Women Beyond Faith

Meet Charisse -- The Existential Ginger

April 20, 2021 Leah Janet Season 4 Episode 5
Women Beyond Faith
Meet Charisse -- The Existential Ginger
Chapters
Women Beyond Faith
Meet Charisse -- The Existential Ginger
Apr 20, 2021 Season 4 Episode 5
Leah Janet

Charisse, born and raised in northern Utah, was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormonism) until 2017.  An abrupt divorce plunged her head-first into an existential crisis, leading her to walk away from the LDS faith and community.

Leaving religion changed everything for Charisse - how she looked at herself and others -- she contemplated her very existence.

She's been working on healing and navigating the religious trauma associated with those years in the church. One of the means Charisse has utilized to help process the trauma is The Existential Ginger podcast and platform. This platform provides a means for Charisse to share not only her voice -- but also the voices of others who find themselves on a similar journey. 

This Existential Ginger currently lives in Southern PA with her 3 four-legged pals (2 cats and a dog). She works as a Beer Sales Rep by day.  

You can find out more about Charisse at https://linktr.ee/theexistentialginger.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=8739294)

Show Notes Transcript

Charisse, born and raised in northern Utah, was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormonism) until 2017.  An abrupt divorce plunged her head-first into an existential crisis, leading her to walk away from the LDS faith and community.

Leaving religion changed everything for Charisse - how she looked at herself and others -- she contemplated her very existence.

She's been working on healing and navigating the religious trauma associated with those years in the church. One of the means Charisse has utilized to help process the trauma is The Existential Ginger podcast and platform. This platform provides a means for Charisse to share not only her voice -- but also the voices of others who find themselves on a similar journey. 

This Existential Ginger currently lives in Southern PA with her 3 four-legged pals (2 cats and a dog). She works as a Beer Sales Rep by day.  

You can find out more about Charisse at https://linktr.ee/theexistentialginger.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=8739294)

Unknown Speaker  0:13  
Welcome to women beyond faith, where we are finding freedom on the other side, one story at a time.

Unknown Speaker  0:22  
For women who have walked away from faith, the challenges are often overwhelming, isolated, abandoned by family, misunderstood by partners, ostracized by friends, shamed for thinking critically, cursed for speaking out subdued by the patriarchy.

Unknown Speaker  0:42  
Thank you for joining us today, as we provide a platform for women to speak up, to speak out and to share their stories, because their stories count their stories matter.

Unknown Speaker  1:01  
Ladies and gentlemen, here we find ourselves on a weekday evening about 7pm Eastern Standard Time. I'm in Ohio,

Unknown Speaker  1:11  
Cincinnati, Ohio to be exact, and I have the extreme privilege and delight to be able to have a conversation tonight with the existential ginger. Sharif Teresa, welcome to women beyond faith. Hi, thank you. I'm so happy to be here. It's a delight to be able to talk with you. And I am super excited to hear your story. As I mentioned to you, before we started recording, I have yet to have a woman who grew up in the Mormon faith. So I myself,

Unknown Speaker  1:50  
early on in my deconstruction listened to Mormon stories with john Delaney, john Dylan,

Unknown Speaker  1:57  
whatever his name is, for a very long time, because it was a safe space for me to find myself. I didn't have to listen to deconstruction stories of evangelical folks, but it could be Mormon folks, because they were not true Christians in the circles in which I found myself at the time, which is so funny.

Unknown Speaker  2:17  
But I get it, I totally get it. Yeah. And I mean, like for you from a Mormon perspective, you probably think the same things about us as evangelicals, right? Like, I don't know, like, Did you think that we were not necessarily true Christians? I don't think like my viewpoint on other people who followed Jesus in one capacity or another is we were all Christians, like, I very much considered myself a Christian woman when I was Mormon. But I know that most of the Christian community does not endorse Mormonism as Christian. So it's, it's just so funny. Like, it's in my attitude growing up was like, oh, like, that's really cool that they follow Jesus. They just, you know, they just don't have all the truth. Like, that's cute. Like they're trying, you know, Oh, my God.

