07 November 2015

Lots of Love As I Shift From Mormonism


You ready for this? 

I'll start off by saying that this post is meant to be a celebration! Yes.

It's about a journey and about a life.

It's about great PEACE, JOY, and finding TRUTH.

It's also a celebration of connection. I write this post with a desire to connect with YOU and sit around the table with you and share authentic life stuff with you. And, also with a desire to address several questions that have come in over the last year in regards to me being a Mormon.

So if you'd like, grab a cup of tea!

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I grew up Mormon in Arizona, in a large Mormon family with deep Mormon roots who lived in pioneer homes and went to historic Mormon churches. No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn't get the Mormon "testimony" to work for me. I was supposed to just know that the church was the one true church, but it didn't work. At age 18, I was asked to be a keynote at a Mormon graduation event at a high school in Mesa, AZ. I told them no. "Why?" they asked. "I don't believe in this. I can't fake this anymore."

I grew up again in NYC in my twenties and it turns out that I did return to Mormonism many years later. This time, I had a spiritual awakening under my belt that took place outside of the Mormon church. That awakening included meditation while walking the streets of Manhattan and smiling from ear to ear while reading Eckart Tolle on the train (all the while with divorce docs in my bag and fresh infertility drugs in my fridge that would go unused) - and through it all, I began to seem some beauty within the Mormon church...beauty that I hadn't seen before.

During those years, some of the BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE took place because I was a Mormon. Yes, it's true. The Brooklyn Mormon community is pretty rock star, as far as Mormon communities go. Most of the people are open and accepting and feel like family. Combine that with opportunities for teaching, learning, soul searching, connecting, speaking, stretching, planning, shoveling, painting, feeding, mentoring, serving, loving and you just might feel absolutely rich with experiences and friends and community. I did. And it truly, truly was extraordinary.

Honoring it All

After my divorce, I used to stand and sing hymns with Brooklynites so dear that tears would just stream down my face at the beauty of life and the beauty of humanity.

*   *   *

I used to mentor young girls and feel all the purpose in the world as I taught them and mentored them. The very day I got word that my divorce was final, it kinda didn't phase me because my home was packed with a gathering of Brooklyn kids and Christmas decor and baked ziti. (A hip hop dance-off was also definitely involved.)

*   *   *

I had the opportunity to start a Women of Faith Lecture Series in Brooklyn that led to THE. MOST. INCREDIBLE. evenings of our lives as women spoke openly and authentically for the first time about their journeys with faith - in and out of challenges such as money troubles, a failing marriage, anorexia, being gay in the LDS community, twins who were born prematurely, breast cancer, suicide of family members, infertility, depression, motherhood, or being a feminist woman in the Mormon church. There is moreAnd I cherish every word. It was raw and real and the connection felt between us all and the stories of faith were so empowering I can hardly describe. It was history in the making.

*   *   *

The women in our Brooklyn congregation cared for a woman and single mother dying of cancer. We'll never forget it. Coordinated pick-ups and drop-offs for chemo at Kings County Hospital became sacred. Rotating caretaking for her 15 year old autistic daughter became our world. We held a gathering for the woman to honor her during the last weeks of her life. She insisted on making soup for all of us even though she had few resources (and very little energy) to make the soup at all -and she made it special for me with no gluten. I truly have no words.

*   *   *

After Hurricane Sandy, the New York Mormons cancelled church and went full force into the hardest hit areas. It was literally the National Guard and the Mormons in those early days. Weekend after weekend, people went out. They even came by bus from areas as far as Pennsylvania. We ended up in a truck with some guys that had driven all night to get to Staten Island. We were headed to rip out a house full of wood floors. Um. Us city folk were in over our heads. The men laughed. They were full blown carpenters from the sticks with country accents and a truck full of real tools. And off we went to rip out wood floors and dodge rusty nails.

*   *   *

Every Sunday in Brooklyn I would walk or drive across the Gowanus Canal from the Mormon church on Court Street and feel like my heart was just ripped open to the max - like I had just been filled to the brim with friendship, fellowship, and the beauty of people giving their best to the world. Nothing else mattered more. Nothing else was more beautiful than connection with humanity. 

*   *   *

With all my heart, I honor and cherish every experience I've ever had associated with the Mormon Church. Even times in my life where I felt spiritually inadequate according to their models. Or felt confused. Or in turmoil. Or embarrassed. Or spiritually not fulfilled. Or deeply disappointed. Or shamed. Or treated as 'less than' as a woman. Or censored. Or silenced. Yes, there has been that, too. 

But it has ALL made me who I am.

It has ALL led to greater growth and spirituality; a stronger voice; greater human development; greater opportunities to learn how to live and speak my truth. 

I couldn't be more grateful. 

The Shift

As I continue on my spiritual path, for quite some time I have found myself feeling not as moved (and even repelled) by many of the teachings, principles, doctrines, beliefs, phrases, proclamations, practices, culture, policies, structure, and procedures that once were just so much a part of my life and conditioning that I barely noticed them, like freckles on my hand. Yes, I believe in serving others and singing hymns. But it's the words spoken in between that are now vastly different than the truths I want to align with.

And so, I honor the fact that it doesn't resonate anymore. For me, I easily and freely follow that part inside me that doesn't yearn to participate like I once did. Going against my own grain is not something I really ever do. So I am at peace.

What does that look like for me?

-I remain curious. I remain a seeker more than ever. There is good to be found all around in this big, beautiful, wide world and I want to continue finding it. I want to seek after experiences that feel true to my own spiritual path and the truths that I hold near and dear. Energy is too precious to do anything else. 

-My spiritual path is this: I want to cultivate peace from the inside out, regardless of circumstances. I want to do what aligns with LIGHT, TRUTH, SEEKING, INTERNAL & SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT, INTUITION, ACCEPTANCE, and most of all, LOVE (vs. fear, shaming, excluding, manipulation, judgement, control, silencing, excommunicating).

-Currently my spiritual path does not involve church attendance, and hasn't for over a year. The church culture and environment here in Ecuador doesn't speak to me currently. I felt the same way when we attended church in many cities in the west during our U.S. Tour. On the other hand, in the past I have loved the church culture in Brooklyn, which traditionally has been a very accepting/open culture within the Mormon church. There's a chance I'll continue to partially participate to some extent in the community there when we return. We'll see how that goes. Though I know many open minded people are actually leaving the church, too, in massive numbers these days. It's quite possible the church environment in Brooklyn may also be quite different when we return.

-Participating at the highest level of worship (in the temple) is not something I'll be doing as they do have strict questions in place in order to enter the temple. I have had some very beautiful, spiritual, and uplifting experiences in the temple. Though based on my beliefs, I no longer fit the profile they desire for temple worship and would not be considered "worthy" according to their standards.

-For about a decade, I've been cleansing any conditioning out of me that I find doesn't serve me and others. Most things I can easily drop like a hot rock. One or two things were a long process over many years. Though there's one cultural belief that has some complex lingering affects. It's the belief that says: I was supposed to get educated, but not really focus on a career - because, you know, motherhood. So a meaningful career was truly never even a thought in my mind. I find that mind boggling now! And I'm now working on that and forging a path.

-I want to accept and have love and forgiveness for ALL those around me. That includes the Mormon institution and believing Mormons, even when I disagree deeply on many accounts. I know they are doing what they believe to be righteous, and they are doing what they have been taught.

-I desire to connect with people in every religion or spiritual path. I want to explore other communities and also form an even greater community here and with those around me. I simply delight in our retreats, as it brings together people from so many different backgrounds. Stay tuned for a retreat in 2016.

Is it hard to share about this shift?

It actually feels really natural and normal to talk about it. I'm ok forging my own path.

I will admit, though, it IS a bit strange to be a blogger and a known Mormon while making a shift. I have many dear Mormon readers here and I know many of you may be saddened by this news. So my heart is definitely full for any of you in those shoes as I know it can bring on feelings of disappointment, sadness, or betrayal. I've heard from some Mormons already - some who have even said they can no longer read my blog or consider me an online friend. It's as though their trust in me has been lost. Well, what can I say? I truly hope that we can still be friends! And that we can continue to share stories about our path through life and our path to live with more LOVE. This blog will carry on as it has before. It has been life changing for many Mormons and non-Mormons alike. I hope that all will continue to feel welcome and included here. I love all of you and accept you - exactly as you are!

Is this a crisis for you?

No, this isn't a crisis for me. I see it more as exciting and empowering; a new chapter.

Since my spiritual awakening took place outside of the Mormon church, I always knew that the spiritual part of myself was my own and it wasn't intertwined automatically with a third party like the Mormon church. Unlike most believing Mormons, I have never seen the church as THE way or "THE one true church", but as a tool that could possibly be a stepping stone. And it was a beautiful one for me. For that I am grateful.

Is there loss?

Yes. I used to rely on the church for quite a bit of inspiration throughout the year. So now, I'm filling those gaps with other things. This loss is actually great as it's stretching me more and more. I've been seeking out new books, people, discussions, meditations, yoga, workshops, nature, retreats, podcasts, etc. And I know there is so, so much out there to explore!! Heck, I may even check out a church gathering of expats here in Cuenca. I've never done anything like that! haha. By the way, if you have ANY spiritual recommendations or explorations for me, I would so love to hear from you. Any Brooklyn recommendations will be especially noted. :)

Also, I feel loss of the community. Yes, I miss the fellowship. For now, may you know how deeply I appreciate this community here on the blog and the gatherings that we've had with so many of you. The care and conversation and connection that takes place here is truly enriching to my life. I hope it is enriching to you, too. It's my DREAM that we can all gather more and more in the future!

Will you still consider yourself Mormon?

You know, it may look more like this: "I grew up Mormon, but I no longer attend. My spiritual path doesn't fully resonate with it at this time." Though much of my family and many friends are Mormon and my husband still attends, so I'll still be in touch with it to some degree and I welcome that. You'll probably still catch me at church if someone I know is speaking. Or if there's a chili-cook-off to be won. Or if there is an opportunity to join with the community through an activity or a charitable outreach of some kind. Hurricanes, bring it on.

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I send love to ALL of you! I send gratitude for your friendship and kindness. I send sisterhood to all of you. I send JOY to all of you who are on a spiritual path of some kind. Isn't it beautiful? I think it's one of the most beautiful paths there is and I'm grateful to be on this journey with you as we make our way.

It is my hope that this post brings more connection and less distance as we are all sisters in this together. There is room for all of us around the table. I say we all take a chair!

Also, I'd love to hear what your reaction is to my post or if you have any questions.

Ask and comment away!

With all my love,

Mara

P.S. See the comments to see how my dear husband feels about it!

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230 comments:

  1. Mara! I love your bravery and honesty here. Thank you for sharing so much of you and your journey and your life with so many people. I am so happy you have found peace and truth and especially love--that is the most important thing, regardless of any specific religious path. Love truly is the way to peace and happiness. Thank you for creating a space of love and community here. I am sorry to hear that some have shut the door on your friendship--what a loss for them!! I will always consider you a true friend, even though our meeting was brief. Sending you lots of cheers and love!!

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    1. Nora, you one of my favorite women. I'll never forget our chat at the steps of the NYC library. Loved, loved meeting you. Thank you for writing! Thank you for your support and kindness. I hope so much that our paths will cross again. XOXO

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  2. As you know, I resonate deeply with you and find myself in the same spot. THANK you for being brave enough to share your truth and path and for doing it all with such love. Sending you so much LOVE!

    Do you think it is easier for you to step away since you don't have kids? One of my biggest hurdles is my kids and the fear of raising them in a mixed faith marriage. I don't feel as much fear anymore but it was a big hurdle at first. Anyways. Just wondering if you've pondered that and how you think things might be different if you were raising kids, or maybe it wouldn't be different at all. For me, having kids has brought sort of more pressure to stay because now I'm not just messing up my eternal self, but my eternal family and entire posterity as well. What a weight to carry :/ (I no longer believe that but as you know, some things are deeply engrained).

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    1. Dear Kami - Good question. My initial thought was yes - maybe it has been easier to step away as it's just me and I don't have kids. BUT, after thinking about it - the truth is, if I had children I would likely be even MORE motivated to not expose little ones to various forms of conditioning in the church. Their ancestors and family members would be Mormon - so I'd love for them to know about it all and honor the good aspects and feel comfortable in that setting from time to time. But I would personally really hesitate to have them be taught many of the messages I am now hearing from the church.

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    2. Kami - I hope that eventually you're able to raise your children according to your conscious, not according to antiquated socialization. If the church is damaging to you, why inflict it on your kids. And why teach kids that women are worth less, that women can't occupy certain roles, that gay and lesbian people are evil, and other non-loving messages.

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    3. I think I would feel much freer to pursue raising children outside of the church but my husband is believing and out of respect for him (and also because there is good to be found there), I feel that I need to keep them in the Church at least somewhat. It is definitely hard and we are both having to learn to put aside our ego's as we try to navigate what that looks like. I really appreciate Danny's comments below - they helped me so much and I sent them to my husband to read! xoxo

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    4. Anonymous...The Church does not teach that women are worthless or that gays are evil, for the record. That may be your interpretation of it, but it's not what is taught.

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    5. Stephanie, thank you for saying that. My heart just breaks when I read the emotionally charged, mischaracterizations of the LDS church.

      Mara, thank you for this post. When I first saw it I originally thought to avoid it for reasons I won't try to expound on or explain here, but I did read it and I thought it was so well worded and so well done. Good luck on your journey.

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  3. My guess is there are a few of you who will ask "How does this affect you relationship with Danny? Does he feel the same way?" Or something along those lines.

    So I figured I'd write this comment and post it early on.

    First off, I absolutely LOVE my wife, and honor the journey she feels called to walk. And I trust her. We're in this thing called life together...all of it. I feel I know what is in her heart. I see it in all our interactions and communications together and all of our conversations on spirituality and religion. She has a desire to connect authentically to Godliness and to really live in the Love that God represents.

    Because I trust her, I also freely allow for there to be differences in how we walk our journey together. There was a time in my life when I wouldn't have been able to do that. Where a partner not wanting to practice "religion" or "spirituality" in the same way I did would have felt like a threat to me personally, and to the quality of our relationship, or possibly to the idea of eternity and salvation. But that isn't how I feel now.

    The truth is, there are *external* differences in how we choose to walk this journey. I still actively participate in the LDS community down here. For example: I teach an advanced studies class (institute) on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on Saturdays to 10-15 adults, I teach a Sunday School Class covering the New Testament on Sundays to 12-20 adults, and once a month I teach the "High Priest Group" on a subject of my choosing. I've recently given lectures and trainings to local church authorities on social media and youth, and trained multiple groups of missionaries on how to develop greater love for those they serve and teach.

    And I love *every minute* of those things.

    So, while there are indeed differences, as I said above, they are only *external*.

    When concerned for the welfare or spiritual health of another human being, one cannot focus exclusively on the external. Mostly because the external often has little or only passing connection to what will always be an *internal* and *inward* spiritual journey, if it is ever to mean anything at all. Were it not so, Jesus would have had high praise for the pharisees who had all the external stuff nailed down to the letter, and wouldn't have spent the entire Sermon on the Mount stressing the difference between appearing to be righteous on the exterior while lacking true connection on the interior. He also said something about "The Kingdom of God is Within You".

    When it concerns the inner aspects of the spiritual journey (the deep yearning and desire to connect to God and to Love and to learn how to grow in that Love and be a living manifestation of it)....the two of us are united completely.

