Mormonism is more than a religion, it’s a lifestyle, but it even goes beyond that. Mormonism in it’s truest form is a guide for every thought, every action, everything. That can be a beautiful thing when everyone you are closest to is on board, and a real challenge when someone decides they don’t buy into the life.
I have to say that I was incredibly happy as a true believing Mormon. Friends used to ask me if it bothered me that my religion was so restrictive. I always told them that it didn’t feel restrictive to me. And that was the honest truth. I fully bought into the idea that the Mormon church was true, and my life as a Mormon was so great that abstaining from alcohol, sex, R-rated movies, low-cut shirts and short dresses, and, almost always, caffeine was honestly no problem at all. In fact, I realize now I looked down on everyone who did all those things and tried hard to be different than them. Not that I didn’t have friends who weren’t Mormon, but I always was more guarded around those friends out of a fear that they might influence me negatively. Mormonism was the biggest part of my life, the biggest part of my self, and that started at a very young age.
I remember as a primary child, probably not older than 9, sitting in primary, singing “I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday, to feel the holy spirit to listen and to pray…I’ll covenant with my Father, I’ll promise to obey.” I remember singing those words and I remember how powerfully they effected me. I WANTED that. I wanted the temple. I wanted the beauty. I wanted my family to be together forever (believed by Mormons to be possible through making covenants in the temple). And I wanted to do whatever it took to make that happen. That song, and all the other primary songs, were so beautiful to me. I remember singing them and feeling this warmth and joy fill me. I remember feeling so committed, even at such a young age (3-11 years old is primary age), that I was going to follow God, follow the prophet, follow the church. I knew that was the right path and I knew I was going to make the decisions that would lead me down that “straight and narrow path.” And even though now I have so many concerns about the church, at that time, life was practically perfect, and the church was a huge, and I can’t emphasize enough how huge, part of that wonderful life I was living.
By the time I was maybe 8 or 9 I was already daydreaming about marrying in the temple and having a Mormon family–that was my greatest desire in life and there just wasn’t any other option for me, as far as I was concerned. I saw how happy it made me, I saw how happy it made my family, and I wanted to have the same joy in my future home, only I wanted to raise my family even better. My family didn’t always have Family Home Evening every Monday night and scripture study every day, so I planned that I would try hard to do those things in my future home. I looked around my ward (church) and I saw families where one parent wasn’t a member and I thought to myself that I would do everything I possibly could to avoid such a heart breaking situation.
I went through my teenage years and grew a lot as a person, and learned so many things, and everything I learned pulled me close still to the church. I can only remember ever questioning what I was taught once, when my brother, who is atheist (hopefully I’ll come back to this at some point), brought up some concerns about the church’s history during a family dinner. I was very troubled by it, and talked to my mom about my concerns. She reassured me that those things we don’t understand we would someday understand and that I didn’t need to worry, and my life moved on. I felt like having my faith shaken that tiny bit was enough for me to know that my roots were strong enough in the church that I could withstand anything, if I would only keep the commandments (which there are a million of in the LDS church, something that only now bothers me, haha) and stay faithful.
Fast forward now to my high school years in seminary. I felt like seminary was the very best part of my day and it felt like such a strengthening power when all day at school I was surrounded by people who had different standards than me (drank alcohol, wore immodest clothes, etc.). I loved everything I learned in seminary (and at school too :)). My seminary teacher was like my second mother (not that everyone idolizes their seminary teacher, but I really loved this woman), and I liked her son for about 7 years, so I secretly (honesly, not even that secretly) hoped that maybe someday she would be my mother-in-law. Now, mind you, this guy never liked me back as anything but a friend, but he was my version of perfect–tall, dark, and handsome, and most important, as idealistically Mormon as could possibly be. And that kind of a person, was what I wanted to be married to more than anything.
After my Senior year in High School I was trying to experience everything (safe) that I could, and live life to its fullest as I prepared to fly the nest and head to Brigham Young University (admittedly, probably the safest possible transition for me). A few days after my High School graduation my younger sister and I headed to Europe, where I met a boy from my High School who also was on the same trip (not really a cooler place to meet a boyfriend than while you tour Europe right?). Well, he wasn’t Mormon, but I had never really had a guy like me, a fact which at that point in life was difficult for me, and he seemed to like me, and he was, well, very tall, dark, and handsome. So, I planned to date him for the Summer, then move to BYU, and move on. That plan was flawed from the start, since I seem to form attachments to things as simple as the wrapping paper my birthday gifts are wrapped in, so an attractive, funny, very sweet guy…well, I was doomed. 14 months later I was in love and experiencing such horrible, gut-wrenching guilt and pain as I tried to decide which I would rather part with, the young man I was in love with, or my dreams and commitments to marry in the temple and have an LDS family. I chose my religious commitments, and he finally had the courage to do what I couldn’t, and he broke up with me and started dating someone else (and thankfully, seems very happy now). But the main thing that led to our breakup was the fact that I KNEW I could never live happily, married to a man who wouldn’t share my lifestyle and commitments as a Mormon. I wanted the father of my children to teach them the gospel, take them to church, encourage them to serve missions, and every other one of the thousand things I dreamed my husband would do as the other half of my Mormon family. I wanted him to take me to the temple, to go back to the temple with me frequently, and to give me priesthood blessings when I needed them. I wanted all this more than I wanted just about anything else.
After my breakup, life was tough for a while. I stopped wanting to eat and basically force fed myself as much as I could, which ended up being probably about 500 calories a day. I had a hard time getting to classes (strange for someone who had always loved school and was pretty much a straight-A student all the way through school), I had a hard time getting up in the morning. It is one of only two times I have ever been depressed, and it was awful–I feel for those who struggle with depression regularly. Pretty much I got through it thanks to a lot of love from wonderful people, and thanks to God. And, even after everything that has happened, I still believe God helped me through that time (I plan to get back to this point as well). One of the things that gave me purpose during this time was knowing that I could still have my dream of marrying in the temple and raising a righteous family in the Mormon church. THAT helped me sleep at night. And I thought about that guy I had liked so much for so many years in middle and high school, and I thought about how there were other guys around me at BYU who were just as committed to the church (I also plan to get back to talking about my wonderful years at BYU). So I held on to this vision of meeting someone new, someone dedicated to the church, and falling in love again. And that happened much sooner than I could have ever imagined.