Unknown Speaker  3:07  
That's cute. Yeah, that's gentle. And that sweet? I don't think I felt like that was cute. From the evangelist perspective, which I found myself. I think it was more like, like more of a pity perspective, like, oh, my goodness, like, they're so misguided here in these teachings of Joseph Smith, who, by the way, I grew up and I was born and raised in an area about less than two hours from where Joseph Smith lived as a Wow. So um, but I don't remember ever hearing anything about Mormonism as a kid. But like, Yeah, he's kind of my, I don't know, like, fellow. I don't even know, what would be a good term, um, New York Stadion. You know? Yeah. Um, but yeah, so like, I when I was first introduced to Mormonism, I definitely thought y'all had some really fucked up perspectives. And I like, how can you guys not see that this is fucked up? You know, like, but then when I now this side of faith, like take a turn around and like, look at what I believed. It's like no different. You know, it's all fucked up. All religion has fun is fucked up to some degree or another, right? Oh, absolutely. I actually was having a conversation with someone that used to be a Jehovah's Witness not that long ago. And we were saying the same thing because she was like, I always looked from my Jehovah's Witness congregation at Mormonism and it was like, oh, should we tell them they're in a cult? Like, should we should we tell them and then me as a Mormon was, I was always looking at Jehovah's Witnesses being like, Oh my gosh, do you think they know they're in a cult but that's so sad. Oh, no.

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
We were just laughing because it's like,

Unknown Speaker  5:02  
spoiler alert. We were both in cold.

Unknown Speaker  5:08  
Yeah. And that's so clearly obvious this side of faith. Now, yeah, those those loved family members and friends that I have who are still in to some degree or another. Like, it's just like, how can you not see that you are and have been deceived and continue to be deceived, right. It's so clear and so obvious from my perspective, at this point in my journey, but it wasn't always so. You know? Yeah. Well, so. So, mysteries, tell me about the family, to which you were born into, like, Where? What was the faith in which you guys found yourself? And do you have siblings, all that kind of good stuff? Oh, boy, we're really getting into the root story here.

Unknown Speaker  5:59  
So I was born in northern Utah, I grew up pretty much in the Salt Lake Valley.

Unknown Speaker  6:08  
And I was born into the Mormon faith. So in Mormonism, we call that being born in the covenant, which basically just means that my parents were married in a Mormon temple. Before me and my sister were born, and then both sets of grandparents, both sets of great grandparents, both sets of great great grandparents. Oh, I, yeah, I was a multi generational Mormon. My ancestors were Mormon pioneers that pulled handcarts across the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley. So like when I say Mormonism is in my blood, it literally is in my blood. Wow. Yeah. And I mean, as, as the stereotype goes, most of Utah is predominantly made up of white Mormon families.

Unknown Speaker  7:01  
And I do have one older sister, she's five years older than me. And we've always been very close.

Unknown Speaker  7:09  
And I always say, like, my childhood was wonderful. Like, it really was. And obviously, growing up, I mean, you don't realize the abnormalities of your family until you really become an adult. Because, I mean, what you're growing up in just seems normal.

Unknown Speaker  7:34  
And so everyone around me was Mormon, everyone, all of our neighbors were Mormon, we had a few like non Mormon neighbors. But the vast majority of I mean, the people, I went to school with the people that I saw at the grocery store, the people that I, my friends that I played with, like, everyone was Mormon, so you're completely immersed in, in the community, and we don't live in like compounds or anything like that. That's a very common misconception, um, but the community, like, overwhelmingly, was religious and was all the same religion. And so there just really was a huge lack of diversity in any sense of the word. When I was growing up, even though I did have like, a wonderful childhood, you know, I grew up upper middle class, very privileged.

Unknown Speaker  8:27  
never wanted for anything. My family always had the means to provide for us. And so I looking back, I'm like, I can't really complain, like, I had a great upbringing.

Unknown Speaker  8:39  
But the indoctrination truly does start, like, immediately.

Unknown Speaker  8:47  
So it's, it's it is weird looking back in that aspect, because I can remember being literally four and five years old. And learning like, you know, when you're a mom, not if you're a mom, but when you're a mom. So when you're a mom, and you have kids of your own, and you know when you get married in the temple, because it's just implied, like you will get married, you will have children because that is God's way. And you that's just drilled into you from the time that you can walk and talk and comprehend. Wow.

