Religion VS Spirituality
Updated: May 2, 2020
Disclaimer: the following opinions are solely based on my own personal experiences with religion and my newfound spirituality so I mean no offense to any people of religious faith, or to any religions in general.
Many people often ask me what I believe in since leaving Mormonism. To understand where I’m coming from I will explain a little bit about what Mormons believe. They claim to be the only true Church, restored entirely by Joseph Smith in the 1800s by revelation and the visitation of Jesus and God among other angels. They believe in the Bible (as far as it is translated correctly) and the Book of Mormon (I’ll refer to it as the BOM) which is another testament of Jesus Christ. A book that Joseph Smith is said to have translated from sacred gold plates that were buried in New York state and according to him, the most correct book on the face of the Earth.
It should be noted that the Mormon church’s official name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka LDS). Therefore, they claim to be Christians who just believe additional information (from the BOM) brought forth by Joseph Smith and now, other current prophets of the Church. I myself used this argument frequently once I moved to Portland, Oregon from Utah my senior year of high school. Never had I ever been asked so many questions about Mormonism, because in the small town in Utah where I grew up, most everyone was Mormon.
I would tell people, “Don’t listen to the polygamy rumors. Mormons don’t practice polygamy anymore. That stopped over 100 years ago. We are just Cristians who believe the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.” I fought tooth and nail to convince my peers that I was “normal” and not weird, contrary to popular belief in that school. I was already the new girl from Utah, I didn’t need any more labels going against me.
It was the first time I felt like I was out of place as a Mormon. The first time I felt all eyes on me but not necessarily in a good way. However, I stuck to it! I felt strongly that the Church was true and even though I still wanted to wear my “immodest” short shorts and tank tops to the new school with no dress code (liberation!) I still read the BOM and prayed every night.
I won’t get into too much detail as to what finally tipped me off into looking into Mormon history (a post for another day) but I will say that once I realized all the lies and hidden agendas within the foundation of the Church I was devastated. Things such as, Joseph Smith had over 40 wives, some of which were only 14 years old when he was in his late 30s. Also the fact that Emma his first wife didn't approve of this whatsoever and started her own version of the church right after Joseph died.
We were taught in church that polygamy was commanded of God back then when there was a shortage of men, and women needed protecting. Taught that it wasn’t a sexual thing. Come to find out, Jospeh Smith would send men on missions to preach the gospel, then marry their wives. When the men returned he wouldn’t give them back. Also, from many journal entries, it’s proven that he did in fact have sex with almost all of these women and would even threaten them with the wrath of God if they didn’t comply. Yikes!
If God was planning to restore the ONLY true church back to the Earth, wouldn’t he pick someone a little more… I don’t know… righteous? However, polygamy wasn’t my only concern. I found out that the Book of Abraham (included in the BOM) which is an Egyptian papyri Joseph Smith purchased from a traveling mummy show, was completely mistranslated. It was one of the books I could never really get into or understand, but I accepted it. It was supposed to be written by Abraham and disclose secrets about God and pre-mortal existence. Well, Egyptologists have since recovered the papyri and retranslated it. Turns out it has absolutely nothing to do with a guy named Abraham and is nothing more than a common funerary text from ancient Egypt. See below, the first picture is the actual papyri showing how Joseph Smith drew in the missing picture, VS the one on the right that shows what it should've been.
I could go on and on about the inconsistencies, lack of evidence of the BOM, racism, ordered genocide and more about the Church which caused me to throw my hands up in the air, but again, a topic for another day.
WHAT IS TRUTH AND WHAT IS DOCTRINE?
All of this is important because I want you to know that when Mormonism crumbled in my life, so did everything. During my recent zoom call with Ashley Easter (an abuse and religious cult survivor and advocate) she put it so perfectly. Life was like playing Jenga and removing religion was like taking out a piece from the bottom of the tower. It all comes tumbling down. Or you could say I just smashed the whole game.
I questioned everything. Since Mormonism is so intertwined with Christianity I had to start from scratch. Is Jesus real? Is God real? What was most confusing is that I had experienced so many “miracles” and blessings that were very real in my life. That’s why I had such a strong testimony of Mormonism. What I eventually had to realize is that those spiritual experiences were definitely very real, but they were not confirmation of Mormonism, they were confirmation of God or a higher power.
