From A Teen—"My Awakening" From 13-18 years-old

My name is Simon, and I was raised as a Mormon.

Although this religion may not be as mainstream Christian as others, it still holds many similarities. In fact, Mormon’s consider themselves Christian, as they believe and defer to Christ in all teachings. My extended family, from my dad’s side and my mom’s, have been Mormons almost as long as it’s been around. So, our families have been in the church for a long time. It is a legacy of faith. Something our families are very proud of. Unfortunately, that meant making the decision to leave would be met with much resistance. After fifteen years living as an active Latter-day Saint, aka Mormon, my family decided to leave. For my parents it had been forty-plus years, their entire lives.

My dad was the first to begin questioning. We were taught this religion was really “the one and only” true religion on the planet. My dad questioned the beliefs and doctrines for ten years without our knowledge, but my mom was devoted and active. When I was fourteen, my dad first started asking me questions showing his skepticism. His arguments were valid, and so I too begin questioning the institution's credibility. I hold that logic and ability to question dear to my heart as one of my greatest strengths.

My dad and I discussed how much of the Mormon religion’s history has been whitewashed or excused. This is a severe lack of responsibility for their very dark past. As a member you are not taught about the ugly details. In my parent’s youth, the past was painted as though the leaders were martyrs and none of it was true. In my youth, they cherry-picked information and taught us to believe the leaders “made mistakes” because they were human, and we should be forgiving because God only has flawed tools to work with. When you’re a tithe paying, temple worthy-going member in this institution, you are taught not to examine the beliefs, history, or doctrine from outside sources, as you can be deceived by the devil. It becomes extremely difficult, nearly impossible, to look at it from the outside.

The ability to see the Mormon Church at face value is a mental process firm believer’s refuse to do. I used to be one of those people, so I know where they are coming from. However, over time, as I allowed myself to question and listen to my dad’s arguments, the conflicting information, straight out lies, and lack of transparency opened my eyes. We all did in my family mostly. My mom struggled the most.

One example that really bothered me is how the Mormon Church from 1849 to 1978 restricted African American (BIPOC) men to be ordained into the Priesthood, the believed power of God given to worthy men to act in his name. In church, they taught consistently how God fervently “loved each and every one of His children.” It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t fair. Furthermore, they also taught how BIPOC people were of color because of their wickedness. Dark skin was a curse. Fairness did not exist for over a hundred years for BIPOC peoples. The two teachings don’t align.

Unfortunately, this prophecy wasn’t even an original idea. In 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. This act finally gave the minorities of the USA a way to fight back against the racism and prejudice of the era. However, being a very traditionalist system, the LDS church waited fourteen years after this signing to uphold the law through religious loopholes.

This and the harmful teachings that affected my mental health became focal points for my doubts. I did not fear consequences, so I asked the heavy questions in Sunday School (a class held on Sundays for Mormon youth) where the Church’s history and core beliefs were taught. One of the youth leaders acted like an apologist and avoided giving real answers. Every response he gave had no true value. His focus defended the Church instead of helping me make sense of my doubts. “Faith is the most important thing,” he would say, suggesting I needed more of it, so I wouldn't have questions. That only helped me realize how untrue it was. My mission evolved to helping my peers become independent and break free from the blind obedience we were taught to have from as early as four years-old.

Eventually, my family stopped going to Church.

We moved on to try other mainstream religions. The more I attended different institutions, though, the more I began to stop believing religion altogether. From megachurches to local denominations, Catholic to New Generation Christianity, none felt right. They were not much different. People saying you should be this way, and to not do this. There was not much personal freedom to think and act without someone telling you what right and wrong were. My dad felt similar.

Through my dad’s search for meaning to replace the large hole left behind from leaving the Mormon church, he discovered Secular Buddhism, and we as a family tried it. During family rides in the car, we would listen to a podcast by Noah Rasheta. Our family isn’t great at being quiet and attentive during car rides, though. A family of six meant, four kids in cramped spaces; a fight was destined to break out, and it always did.

On my own, I came across Atheism and Humanism. After no religion made sense, these stuck out to me. It took a while, but I have decided I was, and am, an Atheist as well as a Humanist. To believe in Humanity itself was extremely appealing to me, as I didn’t believe a specific higher power existed, whether that be an old man, the universe, or whatever.

However, I miss the Mormon Community. They were incredibly strong and close-knit. We even referred to each other as “Brothers and Sisters.” Every week the youth would gather and do activities together. I loved that. I made my first friends in this area through the Mormon church. But after my family left, no one talked to me. It’s like we were cut off and didn’t exist anymore. I miss them. Why did they stop being my friends? People stopped reaching out. People stopped talking with me at school. My best friend faded to an acquaintance. He’s on a mission now for the Mormon Church, and I joined the Marines.

Going on a Mission in the Mormon Faith is required for young men. If you don’t go on one, there is a lot of judgement unspoken and spoken. Even though my family left, and I don’t believe in it, I have family and still bump into people from that old community that do believe. It took a lot for me to get past the judgement I felt and sometimes feel from people who still belong to the Mormon Church. I can finally say now, however, my decision to join the Marines is me pursuing what I want without letting the opinion of others get in the way. And that's what life should be. Us choosing our path, our life.

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