10 Feb

Your Post Suggestions, RE: Mormonism

Posted by Jenna, Under Religious

Lately I’ve been feeling a desire to write more about my departure from Mormonism. I have a few drafts in my folder with scattered thoughts, and as I was unraveling one of them into a potential post I had the idea that it might be interesting to open up the floor to all of you and find out what you have been wondering.

In relation to my (ex?)Mormonism, what would you like to know more about? The only caveat I will add is that I’m only willing to write about myself. My relationship with the LDS Church, my actions, the way I interpret my relationships with other people. If you want to know more about another person’s positions or actions (TH, for example) you will have to ask them directly. I don’t know how many ideas I will get to over time, but I’d like to know more about what you would like to read.

96 Comments


  1. Do you practice any religion at all at home now? What do you teach your kids? What if they show a desire in the future to go to church/pray/become mormon etc?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I feel like this can be broken up into two separate posts. How am I approaching spiritual enlightenment personally, and how will I guide my children as they develop their own spirituality.

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  2. What was the tippin point? We all have crises of faith but what made you finally say “enough!”?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I actually don’t know the answer to this. Something caused me to TH the same question the other night, because I was curious if he remembered what it was for me. Now there are things that I would pinpoint as the “most frustrating or disappointing” and those are what I would like to blame, but I’m not sure they were the thing that moved me from one side to the other. I was able to explain away/justify a lot of things initially because I was worried about what I was going to lose.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Update: Talking with a friend helped me realize what the tipping point was for me! So I will write a post about it.

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  3. I’d like to know about the tipping point as well. How it has your departure affected your relationships with family and friends, if you’re willing to talk about that? What was it like to experience the things you formerly avoided (coffee, alcohol, R-rated movies)–mundane or exciting? Were there a few months when there was a huge cascade of changes, or did it happen much more gradually? How do you feel when you think back on your former beliefs and practices, and are there ways you are still struggling to “evolve”?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    When I think back on my former beliefs, and some of the posts I wrote, I feel embarrassed! My therapist says I need to be kind to myself though, and not get worked up over things I can’t change. I can only affect what I do now, and in the future. I’ve tried to make amends where I was unkind.

    Reply

    Lisa Reply:

    That is a good way of looking at it. You can’t change where you were in the past. You can only control what you do now.

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  4. Do you think your “Awakening” series was a catalyst? How does leaving the church affect raising your children in regards to religion (i.e., will you raise them in another religion; will you let them make the choice about Mormonism)?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    A catalyst for me to leave? If that’s what you’re asking, no. I wrote that series because I was leaving, it’s not what caused me to leave.

    Reply

    Anna Reply:

    I thought you wrote a post after your awakening series about why you were staying in the Mormon church (http://thatwifeblog.com/2012/03/01/the-awakening-where-i-am-now-and-why-im-staying)

    My question is more precisely: was the awakening series something that made you start questioning your beliefs/thinking more critically about why you held those beliefs? It seems the awakening series was close to when you left the Church and I thought it was interesting to note the proximity. It might not be related but from my outside perspective, I feel like the timing was close to such a radical shift in beliefs. I haven’t had this experience of leaving a religion so I am really interested in what was ultimately the catalyst. You might not even know the answer but I cannot imagine the emotional and intellectual aftermath of leaving a religion that you grew up in. I would love a post from you on that!

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Leaving was painful for my family and friends. I tried to write very diplomatic posts, and they ended up being a watered down version of how far along I was by that time. I left my faith behind entirely shortly after the posts were published (it took me weeks to write and edit them all), but waited until I had told my parents I left before announcing it to everyone else. I think the fact that I was trying to tiptoe around the feelings of family members makes the timeline confusing. And because there were periods of very rapid change! One minute I’d be thinking X, and then I would read something and suddenly think Y.

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  5. How does your family feel about this departure? Have you had any backlash? If so, how have you dealt with it?

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  6. I agree with a couple of the ideas above – I’d love to hear how your family has reacted and about what the tipping point was for you (though it sounds like you may not have an answer). Also, what are you teaching your kids about religion at this point since your beliefs have shifted so drastically?

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  7. Follow- up question! What are some of your favourite things you now enjoy that you couldn’t before? Whether it’s R rated movies and tv shows, wine or coffee?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh my, do I have to choose! (Oh good, I read back through and you’re not making me pick a favorite.) Breaking Bad, french press coffee every morning, red wine in the evenings. All things I adore now that wouldn’t have been part of my life if I hadn’t left.

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  8. What’s it like looking in from the outside after having been inside? I’d just like to hear your thoughts on this in general since now you’re sort of in the outsider position many of your readers have been in for years.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I like this question, but I don’t think I can write the post without seriously harming relationships with those who are still “inside.” A combination of a desire on their part to avoid reading harmful things written about the church, and my own angst and frustration as I process the departure. I hear that you get less angry and bitter as the years go on. I’m really looking forward to that stage.

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  9. Have you done any reading up on Mormonism and Joseph Smith since leaving? Anything you were shocked about?

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    Jenna Reply:

    Their is a podcast called Mormon Expression that I LOVE. They are always dropping in juicy little tidbits about stuff, because the host is an LDS Church history buff who reads everything he can get his hands on. Now I’ve moved to a stage where I hear new “shocking” things and wonder how I went for so long without knowing about them, and if I did hear about them, how I was ever able to explain the away!

