Over the past several months I’ve experienced what is best described as an Awakening. I opened myself up to possibilities different than what I was raised in, and my world turned upside down. Those who have followed me for a long time know that I’ve always been a firm absolutist, and I attribute that to my upbringing. Not my parents exclusively, but the small-town, conservative, Mormon culture that I came from. Is this the experience for all Mormons? Of course not. There are many millions of us, and we come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that shape our views in a variety of ways.
In some respect it’s been a long journey, initiated by classes at BYU like Intro to Women’s Studies and The Gospel and World Religions. Casual reading of By Common Consent and Feminist Mormon Housewives introduced me to alternative ways of thinking. A few months ago I started listening to some podcasts like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, Mormon Expressions, and Daughters of Mormonism and the doors were thrown open. I’ve never felt “brainwashed” in the LDS Church (even though I know there are those who would argue otherwise) but it’s very much an environment where you are simultaneously expected to rely on God speaking to you personally while sustaining the leaders of the Church (and this is often interpreted as “If you feel like God tells you something contrary to what the leaders say, you need to ask again until you get the right answer”).
Once I allowed myself to question a few things, the dam burst and I started questioning everything. It was so freeing! Now when we hear something That Husband and I turn to each other and ask “How would you interpret that?” and “What do you think about that?” We talk things over, sometimes coming to a conclusion, sometimes not. We search, develop theories, talk them over with our friends, revise, and commit to learning more. It’s so liberating!
I wanted to write a series “coming out” on four major topics where I’ve experienced dramatic reversals in my thinking because I want to continue to be genuine and honest with you. I want to share my perspective on some of the deeper meanings of life, and I can’t do that if it constantly leads people to say “But you said X 3 years ago and why is that different than what you are saying now?”
I admit that this almost prevented me from speaking out. The fear that I would be attacked for… changing my mind. For educating myself and growing and developing. The worry that I would spend my time deleting comments asking me how it feels to realize how wrong and stupid and ignorant I was.
This sort of discourse is not productive, and I hope that my fears will be unfounded. I hope that by writing about these shifts in my thinking I will come into contact with those who encourage me to continue thinking critically. I hope that those who might feel threatened by one of their own speaking out about sensitive issues will engage with me respectfully that we all can represent our faith in a positive way. I think this fear of mine has come from the political rhetoric we see so frequently in the media right now in the run up to election season. I know we don’t want politicians to do a 180 after we elect them, but at this point we aren’t even allowing someone to change their mind within their entire lifetime! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not hypocritical or wrong to change my position on any given topic. I’m not running for political office which happily means I can switch positions whenever it feels right for me based on my knowledge and experience.
Some of these topics I’m going to cover are things that I’ve written about in the past, and the way I wrote about them or the positions that they took were hurtful. I never intended harm. I’ve long thought, and still do believe, that the best approach in life is to think critically and pick a position that feels right to you, only know that I’ve made this move toward Relativism I am much less likely to say “I’m right and thus you must be wrong”, and instead think “I’ve thought about this, and based on everything I know this is what seems right to me.”
Right now my belief about the LDS church can be summed up by a statement I heard on one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to:
The LDS Church is the truest church, but not true enough.
This is why I want to speak out, because I think we can do better. In some small way, these posts will be my way of paying it forward, because I would not have reached this place if other before me had not stood up to say they had questions they were still seeking out answers for. I look forward to sharing and conversing with you via four separate posts with you over the coming weeks regarding my evolving beliefs and my move away from Absolutism, toward Relativism.
The Awakening Series