I gave my blog a new look this week! I’m pretty excited about the look because I feel like it’s more me. You can now find me by googling justasmalltowngirldotdotdot.com. I also made some changes, you no longer need to login or have an account on WordPress to leave a comment or like my blog. I also made it so it can also be anonymous. You can leave a comment without leaving a name or email. I’d love to hear from you.
This week I want to give a shout out to my Journey Family!! I couldn’t do this without your love and support. I also want to give a shout out to the friends I have in the community who support me despite our differences. Your love and support mean more than you’ll ever know!
Since walking away from Mormonism, I have talked to many people, some from childhood and some I’ve met along my journey who have thanked me for speaking out, for having the courage to do what they didn’t. I have also spoken to many who don’t really believe in Mormonism but it’s easier to stay and live a lie than to walk away and live with the shame and disappointment from family and friends. To most,happiness doesn’t matter. I’ve had many people tell me, “You must’ve just had some bad experiences”. And while that may be true, those bad experiences set me on a path to find truth, which lead me to true happiness and contentment I would have never found in the Mormon church.
Living in a small town where 99.8% of the kids in school are LDS, where 95% of the people you work with are LDS, where in every aspect of your world you are surrounded by Mormon people, and in order to feel like you are a part of the community, you conform. And on top of it all your family is Mormon. You do what everyone else is doing because it is easier, and Mormon’s aren’t bad people, they have good morals, and do a lot of good things. I have heard this many times. It is a more common theme than you would ever realize. It’s so easy to justify.
To me it is so sad that people who don’t believe in Mormonism choose to stay. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to fit in, to not be judged. I completely understand this. When Brian and I walked away, we weren’t broadcasting our new found beliefs. I often struggled. I would look around the church we were attending at the time and see families. I would see Mom’s with their grown daughters and sisters worshiping God together. It was so sad to me because I felt this would never happen for me. But I knew that I was happier, life was better, and I was doing what God wanted me to do. At some point I felt God told me I would have a family that would worship with me. He has delivered on his promise and I enjoy worshiping with my family and knowing my children walk in truth.
When you grow up in a Mormon family and live in a Mormon community, it’s hard to know that there is anything else out there. Growing up I thought there were basically 2 religions, Mormon because that was the world I lived in, and Catholic because that’s what I saw on TV. I have a lot of frustration toward my parents at times because I had the amazing blessing of growing up within 1 mile of both sets of my grandparents. I had one set of grandparents who were LDS and one set who weren’t. We spent a lot of time at my Mormon grandparents home and with that side of the family. I remember thinking that my other set of grandparents must not be very good people because, “they drink coffee.” I struggle with this because it wasn’t until a few years after we left Mormonism that we ran into them at the grocery store one Sunday and we told them we had left the Mormon church. My grandma told me they had been praying for all of us our whole lives and they were grateful that we had found the truth. It wasn’t until then that I realized that they were Christian. I spent all of my childhood not knowing my grandparents who lived less than a mile from my home, mostly because they had a different belief system. Shortly after we became believers in the true Christ, my grandparents sold their home and began traveling the country. My grandpa became one of my biggest supporters, biggest prayer warriors and I knew I could count on him to support me when it came to the struggles I had with my family. My grandpa passed away in 2012, but during the time that he was alive I truly learned what a man of God was by his example. It’s hard to think that I thought he might be a bad person because he drank coffee (I now love coffee).
But I think the biggest kicker is, Mormon’s believe in family. It is one of their best promises. They teach that families can be “together forever”. This is one of the hardest things I struggled with. Growing up I was taught that family is important. I spent a lot of time with cousins, aunts & uncles, and my LDS grandparents. We celebrated every event and occasion. I am grateful for those memories and the traditions that came along with those experiences. I have tried to carry on the importance of family with my own children. When my kids were little it was important to me that they were able to spend time with their grandparents and family on both sides. My side of the family continues the tradition of finding a reason to celebrate anything and everything. But the idea of a “forever family” is a facade. In my parents home hangs a picture of the local temple and surrounding the temple are family pictures of all of my siblings. There is an empty picture frame on the wall for my family. That is by my choice. When my sister asked me for a family picture, she didn’t tell me what it was for. When I saw what she wanted my picture for I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that because it was portraying a picture that wasn’t real. So, the picture fame still sits on the wall, empty. I feel like this is very representative of my relationship with my family and the LDS church.
Because Brain and I have walked away from the LDS church, and we have raised our children up as Christians, there is a disconnect with my family. It took many years before I was comfortable to even talk about that I believed something different, and when they would ask me about it, I would get upset and defensive. I believe that’s because I was still a new Christian and didn’t know how to express or defend my beliefs. My kids have always enjoyed spending time with their cousins and have never felt “less than” around them and I appreciate that. But it’s a struggle for me to spend time with my family. We can’t have a conversation about God. I see them struggle with things and my heart breaks because I know if they would just accept the gift of grace. as it is with no strings attached, it would be life changing. And yet, I continue to watch them struggle and hurt.
I have lost a lot over the years because I walked away from the core belief system of my childhood. But I have gained so much more. Back when I was a new Christian and I struggled watching families worship together, God told me I would have a family that worships with me. I have seen that. I have an amazing husband and 4 amazing kids who know and believe in God and know the true message of the Gospel of Christ. They don’t live a life where they believe they have to do enough or be good enough for me or for God. They understand they are already there. The biggest thing I have gained is GRACE, I have done so many things wrong in my life. I continue to have days when I struggle, or am not the person God wants me to be. But at the end of the day, when I talk with my Creator, with God, My Father, I know that I am already forgiven. I don’t have to do anything, except try again tomorrow. The gift of grace has lead to so many other things, joy, peace, and contentment. I have a church family that I wouldn’t be able to survive without. It is a true blessing to call them family. I have a marriage that has been healed and restored. And I have me. The true, raw, 100% version of me that God created. I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to put on a mask or be fake. I get to be real. And I know no matter what God loves me and accepts me just the way He created me.
Why do people stay in Mormonism even when they don’t believe it? They stay because they want to belong, and they don’t, the Mormon church does a great job at making you feel like you can’t belong with out them. Recently, one of the leaders of the LDS asked, “If you leave the church where will you go?” The answer is simple. Jesus!! Jesus offers everything you need and He is enough. You don’t have to believe the lie that no one will accept you, you won’t be happy, or that there isn’t a God.
I walked away from Mormonism and I did receive backlash from former friends and family at times. Walking away has created a strain on family relationships, friendships, and at times made things difficult for my kids. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for my relationship with Jesus. A picture may be worth 1,000 words but so is an empty picture frame. I’m just a small town girl…living in a Mormon world.