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  10. I have a lot:

    1. What do you think will happen to you when you die?

    2. What do you miss about being Mormon?

    3. What Mormon ideologies do you still practice, if any? (ie. do you still have weekly family time and prayer? Do you still believe in saving food and resources in case of emergency? Do you still take a lot of your dietary guidance from the practice?)

    4. How does your extended family explain your departure to others?

    5. Are the children allowed to go to church with their Mormon family members?

    6. How will you react if they chose to be Mormon?

    7. What are some aspects about the Mormon church that you justified the most when you were Mormon, even though you may not have agreed with them?

    8. Do you really believe Joseph Smith found golden plates and all the other (from an outsiders perspective) bizarre beginnings of the church? Did you ever believe it?

    9. Any regrets about how you left the church?

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  11. What aspects of religion do you believe now, or do you consider yourself atheist/agnostic?

    How hard did you laugh in Book of Mormon? :)

    Do you think you would have got married and had children later/at all if you hadn’t have been Mormon?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m so tempted to write a “Book of Mormon Musical Perspectives From an Ex-Mormon” but I think the post will make my mom cry (literally) so I’m going to hold back. In this comment though, I will tell you that it was a strange experience to be in a room surrounded by people who considered the play to be mostly satire, thinking about how almost everything they portray (from the Mormon side, not the African stuff) is based on truth. I really loved when the woman comes out and dances in African-inspired dress as the guys are leaving on their mission, because that is definitely something that happens within Mormon culture. And the spelling out of “O M Gosh”, haha, I totally used to do that because I didn’t want to write OMG and have anyone think that I was taking the name of the Lord in vain! I laughed so hard throughout that I think my husband was embarrassed to be sitting next to me. The dancing by the elders reminded me of many church talent shows I have sat through over the years :)

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  12. Have you ever seen The Book of Mormon? What are your thoughts?

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    Jenna Reply:

    I saw it in January! See a few thoughts in my comment above.

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  13. I grew up in a much more strict and conservative type of christianity than what we practice now, so I relate a bit. I spent many years not going to church at all. Do you practice any religion or more lenient type of Christianity now or would you consider it in the future?

    How has it been having wine and coffee? Amazing right?

    How has the culture change been from have many babies and be a stay at home mom to you can go to work and 2 kids is a great number?

    I want to know about the wardrobe change. Was it freeing to give up the garments? I personally find myself dressing more conservatively as I get older and as a mom (less boobs than when I was 20), but I think having set rules would be tricky.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Wine and coffee are my BFFs. I don’t know how long I went without them! I will write about the anxiety I feel about being “addicted” because I’ve always been told that’s a horrific thing (well, alcohol addiction is bad, but coffee dependency not-so-much).

    If anything, I’m mad that I missed out on showing off my body before I had kids! Now I really want to wear a bikini, but it’s going to be hard to do so confidently after the children wreaked havoc on my body. I want to be 20 years old again and dress provocatively and dance in a club! The garments did prevent some wide and v-neck necklines though that I really enjoy indulging in. I’d really like to try wearing an open backed shirt this summer, the kind that covers your bra but shows a triangle of skin down near the bottom.

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  14. How often do you have fears of “what if all that was right?” Sometimes when I say “I don’t believe in god” out loud I fear I’ll be struck down by lightning! It’s not a big enough fear for me to change my beliefs, but there are times I think about it. Just curious if you do too.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I don’t think I’ve felt that way. There were so many things that I was taught were literal, absolute truth, no exceptions TRUTH, that are just plain false (and sometimes damaging) that it was relatively easy to reach a place over time where I thought “I used to feel like I was feeling some sort of spiritual confirmation of X. It makes sense that I was wrong about Y (God) too.”

    I really like this quote: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/95208979596508140/

    Reply

    Lauryn Reply:

    That’s a good quote! I was never strictly religious but became more align to agnostic/atheism after reading “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths” by Michael Shermer. He was a self-proclaimed “bible thumper” turned atheist and wrote a letter in the chance god exists. It is very similar to that quote. I recommend the book as it is a good combination of science & beliefs.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I just bookmarked it. I like that the description talks about an exploration about how beliefs are challenged and changed over time. I think there are lots of books about why people believe (confirmation bias, etc) but I haven’t learned much about why people stop believing. I think that’s why people are so interested to hear about what happened with me :)

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  15. How did it feel to start doing things that had been forbidden to you in the past? Was there a lot of guilt? Is there any Ideals that have really stuck with you? For instance:
    - Do you drink caffeine?
    - Do you drink alcohol
    - Do you find yourself dressing less conservatively?
    - How have your political beliefs changed?

    etc. :)

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I feel like political beliefs is such a loaded topic. I do identify as a liberal moderate now, and that shifted from an apathetic conservative Republican BUT I don’t know that talking about it would be productive because I think it will imply that all Mormons are Republican or very conservative, and I imagine that sort of conversation is frustrating for anyone who is Mormon but doesn’t want people assuming that being Mormon means you are conservative/Republican.

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  16. I’m curious as to “where are you now”

    Following any religion? Exploring any? Nothing? Thoughts on God in general?

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  17. Did you ever have cognitive dissonance trying to balance scientific understanding and religious teachings? Do you have a new perspective now on science?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I certainly didn’t allow myself to explore scientific theories or be self-aware enough to recognize any cog dis. I used to answer questions about the Church by pasting things directly from LDS.org or the Fair wiki because I thought the correct way was to rely on the leadership to guide me in forming my opinions (which really meant I wasn’t forming any opinions at all, I was just adopting them).

