Finding Forgiveness

One of my favorite speakers is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He has an amazing voice that always soothes me, but can also lift me up and have me shiver with the power and authority he has. He recently said, “Whether we have caused that pain or been the recipient of the pain, those wounds need to be healed so that life can be as rewarding as God intended it to be.”

My last post discussed how difficult it can be to feel like you fit in, especially in a religious faith. It was a wind up post for the other things I’ve had on my heart and mind that I’m going to address today.

I have a great capacity for lying to myself. Negative choices or mistakes that have damaged me get hidden in the folds of my mind and I act as if it never happened. Considering my personality type (INFJ), this isn’t surprising. However, like emotions that get bottled up, they eventually break free and I have to face it. There are many small sins that can easily be handled between me and the Lord in prayer, but some sins need a higher authority to help guide repentance. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe in talking to my Bishop (similar to a pastor or priest) when I’m facing challenges or sins and repenting of things I can’t handle on my own. The article I wrote had drudged up so much pain. Some of my choices occurred before and after I made sacred covenants or promises to God and because of this, talking about my sins with my Bishop meant the possibility of serious consequences.

The idea of being met with poor judgment or even excommunication was the scariest thing I’d ever considered. My religious faith is a big part of my identity and how I see the world. If I was no longer a member, what would I do? How would I handle facing family and friends with this knowledge? Would I come back? Now, let me be clear, I was playing out the worst possibilities of punishment in my head. What occurs during repentance is between you and the Lord, and in some cases, your Bishop.

In the end, talking to my Bishop was indeed the hardest and scariest thing I have ever done in my life. He was more kind and compassionate than I felt like I deserved. When it was over, I felt more relief than I have since I was probably a child. At the end of our interview, he began to offer the prayer and instead said he felt impressed to give me a blessing. I can’t even remember everything that was said, but I will never forget that feeling of peace and love. I was told that my Heavenly Father was proud of me and that all the anxiety and troubles I had been facing would pass.

Forgiveness is there for me and I’m working on it. It’s not over just because I spoke with my Bishop. The burden is no longer on my shoulders as the Lord is carrying it for me, but now I have to recognize that He’s doing that for me and that I’m deserving of it. The idea of the Atonement is something I’ve heard my entire life and while I understand it to some degree, I’ve never been very knowledgeable or truly understanding of the concept. Maybe this time, it will all make sense.

As always,
Single Mormon Lady

Fitting In and Faith

In June, I made a short weekend jaunt to Utah for a family reunion and took the opportunity to catch up with some friends I don’t see often. One of the best things in the world is to fall into a friendship as if no time had passed at all. The trip was great as I was able to dive into some great conversations and find some personal understanding as well.

One of my favorite conversations was had at Cafe Rio (that sweet pork is to die for and I need a legit recipe) about a mutual acquaintance struggling in her religious faith. It is mind boggling how humans can completely overthink and worry an issue to the point that it’s twisted and illogical. Someone who isn’t sure they want to follow the gospel or have a testimony but is worried about dating a guy who can’t take her to the temple is a bit skewed. Throughout the discussion, I admitted something I don’t like to admit which led us into another topic.

I haven’t attended church consistently in about 9 months. My testimony is real, but when I moved to a new city, I missed twice and suddenly, months had passed. Weakness is real. We all have it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and yet we hide it. We don’t share it or discuss it. It’s as if all LDS people are conditioned to keep up this persona of perfection. Telling anyone about a single iota of weakness, doubt or failing is a horrible thought in LDS culture as it could bring all sorts of comments, persecution and plethora of emotions. I didn’t say anything about missing church to anyone because I don’t want the looks or the disappointment in my mom’s voice. I also don’t want a rush of visits or FB messages or texts.

In mid-September, I convinced myself to go to the first hour of church and I am really glad I did. A woman got up and spoke real truth about serious problems she had faced. She talked about depression, anxiety and how perfection is the enemy of progress. She reminded me that you can still complete something well without it being perfect. As I’ve gotten older and stayed single, attending church has become significantly harder for me. I constantly feel like I don’t fit into the culture. It’s not that I don’t fit in to the gospel or the doctrine; it’s the social/culture aspect of the church that I fight. I fight the gospel of Public Opinion.

