So here we are, the pivotal turn in my story. But first, my sincere apologies for taking a hiatus as I was writing this series of posts. Going back through it stirred my insides a bit. Even though I am lightly covering the things I experienced, the gravity of this time in my life was monumental. I’ve often referred to this time as a “faith crisis” but in fact it was not. I experienced a “religious crisis”. Everything I believed to be true, every Mormon teaching that I had followed passionately turned out to be untrue, or at least unnecessary, and that sent me into a tail spin. I was depressed, guilty, sad, lonely, and embarrassed, and in writing this publicly, some of those same feelings of shame and sadness resurfaced. Like any trauma, just when you think you’ve gotten through it, a trigger can come along and set you off balance a bit again.
I say this was a religious crisis and not a faith crisis because what brought me to the Mormons in the first place was that I was seeking God. I was trying to understand who He was and His influence in my life. I never doubted His existence. Even as a child, when I found myself angry at Him — I never doubted the reality of God. I always felt a presence of something much bigger than me, and it was more than my conscience or my inner ethics. Something spiritual, something pulling me and connecting me to others and the world around me. And I was seeking Him now more than ever.
We had moved to Colorado in 2002 and a few years later new neighbors moved in across the street. One sunny day in the early summer, one of the neighbors stopped by to introduce herself and we clicked pretty instantly. We shared a deep passion for all things HGTV and spent many hours talking about house projects and assisting each other with them. Not long after we met our conversations grew deeper and it became apparent that they were a deeply Christian family and that she’d had at least some experience with Mormons.
Over the years my friend would begin conversations with me about faith-based things. She would ask me questions and sometimes she would try to help me see the error in my thinking, but friends, I was deep in my beliefs. Most often I would simply shut the conversation down. And often I’d walk away thinking how sad that she didn’t understand the “higher” truths I had in my life. As often as I would shut her down, she would continue to try, not often, not all the time. I never felt peppered by her questions or comments but she would share her thoughts and feelings enough so that I always knew that though we believed something different, our friendship was based on real things. She was being authentic in her beliefs as I was in mine.
Over the years as I began to doubt what I was following, I began to think more and more on things that my friend had shared with me. Her emphasis was so much more on the New Testament then on rules and laws of the old, which is definitely more in line with the LDSs. I started spending more time reading the new testament that last part of the last year. Romans especially. And through it I was beginning to see the gift that Grace is. it didn’t matter if I wasn’t perfect – that additional ordinances I had been told I needed to do didn’t guarantee my salvation, or a more prestigious salvation overall — the price had already been paid. That is the point of Christ’s crucifixion. He bore my pain, my sadness, my failures on that Cross and when He rose again my salvation was set – not for any other reason than simply my belief in Him. The “works” Peter talks about in the bible are the fruits of that salvation — that because I am thankful for my salvation, I serve others — works is a show of my gratitude and faith — not that I preform works/deeds to gain something more than I have been given. There is nothing more to gain.
A few days after sitting on the couch having that first conversation with my husband, after the initial anger had begun to fade, I was ready to solidify my decision. I was leaving the church. I started to feel a pull across the street. I almost felt like a rope was wrapped around my waist and I was being tugged to my friend’s house. I walked over on that hot July day in 2015 and started a conversation like many others we’d had over the years. My friend invited me into her garden, one of my favorite places in the neighborhood. As we were tending to her plants, my heart began racing and before I knew it the words were out of my mouth, “Ali, I’m leaving the church…”
Now, my friend could have jumped for joy in the moment. I’m sure she was excited for what that meant as soon as I uttered the words. But instead, she rested her hand on my shoulder and asked if she could pray for me. The sincerity in her eyes brought tears to mine and I knew, somehow, things were going to be okay.