I grew up in a nuanced LDS household in Northern California. I moved to the Phoenix east valley for high school. I graduated college and got married at the ripe young age of 21 to an understanding, kind, and intellectual Mormon. Unfortunately, he died less than 2 years later and I was left widowed with a brand new baby.

I stayed faithfully in the church for another 4 years. I remarried during this time to another Mormon. We were not allowed to be sealed because of my gender and previous sealing. Being allowed no more than one man in what can only be described as a ‘male controlled polygamist heaven’ seemed flawed to me. I met other young sealed widows that had great conflict in their second marriages because of the sealing inequality. Simply being able to find a man that was okay with the prospect of giving up a temple marriage and sealing forever was excruciatingly painful for many in my subgroup. So, I didn’t know it at the time, but I began to research my way out of the church, looking into how Joseph Smith performed polyandry (reverse polygamy). I found many many things to be troubling in his practice of these marriages, but in particular, the consent issues were extremely alarming for both the teenaged girls and the adults.

I still find many of the basic principles to be healthy in the church such as prayer (meditation), charity work, kindness and an emphasis on education. However, I continue to be shocked at the consent issues today young people have in the church. I think this is perpetuated by the time in which non-consensual marriages were allowed for females younger than 16. It does not matter what era children grow up in, an adolescent isn’t developmentally old enough to marry at all, let alone marry a man almost three times her age. I began to see lots of people in my own church community stuck in the abuse/victim cycle. I formally resigned in October 2016 because I think the leadership is blind to the amount of abuse that occurs and victims created within the church. I joined as an 8 year old child, not knowing the nature of ethics; I found I could not live with myself if I retained membership because I joined as a non-consenting child.

Waking up from Mormonism is like no other experience I’ve ever had. It’s painful, exciting, shocking, sad, even perhaps funny, but the experience is also fascinating to me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the suffering I’ve endured in this religion. It’s been two years since I’ve walked into a church building. I have finally allowed myself freedom of thought uninhibited by what my family or friends think. The leadership may have you believe it’s hollow leaving the church.  The opposite is true; I found happiness and peace outside the confines of Mormonism to the beat of my own drum.

In conclusion, It’s a brand new worldview, full of awe and wonder for the advancement of our kind and planet. So many possibilities for the future. I’m am impatiently awaiting the day ‘Siri’ and ‘Google Now’ float effortlessly behind us as we interact with the environment.

To whom will I go?

Bon voyage boat. I went to Facebook and found many just like me in open mormon activity groups. It was extremely validating to know I wasn’t the only one who made it into the hot air balloon.

Addendum January 4, 2016 –
I have since walked three months in my shoes. I’d like to return and report that my heart has somewhat softened against the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as I began (for the 4th time) to explore my Jewish Herirage. I have since realized the Mormon church is not the enemy.

I began struggling back in October of 2016 right after I sent in my final resignation. Something kept nagging at me in the back of my mind. I eventually realized that Because my prior bishop during my divorce from my second husband, had turned his back on me, I turned my back on the church, and in doing so, I turned my back on my husband who passed away. I believe the “something nagging” may be due my sealing and strong connection with my husband, Joshua David Flanders (RIP).

I found myself “cut in half” with my resignation sent into the Church Office Building (COB) in Salt Lake. It felt like ripping away my love, my sealing and even my local place of marriage, which I still hold in high esteem. To this day, I still have the original wedding photo of the Mesa Temple taken on November 14, 2009 hanging in my kitchen by a piece of tape. I couldn’t remove it from its place if I wanted it.

I’m not sure where I fit in the LDS church. I still see myself as a bit of a widowed leper, but at least this time I’m not actively looking to get married as many young young women in the church are encouraged to do. I have since, in December of 2016, redacted my resignation to the Church of Jesus Christ by sending in another formal letter to the COB stating I believe I can find peace and harmony in both my Jewish and LDS heritages.

My current Bishop has offered me kind words, counseling and even access to food. He has been very kind through my rough journey.

Still a bit uncertain, I’m back at investigating the very church I was born into. One clue I’ve been given by my husband is to look into the divinity of the one the Ladder Day Saints call “Mashiach”.

Jessica in Gilbert, AZ

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