Unknown Speaker  9:21  
And were your grandparents close by. So like, it wasn't just you and your sister and your parents, but like you, you also had like these roots, these generational roots that we're also encouraging you or living the life living the Mormon life. out loud. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Um, my both sets of grandparents lived relatively close. Most of my extended family lived in Utah. There are a few exceptions to that. And interestingly,

Unknown Speaker  9:53  
the majority of extended family that was not Mormon didn't live in Utah. Like there's a very

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
direct correlation there. That's kind of interesting away from the crazy. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  10:06  
Utah's wonderful, it's just, you know, very, very heavily influenced by the Mormon culture. Yeah, we I have, my mom is remarried and her husband's oldest son and family wife moved to Park City, Utah. Like out of college, like, he got a job they're working for, like enterprise industries or something. And they live there for a little while, like, I think their kids started elementary school, but they were like we are. So they're they're Catholic. Their background is Catholic, but they're like, we are so surrounded by Mormons that we don't want our kids to grow up in this environment, like we need to get out of here. So they moved to like, like Minnesota, I always get it mixed up Minnesota, Wisconsin, or somewhere in order to be removed from the Mormon culture that they found themselves swimming in during their time in Utah. Yes, yeah. I can't say I really blame them. And I feel I feel so so bad for people that grew up, especially within my specific community in northern Utah.

Unknown Speaker  11:17  
But weren't Mormon because our attitude in the church was, either they're a missionary opportunity, or they're a bad influence, like, those are the two options. So we either try to convert them, and if they won't convert, well, then like, we gotta avoid the appearance of evil. And we can still be nice to them. But we probably don't want to associate associate with them too much. Oh, my gosh. And then like, for my kids perspective, right. Like, you don't understand why your neighbors are ostracizing you or attempting to convert you to their religion. You know, like, you're just trying to, I had a friend today, we met for a walk at the park and she was talking, she's a former evangelical as well. And like her, she has a 15 year old, special needs child and like he brought home the song that he had heard about at school, and was sharing it with her and they were like, singing out loud. And it was like a Christian worship song. And she was like, Leah was so good. Like, the beat was great. And like, the melody was great. But then like, before too long, he started asking questions like, Mom, like, What's wrong with me? Like, I need to do what they're telling me to do here in this song. Like, is there something wrong with me? And she's like, I just kind of took a new look about her at, you know, him, allowing him to listen to worship music, because it was questioning whether or not he was a okay the way that he was. And like, that's a shitty feeling like as a kid, right? like to think that there because when I grew up, my story is such that my parents were

Unknown Speaker  12:53  
basically

Unknown Speaker  12:55  
agnostics, and kind of like hippie folks. But my dad's my father's parents, my paternal grandparents were like these super religious, Home Church, Southern Baptist folks. And so I was introduced to religion through them, right. And I always felt like I was lesser than because like, I didn't believe what they believed. And like, I needed to believe what they believe in order to be full, and fully human, and like acceptable in God's sight. And I did end up choosing that, you know, when I went off to college, like I like, there was just always this like, insecurity and like, lesser than feelings I felt

Unknown Speaker  13:40  
due to the indoctrination that I had when I was in their presence, right? And so like, yeah, that's, that's tough for people who must be living in your Mormon neighborhood who don't line up with your Mormon faith, for sure. I mean, I got a very, very small taste of it when I left and still lived in Utah. And it was not fun. So I can't imagine especially like you said, being a child and an adolescent and just feeling like you don't belong like that. Nobody wants that feeling. Yeah. So your brand of Mormonism, right? Like I know there's there's a whole spectrum, right super conservative, I don't know where like the polygamy piece would fall onto that spectrum. And then like my, my one daughter, who has been exposed to numerous Mormon families, like you know, there are there are those who are okay, drinking coffee and Mountain Dew and tea. Right. So like, Where did your family fall on that spectrum?

Unknown Speaker  14:44  
So, yes, there is a bit of a spectrum I will say the mainstream mormon church show its formal name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That is the one that was founded by Joseph Smith. The mainstream mormon church does not

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
Practice polygamy on this earth, I always have to qualify that statement. And I can I can kind of explain that if you want. Please, please. So, um, the, the way that I was raised and what, again, the mainstream Mormon Church teaches, is,

Unknown Speaker  15:21  
I mean, basically, at the beginning of the church and Joseph Smith's time in the mid to late 1800s, up until I believe, the early 1900s. When the pioneers had settled, Utah, they did practice polygamy, so lots of wives, there's lots of sketchy shit going on, people were sending men on missions and then re marrying their wives like it was it was not good. Well, and the pioneers wanted Utah to become a state because it was just out in the wild west, right. And the United States government was like, um, you guys are polygamous, and that's illegal. So we don't want you. And so the Mormon Church conveniently received revelation supposedly, from God in the early 1900s, to not practice polygamy anymore. And then, subsequently, Utah was accepted into the United States. So there were break offs from that, like the fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. That's Warren Jeffs, the compounds that are down in southern Utah and like Colorado city that were on the news, a while back. So that's a break off of the mainstream mormon church that still practices polygamy. But the church that I was raised in believes that men can be sealed. Now a sealing like sealing an envelope is the Mormon temple ceremony that binds people together for eternity. So it's like a marriage that transcends death, right. So a man can be sealed to as many women as he can. I don't know. Find.