    And for that, I count myself blessed. Blessed to have someone I get to share that with. Blessed to feel I can support my wife in a journey that on the exterior seems different than the one I feel called to walk. Blessed to know she does the same for me, though my journey on the exterior can seem different than hers.

    That type of unity is what matters most to me.

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    1. Danny this puts into words exactly how I feel! My husband is in the same boat as Mara and I have so many people ask me how that makes me feel and you have just expressed exactly how I feel so thank you!!

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    2. Yes, I'll admit I was wondering that exact thing! Thanks for sharing your take on things. And more than anything, I can sense that deep commitment to goodness and love from both of you. Best wishes!

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    3. That was beautiful. I have had a lot to think about over the last week especially, and beyond anything else, it truly is the internal journey that matters. Thanks for sharing that.

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    4. Thank you for posting Danny! I was indeed wondering. This is such a loving and beautiful expression. Thank you.

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    5. I cannot tell you enough how wonderful this comment was for me to read. I appreciate you laying out your thoughts Danny. My ex husband walked away from Mormonism and we tried to walk through a mixed faith marriage, but failed for various reasons. My heart breaks because it wasn't equally accepted that I could choose my spiritual journey to keep my path with Mormonism while I tried to encourage his journey to a different spiritual path. This clearly loving interaction between you and Mara is healing to read and shows me it can be done if partners are truly committed to the other's pursuit of goodness and truthfulness. I hope others can take to this example and see how it can be done. I wish we had been able to have such an example during our transition.

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    6. Beautiful, Danny. It takes huge heart and a deep understanding of Christ to come to this point. So much respect to you... So much. I love you guys. Amazed & moved by your posts the last week.

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    7. Danny - My husband and I are going through something similar. My husband has been trying to find his own way and as much as I want to accept his new path/the journey of this new path, I am having trouble because I'm afraid that I will no longer see him in Heaven when we no longer walk this earth. Do you hold the same fear? How can I learn to trust this?

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    8. Caitlin - Like I said above, there was a time when I would have had that fear. My first marriage, to be precise, consisted of me having some of the kinds of worries you describe. The problem is, because the root emotion here is fear....nothing good comes of it. I know it is a fictional character that says it, but I happen to be moved by Yoda's extremely wise counsel - "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

      There is a lot of pain that stems from fear. First of all, the pain that touches you by virtue of feeling it. And second, the pain that extends to your husband or others because you feel it. Not everyone will respond this was (some will choose another path in response to fear), but fear often ends up in us exhibiting some sort of control or manipulation over another person. And that control and manipulation ends up resulting in resistance and disunion on the part of our spouse. And that never goes in a good direction.

      Trust me. I know. I wasn't guilty of any deliberate attempt to control my first wife or manipulate. But fear has a way of using those tools in an attempt to mitigate the threat. It took a major wake up call (in this case my spouse confessed infidelity) for me to realize how much pain and resistance she might have been feeling to me or to the controlling/manipulating forces that were in her life from other directions. I often thought I was protecting and helping her against those, but I wasn't.

      Fortunately, as a result of that wake up call, I became committed to abandoning that fear and all the crap that comes along with it (even though in reality, there was objectively more to be afraid of after this wake up call than there was before it). Being free of that fear liberated me to be able to actually care for another human being authentically. It freed me to truly love.

      I understand why you have that fear. I get it. But I don't think it is helpful to the relationship you are trying to create, nor do I think it is necessarily justified. I'm not trying to discount key points of mormon belief....but I think people overestimate what their temple marriage means. I happen to belief that for ANY marriage to last in the way Mormons believe, it is going to require a very powerful kind of love, support, compassion, and respect. Learning how to love without fear your spouse may be the very thing that creates a relationship worth preserving at all. But not learning how to do that, succumbing to the fear, may be the very thing that creates the dysfunction and discord that makes eternal companionship impossible.

      So, to be completely honest, I'm not worried about Mara, nor about our future. Our commitment to mutual love, respect, and support in this journey is KEY to me. The way we choose to love each other is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the ability to check a couple of boxes (like church attendance) that don't mean we created anything truly heavenly in our home.

      Perfect Love casts out all Fear. I believe in that. I'm committed to that. And so is Mara.

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  4. Oh geez Mara, this is so beautiful. It just cuts through all the superfluous stuff and gets to the gold. Thanks so much to you and Danny for sharing.

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    1. THANK YOU! Your words always get me. :) Love you tons.

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  5. I just love you Mara. You are the real deal. I read a story yesterday about the mormon church not welcoming children of same sex couples until they're 18, moved out of their parents house, and disavow their relationship with their parents. This breaks my heart because I know what wonderful, loving people are in the LDS community, but this seems at such odds with so much of the mormon teachings to love and serve. I appreciate your raw honesty and unwavering strength to follow your heart. And I'm looking forward to attending a retreat in the future!!

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    1. Katy, you've seriously warmed my heart. Thanks for this note. The announcement you mentioned has been so hard to hear for many Mormon folks. It's a sad time. Though I'm hopeful that things like this can lead to an even GREATER outpouring of love and acceptance by many. I see many people doing it and it's beautiful to see.

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    2. As I understand it, children do NOT need to disavow their relationship with their parents to be baptized. Just watched an interview with D. Todd Christofferson which clarified this point.

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    3. Hi Katie, I just wanted to clarify along with Alysa. The children do not need to disavow their relationship with their parents, but have to disavow cohabiting couples in same-sex relationships. While I know many comments on this page, don't support this, the new guidelines actually come from a place of love and are looking out for those children--not wanting to place them in a conflicting situation in their tender and developmental years. For more information on this from one of the church's leaders, see here. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865640934/Elder-Christofferson-explains-updated-LDS-Church-policies-on-same-sex-marriage-and-children.html?pg=2
      I appreciate the loving way you commented and so far am grateful for a kind/open discussion on here. I happen to have been raised LDS, and found my own spiritual journey within the church in my twenties as well. My experience is quite different from Mara's and I do stand by the church during this time.

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    4. Disavow the practice, not the people. That would have been more clear :)

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    5. With respect Sharlee, the position is not as simple as you've made it seem. The same Elder Christofferson earlier this year said there is no litmus test for members on where they must stand regarding gay marriage. He said a person could support gay marriage and remain in good standing in the church.

      To me, the thing that the church will have the most difficulty explaining in any way that doesn't sound unfair, is why is it that you could support gay marriage and remain in good standing as a member of the church if you're not the child of someone in a same sex marriage or relationship, but someone who happens to be a child of someone gay cannot.

      I appreciate Elder Christofferson's often measured and compassionate comments on these matters...but what he said earlier this year is no longer consistent with what is being asked in this new policy.

      It would be possible for the church to take a personal and institutional stance supporting marriage, and for you and anyone else to join them in that stand, while not simultaneously requiring a child to disavow the relationship of one or both of their parents when other members are not required to do the same.

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    6. Thanks for your reply Danny. I am not fully educated on this stance or the background, but I do know that many articles that don't come from the church over simplify, too. Which I believe sends a different message than the one I linked to. My intent was never to over simplify or mislead. I guess my interpretation of that was not wanting kids to feel conflicted while living in a home with same sex parents and being taught at church that it is not only wrong, but apostasy. I didn't see it as cutting ties, but rather recognizing same sex marriage goes against the doctrine of the church and accepting that in order to be baptized. I don't know the quote from earlier in the year that you mentioned. Do you know what context it was in so that I could search for it. I appreciate your respectful and informative response. I may have more to comment if I find that quote/statement and as I continue to reflect on this announcement.

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    7. Hey Sharlee, thanks for the follow up. I agree, there often is much oversimplification out there, which is too bad because it makes talking about the issue at hand more difficult. For example, I've seen a number of people misrepresent what the leaked portion of handbook says, in part because they don't know what they other pages before and after it say. A lot of conclusions are being drawn based on the portion that was updated that don't pan out when you have the whole thing in front of you. I've sat in on those counsels myself on more than one occasion and had to study those sections to try to appropriately handle an issue.

      As so the issue of Elder Christofferson's other comments back in March 2015, you can read this article http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/2301174-155/mormons-free-to-back-gay-marriage. He made it clear that publicly supporting gay marriage was not grounds for discipline or affecting the standing someone has in the church, so long as they weren't deliberately organizing against the church.

      In this scenario that he painted back in March 2015, any member would not have their access to ordinances, the temple or anything else, put on hold for any amount of time simply for believing that their father or mother should have a legal right to marry their same sex partner if they so desire. Supporting the legal right of another to marry according to the laws of the state does not automatically mean they disagree with the church's position on marriage within the church. Some do, some don't. And his earlier position allowed for that to be okay no matter which side you fall on.

      Presumably, it is still okay no matter which side you fall on....unless of course the person whose rights to marry happens to be your parent. And that is where one of the problems with this new policy exists. We are treating the children different than we would any other person, and requiring of them something we require of no one else to participate in the church.

      Thanks Sharlee for the civil discourse and for the questions and interest. I don't like to jump to conclusions either, and seek to be measured in my words and my comments. No matter how I look at this one, it just doesn't seem right. And that's okay.

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    8. Okay, so I've read the comments in response to my post above and just wanted to share where I got my info and see if it's accurate, according to either of you, Danny or Sharlee. And this is just out of curiosity - I have affiliation with the church, I was just left scratching my head after Sharlee's comment so looking for clarification. This is what I read:

      "Children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the Mormon Church until they turn 18 — and only if they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church’s top leadership as part of a new policy adopted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." -> http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/07/us/mormons-gay-marriage.html?_r=0

      So, when I read the part 'disavow all same-sex relationships' I assumed that meant they had to disavow their same-sex parents. But what Sharlee is saying is that the child would have to disavow the practice of being in a same sex relationship and not the people? Am I understanding? Again - just curious!

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    9. Katy, I think the church is trying to make that distinction, and it seems likely based on some of the wording that what you stated above is what they intended. i.e - they need to disavow the practice of same sex relationships and not the people.

      My fear remains though, in that we don't explicitly require this of anyone else. There are many members who believe same-sex couples should have the legal right to marry, but that the church has a right to decide who will receive their "sacrament" of marriage. There are others who both believe in same-sex marriage and think the church should change their practice and allow same-sex couples full fellowship in the church.

      But neither of these people need to "disavow all same-sex relationships" in order to continue as a faithful member of the church in good standing.

      My other fear is that even if they aren't being asked to disavow their parents, it will feel like it anyway. I don't think we need to be putting people in that position. The position of the church on marriage is quite clear, and anyone getting baptized is going to know what that position is. Specifically renouncing someone's relationship that is family just seems to take it a step too far.

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  6. So useful and kindly written. Thank you for your words and example. Zina Bennion is a good friend of mine and she's shared some of your words with me which have been a a calming beacon is a wild sea of thought and change.

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    1. Your words are perfect! "a wild sea of thought and change." INDEED. I often say: this unsettling is amazing. I feel it ruffles feathers, exposes people to ideas and people, and truly is the birthplace of change, enlightenment, and greater truth. It's a bit terrifying...and also exhilarating.

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    2. Oh how I love zina!! She's a dear friend-so glad you are finding comfort.

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  7. Oh man, I so get this. I'm a little sad to read it - but I get it. Thank you for your tone of love and respect.

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    1. Love to you. THANK YOU. And I agree, it's sad for me, too. I love so much about the Mormon church - and love the people so dang much.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, have been going through my own shift away from the Mormon church this past year and it's had moments of heartache (mostly as we work with family members who don't understand "why" or who now feel we are placing our own and our children's salvation on the line), but it's mostly felt supremely freeing. There is so much out there to learn and to experience! Most of all, I now feel like I can share my love freely and without restraint. For some, they might be able to access this feeling while in the church, but I needed to walk a different path. Much love to you.

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    1. Raven -thanks for your story! SO happy to hear about some positive outcomes of your journey. Beautiful. XO

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  9. Sad you feel this way, but I hope you still have good feelings towards the church as a whole. As a member, it hurts my feelings when people leave the church and claim that the members are all close minded, blind followers, etc. because I don't think I am either of those things. Good luck to you both.

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    1. Hi Allison - YES - I absolutely have good feelings towards the church. I love and cherish so much of my experience, and I LOVE the people. And yes, I realize every Mormon is so unique - it seems so many are on a different place on the spectrum when it comes to experiences and nuances in their beliefs (or why they believe).

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  10. I am glad you posted this. The revelations of the Mormon Church as of late has disheartened and saddened me to a point where what was once joyous and safe and unique is now just like any other denomination - more political than spiritual. I am beginning to navigate a less active status with the church, at least until I can wrap my head around some of the recent occurances. I can't picture myself ever leaving permanantly due to the effort it took for my wife and I to be sealed and believing fully in the strength that ordinance has; but like yourself I don't see myself passing thru Temple interviews lightly with my views on certain topics among other restrictions that cause more stress than any church should cause a person. I continue to serve my neighbors, lend a helping hand, set an example as a person of strength. Those are gifts bestowed by God regardless. I have not abandoned Him; just the politics...but because of obligations of church leaders this will involve a lower key role in my journey. There is a grieving process as my identity changes - and as a man I hate change, but I have a wife and 5 children to put up a good front for. I feel better I am not alone. Thank you very much for sharing. PS if this is a duplicate my apologies. I had typed a response before that I did not see post and wondering if I hit the wrong button.

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    1. Mike- thanks for your words and heartfelt story. You, indeed, are not alone. And I do hope you'll find a way to navigate it all in a way that feels good. I can read in your words what a good man you are - and what good intentions you have. Thank you for that. And all the best!

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  11. Getting chills as I read your post today. Reminds me of my own path I took 15 years ago. And the loss - the loss of community is hard. I hope it helps to know you are not alone in this journey, and this path is lush with new highs and truths ahead. I truly appreciate you sharing.

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    1. Melissa, THANK YOU. I'm seeing the lushness. And I appreciate your comment. Everyone here has been so kind.

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  12. Thanks so much for sharing! I don't go to church as I did when I was a child with my family and it honestly does trouble my family. What they don't seem to understand is that just because I don't "belong" to a church, does not mean that I don't still have faith and believe in God. I'm certain that you feel the same way. :)

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    1. Yes, there are many that feel that way, right? It is true that many feel attending THE Mormon church is the most righteous, or most true, or most Christ-like path - But I'm with you, I just don't believe that. Spirituality and oneness with the Divine can exist anywhere and everywhere.

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  13. What a beautiful and courageous statement. We've technically lived in the same communities for some very formative chapters of our lives, though as part of very different communities in our personal and family experiences. Through your writings, you've certainly opened my mind about the hearts and destinies of LDS women today. As I sit in my apartment a block from the Gowanus, I find myself at once envious of your special Brooklyn community and excited for you as you define this next chapter in your life. Is it too early to suggest that we grab a drink the next time you are in NYC? Yes, definitely too early. Maybe a nosh instead.
    P.S. I had some technical difficulties, apologies if a partial version of my comment already posted!

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    1. Shelby! I LOVED getting this note. THANK YOU. And especially thank you for making me laugh. haha. And you're right, isn't it something that we have shared our very specific communities on both sides of the country? It's pretty wild, actually. And I kind of love it. I still can't get over the fact that I nearly bought your exact apartment months before you did. I truly have thought of you over there so many times. I also thought of you during the WW reunion - and thought that if I was in Brooklyn I'd meet up with you that night if you were in town. FYI, we plan to head back to Brooklyn within the year. And I absolutely want to meet up. And I thank you for being so open to me - and extending friendship. It really means a lot. Lots of love, Mara (P.S. Enjoy every ounce of charm in Park Slope for me this fall. I miss it so much.)

