart might be heard from across the table. I finished eating, and ran into the bathroom. This was followed by a moment of near derealization as I stared at myself in the mirror, finally allowing my mind to voice the thought I’d been repressing for months: it isn’t true. I remember feeling everything from heartbreak to anxiety to relief. I sat on the floor with my hand clasped over mouth to keep any family members from hearing my sobs. I felt angry and sad, but wasn’t sure at whom exactly. I left my bathroom an atheist who masqueraded as a Mormon. I didn’t know what was true, but had a pretty good idea about what wasn’t. One thing I knew for sure: I couldn’t tell anyone. I wanted nothing to do with the LDS Church. I understood that telling my believing parents would result in having to meet with my bishop, reread the Book of Mormon, and never miss a church meeting. I would become a project – someone to be saved and rehabilitated. This was the last thing I wanted. So, I continued attending church meetings, going to seminary, and bearing a testimony I didn’t have.
What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?
The weird attitude toward women and sexist undertones of Young Women and Activity Days organizations were harmful. I remember when a Young Women leader (who I still love and respect) asked what I was doing after high school. I told her where I wanted to go to school and what I wanted to study. She responded with, “until you meet a cute guy and settle down.”
Pressure to be perfect, especially as a woman, really took its toll on me – both when I believed in Mormonism and when I didn’t. Shaming within the LDS Church was hard too. I never confessed any of my “sins” and didn’t believe leaders had any right to know anything about me. Because of this, I never had to deal with being personally reprimanded. That said, sitting through lessons about the Word of Wisdom or law of chastity was really hard. I felt judged. No one knew I wasn’t living the gospel, but I knew I fell into a certain category that others certainly had strong feelings about. Sitting though lessons and conversations about worthiness was really hard too. I wanted to stand up and tell the class that they weren’t unworthy of anything. For whatever reason, it seems like everything within Mormonism has to be a struggle. Every day is a fight to be better, purer, and more perfect. Growing up, I watched others bear their testimonies while expressing disappointment in themselves for falling asleep in seminary, breaking fasts too early, or doubting to even the smallest degree. I did the same as a believer and in the early stages of my faith crisis. It takes a long time to work through the guilt and shame that comes with being a member of LDS Church, but I’m doing pretty well now.
How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?
As a psychology student, I better understand what happened during past moments of spiritual revelation. LDS Church leaders say extremely validating things. We are insecure beings and thrive off validation. Mormonism gives that to its members. It makes people feel like they are personally recognized and named by the most powerful being in existence. It tells LDS Church members that they are “chosen” out of 110 billion human beings to have ever lived or died on the earth – among the most pure and knowledgeable, the highest quality. As a Mormon, this is your reality. This is the lens through which you see everything within or around you.
It’s no wonder that, with such high levels of validation, you are going to get a warm and fuzzy feeling. Especially while believing you are interacting with someone or something that is of God. Nowadays, I’m sometimes startled by moments of love or personal intuition that feel exactly like “the spirit.” It’s all about good old neurotransmitters/hormones like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. (I recognize that I could be wrong and don’t mean to invalidate the belief in spiritual witness. I just understand it differently).
I’ve made a point of recognizing such moments after leaving the LDS Church. I still get that warm and fuzzy, comforting feeling when having deep talks with friends, witnessing a selfless act, or listening to beautiful music. These experiences create the same feelings as sitting in church used to. They are special. Not because of a relation to God, but because they are the result of things that make us happy or thankful to be alive.
What was transitioning out of Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism) like for you? What was most painful about it? What was most healing or joyful about the transition?
While I was living “in Mormonism but not of Mormonism,” I started experimenting with “forbidden fruits” like coffee and swearing. This made things easier for me. While at school or with friends, I could live like a non-Mormon. But at home or at church, I still looked like a perfect Mormon kid. During that time, I found comfort in little things like going to coffee shops with friends. I would chew gum before getting home and told my parents I had ordered an Italian soda. My second, or open, transition out of the LDS Church was the most incredible experience of my life.
