13 May 2016

What It Feels Like From The Other Side


I've noticed a few things have changed since I went public about my transition with Mormonism - and I thought it would be an interesting topic. I hope so!

(Added: I know that others may feel the exact opposite of me on these things. And I do respect that completely. I once felt the opposite as well. I'm really just happy for anyone who feels power from their chosen path!)

-I have felt more connected than ever with people outside of the church.
I hate to even say this out loud, but I often felt like an "other" as a Mormon. It's common in the culture to see other religions as not having the full truth. So you can imagine that can lead to a feeling of separation for many reasons - even if it's only because you fear others feel awkward around you because your own beliefs suggest superiority. Not sure if anyone else has experienced this. Anyway, that feeling of awkward separation is gone for me. It's GONE! It feels very freeing! I feel more connected to humanity more than ever; more equal with everyone around me. (I still feel very connected to Mormons, too, of course. I guess the gates just feel more open in every direction.)

-I feel freer in my body.
Most faithful Mormons wear a set of white clothing underneath their regular clothing (it's a white top with short sleeves and bottoms that go to the knee). Without them, I feel lighter, as you can imagine. I feel more in tune with my body, with my feminine self, with my womanhood, with my own skin. This is what I feel now: I am enough. Me - and my body - and my spirit are enough for spiritual connection, even without the clothing. Also, some added bonuses: I feel prettier and more feminine when I get ready for bed with my husband. I don't have to worry about rashes - as for years I had rashes, which one astute doctor told me was due to so many tight layers. Packing for long trips requires much less clothing! Less laundry, too. And it's been delightful wearing some feminine under things. :) I have yet to shop for a black tie dress, but I can tell you already it's going to be a whole new world. Less tears at Bloomingdales, too. (Note: to those who wear garments and find it sacred - I know why you do and know that I do honor that part of your life. I do feel symbols can be beautiful.)

-My voice feels stronger and freer
I feel I can speak my truth according to my own censorship, not that of another. I had times in the church when my voice felt silenced. Or when I knew my words would not be welcomed as they weren't a part of the program. So now, I just feel free. I can support whom I want. I can share my opinions boldly. I can speak out against something if I desire. No other party has authority over me and my thoughts or my words. There is not the pressure to be found "worthy" by an outside party.

-I feel empowered on my spiritual path.
I feel limitless in my seeking of truth. I can explore anything - dive in deep - try something different. It's like the gates are open to many ideas, experiences, and philosophies. I want to keep exploring.

-I feel more connected to charitable efforts of my own choosing.
I grew up being taught to give 10% of my entire income to the church - and that tradition continued in my adult life until recently. I do love the tradition of giving - and it was beautiful to have that reminder to share what I have. Though it also came with drawbacks. For example, I often wouldn't give to outside needs because "I already gave 10% to the church." Anyway, it actually feels wonderful to go out and choose causes that I personally feel aligned with - and to be a part of the causes myself, if possible, with not only money, but time and talents.

-I have encountered a few who are sad for me (or Danny)
I know what that fear is like. I know that loss. I know that you might pray for me or Danny - so that I might come back to the key Mormon beliefs. If this helps at all - know that this path is beautiful to both of us. People are always evolving. We accept that and embrace the evolving spiritual path and don't fear it, but welcome it.

I share all of this with love - with great love for my experiences as a Mormon. Wouldn't change a thing. So grateful for it all - for every part of this beautiful experience called life.

Love always,

Mara

P.S. In these photos I was trying to find an outfit for a photo shoot (for our new site!) - and...the skirt happened to be shorter than I would have been able to wear with the Mormon undergarments. It was actually the first time I'd been shopping without the garments. You can see my face as we realized this, and I said, "I'm definitely okay with it" and Danny was, too, and we smiled and knew that all was well.




As always, we love hearing your thoughts!  XOXO


And don't miss our 2016 events:

3-Day Body+Soul Camp in PA (July 8-10) - $847
1-Day Love Boot Camps in Portland, Mesa, and Austin (July 16, 23, & 30) - $395
7-Day Body+Soul Camp in Ecuador (Oct. 9-15) - $2,750 (book by July 15 for $500 off)

Note: the Ecuador event is now verbally oversold - meaning more than 12 people have verbally confirmed they are coming. So don't delay if you'd love to secure a spot! Bookings are first come, first served.

60 comments:

  1. What It Feels Like [Staying] on the Inside—--Part One----Thank you for sharing open and honest comments about your experience. I hear you and see that you are happy. Much love to you. And also this: As one who follows the blog and wholeheartedly embraces the Mormon church, I respectfully offer the following as a conversational response:
    For me, my favorite lesson learned from staying in (during an era of mini-mass departure) has been identifying courage within myself to embrace something that depends on imperfect humans (as I, myself, am) and my imperfect ability to feel guided by the Spirit, a revelatory Being, but is led by a Higher Power. My religious perspective is given here: What a JOURNEY it is to reconcile a perfect God who would entrust His Kingdom to imperfect souls, prophets and otherwise, and then agree to sanctify the striving efforts to the good of all beings, noting the power generated by the meekness such a setup necessitates. It’s a journey of a lifetime and a quest of the eternities. Interdependence. And, for me, it is right and good albeit HARD!
    Connecting with Others Outside the Church- Honestly, this can take a lot of thought and practice if you’ve grown up surrounded by other Mormons. I am happy that in my identity as one who was born in this faith and then have pursued and experienced being “born again” of my own choosing—within the faith—I find questions like “What’s it like being you?” or “What are your experiences leading up to where you stand on matters of faith and organized religion?” very helpful to walk in another’s shoes and open my mind to his/her story. This naturally allows for the sharing of mine. Dispensing with “agendas” is critical although I can still do this and maintain a focus with “my mind’s eye” on nourishing others with love and respect and, if prompted, an invitation to learn more about what blesses my life. (If I feel the ultimate fruit worth sharing is what I have, there is no agenda in sharing it, so long as I respect the response.)
    Feeling Free in My Body- The only reason I personally can imagine consistently respecting and wearing the undergarments associated with the Mormon church is believing that there is power and protection in doing so, inasmuch as a mindful practice of striving to understand the symbolic essence of the experience is involved. More (and I don’t say this next word patronizingly) immature reasons I’ve had in the past are just plain obedience. (This can come up a lot in any faith that upholds “standards”—and requires followers to acknowledge God knows more and can ask us to do something He understands is good for us though we don’t see exactly as He does.) For how many goals do I sweat, physically or otherwise, in pursuit of mastery, self-improvement, and to be identified with a “higher” cause of one kind or another?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello dear Sarah - I LOVE that you wrote this! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective - and doing it so eloquently - and taking the time to write this out. This is truly beautiful to me. To see such conviction and purpose is breathtaking. And I agree completely that there can be SO MUCH POWER in staying within the church if that is your chosen path - or if the reasons for staying are beautiful and worth it. It is such a journey indeed! Whether one stays within or chooses another path - there is glory and sanctification and growth available. And I LOVE that you are experiencing that from within the church. I did experience so much of what you described, for many years - and while it may sound confusing to some - I STILL experience and value so much of what you described.