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    2. You're on! I think Park Slope misses you very much, too. I look forward to reconnecting when you're back in town! In the meantime, I'm sure you are on an emotional rollercoaster and I hope you get some good rest and healing. All the best.

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  14. Thank you for sharing such a rich journey through the church and beyond. I have no frame of reference for the losses you may be feeling. My connection with a traditional church terminated at 14 when I had fulfilled the wish of my father to be confirmed. That completed, I've journeyed on many paths. The draw of connection has taken me into communities that were rich in so many ways, with each having their shortcomings. Such is our human condition. :)

    May your journey continue to bring amazing moments of LOVE and connection.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Jaci! I've actually been curious about your background. And yes, "such is our human condition." Isn't that the truth, with every community? A book Danny LOVES talks about how to rise above our weaknesses in communities and religions- it's called The Fifth Way, by a non-denominational pastor, Dave Brisbin. It's possibly Danny's favorite book of all time. Or least the top 3.

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    2. Thanks, Mara. I've put the book on my wishlist. I don't consider myself a follower of Jesus in the most conventional sense, but consider the positive teachings found in the writings of those times thought-provoking and inspirational...part of the journey.

      Hope to bump into you again, sooner. Maybe at the orphanage.

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  15. Mara--

    10 years ago I would have considered anyone leaving the church a very, very bad thing. The WORST thing. Now I no longer feel that way. Which is weird because I'm still an active Mormon, but I've definitely been going through my own questions and like...I don't know... OK, you know how some people feel like they grew up in the perfect household and had the perfect parents and the perfect family and only as they get older do they start to see that it wasn't perfect and in fact some things were really messed up, but everyone was just so good at hiding it? (I didn't actually have that experience because I always knew we were a big, crazy mess) Anyway, that's sorta how I've been seeing the church lately. My point is that even as an active Mormon I no longer feel like people leaving the church is terrible. In fact in a lot of cases I can see how it's a good path for them! And I really love that you and Danny can be at once different and still aligned in your paths. Such a great example.

    Anyway, I do have a question, my question is this: Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Atonement? So many of the things you guys teach on here are definitely Christian in nature (although I know there are many beautiful belief systems you draw from) and I guess I was just curious if that part of your faith still rings true.

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    1. YES!!! I DO! The Atonement is it for me. "At -oneing with the Divine." There is nothing better. I see Jesus as one of many great Spiritual Teachers and I think of his life and example daily. Certain things don't resonate, though...like when people focus on being saved "because he died for us." That isn't healing or transformative to me personally. I like to think of it like this: He put a death to his ego. Instead of fear, love. Instead of hate, peace. Instead of anger, forgiveness. He showed us how to live. He showed us how to love. It's his living example that matters the most to me and his spiritual deliverance, more than the focus on his physical death. And I actually love the cross! I love the symbolism and position of his body - arms wide open. I saw this posted by Glennon at Momastery: "Trying, trying, trying to live with the posture of Jesus. Heart completely visible. Never defending myself. Utterly vulnerable. Empty handed. Arms wide open to whatever and whomever comes next." There is not a more beautiful way to live.

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    2. I love this visual. So much.

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    3. That visual by Glennon was one of the first times I REALLY connected to Christ. LOVED that! I also love your interpretation of the death of his EGO!!! Oh my gosh I have a lot to think about!

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    4. Kami - I remember the time I first connected to Christ. I was almost 30. It was due to a similar sentiment, something I heard from my spiritual teacher. Before that, the way I had heard Christ and the Atonement spoken about at church never really connected with me deeply. Especially stuff like this, which one is bound to hear at the pulpit every single Sunday, and even at General Conference: "I'll never understand the Atonement, but I'm so thankful for it."

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    5. Thanks for the explanation Mara. It's funny because for so long I felt VERY religious in my Mormonism, but at the same time VERY disconnected from Jesus Christ. Now, I'm asking some tough questions and have changed some of my attitudes and approach to the church, but I am much more connected to Christ. For me the atonement is the thread holding it all together....but that being said, I have one more question based off your last comment...are you saying you understand the Atonement? Personally I very much relate to not (i would substitute the word comprehend for understand) comprehending the Atonement, while at the same time being very thankful for it. There are plenty of miracles I don't understand (and in part, that's what makes them a miracle is our inability to comprehend how it was possible) and yet I love and appreciate it. Anyway, if you have time would you care to expound?

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    6. Miggy, I always, always love reading your thoughts and questions.

      So - I kinda think it's ok to experience the Atonement in a way that resonates with you individually - even if it might be different than how other people experience it. For me, I focus on Christ's life and the way he overcame death INTERNALLY- because those parts are what help me to thrive and heal and reconnect with my highest self.

      So yes, for me, I feel I DO understand the Atonement! ha. But it's in my own way and likely not how others understand it or describe it. And I'm ok with it because the way others describe it often doesn't resonate with me or add any meaning to my life. The way I experience it works for me again and again and has been SO DEEPLY MEANINGFUL in every aspect of my life. Literally daily.

      I focus on simply working to be "at one" with Christ's ways. And every time I do that, I call it the Atonement. It's that reconnection with my higher, divine self. It's working to reconnect with LOVE. It's putting a death to my ego, just as He did. It's working to be at peace in my suffering, just as He was. It's forgiving people, for they know not what they do. It's finding peace from the inside, regardless of circumstances. It's trying to align with His virtues again and again.

      I strongly feel that we are intended to "see the face of God" in this life - and by "see" I mean, vibrate at the highest level of peace, joy and love; experience Godliness now - in our families, interactions, and in our souls. But to do that, we have to actively "at one" ourselves by readjusting our own vibration, our own energy, to align with His. I feel no one can do that for us. Not even Jesus. Jesus is meaningful to me because he was the one who showed us HOW to align. It's not meaningful to me to just say "Jesus died for me and suffered for my sins" but to say "Jesus showed me HOW to die (with grace and meekness). He showed me HOW to put a death to my ego and showed that it's possible. He showed me HOW to suffer with my sins or 'cross' (with love, forgiveness, peace, acceptance)". So, to me - it's his example that helps miracles of transformation, healing, realignment, and peace to take place. He "saved" me not by doing the work on my behalf, but by showing me HOW to do the work myself, showing me HOW to align with Love. And inviting me to "Come, Follow Me."

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    7. OK, so this totally resonates with me--mainly because I LOVE M. Catherine Thomas and her book Light in the Wilderness thanks to you guys. I also saw a talk on youtube she did quite a while ago and I have said more than once that she gets my vote for 1st female Apostle. Like you the die and suffer for my sins thing never resonated very much for me either...especially the part about Heavenly Father giving his only begotten son. I always figured that He got him back as soon as He died, so it didn't really seem like a sacrifice? Sure, watching Him suffer was hard, but he certainly didn't give Jesus up...but I digress... I guess my only disagreement would be that He does save us through grace and work that we can't entirely do on our own...I do believe it is more than just an example. But perhaps it's semantics. Thanks for responding. I truly have gotten so much out of your blog over the years and will continue to be a reader, supporter and learner of your blog. Best~XO

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    8. Ah, cool. So nice to converse with you. And I'll be a Mormon evangelist if M. Catherine becomes an apostle!!!!! :)

      Also, glad the grace part works for you! It actually doesn't speak to me. I know that's probably weird as so many people live by that. But I'd love to hear about how that works for you!

      For me, I do believe that we have chance after chance to start again - to try again. And that perfection isn't needed (at all) to feel peace. Though I guess I would just call that the acceptance and love of God.

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    9. OH MY GOSH MARA. I'm going to print what you wrote because it spoke to me so much about Christ. Thanks for giving me some things to think about and some ways to connect to Christ because I also have had a hard time with that. Love you!

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  16. Thank you both for sharing. The announcement broke my heart and has lead to a lot of confusion and questioning. I know I need to take time to really pray about it and see where I am led. I am grateful for both of you following the paths you feel are best for you. Danny can I ask you how you grappled with the announcement?

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    1. Are you referring to Mara's announcement, or to what the church recently announced? Just figured I'd ask so I could try and respond in a way that is relevant to you and to what you're going through.

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  17. Is it weird that this hurt my feelings! Haha you are the kindest person and did that in the kindest way but it hurt! I sometimes worry if something is wrong with me as a member... Am I being close minded? Am I being manipulated or manipulating? Am I discriminating? Am I being silenced? I have looked up to you ( and still do just as much as I did before��) for YEARS and you have seriously saved my life and changed it. So I wonder, can I be like you ( haha yes I often wish I was) and be an active member of the church and really mean it? I feel like if the church is based on truth, why does it fail for some and work for others? I have had SO many experiences that have confirmed the reality of Christ and other people do to bit then they just leave and say it isn't working for them any more... That makes no sense to me! And what I mean by that is how does that work? How can something that was true just not be true? I don't mean this in a challenging way but in a sincere desire for understanding. I love you a lot Mara and I have never met you. If this blog is even a little portrayal of your goodness, you ate one of the best people I've "met" so of course your opinion really matters to me. Also, Danny, I would LOVE to know how you are an open minded member and fully active in the church! Trying to learn from those I respect and love!

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    1. Anon, I really appreciate the kindness with which you've written this comment. You've taken potentially challenging or uncomfortable questions and presented it in a beautiful and searching way.

      My full answer would unfortunately take more time and space then is appropriate in a blog comment or in a post for that matter.

      But I will say a summarized version (and I say this as someone who is an active member of the LDS church and I DO really mean it.)

      First of all, yes you can be open minded, un-manipulated, non-discriminatory, and have a voice and share it authentically....and still be a member of the church. I guess i won't pretend that I am always those things, all of us have our moments of "unconsciousness" and dysfunction, but this is what I try to sincerely bring to my worship every single Sunday, and any service I do throughout the week. While I completely understand why some people don't feel they can authentically do both, that hasn't been a problem for me.

      The key for me lies in what I'm seeking to defend. If I am seeking to defend the truthfulness of the Church, well then I'm going to have a lot of obstacles when I take a serious look at the history and practices and mistakes. If I am seeking to defend the truthfulness or consistent godliness of church leaders, well them I'm going to have a lot of obstacles when I take a serious look at their lives, policies, frailties, etc....both historical and modern. If I am seeking to defend the mormon culture and traditions as justified or reasonable or a consistent representation of Godliness and Love, well them I'm going to run into a lot of problems and cognitive dissonance and personal despair.

      These are all things (the institution, the leaders, the culture, etc) that individuals of all faiths get caught up trying to defend and justify...because they see it as an extension of their belief in God and in their religious identity. They are so much a part of our spiritual experience and education, that we often mistake them for the source of the spirituality and connection we feel. It's this subtle form of idolatry that has crept in to just about anyone who goes to a church, and it's the most difficult kind of idolatry because it so closely resembles and replaces true connection and relationship with God and with others.

      Continued below....

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    2. Continued from above....

      Jesus has an interesting parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that we all know...it's about the difference between building on a Rock, vs building on sand. I happen to view the church as an institution, as well as all of the leaders past and present, as Sand. I know they try to turn themselves into a rock every now and then...but really they are just a really well built sand castle. They physically (and spiritually) incapable of being as sturdy and reliable as a Rock. And if I find that I have built my house of faith upon them, then when the rains of life fall, and the flood of historical mistakes rises, and the winds of unhealthy cultural baggage beat upon my house, I'm going to feel a lot of shifting beneath my feet.

      If I really really really need those things to be a "rock", well then I'm going to find myself being manipulated into agreeing with things I don't believe I should, or being silenced in areas that would make me not fit in culturally, or discriminating in order to defend bad judgement calls of past or current leaders.

      But, if none of those things are my Rock (which they can't be because they are just Sand anyway), but my true goal is to Love and know my God and love and serve my fellow man, at all costs...well then my worth can come from above and from the inside out, instead of from around me and the outside in.

      And then I begin to model the life of Jesus. Can you imagine if Jesus got his spiritual worth from whether or not his community accepted him, whether or not the spiritual leaders in his community thought he was accurately representing God, or whether or not his own followers really understood what he was saying? He'd be miserable and frustrated. But instead, since his worth came from above and from within, it allowed him to extend himself in true love to EVERYONE....because His love was no longer ego based, no longer done in an effort to obtain validation or approval from anyone else....it was simply a reflection of the transformation that comes from actually knowing God and having God work through Him.

      I hope I've done justice to a mindset that has empowered every ounce of my service for the last few years and allowed me to learn hard truths about who we've been and who we still are (hint: Sand), and not feel threatened by it or feel like knowing that someone diminishes my connection to God just because one of my prized Sand Castles is getting washed out to sea as it proved what it really was.

      Personally, as unreliable as everything else in this shifting and ever-changing world often is...I believe that God is reliable and consistent. It has taken a lot of work to figure out what it means to build on the Rock of God and relationship with the Divine, it has taken a lot of pruning and getting rid of what is not capable of bearing the weight of my trust and my hope, and it has taken a lot of compassion so that I can release those "sand castles" without being angry for them being what they are....sand.

      I could go on, but I'll stop. Truthfully, if you feel committed to remaining a member of the church, I would suggest you read M. Catherine Thomas's Light in the Wilderness....she NAILS what the authentic spiritual journey looks like using the LDS language you are already familiar with. I cannot possibly recommend the book enough to those of the LDS faith.

      Much love, and best wishes :)

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    3. Danny, I love you applying the parable of the house upon the rock/sand to your situation. I look at my spirituality the very same way. I certainly don't agree with every aspect of the institution of the church and some of its policies, but I can't deny the light and love the gospel has brought into my life. And Mara thank you so much for this blog post, it is the perfect mix of celebration, while also acknowledging that you have to be true to what you feel brings spiritual light. xx

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    4. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Danny!

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    5. This is exactly how I feel about my spirituality and discipleship with the church. Thank you for putting it so eloquently Danny!!

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    6. Thank you so much for responding Danny. I felt so hopeful and uplifted after reading that. And I can't wait to pick up that book. I will let you know how it goes. Give Mara a big sqeeze from the girl that wishes to be more like her!

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    7. “Ring the bells that still can ring
      Forget your perfect offering
      There is a crack in everything
      That's how the light gets in.”

      ― Leonard Cohen

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    8. Danny, thank you for this thoughtful response (though it wasn't even to me). It represents my journey very well, although I've never employed that symbol. I love it, though. It explains how I remain an active Mormon even though I've had to strip away layer upon layer of assumptions, beliefs, and supposed knowledge. If you don't mind writing more, would you tell me a little about how you approach teaching from LDS manuals? Is it something you have ever struggled with, even momentarily. And do you have any advice for me, because I teach and I struggle sometimes.

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    9. Hey Lindsay, I'm glad the comment helped. As for teaching from the LDS manuals, let's just say I don't really like them very much, and about the only thing I use them for is to know what chapters of scripture they'd like me to cover during the lesson.

      I absolutely ADORE the scriptures. I've enjoyed studying and absorbing them since I was 16. Nearly 20 years of study means I'm comfortable teaching from them without needing to reference the manual or back it up with a quote from a leader, nor do I really look to their interpretation of the scripture.