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  18. I wonder if/how guilt has affected you? I know many members of the Mormon church (having been born and raised in the church myself) feel guilt is placed upon them constantly. When you first left the church and first started making decisions (drinking, coffee, entertainment, even wearing tank tops) that are against church doctrine, did you feel like you were doing something wrong or shameful each time? Also, I’m curious of the reaction you got from friends or family when you told them. Has it negatively affected any of your relationships?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I love this question because it looks at coffee and alcohol consumption in a different way. I might write a longer post on this, but right here I will say that I didn’t experience guilt, it was a lot of fear. I had been told that coffee and alcohol weren’t just things to avoid for personal reasons, that they were physically harmful and very bad. I spend a lot of time stressing about how much is too much and whether I am doing it “wrong.”

    Today is a good example. I have a cup of coffee every morning. I had some black tea at lunch. I’m still dragging (haven’t been sleeping well since I got the flu) and want to have another cup of coffee, but what if I get addicted?!?!?! It’s not rational, because I already am addicted, albeit mildly so. I have to have one cup every morning. Coffee is one of the most commonly traded commodities in the world, it’s rare to be in a situation where I can’t have it. I don’t need to spend so much time stressing about my dependence on it!

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  19. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe themselves as addicted to coffee. Diet coke, on the other hand… I know SO many people that can’t kick that habit (me included).

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    Marissa C Reply:

    Really? I thought being addicted to coffee was a pretty common thing!

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    fran Reply:

    I know – it doesn’t really make sense. I think my straw poll might be broken! :)

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  20. Will you send your kids to BYU still? What about other religious schools (primary, secondary, or post-secondary)?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I think they wouldn’t enjoy it unless they decided to convert to Mormonism. It’s very restrictive and there are a lot of discussions that can be very frustrating (that WERE very frustrating when I was there two summers ago) if you don’t buy in completely to what is taught. I also would like them to experience a greater variety of perspectives and backgrounds in their interactions at college.

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  21. What is your relationship with the Mormon church like now? You have posted pictures as recently as December of you and your family at ward events– do you just go for socialization? Because it feels like a safe space?

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  22. I haven’t read all your previous entries about Mormonism, but did the lack of female representation in the Church bother you? There’s a lot of about the LDS faith that appeals to me — the support structure, the sense of family — but I could never follow a church that devalues women so blatantly. I *know* all the arguments about women having their roles (relief society, being a mother), but when it comes down to it, they can’t be bishops, receive the priesthood (did I say that right?), give their children blessings or be a prophet. I see all these high-achieving women, women with PhDs, MBAs, their own companies, and they can’t even bless their own children. I know it’s supposed to be what God wants, but God wanted lots of things that have changed: polygamy/black men in the priesthood. So why wouldn’t this change?

    How did you feel about that?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I think it will change, eventually. Though I won’t be a part of the movement that makes it happen (or be in the Church to enjoy the benefits of the change.)

    You might enjoy this post if you haven’t seen it yet: http://thatwifeblog.com/2012/02/08/the-awakening-priestesshood/

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  23. How are you treated she you attend church events (Halloween/Christmas parties, etc)?
    Are church members as kind as they once were?

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  24. Are there any positives that you’ve taken with you from Mormonism? I know you’ve spoken about the negative side of your experience (hence why you left!) but it can’t have been all bad…

    How does it sit with you to openly hold a negative opinion of the Church yet continue to attend Church-related activities?

    Do you miss the community?

    What would you change about the culture of the LDS Church?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I miss the networking, and how easy it was to establish a community when I moved.

    I will probably always attend LDS functions occasionally. I have lots of friends who are LDS and there are ward activities and baby blessings and baptisms and weddings to attend. I can’t attend the temple of course, but I can support my family and friends when they ask me to.

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  25. I too mostly wonder how your relationship with TH and your family has changed since you left the church, since it was such a big part of your wedding and only your family was there to witness it. The question about what you feel about previously taboo things now is an interesting one as well.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    That point – “only your family was there to witness it” – is really painful for me to consider. I feel awful about excluding my in-laws on our wedding day. I wish I could go back in time and do that over.

    It’s too late for me, but there is hope that policy is going to change soon, and civil weddings will be completely separate from temple ceremonies. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/57531159-180/temple-lds-mormon-policy.html.csp

    Reply

    Zoe Reply:

    There’s always a vow renewal. :)

    But actually, I was wondering more if there’s been any difference in your relationships since you’ve left the church, since Mormonism was such a big part of who you were. I know a lot of my Christian friends live and breathe their religion, and it’s such a huge part of their family life and how they choose who to date/marry. What happens when those beliefs no longer align?

    And I may have missed this, but did you only leave the church because you disagreed with the way they operated, or did you lose faith in God entirely?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I don’t believe there is a God. (Though I also don’t believe there isn’t a God.)

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  26. I’m curious what your first Christmas sans-Mormonism was like.

