Let’s Talk Suffering.

I was in the living room, my mom around the corner in the kitchen, when I heard her discussing my blog on the phone with her brother. Among comments of how she didn’t know what happened to me, I sat rigidly perched on the couch, no longer reading the book in my hands. Over lunch an hour later, I told her I heard her discussing me on the phone, and I told her it hurt my feelings.

My mom gave me a polite look. “What did I say that hurt your feelings?”

“Well, the whole part where you’re gossiping about me and talking behind my back. Especially when I’m right in the next room.”

.

On Sundays, Mormons are pumped full with the prejudice that ex- or inactive Mormons are sinners, projects to be preyed upon, and poor unfortunate souls that got sucked up by the devil for not saying their nightly prayers. When they open their mouths, evil is going to spray forth, so you better bring your umbrella to every encounter. They are people that didn’t try hard enough.

From the pulpit, speakers cry over what a loss to the kingdom of Heaven these lost sheep are.

But people are so focused on themselves being right and everyone else being wrong that they don’t notice that lost sheep stays home on Sundays and cries because they’ve lost the security blanket of religion.

.

I recently heard the difference between pain and suffering described like this: Suffering is when you quit and give up all hope of trying.

Do people look at ex-Mormons and think they are suffering? Because they should. People who leave the Church (or any religion, for that matter), especially in the Utah bubble, quit trying on the religion that demanded to be the center of their lives. At home, they lose entire social circles, not just of friends, but of community. They trade open conversations with family for their mother’s tears. Some are cut off and rejected completely by the parents who raised them.

But it’s more than tangible loss. Reader, if you are religious, imagine losing God. If you’re not, imagine losing the sun.

Everything you’ve ever believed in crumbles. You trade daydreams of learning the secrets of the temple with an eternal companion for staying awake for six months straight with the anxiety of dying and losing consciousness forever. You realize that nothing and no one matters, and for a really long time, your outlook is scary as hell because you’re scared of being alive. You don’t get a magical book to read that saves your soul. You don’t get to fall on your knees and talk to someone who has the power to make your life change. You don’t get to drive half a mile to visit God’s house (the temple) and take peace from being so close to your Father.

You give everything you were ever taught to believe in for nothing. And unless you’ve done that, you have no idea how alone and terrible you constantly feel. There’s more than one reason there are more suicides in Utah than any other state.

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I am part of a generation of “heathens” that is suffering enough from the demons in our own minds without the world’s condescension. Instead of looking at us as Satan reincarnate, look at us like artists who have gone blind, runners who lost their legs, birds suddenly too heavy to take flight. We are little boys and girls, coming out of the baptismal font dressed in white, who grew up and opened their eyes.

And opening your eyes is like pulling the trigger on a gun—you can never take the bullet back.

The world needs to realize we didn’t shoot them, though. We shot ourselves. Please, treat us less like murderers and more like someone who needs medical attention.

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Suffering.

  1. kidutah

    Brittney, I’m a very infrequent user of Word Press. I joined a couple years ago to follow a blog about a former art dealer in Sante Fe, NM who also wrote a couple books “The Thrill of the Chase” and its sequel “Too Far to Walk”. Perhaps you’ve heard. Anyway, here’s my quick story about why I’m sending this message. Utah is a favorite place of mine and my wife’s. We lived in Murray right after we were married in 1976. My wife and I are both from the Chicago area. At the time, my employer transferred me along with some other employees to a new plant in West Jordan. My wife is a teacher and was told by a Utah school district she wouldn’t get hired becasue she wasn’t Moromon and couldn’t “properly” answer kids related questions should they arise! She eventually was hired by to teach grades K-8 at Utah State prison – but that’s a whole other story! Years later we moved to Germany to another new plant and after about 4 years returned to live near Chicago. My wife is now affiliated with a company in Riverton and over the past 15+ years, we have traveled much throughout Utah. Her mostly for work but me mostly for pleasure (I love Kanab, St. George and Moab especially). But we also travel to visit our extended family in Ogden, for five years ago, our youngest daughter married a young artist from Ogden. Actually, both he and our daughter are artists. 15+ years ago, he left the LDS church and came to Chicago and started his own business. He’s a very spritual man and continued to seek a faith. Five years ago on Easter Sunday, he was re-baptized into the Catholic faith. He and my daughter are “a match made in heaven” with that quote coming from his very Mormon mother (who is also a fantastic artist/painter/scupltor as is his brother). When love our large, extended family in Ogden, and when visting them, my wife (also a former Lutheran Sunday School Superintendant) has had many, respectful “discussions” with some of them about our differing faiths. On a recent visit, a 19 year-old cousin asked my wife to go with him to help by “a real King James” bible (meaning not one published by Deseret press). She / he did, and at dinner that night he bravely announced / showed it to all and stated that he expected it NOT to disappear. My wife and I are not experts on LDS theology, but my we know / understand a great deal including the history and how life / families in Utah/LDS is greatly influenced by the LDS church. When we lived there, my wife befriended two, young single college educated women who had just returned from LDS missions with more questions about the LDS faith than when they left. My wife’s (and my) approach is not to speak badly or with malice about the LDS faith, but instead to talk more about what we believe, our faith. In short, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, was “gifted” to us by God to die for all our sins, and through our belief in the holy trinity (three-in-one) of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, His gift / fullfillment of promise to us for eternal life is by His grace and our faith – not by our works. I just wanted you to know there are people who understand. We may not live / endure / experience everyday in your shoes, but know you are not alone – so please don’t despair. I hope you find God’s peace and follow your passion be it a journey as a creative artist. I hope this helps and feel free to vent to me anytime. KidUtah a.k.a. my grandchildren call me Pappa John

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  2. atheistmormonhousewife

    Having the courage to leave something behind that is so integral to your past and your family’s lives is such an incredibly hard thing to go through. You are not alone. It is so sad that our Mormon friends and family dismiss our pain as something we deserve or brought on ourselves. One thing that I have learned through my faith transition is that the one step in admitting I was wrong about the church and religion in general made me stronger, more discerning and more thoughtful than I was before. I feel like I am a better human being now than I was when I was religious, so there is a silver lining. Sending love and understanding your way!

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  3. jiminpanama

    The collective knowledge and growth of Mormonism presents a perspective and understanding the rest of Christiandom does not have, as well as most Mormons. The fact is that the church is not for everyone. It never has been anciently and the same is true today. But salvation is for everyone. It is based on every person in this earth living according to the knowledge he truly believes. See, even the very elect will be deceived. How do I know that is not me? I don’t. But what the gospel shows is that God can judge our integrity no matter what our beliefs are. “Where there there is no law there is no punishment”. If we we are true to what we really believe, all is truly well with us. This is the final chapter and accumulation of knowledge, perspective, and peace that Mormonism offers. I hope you find yours wherever that is.

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