I was a true believer. I always believed I would stick around Mormonism as long as one of the three following things were true; if it makes me happy; if I feel like I was doing more good in the world by being a Mormon than not; or if it turns out to be true in some kind of cosmic sense. It seems embarrassing to admit now, but I can’t really describe my life without explaining that. I was a true believer for a really long time.
Being on my mission in Germany was the first domino to fall for me. That was the first time I was truly and profoundly miserable. The fall was realizing I was miserable in a way that I would not be if I were not being devout.
When my mission was over, this giant weight was lifted. However, I really believed in the mission of the church and I saw my parents being profoundly good people because of it so it felt worthwhile to stick around in this community. But my community also includes people who are LGBTQ. And so, when the church went really whole hog for Proposition 8 in 2008 taking a firm stance against same-sex marriage in California, the second domino fell. I stopped paying my tithing once it became clear to me supporting the Mormon church was actively doing the world harm.
All that was left at that point was the truth in the message. The central tenet of Mormonism is God is not done speaking and if you are good, He will reveal Himself to you in a way that is undeniable. So, those first two years I was in Chicago, I was diligently searching for that truth and that feeling. Despite the fact that I was no longer tithing - which in a lot of ways, makes me a lesser member of the church - I was still going to church every week, praying, reading scriptures, and ultimately asking hard questions. I wanted to give it a fair shot. The feeling just wasn’t coming and I decided it was time to call it. Mormonism was not making me happier for being a part of it and it certainly was not making the world a better place.
I started planning my exit.
My mom began to see the writing on the wall so as a final push, she sent me a box of probably a hundred buck’s worth of temple garments. She felt that if I began wearing the garments again, I would reconsider. I can understand why it was hard for her. By their doctrine, I went from someone who was all-but-guaranteed a place in heaven to a place in the worst version of the afterlife. To them, I had a semblance of the light and I turned my back on it. Still, it was within the year of her sending me those garments that I went to the bishop and said I am formally resigning my membership. It took me three official tries to get it to happen, to get my name removed.
I didn’t sneak out the back door when I was there. I was very open. I was honest about who I was as a person. I was devout. I shared my testimony - not infrequently - that the church was true. I think it’s hypocritical to ask me to affirm the truth of it but then once I no longer believe it, to ask that I sneak, quietly, out the back. I wasn’t angry at Mormonism and I am still not. But at this point, I’m very happy to bear testimony that the church is not true.