I was born the 8th of 9 children to parents who were themselves converts. Growing up in a large Mormon family had it’s ups and downs but my memories of my childhood are mostly positive. I loved ward potlucks, roadshows , parties and got baptized alongside all my friends at the age of 8 in the tiny town of Georgetown, California.

I was a perfectly average teen. My friends and I did harmless things for fun like dances, movies, sleepovers and swimming. Yet I began to internalize a lot of guilt and shame at a young age and I remember thinking as a mere teen (that had never even kissed a boy) how I would never make it to the temple because I wasn’t worthy. I was often frustrated with the inequalities between the youth programs and that frustration as well as others grew as I became an adult. But for a long time I still held very black and white views about right and wrong and how one should live one’s life.

I married my husband in the Temple and continued on the path laid out for me as a youth; marriage, children, stay-at-home-mom. While I adored him the shame we were taught over simple things often caused problems for us. Our life was full of ups and downs, losses, moves , surgeries etc. When our youngest daughter passed away at 29 weeks gestation it was like being hit by a train that we didn’t see coming. We finally found the nerve to openly question our life and if it was how we wanted to live. We finally began to tell each other our issues and doubts. In the end about 18 months after her death we decided together to leave the church.

We found ourselves at the ages of 33 and 38 with four young children without the community we had always known. We didn’t lose all of it but most and it hurt. It’s been almost 3 years now and I could never go back. We’ve found community through our UU church, local pagan group as well as online and in person exmo groups.

I am now a practicing Pantheist and Unitarian Universalist. Leaving the church has been so good for my mental health and my marriage. Life is beautiful even when things go wrong and there is so much out there to discover when you finally accept that no one has all the answers. Life isn’t black and white, it’s shades of grey and all the colors of the rainbow. There is no one path to happiness and and the thing I enjoy most is exploring it all with my family by my side. Also, feeling the sun on my shoulders never gets old.

Jen in ID

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