A friend who finds herself in the midst of a painful faith transition recently asked:
I’m interested to know your path past Mormonism. What have you replaced it with? Do you lean towards another religion? Do you see yourself as member of another faith or congregation? I feel untethered, this is the first time I’ve been able to ask myself what I believe, what do I hold important, how do I want to live my life. It’s painful, there’s a part of me that just wants to be told what to believe and the other part that says that that’s what I’ve been doing all my life.
In addition to my blogpost from February 9, 2020, Belonging Nowhere and Everywhere, where I share thoughts and experiences about belonging and enmeshment of beliefs/community with a sense of personal identity, I have some additional thoughts to share.
With curiosity and time, I have been able to identify several of the things within Mormonism that connected with me spiritually and enmeshed with my sense of personal and moral identity. They included:
1-Service to others.
2-Gathering as a community to sing, share stories, and support each other.
3-Contemplative experiences in prayer, with sacred texts, in the Temple, etc., in which I sought to explore and understand meaning with regard to a larger picture, and with regard to myself individually, my family, and those with whom I felt a sense of stewardship.
4-Teaching and engaging in conversations about deeper things and trying to make sense of the world and our experiences.
5-Confidence that I was on the right track, with experiences of belief affirmation from those around me, and a sense of certainty that my beliefs were true, that the priesthood was what I believed it was, and that spiritual experiences represented engagement with God to confirm truth and to lead me when I needed help.
6-I had a pre-programmed track that was given to me to measure my progress.
7-Wherever I went, I could find people within my Tribe of Mormonism, with unique language and symbols, a sense of trust and belonging, and people I believed I could count on.
8-Help with my family and children as part of a greater community of people with shared values so that I didn’t feel like I was entirely in the dark as a spouse and a parent.
Past Mormonism, I have church shopped.
I have had several experiences where I felt connected/spiritually fulfilled, but I still felt like I was “in the wilderness” without a home or an identity.
Here is where I presently find myself after 4 1/2 years since the acute initiation of my faith crisis turned transition, after stumbling across the Church History Gospel Topics Essays on the Church’s website. I’ll, share them as they relate to the above 8 that fed me in Mormonism:
1-I can participate in service to others with greater creativity now, and I can invite my active believing Mormon friends and family into those experiences in ways that feel connecting to them. These experiences are no longer pre-programmed, and they necessitate greater creativity and curiosity. As a result, I have found them to be more deeply rewarding.
2-I haven’t figured out the singing thing yet, but I do experience contemplative experiences with sacred texts that now include not only scriptures, but authors like Brene Brown, Eckhart Tolle, Noah Rasheta, Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Mette Harrison, and many others.
3-My contemplative experiences are much more expansive than being largely focused in a Temple or chapel. The possibilities are endless, but nature, walks and hikes, long drives, etc., have been expanded from where they were before. I experience some of those things when I am with members of faith transition support groups, when we have deeply authentic discussions.
4-The teaching and deeper engagement of discussions happen now entirely outside the Church. They happen in support groups, at Sunstone and Thrive gatherings, and somehow, my interactions and conversations with individuals on a personal basis have become much deeper than they ever were before. I am more aware of grief now. Grief sometimes made me uncomfortable as a believing Mormon, and I felt a need to “fix” it instead of sit with people in their grief with unconditional love and with curiosity regarding my own grief.
5-I have had to reconstruct meaning for spiritual experiences, serendipity, etc., and when I with curiosity get consciously aware about my experiences and emotions, I have increased my capacity to listen to my inner voice and being. I’ve found it more joyful to live with ambiguity now, where before, I believed that comfort and joy resided in certainty–which I believe is a false and unhelpful construct now.
6-I get to be curious about my track now, and build my own ways in which I attribute meaning. It isn’t pre-programmed or “scripted” anymore.
7-My world has been expanded now. My Tribe includes everyone. I get to get curious about others’ experiences without having to filter them through Mormon paradigms to try to make sense of them.
8-Same as #7. My resources and relationships have more expansive paradigms.
Last night, for “FHE”, my wife and I watched a YouTube episode of Super Soul Sunday, where Oprah interviews Brene Brown about her book, Rising Strong. It was wonderful and enriching.
This last week, I listened to Rob Bell’s recent book, Everything is Spiritual, for a second time.
At any given time, my Audible queue has books with regard to meaning and connection (i.e. from people like Rob Bell, Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown, etc.), and with books about history, Biblical scholarship, social and human dynamics, etc.–with occasional recreational fiction type books.
My Kindle and print book queues are similarly mixed.
I am really enjoying Trevan Hatch’s book, A Stranger in Jerusalem: Seeing Jesus as a Jew. Trevan is a BYU professor who writes about topics sometimes covered by Bart Ehrman.
I am really enjoying Glenn Ostlund’s book, Bathing With God.
Will I some day start attending Community of Christ, or one of the United Church of Christ congregations (Mayflower or Billings First Church), or a group that focuses on Buddhist thought, or Billings Universalist Unitarian, or some other group?
I don’t know. Maybe someday.
It is often painful grief work to traverse a faith transition. We can feel untethered and unsettled.
However, in the end, my anecdotal experience is that we have been standing on solid ground all along, and it takes time to deconstruct and to reconstruct meaning.
What are your thoughts? What connected you before a faith transition, and what connects you now?