Sunday, September 12, 2010

Once a Mormon, Always a Mormon

I no longer consider myself a Mormon. But, in some ways, I will always be a Mormon. There are certain parts of my Mormon upbringing that are a part of me.

When I first lost my testimony, everything associated with the Mormon church that had used to bring me joy was unbearably painful. Listening to old favorite hymns like "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Come, Come, Ye Saints" felt like a razor to my heart. The sight of a temple made me ache inside. One evening a few months after my apostasy, I went to the grounds of a temple near where I live, just to think. It had been over a year since I'd gone inside a temple. The sight of the temple, glowing white against the evening sky, awoke such a sense of loss in me that I just cried for nearly an hour. And on top of all of this, I was angry. I shoved all these things that I used to love away from me. I wouldn't allow myself to feel anything positive about them anymore.


But I will always be a Mormon. That is something that I have to come to terms with. I can remove my name from the records, I can never set foot in a Mormon building again, I can delete all the hymns from my iPod and throw away my scriptures and hymn book, but I'll still be a Mormon. I've had to learn to tell myself that that's okay. It's okay if "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" still makes me feel the way it used to. It's a familiar hymn, and, to be fair, it's a beautiful piece of music. It's okay if the sight of a Mormon temple still makes me ache; what else would you expect from someone who grew up singing, "I love to see the temple, I'm going there someday"?

My former, Mormon self would tell me that the things I feel when I see or hear these things is the Spirit of God telling me that the church is true. I think most Mormons would say that. But just because I still feel this way doesn't make the church true. I was raised around these things. They are safe, comfortable, and familiar. I can't speak for another person, but I'd venture to suppose that a person who was raised Catholic would have similar feelings when visiting a cathedral and hearing Mass. All religions have beautiful things in them. For centuries, the most beautiful music, art, architecture, and poetry was religious. The words of Isaiah are exquisite, the Sistine Chapel is an incredibly beautiful edifice, and Handel's Messiah is a masterpiece of composition. I can't praise those things enough; they represent some of the highest achievements of human endeavor. But that doesn't mean that the religions they represent are true. The same goes for Mormonism. Mormon artists have written hymns, painted pictures, and designed temples, many of which are very beautiful. I am learning to accept the beauty of these things without feeling intense sadness or visceral anger.

The sadness is an interesting thing. Since I no longer believe, I feel that these things no longer belong to me. But I will allow myself to feel what I feel in response to beauty, even if that beauty comes from a religion that betrayed me.

3 comments:

  1. Good post. I have felt the same way for a long time. My goal is to get to the point where I can see the Salt Lake temple (any temple really, but specifically that one) and just admire it for the amazing architecture and great feat it would have taken to build it. When I see ancient Greek and Roman temples I can admire them and wonder at them. Even the Colosseum, where horrible torture and death for the sake of entertainment went on every day, can be viewed for the marvel of architecture it is and the history it tells us about. I hope to someday be able to see Mormon temples the same way.

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  2. I am just curious.. How did it betray you?

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  3. Hey anonymous! Sorry I haven't checked my comments in awhile. In my view, the church betrayed my trust by lying to me about its past and its doctrine. That might sound a bit hyperbolic, and maybe it is, but I think that a religion that demands literally everything of its members ought to be much more up-front and honest about itself, instead of hiding things from people and then blaming people for asking uncomfortable questions.

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