“A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” -Anonymous

I never thought I would be sitting here feeling, thinking, and experiencing what I am at this very moment. It is an odd feeling–one of which I may not even be able to explain. After all, it’s not everyday that God leads you to discover a new profound truth relating to life, love, and overall purpose. It is a discovery that has taken everything I thought I knew and flipped it upside down entirely. A discovery that has done none else, but set me free.

My Story in a Nutshell

When I was ten years old I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Up until high school, I devoted all of my time and energy to being a member of the LDS faith. I attended girl’s camp, trek, youth conference, general conference, temple open houses, seminary, you name it! At fourteen years old I prepared for and received my patriarchal blessing. Make no mistake, I was a devout Mormon. And I loved it! I look back at all of the memories I created and the people who entered my life through my church involvement and my heart fills with warmth. What a blessing it was to belong to the LDS church as a youth, my involvement is something I will always cherish.

Before I started high school, my grandmother passed in my arms from Uterine Cancer. Losing her led me to question the realness of God and Jesus Christ. I soon wondered if they really cared for and loved me. My doubts and the confusion of high school (who I was, where I was going, and of course boys) was just enough to push me to rebel in my own little way. I turned my back on God and decided to do things my own way. Well, let’s just say I learned the hard way how much heartache can come from turning your back on such a loving and gracious God. I became bitter, selfish, lost, and all in all sad.

When I started college at Weber State, I met Skylar Northrop–the man I now have the privilege of calling my husband. Just as I started to fall prey to destructive behavior and thinking,  he threw me a rope and pulled me to safety. As we fell in love and grew closer to one another, I began to realize how big of a part God had played in his coming to my rescue. We were later married and sealed in the temple. The end of this month will mark two years of marriage and up until now, we had been active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Awakening

My decision to walk away from the church really was an awakening. God opened up my eyes. I don’t really know how, he just sort of did. It was as if for the first time I was seeing life in color and the heavy rock that sat on top of my heart was lifted away. I felt as if he was saying, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be afraid anymore. Love surpasses all and I love you.”  My thoughts, reasons, and justifications to being a Mormon no longer made sense and quite frankly it scared the hell out of me.

It all started as I sat in sacrament meeting. I was in a sour mood and kept asking myself “Why do I feel this way? Why? Why?” I looked around me and for the first time ever, realized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was turning me into someone I did not like. Images of decisions, experiences, and people from my time as a member at ten years old to the time at present I sat in the Brooklyn, New York chapel, flashed through my mind. I perceived for the first time that somehow I had ended up in a place so far off from the mark I had originally set out to reach.

Critical and Fearful

First, I perceived how much criticism and judgement had become second nature to me. I often, really everyday, worried and fretted over the salvation of every person I knew or met who did not belong to the LDS church or who once did. My thought process would go something like this, He or she is such a great person, but if only he or she would do this or this to be better. If only he or she could see how much happier they could be with the church in their life. I care too much about him or her to think of how much regret they will have after they die because they chose not to live up to the standards outlined by the church. 

Of course I was overly critical of myself too. Honestly, I am convinced it is nearly impossible not to be critical of one self when you are thinking such critical thoughts towards just about everyone around you. As my condemning feelings persisted, I began to fear the consequences of my own thoughts and actions, no matter how big or small. Rarely was anything I chose to do, say, or think taken with a grain of salt. I would think to myself, If you listen to that song, then you won’t be living up to your potential as a Latter Day Saint. If you listen to that song, then the Holy Ghost will leave you and you will never know if you were meant to feel a prompting. If you listen to that song, then you may lose a blessing. Criticism and judgement consumed me.

Soon, my marriage began to suffer. I viewed myself as more spiritual than my husband because I had the grit to not swear after someone cut me off while I was driving or to “not listen to that song.” I feared what might happen or not happen to us if we chose anything inconsistent with the Church’s standards. I grew angry and disappointed in him if he chose to do something we had been warned against as outlined in The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet or in a general conference talk. I also grew angry and disappointed in myself whenever I made a choice contrary to these standards. I then fought to redeem my “mistake” through placing my value and worth above those around me. I felt angry and disappointed, but most of all, I felt afraid.

It hit me with the force of one thousand bricks being dumped on my head. I was choosing to be Mormon, because I was afraid. I was afraid what the next life had in store for me if I didn’t do my best to be as good of a Latter Day Saint as I could be. I was afraid of the consequences of not upholding every covenant I made in the temple or at baptism. I was afraid God would not bless us or that things would not go smoothly if we did not do everything by the book. I was afraid if I chose to not be a Mormon that somehow I would miss out on something and would not be happy. I was afraid if I went in a different direction (not one that led me away from God or Jesus Christ), but one that did not meet the church’s standards, I would end up wanting to cover myself with rocks and mountains to hide myself from God because of shame, as it says in the scriptures. I was afraid, I would regret my decision. Truthfully, I am still afraid. But my awakening and God’s goodness makes me less fearful day by day.