Now it started to make sense. I opened myself up to learning from other sources which was strictly prohibited in the Church. We weren’t allowed to seek advice from or read up on anything that wasn’t from the Church or written by its members. It’s why so many people just go on living in the dark, because they are taught that anything that sounds “anti-Mormon” is directly from Satan and those who write it are possessed by Satan. Seriously, I’m not making this up. That is why it is so incredibly difficult for people to leave the Church. I remember being terrified for months after uncovering this damning information. Am I possessed by Satan? Am I going to Hell now? What if Mormonism IS true? We were taught that knowing the truth, then turning your back on it is worse than never knowing God at all. In God’s eyes, it was a worse sin than murder.
What I came to realize was that this entire religion is based on fear, shame, guilt and control. Once I saw it for what it was, I was free.
SO NOW WHAT?
Well, I believed in a higher power, but anytime I heard the word God I was
triggered with the guilt and shaming I was programmed with my whole life. The God in religion is an almighty judge who sits atop a throne in the sky and decides who goes to Heaven and Hell. God is male. We are created in his image, so he must be a man. He can be merciful but only if we bow down and submit to His glory. God condemns homosexuality, premarital sex and in some interpretations, people who are left-handed. What I did know is that Jesus preached love. Unconditional, unbridled acceptance and love. He went out of his way to help the sinners, the unclean, the ones who needed it most. This God that religion paints a picture of, doesn’t seem to match the teachings of Jesus.
I decided that I would call God, Universe. It was genderless, it didn’t hold any negative psychological triggers and it was all inclusive. It didn’t mean I was a Scientologist. It didn’t mean that I literally worshipped Saturn. It was just a term that was all inclusive of all that ever was, all that ever will be, and universal love. I did however, start seeing it from a more scientific perspective. I was learning about the Quantum field, how we are all literally just vibration and energy on a molecular level and how we all have this Source energy within us. It felt right. It made sense. It made me feel happy and loved and not shameful and guilty.
I was finally living the life I wanted to live without the shame that I was doing something wrong or that some dude on a throne in the sky was judging my every action. It doesn’t mean I was turning to Satan or being a bad person. It just meant that I was finally an unapologetically me without anyone telling me I was wrong. I could wear anything I wanted and not feel dirty or unworthy. On the flip side, I also had to create my own moral compass, now that I was no longer following the religious one.
I learned my own limits. I lived my life based on my own inner conscious and feelings and became more aware of it in general. When I was Mormon, I mostly just followed what other people told me. I was rarely relying on myself for what was considered right or wrong. Now that I had to find my own boundaries, it was liberating and empowering to be able to find those limits within myself. If something felt off or wrong, I wouldn’t do it. Or if I did, I would realize my mistake and rather than feeling ashamed about it, I would work through it and promise myself I would do better. I was creating my own accountability rather than relying on an authority of God, or God himself.
A few years later, a mentor of mine reminded me that God doesn’t have to be a big scary man on a throne. God by definition is:
“The Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped (as in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism) as creator and ruler of the universe”
Well that doesn’t sound like a ruthless judge. I think what happens is that religions tend to dictate and illustrate God to be something that fits their own agendas. I can’t speak for all Christian religions because I only grew up in a half Christian-ish faith. In Mormonism, God commanded all of the rules through the modern day prophets. Which meant that getting tattoos, showing your shoulders as a woman, drinking coffee, having any sort of sexual encounter with someone besides kissing, acting on homosexuality (including kissing or holding hands) was all going against God himself. These weren’t “policies” the Church had, they were commandments and punishable within the Church. If they were simply policies, I don’t think as many people would be scared into following them. However, when you put someone’s salvation on the line, that’s a different story.
Now that I know I can still pray to a higher power, receive blessings and give thanks without the image of a ruthless judge, I have a much healthier relationship with God. It is not one based in fear, but one based in love. All of my spiritual experiences I had within Mormonism are still there shining brightly in my mind. It’s just that now, they aren’t accompanied with a perceived golden ticket to heaven.
If you made it this far, thank you for listening. This was definitely a longer post but it all just came pouring out of me which tells me it might be because someone else needs to hear it. I’m not here to bash religion, as I think it can do a lot of good for people. However, for me personally, I am much happier relying on a God who is unconditional love and acceptance at its core and a God who can trust me to use my own intuition and consciousness to make healthy decisions in my life.
With that said, Amen!
P.S. If you are struggling with the Mormon faith, a few great sources for reliable information are: Mormonstories.org , Mormon Discussions Podcast & Not So Molly Mormon Podcast
I'm also happy to help and answer any questions I can.