      I once was asked to substitute for teach for someone else, we were studying the Old Testament, and the lesson was on Samuel, Saul, and David. I used it to actually discuss why I disagree with the idea that a prophet can never lead the church astray. In a shortened version I said more or less:

      "Here is Samuel, a prophet of God, one who since a boy has actually heard God's voice clearly. And here you have Israel, who though they've been counseled for so long not to have a king, because God wanted to be their only King, they implore until Samuel caves and decides to call Saul. The next chapter (one totally skipped by the manual) Samuel basically calls Israel out and says they've all done a terrible thing in requesting a King. And that even though this King seems to have been selected by God and by inspiration, he calls them to repentance saying that this is a wicked thing. The man called by God as King, within a few years, already begins to grow in pride and it ends up being a disaster for Israel. And then the next guy God calls, David, seems to be sooo much better than Saul. Samuel admits he was impressed by Saul's physical stature, but David...well this is one after the Lord's own heart. And yet, he too turns to wickedness of a sort and Israel suffers. But surely things will get better with the next in line...Solomon. And for a while it is better....until Solomon as well commits his errors. "

      "The idea that even inspired people cannot or will not lead a people after their own lusts into foreign paths which ultimately harm them and their relationship with God is unacceptable to me. And it was unacceptable to our church as well in the early days. There is no idea of "not being led astray" until Wilford Woodruff. And in fact the earlier leaders said the exact opposite. "

      "The beauty of the Samuel, Saul, David example is...even when a people choose the idolatrous path of lifting men up on pedestals to rule over them (which is the opposite of what God wants)...GOD'S work still rolls on. Out of this mess...God established a royal line out of which would be born the Son of God. So, while prophets can and indeed do give instructions that lead people astray from the ideal....God's work (which is His own and is not of man) will carry on."

      I also used the stuff above about building on a Rock or on Sand. It turns out Saul and David and Solomon were proven to be sand. And for that matter, Samuel admits that what he's been allowed to do (anoint a King) will only take them away from turning to God, so it turns out his prophetic counsel was Sand too. The best part of that whole narrative was 1 Samuel 12, where Samuel tells them they should focus on building on the Rock.

      Ironically, when I finished, the Bishop's wife approached me and said it was one of the best lessons she's ever heard. The next week I was asked to teach the YSA full time.

      So much for the manual :)

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    10. Thanks so much for your reply. I really appreciate the time you took to tell me about your experience. Good to know I'm not alone in my manual problems. For some reason, I still often feel bound by the manual because my interpretation of the scriptures is generally not very orthodox. Anyway, I love both of your perspectives. The two of you share so much goodness and even this post, which may have been difficult to write is so beautiful. Thank you both.

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    11. Danny, I was hoping you would weigh in on how you approach this topic. Thank you for your response. It as beautiful and I agree whole-heartedly. I admire your respect for Mara. Thank you for modeling how this can be done. (You should publish these comments as a post!) --Michelle (SF retreat)

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    12. Thanks for the good questions and open minds here. I also agree completely with Danny's words in these comments. He so eloquently articulates how we both feel about religion. Also, so thankful for his never-ending participation in the comments section (and also by email, with so many readers.)

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  18. "Leaving" the church is such a complicated, messy ordeal. I hope to be able to learn more from you as you process this, especially about how you continue to be a spiritual being, which is something I have been struggling with. My husband and I decided to stop attending church about 8 months ago. It's a path I never imagined taking but it's a beautiful one. One where I don't feel pain and guilt for loving people for who they really are. And at the basest level, a path where I don't have to be confused about inconsistencies and things that didn't make sense when I thought about them rationally. It has been freeing and full of a lot of love, but also full of pain. I miss the community the most, but I'm so grateful to be on this path. I'm grateful my children won't have to do the same deconditioning I've had to do. That they'll be able to live the life that makes them happy and not feel shame for choosing to do so.

    I hope you continue to share about your journey because there are a lot of people who are in the same boat as you. I would love to know your daily, weekly, monthly routines and how you keep feeding your spiritual self.

    Thank you for sharing this and for being the real you. And for not being afraid to share. It probably helps more people than you know.

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    1. Anon - I loved reading about your journey! I'm glad you're on a path that feels good. I do hope to post more about I do spiritually. Here's a tidbit: we've been doing a daily "Healing Hour." This includes stuff like guided meditations (I love Belleruth Naperstek from www.Healthjourneys.com); yoga (love Lesley Fightmaster on Youtube); sound/wave meditations that create vibrations/energy; daily affirmations; reading about healing and spirituality; and some quiet time - with no external input. I'm also wanting to start A Course in Miracles soon. It's supposed to be AMAZING. And a non-denomination pastor we LOVE is Dave Brisbin. He has some insanely good podcasts and sermons online. And he wrote a book called The Fifth Way that Danny recommends to the moon and back.

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  19. Mara and Danny,

    I have so much love and respect for you two. I am grateful for all that you have shared through your blog. I have learned so much and grown so much from the two of you! Thank you!!! I really appreciate your openess and honesty in this post Mara. My husband and I have come to a similar crossroads with the church and we are heading in the same direction as you. My husband has a lot of anger with the church whereas I feel much like you. I haven't really been able to put into words how I feel and your post has helped me to do that. Thank you!!!

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    1. oh, good. So glad to hear that. I loved reading your comment!

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  20. I am curious to know what Maras beliefs are about Jesus Christ and His role in her salvation. ,Do you still consider yourself a Christian. or have you ever considered yourself a Christian? When Danny talks, he sounds very Christian, but you never mention Christ or even God, just this vague spirituality.

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    1. Mara can answer for herself when she gets to this comment...but I figured I'd offer my insight on your question. What you see as vague spirituality is really a desire to help anyone no matter what they believe by advocating true principles that work for any and all who will live them. It is a desire to teach true principles, without forcing anyone into thinking that it will only work for them if they also follow a certain dogma, religious path, or creed.

      It's also important to acknowledge that Mara's spiritual awakening came from outside the church and outside religion. And so while the awakening made certain aspects of Christianity come alive that previously didn't resonate with her...she's often spoken of those experiences and aspects using the language of where her spirituality and connection to God began.

      I'd almost compare it to me trying to teach people using Spanish. Spanish is not my first language. Though I certainly try my best to speak fluently and in a way that a fluent spanish speaker can understand, the fact of the matter is I'm much more comfortable using my native tongue, the language where I learned the things that changed my life, the language that I wrote in and thought in and spoke in when I was developing the ideas I'm teaching.

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    2. ha -what Danny said. :) That was perfect.

      I do consider myself Christian - someone who believe in God and Heavenly Mother. Though religious labels are not important to me. To me, spirituality is the most important -the kind of spirituality that is unique to each person - and practiced in the ways that resonates with each person individually and evolves over time.

      Also, here's something I wrote above regarding Jesus Christ and the Atonement:

      The Atonement is it for me. "At -oneing with the Divine." There is nothing better. I see Jesus as one of many great Spiritual Teachers and I think of his life and example daily. Certain things don't resonate, though...like when people focus on being saved "because he died for us." That isn't healing or transformative to me personally. I like to think of it like this: He put a death to his ego. Instead of fear, love. Instead of hate, peace. Instead of anger, forgiveness. He showed us how to live. He showed us how to love. It's his living example that matters the most to me and his spiritual deliverance, more than the focus on his physical death. And I actually love the cross! I love the symbolism and position of his body - arms wide open. I saw this posted by Glennon at Momastery: "Trying, trying, trying to live with the posture of Jesus. Heart completely visible. Never defending myself. Utterly vulnerable. Empty handed. Arms wide open to whatever and whomever comes next." There is not a more beautiful way to live.

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    3. Those are very nice thoughts and you are a very nice person, both of you. I do hope you can come to an understanding that Jesus did make an atonement for you and actually makes up the difference that we cannot make on our own and that we have to fully rely on Him and give ourselves to Him to return to God some day. There are many great teachers, and you are one of those teachers, but I do believe that Jesus is unique and plays a divine role in our salvation, and He is the only way back to God. No matter how hard we try on our own we will always fall short. How grateful I am that as a wife, mother, and friend I can daily repent and continue in a path of discipleship as I study and follow Christ's teachings. God bless you in your marriage and quest for truth!

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  21. Wow. Thanks for sharing this, Mara. I had wondered what your thoughts about the church were, recently. So thanks. The question I have now is how do you feel about Jesus Christ? Ever since I've been reading the blog, you've talked so beautifully about spirituality and higher power, always keeping the conversation open to those who believe in a higher power that is not Christ. I assumed He was your personal higher power, but I guess I'm not sure if that was an accurate assumption. Anyway, thanks for your blog thus far, and for being candid in this post. Much love from a Mormon sister.

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    1. Hey Alysa, though Mara's yet to answer for herself, you can see my comment above as a partial answer to your question

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    2. Ah, just saw that my question has already been asked. Mea culpa, for not reading before I posted.

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    3. Mara and Danny,
      Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It is my opinion that if there were 10 steps to get to the celestial kingdom (Kingdom of God) that the first 6 steps are much easier from with in the LDS Church... However those last 4 steps are much more difficult from with in the LDS Church .... Danny I think you have chosen the more difficult path. Not a worse path, just more difficult. Some of sand castles and/or glass ceilings are so hard to let go and/or break through. Good Luck to both of you on your respective paths. Much Love k

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    4. Hi Alyssa! I wrote above regarding the Atonement and Jesus Christ. Here it is:

      The Atonement is it for me. "At -oneing with the Divine." There is nothing better. I see Jesus as one of many great Spiritual Teachers and I think of his life and example daily. Certain things don't resonate, though...like when people focus on being saved "because he died for us." That isn't healing or transformative to me personally. I like to think of it like this: He put a death to his ego. Instead of fear, love. Instead of hate, peace. Instead of anger, forgiveness. He showed us how to live. He showed us how to love. It's his living example that matters the most to me and his spiritual deliverance, more than the focus on his physical death. And I actually love the cross! I love the symbolism and position of his body - arms wide open. I saw this posted by Glennon at Momastery: "Trying, trying, trying to live with the posture of Jesus. Heart completely visible. Never defending myself. Utterly vulnerable. Empty handed. Arms wide open to whatever and whomever comes next." There is not a more beautiful way to live.

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  22. Dearest Mara and Danny sending the greatest love your way. I love this spiritual journey we are all on even if we're not in the same places. But I honor you for being true to your soul in this endeveor and caring about your readers enough to be honest. You are one of the most spiritual people I know and I am rooting for you in this journey to find what will resonate with you and fill you with light. Danny you resonate the purest of love and respect in being with Mara on her shifting journey. This is truly what marriage is. You both continually inspire me with your reactions to what could be hurricanes in life. I would love to know more about Danny's spiritual journey now after deeply being invited in yours. For all our journeys are indeed precious. As far as my own I've always known my church is not perfect but I know that my Saviors gospel is and its in him and His Fatherthat I seek my divine identity. Sending all the love and respect in the world in all our journeys and in our United journey to spread goodness and love.

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    1. Rebekah, LOVE TO YOU ALWAYS. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for being on the path with us. Thank you for your beautiful words here - and for sharing your beautiful journey.

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  23. I just want to thank you for being the first persons blog post I have read this difficult weekend that although a differing opinion and path from mine still made me feel respected and loved. All of the negativity screaming at me from the computer screen gave me little hope that there was anyone from a differing viewpoint that cared at all about finding common ground or stopping to say that there could be love and respect felt after the dust settled. As an active latter day saint I felt assaulted by a large portion of the posts written much like the LGBT must have felt by the new wording in the handbook. I didn't even have time to research ponder, think or listen to an explanation before some of the sarcastic comments and mean spirited memes made their way to my feed. I wondered if it were possible to meet a person who disagreed with the church and knew that it was not for them but was able to move on in a spirit of love and kindness. It just seemed so sad to me that an angry line had been drawn in the sand. A line that said....because it is wrong for me.... It should be wrong for you too. Bless you for speaking your truth with love and respect. Bless you for answering every comment on this post with love and kindness... Not with sarcasm bitterness or superiority. This is my first visit to your blog.... It will not be my last. I cherish the gospel of Jesus Christ and appreciate love and light in all its forms. I yearn for the kindness I read between the lines of your post. Thank you.

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    1. Shewinn, I'm glad you didn't feel judged or negativity in the post or in the comments, but respected and loved. If you are new to the blog, we are happy to have you along for the ride :) Might I suggest you reading the posts found in the sidebar link "The Most Important Things I've Ever Learned About Love"....or follow some of the linked phrases in the About Page. We're trying to do a site redesign now to make our best content available to new readers, but it's still a ways away.

      Much love, and we look forward to hearing from your more in the comments :)

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  24. I am just wondering what your thoughts about the book of Mormon are. Also what your thoughts on Joseph Smith and prophets with modern day revelation because either you believe that it was real and they are good men or they are all liars, they cannot be both. I say this with love and wanting to truly understand. I remember shortly after having my second son and hearing that a few of my best Friends had left the church and I sobbed and sobbed as it made me really sad. I suppose because of the belief that once you enter into those temple covenants that it is a serious matter to then turn away from them. Thanks xx

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    1. Hi Ellen! Good questions. My answers are not traditional. :)

      I love many of the stories in the Book of Mormon. I'm not a scholar of it (at all) - but to me there are some great stories of transformation in there. I don't actually go to it regularly for my spiritual study - but I never have. It's more of a form issue and a personal preference issue - meaning I prefer other kinds of writing vs. scripture and ancient history. Kind of like you would be more likely to find me reading non-fiction more regularly than poetry (even though I appreciate poetry.) I also wouldn't say that the Book of Mormon is just automatically, "The Word of God" to me. I see it as a collection of writings that perhaps were passed down- perhaps were written by inspired people - perhaps were translated by Joseph - OR perhaps were fabricated or plagiarized! I have no idea! But it doesn't matter to me. What does matter is this - do any of the words ring true (to me)? Is there anything there that could be inspirational? One chapter may resonate or sound like truth - another may not. It's not a lump package for me.

      As for Joseph - I admire the guy in many ways for his avid spiritual seeking and it seems he did strike inspiration on many accounts (though I would certainly not lump all he's ever said into Truth).

      He also sounds like a mess to me in many ways. ha. And who knows if he lied about some things. But, either way, it's ok as I don't hold him on a pedestal. I'm not disappointed in him! I don't see him as a mouthpiece for God - or see him as needing to be perfect. He's just a human being like the rest of us, with strengths and weaknesses. Someone could be a good man on many accounts and be a liar at the same time. It's like MLK - he was a gift from God. He also apparently made a lot of mistakes as a human being. But it doesn't discount any good he did do.

      As for prophets in general - or modern day revelation. As you may guess, I don't see this in the traditional way. ha. A prophet, to me, is prophetic. But I don't think there is just ONE prophet on the earth or that someone needs "keys" to be prophetic or needs "the priesthood" or needs to be a male to be prophetic. I think anyone can be prophetic. Though what each person considers prophetic will be different depending on what messages we all individually resonate with. I think people should think for themselves what they believe and resonate with, instead of being told what to resonate with and what beliefs to have. I also don't think the Mormon prophet is automatically prophetic and automatically communes with God. I also don't suspect the Mormon prophets and apostles are actively deliberate liars - I think they are likely all good men - truly doing their best according to their paradigms and levels of consciousness.

      And - temple covenants. I think there is beauty in what the covenants are trying to get us to do - it's all leading towards oneness with God. But I believe the temple ceremony is simply just a tool or a guide to help us achieve that oneness. I don't see it as actually necessary or required. I don't think there needs to be red tape involved or boxes checked to have oneness with the Divine. People achieve Oneness all the time in REAL ways without ever attending the temple.

      I know there is SO much emphasis on making those covenants, but what is most important to me is not what happens within the walls of the temple, but happens in someone's life outside of it? How do they live?

      Thanks for being part of the discussion and for your thoughtful questions!