Unknown Speaker  17:06  
But a woman can only be sealed ever to one man. Oh, my goodness. Yes. So this was actually like a huge breaking point for me with my own faith, because I'm divorced.

Unknown Speaker  17:22  
And when I got divorced, I was married in the Mormon church to my husband, and when we got divorced, I mean, I had paperwork from a judge saying, like, you guys aren't married anymore. You're not legally bound to each other in any way. But I was still sealed to him. So the Mormon belief was that when we die, I would still be his wife, I would have to go back to him and I couldn't marry another man. In between that unless I got permission from the Prophet, which just seemed very, like weird and patriarchal and controlling. And culty. Yes. Yeah. Okay. So

Unknown Speaker  18:04  
according to the bio that you sent me, your shift in belief kind of started to trickle starting to take place after this divorce took place. Is that correct? I mean, they were pretty simultaneous. My divorce, and my exodus from the Mormon faith were. Yeah, it was, it was a bit of a shit show. Okay. Um, so I guess long story short, my, my husband and I got married when we were, I was 21. He was 22. We were very young.

Unknown Speaker  18:41  
We were childhood friends. We've known each other forever. But we were not compatible. We just didn't realize that. So we'd been very, I mean, like I said, I learned from the time I was four or five years old, like you're going to get married, you're going to be a mom, this is God's plan. So

Unknown Speaker  18:59  
we got married without ever really like asking ourselves if we wanted the same things, if we liked the same things be compatible. And so our marriage was just very difficult. It was it was rough. And at one point, he had had an affair. And we had gone to see our Bishop, which is the leader of the local church congregation in Mormonism. He's the ecclesiastical leader. And

Unknown Speaker  19:30  
he had given me a priesthood blessing. So like the laying on of hands where he can speak on God's behalf directly to me and said something to the effect of

Unknown Speaker  19:42  
you have there are children waiting to come to earth through this marriage. They're rooting for you. Hmm. And so that to me, was just like, Okay. God has a plan. I am supposed to stay in this marriage. I'm supposed to be

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
devoted to my husband because we have kids waiting for us. Goodness. Yeah. So when my husband came to me a few years after that and said, Hey,

Unknown Speaker  20:13  
God has told me that I'm supposed to divorce you. Like, he'd I, it's out of my hands. That's what God said. I had lots of questions, because I was like, Well, first of all, I thought, God, God told me that we were supposed to have kids together. So this is very confusing. Uh huh. Um, and so all of this started to kind of unravel. And I started to see, I guess the,

Unknown Speaker  20:44  
the blinders started to come off, and I started to see that I had really been very manipulated.

Unknown Speaker  20:53  
And that there was a lot of religious abuse happening. Hmm. And that I had basically been, I mean, we both had been pressured to stay in a marriage that was toxic. And I don't know, maybe God did tell my husband to divorce me. I don't know. I just that was like, that was the moment that I was like, Okay, what, what is going on? None of this makes sense. Because you were not you did not sense those same

Unknown Speaker  21:24  
feelings from God, he was not telling you no husband. I mean, if anything, I got like, you need to stay with your husband. Like, you know, divorce is not considered a sin in the Mormon Church like it is in some other faiths.

Unknown Speaker  21:39  
It, divorce happens, but I felt very, very strongly that like, God wanted our marriage to work out. He had blessed it from the beginning, like, I really felt like I had gotten on my side and on our marriages side. So when my husband told me a different story, the first thing I did, after that conversation was prayed. And I was just like, all right, like, help me out God, like, What is going on? Is his husband like, full of shit? Is he just lying? Or like, I need you to tell me what's going on. And really, the only way I can describe it is there was not just like silence, but like a lack of anything.

Unknown Speaker  22:24  
I had never felt so alone in my entire life. I had never felt so isolated and unacknowledged. And I started playing all of the Mormon narratives through my head of like, well, it's okay. You know, God answers prayers. He just answers them in his time, right? But it's got to be patient.