New Direction

There is no doubt in my mind that God and Jesus Christ are real. The Lord died for me, you, and all of us so that we could become better people. If we choose to let him, he can act as a guide to help us progress and gain feelings of love and acceptance for all people. These truths are at the core of my beliefs. Good principles and eternal truths can be found in all religions, but the frailties of men can be found in all religions also. I know some incredible individuals who belong to the LDS faith. They are people I will always love and look up to because of their selfless and loving hearts. The LDS church is so right for some people, but for others it may not be and that is okay. Either way, Mormon or not, God loves us all equally.

During a general conference talk, an elder of the LDS church mentioned that where we end up in heaven will be exactly where we want to be and exactly what we will be comfortable with. So, if obtaining the highest degree of heaven or glory in the next life is contingent upon being a member of the church and sealed in the temple, as believed by the LDS faith, then I don’t think I would feel comfortable being there. Because fate so has it that I belong to a family with all half-siblings belonging to different moms and dads and I want to be where they will be. I want to be where Mother Teresa will be or Bob Marley. That is truly where I will be the most happy.

And that is why my husband and I left the church. Its standards left us feeling empty and never fully satisfied with ourselves. Its standards were not bringing out the best in us or even making us happy. Like I said before, everyone is different, so I am sure others feel the church does the opposite for them. And that is fantastic! I am glad. It’s hard to swallow the thought that choosing to not be a member of the LDS church, but choosing to lead a life of service and love, will result in not returning to live with God. And so, I am staying true to my heart in believing that it is hard to swallow, because it is not true.

My husband refers to our new direction as “forging a new path.” That’s what we’re doing. God is guiding us and helping us find out how to do that exactly, but we are happier than we could ever imagine. We feel connected to those around us, each other, and most of all God by our shift in direction. His presence is there and so is his love, but the pressure to be people we are not has faded.

Love is my religion.

God bless,

Kelsey With Some Jo ❤

P.S. My dad shared a remarkable story with me yesterday about a woman who died and came back to life named Cassie Dimento. Her story is truly remarkable and you can read more about it here: http://cassiedimento.com/ Anyway, she wrote a poem about her experience in heaven called Timeless I thought would be fitting to share. Read it and just see how it makes you feel… ❤

Timeless

I begged, I pleaded,
I cried out. So much fight!
So determined, so hopeful,
Closing my eyes to the light.

Not wanting to be tempted
By what I might see,
I could hear His voice,
He was talking to me!

Blind in the darkness
Explosive visions appear
My entire life revealed
Year after year.

Time does not pass
In heaven as on earth
A lifetime of memories
Played out since birth

In what seemed like a second
As quick as a flash
Knowledge imparted
In my mind with a crash.

Suddenly,
Innately aware
I entered the souls
Of the 5 children I share.

No words could do justice
The things that I saw
The love in their hearts,
The crosses they bore.

I had full understanding
Of the present and past.
The effect on their future
My absence and presence might cast.
I also saw clearly
Through other’s eyes
My actions and words,
How I affected their lives.

God did not judge
He left that to me.
Then He forgave my sins
And set my soul free.

It was then that I felt
The most beautiful light.
It warmed me all over
Pure love shone bright!

But I pleaded, I begged,
I gave it my all.
Please let me go back?
I started to fall.

From out of the darkness
and away from the light
A glorious meadow appeared
I regained my sight.

The colors were vivid,
In the most amazing way,
Bales of hay formed a cross
On which my body did lay.

Warmed by peace,
Overwhelmed with love
The light engulfed me
in heaven above.

I returned to my body
Completely aware and awake.
Undeniably real,
The experience I take.

I know now what awaits me
At the true end of the day.
Heaven is filled with love
In the most glorious way.

But I begged, I pleaded,
I cried out. So much fight
To go back to my family
And to hold each of you tight.

I thank God each day
for giving me my life,
For one more I love you
As your mother and wife.

My faith in God
Gave me the glasses to see
The path He has mapped
Especially for me.
My love for my family,
My family alone
Gave me the strength
And brought me home.

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One thought on “Forging A New Path: Why I Left the LDS Church

  1. Hey Kels! Hope things are going great for you out in NYC! I just want to let you know that you have for a long time been a role model of mine and this morning I saw this blog post. You have no idea how much of an answered prayer this was for me. I have been struggling since September ( but really even before that) on figuring out if the church was right for me. My dad was a convert to the church before I was born and my mom has always been an active member along with most of my family. I always felt like there was something missing or something I wasn’t doing correctly and for most of my life I found myself convinced that I was “happy”. Then in September one of my close friends got in a near fatal car accident and near the same time I was able to meet my now current boyfriend who left the church when he was 17. These series of events launched me into a realm of confusion doubt and fear about my beliefs and doubts. I have been angry with myself and punished any thoughts, actions or feelings against the church without knowing exactly why they were bad. I have been going on like this for 7 months! And Kelsey you and your post gave me the courage to forgive myself and find my own truths. I cannot explain how grateful I am for you and the wonderful example you are to so many. I look forward to embarking on my own journey to find my spirituality and grow closer to God in my own un-institutionalized and unorthodox way. My gratitude is endless and I am sending only good thoughts your way. I love you girly! If you ever need a friend or just someone to talk to about your experience let me know!

    Like

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