I'm not sure how to write this one. It's probably gonna be long though, so gird your loins.
I suppose there's no reason to bury the lede - I've stopped going to church.
There are a lot of reasons, really. Questionable history. Practices and policies with which I do not agree. Changing doctrines. The culture. Oh, the culture. The fact that an overwhelming majority of Mormons in Utah voted for a man for president who does not, in any conceivable way, embody the teachings espoused by the gospel they claim to love and live. What it really comes down to, though, is that, anymore, church feels a bit like an old favorite pair of jeans that just don't fit anymore.
I also think maybe it's that the church doesn't really know what to do with me. I mean that in a few ways. First, The Church isn't very good at dealing with anyone who isn't straight, white, and married. It's like a perpetual awkward first date. But also, I think people in the church don't really know what to do with me, specifically. Mormonism was, and to a large extent still is, my culture - I'm not going to request that my name be removed from the records or anything. But Mormons, with a few rare exceptions, have never really been my people. I haven't ever really attended church for the social aspect. I mean, the people are pleasant enough, but church is usually a pretty lonely place for me. When I first moved to LA, it was about a year and a half before I felt like I had any real friends here. And I went to church every week. "But wait!" you say, "You have plenty of Mormon friends!" True. But I counted. I can think of maybe a dozen people who I would consider friends who I met at church - and I didn't meet any of them in Utah. The rest are friends who are friends for other reasons who just happen to be Mormon because I lived in Utah where everyone is Mormon.
I don't begrudge anyone who finds value and joy inside The Church. It works really well for a lot of people. And I don't hold anything against the church, necessarily. I still value growing up with that framework. And I still believe in God and things like love, self-improvement, kindness, compassion, mercy, good stewardship, courage etc. But more and more I've noticed that the times I feel most connected to those ideas, to something Divine, it has absolutely nothing to do with The Church. It happens in yoga, or during the fireworks at Disneyland, or watching a sunrise over the mountains, or while playing a sparkly purple hippo in a kid's show because that's what a kid said I should play. Church is a place I feel increasingly frustrated.
I don't know what this means long-term. But for now, I need to take a step away. It's entirely possible that will be a permanent decision. Right now, I don't know.
There's a Buddhist parable about a raft that goes something like this: A man traveling along a path came to a great expanse of water. As he stood on the shore, he realized there were dangers and discomforts all about. But the other shore appeared safe and inviting. The man looked for a boat or a bridge and found neither. But with great effort, he gathered grass, twigs, and branches and tied them all together to make a simple raft. Relying on the raft to keep himself afloat, the man paddled with his hands and feet and reached the safety of the other shore. He could continue his journey on dry land. Now, what would he do with his makeshift raft? Would he drag it along with him or leave it behind? He would leave it.
A counselor in a bishopric said to me recently, "We're all on our own journey home." I think in this situation the raft was The Church for me. And I can be grateful that it served me, but I can also recognize that for now, my journey doesn't require a raft and I can let it go.
Now comes the difficult part of facing well-meaning family and friends who love me and are going to try their darndest to reach and rescue me. They'll send me Ensign articles and share scriptures they read that morning and mention conference talks in an off-handed way. And I know it comes from a place of love. I do. But Mom. No. I just...I can't. I grew up in the church, remember? So I know all about that stuff. I know all the tricks. And also, I didn't reach this decision because of a lack of study or prayer. In fact, the journey to this place has been a journey of study and prayer. Though I know it comes from a place of love, when people share scriptures, or issue spiritual challenges like that, it says to me, "You don't know what you're doing, and I don't respect you enough to make your own decisions. Let me show you the right way." But I do know how to make my own decisions. God and I are good. I don't need to be rescued. Ya know?
This is something I found that I think is pretty great for approaching these kinds of conversations:
Things to say and not to say when a loved one leaves the faith.
Anyway. I'm rambling. Shortly after making the break, I had a moment where I thought, "Am I making a mistake?" and then I just felt peace. I'm good. I have some larger contextual thoughts I may share with you another time, but for now, I think I can be done.
If you need me of a Sunday, you can probably find me in yoga class, or wandering the beach, or reading a good book in my hammock, but you won't find me at church.