Going to church that Sunday just added to the other things I’ve been pondering – I can still have a good, gospel-centered, Christ-following life without worrying about perfection in the eyes of public opinion. Perfection in this life is unattainable so I’m better served working on the best version of me. The version that makes me happy.

As always,
Single Mormon Lady

Talk Therapy

Therapy and mental health is often represented poorly in movies, books and the news. It is seen as something only for people with “real mental illness.” These misconceptions and stigmas cause people to avoid getting help they need. Often, it’s an idea that going to therapy makes you weak, broken or crazy. Instead, therapy should be viewed as a healthy option for everyone.

Sharing opinions and talking, especially with those I trust, is like therapy for me. Over the years, I’ve cultivated friendships with people that I can truly talk to about a wide variety of topics, in fact, with some friends no topic is taboo. I have a wild thirst for knowledge and I’ve been known to fall down rabbit holes that many (especially in LDS culture) would consider wrong or taboo, just so I could understand it.

Despite these friendships, there are certain things I just don’t discuss. Perhaps it’s my own struggle or even knowing that some people wouldn’t be sympathetic or compassionate. A particular event that happened to me years ago, I have only told 2 people and when I did, it was years after the fact. It was shared as a tidbit to show understanding or explain a view or belief and never discussed again. After my last post, I was invited to submit an article to an online blog themed around road trips. Well, that would be a home run! I have so many stories and surely I could punch something out that would be funny, upbeat and positive. A semi-secret goal of mine is to be a published author/writer. I’ve never seriously pursued it, but I’ve always loved to write. Writing is a form of therapy all on it’s own!

Unexpectedly, the only story that came to mind was a dark blemish on my love of travel. I wrote the article in an hour and sat on it for two weeks debating on if I wanted to submit it. It was a secret shame, never meant to be discussed. I never imagined it would be chosen to be published, but even sharing it with my friend, one of the blog’s editors, was hard. Would it change her opinion of mine? Would I be blamed? Judged? Marked with a scarlet letter? Writing it down was cathartic. It felt like a burden was lifted. When I submitted it, I felt peace. It was now behind me.

I was soon informed they wanted to publish it. My elation was sky high for about 30 seconds when I realized I’d have to tell my parents. How could I share the excitement of having written something someone wanted to publish, only to tell them they couldn’t read it? Telling my parents was something of a sitcom/drama. It lasted for about a minute, explaining it briefly, then we moved on to a different topic. My parents were definitely proud of my accomplishment, but sad at what had happened. In fact, my dad made sure to tell me that if I told him the guy’s name, he’d take care of it.

My emotions went on a roller coaster for about two weeks and I felt completely anxious, out of control and not myself. I called my mom one day in the middle of the week and just cried. How could I allow such a thing to be published? How could I let other people see that dark and weak side of me? What if potential husbands saw it and didn’t want anything to do with me? (Obviously, I would have nothing to do with any man that thought such a thing, but when you’re spiraling, all the bad comes out.)  A couple of days went by and I found myself struggling again. A late night call with mom and therapy came up. It was something I had considered off and on for years, but even despite being a student of psychology and recognizing stigmas, I couldn’t bring myself to share everything with a stranger.

The next morning, I signed up with Better Help, an online counseling and therapy company. I was matched with a Christian-centered therapist in my state and I was able send him messages anytime for the next month. I rambled my whole mess out and my anxiety and it was… amazing. The second I made the decision to sign up, I felt better. Letting it all out felt even better. But the funny thing is that he didn’t tell me a single thing I didn’t already know when I’m panicking/struggling. I need to a) write things down, b) change locations and/or c) breathe. Writing has always been a safe space for me. I have books upon books of journals that I pray someone will burn after I die. If I’m feeling trapped in my apartment, go for a drive. I love to drive and blast music in my car, something I don’t get to do much anymore. Breathing exercises has always seemed a little hippy-dippy/yoga nonsense to me, but I was introduced to some a few months ago in a guided sleep meditation session on YouTube (amazing). I’ve used the techniques on a plane, when I got upset, and when I need to sleep.