      Anyway, I just thank you again for sharing this. And I feel there's more I want to say, and may come back to this. Much love, Mara

      Delete
    2. Hi Mara, I deeply appreciate your reciprocally-respectful response. There's a meme on my inspiration board from #loveoneanother on LDS.org that reads "Today listen to someone with a different opinion." Openness and kindness invite connection despite differences. Don't you know we need more of this in life? One of the fruits that this particular practice invites is the opportunity to more clearly define one's own values/intentional behaviors/beliefs. And in doing so, one can deliberately walk a path with more integrity and clarity. That's what your posts/thoughts can do for me, and I appreciate that so much. And, interestingly enough, when these conversations and discoveries are had and made with openness and lack of fear, there is a space for finding common ground and building a bedrock of unity there. I think this is also what Danny describes below when he addresses his unity with you in spite of individual differences. I'll reply to his comment on a related topic as well. God bless!

      Delete
  2. What It Feels Like [Staying] on the Inside—--Part Two----
    Sharing My Voice – This takes confidence and conviction. And how hard it is! But making the effort is helping me learn about boundary lines with freedom of speech and belonging to/holding privileges with an association with rules and requirements. Not to mention fine-tuning my ability to charitably agree to disagree. What a skill needed in this world today! If I feel aligned with a group, and want to be a part of it, I submit to the rules or ultimately go do something else. Submitting to the rules can be a whole universe unto itself, but this is the fork in the road on which a bench is placed where one ponders: What will I gain by leaving? What will I lose by staying? Vs. What can I gain by staying? What will I lose by leaving?
    Being Empowered In My Path – Oh how I feel that all God wants for us is to empower us through love and elevated vision and experiences of growth—all towards Something Better Hereafter. To belong to a religion that, through Jesus Christ, embraces every vulnerability and matches my heart-filled, conscientious efforts with a perfect, sinless Savior who sponsors my growth through my individual experiences is the most empowering feeling I can imagine. When I meditate and sit/breathe in this the space of this Truth, wowza! I can be as human as I am. And He is as perfect as He is. And my relationship with Him, the entire evidence of which is seen, really, by Him alone (because of inner workings of the heart/mind that inspire outward behaviors or the lack thereof), is so incredibly personal and infinite! (I respect all faith traditions at the same time I claim Christianity outright.)
    Charitable Efforts- I have just been thinking this over too! And again, to apply mindfulness to rote practices of decades past is so enlightening! How am I giving, whether tithes or other offerings of self? How am I allowing my heart to be affected by refugees, natural disasters, my brothers and sisters in poverty, financial or otherwise? What a world of wonderful choices await me…even within this faith tradition. Mindfulness in discipleship can change MANY belief practices in to life-changing, transformative opportunities!
    Encountering Others Who Pity or Feel Sad for Me – I take this as a language of love. They love me. They want something better—from their perspective—for me. I love this!!! How awesome. Friends have left me because of my beliefs, but I know when one acts from the integrity of his/her heart, there’s always room for future connection. I have forgiven. So I wait for open-mindedness to grace the combination of future conversations we’re bound to have! (I believe, even after this life, I’ll see and speak to these dear souls again!) And oh how I hope persons with whom I share my beliefs/faith know that this is one way I show my love for them. Using wise psychology and the Mormon doctrine of agency--ability to choose for oneself as a ruling principle for existence-- of course I know to respect others who decline my offer and I use my choices sometimes to do the same as well.
    If we met in person, we’d be great friends I think. Even if our spiritual paths, life experiences, perspectives, beliefs, and goals differ, we can love and learn from one another. Hugs to you and Danny!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you SO much for this reply Sarah! I feel very much the same way and just lack the ability to say it so profoundly and without sounding contentious. I have many times wanted to reply to these Mormonism topics on here, but never have because I worried it would sound defensive and not out of love. I'm thankful to you for sharing the other side because so much of what is said here lately is making the church/gospel sound as if it doesn't embrace all the ideals of openess, love, and human connection; when in fact, if truly understood I see it as the ultimate platform for expressing this kind of love. I just love what you said about imperfect beings working together with a perfect Savior and sanctifying our efforts- it's all just so beautiful! Thanks again!

      Delete
    2. Loved this response. So respectful on both sides. There is still goodness within the church, and it's great to see that expressed as well.

      Delete
    3. Christina - Yes - I agree. There is so much goodness within the church and the Mormon beliefs. Thanks for writing.

      Delete
    4. Meagan - Thank you for your note. I'm so sorry if you have felt back from writing something. I welcome any comments or viewpoints. I'm so glad you see the Mormon church as a platform of love. I do agree so much - that it is UNREAL in so many ways when it comes to this. I think there are some areas where there could be some improvements - like anything - because everyone is human and doing their best and therefore it's natural to fall short in areas. But I do agree that the desire of the church is to learn how to love - and it provides so many opportunities for that to happen.