The summer after junior year of high school, my parents took my fifteen-year-old brother and I to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. My mom explained that they had read something called the CES Letter, and saw Mormonism differently now. I interrupted her introduction and asked, “Are we leaving the LDS Church?” We were. When I say I cried, I mean, I ugly cried. But I felt so happy. I was able to tell my parents that I knew about everything they had read, and hadn’t believed in a long time. It was freeing to share such a huge part of myself with the people I love the most. I consider myself incredibly lucky – not every non-believer or non-traditional Mormon member gets to do that. That conversation was the most healing part of my transition out of the LDS Church. From there, I began trying new things with my family. My dad and I introduced my siblings to iced tea. My mom and I visited the shop where I used to get coffee in secret. We bought a coffee maker for the house. My parents and I spend a lot of time discussing the tattoos we want. We’re a lot more accepting of other people and other lifestyles, and that’s said out loud in our house. Enjoying small things that were once taboo still makes me smile, even having been out of Mormonism for two years. I enjoy sharing every bit of life with my parents. I really don’t keep secrets anymore, which has relieved me of so much anxiety. We left as I was heading into senior year of high school, which meant no more pretending. No more worry about whether or not I should go to BYU. I attend a super diverse school, talk to people from all over the world with different faith traditions, and come back home to discuss new ideas with my family. I love that.
The hardest aspect of leaving Mormonism was telling family and friends. As a believing member, I remember feeling heartbroken when loved ones left the LDS Church. I empathize with those who have watched my and I family leave. I know they think we are lost and missing out on blessings. That there’s no way we could be as happy as we once were. It is hard because I will likely never be able to help them understand how and why we’re happier than ever – open, honest, and free. We have healed so much, both as a family and individually. I’ve only told a couple of people about my faith crisis and haven’t had to deal with a lot of confrontation overall. But there were some really difficult conversations when my whole family left, with people we love. They don’t understand.
In what ways did LDS Church leaders or members make your transition more difficult?
Sometimes within the LDS Church, individuals will teach their own doctrine. This was common in my area. It really didn’t help all the confusion. One year, a seminary teacher of mine said I wouldn’t go to the celestial kingdom because I wasn’t focusing on scripture study in a way that invited the spirit (i.e. I questioned them too much). I asked a lot of questions during class, and that teacher in particular was very impatient with my inquiries. I was desperately trying to understand my religion, and not getting answers from my teachers made things more difficult. My Young Women leaders were kind and fun. But again, some of my questions irritated them. I heard, “we’ll learn that after we die” and “some things aren’t meant to be revealed to us yet,” more times than I could ever imagine counting. I remained good friends with my youth group and was close with a couple of leaders. They made it easier for me to go through the motions of attending church meetings and events without even knowing it. For those people I feel extremely thankful.
Although my family decided to leave Mormonism in May, we intended to remain active or semi-active during the summer. This way, we would still have the chance to participate in activities like girls camp and youth conference. We could experience a few “lasts” for closure. My stake president, a close friend of my grandparents, told my family that he didn’t want my brother and I going to youth conference because he was afraid of what we might say to our peers.
Were there LDS Church leaders or members who were helpful to you? If so, how?
I was really close with one of my Young Women leaders and best friends with her daughter. This resulted in spending a lot of time at their house. After leaving Mormonism, she stopped by my house to say that she still loved me, that I was still welcome in her family and home. She was one of the only people who verbally expressed that sentiment to me, and it brought me to tears. After our conversation, she took off her Young Women medallion and put it around my neck. At this point, I was a blubbering mess. Not out of sadness that I wouldn’t earn one myself, but because I understood its meaning to Mormon women and the amount work she had devoted. It was a really beautiful moment and lovely goodbye to a program I’d been involved in for five years. I have also stayed friends with my last seminary teacher, and we keep in touch. She sends messages every so often to check in, see how I’m doing, and express her love for me. This is exactly what someone going through a faith transition needs the most – kindness, and little reminders that they’re defined by more than religion.
What resources were most helpful in your transition out of Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?
I didn’t have many. As a teen with rules and restrictions, it was really hard to look for resources without alerting my parents. In order to cope with some of the stress and confusion, I poured myself into exploring other philosophies. This included studying space and science. I found, and still find, a lot of comfort in focusing on what can be proven, what is, instead of what might be or what can’t be proven. After being told for so long to stay within the teachings of the church and away from anything contradictory, I was ready to learn everything I could about the big bang, evolution, nihilism, and any other theory, philosophy, and spirituality I could cram into my brain. I’m still not dead set on a new set of beliefs, and I kind of like it that way.
What significant mistakes did you make in your transition?
I allowed myself to become extremely angry. Between bitterness and my anxiety, I became really depressed during the early phases of my faith crisis. I wonder if I could have strived for a healthier mindset when going through it all, but really can’t be sure.