    (using “problems” here to mean things that might be tricky issues) Also what the balance of modern social problems (stance on women, gays, etc.) vs. historical problems (stuff like polygamy, or did Joseph Smith get his ideas from the Masons?) vs. theological questions (is there a God? what happens after we die?” vs. theological problems (stuff mainstream Christians would see as significant deviations from historic Christianity, eg. the Trinity.) vs. wanting a lifestyle change (not paying tithing or drinking wine) vs. personal problems with the LDS church (not feeling a sense of community or something) were in your decision to leave? Those are the main things that I can think of for someone wanting to leave the LDS church, and I’m guessing different groups see different pieces as more likely to factor into your decision.

    Also, has your opinion on talking about the temple changed? Not whether or not you would share anything here, but do you still feel bound by having made a promise not to talk about it, or do you no longer feel that contract is binding?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    That’s an intense question. I’m not sure I can break it all out properly. I do want to point out though that “desiring a lifestyle change” was not a factor in leaving. I took my covenants and beliefs very seriously, and would never have abandoned them for red wine (as delicious as it may be) or wearing tank tops. I enjoy alcohol and coffee while wearing a spaghetti strap dress because I left, but I didn’t leave in order to do so.

    Since leaving/while leaving I haven’t worried about how Mormonism differs from mainstream Christianity. It all feels like the same thing to me. People reading and writing things from a long time ago and trying to figure out how to live their lives based on them.

    I don’t have any issues with talking about the temple, don’t worry about any punishments for talking about it or the fact that I said I would not talk about it outside the building (I think I made those promises under false pretenses so they aren’t binding to me) but it would be very hurtful for family and friends if they heard/read me speaking about things that are sacred to them so I try to be careful. It’s still a strange thing to gather in a group of ex-Mormons and have people say their new name out loud! We were told we were never ever ever ever to repeat it again outside of the temple, even in private, even to our spouses. I feel like it’s a really liberating and powerful experience for a husband to tell his to his wife (she is never supposed to know) because I think it’s a way of communicating that he considers her to be fully his equal. it really gets my goat that there are things in the temple that a man knows about a woman, but the woman does not know the equivalent about a man.

    Reply

    Jackie Reply:

    In practice is it really kept a secret? I can’t imagine my husband not telling me something! Do you think people tell each other and say they didn’t? Or in talking to ex Mormons is it apparent that no one had told till they left?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I have only encountered one couple who told each other before they left the church (and they may have told each other when they were about to leave but weren’t quite there yet). My impression is that almost everyone really does obey the rules. The men hear the wife’s one time, when they are married to their wife. The women are never supposed to know the name of their husband’s. Teachings say that the husbands are supposed to be resurrected first, and then use the name to call out and resurrect their wife. That’s why he has to know hers. I guess only God needs to know his?

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  27. I don’t have a lot of questions because you’ve answered most of them in person but I am excited to read this all the same. I think that a post from TH, if he were comfortable, would be extremely interesting as I think that the way you have navigated this together is super inspiring from the perspective of growing as a married couple.

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  28. What are your thoughts on religion currently? Are you open to finding another faith that is a better fit?

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  29. I’m very curious how you feel about “morality issues” since most of your references before were from your upbringing and the Church. I imagine its a little unnerving to have to rethink which things are things you still agree with vs were only there because of your previous culture, as well as how you think you’ll approach those same things with your kids (i.e. Pre-marital sex, pornography, etc.). Obviously I understand if that’s too personal to share, just something I imagine would be interesting/difficult to rethink through.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I think this is one of the more difficult things about leaving, how to set boundaries for your kids when the boundary was “don’t even go there.” How to talk to my kids about sex, how to introduce them to alcohol, when can they have coffee, what happens when my young daughter wants to dress very provocatively, how to tolerate pornography if I am against it for the exploitation of women but not necessarily because I believe it is immoral for viewing, how to deal with the kids having sex, what to teach them about swearing, when they can start dating, etc etc.

    Maybe a post about this would be a really good thing because I could ask people to talk about what their own parents did.

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  30. I hesitate to write, because I don’t like to comment, generally. You have gotten a lot of positive responses towards your decision to leave the LDS Church. Can I offer a dissenting view? Full disclosure, I am a practicing Mormon. I think it’s a tragedy. You have left the faith of your fathers, and I feel like that is something to be mourned. From reading your blog, it seems like you are a very passionate person: one hundred percent or nothing, there is very little gray and a lot of black and white in a lot of your decisions. Why did you decide that you had to one hundred percent leave? Why not hold onto the good parts that you have enjoyed (assuming there were good parts left). Did you counsel with any active members of the church before your left (such as your parents), or did you just inform them after you had made your decision? Also, why decide to jump into things like coffee every morning? I know a lot of ex-Mormons and friends who have never been Mormon who decline coffee. I don’t think coffee is this evil drink, I just don’t understand why an adult would want to suddenly become a ritual coffee drinker when they haven’t ever had it before. (And that last comment wasn’t supposed to sound snarky, I’m just curious).

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    Hannah Reply:

    You seem to make the assumption that she didn’t mourn it? I think if you read any of her Awakening series and her post on leaving Mormonism that it would be abundantly clear that the decision wasn’t without shades of grey and definitely wasn’t made easily.

    I feel like this comment could have been framed much more respectfully and still asked Jenna some of these questions, sans judgment.

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    Jenna Reply:

    It’s a common assumption among believing Mormons that someone who leaves is “lazy, or didn’t try hard enough.” I think that’s where the slightly hostile tone comes from.