      Delete
  3. This was beautifully written. And expresses my sentiments exactly. My husband and I left about 3 years ago while living in NYC. It was very hard. It felt like a death to be honest. But now that we are on the other side I have zero regrets about leaving. I see and experience the world so differently. It's liberating. My voice and my conscience are my own. Thank you for this and I am so glad that you and your husband were able to make this journey together. Not all are so lucky.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelli - thank you for sharing this. You know how sensitive this topic is. Though I love hearing people's stories (which is why I shared my own) - so thank you for sharing some of your's as well. Yes to liberation. Yes to owning your voice.

      Delete
  4. Mara, hello! I've read your blog for years and feel like I know you so well. I just came across this today and thought you would love it! http://januarydonovan.com/our-crisis/ Something new to explore and discuss :) Best, Tiffany

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ooh.....this looks powerful... at a glance, I love where they're going with this. Thank you for sending it.

      Delete
  5. I am curious... as you shifted away from Mormonism, how has that affected your relationship with God (or do you no longer believe in God?) and your views on life after death? Does Danny share the same conviction regarding your shift? How do you two continue to love and respect each other if your views, goals, beliefs, etc are different? Does it make it hard to work as a team if your end goal (according to Mormonism, eternal life and celestial marriage with your spouse)isn't the same? I'm not saying you can't love one another, but if religion and/or spirituality is so important to the both of you, how do you address the differences? I appreciated your respect to those experiencing both sides of this issue. Danny, maybe you can chime in. We see glimpses of your view and love and adoration for Mara, but how does it really affect you, deep down, to realize her shift away from what you both believed to be true? Or have you shifted with her, as well?

    Sorry for all the questions. These have all floated around my head for all those who've left the church for one reason or another. I know you both can respond honestly and respectfully. And, if it is all too personal, no response needed. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also am interested to know this x

      Delete
    2. Whoops, meant to put my reply in this thread....you'll have to see below :)

      Delete
    3. Hi - thanks for the great questions - and the conversation! I’ll try to respond. Though I feel my answers need to be more thorough than I can provide in this little box. ha. But I will try.

      -My relationship with God is the same. Many people don't understand how that can be - as to many, God is the church - God is the head of the Mormon church, etc....so to many, leaving the church means leaving God. But for me that is not the case in the least. If there is a God - or great Divine force - I don't feel that force is only in one church - or that force is the head of a church - or available in greater amounts to only one church. I feel that Divine force is available equally to every single person as much or as little as we desire and it does not need to be accessed through a third party (like a church). That force is already within us all, it’s about looking within, instead of looking without. ALSO, though, regarding the notion of God - I love to also envision the Feminine Divine - Heavenly Mother - and align with that more and more than just the masculine force.

      -It is a beautiful thought to me that there is life after death - and I love the idea that our energy/spirit does continue. That is not something I can claim to know. But I live my life as if that is the case - as I love the idea of our ancestors and loved ones still being a part of us in some way. I am open to possibilities. Also, I don’t tend to focus so much on what happens after this life - or celestial life after death - I feel that if I can learn to experience divinity/presence/deliverance/oneness/love in the here and now, that everything in the hereafter (if there is one) will work itself out. To me, experiencing that oneness now is what life should be about. That’s the whole “kingdom” thing Jesus kept on talking about…the kingdom that “is within you” and not something you should go looking outside yourself for. I figure if we don’t know what it means to abide in LOVE right now, then what are we hoping to be restored to anyway.

      -Danny and I do share many of the same convictions. And our views/goals/beliefs are very, very much the same in our spiritual lives, which matters the most to us. We very much do feel like a team and always have. We do very much respect each others views.

      -We do have some obvious differences, which may seem like a massive deal to others but they are less of a huge deal to us. For example, Danny does currently attend church, he loves to teach in that setting, and he does know the Mormon language deeply and finds it fulfilling to use what he knows to teach others beautiful principles in a language they know. I currently don’t have those passions to offer this within the church for various reasons (though I used to) - but my energies are currently going outward in other ways. So how do we handle the differences if spirituality or religion is so important to us? ha! You just nailed something huge here- handling the differences with love/respect IS our religion. It IS our spiritual practice. So our differences don’t take us away from our spirituality or religious goals - they are the very reason we live those goals out.

      Delete
  6. Hey Anon - these are all really great questions, and I know Mara is working on responding to them as well. We probably each have something to add.

    I will say that most of my answer was written in the comment section to the original post. You aren't the only one who had those questions, and so I tried to be very thorough in my responses when questions arose. Though I don't blame you for not sifting through 235 comments to find them.

    So, here are some parts that you might find helpful to answer what you've asked here:
    - http://tinyurl.com/jnogm3o - Answers the basic questions of "How does this affect our relationship spiritual goals"
    - http://tinyurl.com/z2vgg3d - Answers questions about how I view things in a way that makes it possible for their to be harmony.
    - http://tinyurl.com/zn9ygxx - Begins a series of responses to someone's list of questions which cover stuff like attending church alone, how would we raise children if we had them, is this a strain on the marriage, what about temple sealing/marriage, have I shifted as well, etc.

    I think between these you'll get most of the answers you seek. Also, if you haven't already listened to the podcast we did together on Mormon Discussion Podcast, I highly recommend it. It's been one of my favorite interviews and we covered some really great ground in there. I think sometimes things can be lost in writing that come across more clearly when vocal tone and inflection are employed. http://www.mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2015/12/a-blog-about-love/

    If you find that you still have questions after looking through some of the links, feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to respond.

    Overall....my response could best be summarized by a small quote from one of those linked comment sections -

    "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 your spouse without fear 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 or the temple) that don't necessarily mean we created anything truly heavenly in our home or life."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am edified by all of this. The emphasis on love and preserving relationships is critical for anyone who both cherishes and disagrees with another human being simultaneously. I wish a whole, specific psychology/counseling program could be developed within the LDS social services that specializes on strengthening relationships with loved ones who decide to take a different path, whether that means staying within the faith, transitioning out, etc. What I'm saying here is that your responses to these valid questions thousands of Church members have (and of course the pattern has applications way beyond this scenario) are so helpful. There are so many strained relationships, and we are counseled beautifully to hope, serve, love, remain in contact with, have patience, pray, and so forth. But often the "how-to" and the nitty gritty of what that vulnerable space looks like is not addressed. We in the Church are so hungry for this type of counseling. We sense we want to be open and not afraid. We trust in our loved ones often, and we also trust in God. We read about and pray for charity in such cases, and we wonder what that means as we worship in different ways on a Sunday morning, for example, but then meet again at dinner that night wanting to connect as a solid family. I repeat: being taught what it might look like is just overwhelmingly, practically, and ultimately useful. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you both for giving of yourselves as a model in this one way.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for sharing Sarah! And I agree with you regarding the counseling. In my first marriage when we sought some joint counseling help from LDS services, I gotta admit it wasn't the most positive experience. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't helpful.