Part of me felt I might be making a mistake by not telling family members about losing my faith. But at the end of the day, I know I made the right choice. My mom once asked why I never told her or my dad. I explained that doing so would have caused them to dig in deeper. I felt they would have tried everything possible to bring me back, and she agreed. I have seen this dynamic play out within my extended family every time someone leaves Mormonism. While I wish my transition had gone better in many ways, I made the best of it. I have little in the way of regrets.
How has your leaving Mormonism affected your family relationships, friendships, job, neighbor relationships, social life, etc.?
The relationships with my immediate family, grandparents, aunts, and uncles that haven’t left yet are a bit strained. Some more than others. I don’t talk with my Mormon friends as often as I did while a member. They have all expressed sorrow at my leaving Mormonism but are still loving and supportive. I have found that many people outside of the LDS Church are extremely interested in my experience with Mormonism. Honestly, my faith crisis is one of my favorite things to talk about. I like that it allows me to be vulnerable with people. Leaving the LDS Church has made me a more open-minded person. I love sharing my truth with people, and I also love learning about the religions, ideals, and identities of others. As a Mormon, I was convinced that I had the right idea and didn’t need anything else. Now that I am no longer hiding such a big piece of myself, I feel more outgoing, less anxious, and very optimistic. I am a better friend and increasingly open-minded since leaving.
How have you navigated communication and relationships with believing family and friends? Any tips for keeping those people in your life?
I mediated a conversation between my mom and a relative once, which was extremely stressful and difficult. My relative had a really hard time listening to my mom’s points and reasons for leaving. Both became frustrated with each other and gave up on the conversation. I took my relative aside afterward to clarify that my mom is not an angry, negative person just because she left the LDS Church. I explained that the process is extremely painful. I also told them it wasn’t anyone’s fault – nothing could have been done to stop my mom and other family members from leaving. I kept repeating how much we love them and feel happier than ever as a family. After this conversation, I hugged my mom and reminded her that we can’t change my relative’s mind, just like they can’t change ours. The interaction ended with reassurance that eventually we would settle into a new normal.
It is so crucial for believing Mormons, non-Mormons, ex-Mormons, half- Mormons, one-foot-out-the-door Mormons, etc., to understand that religion, or a lack thereof, creates a lens through which an individual sees the world. This is someone’s personal reality. As a believing Mormon, the doctrine of the LDS Church was my reality. The Book of Mormon was historically true and factual. I was going to get my own planet. Everything in my life was related to Mormonism in some way. Now, as an agnostic atheist, I have a different reality. It is hard to wrap my brain around the idea of God, and I don’t think that would be easy to change. The same could have been said for Mormon me. It is important to remember that once we have adopted a belief, especially one rooted in emotional faith, it feels nearly impossible to see anything else. Patience is key. Remembering that you love people for who they are, even without their beliefs, will help you retain so many more relationships.
Which (if any) of your former Mormon beliefs/behaviors have you retained after your faith crisis?
I haven’t kept many. The one thing that has really stayed with me is a passion for service. But outside of Mormonism, I don’t have to cherry pick who should be helped based on perceptions of righteousness or deservingness. I love that.
In what ways have your beliefs/behaviors changed after your faith crisis?
They’ve changed in a lot of ways, big and small. I now have a morning coffee routine and an evening tea routine. I listen to music that isn’t on EFY playlists or performed by LDS artists. I do most of the things Mormonism doesn’t allow. I think differently across the board about politics, religion, and morality than I would if I were still Mormon. Almost everything has changed.
What are your thoughts/beliefs now about God and Jesus?
I don’t believe in God. It’s not because I hate the idea of God, I just can’t make sense of it enough to believe. I do think Jesus existed. But after researching more, I don’t think he was the son of God, or even a prophet. I think he was a man who, like many people, got involved in political unrest and became a messiah character. While studying the bible in a new light, I saw that many scholars found no clear line between truth and fantasy during those times. As long as an idea was widespread, it could be seen as real and worth believing in, even Jesus.
How do you now make sense of death and the afterlife?
I don’t believe in God, heaven, or hell. I hope I’m wrong. It would be great for those things to exist, but I just can’t wrap my head around them. To a lot of people, not believing in an afterlife is tragic, but it actually gives me hope. I believe in making life on Earth like heaven. There’s a great deal of knowledge and experience to be gained. I believe in learning everything we can, and helping as many people as possible, in order to leave the world a better place when we die. Without a hope for heaven or fear of hell, I am comfortable befriending anyone and everyone. Sometimes religion tells us who we can and cannot love. We are taught that loving the wrong people will make us sinners. I feel everyone is worthy of the exact same kindness – regardless of religiosity, sexual orientation, gender, or race. I think that’s the meaning of life: to learn of all and to serve all. In a lot of ways this may be similar to the sentiments of a religious person.
