Leah, I enjoyed your write-up, and I happy for you if you feel you can breathe again. As a believing Mormon who has struggled with some of the things you've mentioned (plus a whole lot more -- there's a lot of tough stuff to deal with), your story makes me feel sad, even though that makes no sense if you're happy. Some of the tough stuff does have explanations that I find adequate. Some of it doesn't -- yet. When it comes right down to it though, I've found I'm happier believing. My belief is a little more nuanced than some, but I'm absolutely convinced God exists, loves me, and is involved in my life.Thank you, Martin, for your comment. I appreciate the reasonable tone and the willingness to accept the validity of another person's experience. And I'm glad that you are at peace in your own life.
Best wishes to you on your journey.
Martin mentions his belief being more nuanced than some. My mother was my main religious influence growing up, and she takes a very literal, fundamentalist approach. It's actually been somewhat of a surprise since I've left the Church to learn that not all Mormons believe everything as literally as she does. I've had the task of sorting out what was actually official doctrine and what was just my mother's opinion that she taught with such conviction that I had the impression that it was unquestionable. I do think that approach is actually fairly widespread within Mormonism though.
Another comment from Retief:
You have my sympathy for what sounds like a difficult journey. I hope you won't be distressed by a couple of thoughts.No, I'm not distressed, but I do disagree. First, I was a super seminary nerd, and I never got any memo about Adam and Eve being allegorical. In fact, when I took Institute, this is what got handed out:
First, the Adam and Eve from the endowment are almost entirely allegorical.
Second, it isn't a requirement of LDS doctrine that anyone be a wierdo [sic].
Yes, there's a little footnote saying that dates are approximate, and maybe I'm completely off base here, but when I think "approximate," I think "give or take 50 to 100 years." Or what about this talk from Neal A. Maxwell, where he delineates the chronology of the lineage of Adam, forthcoming in the highly anticipated Book of Enoch (release date undetermined; I wonder if it will be available for pre-order from Amazon) and then says, "Let others, if they choose, make jokes about our first parents, Adam and Eve, or regard them as mere myths." I take that to mean that Mr. Maxwell did not regard them as mere myths.
When that's what we hear from the pulpits and what gets taught in CES classes, how is the average Mormon supposed to know that you're not s'posed to take it literally? Don't get me wrong; I think it's very healthy that more members are taking a less literal approach. I think a symbolic, nuanced approach is the best way to approach any religion, but the majority of Mormons that I've known didn't take that approach (or if they did, they were real quiet about it). I would also venture that Joseph Smith, et. al. intended a literal interpretation, in which case I personally can't accept them as inspired mouthpieces of God, because the story of Adam and Eve can't possibly be factual. I'm sorry, it just can't. If literalism wasn't the Church founders' intent, I don't think they did a very good job of communicating that.
Which brings me to how I view Mormonism now. I recognize its theology (notice I said "theology," not "doctrine") as a legitimate way to be religious and spiritual. I do not recognize it as the One True Church and the gateway to the Kingdom of God that it claims to be. It certainly is not a good fit for me, my temperament, my personal beliefs and the desires of my heart. I'm much happier without it than I ever was within it. I simply cannot be true to myself and be a Mormon.
I know a lot of Mormons who are wonderful people, who are very happy and who affirm that their religion is the source of their happiness. I don't deny their experience, but it wasn't one that I shared. I am convinced that the LDS Church is not what it claims to be, but I have no desire for anyone who is happy as a Mormon to leave the Church. I do have a desire for those who are unhappy to know that they are not alone, that the problem isn't because of something wrong with them, and that other than some disappointed friends and family, nothing bad will happen to them for walking away.
As far as LDS doctrine not requiring anyone to be a weirdo, maybe they don't use the word "weirdo" (and neither did I, actually), but Mormons do have a bit of an obsession with being a peculiar people. When your church dictates what you can and can't drink, watch, wear and say, even what you should and shouldn't find amusing, that sets one apart from one's more secular peers. I personally felt liberated once I no longer had the pressure of shepherding everyone I met into the Gospel through my spotless example. I'm still a weirdo in my own way, but now it's because of my own personal preferences and idiosyncrasies, not because of rules that a group of gentleman in Salt Lake decided I should follow.