I don’t expect the counseling to go beyond the one month agreement, but knowing the option is out there is immensely gratifying. Knowing that I can write out all the jumbled mess in my head into a chat box instead of sitting across from a virtual stranger is a huge relief. I have tools to guide me, even if I had already known them. It’s not a cure all. I have work to do to get over some of my anxiety, but most of all? Recognizing that it’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s from a virtual stranger.

As always,
Single Mormon Lady

P.S. You can find my article here.

Love and Inclusion

I came across the most breathtaking, hilarious, gut punch shocker of a comedy special on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been able to forget it. Halfway through, I was texting a friend of mine that she had to watch it pronto, yet she was the only person I mentioned it to. Part of me wasn’t sure how I could share it or if I could. Current society has me so afraid of speaking up for fear of an attack from all sides.

I’ve been trying to write about inclusion for three weeks and I’m not sure I’m going to have the right words to express my feelings. Let me begin with my point of view: I am a straight, white, conservative female that belongs to a very orthodox religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know that God, our Heavenly Father created us in His own image and that our gender is a divine gift. I know that we are born the gender He wants us to be. I know that homosexuality is not part of His divine plan for His children.

With that said, let me continue by telling you that I do not have all the answers, but I can tell you what I believe. I believe that God loves all of His children equally and that He wants us to be like Him. Like any loving parent, I do not believe that God likes all of the choices His children make, but He loves them despite it all. Therefore, I choose to love all of His children equally, even if I do not agree with their choices in life. If a person feels that he/she is gay, I will do my best to love them and support them as best as I can as a person, but that does not mean I have to support their choice to live with or marry another homosexual person. If a person feels that he/she was born in the wrong body or that their biological gender does not match their internal gender, I will do my best to love that person through whatever choices he/she makes. I might struggle and stumble, but that will be for me to figure out with God.

The great thing about my country is our freedoms. This is a choice land where we are free to live as we see fit. We are free to speak our hearts and minds and worship whatever god we wish to or not. Just because my viewpoint does not match yours does not mean we aren’t still humans living on the same planet, just trying to live our best life. Just because our viewpoints are different does not mean we can’t respect each other as human beings. Have we forgotten our basic humanity?

The comedy special I mentioned is “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette.” Hannah is a 40-year old lesbian from Australia, coming of age in a time where 70% of the people who raised and loved her believed that homosexuality was a sin (it was a criminal offense until 1997). For a little over an hour, Hannah educates just as much as she makes you laugh. There are also some serious tension-filled moments that had tears rolling down my face. Hannah calls out white men and privilege like no other. She speaks to sexual abuse and being beaten for who she is in a way that rips your heart out. It made me want to speak up.

Two other things occurred recently that also spurred this post. A childhood friend, probably my only introduction into diversity in a small, redneck town, bravely contacted me after I had posted a video about the negative effects of puberty blockers on young children and teens. Her story is not mine to share, but needless to say, it’s amazing how your view shifts when someone you know has real life experience with the topic at hand. Now, my view hasn’t changed fundamentally and I still have a lot of research and learning to do. Even so, as soon as I got her message, my heart was in my throat and tears were in my eyes as I frantically tried to express to her that I still wanted her in my life and that whatever choices she made for her family will never be mine to judge and even if we disagreed, we were still humans deserving of love and respect.

Imagine Dragons has an LDS front man, Dan Reynolds, who calls himself a “unique Mormon.” He created a LoveLoud campaign/concert in Salt Lake City to embrace the LGBTQ community. If I understand correctly, it was turned into a documentary. I’ve only seen trailers and his appearance on Ellen. I admit freely that I don’t know enough about it to speak to it. It sounds overall like a great foundation. We do need to address teen safety, love, and respect of all children and peoples. However, I can express my concern that there are faithful LDS members agreeing to Dan’s view that the Church (the LDS Church) needs to change their policy on LGBTQ. What a lot of people seem to misunderstand, both inside and outside of the Church, is that doctrine is not going to change. If it changes, it is man’s change, not God’s. Asking that it be changed is apostasy. That’s a very simplistic view, but true nonetheless.