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    Erin Reply:

    I didn’t find Cathryn’s comments judgmental or disrespectful. I think they are legitimate questions that I have found myself asking as well. I don’t think I have wondered them from a place of judgment, but from an empathetic position, “What would it be like to leave my church? What are the steps in the transition? How does it feel?” I am wondering if this is where Cathryn was coming from?

    I also disagree that is a common assumption among Mormons that laziness is the reason for leaving. I have never thought that myself or heard anyone else say that. I do think that we ask people to act a lot on faith, even when things are hard or there are questions or concerns. Maybe that is what you are alluding to?

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    Cathryn Reply:

    I’m sorry if I came across as hostile, that wasn’t my intent at all. I don’t think you are lazy or didn’t try hard. I love President Uchtdorf’s comment, “Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.” As a thoughtful Mormon, I understand many of these reasons.

    My comments about mourning weren’t in regard to Jenna. It is obvious that she mourned and it was a difficult decision. I’m writing about the other commentators. They all praise her decision. I view it as a tragedy.

    I know how hard it can be and I have the greatest empathy for those who chose to leave – many of whom are loved ones of mine. I just wanted to comment from the other side, from the side that doesn’t celebrate but that feels sad. I’m sure you’re not looking for pity. As for framing a question “sans judgement”, we make judgements in everything we do. You made a judgement to leave the church and that I have a hostile tone, Hannah makes a judgement that I’m disrespectful. If by judgement, you mean that I disagree with leaving the church, then I judge.

    Choosing to keep the faith is also a very difficult decision because you don’t have all the answers.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Today I listened to http://mormonexpositor.com/63-friendly-advice-for-interacting-with-believers/. You might enjoy it as well and I really liked the way they pushed me to think about how some of my new modes of thinking are just as bad as some of my old close-minded views used to be (close-minded in a different sort of way).

    I do love the phrase “thoughtful Mormon.” Can I claim to be a thoughtful ex-Mormon as I keep working to be kinder and more empathetic to everyone?

    Reading through your previous comment I can see that I associated your statements with “black and white” (yes, that was a deeply rooted part of myself for many years) with a sort of accusation that I instantly went from believing to non-believing (discrediting all of the hard work I put into my faith transition). In my comment I displayed the defensiveness I feel about anyone who implies that I didn’t work at staying Mormon – or that I went “marching out of control” and didn’t make decisions to do things like drink coffee as part of a studied and deliberate choice. Looking back at what you said I can see I wasn’t being fair to you.

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    Cathryn Reply:

    You’re very gracious, Jenna. I will check out that link.

    Reply

    Hannah Reply:

    I apologise if you think I jumped to conclusions. From my perspective the judgment seemed to be driven by the fact that your question implied that she didn’t try hard enough or ‘see the grey’. Which, based on my experiences with any sort of fundamental religion or stream of a religion (Judaism, Islam, Christianity), is driven by the idea that anyone who leaves is simply too lazy to ‘keep the faith’. That’s how I felt it was disrespectful and judgmental.

    Thanks for the clarification, and I apologise that I misinterpreted your question.

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    Kelly Reply:

    Cathryn,

    I am getting caught up on Jenna’s blog after a few months of busyness in my life so pardon for the sudden response. I think what you say is interesting, and agree that is is a thing that could be sad. But because Jenna hasn’t expressed the same feeling of “leaving the faith of my fathers was so incredibly difficult” could be a reason everyone has seen is as positive. Plus a lot of us have done this.

    I was raised by Jewish, Sephardic tradition, Hungarian Grandparents. One of who survived Auschwitz and one of whom spent WWII hiding in the Hungarian wilderness eating rats and grass.

    Leaving my faith was devastating for that reason. And in many ways it is incredibly hard to stop being a Jew because so many Jewish Americans are secular Jews. But I had some massive issues with it and while I still consider myself a cultural Jew, I do not identify as one in the same ways as others. I have received a lot of critical comments or surprised looks from Jewish friends when I say “but my son isn’t a Jew.” He can choose to be one if he wants and it makes it easier because I am his mother, but he isn’t.

    I don’t know where I am going with this exactly, but what you described the sad part, the tragedy. I get it at least when it comes to me because I consider the great cost that was born by the people who raised me and I adore because of their faith and I have walked away from that. But if Jenna doesn’t feel its a tragedy in her situation, then I don’t believe we need to insist it is. If she sees it is tragic in some way, then of course it is because that’s how she feels.

    Leaving a faith, especially ones like ours which define you so much, is hard. Staying in a faith is hard too both. When you are questioning and discovering both take courage.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks for your comments Kelly. Two thoughts I had as I read yours. First, I really like your approach with your son, letting him choose how he wants to identify. Second, I feel really sad that the current Mormon cultural practices force me to choose to either be a Mormon or not. There is no cultural Mormonism, in fact if I chose to try to identify as a cultural Mormon my friends and family would find it offensive or ask me not to do so because they don’t want to be misrepresented. I feel confident this would be the reaction because that is how I used to think and talk to/about people! It’s sad and I think it drives a wedge between people.

    Reply

    Kelly Reply:

    Jenna,

    I totally get that. For me, I am almost reticent to identify myself as culturally Jewish, because I feel very strongly that I am not longer a Jew. But my family and friends who are Jewish constantly reiterate to me I am. Its funny how important what we think about our own selves is so important to other people.

    I continue to hope you find peace and happiness on your journey.

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  31. First of all I want to say I love that you are back to blogging again. You had to be quiet for a while with your two kiddos and such. But it’s great to come to your page and find writings again. I pray your heart will be blessed by it.

