“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things. which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
-Mosiah 3:19 (From the Book of Mormon)
After I left the LDS church, I had lots of conversations with people about why I did not keep going to church. I eventually got to the point where I would just say, “because I do not want to go to church and I think that is enough.” To which they would reply something along the lines of, “Well you can’t just go around doing whatever you want! What, are you just not going to work now too?”
It is funny because when you are in the church, you have this mentality that your deepest wants and desires are evil and need to be controlled and suppressed. As soon as I left, I started really thinking about this concept. What is wrong with doing what I want? It had been so ingrained in me that the only way to a truly “happy” life was to restrict and control my natural self. It was so deeply ingrained in me that my natural self was “an enemy to god” that I could not even fathom what it would be like to live a life that aligned with my actual values and desires. I was taught from the day I was born that the only way to happiness is by following a long list of complicated and conflicting rules.
The irony about the scripture from above is that I was taught in church that one reason we were “better than other Christians” is that we did not believe that people were born with sin. We believed that we would be held accountable for our own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions(Second Article of Faith). So, being taught growing up that “my natural self is an enemy to god,” I was given the message that I was born fundamentally flawed. I was born without sin, but who I was at the core needed to be changed. Not because of the fall of Adam, but because of me.
But now, instead of trusting some white dudes to tell me what my moral compass should be, I am learning to go off of my own personal compass. I am learning to trust myself and that naturally, humans desire good. That no small child grows up hoping to be evil, and in order to get back to the purest of desires I need to get to reconnect with my true, natural self. My natural self heals her inner child instead of becoming like a child, sticks up for herself instead of being submissive, advocates her needs rather than being patient in all things, and questions everything rather than submitting to all things. Someone who most definitely does not wait around for her dad to tell her what is and is not okay to do. Someone who is learning to repair trust with her inner self so that she can get to a point where she lives doing whatever she wants without having to fear that she is inherently flawed, corrupt, or evil. A girl who keeps a few trusted sources in her life to let her know if she is going off the rail for any reason (check out Shattered Glass’s episode with Oprah Winfrey for more on this).
The ex-mormon is painted as this crazy, godless, off-the-rails person who is on a slippery slope straight down to hell. Which, I am sure if you looked at my life through the lens of the mormon church that is what you would see. You would see someone who looks forward to the bliss that a cup of coffee brings, someone who struggles not to say fuck every other word, someone who likes to party with her friends on the weekend, and someone who likes to be able to wear slutty clothes sometimes (Just to name the mildest of my sins). It is so funny because the reason this slope is slippery is because with each step you take you realize that instead of you feeling like you need to roll over in guilt and shame you feel free. You feel like you have control of your own life and can make your own decisions. You realize that the concept of sin is just something that powerful men created to control others. I think the founders of the church definitely understood human nature and what motivates people and definitely used that against all those who have joined the church.
I talk about this concept a lot, but it has been the biggest impact on me. I am learning to trust myself which is such a beautiful thing for me. Instead of shaming myself for calling in “sick” to work because I cannot get out of bed, I get curious. Why can’t I get out of bed? Is it because I am extremely dissatisfied with my job? Is it because I am depressed? What would cause me to be depressed? Is something going on, do I need to talk to my psychiatrist again, try a new therapy route, etc.? When I stop treating myself like an enemy I am able to have empathy for my struggles. I have been able to problem solve and work WITH myself instead of against it. I still hella struggle but it looks a lot differently now. There is less shame involved and the rest of my life is slowly becoming more enjoyable.
To be completely frank, it was not possible for me to work through my mental health struggles and still be in the church. For me, they were too deeply intertwined. This is my own personal experience, and I am sure everyone is different. But I am a firm believer that everyone knows themselves the best and each individual person is the best guide for their personal happiness (Really, listen to that episode of Oprah on Shattered Glass). Another thing the church understood was the importance of stillness or meditation. If we take time to get to know ourselves then we can receive revelation from within rather from some arbitrary person in the sky.