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  25. Mara,
    I am deeply encouraged by your brave declaration. Though I am not a mormon, my grandpa is and I am well aware of the difficult consequences this might bring to some of your relationships. I did however, grow up in a non denominational church with a spiritually abusive pastor, but also a community of people who I spent my whole life bonding with and growing with spiritually and thousands of individual memories that were shared with childhood friends. When I left that community, most of the people there stopped communicating with me. I was seen as not following God and I remember the feelings I would get when I would be in a store and run into someone I knew so well my whole life, yet they were cold and barely said hello after I initiated those hellos. I continued being apart of church communities elsewhere over the years, and now I live in Denver and there are certain ideas and tribal tendencies I still can't align with and find myself on the fringes of things, not sure where a woman like myself in her early 30's who is infertile fits moving forward. I have found such a refuge in this blog, but I have also found a source of joy and sense of connectedness by listening to Rob Bell's podcast called, The Robcast. I want to encourage you to listen to all of his podcasts! Start from the beginning! He left the traditional format/community of church he was a pastor of as it didn't align with his spiritual journey and he interviews guests who share in these experiences. I think you should share your story with him. It would encourage even a larger readership or in that case listenership. :) Much love to you my friend! Love, Brandy

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    1. Brandy, thank you for the recommendation! What experiences you've had. Hoping you can find a meaningful community in person. In the meantime, so glad to be connected with you here. Much love, Mara

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  26. Hi Mara,

    I've read your blog for years but I don't think I've ever commented. We've been on a similar journey faith-wise, and I want to thank you for your openness. I've had a gradual shift away from the church, and just recently decided to officially have my name removed (a decision strengthened by the recent announcement).

    I know the loss of community can hit so hard; it's so built in for all those years! In my own experience though, building my own community outside of the church has been immensely fulfilling—and full of people who are accepting, open, kind, and overall wonderful. The best part is that they accept me for who I am, not what I do or do not believe. I sincerely hope you're able to find that sort of community!

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    1. Thanks, Alyssa! Thanks for sharing. SO glad you've had a good experience building community outside of the church. I think that is one of the great fears of people who consider leaving...the fear that they will be alone, that no one will have their back, that they won't have a network. Because the truth is, the church generally does the community part extremely well. Certainly meaningful communities can be found everywhere! But I think Mormons traditionally seek community from within - and don't have as many outside networks (certainly that is not always the case, but quite often.) I'm curious- what kinds of things have you have done to experience community? Have you just joined made new friends, joined new groups, invited people over? I'm always thinking about new things I'd love to do - especially when we move back to the states. My dream is to have a place where people can gather for lectures, discussions on various topics, film screenings, dinners, workshops, etc. Hoping I can pull this off!

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    2. Absolutely! I was really lucky—at the period of my main shift, I and a few friends started a small company based on creative community (actually a lot like your dream above!), and we put on several events in Portland where I was able to meet lots of new people and make friends. Since resigning from the company, I've been making a lot of use of meetup.com, taking classes and workshops, finding non-church places to volunteer, and generally trying not to be shy about talking to people in public if we happen to be, say, reading the same book or see the same funny thing happen. It's been heartening to realize that most people are always happy to make new friends, and a lot of times it just takes a tiny push of initiative to get something started. I was amazed by our turnout with our company for events even when we'd done very little advertising—a simple facebook event and instagram promo brought in hundreds of people who were also looking for a place for community.

      Best of luck!

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    3. LOVED reading your ideas. These are so good... XO

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  27. Danny and Mara,
    Thank you for your heartfelt post! It was so meaningful and uplifting to me! This post and all the comments were so encouraging and positive! Danny, thank you for sharing your reasons for staying in the church, reading your comments has helped me to realize that as long as I anchor myself to God and love then I can be a happy member of the church:)
    Mara, so much love to you! You have been such a positive light in my life for so long! Thank you for sharing your life with us! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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    1. THANK YOU. I know you've been a long time reader here. And so this means a lot to us both. And yes, I, too, believe you can stay in the church and anchor yourself to God and be a happy member! Absolutely! I think it's not necessarily WHAT one does, but HOW they do it that matters. Any experience (in or out of the church) can be a beautiful opportunity for a spiritual practice. Much love to you.

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  28. Ok I have like a zillion questions. You guys said any questions are ok right? Mainly I am curious about how Danny feels about a lot of stuff. Is it hard for you to attend church by yourself without your wife? Do you pray that she will return? If you ever have children, how will you raise them? I basically find it hard to truly believe that this isn't some kind of strain on your marriage. What about being sealed as spouses for time and eternity? Danny did you know Mara felt the way when you first got married or has this been a gradual change? I know a couple who had gone through a similar circumstance where the wife has found truth in many other areas away from the gospel and now has her records removed. He still attends church with their children but it is so hard for both of them. He loves her and she loves him and they are both good people, but it is such a huge difference in beliefs that it is just really hard and I worry for their family. So I guess I worry for you as well:)

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    1. Good questions...I need to make some Sunday evening pancakes so I can use up my freshly made coconut cream :) Then I can maybe sit down and respond a little bit.

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    2. Those pancakes ROCKED :)
      I think some of your questions are answered in my comment above (it's the 3rd comment from the top). However, you've added some nuance that is worth addressing.

      Q: Is it hard for me to attend by myself?
      A: I don't think hard would be the word I'd choose. I love going to church with Mara. It's always a joy sitting beside her and hearing something uplifting or commenting together in a Sunday school class. So do I enjoy having her there with me? Absolutely. But I also understand why she isn't attending. It's not "hard" for me, but I certainly can and do miss experiencing worship in that form together, and then talking about it throughout the day.

      Q: Do I pray that she will return?
      A: No, not really. I pray that we will remain united in our joint desire to know and experience God and Godliness. I don't often pray for a change of circumstance, but I pray to be able to genuinely love, support, and respect another human being while they are figuring it out. People know when you want them to change into something *you* think will make them happier, and often all that does is cause them to resist you more. However, loving and empowering someone on their own unique journey, and trusting in them and supporting them as they use their conscience and wisdom to make the best decisions they can...that doesn't create resistance but teamwork and companionship. That is something I really value, and I believe it is something God values as well. Mormons believe families can be together forever....I think learning how to authentically support and love people who approach things differently than you do is key to learning what it would take to have that kind of family worth carrying on into eternity. It sure seems to be how God does things. When was the last time God got all in your face and tried forcing you to change your opinion and told you he couldn't love or accept you if you didn't agree with Him?

      Q: If we have children, how will we raise them?
      A: If you read my other double comment in response to Anon Nov 7 9:09 PM, you'll see that while I am active in the church, I'm not orthodox in my beliefs. Mara and I share a number of concerns about how things are done and what is taught in the church. I just don't feel the need to separate myself from it in any formal or informal way. As to how I'd raise children in that environment, you should also understand there is much that Mara LOVES about the mormon tradition and faith. Shifting away from Mormonism doesn't mean she's leaving behind the truths and ideas she values and cherishes. Mara and I share way more in common in our underlying goals, and we both believe most of those goals (the important ones anyway) can be carried out within or outside of the church. Mara loves when I teach in church or speak on sundays...she's my biggest fan and tries to attend, especially if I'm teaching or speaking in English. She loves how I approach scripture and faith, and 100% supports me. Much like I support her as I stated in the other comment. Basically, I guess this comment is trying to say that we share way more than you might think, and there would be a great deal of unity in how we approach faith in a family setting.

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    3. Q: Isn't this a strain on your marriage?
      A: As for this being a strain, we've actually had a TON of love, hugs, kisses, and gratitude over the last few days of getting this post together. We worked on it together to make sure it would have the right tone, though the words themselves are definitely Mara's. We've cuddled, we've laughed, we've been amazed at support, and shared great comments with each other. I won't pretend that we ALWAYS practice what we preach...but this entire blog is about what it means to obtain wholeness from the inside out, instead of what most of us do most of the time which is seek it from the outside in. People allow someone else's actions to determine if they are happy or upset, patient or enraged, calm or annoyed, etc. People are constantly looking outside themselves for their wholeness and validation. THIS is the reason marriages get stressed when there is a difference like the one Mara is writing about. But...what if I'm not looking for Mara's actions to fulfill me? What if my wholeness is coming from somewhere else? What if I don't take her actions as a reflection on whatever ego I might feel the need to prop up? Well, then it is possibly to TRULY LOVE her. Then it is possible to do it without condition, and then moments like this become times for bonding and joy. Because conditional love, the kind we should learn to avoid if we seek to really follow Jesus, would say "I can only be truly happy if you are in this religion with me, believe the same core things I do, go to church with me....and if you aren't doing those things, well then of course I'll be upset. And I might even try to subtly shame you into coming along with me." But unconditional love says "Because my wholeness isn't based on you, because I don't take your actions as a personal threat to me or my relationship to God and connection....because of that I can offer you Love right now, fully and completely....because there is no ego to protect". If you want to read more about this, click on the link in the sidebar for "Most Important Things I've Ever Learned About Love". THIS is why it isn't a strain.

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    4. Q: What about sealing/marriage?
      A: Someone else that is close to us asked us this as well. And my response is "well wait a second....which covenant that Mormons to God and to each other is this action affecting?" Running through the big ones:
      - Sacrifice - does Mara shifting from Mormonism mean she is no longer committed to sacrificing the natural man, the ego self, or to satisfaction through worldly pursuits? No
      - Obedience - has Mara suddenly stopped wanting to be obedient to the inner voice of the spirit and conscience, and making sure that her path to God and connection with God is authentically pursued? Will she suddenly lead a reckless life of abandon and destruction? No
      - Law of the Gospel - Does shifting from Mormonism mean she is suddenly not committed to really living the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, of loving God and loving others? No
      - Chastity - Does Mara's shift mean she no longer desires to be true to me as a spouse? Keep in mind also, this promise goes deeper than just your commitment to your spouse. Fidelity to a spouse in scriptures has always been a symbol of fidelity to God. Just as we are to cling to our spouse and to none other, that two flesh may become one....so too we are to learn to look to God in all that we do and learn to seek our wholeness in relationship with God (from the inside out) and not in the circumstances of life or the behavior of others (outside in)....so that that which was once separated (or two separate things) can be made one in unity....just like Jesus prayed in John 17. So, has Mara suddenly decided that fidelity to either of these relationships is no longer valid or a part of her path? No
      - And finally consecration - this is the culmination of all the other things, the final stage of progression, the desire to have all that you are be consecrated to love of God and your fellow man....it is the natural progression of sincerely doing all the other things. Has Mara suddenly said she doesn't desire to live a life consecrated to Godliness and Love, and to helping others experience what God represents? No
      I think sometimes, members look at the "sealing" as some kind of magical ordinance, that once done means you'll be bonded together for ever by virtue of the ordinance so long as you don't screw up. But that just isn't true. President Eyring even said this a few conferences ago. It takes more than that. It takes developing a heart and mind of God as a pair, and learning how to love each other in the way 1 Corinthians 13 says we should love.

      As long as Mara and I are working on exactly that, and in being faithful to each other and to our highest ideals...I'm honestly not that worried about it.

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    5. Q: Did I know how Mara felt when we got married, or has this been a gradual change?
      A: It's a little bit of both. You probably couldn't have convinced me 5 1/2 years ago when we got married that we'd be standing where we are right now. And yet, you'll have to understand that when Mara and I were bonding over email we weren't just bonding because of a shared religion and faith, we were bonding because we believed in core principles that made that share faith a vibrant expression of our love of God and others. It is the core principles that we shared that brought us together....and not one of those core principles has changed. The only thing that's changed is the outfit. But underneath it is the same body, the same core. And that is what mattered, and continues to matter to me. It's what makes whatever differences we do have in the way we approach things seem so small compared to the overarching core and foundation that we share. It really puts things into perspective. Mara's the same woman she always was to me, only better.

      That being said, there has been a gradual change. But there has been a gradual change in me too. I'm not the same man I was in 2010. I don't see God or the church in the same way I did then. My ideas have changed, my way of talking about God has changed, my understanding of scripture and the role of church/leaders has changed (see the Nov 7 9:09 PM). What if the roles were reversed. What if Mara had super orthodox views, and while I still believed in many things I found myself less and less orthodox as time went by? Should Mara feel threatened by that...by what has been an authentic journey of searching, study, meditation, and enlightenment? Should any of us be the same person we were 5 years ago? Should we expect that of our loved ones? Or should our Love for them say "Honey, I Love you and I trust you. It's true, your sailing into uncharted waters for me, but I know that your doing it because you feel you need to, because you are following your inner compass, and trying to be true to what you believe aligns with God. Sometimes this feels scary to watch, especially cause I don't feel called to make the same journey as you. But the reality is, I trust you...I trust the compass that guides you. You've shown me that your motivation is truth and love...and I know that because I've seen it so many times in how you've conducted your search and yearning. So, as difficult as this seems, I'm surrendering to that trust and to that Love, and I'm excited what we'll discover in those uncharted waters. I will support you on this journey. I'm with you to the end."

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    6. In wrapping up...let me just say that while I understand your concern, and I'm grateful that you would express and offer that to me and to Mara....I would say to you - fear not. I don't. Trust, be believing. But don't be believing that there is only one good outcome and that this outcome must happen or it is reason for sorrow. Be believing that every ounce of this journey in life is worth it. As I've said in these comments elsewhere....as convincing as the exterior aspect of someone's journey may appear, it is only the inward journey that will EVER matter. When Jesus told people that they shouldn't let others tell them that the Kingdom of God is "Lo here it is, or there it is"...that the Kingdom is something you can just find and join by belonging to the right group or worshipping in the right building....he meant it. His answer was that if the Kingdom is ever to be found it won't be by observation of signs (meaning there isn't going to be some checklist that will show you've arrived at the right place)....because the Kingdom you are seeking is already within you.

      If connection and unity with God is ever to be found, the journey to do so will always be an inward one. I'm carrying out this inward journey while an active member of the church on the exterior. Mara is carrying out this inward journey outside the church. My hope and belief is that we will arrive at the same place....because we are actually seeking the same thing. And that's something that excites me.

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  29. http://www.mormonwomenstand.com/guest-stand/i-am-the-daughter-of-lesbians-and-i-am-a-mormon/

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    1. Thought this was an interesting perspective and wanted to share!

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  30. Mara, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your heart and feelings with us again! You do it beautifully and with love, but I imagine that it can't always be easy. <3 I know from meeting you at the retreat that you are such an incredibly spiritual person who is dedicated to completely aligning yourself with love and it's amazing to hear you talk about it in person! I know a lot of people have been asking how Danny feels about this, and I really loved everything he's had to say in the comments. But I'm also curious how you feel about him continuing to be active in the church. Does it bother you that he is still so involved and believes in things that you don't? Thanks for the time you've taken to answer everyone's questions. Lots of love to you both!!

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    1. Jordana, THANK YOU for your acceptance and love. It really means a lot. Thank you for knowing my heart. :)

      I'm so glad you asked about how I feel about Danny still attending church. I LOVE that he attends and finds joy in it. He basically puts on the retreat wherever he goes. :) He teaches currently at church in several different capacities, and he LOVES it. He is a born teacher and it's one of his favorite things to do. (You can imagine he doesn't follow the script. :) People in his classes just can't get enough. Today he said a woman just sobbed and said it was one of the best classes she's ever had. I'm just so happy that it's a good experience for him. I’d probably go listen but it’s all in Spanish. Though I love hearing about his lessons when he gets home.