      And I've heard from others who've experienced something similar (whether in or out of LDS services). They do find it helpful to go and talk to someone about their relationship, but they report they don't always come back from those sessions with tangible, practical tools to put into play to make the real changes needed.

      Not to toot our own horn...but that is what our mentoring sessions and retreats are about. I want people to know exactly what it looks like, what the thought process is like, what it feels like when you actually do it...and that this power is within you. Happily, we have a lot of people who've gone out after and done it for themselves...which adds everyday to my happiness :)

      Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments!

      Delete
  7. I find it interesting that the first thought or question from others is often about belief in God. There are so many more ways to view God, to worship God, to have experiences with God, to call God than are experienced within the LDS faith. And, yet, as an active Mormon in the LDS church, I, too, felt that there were not. I even felt uncomfortable using the word "God" rather than Heavenly Father. It has been such a beautiful experience to open my mind and heart to a wider and deeper relationship with Deity. Now when I use the name "God", I am often referring to the masculine and feminine aspects of the Divine (Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in Mormon language). Also, I love this quote by Yogi Bajhan: "There is one God, call him any way you want, just call."
    One thing that I got tired of in Mormon culture and, actually other areas of my life, was the Rameumptom. It continued showing up in various forms and I was appalled that I kept finding myself on top of it. It's also quite a relief to discover that I do not have to convert the world, or even my neighbor, to a certain way of believing. It is perfectly lovely to just enjoy people and to appreciate our differences in belief, in appearance, in lifestyle.
    And garments . . . such a sensitive topic. I remember the day that my heart was changed about the wearing of the LDS garment. It wasn't something that my head understood but it sank deep into my heart and I was able to let go. My head did understand, however, that protection could never come from cotton anyway but from God or my faith in that protection. And just before that moment of understanding, I realized how much I had, in the past, looked to see whether or not others were wearing garments, to ascertain their level of commitment to God and/or their spiritual progress. This, of course, makes me cringe now.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing and thank you to everyone who comments. There is much communication and understanding that happens when we open to it, allowing love to fill the places where fear and judgement once resided. Thank you for providing the forum, Mara.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delona, I just loved reading your thoughts. Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey and your insights. And I love the idea that Deity / God for you is the combination of the masculine and feminine - that is beautiful.

      And - Rameumptom - (I admit - I had to look that up! ha) - But yes, that did begin to not sit well with me either. And I do love, love the appreciation of differences in belief, in appearance, in lifestyle - yes to all of that.

      So fascinating to hear about your experience with garments. I just love hearing about what it's like for people. And oh yes - I, too, would notice if someone was or wasn't wearing garments. And I, too, now cringe. I would think something like, "Oh, I wish they knew how sacred this is." Or "perhaps their spouse isn't temple worthy so neither go to the temple." or "They must not be truly devoted - perhaps in time they will be." I just hate thinking that the wearing of the garment was in any way a sign of devotion to God. As if someone couldn't be devoted otherwise. Anyway, life is interesting, isn't it?

      Much love to you always - and thank you for your abundant and evolving spiritual life. I've loved learning from you.

      Delete
  8. My initial reaction after reading this post was one of offensiveness and trying to find counter arguments for almost all your bullet points. Ha! (I know--super revealing of my personality). The more I read the more I asked myself, "Why are you having this reaction? You can relate to so much of this." I think the answer lies with the fact that I too have had a shift, but my shift (which is still ongoing) has kept me within Mormonism. While I'm still an active, practicing Mormon I'm a very different Mormon than what I used to be. Therefore I think I took "offense" because I didn't want to be categorized as being part of the negative aspects of Mormonism you described. Of course, I really don't think you were categorizing anyone--but rather sharing YOUR experience and how Mormonism positively and negatively has affected YOU.

    On feeling more connected to people outside Mormonism I totally get this. Where I went to high school I would say my friends were a good 50/50 mix of Morms and Non-Morms and I loved them all! I had no problem being around friends who believed differently. I had no problem going to parties, being around beer and drinking, while abstaining myself and still not thinking of everyone as heathens. Then I went to college...in Utah. And I swear, one year immersed in Mormonism suddenly made it very, very hard to relate to my non-Mormon friends. Seeing a beer can freaked me out! I'm trying to get back to having a more mixed-bag of friends, but I spent 10 years in Utah (or Hawaii at BYU-H) and now married for 10 years and even in our diverse cities as a stay at home mom almost all my adult friends are Mormon. I realize its so much more than a spiritual connection--I've been socialized to be Mormon! It's who I am and what I do! I don't have dinner parties, I have pot-lucks, did you have a baby? Let me bring you a meal. These aren't bad things, but I'm realizing how deeply ingrained Mormonism is on a social level, not just spiritual.

    I haven't ever really had a problem not saying what's on my mind, but certainly I feel a lot more free these days to speak my truth. I am no longer interested in spitting back rhetoric that I've been told so often, but don't really believe, or glossing over odd questions or doctrine that doesn't sit well with me. I'm OK not having all the answers, but I'm not OK pretending that I (or the collective WE) do. Anyway, I could say a lot more, the main gist is I do agree with a lot of what you said, or at least feel a kinship to much of it. I just happen to still be in the church and wanted to voice my opinion that that shift can exist within Mormonism as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miggy - I love this. Ah, there is always so much more to say in a blog post...but it's true that there is a large spectrum within Mormonism. Many may not experience anything that I have mentioned - or they may experience it all and still feel strong beliefs in other ways or strong reasons for staying within the church. I'm glad you shared what you did.

