The moment I began the deliberate slide away from the Mormon faith that brought me out west is a memory, visceral and clear. The sun bleached doubts held on high shelves kept up by my denial of anything faintly resembling a question lived together, harmonious in their agreement to look away at the first hint of slipping. I lived apart from that storage of ‘I’m not sures’, eyes always scanning back and forth in a perfectly timed defense of the house of cards I built in my need to have an answer, any answer, all the answers.
But that day, that Sunday morning, the crash of it echoed as I listened to a letter read across the pulpit that up to then had offered kindness and family and togetherness, until this day when the other was identified and a plan shared. It was the time of Prop 8, gay marriage on the ballot in California, two states away. I was not remotely conflicted as I cheered any equal rights wins from my shaded high desert yard. But this day, the letter read, and as I remember it, asking members to share their resources of time and money to close this new door of opportunity for all people to choose to sign a commitment for the love they had found.
There was a pause in the momentum of my ever evolving seeking for grace, a shadow in the sunlit basement window wells of this new truth read out loud, to the nodding of heads and shared agreements. Something within me stood up, never to sit back down. The resounding NO inside me was the death knell of my faith, the beginning of the edging away, then running, my feet stamping in the snow of something I had inadvertently aligned with all those years. When it was spoken out loud I appreciated the honesty, it gave me the inescapable gift of knowing what I would not stand with. This far and no farther.
Leaving anything is not one step, it is a long trudge through blame, guilt and fearful longing for a time when you didn’t know what you did now. The wish for innocence and the wanting of closure, from a church that sent messengers to ask me why? What was wrong with me now, after all this time, who did I know that made me so sensitive? Let’s focus back on what’s really important, and even as I said please don’t ask me again to get my husband to church, the request, let’s get your husband to church.
I am grateful now I had the chance to sit across from a leader with self proclaimed power and say, I have never been enough, it’s always been about having us there, not me. And then the story he told, always the story of the sister who gave up hope and after all these years her husband went back to church, the focus placed so obviously on the tether I held to luring someone else back, who’s maleness had so much more value.
Truth always seems to be the way out of anything that charms you into blindness. His honesty was fresh and clean and the repeating refrain of all the same words over all these years hung in the air like lights across a roof line. I could have laughed with the obviousness of it. I will not save him, and you will not save me. But right now, in this moment, I am going to save myself. And that I did.
It did not come without grief. I mourned the loss of that faith like a wintered widow. I flailed and scrabbled as the shelf of all the things I questioned came down, littering my fasting frame. I hadn’t known freedom for so long, it felt frantic, unmoored and so very unsafe. I tossed in the sea I had become unbaptized in, no anchor strong enough to settle my unchurching.
I understand the story of Lazarus now more than I did before I lost the religion that mapped my days, how coming back from the dead must have felt, the first step taken on the other side of dying so unsteady, so real, so very your own.
I have lived enough of my own days now to look back with unbending compassion on the years I was stalwart and true to a building, a monument, a group of people I loved and still do. Those years of following taught me to lead myself out of the ever-repenting never-enough half-of-a-something that was deemed whole by someone else.
Years later a leaked document further explained that those who loved outside of the rules were apostates, denying their children their innocent choices. This led my name to be removed from the records, a carefully written email, with a swift respectful response, forever freeing my life after. It was a simple gesture, no anger or regret, the final freeing clang of the hand-bound secret of my own apostasy.
Sometimes I miss the sense of knowing, of believing, of having a plan out of this world of bewilderness, but I never regret the day I stood up for the ones who were seeking the very love I found when I took those first steps out of a love that could be earned and denied, into the love that was offered freely and joyously equal.