    Second, I think my main question is about your faith now. You left the church, is there something left of some sort of believe or faith. Do you believe in Jesus. Have you stepped away completely from faith? Do you practice things at home? Those are questions that come to mind for me.

    Either way I know it’s been a hard journey for you and your family. I pray you have found that love counted strong and it has not caused anger of separation. But you have written about that before and it seems your parents are the loving kind who have not deserted you because of your path. God bless you all. Much much love!!

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  32. Dear Jenna,
    I’ve known you since you were a little girl. I didn’t think that your decision to leave the Mormon faith would affect me as much as it did. I feel very sad about it. One of the hardest things for me to read was when you said that you actually felt liberating now by feeling or knowing that you are the one in charge of your life or destiny or something to that affect, not some men in dark suits or God if there even is one. Wow, really, I can’t imagine anything more desperate feeling to me than not knowing or believing that God is there to help me in my darkest hours, that He is real, that He knows me, that He loves me and He has a plan for my future. Jesus Christ’s atonement is the single most important event in all of Human history. When things come up in my life and believe me they have, that are out of my control and that seem so desperate and difficult, the most refreshing truth is that there is someone who can help me, He is the most powerful being in all the universe and He can comfort me and change any circumstance that may otherwise seem impossible. The liberating thing for me is realizing that just because you have decided not to believe it anymore does not at all change the truthfulness of it at all. The only difference is that you have made the decision not to believe it. I could say the same about your choice as you do about mine. It’s simply a choice that changes nothing. I suppose it’s a difference in how we view ourselves. You very clearly see yourself as not needing God’s help where I on the other hand know that only with His help can I become all that I and He want me to be.
    Jenna, you are talented, smart and have so much to offer the world. I wish you so much happiness. I really do. I just want to say how thankful I am for the restored truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for comfort and peace that knowledge brings to my life. I really hope that someday your sweet little ones will know that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father because that will do more for them than any other thing you could possible teach them.

    Reply

    TGS Reply:

    I wish you so much happiness. I really hope that someday you will know that you have believed in a false being that doesn’t exist. Realizing you’re delusional will do more for you than anything you could possibly have been taught.

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  33. My best friend is Mormon (albeit a more “modern,” and liberal type of Mormon) and I’ve learned a lot about the religion through her, and through growing up with experiences like joining her at church, going to stake dances as a teen, and even becoming friends with a lot of her friends from church. Because of that, I find your series of posts on Mormonism and more recently leaving to be very compelling and interesting, since a lot of the things you have been questioning are things I would raise to my friend when we would discuss our beliefs.

    I want to second some of the points in the other comments for things which I’m particularly interested to hear more about:

    – How soon after leaving (I know there wasn’t one single day when you left the church, but in general) did you decide to liberate yourself and indulge in the restrictions such as caffeine, alcohol, non-modest dressing, and swearing (if you do)?
    – Since T1 and even T2 were technically born into Mormonism, how will you explain God/the afterlife/religion to them as they get older? What will you say when T1 first asks you what happens when someone dies?
    – What Mormon “values” will you keep when raising your kids as they get older? Things like dating, courtship, saving yourself for marriage, etc.
    – Do you think you’ll ever be part of another organized religion? I’ve heard you mention Judaism a few times, but was curious if you’re really exploring other groups.

    Also, I want to say that I enjoy how you’re making an active effort to connect more with your readers, through posts like this and even in the comment section.

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  34. Hi Jenna,

    I’ve got one.

    How come you are very vocal about leaving the Mormon church but still attend for holiday events? I recall a Halloween event and perhaps a Christmas event that was at/via/including the Mormon church either on your blog or Instagram this past season.

    Just wondering where you draw the line and why.

    Thanks!

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  35. Have you ever considered exploring other religions or denominations of Christianity? I’m a practicing Christian and I wonder if you have considered continuing your relationship with God in other settings? I have such hope that you’ll still want a relationship with Him even if the Mormon church was ultimately not true.

    Reply

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  36. I have two questions!

    1. How has leaving Mormonism changed your career goals? It seems from your instagram like you’re able to focus a lot more on work- what all does your work entail now? Are you starting a new business? I’d love to hear more about it!

    2. If you’ve completely left Christianity and are agnostic, as you mentioned before, how do you think you’ll raise your children? I’m an atheist (raised without religion) and I went to a “Freedom from Religion” seminar a few years back. They talked there about how continuing the Santa Claus tradition actually HELPED their children understand that if Santa Claus is a fun but false belief, then Christ can be too. They didn’t preach this to their children, but answered rather let them figure it out by asking questions.

    I very highly recommend “Parenting Beyond Belief” if you’re interested in raising your children outside of one particular doctrine.

    Also, I just want to say that I’m so happy you’re posting more and continuing great conversation in the comments. I’ve missed it!

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    It’s hard to suss out how much of it is connected to leaving Mormonism, but I do think I have less guilt about outsourcing childcare because I no longer believe it is my “purpose” in life to be a mother. I was always told that this was my life’s work, and so I think I would have struggled to work the way I do now. Feeling like I’m not doing what God wants for me. But now I have 3 full days a week to work and it is glorious.

    I’m always working on Pinterest Fail and Jenna Cole. But this month I’ve been working on some other things as well! I’ll share when I have more details and things a bit more secured. :)

    Thanks for the book recommendation!