Regarding death, I feel oddly comfortable with it. I want to live as long as possible, but I also feel okay about dying and not going anywhere afterward. I just try to be kind to others. I want to make sure that whenever I die, I die having made people happy. I’ve lost a number of people in my life and can’t quite explain how I’ve come to terms with their deaths. I just try to be thankful for them – for what they accomplished and for the love they brought to others. That’s how I cope with life and death: by being grateful for what good people have done.
Without the LDS Church telling you what is “right” and “wrong,” how do you establish your own sense of morality/right/wrong?
I have a rather abstract sense of morality. I still don’t feel that I’ve done enough learning and thinking about life and morality quite yet. I think I’m an existentialist, which means I believe that life has no inherent meaning, but we should strive to make the most of it. I think anything that furthers the development of humanity is worth doing. To me, that means making sure people are happy and healthy. I also believe in being honest (as hypocritical as it sounds, now that I’ve admitted to lying and keeping a lot of secrets in my life). But if we are honest and empathetic with each other, we’ll care so much more about the preservation of our fellow human beings. I think morality and biology might be closely related. If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization), practically anything we do to fulfill those needs can be seen as “moral”. Service and kindness can fulfill such needs in one way or another. To put it very simply – I think helping as many people as we can, in whatever way we can, is right, while deliberately harming people is wrong.
Do you still value “spirituality” in your life (spirituality defined as “connection” to something bigger than yourself), and if so, what are your main sources of spiritual fulfillment?
Sure! I think there are many things bigger than myself and definitely work on my connection to them. I find fulfillment through connecting with other people, spending time in nature, looking at the stars, and reading books. I am most fulfilled by learning more about what other people think. That’s why I’m studying psychology. Trying to better understand why people do what they do, believe what they believe, and feel what they feel makes me feel more connected to humanity as a whole. I get the same spiritual high learning about humans that I used to feel when reading the Book of Mormon. The human experience is so complicated – it’s my favorite thing to try and understand.
To what extent have you found healthy and meaningful community to replace the role of the ward/stake in your life?
Shortly after losing my faith, I got involved in high school show choir. That provided a community I could spend time with outside of my church youth group. Since starting college, I haven’t met a lot of new people, but I’m working on it. My plan going forward is to find like-minded people who are ambitious and focused on improving the world. I miss the service opportunities Mormonism gave me but know they exist outside. I spent freshman year as co-chair of Philanthropy Council in my dorm. In this way I was able to continue organizing service projects and helping those in need, just in a different environment. That sort of thing will be part of my life forever.
What meaning and purpose does life have to you now that you no longer believe in Mormonism?
As mentioned previously, I feel that the meaning of my life is to learn and to help others. Through becoming a therapist, I hope to support those who might be experiencing some of the same struggles I’ve faced. There is a great deal of pain in the world. All I really want is to alleviate some of that pain – to help people understand their inherent worth and humanity. I think life has as much meaning as we want to give it. There are many problems to fix, and only so many years in my life to work on fixing them, but it won’t hurt to try.
Within the next couple of years, I want to create a resource (or resources) for teens struggling through a faith crisis. I live in an extremely religious and conservative area. There are quite a few young people who feel differently from their families on topics related to God and religion. The one thing we all seem to have in common is fear. I want to help kids understand that they are not alone, and their feelings are valid. I think teenagers are wiser than adults give them credit for. I want to help young people feel heard and empowered to live their truth.
How has leaving Mormonism affected your mental health?
My mental health is better than ever. I became extremely depressed after losing my faith. I already had anxiety, and feeling like I’d lost my source of self-worth while keeping thoughts and emotions inside really took a toll. I struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm as a teenager which was incredibly difficult. It can be especially hard to have poor mental health as a Mormon, because when you try to bring it up often people don’t understand. You’re encouraged to pray and search the scriptures for answers. Being forced into doing those things only made life harder. I was visibly depressed, but invisibly a non-believer. No one could have guessed the reason behind my struggle, so I don’t blame anyone for that. Since leaving Mormonism, I’ve been happier than ever. I haven’t been depressed in a couple of years. While I still struggle with anxiety, and panic attacks, it’s never related to the LDS Church. I have a better relationship with my anxiety. I no longer think of it as the influence of Satan, or guilt for my sins, like I did when I was younger. It’s just the combination of chemicals and an overactive amygdala that needs to be calmed down sometimes. I became very reclusive during my faith crisis and the two years following. I used to feel worried about saying the wrong thing, even over text. Sometimes the stress of sending a single text message would bring me to tears. Now I can text people every day, go to parties, and even host parties! I feel exponentially more comfortable around others, my relationships are much healthier, and I have more confidence. I feel comfortable getting therapy, and I feel comfortable with myself.
