Sunday, May 9, 2010

I am a woman without a religion

 I am a woman who spent my entire life believing in something good, something that would protect me and guide me through this world.  I put my faith, my trust, and my life into a religion that I believed.  I may not have always lived it to the best of my ability, and at times I didn't even try, but I believed.  I believed that God was at the head of the Church, I believed that my leaders had my best interest at heart, and everything I knew about God and salvation and how to be a good person I believed through the lens of Mormonism.  Even when I had questions and doubts, I believed.  Even when I didn't understand, I believed.  Even when I saw things happen that I competely disagreed with, I believed.  What else would I do?  I was an obedient daughter of God, and as such, I followed the men He had put in charge. 
I am a woman who knows who she is.  I am a daughter of God.  I am endowed with the ability to make choices for myself and my family.  I am endowed with the right to receive revelation from God.  I am endowed with the power to be a mother.  I am to honor the priesthood and the men who hold it when they act in harmony with God.  This was what the Mormon church taught me.  And I believed
I am a woman who has been an "all-in" Mormon, a "mostly-in" believer, an "inactive" Mormon, a "sort-of active" member and any other degree of Mormon you may have encountered. 
And then, in a phase of inactivity, I was asked over and over and over again to go talk to the Bishop.  I went.  I was accused of very specific "crimes" against God.  I don't know where the rumors started, I don't know why they started.  So where did the Bishop get this "information"?  I don't know.  He wouldn't say.  But he decided that a week later he would hold some kind of "council" to determine what they would do to me.  I was afraid.  I was alone.  I had no idea what in the world he was talking about- a council?  I had never heard about this stuff, this is the stuff they leave out in Sunday School, and I was terrified.  Why was I being called out?  Why were things I did that the Bishop supported suddenly sins?  Why was the man who was supposed to be my leader  looking at me with such contempt?  What is going on?  What had I done to deserve such cruelty?  I came home that day, and I cried.  I cried.  I cried.  I shook and I cried as my faith ran down my cheeks in torrents, and I knew in my heart that what he had done to me was wrong. 
I did not go to their meeting.  Sitting in a room with a bunch of men and talking about personal topics... waiting for them to ask me questions about none-of-their-business... putting my faith and my relationship with God into the hands of men that don't even know me... going into a hostile environment with not one soul who loved me... I couldn't even think about what the Bishop had said without sobbing.  I was in no condition to be judged by these men.  Hadn't they read the story of the woman taken in adultery?  Who are they to cast the first stone? 
And because I would not go, because I would not say I was wrong, because I have acted out of my own conscience, because I have acted in my life as I feel is right before God, and because this did not coincide with what the leaders wanted me to be doing, I was excommunicated. 
LESSON NUMBER ONE:  I am a woman without a religion.  But I am not a woman without faith.  The first thing I have had to learn is that God doesn't operate only through the LDS church.  I have always known this and believed that people who believe in God can communicate/believe/etc with Him out of the Mormon context, but I had always viewed Him through the Mormon lens.  Now that the Mormon lens has been ripped away, I have learned that God is everywhere, and I don't need a church or a leader to take me to Him. 
Ironically, the LDS church taught me that I can have personal revelation from God- and this I take with me. 
In double irony, the personal revelation that I have received from God will keep me from rejoining their church- if I wanted to- because they have decided that what they believe superceded what God believes.
MY TESTIMONY:  I know God lives.  I know that I have grown closer to Him since losing the LDS church because I don't have any lens, I don't have any impediments between us.  It is just me and God, and He is still there.  God will never leave me.  He is truly my Father, and I am His daughter- and I WILL NEVER WALK ALONE.