Today has been a roller-coaster of feelings and emotions. I have felt lost, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, lied to, found, loved, and forgiven. The topic of God and religion comes up frequently in my life for numerous reasons. Having some friends that are devout Christians and some that are almost militant and relentless atheists. Having family that have pledged lifetime of service to God and others that explore other means of faith and spirituality.

Growing up in Utah, there is a good chance you will be born into religion, or be taught early on through friends that were born into it if you weren’t. You can’t escape religion in this state, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, as with all things, some people can take it too far and spoil the roots of good intentions. Where I find myself lost is in any particular belief. I was born into an LDS (Latter Day Saint [Mormon]) family and baptised at the age of eight. Never questioning anything about it, just going through the motions. My parents were not very strict about it and had liberal views on politics, art, and speech. This is a polite way of saying they cursed, let us watch rated R movies, and fully believed in freedom of choice. Not a common things associated with the LDS stereotype. It made growing up Mormon a very tolerable thing. But in my case it also made me mostly indifferent. Outside of the weekly block of meetings, I didn’t think of church. Didn’t think of God or service or sacrifice or history, but rather focused on toys, music, movies, and girls. Church was a 3 hour a week deal and that was it. It stayed that way my entire life. Not through any shortcomings of parents or leaders, but through my own indifference. My parents both served missions as did my older brother. My parents were married in the Temple as was my brother. These things were and are important to them and I respect it wholly.

Still, I find myself indifferent to the entire situation. I have seen it help families, hurt families, help people, hurt people, and everything in between. I also fully believe that at the core of every religion and belief, is the will to do good and make life better for everyone. The downside to this is the fallible nature of man. We have faults that cause the root and core of good things, turn selfish or evil. I don’t feel betrayed or hurt by my religion at all. I have seen it help many people in my life. I cannot deny that at all. My older brother is a perfect example. He has found love, peace, and a future spreading knowledge of something he believes fully in. He knows what he wants and is totally committed to it. But in my own life, I have never felt good or bad about religion or God or scripture. I have always felt ambivalent and indifferent to the entire thought. I have a few friends that identify as Agnostic and I always found this a little weird. That was, until recently.

My upbringing had me around 99% Mormons and 0.99% other faiths and 0.01% agnostic or atheist. I didn’t meet an atheist until my senior year of high school. Not that more didn’t exist, but it had never been something that was questioned. I believe most Mormons in Utah simply assume everyone else is a Mormon. Maybe this is more true of small towns like Lehi, nestled in the churchy bosom of Utah county. I was invited to dinner at a friends house that I assumed was just like the rest of us. Her dad had a beer at the dinner table and I thought…oh, maybe not. Then he was ballsy enough to bring up religion and started bashing on Joseph Smith (look it up if you don’t know who he is, this isn’t Church history, it’s adn history.). I was taken aback that once he knew I was LDS he would continue his anti-Mormon tirade. I understand the freedom we have to choose what to and not to believe in. Not only do I understand it, I fully respect it. But this was not the forum for religious debate. This was dinner with a friend. Awkward.

Anyway, the point of that story was just to illustrate how queer it was to find out you know someone that didn’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a little children’s hymn humour). The older I got, the more agnostics and atheists I knew. Most of them former members that were members only out of tradition or family will. I would ask myself, how could someone that was a member just stop believing? It seemed so strange that someone brought up in the one true faith would later rebel against it. I chalked this up to simple rebellion where they just wanted to be different. The same reason they try alcohol or cigarettes. Just because they were told not to, well, you’ll show them. I stopped regularly attending church over five years ago. I kept telling myself and my family that I believe in the LDS teachings, I just don’t go because of the people. This was definitely a big reason I initially stopped going. I found myself alone in a place where you should feel welcome always. I have never felt welcome at church or church functions. I have always felt looked down upon. A lot of this has to do with my own emotional and social anxieties rather than any rational fear. But it is true that I have always felt more welcomed by people that are ex-members or were never members. The girls I get along with most, the boys that accept me for me, all of them are non-members. My family is excluded from thus generalisation because they have loved me always. It will never change because they are wonderful and accepting people. As for everyone else, I feel constantly judged and shamed for my decisions. As far as I thought, judgement is reserved for God.

So here I find myself, lost. I don’t know what to call myself anymore. I’ve never really been one for labels, but I don’t know if I am LDS anymore. I know I am not atheist as I do believe in some higher power. But what that power is and to what extent it reaches…I don’t know. And until right now, that scared me. I have heard that it’s only when we lose ourselves can we truly be found. If I had to label myself, I suppose I would identify as agnostic. I am not giving up a search for truth and happiness, but I am done looking for approval in places I will never find it. To friends past, present, and future, this may give you a proper insight to why I am how I am. And know that regardless of your spiritual preference, I will love and accept you as long as you can do the same for me. I am fully aware this will cause some loss of friendship. Unfortunately that is an ugly truth of this decision. If you are one that decides to rid me from your life because of this, I wish you nothing but love and happiness in your life. I have found myself in the uncertainty that is life and it’s mysteries. Admitting that to myself and to all of you has lifted a weight I have been carrying for far too long. Whatever your path, belief, or lack thereof, exists, I hope you are happy. If you are not, do yourself a favour and explore other options. Find your happiness. Thanks for stopping by.

love,
adn

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