      I do think that the spectrum is widening - like a ton. In the last 10 years, I feel the diversity from within the church has grown tremendously and while many may be leaving or distancing, I believe that diversity will continue to grow up from the base and the spectrum will always be growing.

      It's true that the separation between Mormons and non Mormons is largely due to all the social experiences. I think we all end up just spending time with more Mormons because of the built in lifestyle of showers and potlucks and after church gatherings and dinners. I mean, there are only so many hours in the week and so it just feels easier to hang out with those you already know and love. I, too, mostly had Mormon friends. And I have heard many Mormons say the same. Of course, that community is unreal - and those friendships are lifelong. I've always said that to make a lifelong friend, do service with them in some way... and that's what we all do within the church - and the community is amazing because of it! Anyway, of course all of that can lead to that separation I mentioned. I guess it's a tricky thing to balance. In Brooklyn, there was one woman who hardly came to a thing with the Mormon friends...but she was off doing all kinds of major things in the community and most of her friends were not Mormon. Anyway, in the end I guess we all get to choose our social lives and communities.

      For the last ten years in the church, I, too, spoke my mind pretty freely. And I'm so glad that you feel you can do that, too!! On my end, I began to notice that I could only take that so far, though, especially as my views became more and more taboo and distant from the program. And, I'm not a scriptorian - I'm not a Mormon history buff- nor do I want to be - ha. So in that setting I don't really blend in with my rhetoric and can't use the Mormon language to use my voice. I also don't resonate anymore with so much of the rhetoric being shared. So.... there you have it. On the other hand, while Danny feels very similarly to me on spiritual things, he does know the Mormon language and scripture - and he doesn't mind using it to discuss the exact same thing that I would have shared - just in a different language. Blah. It's difficult to explain.

      Anyway, thanks for the conversation and kinship! XOXO

      Delete
    2. Really appreciate your responses, both Mara and Danny. One of the things that made me feel instantly connected to you and your blog was that as I felt my own shift or growth happening, you helped me see that it was normal and okay for all that to happen within (or without) the church. I appreciate both of your perspectives, voice, and approach so much. Before this blogpost I had been having some concerns about a particular issue, and your abilities to each use your unique "languages" helped answer my question. I admire you both.

      Delete
  9. Love always reading your words and hearing your voice coming through - full of love and light for the whole world. Each day I hold you and Danny in love and light. Your presence in my life is truly a glowing light of love and hope for peace in the world.
    With love,
    Kristin

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes, I've thought about these shifts and enjoyed your perspective. Basically it boils down to this truth: is not a shift in circumstances that frees us, but a shift in attitude. Coming away from the church wasn't the freeing agent, it was the change in attitude towards self and others. I'm glad that you do feel so free, but glad you can recognize how family and friends on the "other side" can feel just as connected, freed, and empowered merely because it comes down to our attitude and how we approach life as connected spiritual beings.

    ReplyDelete
  11. While it is interesting to read about your feelings and experiences with this, I hope that your words do not have the effect of enticing or encouraging others to leave; those who may be struggling to stay faithful or are looking for a few reasons to leave. That would be a sad thing, for them and for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robin! Thanks for your concern. Though know that I certainly don't have an intention of "enticing" anyone to do something in regards to their faith. Though if they feel encouraged to follow their heart and stay in the church because of my post & comments (or Danny's), I am thrilled. If they feel encouraged to follow their heart and leave the church, because that is what they've been trying to be brave enough to do - I am thrilled about that, too. I know that sometimes it helps us in our journeys when we read about words from another. I trust that people are able to make the decisions that are best for them and in alignment with their truths, regardless of what I write here.

      Delete
    2. I would say more, no one who isn't already felling a shift, will make a shift- May it be to stay in mormonism and work on it, may it be to leave. It's not because you read about someone becoming a vegetarian and feeling good about it, that you become a vegetarian. You only do it, if you were already thinking and you want to give it a try. And even so, you only do it when you feel ready to shift...The same goes to religion, political ideas, health choices, etc. besides, Mara has not said ONE bad thing about mormonism, she has the greatest respect. She is not trashing it, she is just sharing her experience.

      Delete
    3. Anon -I love your comment and do agree. I think making a shift with religion is a big deal, and I don't think that happens whimsically or impulsively. I think it happens because of deep conflicts or thoughts that have been brewing for awhile and developing over time. And thanks for recognizing that I'm not trying to trash the church! I do appreciate that, as I do not want to do that in the least. It has a place for so many people and I have great respect for that.

      Delete
    4. I only peruse your blog, so I am not up on daily or weekly posts. My apologies. However, this one caught my feed and I read. I would normally never comment but I have a few thoughts and interested to hear your feedback. Granted, I have a child on my knee-so I'll try to keep my thoughts clear and legible.

      First, why are there only positive comments on your blog? Never negative? Seems unbalanced. Do people actually believe that you only get positive feedback and never negative comments? I feel like you press your commentary and then only post comments that agree or are slightly in disagreement with you. However, you never feel the need to defend negative comments. I see this as a trend within your blog which goes against your "free to feel and be heard" blog. It seems lopsided/disingenuous. Which I know you never want to be labeled as.

      Second, your comments still sway-whether you like it or not. Such as this post. Don't you think that anything you are saying just falls on deaf or agreeing ears? Or on those that are having their own challenge of faith?

      Third, for those readers that are in the "Gray" about the church-defining your own style of Mormonism, I would say to you that there really is no gray area—you either believe or you don't that we have prophets leading the church and receiving revelation from God.

      Lastly, Mara, you are also very vague about Danny and his current faith process. If he is speaking to Mormon youth in Ecuador, such as my nephew who is serving a 2-year mission, don't you think that I would be worried that Danny is preaching only his interpretation of the gospel (since you mention him leaning to your thought process) rather than what and how the church views doctrine and what is truth amongst Mormons?

      Just my thoughts. Nothing venomous. My main concern is that you think you are not (in lack of a better word) being coersive with your commentary, when it is your words that influence many having their own challenge of faith, or are simply not there yet with their testimonies. If you're "out". Ok. But since these posts seem to get you the most commentary (which are all sunsets and roses, I believe) you still seem to push your "crisis" or shift out of the Mormon faith without thinking there are consequences. Please be careful, there are still souls searching and you may be more of an influence on their thoughts then you might believe.