The root of the problem with hate or intolerance or exclusion lies very simply a lack of humanity. Hannah said, “We think it’s more important to be right than it is to appeal to the humanity of people we disagree with.” She’s completely right and if that doesn’t hit you hard enough, she also said, “Ignorance will always walk amongst us because we will never know all of the things.”

As always,
Single Mormon Lady

Follow-up to the Downside

After my post yesterday about the downside of LDS culture, my brain was pounding away so hard at my mental typewriter for the next post instead of sleeping. While I confronted the downside and griped about bad attitudes that isn’t the end of the discussion. There are always more sides to a story and answers to a situation. There is an upside!

I spent a good portion of my mid-to-late teens and early 20’s not giving a flying flip about my religious beliefs or the faith I was raised to follow. During college, I studied other religions and found myself asking a lot of questions. A biological anthropology class even threw me for a serious loop on where I stood in my belief system. Yet, I always come back to what I was taught as a child. For me, it makes the most sense with the best answers to my questions. I’m insatiably curious, but I am aware that some questions can lead me down a dark rabbit hole and I need to take a breath, wait, have faith.

I’ve come to understand that my belief system is a very personal one. It’s between me and the Lord, where it belongs. I do not fit the LDS culture mold; not in any way, shape or form. To urge me to fit the mold makes me run in the opposite direction. I have to figure it out myself. However, there have been moments where I really wanted to fit the mold.
– getting engaged at 18. What’s more Mormon than that?
– 3 months of wanting babies so much I could taste it thanks to the cute kids that sat in front of me every Sunday (Eddie & Christina B. made some seriously beautiful kids).
– making a fool out of myself countless times with men I thought I could make it work with (I hope that Chris S. has forgotten that embarrassing episode).

The mold is a piece of fiction.

It’s not real. It’s the myth of perfection pressing on you. It’s the mistaken and globally shared idea that we MUST be perfect at everything and never show weakness or fault, even when it’s impossible to achieve perfection in this lifetime. Showing our flaws is not easy. It can even be painful, but wouldn’t you rather share your experience and save someone else in potential agony? Telling the world my struggles with my marital status, my place in the world or in my faith isn’t easy. If I help one person, it’s worth it.

You are your own person. There is no other like you and you should never force yourself into a mold that doesn’t fit. God created you specifically with all your glorious faults and flaws! How you figure out this life, how you decide what you will and will not do, is all between you and the Lord. Your experiences are not like anyone else’s. Take comfort, peace, and confidence in this: YOU know best how to navigate the life granted to you.

Something I often have to remind myself of (and boy do I struggle) is that people are generally good, charitable, loving and kind. They want to get to know you, to assist you, to help and to love you. They follow the same God you do! Some of them just don’t know how to be kind and seem to always target you, no matter what you do or say. They are stuck in the habits they see exhibited all around them. They are human and oh so fallible. Just like me and you. They are also children of God. It’s hard to remember that in the face of criticism, accusations, embarrassing moments, shame and other negative facets of behavior.

I mentioned Greg Trimble in my post yesterday and last night I bought his e-book “The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism.” It’s a tremendous read! I want to paste full chapters here. He says exactly what I want to say and in such a kind, thought-provoking way, plus he backs it up with words from prophets, apostles and scriptures. One of my favorite things is a quote from his grandmother, “How can I ever stand before my Heavenly Father unless I have been kind?”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s church. It’s Jesus Christ’s church. It’s the Utah Mormon’s church. It’s the Jack Mormon’s church. It’s the inactive’s Church. It’s the non-member’s church. It’s everyone’s church. The sign on the building says “Visitors Welcome,” but really, if it’s Christ’s church, we are all welcome, no matter where we are in our progression.

As Always,
Single Mormon Lady

The Downside of LDS Culture

In recent years, Mormonism has appeared in the spotlight more than it has since perhaps its inception in the early 1800’s. There is a lot of misinformation flying around the Internet and word of mouth, but there is a lot of truth as well. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but religious belief at its core is highly subjective, differing from person to person. In the LDS faith, there is a distinct difference between doctrine and culture and I want to address that today.

