not in Primary anymore

on the process of grieving the true? and “living” church

 

I can never decide on a fitting label for myself in relation to Mormonism. “Member,” is out of the question, as I no longer regularly attend church, nor do I believe in several of the core teachings anymore. “Inactive” feels too soft, like I could be brought back into the fold with some gentle and long-suffering persuasion, which isn’t really the case either. “Ex-Mormon” doesn’t feel quite right, mainly because I grew up Mormon, and it’s essentially a huge part of my heritage. Parts of me, for better or worse, are still undeniably Mormon and affect how I perceive the world. I’m also not “Anti-Mormon;” I wish the church no ill will as a whole, but I do vehemently oppose the discrimination, historical whitewashing, and blind obedience too often found within its walls.

Sometimes, I’ve taken to thinking of myself as a “FOMO,” a.k.a., a “Former Mormon.” I also like that FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out,” which, to be honest, also describes how I’ve been feeling– I miss the camaraderie, the fellowship, the routine, and the security of having a fast pass to heaven. But FOMO carries the same baggage as Ex-Mormon, so it’s still a bit of a misnomer.

It may well be that there isn’t a perfect name to put to my situation. And to be fair, the Church itself hasn’t even been able to settle on a definite name for itself since its inception (read more here), so I don’t feel too much pressure. But I did feel inspired to write poetry about how it feels to go through the grieving process vis-à-vis a faith transition. And while I realize the process of grieving anyone or thing is more complex than a series of steps, I also felt the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief model was the ideal outline for my poetic expression. So, without further ado, I present my poem, “On the Process of Grieving the True? and “Living” Church,” dedicated to the nameless, and to those who wander, lost or not.

On the Process of Grieving the True? and “Living” Church

 

Denial:

That can’t be right; he had how many wives?

Some were underage? Why would They lie?

 

I wouldn’t have cared if They’d told me outright—

how young Joe pulled the words for God’s sacred text

out of a large black top hat

Like a fluffy white rabbit

 

Hell, I’d already swallowed whole the idea

that he talked with God and Jesus as a kid,

Like a piece of cake

 

Some things that are true are not very useful,

So then what’s the use of uncovering untruths?

 

My family believes, my close friends believe,

I want to believe

I want to be safe

I want the convenience of knowing I’m right

And special

And chosen

 

I’m going to pray again, harder this time, and fast,

and close my eyes, cover my ears

What I can’t see won’t hurt me

What I don’t know can’t shake me

 

The Church is perfect, the people are not,

The Church IS perfect, the people are NOT!

The Church is perfectly full of people…

 

Anger:

You know how you have that friend who’s been your friend forever? And you pretty much figured you’d always be together? And they make you feel so good, SO GOOD, that you don’t even care about the times when they don’t, like when they make a flyaway comment, so laced with love, it almost softens the blow of the meaning. “You’re so pretty,” they’ll say, “if you’d cover yourself up, you’d be hotter that way.” They may even invite you over to their house for dinner, such a nice house, a real house of order. But you never feel quite right, never quite fit through the door. You’re too much for this friend and their house— too loud, too opinionated, and worst of all, you want too much, more than your friend will give. You start to think some time apart might be good for you, healthy even. So you step away. But if you fall out-of-touch for too long or don’t stop by now and then, this once-dear friend will seek you out, call you out, and invite you out again. They might even bring you cookies. But things are different now. In your time apart, you’ve heard the rumors, the whispers of the things this friend does behind closed doors. The plaque and tarter are evident now, seeping through every smile. Why didn’t you notice before? Or see how the casualties of your friend’s caprices were your own neighbors, friends, and loved ones? You tell your so-called friend off, try to make them see reason, try to make them change their ways before it’s too late, but— it’s to no avail. They’re bigger and stronger than you, they always have been, and after all, they’ve got the Lord on their side.

       

 Bargaining:                     

 I feel I’d give most anything,

Yes, really almost anything

If I could just turn back the clock

And believe almost anything

 

“It’s easy,” my mom said to me,

“to despise your testimony

and follow the ways of the world,

but that’s not who you’re meant to be”

 

If I could let myself forget—

but really, how could I forget?