      He is also super passionate about teaching missionaries (they get the retreat goods, too.) I join in, too, every time they come for dinner -which has been a beautiful joint experience. And Danny teaches at their conferences and what not. I have seen Danny literally change the lives of probably more than 300 young men and women. He's basically famous in the missions in Brooklyn, Boston, and now Ecuador. He's like their mission guru. :) And they need it. He doesn't hold anything back and teaches them how to love in the highest way. The impact here has been especially crucial - due to some unique challenges in this mission.

      I do miss sitting with Danny in a church, though, and having a shared experience with him in that way- with lots of discussions after. :) We both miss that part. Though we do connect in many other spiritual ways (loads of conversations, explorations, reading spiritual books together, working on the blog together, gathering for spiritual experiences at our retreats, yoga practice at home, meditation practice, Skyping with spiritual mentors, hikes together. We're currently doing some energy healing with a naturopath here, too, which has been very spiritual.) We're also both super open to exploring other churches (probably non-denominational kind of stuff) and we might go to that expat church gathering before too long- just for curiosity - just to try something new. Even a year ago I would have never thought of doing something like that at all! haha. But Danny suggested it and I was like hey, why not. Could be interesting.

      As for our beliefs...We actually feel very similarly on just about everything! We both try to live by the same principles and are completely united in that! We're extremely lucky that way. Really, the main difference is that he still finds value in going to teach true principles and have a positive influence on people, if he can. I felt that way for quite some time in Brooklyn and felt a great motivation to teach and contribute (which I did. And loved.) But I'm feeling the environment to be less and less desirable to continue to do that. And not going (currently) opens some space for other explorations.

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    2. Thank you for your lovely response Mara! You are both wonderful and I have just loved reading through all these comments, so much good stuff. :)

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  31. You're so brave, Mara. Thanks for sharing!! xoxo, Nisha

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    1. My favorite Nisha! So glad to see your comment. Thank you, thank you.

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  32. Thank you so much for this post -- it explains very much of what is in my heart. I walked away from the church for good in 2006 (after moving to Utah, ironically) when it became impossible to reconcile my views with those of the people around me. They are not bad views - I am not falling into the depths of a firey hell -- but they are views that simply do not align with the teachings of the church and no matter how much searching/praying I did (and there was a lot over a long period of time), I could not find a way to move forward with the faith necessary to stay.

    This came as a shock to many that I was close with at the time because I really fought to join the church -- starting attendance at age 15 against my parents' wishes. Attending faithfully until 18 when I was finally able to be baptized -- again, against my parents' wishes. My years with the church were good years - the people I met were (and still are) good people. I feel so grateful to have had those experiences as a teen and throughout my college years. Sadly, once I made the (very quiet) decision to leave the church, most of those relationships fell by the wayside and the people I used to be able to reach out to stopped responding to me. That, I think, was more hurtful than anything else because like you, I still felt so much love for those people who had made such an impact on my life.

    It's been almost 10 years and I harbor no resentment toward the church and I'm still so grateful for my years of membership. I'm also incredibly glad that I have found the freedom to take my own spiritual journey that aligns with the things I value most -- love, compassion, and the (relative) absence of fear. It is really freeing to not feel like I need to hide the things I support - politically or otherwise - and to find God in so many other places outside the church. The stances the church has taken over the last few years have been really troubling to me - this week's being the most saddening - and I really feel for those who are struggling to find a way to move forward from it.

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    1. So glad you shared your story here. I admire you greatly. And feel especially moved by this line: "I have found the freedom to take my own spiritual journey that aligns with the things I value most -- love, compassion, and the (relative) absence of fear." Beautiful!

      Also, that is so nice to not have to hide things or opinions that may be taboo. I can see that. I think so many find themselves biting their tongues quite a lot.

      And YESSSS. God can INDEED be found outside of the church! haha. So many dear meaning folks actually don't believe that. My own father whom I love is among those.

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  33. Hi my beautiful friends! Mara, welcome! A year ago, today, I made a decision the recommit myself to Christ by baptism. I still remain Mormon by record, but soon will either be excommunicated or remove my records.
    Prior to this recommitment I feared that should I no longer be a member, I no longer would be blessed and no longer have the Spirit. Today, I have been filled with more light, love and revelation than ever before. Wherever God takes you and Danny, I hope I find myself in your company.

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  34. I love you both, such beautiful people.

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  35. Danny, you are a good man. Hold to the rod (1 Nephi 8). Best of luck & prayers (like Alma's father) in this journey. Love to you both though, I mean that. Mara, I hope you find what you are looking for. Danny honestly . . . hold on . . . stay strong, it will only get more difficult and I'm not talking about yours and Mara's relationship, that can stay just as strong as you both make it and from all views from the outside in, it appears rock solid and that is a great thing.

    I love the story of the tree of life because we are truly living it today. And anyone who mocks my post here, I know where your comments are coming from . . . and you know what. thats ok. I try daily to stay away from that great building. Like I said, living the gosple will only become more and more difficult as time progresses on. Its ok though, its not like we haven't been warned, the words have been written for thousands of years. I look forward with bright hope :) and I hope that both of you do too.

    Much love!

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    1. Hi dear Anon. Thank you for your kind note and well wishes. One thing that is tricky for many people to grasp is that Danny and I actually view religion and spirituality in the same way. So we very much share the same path - even though Danny currently chooses to attend church and I don't. Again, I know that idea is probably hard for many to understand. It's like this: our spiritual practice can take place in the church, or outside of it. With a job, or without a job. With an illness, or without an illness. etc.

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  36. I admire the love and commitment the two of you share. You are both brave and strong and very inspiring to me. Mara, I love your words about loving and accepting and loving all people, no matter what. That resonates with me and I strive to do that. You guys are amazing!

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  37. This has been the best post I have read all week! I have thought a lot about you two these last couple of days wondering what your thoughts are to all of this and you have delivered them perfectly. (as always:). Thank you for being completely honest about your journeys of finding peace and happiness. Your attitude is so refreshing and peaceful, exactly what I need to hear. Please keep it coming. Love you guys!

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  38. I have to say that I am not surprised by this post at all. I have always said that the measure of a person is not made by whether or not they go to church, or even whether or not they believe in God. I truly believe this. I will continue to connect with you through your blog and as I have always said, I hope to one day meet you in person. Danny is a truly stellar man! :) I would expect nothing less, as his love for you is evident by the way looks at you.

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    1. Ruth - thank you. And I do agree with you wholeheartedly - that a measure of a person is not made by going to church or believing in God.

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  39. I read in one of yoyr comments that you do energy healing. Would you be willing to share your experience?

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    1. Hello! So I've been exploring some various different ways to heal. And I'm SUPER new at this stuff, so I'm just learning as I go. But I'm fascinated by the idea that we store energy (from emotions) in our bodies - and that it can lead to disease or pain. So I'm seeing a body work person who helps to release any blockages of energy. Acupuncture is similar and I've done a lot of that - I plan to do some more of it here in Ecuador soon. Also, sound vibrations can apparently be very healing and help to reset or increase the vibration of our bodies. I've been listening to some brain wave therapy meditations (see the link in the post called The Healing Hour.) I know there is SO much more to explore.

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  40. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now. I have to say I love the way you look at life (both of you) and how you are not afraid to follow your heart, and not give into fear but instead replace it with love.It's really refreshing and hopeful to see people living with faith, love, and hope instead of fear. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beliefs! it's been really uplifting to follow you on your journey<3

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  41. I am a practicing Mormon and love the church so much. I really loved this post. I think there needs to be more love and understanding on both sides of this issue. Everyone walks a unique and personal journey. We all need less judgement in our lives and more love. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the most loving way and not looking down on others with different beliefs. I love your blog!!

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    1. Alicia - thanks for this note! I'm so glad that came across - that I don't look down on other with different beliefs. Because I absolutely do not. I LOVE the idea that each person can formulate their guiding beliefs. That journey is SO individual. And every person's beliefs are in tact because of unique experiences, unique development, unique understandings. I honor every Mormon or other religious person at every level of the spectrum. And I honor every person whose path is not religious. It's all full of learning and growth. It's all full of opportunities to LOVE and to progress our human development and consciousness.

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  42. Mara and Danny, thank you. Thank you. Mara, I am in a similar (and sometimes scary) place myself, only I'm coming from the Catholic Church. So much you said about forging your own path . . .it applies. I've only recently given myself permission to do that. Your love, and all the fruits of the spirit that are obvious in your life encourage me just about every time I drop by your blog. Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for choosing to be fearless and showing others what that looks like.

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    1. Loved reading your comment. And sending you love on your journey! XO

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  43. Mara, I have to admit that I have long been a (silent) follower of this blog and have loved and resonated with so much of what you and Danny have written--and yet the fact that you two were [what i thought of as] serious Mormons with serious involvement in the Mormon church always gave me pause, or maybe more articulately, made me wonder if maybe this blog wasn't for me. Not in the I-don't-love-it sense, but in that do-I-belong-here? way. (I was raised Jewish but I do not practice with an organized religion anymore--if that matters.)

    As a writer, I found your blog and fell in love with you and Danny as you fell in love together over your letters. The honesty, openness, and vulnerability reminded me of what my husband and I would write to each other before we were living together/engaged/married.

    Having come from former toxic relationships (including one with myself!) your approach and style has been refreshing and comforting. Thank you for all of your bravery and heart.

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    1. Thank you, dear, for this open comment. I have always tried to make the blog a welcoming place - and not a place just for Mormons. ha. :) But I can see how it could have been somewhat strange to be reading from a woman who was known to be religious. Anyway, I'm glad to have you here! :)

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  44. Thank you Mara for this post. I have been transitioning away from the LDS faith for years now and have had difficulties vocalizing them internally and outwardly. At one spectrum I feel relief by not going to the temple and church meetings and then at the same time feel sadness for leaving a community that has practically raised me since I was 12. I have had a testimony but it has evolved into something else, something deeper that is harder to explain in words. I find with spirituality that I am finding myself on a deeper level and by doing so I am connected more to "God" and to those around me.
    Thank you both for sharing and speaking your truths.

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    1. Jessica, so amazing to hear of your spiritual journey. That is not small thing to feel that you have progressed and evolved. Also, I hear you on feeling relief and at the same time feeling the sadness of leaving a community. The Mormon community has been one of the most enriching parts of my life. For me, that's why I'll likely be connected to it in some way, depending on where I live, I think.

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  45. Mara.. you should watch Agape Spiritual center online. My husband and I go there and it's the most beautiful union of different religions coming together to agree on what we can agree on-- love, peace, unity and a higher force bigger than ourselves, loving us and guiding us. You would absolutely love it. http://agapelive.com

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    1. THANK YOU for this suggestion! Sounds right up my alley. :)

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  46. Mara, this was the most refreshing and beautiful post I have read in quite some time. Thank you for sharing and addressing something that many are struggling with. I love you and accept you exactly as you are! I love the power in those words from the retreat. :) Danny, as always your comments have been so profound. I'm eating them up over here through the laptop screen. My spouse and I were raised in two different religions as you know, but there is something beautiful about embracing our own journey as well as honoring your spouse's. (Even if your paths look different on the outside. It's the inside work/journey that counts. I love that!) I'm going to be studying much of what you both have said here. Sending you love and hugs. :)
    ~Jasmine~ (Not sure it will show my name but wanted you to know it was me, ha)

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    1. Jasmine! Mara and I have thought of you and your husband a few times since that retreat. I'm so glad we got to speak about what you'd been going through with your own family, and it was beautiful to see you and your husband trying to build a really strong joint foundation while coming from two slightly different perspectives. Much love to you both!

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  47. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing this. My journey wih Mormonism has been very, very tumultuous lately, and it's so refreshing to hear a less-common perspective in a positive light. ❤❤

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  48. Danny and Mara, I am grateful for your blog. You have shared deep personal stuff in this space. I admire your courage and strength in being vulnerable with this online community. It can't be easy, but you have saved lost souls by leading them in a direction where they can find their own identity. I love you guys and am grateful for my experiences with you. Continue to practice what you preach, it is priceless.

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  49. Danny and Mara- Thank you for being so open, honest, & full of positivity and love. Danny was kind enough to email me a several months ago on a Priesthood topic....hi! So that's me.

    I was curious about your personal "coming out" with close family and friends.

    For me it reminds me of when your acupuncturist told you your love for your unborn babies was dysfunction and not love. I feel the same dysfunctional love from our family. The church is EVERYTHING to some people and unless given special care to help them understand they want to "love" you by helping you come back to the church. I just want Love. Mormonism and me have lost connection in how we show our love for fellow man. I feel all want to love and be loved for who we truly are and not because of our titles (I'm thinking of your Divine self posts now. ha) I want to serve and be the best me but up until this point I have depended on the church in how to do that.

    Anyways, I'm slowly "coming out" but it's difficult as I know this will lose me some friendships and those who know me and love me will be disappointed.

    Thanks to any and all with your advice!

    -Regina

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    1. Regina, I'm so glad you reminded me of that email exchange, I just went back and re-read it and dang that was some good stuff on both sides :).

      As for advice, I think the post you are looking at is some of the best advice we can give. Even the headline wasn't something snarky or designed to spur contention and arguing...."Lot's of Love As I Shift From Mormonism". And the tone throughout conveyed that love and that appreciation.

      I've noticed that when we learn how to speak without offense, it makes it a lot easier for others to actually hear us (but of course some still won't...you can't get through to everyone). A big part of "coming out" and making it work is having done the internal work enough to be able to approach the whole thing peaceably and compassionately.

      There is a book I REALLY REALLY REALLY love called "The Anatomy of Peace". I recommended it in the post I wrote about MLK at the beginning of the year that resulted in you emailing me. The key is having a heart at peace even when you are seemingly at war. Having a heart at peace even when in conflict with another means you won't add to dysfunction that is brought before you.

      Seriously, go reread the MLK post, and then go buy the book Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger institute. It is one of the best books I've read that breaks down clearly what is the cause of dysfunction and discord in our personal relationships. And it starts with us. It doesn't guarantee that another will also leave the dysfunction, but it makes it MUCH MORE LIKELY.

      Much love - D

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    2. A great email exchange indeed! Thank you! I have reread the emails several times and had conversations with my own father like you had mentioned in your email. :) There was SO much to ponder and discuss.

      I reread the post titled "If You Haven't Already, Go see Selma!" And I can't see that book recommendation but I am going to locate it immediately. "...heart at peace even when you are seemingly at war." Sold.

      Those MLK quotes were a great reminder too. Thank you!

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    3. Ahhhh, that's because it was in my follow up post called "A Heart At Peace" http://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2015/01/a-heart-at-peace.html

      I forgot there had been two posts :)

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    4. Hi Regina - thanks for your note! Regarding family and friends - we've had a good experience. I'm kinda used to being independent and following my own path. And my family is also used to me doing that. In fact, my siblings are all super independent as well. 4 of 6 siblings also no longer attend church. So this dynamic is normal. My parents are very orthodox Mormon. So they do feel concerned for me, which is understandable given what the church teaches. But again, I'm just used to that and on my end, I'm not bothered.

      Also, most of our friends are from NYC/Boston. Typically the culture there is very open and accepting. So we haven't experienced anything negative whatsoever.

      And as for this blog community and even FB, would you believe we've only had TWO comments that I would consider negative or judgmental. TWO out of hundreds. And one of those came in quite some time after the post went up. I'd say that's remarkable, given the sensitivity of the subject and also the rampant negativity that can be found online. I think it helped that I wrote this with a heart at peace, not at war. I intentionally didn't want anyone to feel attacked or threatened.