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  37. Hi Jenna,

    A couple of my questions have already been asked in a slightly different way above, but I’ll repeat them anyway….
    • Do you feel that you are continuously trying to shrug off a sense of guilt? I imagine it would be incredibly hard to spend decades of your life with a certain belief system, (around so many things, not limited to just R-rated movies, coffee, alcohol, etc,) and then suddenly start ‘allowing’ yourself these items.
    • On Sundays /days/times / special holidays when you would typically be in the church, are you extra mindful of what you ‘should/would’ be doing if you had stayed with the church? Is it hard to let that go?
    • I understand that you only want to talk about your journey out of Mormonism, and not anyone else’s. I am assuming, however, that TH was most likely on board with / part of this decision-making process as well. (It seems that you are very close in this way, and I can imagine it would be especially difficult to pull away from the church without him by your side.) Do you think families can survive the process of one person leaving the church, and one spouse staying in?
    • Do you have any resentment or sadness around the decisions that were made, not just by you, but also your loved ones as part of their membership with the church? This includes the decisions you made for yourself at a young age, or course, but I also remember your sister (forgive me if this is too personal,) also writing on your blog once, asking for comments/advice from readers (I think!) about how to talk to her husband about where they should live… I remember at the time feeling a bit sad, wondering if she had married young due to her faith…
    • My main questions is this one: It seems to me that many people who are religious are proud of living by a moral code that they receive through their faith. Now, through the process of pulling away, do you have any questions around ethics or morals that you didn’t before? Do you believe that people who are non-religious can live by a strict moral code? How do you envision raising your children with morals and ethics without the religious framework? (Of course, I have lots of thoughts on this subject, but will be quiet, because I really want to hear from you on how you are or are planning to navigate this! ? )
    • Have you read / listened to some Bill Maher? He can be a bit extreme, I know, but I remember him once talking to a devout Christian, and the Christian was saying that he would be praying for Bill etc, and Bill explained that he felt that religion was almost a luxury for some people – a fallback, in a sense, a continuous safety net. He was trying to explain that he felt that he was very fortunate to have the career, opportunities and such that are afforded to him, and so he felt that religion was more for those who needed it, who needed something to hold on to, to believe in. I’m not explaining this very well, but it was very thought-provoking, and has stuck with me.

    Ps – I never got around to commenting on your post about how you are changing your approach to disciplining T1 and T2. I just wanted to give you a ‘Yay Jenna’ shout-out! I’m working on this too, and am by no means perfect – I struggle with it every day (also wonder if kids should be learning the word ‘No’ as well!) but I can see what a positive difference it makes.

    Also, I know you take a lot of flack sometimes… but I can see your growth, and I can see you, the person you were always meant to be, emerging. It’s lovely to see you posting again, and your considerate, thoughtful comments above. I wanted you to know that this famous Maya Angelou quote reminds me of you. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    One of my post drafts is about guilt, but my thoughts are the opposite of what you described. Outside, I experience far less guilt! I was trying to meet impossible standards before, and every day was full of guilt because I wasn’t praying enough, reading enough, learning enough, doing enough. Now I am free to examine my efforts using my own standard, and I can be kind to myself when I fall short. I’ve only recently come to see how important it is for me to be kind to myself and allow myself to learn and grow at a manageable pace.

    The question that gets at how to navigate one spouse or family member leaving is a sad one, sad because it’s something that so many people I know are struggling with. The LDS Church is a really dominating force in the life of a believer, and there are many doctrines that specifically talk about how your family needs to be participating and believing on a level equal to your own. When it comes to your spouse, it’s unclear what happens if the wife is striving for a “Celestial marriage” and the husband is dragging his feet. Does the wife get some sort of reward in the afterlife, apart from her husband who is punished for his lax approach in mortality? We, as a couple, haven’t had to face that, but I know a lot of couples who have and it’s brutal. One interesting thing to note, is that there are a lot of couples who divorce after they leave as well, even when they leave together. I’ve never thought this, and I know TH hasn’t either, but when you get out you re-examine everything about who you are and all of the decisions you’ve made. It’s common to think “Do I even like my spouse as a person absent the Church? Do I want to stay married to them?” My understanding is that divorce among ex-Mormons is pretty common as they examine their goals and realize that they no longer align outside of Mormonism.

    Yes, lots of resentment and anger to be worked through regarding decisions made and things I was taught. Specifically related to my potential in life and what I could accomplish (as a woman). That’s what therapy is for :).

    I actually think that not believing in a higher power is a luxury! Life is easier when you have means, and having a hard life can often mean you seek for understanding about purpose. I need to get T1 to bed so this part isn’t very well thought out, but I guess that is the basic idea.

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  38. I’m a VERY long time reader and have rarely commented, I think only once when you.posted about an ancestor of yours coming from.the same village in England that I grew up in. Anyway, I actually don’t have any questions. All I have to offer is admiration. It takes a huge amount of cpurage to reject the beliefs of the community on which you were raised and were part of. You must have felt very alone, confused and afraid at times and yet you still.had the courage of yourcconvictions. I admire that immensely. For waht its worth, I am lapsed Catholic and atheist. Raising my children with a firm moral.compass in the absence of God has not been challenging. However, I understand things are different here in Europe. I’m really very inspire by people as brave as you

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  39. I appreciate you taking the time and mustering up the courage to put yourself in such a vulnerable place. Religion is such a sensitive subject and opens up people to judge and condemn.

