“Where will you go?” long before these words were uttered from the pulpit, I had them written in my heart, and they were terrifying to me. The youngest child of an extremely devout, conservative LDS family, the Church was my reality. I never missed Sunday School or seminary, followed all commandments as closely as I could, and attended the temple frequently. I knew all the “talk points” of “anti-mormons” before my mission, and never considered them problems. With the best of the apologists, I assumed, “The truth will come forth eventually.” I served a full-time mission and married in the Temple at 21. But for some reason, I was deeply depressed and I never felt at home. I hated myself and no amount of obedience could change that. I felt my testimony slipping soon after my mission, as the “literalism” of the church ceased holding up. In an attempt to “prove myself wrong” I majored in history, focusing on ancient religious studies at BYU. After three years of this, I had a full psychological break down. This crash was the impetus I needed to begin finding my own path in life.

My disillusionment took 7 years. My ego was broken, all the things I had previously known were iconoclastically dashed against rocks, and I had to recreate myself. My rebirth included painfully distancing myself from my family and friends, the end of my Temple marriage, major career change, and a seemingly endless existential black hole. But it was exactly what I needed. I began reading Eastern Philosophy and made an intense study of Zen and Yogic practices. I searched out the things that felt true from a variety of traditions and voices of wisdom and reason. I travelled a lot. Through all of this, I finally began to experience my own soul. Now, outside of the confines of the Church, I feel closer to what I consider to be divine than I had ever felt in my younger life. I feel a sense of purpose and I feel guided by a driving voice inside that speaks peace amongst the tumult of life. In this process of disillusionment, I’ve found an amazing community of likeminded friends, a loving partner, and, most importantly, myself. I’ve found a passionate love for nature and the environment, an appreciation for my body (where before there had only been shame), and a creative drive that pushes me onwards to make a difference. I try to take each opportunity to show love to those I come in contact with. That is where I’ve found paradise. I have become comfortable – and find peace – in the insecurity of “not knowing” what the future holds.Certainly the darkness creeps in again from time to time. In those times, I let go of what I think must be and try to allow life to be what it is. It is an amazing ride – exhilarating, peaceful and sometimes terrifying. But it is my life and I’ve never been more grateful for it.

To those who see me as an apostate led astray by Satan, I say, ‘I love you.’ I get why you hold your perspective. But hopefully the fruits of my life will show the true nature of the path I’m on.

Richard in AZ