How has leaving Mormonism affected your sexuality?
I’m definitely way more open regarding thoughts on sex and my own sexuality. I recently opened up to my mom about being sexually active, after keeping it from her for a couple of years. It’s something I can discuss more easily with friends and guys I date. I don’t see sex as taboo or a sin anymore. Instead, it is something healthy and a super important part of forming an intimate relationship with a partner. Not to mention fun! Also, the concept of virginity demonizes women who have sex. Working though my feelings of guilt in the beginning helped me to view sex as a normal, healthy, and fun part of life. I have gained so much confidence in my identity as a woman from doing so. I’m not ashamed of my decisions, and I want other young women to understand that their worth is not defined by whether or not they are a “virgin.”
What aspects of your life are better after Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?
I feel like I care so much more about everything. Which is not meant to be an attack on Mormonism. As a Mormon, all of my thoughts and energy went into doing what I thought would get me into the celestial kingdom. I was living for the afterlife. Now that I’ve left the LDS Church, I do everything more earnestly because I don’t know that I’ll be getting another shot at living when I die. I’ve also created a larger social circle and am no longer worried that people might pull me away from my beliefs. I’m not worried about only dating Mormons. I no longer feel pressure to get married in the temple and have a big Mormon family. That’s been really nice as a young adult, because I can plan life around my ambitions. If I get married and have kids, great. If I don’t, great. My future has so many more options, and I love that.
The best part of my life after Mormonism, is living without fear. As a Mormon kid, I was afraid of so many things: the end of the world, being unworthy, being personally tempted by Satan, not getting into the celestial kingdom, etc. I don’t worry about those things anymore. I feel like I have so much more control now. When believing in the Mormon idea of God and Satan, I thought all of the good and bad in the world was a result of their decisions – that I couldn’t control it. Now, I believe all of the good and bad in the world came from humans. This makes life feel more predictable, more controllable, and more understandable to me – even though my beliefs might be wrong.
What is your life still missing? In what ways could your life still be improved without Mormonism?
I don’t think my life is really missing anything right now. As a nineteen-year-old, I’m sort of at the peak of “figuring life out” (if life can even be figured out). I am still looking for community. So many connections were made from being a member of the LDS Church – you’re handed a group. Entering the outside world, I’ve had to be more active in going out and meeting new people. Which is always weird as a more introverted person, but I’m working on it!
What final advice would you give folks who are transitioning?
I would tell anyone transitioning to look for answers and trust themselves. Within Mormonism, we are told to “doubt our doubts,” but those doubts are there for a reason. If you have questions, you deserve answers. Whether you get an answer at all may vary, but meaningful discoveries will be made along the way. Whether you stay in the LDS Church or leave it, your decision is valid. Allow space for wonder; you owe it to yourself and your own health. This process can get very dark and extremely disheartening, to put it lightly. Surround yourself with those you love. Try not to get lost in the confusion. Understand also, that you will eventually settle into a new normal. Even though your entire reality has just been flipped upside down, you will get used to life without Mormonism. Or, if you stay, you will see life within Mormonism through new eyes. I think, at the end of the day, it boils down to this: our thoughts, feelings, and pain are relative. All of the fear, confusion, hope, and happiness you experience in a faith crisis – it is understandable. There’s no perfect way to deal with everything, and everyone handles it differently. There’s nothing wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with you. For teenagers going through a faith crisis, know that you are going to be okay. Be smart in the way you choose to approach changes in your life. Always think twice before making decisions about who to tell, but do tell someone. If your change in faith is going to jeopardize your safety, home life, or relationship with family – understand the risks, and choose the healthiest option for you. Understand that you are not alone. You might be surrounded by people who are devout Mormons, and it may be hard to see that anyone anywhere could be going through what you are going through. But someone else is there, or has been there. It takes time to heal from the pain that comes with a Mormon faith crisis. Be patient with, and kind to, yourself.