This topic has been on my mind for several months, something that has bothered me for a long time, but I didn’t realize exactly what it was until recently. A friend messaged me today about some of her LDS culture experiences and I got so mad that I knew I had to write this post and share it. I want to call out the discrepancies that I’ve witnessed first hand and also been a part of. I’ve come across so many articles that fascinate me, inspire me, or really irritate me, so I’m going to share ones that I think are worth a read and they often say it better than me!

First off, I highly suggest a thorough read of this article by Brent & Wendy Top. “Sometimes in an attempt to prove our faithfulness to the gospel, Mormons create standards that require even more than what the Lord is asking of us. So before we expend too much energy trying to live these “higher” standards, we should ask ourselves, “Are we living the cultural gospel or the Lord’s gospel?”

Second, I highly suggest a thorough read of this article by Greg Trimble. “It was Christ who brought with him a revolution of love, empathy, and compassion. He built a culture that was geared toward the lowly of heart and revolted against those that spent their lives pointing out the flaws in others.” Can I get an A-freakin’-MEN?

The LDS culture is a minefield. Some of it is completely positive; we have shared customs, values and lifestyles and our own vocabulary! Unfortunately, so much of it is negative, damaging, and alienating. Too many of us are narrow-minded, sheltered, judgmental, and self-righteous.

At my ripe old age of 36, being single is almost unheard of in LDS culture. I’ve been completely ignored in the wards I attended in the past. I once had the Relief Society President as my visiting teacher and not once did she visit. The only reason I met her is because she had a child in nursery where I was placed for my calling. I had to figure out how to put myself in a volunteer position of doing service at ward events or I would have never felt welcome or fit in.
Read:    #1    #2    #3    #4

I have friends who have divorced and they are often felt shunned, ignored and neglected. Especially if there were no children in the marriage. What could they possibly have in common with the rest of “us?” Us being the gold standard LDS family of a temple marriage that created 10 kids.
Read:    #1    #2    #3

The story that hit me today? A dear, brave, unique friend who married the love of her life and *gasp* don’t have kids yet after a year of marriage. The constant questioning and scorn about not having kids yet drags them down! They have been neglected and even uninvited from family events by people in their ward. Why? WHY?! Because a young married couple with no children can’t contribute to a gathering of adults with children? Because if you’re childless, you can’t bond with a child or be around children?
Read:    #1    #2    #3

You know, it’s one thing to murmur about me being single, but to hurt my friend just infuriates me. What if she was teetering in her faith? That kind of behavior is what sends people inactive. I understand being curious and interested, but what happened to some common sense and decency? It’s NONE of your business what other people do or don’t do in their single life, marriage, divorce or children.

Further Reading:    #1    #2    #3    #4    #5

As always,
Single Mormon Lady

Happily Single, but…

Remember my last post? Happily single. My ever-present, guilt-ridden crushing singlehood reminder is gone. Right? Wellllll, I can’t stop thinking about dating! My mind feels like it’s constantly yelling that I need to give it another try.

I have put myself out there repeatedly through church activities, conferences, a couple of set ups. Every 6 months or so, I try online dating and even the swipe-able apps, again and again. It always all reminds me that dating is awful and I don’t want to try anymore. I have met countless strangers and have had mostly the bad and the ugly in the dating world. I’m 36 with 20 years of horrible dating under my belt. I could write a best-seller.

I don’t discriminate when I date. There’s no telling where you might find love! I’m open to everyone: older/younger, tall/short, fit/fat, LDS/any other religion (even agnostics, but I draw the line at atheists), any color/race/creed/background. Do you know what I get? Liars, scams, and creepy guys. How about I tell you about the guy who stalked me in Walmart yelling as he asked why I wouldn’t talk to him? Or the guy who pretended to be a Spanish speaking sculptor from Texas and used pictures from a real sculptor from Italy? Or even better, the civil engineer that tried to convince me the pictures he took of bulldozers were not screen grabs of a REMOTE CONTROL bulldozer from Youtube.

I’ve heard all the same stories of so-and-so not marrying until 35, 40, 50, 60, etc. My own mother was 33 before she married my dad. I know the stories; trust me. Perhaps the most important thing to find comfort in is that there is nothing wrong with being single and happy.

As always,
Single Mormon Lady