      Delete
    5. Hello Anon, I'll respond using the same numbering you did in your comment.

      First: We actually delete very few comments...as in almost never. There are a few "trolls" out there who love to comment the same thing over and over, and they add literally nothing to the conversation. Those comments are deleted, and I don't feel bad about that at all. It has never bothered me or Mara when someone disagrees, only when they are deliberately vicious or nasty about it. Plus we've noticed that when particularly nasty comments are left, the entire comment section tends to focus on that person's words, instead of the post.

      Other comments that might be perceived as negative or disagreeing, like yours might be fairly classified, are left for all to see. We haven't deleted anything from this post (with the exception of a passing "troll" who loves to chime in once a week), and I don't recall deleting a single comment from the original post about Mara transitioning from Mormonism. Literally, I only have to delete a non-spam comment once or twice a month, if that.

      Second: My guess is all commentary sways in one way or another. I don't think that could be avoided. Overwhelmingly positive statements about a church, a movie, a book, an activity....they all sway to some degree. That goes without saying. I think the point is, this isn't intended to pull someone away from the church, any more than our posts about infertility are designed to encourage people not to have kids. It's a description of a lived experience. That's it.

      Third: While I understand your opposition to "gray" areas of faith, I don't believe it. It is those who insist on things being black and white that are more prone to major faith crisis then those who see the gray. Black and white make it an all or nothing proposition, which works fine as long as they don't find anything that upsets them in the history of their church or their leaders. But as soon as you do....the black and white beliefs that once fueled all your certainty is the same beliefs that will create all your despair. If you haven't experienced it yet, just look around you at the family members or friends that have. It is good to understand there is gray, lest we start acting and behaving like pharisees or catholics during the dreaded inquisition, where even minor things were deemed as heresy and worthy of excommunication, or worse, death.

      Delete
    6. Continued....

      Fourth/Lastly: Me :) You make a lot of assumptions about me. If you are concerned about what I'm teaching youth, I suppose you'll have to blame it on the Bishop, who after hearing me substitute teach a Gospel Doctrine Lesson invited me to teach full time to the YSA, or who lets me teach the High Priests about a topic of my choosing once a month (we've been talking about temple symbolism in scriptures for the last 4 months, and will continue doing so the rest of the year). Or, you'll have to blame the Stake President, who after inviting me to speak to bishops about social media, asked me to be an institute teacher. Or you can talk to the the 15 adults that started attending my class even though it is supposed to be only for YSA, some of them leaders. You can ask the Stake President why he sends people with doctrinal and historical questions about the church to me. Or you can take a look at my preparation notes for teaching the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine class each week...I spend at least an hour every morning, starting around 7:00 reading scripture and writing notes to prepare for class and make it as meaningful as I possibly can, and help people learn what it means to have a personal / experiential / transformational relationship with God.

      I am black and white about only one thing....the goodness of God.

      The rest, I'm comfortable embracing the gray that comes from mixing the frailties of human nature with their attempts at mirroring divine ideas and concepts (so is King Benjamin, if you bother reading his sermon from a few weeks lessons ago). In my opinion, a healthy relationship with church can't exist until you do that. And I'm in good company believing that.

      If you want to know what I still teach some variation of nearly every week - you can read the talk I gave and posted about Choosing Happiness - http://tinyurl.com/ht5gw5r. If you have concerns about your nephew (I'm supposing that means he's serving in Ecuador), I'd be happy to put you in touch with the parents of missionaries I've counseled and worked with to help them adjust to challenging faith questions or difficult mission presidents (difficult would be an understatement), and helped strengthen and encouraged to serve. Seriously, write me an email and I'll put you in touch with them. I have nothing to hide.

      Delete
    7. Continued....

      What Mara and I agree on most, is that for a faith journey to be truly meaningful, it must represent transformation from the inside-out, and not from the outside in. "Inside-out" is what Jesus constantly preached/exemplified/celebrated, "outside-in" is what the pharisees (both ancient and modern) insist on, and they punish any who don't meet their criteria. I am not worried about her because I know we still share that pursuit, we have since the beginning, and it continues strong even now.

      I understand your concern for others who are in a place of transition or doubt. In which case, perhaps you should rejoice. While our beliefs are not black and white and perhaps not fully orthodox, one of us has chosen to leave, and the other to stay. There is a choice, we are not presenting a conclusion, because we don't believe that's a healthy way to process it. Mara has transitioned, but still has tremendous love and gratitude for the Mormon church, and will likely join me often when we are in the states. I remain, and despite many/most of the the twists and turns of Mormon History and imperfection, am deeply satisfied with my personal religious experience, even if at times I'm disappointed in cultural trends.

      The commentary is only "sunsets and roses" as you say, because even those who are firm believers in the LDS faith (like it seems Sarah who commented above is) are capable of commenting with a tremendous amount of respect and love. By you're own admission you only peruse...perhaps you aren't accustomed to just how wonderful our readers have been, even when they disagree. That has been true from the day we began the blog. That there aren't negative comments here has less to do with our moderating, and more to do with the thoughtfulness of our readership.

      Delete
  12. Mara, I appreciate your willingness to be open about your transition. Even though I choose to remain active in the Mormon church for many personal reasons, I can relate to much of what you've shared here as I've experienced a transition in my beliefs and some of my religious practices over the past many years. I too feel more empowered to listen to my own voice and the voice of God. I feel more open and comfortable around all people not just Mormons (which is good because I live in NY). And I also feel so much more love and respect for my body. I finally feel comfortable in my skin (and in my underwear- ha!). Because I exist within the church and teach both Gospel Principle and Seminary, I don't feel free to express everything that I feel and even believe, but right now it's a sacrifice I willingly make so that I can participate in the community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing this, Lindsay - I loved reading about this. And I do think that are many like you - who find beautiful reasons to continue in various capacities, even if their beliefs are unique. I think tipping points are relevant here for people who find their beliefs are changing. It's like everyone needs to decide if there are enough reasons to stay and continue, or if the tipping point has crossed over and it feels better not continuing. And both paths can be so amazing. Though I can imagine that there can be an internal struggle as that tipping point approaches.

