I was driving down the road on a cool winter morning almost two years ago, listening to a woman on the radio tell of her experience growing up Jewish—all the quirks, the contradictions, the beauty of life in that religion. Though I knew little of Judaism, I felt a connection to that woman in a deeper way than I would have imagined.

At that time my heart and mind were weighed down. I had grown up a member of the LDS Church, and had believed so deeply in its tenets that it had become the center of all that I thought and did. I knew—KNEW—that there was a God who loved me, that there was something greater than this life. I could not imagine a life outside of this belief. I believed the leaders who told me without the gospel I would be empty, lost, wandering in a life without meaning.

As I grew older, as I set out to educate myself, to find love and family, seeing the world beyond my conservative Mormon upbringing, a nagging uneasiness in my beliefs grew. Despite this, I did not waver. As I had been taught, I doubted my doubts before my belief. Years of depression, a divorce, and feelings of utter worthlessness followed. I wanted to be stronger, to be better, to have that firm unshakable faith we read about. Instead, my doubts only deepened. I prayed daily for help. For relief. For peace. None came. My thoughts were in constant turmoil. Questions about free will, about grace, about what is truth and how can we know truth, broiled in my mind. I devoured my scriptures, read texts from history and philosophy on the meaning of life, hoping there was some answer out there, some way for me to find peace and yet still hold onto my belief in god.

All this was still swirling around in my mind as I listened to this woman tell her story on that day. She had experienced a life of deep religious and secular experience, just like me, except hers was centered on completely different religious tradition. Her life was full, rich, nuanced and complete, without possibly ever having heard about the supposed restored truth on Earth. It struck me, then, just how many people were living, had lived and would live remarkable lives outside of the Church. Lives full of pain and sadness but also love, spirituality, kindness, and fulfillment. Were they all lost? Were they all missing something? Were all their lives meaningless?

No. In that moment I decided that no, they were not.

As these realizations washed over me, all of the words I’d studied from philosophers and other secular and religious thinkers seemed to settle on this idea: Mormonism was not the only path to fulfillment or full experience. And for the first time in my life I let myself even think the words, “Maybe there is no god.”

Over the next weeks and months my new identity settled easily into place. I decided I no longer wanted to be part of the Mormon Church. I decided I did not believe in the Mormon god, or in any god I had yet found.

I am now the happiest I have ever been. But I can’t say I am happier simply because I left the church. My happiness is not tied to some outward belief in some idea, but to an inward belief in my own self worth. Being able to define my morality on my own terms has set me up to make strides in my personal growth and well-being that would not have been possible before. I no longer doubt myself, but instead am able to comfortably doubt and evolve my beliefs. My mind is finally at peace.

I told my parents, I told some close Mormon friends, I told my non-Mormon friends. I lost none of them. They, as true friends do, loved me for who I was and not what I believed. Our relationships have shifted but not changed in any significant way. I am nervous about telling some of my other Mormon friends, but am comforted by the thought that if they abandon me, they were not worth having in my life in the first place. Since leaving the church, to whom have I gone? To all the same people, but more at ease in my own skin, with a fuller heart and mind, and more able to offer love and support.

To what else have I gone? The greatest gift I’ve received from my decision to leave the church is the endless opportunities for discovery. The entire world is open to me to experience. Before, I would shy away from reading certain texts or going to certain places or spending time with certain people, worried that something I’d read or see would continue to chip away at my faith. Now, truth is something for me to define, something that is adaptable. The entire world is open for experience, to learn and grow from. There is always a new place to go, a new person to meet, and new beauty to enjoy.

Anonymous in UT

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