That women are accouterments

and blackness is a curse that’s set

 

That being gay is some mistake,

and that the sacrament I take

is broke and blessed by boys who have

a pow’r in which I can’t partake

 

Still, I believe some of the stuff

and if I just try hard enough…

Maybe I can find some peace

and squirm through lessons that are rough

 

But conscience steals my harmony

Perhaps through acts of charity

I’ll fill the hole religion left

and still gain Heaven’s amity?

 

What my mom said is not the case,

I’d very much rather erase

the facts and truths I can’t unlearn

than join the world and keep its pace

 

Depression: To the tune of the LDS Children’s Hymn, “Oh What do you do in the Summertime?”

 

Oh, what do you do as an inactive, when life’s turned upside down?

Do you find a new church, get burnt from the search, and ask what’s the point to try?

Is that what you do? So do I.

 

Oh, what do you do as an inactive, when life’s turned upside down?

Do you shop on Sundays, send home teachers away, and get mad when members pry?

Is that what you do? So do I.

 

Oh, what do you do as an inactive, when life’s turned upside down?

Do you yell at the Lord, feel full of discord, and try really hard not to cry?

Is that what you do? So do I.

 

 Acceptance:

Sometimes in defeat,

Sometimes in relief,

Sometimes with fondness,

Sometimes with grief

 

Sometimes it’s hard,

Sometimes it’s much harder,

Sometimes I’m free,

Sometimes I’m a martyr

 

Sometimes it’s a curse,

Sometimes it’s a gift,

Sometimes I hold steady,

Sometimes I drift

 

Sometimes I’m angry, so

Sometimes it shows that

Sometimes my faith wans, while

Sometimes it grows

 

Sometimes I wish, though, that

Some things could change

Sometimes I belong,

Sometimes I’m estranged

 

Sometimes, it’s so strange

 

By Brittany Sweeney-Lawson

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4 Responses to “on the process of grieving the true? and “living” church”

  1. Christina Loken

    This is absolutely beautiful and describes perfectly how I feel. Thank you for writing this.

    Reply
    • Sweentasia

      Thank you, that makes me happy! There’s something really healing about expressing your emotions through an artistic medium.

      Reply
  2. sophiamason

    I really appreciate it too- It seems this blog really keeps pace with a lot of my transitions. How do you feel about a term, “post-mormon”? I use it with myself. Reminds me of my art history days. post modernist artists weren’t necessarily bashing what came before, they had trained in it, they loved art through it. But the new work that they made was a questioning of all of that earlier paradigm, an emotional, turbulent, reaction which really took on legs of its own. I would live to hear your thoughts. Thank you again, especially for the song. I’ll sing it and know there are others feeling a tad unmoored like me.

    Reply
    • Sweentasia

      I don’t mind the term Post Mormon. I also have an artsy soul (Humanities major, watcha gonna do?), so I think it has a nice ring to it. In my post though, what I was more or less driving at is, for my feelings and experiences, there isn’t a term or label that exactly encapsulates where I find myself in my big ol’ messy life journey. It’s easy to think of faith transitions as a neat set of steps or stages you go through until you come out on the other side, battered, worn, but wiser and happier. And that’s probably true for some people. But I think a lot of the time, we can experience a stage, pass on to another, then another, then fall back a step or two, maybe skip ahead a few… much like there’s no wrong way to eat a Reeses, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to go through a personal renaissance, be it religious or otherwise. We’re all constantly changing, and change knows no concrete formula. I’m sometimes find this scary, but often times, it’s a relief. I don’t have to have it all figured out today, tomorrow, or by any set time limit but my own. I may never figured it out, never settle in a permanent home of knowledge or certainty, but little by little, I’m coming to terms with that fact and just trying to find peace in the present. It’s this effort to let go of having to “know” or “be” certain that makes it easier to let go of having to define myself in relation to Mormonism. I’m glad the poem helped you feel less alone; I’ve felt that way too while reading others’ writings. It’s nice to know those of us who “stray” from the path aren’t necessarily lost, and that, at the very least, we’re in good company!

      Reply

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