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  50. I enjoy reading your blog so much and appreciate your sharing. The openness and honesty you display are inspiring and much appreciated. Congratulations on your continued spiritual development and I wish you the best in your further endeavors - whatever they may be :)

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  51. so great of you to share your journey here. i was a christian for 15 years (not born and raised) of my life and left the church 2 years ago. i just realized i for sure didn't believe. i was always a reluctant believer (ie. i struggled with my faith) - but was hugely devout and an eager participant. deal is now i realize i believe in god and i do miss the church. so i may attend in the future again - it's tough bc as someone who works from home it's how i make friends typically - and my friends are great! and i don't drink (much) / do drugs etc so it's the community that makes the most sense to me for that and other reasons that revolve around shared values of how you treat other people...

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  52. A couple things,
    Thank you to Mara for sharing your heartfelt story. It was beautiful & honest and I wish you well on your journey. In the midst of a faith transition myself, I've read a lot of posts like yours, but none left with me with the feeling of peace and hope (and acceptance/gratitude for your past) as yours did.

    And to Danny, your take on staying, including the parable on the sand and the rock in the Mormon church was possibly one of the best things I've ever read. It really resonated with me. It really deserves its own post! I'm sharing it with friends who find themselves in a similar spot - I know they will find it helpful.

    To you both - this is such an important topic. And there is a lot out there on the internet that is angry and bitter. Please please I would love to hear more from you as you travel this path - both of you! You have the opportunity to be voices of love and acceptance and the faith transition internet community could really use that.

    Much love from Utah,
    Melissa

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    1. Thanks so much Melissa! You're right, things like this can be such a sensitive topic, and can often lead to a lot of bitterness and arguing. So I'm delighted that you found comfort in what we have both written.

      And FYI - the parable of the Rock and Sand is a foundational portion of every retreat/workshop we do. In this context, I was using it along with very religious context, but I find the parable useful for everything else in this life that we look to for stability that can't provide it. And whether or not someone calls the rock God, or Love, or the innate power to Choose....it doesn't really matter to me. We all must learn to see things accurately or else we will continue to expect a level of perfection from people and circumstances that just aren't capable of offering it.

      So yes, the idea is much more fleshed out and is essential to discussing Identity. But you're right, we need to make it more available here too. We're working on that :) We even plan to launch a free class which may feature that...so keep your eye out over the next few months!

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  53. Wow, I'm continually blown away by the greatness of your hearts Danny and Mara! Thank you for sharing this. I resonate with so much of what you wrote above Mara. It's often like reading my own thoughts! You both have been a blessing in my life and I will think of you both every time I dance the Cuenca dance from Ecuador we are learning in my performing group. I'm grateful for the sheer openness of your hearts and the abundance you see in life. I'm grateful for an amazing two hour Skype chat with Danny last week and for his great and giving heart. I'm grateful for your beautiful description of the Atonement as death of the ego and how powerfully connected we are with each other and the divine when we choose virtue in whatever context it may be. It reminds me of a quote I came across recently: "Truth is found in a much more humble place, hidden in the small, everyday moments we have as we go about interacting with one another. It’s found in bedtime rituals, text message conversations, at the dinner table, in the bleachers at the local high school football game, and in the checkout line at the grocery store. In these little moments, our interactions produce friction and heat, which rises up into the atmosphere where condensation occurs. Then, almost without notice, truth distills and percolates upon our souls. It is so delicate that it cannot be spoken in words, or written in a book. To try to do so would be careless. The best we can do is describe these little moments to one another and hope that others will feel what we felt." Thank you for helping me feel what you two have felt!! Love you two forever! Can't wait for our paths to cross someday! :) With lots of Love, Sam

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    1. Hey Sam, loved chatting with you the other week. Thanks for writing here, and I'm so glad Mara's understanding of Atonement resonated with you. Thinking of it in this way has made Jesus even more of an object of emulation and not just adoration. How better to At-One then to actually be like him and lay to rest the ego and preoccupations of this world like He did.

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  54. Hey Mara, Just a thought about expanding your spiritual net. I often find that Mormons are distrusting of participating with other faiths - even other Christian faiths. I find that sad. Next time you're in NYC, I would invite you to check our any number of Christian denominations - especially the ones worshiping in some of the oldest cathedrals and churches in this country (stunning). Many of these Episcopal and Catholic Churches are open all day every day to the public, to sit and ponder or meditate. And, many of them offer a daily choral service. Its been a real source of peace for me personally, when I can venture out to some of these places. Even if you don't identify as Christian, I think these are enlightening spaces for all. For example:

    http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music

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    1. I'm always game for something like this Christian, so is Mara. Some of our favorite experiences over the last few years were when we stepped into some other churches for holiday services (love Handel's Messiah at Trinity Church, and we also loved ringing in the New Year with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - which was very different than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - singing some praise music for 2 hours.)

      We'll have to connect with you on our next NYC visit and get any other recommendations.

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    2. Christian, I absolutely LOVE your suggestion!! I think that could become a regular tradition once we return to NYC. I look forward to it.
      And yes, I agree that Mormons typically are very distrusting of other faiths - and there is this very common feeling that they are "other". I don't like that one bit. And I feel sad about any moments in which I participated with that kind of thinking myself. Luckily - I felt that dysfunctional / harmful thinking lifting from me years ago. Living in Brooklyn absolutely helped with that - as you get to intimately feel the goodness of SO many different kinds of people. Also, meeting spiritual mentors outside of the church (again and again) was critical. That opened my eyes so wide. And now, even writing this post publicly has done something to me - in a way it's removed a label that perhaps separated me (at least on the outside) - and it's somewhat of a relief to not have a label get in the way.

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  55. Mara! Thank you for this beautiful post. It got me desiring greater spirituality and led to a lot of introspection. I am a member of the church and want to stay active in it, I do see many "traditions of our fathers" that make it hard to separate what is truth and what is opinion. Sometimes it does seem that the "church" gets in the way of my spirituality... maybe partially due to the way I was raised. I am not sure. I would love to know how you "detoxed". A step by step would be wonderful. I am looking to do that and kind of sift through the things that are solid truths to me and ones that are harmful to my spirit if that makes sense. I would love to stay a participating member but do want to be very aware and concious of my faith. I guess this would be a good one for you to answer as well Danny!
    Also, I am planning on talking to you two over the phone within the next couple of days. What is the best way to prepare for a session? Let me know! Thank you!

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    1. Hey Anon! So delighted you are planning a session! Can't wait. As for how to prepare...it helps when we have some specifics to cover during the session. Specific questions, and specific examples of where you are trying something that isn't working for you. We can talk about theory all day, but it is always better when we are responding to a real life scenario you just faced, are now facing, or are about to face. That will allow us to send you away with some real homework :)

      Other than that, just prepare by being yourself! Can't wait to talk :)

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    2. Anon -I love your question and the idea of a step by step! I should make that a post. :) I do agree that the church can be, very limiting for those on a spiritual path, especially if someone hasn't claimed a spiritual practice as their own. For example, the spiritual path in the church often looks like this: studying scripture, praying daily, attending church, attending the temple, feeling warm fuzzies. It turns out, though, that there is SOOO much more out there and one may not even get a "fullness" from doing those things the church prescribes. It's incredible to explore beyond and to see what resonates with you. For now, some initial thoughts for figuring out your truths:
      1. SEEK people and connections with spiritual people or mentors outside of the church. I think this is eye opening.
      2. QUESTION everything. The minute we believe just because we're commanded to is the moment our human development stops. Our consciousness cannot continue to evolve. Looking at each piece of your belief system is so interesting...as you can examine exactly how you, individually, feel about this or that.
      3. SEEK, seek, seek. Explore spirituality in different ways. Try new spiritual traditions. See if anything resonates. There is a whole wide world of things out there and it's INCREDIBLE to experience it.
      4. Use your VOICE to contribute or share your truths. I think not using the voice and biting your tongue or trying to live your truth in hiding feels repressing and distancing - whether it's in a church or family setting. True connection with others comes to an end when we aren't authentic. Also, just constantly passing on another's voice (say by giving a talk in church with the assignment to recap words from other people or by giving a lesson from a manual) is also not exactly the path to exploring your OWN spirituality and sharing your own truths.

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  56. Hey you two. I am practicing gratitude this month and want to send a big thanks and hug your way for your goodness and fearless vulnerability. In the past 2 years I have read almost every word of this blog. You have helped me and my husband through the challenges of infertility. Your words helped remind me of great truths I had forgotten in my dark time. I am enough! Regardless of my marital status or child bearing ability. I have divine worth and God loves me. Thank you for reminding me of this. I'm a child psychologist and have the opportunity to work with diverse families, religions, and cultures and I have found through the years that the greatest truths never have to be defended or have a policy to clarify them. Real truths like surrendering, forgiveness, compassion, divine worth, true charity, and love seem to resonate with all people regardless of culture, religion, and even age. Perhaps we are all just trying to get to God's frequency and God in loving us all communicates to us in the language we are most familiar and comfortable with and if we want to learn a second language to reach God's frequency than that is awesome. Best of luck to you Mara in your unique spiritual journey. And Danny thank you for sharing how you teach LDS doctrine with true principles at heart. I would really love to read more of your "sunday sermons." Please continue to share your beautiful thoughts on love with us all. Maybe together we can begin to reach God's frequency.

    much love- mary

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    1. Mary - oh, how I loved your comment. So much. Yes to working to reach God's frequency!! That's my kind of language. :) Lots of love to you.

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  57. I grew up Mormon too! But my parents were separated. So one weekend I would go to a baptist church and the next weekend I would go to a Mormon church. My look on religion was very confusing. It wasn't until I met my husband, who introduced me to Eckart Tolle, that I was able to choose a different path! Thank you for these blog post MARA!!!

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  58. Danny and Mara--What an amazing post. Your responses show such clarity and a deep willingness to engage in sensitive, complex topics. Just wanted to share that I am grateful for the beautiful community you are building. Thank you for your commitment to love and healing--and for sharing it with all of us.

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    1. Margi, THANK YOU. Isn't this community amazing? These comments are evidence. We're thankful to have you be a part of it. And we hope to grow this community even more. We have wonderful plans in the works -with a team who will be helping us over the next many months. I cannot wait to see it all unfold.

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  59. Mara and Danny,

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post and responses. I've been thinking a lot about it since you wrote, and have been wanting to sit down and write a comment, in hopes of gaining some inspiration.

    I loved how came to terms with the wonderful past church experiences you've had, and sensing a different path for you now. That is something I've grappled with daily, over the past 8 years or so.

    I, too, am of "Pioneer Stock," and have been raised in an extremely orthodox (we're talking no-caffeinated-cola orthodox) Mormon household in Utah, where the church is LIFE and the end-all-be-all.

    I, on the other hand, have been towing the line the last few years. Not so much due to a manner of policy, but rather feeling my personal conscience misaligning with many of the things taught to me over the pulpit. I have struggled to reconcile these feelings, but have stayed in the church for the sake of my marriage and family relationships. I've told myself that there is a spectrum of faith, and even if I don't fall perfectly to the right, I can still be faithful. It's not black and white, I told myself. And besides, I can effect change better from within the church, than from outside of it. Three hours of my time each Sunday is a small price to pay for familial and marital peace.

    However, this last announcement regarding policy change, has really pushed me over the edge, and I don't know what to do. I prayed long and hard about it, and feel the answer I got was that love, compassion, and inclusion is always the right course to take, no matter what.

    I don't feel like I'm being true to myself, calling myself a "Mormon" when I disagree so fundamentally on so many beliefs. The easiest answer is to separate myself from the church, but the consequences would be catastrophic.

    My brother became inactive, and it tore my parents and siblings a part. Even when my sister was diagnosed with cancer, my parents stated that my brother's inactivity was hands-down 100 times more upsetting than her terminal diagnosis, because at least her soul was already saved.

    My husband is an incredibly understanding, compassionate person, who actually falls to the more liberal side of Mormonism, but if I ever made the choice to leave the church, it would be devastating to him because he has such faith in the institution. He is very open-minded, much like Danny, and would probably respond in a similar way, but I know it would hurt him on such a deep level.

    So, I don't really know what to do. I'm so grateful for all the church has provided me, endless educational opportunities, a sense of community, an incredible spouse met at a church institution, and so much more that I could write a novel on the good experiences. However, my moral compass is telling me to move on. How do I do it?

    Much Love,

    Charlotte

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    1. It's a really hard place isn't it. In a state here as well. Five kids and a great husband who really loves being a part of this church and I in fact am happy to raise my children in it. My parents are great and raised me to believe that the only thing that really matters in life is people-- ie, your interactions with them, love for your fellow man, etc. So for me as dead and hollow as I feel spiritually (and that's something I blame on myself more than any other person or insitution) despite my continued participation in the mormon church, it seems worth it for now to maintain peace and simplicity in my immediate and extended family. It's tough though. Sometimes it's hard to think it's worth it. And I miss spirituality in my life.

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    2. Charlotte! Your comment just tugged at me. I think you're very much not alone. This new policy has rocked so many who are trying to remain true to themselves. Here are my thoughts: I DO believe someone can continue attending church and still be true to themselves and be fulfilled by their own spiritual practice, even if it looks different than those around them, even if they disagree with leaders at any level. The key is to claim and develop your OWN spiritual life and your own beliefs in your own way; in a way that feels "true" to you. Attending church, even if part of it is challenging, or interacting with family who feel differently than you - can ALL become part of your spiritual practice and can be a way for you to live out your truths. Meaning, it can be your opportunity to put your spirituality into practice by the way you react to people, the way you develop your heart to be at PEACE instead of at war, the way you forgive people, the way you love and accept people - even those you disagree with. I feel one can do these things in any venue and in any circumstance - whether one is attending church, or not. Whether one has a job, or not. Whether one has an illness, or not. Whether one has a family, or not. etc.

      I would say, however, that it is tricky since your moral compass is telling you to move on. I would hate for anyone to go against their own selves in that way as I think being inauthentic or having to bite your tongue or silence yourself in church or family settings does feel repressing and leads to distance and disconnection with others. Perhaps you could start by opening up to some degree with friends and family. The key is to do it from a place of peace - this helps to not push someone else's buttons or to not be a threat to someone's identity. Much love to you on this journey! And - do all you can to stay TRUE to yourself! It's not something to be afraid of - as it can be a great gift you can give your kids. It can give them permission to be true to themselves, as well. And it can allow greater, more authentic connection with your spouse and family. Fake connection, in the end, is just not connection.

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  60. Thank you for your bravery in the post. Though it's not the same religion, I feel many similar things as you write in this post. I was raised Catholic and no longer am active in the church, though I still pray daily and appreciate all of the relationships and values my religious upbringing provided. I am on the same page with being open and curious about other religions and just general ways of being. I have also realized that I have 2 awesome parents and they raised me to be kind and thankful, regardless of any religion. Those are values you seem to embrace,and are ones that I believe should be at everyone's core no matter what other labels we use. This journey is something I'm hearing more and more of from our generation and I, too,feel excited by the great possibilities when we have open minds! Much love, Sarah :)

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    1. Yes! Possibilities galore! It feels exciting.

      Loved everything about your comment. So thankful to be on this path with you.

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  61. Hello Mara, Danny,

    I very much enjoyed reading your post and the comments that have followed. Such open and honest words of true love are written right here - what a great community! Thank you.

    I wanted to ask you, Mara, how are you spending your time whilst Danny is at church, teaching etc. Are you using this time for yourself - your own personal spiritual reflection and growth?