      Also, we were talking this morning about the idea of "leaving Mormonism" or "transitioning from Mormonism" and how black and white that sounds, even though it can mean SOOO many different things. Like for me, I actually love a lot of the Mormon beliefs - I even love a lot of the temple (and still do). So I'm actually not "leaving" a lot of the Mormon beliefs - even though there certainly are many that I find no longer speak to me. And while I love what Mormons would call the "Gospel" -I don't always love how that is executed (not speaking of individuals here, but just church policy and what not). So to me, I'm actually not leaving what I would consider the "Gospel". And while I don't attend church now, I'll likely join with the Mormon community more in Brooklyn in some charitable/community capacities - all the while, I'm saying I've "transitioned from Mormonism" - but nothing is so simple nor black and white.

      Delete
  13. I have transitioned out of Mormonism over the last year and I agree with you on so many points. I think one of the most empowering aspects of it is that I can fully take ownership of myself and my feelings. Before I felt like I had to force it to work or I would come home from church frustrated or angry or, most frequently, feeling dead. It has helped my marriage tremendously even though my spouse chooses to remain active. He has many questions but he feels like he is being more true to himself by staying. It has helped us create and learn about healthy boundaries in our marriage which before were very blurred. The most difficult part has been our two young kids (sunbeam and nursery age). I have found a new church and they usually come with me. My husband supports this and often comes (it is at a different time than his ward) because the children's program is so good.

    I think the hardest thing for my husband (according to what he tells me) is the negative speech that comes over the pulpit about those who leave. He is hurt by this (more than I am now because I don't engage in mormonism or with mormons in real life or on social media anymore) because it ostracizes him AND his wife. So, for those who stay, it isn't easy either.

    It truly is empowering when you get to be yourself in Mormonism or out of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment was so good to read. I love that your marriage has been strengthened. (high fives!) And I loooove the idea of taking ownership for yourself instead of feeling like you need to force things to work. I think that many are in that position where they are indeed forcing things for many reasons, and I do feel for them deeply. I wholeheartedly support the idea of being yourself IN Mormonism or out of it. Anything else is truly tiring and degrading to the soul.

      I, too, am saddened by the negative speech from the pulpit regarding those who leave. It seems leaders have been consumed with fear, consumed with keeping people "in the boat." I also understand their fears as many truly believe that the one way is the only true way. Elder Uchtdorf was a hero a few years back when he spoke with a different tone regarding this issue. But I'd say that tone is extremely rare, and too often quite the opposite. Sending much love to your family - and to so many others who are navigating completely new and foreign waters. It's exciting, empowering, expanding...and it also, comes with growing pains. But in the end, when you're being true to yourself, it's all worthwhile.

      Delete
  14. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights here. Everything you listed here I have felt as well coming out of Mormonism this last year. I appreciate your honesty and openness all while being respectful and showing LOVE ;) I don't claim to believe in or know all of life's answers anymore, and I am A okay with that, but what I do believe in is the power of love! I'm trying my best to transition out with love in my heart. So thanks again for giving the example of loving yourself and others through all this.

    Oh, and one question- you talk a lot about energy here, does sharing something so personal and so sensitive to the world exhaust your energy? I really haven't shared my experiences with many people, there are many reasons for that, but one is that it feels so exhausting to me, and when I do open up to others I feel like it takes days for me to recover and feel light again.

    thanks again! -Nita

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anita, what a thoughtful question. I think that yes, energy is a factor here. I think being exposed to the energy of others all at once, whether it be good or bad feedback, can be draining at times. I pretty much expose myself to anything, everything time a post something. So I've had a lot of practice with this. When I first launched my blog, I felt an immense weight - wondering if it would be received or if it would be helpful to anyone. But I did have to work through that out of LOVE for what I was sharing and LOVE for even one person who might read this. That alignment with love truly has carried me through this entire blog experience. It is really what drives me. It does help me to post what I do without fear or weight or fatigue, without holding back. Without that driving force of love, there is no way I would have done any of this. It's what helps me to write without worrying what people will think.

      Having said that, though, there have been a few posts over the years that have tested me. I wrote a post about our decision to not currently pursue adoption. Posting that one drained me, I'm sure, just because the topic was so sensitive and I do get the feeling that it's disappointing to a lot of people. Also, my post about transitioning from Mormonism was a lot to put out there and I think I did need extra sleep. Part of it is anxiety from not knowing how people will respond or if they will be disappointed- and there's probably some worry in there that maybe you said something totally backwards and offended someone, which is never something I want to do.

      But my advice is this: We should be who we are and feel comfortable in our own skin and be authentic WITHOUT worrying what people think of us. It's obviously a work in progress. It takes practice. We worry because we have some identity up on the pedestal (like family, a relationship, a quality in ourselves like the need to please everyone) and we are trying to protect that identity. And protecting those identities is exhausting. So it's all about aligning with a new identity - aligning with love or any virtue - Making that more important than the fulfillment of one of our lesser identities (or ego). Anyway, I'll stop carrying on...but I love this topic and there's so much to say.

      Delete
    2. Well you definitely hit the nail on the head for me! My exhaustion is totally from the worry and over thinking I do when I open myself to potential criticism. (Although I didn't realize this until your comment ) I always worry about being misunderstood, or offending someone, making sure I say the right things. In short I try to be perfect for everyone else. I love what you said about aligning myself with a new identity like love. I think that's truly been a part of this whole process for me. I definitely created my identity on being a really good mormon. I'll admit, one of the scariest things has been letting go of that. My husband has been telling me through this whole process to just trust myself- and that has been my mantra. For the first time I'm beginning to trust myself, and that feels so good. Obviously I have so much more work to do, but I really appreciate your feedback. I needed to read those words "we should be who we are and feel comfortable in our own skin and be authentic WITHOUT worrying what people think of us. This is what I'm going to practice! Thanks again!