    To give some perspective, a little of my religious background: Raised strictly Catholic and was told by all persons I looked up to that Catholicism is the only true, and everyone else might be lucky to end up in purgatory. We were sheltered in a small little town that was 98% Catholic and spent most of our free time doing church related activities. At 18, a life event shattered my world as it currently existed and I struggled for years to just comprehend. At 18, I stopped going to church on a regular basis, stopped believing everything I was taught to “believe,” and started to open my self up to other possibilities. Long story short, I’ve accepted the fact that being physically in a church now just makes me irrationally angry and upset. I have found that forcing myself to experience that hurt and stress is damaging on so many levels. Also, I feel my presence (with all of its hurt and anger) damages the environment that others find so peaceful and tranquil – so to be there until I figure my [expletive stuff] out is just disrespectful.

    Ok – all that blabbering (although cathartic – thank you) aside: have you ever had an experience where you were absolutely scared God was going to show his displeasure at your “sin” in some vehement display at that moment?

    First time I sat in on an Episcopalian service, the entire time all I could think and pray was that I didn’t want God to seek revenge (for lack of a better description) by creating an earthquake, or fire, or flood. Slightly melodramatic, but a legitimate moment of fear and terror. I’m so disappointed in myself that I kept apologizing to God through the service and didn’t focus on the pastor’s sermon.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I worried a lot about what God thought and how He might punish me when I was a Mormon. One of the best parts about leaving has been letting all of that go and not worrying about what a higher power may or may not be thinking about me, or planning to do to me. I can relate to the feeling of being able to experience things a bit more fully on the outside, because I don’t have to run through a mental checklist trying to figure out if I’m following all of the rules that someone else has determined for me.

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  40. Your Mormon church and my Mormon church are completely different. You know, some of us can easily feel at home by being our liberal selves and still have a firm faith. Based on how you talk, it sounds like you’re one of those people who really never experienced life and yet, somehow, know it all.

    Reply

    TGS Reply:

    I am an ex-Mormon who has many liberal friends who are still in the church and have varying levels of belief. I still cannot understand how they reconcile, in their heads & their hearts, the teachings of the church with their liberal attitudes. I cannot fathom how my feminist friends who believe in gay rights can stand sitting in church & listening to some of the teachings. We must all belong to different Mormon churches.

    Reply

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  41. lumanwalters says:

    My wife and I left the church and then moved into coppell tx. We hadn’t resigned yet so I did some preemptive investigation over the internet to see if I could get some info on members of the local ward in case they tried reactivating us. That’s how I found your blog. You were active then I believe, but no longer in Coppell. We LOVE the coppell 1st ward because they stopped by once, we kindly told them we attend a UU congregation and they haven’t bothered us since. NOt any contact at all. Very cool.

    I am pleased to see that you found your way out and that BOTH of you found your way out. I came back here because we are about to resign and I wanted to do some more preemptive investigation to get some info on members hoping a leader or a leader’s wife had a blog I’m paranoid I’m going to have to deal with some crazy, over the top ward/stake leader. Anyways, that’s how I ended up here again. It was a nice surprise. It warmed my heart.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    So happy to e-meet you on the “other side”! We enjoyed our wards in that area (we were in Coppell 1st right around the time they merged and changed boundaries) but I was very TBM then, and I’m not sure what the experience would be like now.

    Jealous that you are resigning! I’m holding off because they will tell my parents via the form at tithing settlement and I don’t want to deal with the drama.

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  42. Hi Jenna,

    Here are mine:

    1. Baby Blessings: Since both of your’s were blessed in the LDS church, do you have any regrets about that? Are you glad their blessings happened the way they did? Do you see any validity to them for your children (even though you’ve moved to an agnostic point of view)?

    2. While you obviously don’t view sin from the LDS scriptural perspective any longer, do you still believe in a concept of sin? Or, only of a general moral code (abiding by the laws of the land, etc)?

    I’m proud of you for making such a bold move out of the LDS church.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    1 – I don’t regret the blessings because they are meaningful to my family. I had stopped believing by the time we did baby girl’s blessing, but it meant a lot to my parents (they knew that I no longer believed, I had told them I was agnostic a few months previous). No, I don’t think they mean anything aside from the gesture they represent on our part.

    2 – It was interesting thinking about this question. I only associate sin with religion, with something I believed to be wrong because someone else told me that God told them it was wrong. So no, I don’t believe in sin because now I believe in my ability to grasp right and wrong (and choose right).

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  43. A little random, but have you ever considered reposting comments and responses as blog posts? Sometimes the best reading I do here is Q&A’s in the comment section! I hope people aren’t missing out.

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  44. Hi Jenna..

    I was an ex-Mormon too. I sometimes feel like I’m missing the bits I left once in while but apart of that, it was really exhilarating, really. I found myself doing this I’ve been longing to do such as getting myself inked! Just as much as I enjoy living my life now, I sometimes long for the mass services on Sunday. Do you feel the same too?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    I miss how easy it was to have Sunday plans. I knew that every Sunday morning I would see all of my friends, the kids would go in nursery, we would come home and take a nap while my husband watched the kids, most Sundays we would go over to someone’s house and have dinner or have FHE or play games. It’s a lot of work now to keep my schedule full and book social things so we don’t just sit at home watching TV.

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