    It would be really interesting to hear what type of things you are doing to care for yourself.

    Sending you both lots of love. I am holding out for a retreat that suits me timely and financially.

    I truly hope that I will be able to meet and attend on of your retreats in the near future.

    Anna

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    1. Anna - love your question. It has been something new - to be a part for about 5 hours on a Sunday (Danny stays after the 3 hour service for some additional meetings.) It's actually some of our only time apart during the week and I try to think of it as a time for spiritual development or just a reset.

      Here are some of the things I've been doing. It's been coming together little by little. And I'm forming new habits, which has been exciting:
      -Meditation: I do guided meditations (which I prefer). I love Belleruth Naperstek from Healthyjourneys.com. Also recently started Deepak Chopra's 21 day meditation. I alternate.
      -Music: I love, love healing music. I've been collecting new songs that have a vibration that is healing and we use a lot of it at our retreats. My favorite right now is one with some words that mean this: "That creative and divine force. I am that." Another one I love is about Divine Mother. If anyone sees this and has spiritual or healing music recommendations, I would so, so love to hear! I've thought about creating a playlist for this community!
      -Sitting in the sun for 20 min. a day. I know this doesn't sound spiritual. Ha. But it has been! I absolutely love it. This is a good dose of Vit. D but also the sun is just so nourishing and healing and I have the best thoughts and inspiration while I'm sitting out there.
      -Reading. I've tried to fit in reading more and more - just for personal learning and growth.
      Also, I've been taking health and energy work to a whole new level!!
      -Other things not necessarily during the church time: yoga practice; a hormone reset diet for 42 days; energy healing work I'm doing with some naturopaths here; body alignment work; deep tissue massage; brain wave meditations; Frequency Specific Microcurrent Therapy (it resets the energetic field in the body by sending a new frequency into the body - kind of like a tuning fork if you've heard of that.)
      -Some other health things I'm doing to right now to reset my body physically (which I think does support a spiritual journey as everything is related): parasite cleanses, colon cleanses (also enemas), green juices. Upcoming: some chelation, an aura personality session with one of our readers!, acupuncture, and additional energy balancing sessions.

      I have a whole post about this in the works! Hopefully I can get it completed soon.

      And YES, we would LOVE to have you at our next retreat in 2016!! I can promise you it's an experience of a lifetime and that you'll leave a renewed human being (spiritually, physically, and mentally). There is nothing like it for someone who wants to heal deeper and experience more peace.

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    2. Mara,

      Thank you for your reply! So good to hear what other people do for themselves - it is something I am trying to carve time for amongst a busy weekly schedule. I so often get bogged down with the everyday happenings!

      I will take time to read up on some of those things you mentioned above and maybe give some a try!

      I really appreciate the way you and Danny take time to reply to your comments, THAT is what makes this feel like a true 'community'.

      I will keep an eye on your 2016 retreats! 2016 is a big year for us, my boyfriend finishes his 7 years of studying in May 2016 and I CANNOT wait to 'start' our life together without the stress of university! I would love to have him join me on a retreat.

      HAPPY MONDAY! XX

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  62. Mara, Danny, Thank you! Oh, thank you! Thank you for sharing. Thank you for modeling a way with love. I will be reading and re-reading this post and comments.
    Please continue to share your journey as it helps to inform mine.

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    1. THANK YOU! Your note, along with all the others, just means so much. I have thought about sharing a bit more about this journey. If there's any specific topic or area that you or anyone else is interested in, let me know. I am all ears.

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  63. For the last 4 years, I have followed your journey, mostly quietly, as I overcame my own divorce and sought a new path. I follow John Dehlin and my vision blurred with tears when I saw his post about you. Because many of us are going through this hard moment. I stayed, left, and returned to a church that hasn't always been particularly welcoming but I'm stubborn to fight for my place in the church. Today, I can't tell you where I am anymore. I love your words. I love the beauty of this transition and my heart is full for you and Danny- I am a huge fan of both of you!!! I never thought I would have to choose between equality/law and the church. As I stand at this cross road, I contemplate what life i will choose to live. I want to be authentic to myself, my child, my experiences, and now my jewish boyfriend. He's watched my struggle and doesn't understand why I can't leave- or feel I cant. Anyway, I love you both. I'm excited for your journey and I wish you well. Now go visit Asuncion,Paraguay, stay with my mama, the doctora Martha Vleck in Luque and fall in love with the rest of South America!!!

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    1. Dear Ruby, so touched by your story and struggle. I know it so intimately. I truly believe you can thrive in or outside of the church. I think the only way is to claim your spirituality and voice for yourself. Live it in or out of the church. Also, if you end up staying within the church, there are ways to be authentic by speaking up. If you want to hear some extremely moving words, listen to the last 10-15 minutes of the podcast by Eric Reeves (Linda Reeve's son). He pleas with people to use their voices - to not remain silent - to be a part of a legacy that will bring about more acceptance for all of humanity.

      Wishing you inner peace for this journey!! XO

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  64. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this and for all of your responses in the comments thread! I'm in a very similar place and it's so nice to see another person openly speaking about this transition in such a loving way. I'm a long-time reader and continue to be inspired by both of you. :) :)

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    1. Much love to you. And yes, we're in favor around here of trying to have difficult conversations in a loving way, from a place of peace. The alternative is a flat out battle with lots of ugliness (which I'm sure many people have been witnessing all over Facebook.)

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  65. Mara,

    Thank you so much for a beautiful, thoughtful, and heartfelt post. I love your focus on the brightness and positivity that you are seeking - and finding - in your life, emphasizing the fact that this is simply another stepping stone, not a landslide backwards. Thank you particularly for your intention to love everyone - including Mormons. Your words help me gather my own thoughts further as I enter into similar territory and seek to navigate some difficult conversations with family and friends.

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    1. Ariel - THANK YOU. Glad some love and light was felt. I was hoping that would happen. Also, we teach an amazing class called "The Language of Love" and it's about how to navigate difficult conversations with love and without the ego and without threatening someone else's ego...all the while empowering yourself AND empowering others! It CAN be done!! If you are interested, write us! We've helped many draft letters or plan for difficult conversations. In Nov. we're offering mentoring sessions - two for one.

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  66. What I don't get and understand is how you wanted to move there and experience the culture but not go to church with those members of that culture. Seems a little off.

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    1. Hi Anon - we actually didn't move here for the culture! There are a lot of reasons to make a move, but that wasn't our primary reason. We do, however, enjoy parts of the culture here. But the church situation for me is not one of them. Though, as I mentioned, I felt similarly when I visited some wards/congregations in the U.S. over the summer. So this isn't specifically an Ecuadorian issue or anything. It's more about an evolving spiritual path which has been shifting over the last two years or so. And we continue to seek out new spiritual experiences here, too. Some of the most spiritual experiences of our lives and so many new explorations have taken place here in Ecuador. But those aren't specific to Ecuador, either. It's more about finding like-minded people and seeking, seeking, seeking, no matter where you are.

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  67. Dear Mara,

    Thank you for this courageous and uplifting post. Being born to somewhat atheist parents, me and my siblings grew up without prayers or any concrete concept of God, though we called ourselves Hindu. I believe this is the reason I started to explore the concept of religion vs spirituality. A few books really stood out for me as I was exploring what God meant, one of them was Eckhart Tolle's, but I also found "Conversations with God" by Neale Donald Walsch and (my all time favourite) "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda to really propel into seeking something or someone that is Higher and Bigger than me. I eventually found my spiritual Guru (a self realised yogi in the Himalayas) and currently follow his teachings of meditation, that aims to control the mind and eventually attain self realisation. Funnily, only as an adult, have I started praying and singing bhajans (Hindu Hymns) combined with daily meditation. This path has lead to so much peace and love for all. I hope you find what you are seeking for.

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    1. So grateful for these recommendations!! I will definitely come back to these.

      And, LOVE hearing about your spiritual path. So amazing. You've been doing some seeking, sister, and I'm completely inspired! Thank you!

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  68. Oh Mara............... Such beautiful words. Your glimpses of church life in Brooklyn are so poignant and beautiful. I relate 100%.... as you know... and am where you are as well. This is a courageous post, and I appreciate so much the timing of it. You are speaking not just for yourself. You are making a stand that certain things within religion can no longer be tolerated in an open, progressive society. Or at least that's my take from the timing of your post... :) Thank you, sister. Much love ... from Brooklyn.

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    1. Maria! You dear woman. So lovely to hear your thoughts. THANK YOU for writing. And yes, you are right. :) It turns out the post was actually ready to go even before I heard the policy announcement and I had plans to post it on that following Monday. And then the policy announcement came out. So, well, I just went ahead and hit publish that Saturday, a little earlier than planned. The timing felt right.

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  69. Mara and Danny, thank you for offering your perspectives in this post. I love you guys so much, and your sentiments about the policy echo my own. I myself am taking the same path as Danny, and decided to stay in the church, but I have given myself permission to be true to my conscience, and acknowledge that I don't agree with the policy (feeling like it was taken a few steps too far). I am truly hoping that they make some adjustments and fix it. One thing we church members tend to forget is that the church leaders are not 100% perfect in every way. I like what Danny said, that the leaders themselves are not a rock solid foundation, but the true meaning of the gospel is (which is LOVE!!!). If something doesn't feel right in my gut I don't need to pretend to accept the concept. My husband and I talked about it and we are both on the same page, thankfully! I am grateful for the support we have had for each other in this trying time in the church's history, and also for like-minded perspectives such as yours. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart. <3

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    1. Ashleigh, I admire you greatly for being true to your conscience and voicing your thoughts! I think more and more people are doing the same, which is exciting as traditionally people have stayed silent. I, too, hope that leaders will make some big changes. And it's peoples' voices that will help move that along. These are historic moments - and I think there's an opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations. Without progression and change, I do see that the church will have great difficulty in continuing to thrive or grow.

      And yes! I agree fully that church leaders could never be 100% perfect in every way :) and I think expecting them to be is truly a disservice. Here are some thoughts I wrote on a related post on Facebook:

      I feel that holding any person or leader on a pedestal, with very high expectations- will absolutely at some point lead to disappointment. This also goes for ANY relationship- with husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children. When we have expectations for people, we are seeking wholeness from the outside, from their behavior. We are basing our self worth or happiness or wellness or security (or in this case, testimony/beliefs) on someone else's head, instead of getting those things from within and above. Whether this is in a marriage or with the relationship with the church, the scary thing is, that makes us very vulnerable to the behavior of others. And it's also an awful lot of pressure to put on people (which simply isn't loving)!!! The result is, we can easily say or feel dysfunctional, harmful things if someone doesn't come through for us or if someone threatens our cherished identity. (This is why Mormons broke Facebook over the last week and continue to do so. Loads of people are feeling threatened.) We also turn people into objects who need to satisfy us and keep our self worth or wellness or security (or beliefs) in tact. And when we do that, we stop seeing their humanity, which makes it impossible to love as Christ would love.

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  70. I thought you would like this:

    https://www.ted.com/talks/chelsea_shields_how_i_m_working_for_change_inside_my_church

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    1. YES! You're right. I loved every word. I had been wanting to watch it but hadn't until you sent this. So thank you!! I agree completely that religions have a massive influence on women across the world. Equality within religions would literally change the way the world operates -and I hope that day will come. Also, Chelsea is a friend of a friend and I've been following her speeches and interviews a bit and I'm SO very impressed with her.
      As for me, I normally would be the type to stay and see if I can make change within the church. I was feeling that call in Brooklyn quite a bit, as were others. Though the sad reality for me is that there truly is just so much that doesn't resonate with me, if I'm being completely honest with myself. It's not just gender issues or recent policies... It's also many core beliefs and spiritual practices. So, that does make this journey a bit different for me. Though I will remain super passionate about supporting any change and progression within the church.

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  71. Mara! I have been away so long. I am just seeing this now (noticed it linked elsewhere). I love your words. And I love your trust in your own path. I've always loved this about you, and I've always had a lot of confidence in my own path as well. "Going against my own grain is not something I really ever do. So I am at peace." Amen, amen. My path has looked similar to yours over the last year. And my husband has the same reaction as Danny - he trusts me to make good decisions. It's a beautiful place to be, isn't it? Wishing you both all the best!

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    1. Dearest Molly - so lovely to see you here. THANK YOU for your kindness. Thank you for seeing my heart. And now I wish we could chat about all kinds of things. :) Sounds like you've had quite a journey yourself. Wishing you abundant love and courage and inner peace as you continue on. Much love to you, Mara

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  72. I just took my name off the church records Saturday at the downtown SLC meeting. It was long overdue. I don't agree with the teachings-I too choose to love EVERYONE. Thanks for your lovely post. xoxo

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  73. Oh, Mara, I have read your blog for so many years, and have been so so inspired. What a surprise it was to me as I was going through my own faith transition, feeling so alone, wondering if I really was going crazy, to see you, someone I admire so much, going through the same thing. And you are still completely wonderful, not controlled by Satan, etc, all that I had been told would happen. I was wondering if perhaps I was, and just couldn't see it. Just worried about doing the wrong thing, as the stakes are so high, it is taught. It has been immensely comforting to me to see you go through this and stay a spiritual, loving person. I have been thinking, as your spiritual awakening occurred outside of the Mormon church, that the idea that the church is either all true or a complete fraud is not true. Just because we have been told that doesn't mean it's true. So when wonderful things happen in church and in our hearts from the church and scriptures we interpret them as it's all true and the only true church. My spiritual awakening happened within the church, and was so very pivotal in my life. It was everything to me. So when things came crashing down as I read about the history (and verified that these things were indeed true), I didn't know what to make of my experiences. And that's when I decided most likely God wants us where we can learn and grow. There is a lot to learn and grow from in the church, and therefore it is good and "true" in a sense. I do wish they'd stop teaching it's all true or not true at all. That causes a lot of problems.

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  74. I so admire the honesty and articulation with which you both have shared your thoughts and feelings. My husband left the church 10+ years ago (after serving as a Bishop), I only wish I would have had the emotional maturity that you both have, it would have saved a lot of heartache and pain. I am happy to report that our marriage has survived and is stronger than ever because of it. In the last few years I have been able to come to some of the same conclusions Danny has shared. The great difficulty in this situation is in the rearing of children. Thankfully I have arrived at the conclusion that they deserve to have their own authentic path to Christ. The most important thing that my husband and I can teach our children is that LOVE conquers all. Thank you again, I know your words are providing comfort and support to many. I only wish there would have been this type of support and council when I was wading through that very painful time of my life. You're doing a great work by sharing your journey from both perspectives.

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  75. I find it impossible to believe in any sort of god, but I live my life by my own ethics, and question everything I do as how it relates to the greater world. I tried to get involved with churches, but found odd things about myself questioned there. My sexuality is fluid, and this was something I found opposed by the church, and I never, not once, thought of it as wrong to love who I love.
    In all honesty, I have so much more respect for you for this, especially if this is the sort of thing you are questioning about Mormonism. That 'judgement' of those who are different (but really can't help it).

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    1. Erin - loved reading your comment! I LOVE that you live by your own ethics and question everything you do. You probably can imagine that way of life is extremely rare in many circles. But I think it's the best way to live; the best way for our consciousness as a human being to evolve and progress. Also, I love that you could recognize that your very biology was being questioned- and that that is not ok. Too many are so indoctrinated that they can't even see that. It's like dogma, doctrine, or ideology comes before that of a human life. :( Anyway, I thank you and honor you for living a bold and authentic life and for being a seeker.

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