      Delete
  15. Dearest Mara, we have been on twin paths! I have made a similar transition since last we met, and what you articulate here resonates so much with what I have experience myself. I did not view myself as someone who lived motivated by fear, but as I've gained more perspective, I keep encountering situations where I realize in the past my reaction would have been based on fear. I feel like the world is in technicolor and it is beautiful! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  16. Morman-ism isn't as common here in Australia, and despite reading many a Morman, this is the first time I've learned of the undergarments. What a surprise to me. What do Morman girls where to their proms?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They don't wear garments at that age, but are encouraged to dress modestly. It is of course their choice to wear what they feel comfortable with.

      Delete
    2. Hi Sarah! Mel is right - the kids don't wear garments at that age (that starts up usually after high school after someone has gone to the Mormon temple - usually at age 18, 19, or in their twenties/thirties.) It is quite a challenge for most girls trying to find a prom dress as there is the tradition within the church to dress modestly (usually meaning not too short, not showing cleavage, and even not showing shoulders.) Anyway, it is a challenge to find something to wear in these cases, no doubt. Though there have been some companies spring up in those communities where they sell what they would consider modest clothing. A lot of brides might shop at those places, too, as finding a wedding gown can be a nightmare as well. Or people enlist a seamstress to do alterations. I would indeed say that it's a massive task to make all this happen.

      Delete
  17. I have always been "different" than most of the people who I've gone to church with. The same thing has caused many people to leave but I don't take too much stock in what others say no matter who they are (leaders, other members of the congregation etc) unless I feel it resonate truth through me from the Holy Ghost. My job is to stay close to the Holy Ghost so that I can let him guide me. There is so much to learn and so many conflicting ideas without him I would be lost. But I know all truth comes from God, wether we hear it from the church, a different church, a scientist, an author or a red talk or any where else. Truth is truth and ultimately it all comes from the same place and the Holy Ghost helps us find that truth. I believe more in Love than judging others for their choices. I don't believe we should force or coerce people into anything. We must find truth for ourselves and live it because we want to, the way we truly want to. I know this is the core of our gospel in the LDS church loving each other and helping each other find and live truths. I know that is truly what our gospel is about not everyone understands that in the church maybe as well as I would like, but many do! I classify that as "church culture". I am unable to find all the answers to truths of the universe on my own. But I know that when I am practicing the things I have learned (and am constantly learning) from the LDS Church (Mormons for those who don't know) I am my best self. There is nothing I can do completely on my own--we ALL need each other to learn and grow no matter our beliefs. We all need a prophet who speaks with God to keep us closer to the truth because without him we would slowly wander away from the truths that are out there. I know nothing there is so much knowledge and truth and I believe as human brains we feel and understand a tiny fraction of it. Not all of what comes from the people in the church is true and you absolutely can find truth and goodness outside of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love this Mel! Thanks for sharing. Truth is truth, no matter where it comes from...the task is learning to recognize it when it comes to you, whether it comes from within or from outside your normal paradigm.

      Delete
  18. I wanna see your notes!!!! I'm serious-do you blog about your lessons somewhere else?? I'd love to sit in on your classes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry I never caught this comment before now. I don't do blog posts, they've mostly been personal study notes that I've shared with family and others who are genuinely interested. If you are, feel free to email me and I'll add you to the list.

      Delete
  19. Longtime reader, not LDS, wanting to say that this post is incredibly brave and enlightening. From what I understand about garments, I find Mara's choice not to wear them and Danny's acceptance of that choice to be a hugely important example of the principles you teach. Mara's independent path can't be easy for either of you, but both of you are incredible in how you approach it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you for this! Yes! That acceptance from Danny has been huge. And also my acceptance of him, when he chooses to wear them. That part has been really amazing. I feel deeply for many other couples as I know the garment thing can be a massive issue.

      Delete
  20. Just getting caught up with your blog after a particularly busy time in my life. I don't typically comment, but I really feel moved to thank you for your honesty and transparency in this transition. You handle all of the questions and comments with such tact, respect, and love. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, attending a private Lutheran school from the time I was 2 to 13. I do agree that faith (of any kind) is a journey. There is so much grey area. I also feel that the growth comes in the struggle. Thanks again for putting so much positivity and light into the world, and sharing your own journey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this super kind note!! Sounds like you've had a journey of your own. How I wish we could connect in real life - I'm sure there would be a lot to share. XO

      Delete
  21. This calls for a glass of champagne :) Cheers to freedom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! :)

      Haven't tried champagne yet. haha. Since I have never had alcohol, I actually don't feel a desire for it or anything, and I figure I might as well stick with that for health reasons. Though I must say, if I was at a fancy wine tasting at a beautiful vineyard or something, it might be fun to try it. (In the past, Danny and I really enjoyed some fancy grape juice from a vineyard in CA called Navarro - it was delightful to drink it with a fancy meal. Anyway, I can see the appeal, for sure.)

      Delete
  22. Mara, I'm curious if you believe in Jesus Christ as a savior. I read the comment about your beliefs in Heavenly Father and Mother and you may have already answered this question and I missed it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, friend! So nice to see your comment here. I do love, love the story, the message, the symbolism of Jesus Christ. Though I likely see it all differently than some - I love to think of Jesus not as THE Savior of us, but a messenger for what we all can do to save ourselves. The idea that Mary "gave birth" to the Savior is beautiful to me - and I like the idea that we ALL need to give birth to the "Christ" within us - and be reborn through the message of redemption, love and atonement (or "at-one-ment" with God").

      The idea of Jesus "dying for me and my sins" didn't ever really turn the needle in my actual life. But the idea that Jesus's death and crucifixion displayed the death of the ego - - - now THAT does something for me. I love the line from Eckart Tolle, we must "die before we die, in order to truly live." In other words, we must let our ego die, in order to truly live with the spirit, live with love, live with liberation, live with our divine power. And I think the life and death of Jesus displays how to do that. There is no greater prayer to me than this: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"...his great last words. THAT is what matters most to me. Not his physical death, but the life, love, liberation, and oneness with God that he had despite it.

      Of course, I'm always learning - expanding - seeking - - - I love it when I hear something new that deeply resonates.

      Delete

We love hearing from you! We read each and every comment. Any topics you’d like us to write about? Let us know.

Hostgator Promo Code