Unknown Speaker  22:44  
And this was an on. I mean, it just went on and on for weeks and weeks and weeks, as I went through a horribly painful and

Unknown Speaker  22:56  
not civil divorce. And

Unknown Speaker  23:02  
I mean, essentially, I ended up hitting complete rock bottom, and tried to take my own life at one point, because I just, I wasn't feeling anything from this divine being that I thought had encouraged me to stay in this marriage, because

Unknown Speaker  23:23  
it's hard to explain to people like they're like, well,

Unknown Speaker  23:26  
the bishop, like could have just been saying that. But for me, like, the bishop was speaking on behalf of God, like they were almost like synonymous. Right? So I took that as gospel.

Unknown Speaker  23:43  
And, thankfully, I mean, I'm,

Unknown Speaker  23:46  
I'm still here. I'm very, I'm very glad for that. Yes, but

Unknown Speaker  23:52  
that was kind of the end all be all, like coming out of that experience. And just being like, you know, I looked at religion and what I've been taught through a very logical lens, for the first time maybe ever, yeah.

Unknown Speaker  24:10  
And it just simply didn't make sense to me anymore. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  24:15  
So like,

Unknown Speaker  24:19  
were you able to talk to anyone during this time? Like, did you have like mentors or people in your life your mother? I don't know, like a prophet test or someone that you could go to with these concerns and be like, Listen, I'm not hearing the same things that my husband says he's hearing from God. Like, Was there anyone to kind of check that for you? Or were you pretty much all alone during this time? I mean, I would say based on my experience, and people that I know that have gotten divorced, I mean, it just is a very lonely, horrible experience.

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
But I will say, Yeah, I absolutely do. I can find it in family members, I can find it in France, I can find it in my Bishop who has a different bishop. Because we were in a different congregation at that time, but I have even said like, okay, the other Bishop said this. And now I, you know, it's weird. I feel like God is ignoring me, or something. And they all I mean, again, it's, it's the narratives almost verbatim. They always say the same thing like, oh, Sharif, it's okay. It's okay. God has a plan, and we don't have all the answers. God has the answers. It's all gonna work out in the end.

Unknown Speaker  25:39  
And you just need to keep praying, you need to keep praying, you need to keep going to church, you need to keep being a good Mormon, and it's all going to work out and I was like, Okay, I get that, like, I get no supreme beings probably don't work on our timetables.

Unknown Speaker  25:54  
But I just couldn't wrap my head around

Unknown Speaker  25:58  
a heavenly,

Unknown Speaker  26:02  
celestial fatherly figure, intentionally ignoring his daughter in complete anguish and pain. That was something I couldn't wrap my head around and crying out to him in the yes there and hearing nothing, no guidance. Right. Right. And at one point, I had confided in a family member and this family member said, Well, you know,

Unknown Speaker  26:32  
even even the Savior, even Jesus, you know,

Unknown Speaker  26:38  
was left alone for in the garden of disharmony for a while and had the spirit withdrawn from him so that he could experience true pain. So I just think the Lord is testing you. kind of thing. And I was like, what a narcissistic, like, piece of garbage deity. To do that, like, I'm sorry. And like, I remember thinking at the time, like sris, you're being so blasphemous, like, Don't think that way. But seriously, I just couldn't I was like, what kind of what kind of a deity does this right? When his child is crying out to him for answers and understanding and you're ignoring her to teach her some kind of lesson about how to feel pain and lonely? Wait, yeah, it makes zero sense. And it makes me so sad to think that that's the kind of God that so many people believe that we should be worshipping and bowing to, right when it's like, wait, I would never treat my own children in that manner. Right. So why would the God of all Heavens and the God that is perfect and Justin right, why would he be treating his children?

Unknown Speaker  27:59  
In that, right? No, like, it just doesn't make any any sense. And, and like the, I can relate to the Oh, I don't know what a good word is. But like the disregard of your feelings and your emotions, how they were just like, kind of like explained away by bs nonsensical, true set the faith perceives to be true. Oh, spiritual, bypassing. That's absolutely what it was this dream like, I don't know. What's the right word for it? Yeah. Like we're not ever answering I like like, during my Christian years, which lasted about 20 to 20 years, two decades.

Unknown Speaker  28:40  
Now, maybe not quite that long. But it's true felt with a whole hell of a lot longer than that. Like all of the questions that I would go to my leaders, with my pastors with my Sunday school teachers with a distant makes sense to me. They were always explained away. Like Leah, we do not understand the ways of God, His ways are altogether different than ours. But we have no and we trust that he is a good God. And he has our best interest in mind. You know, and I would just listen to be like, okay, okay.

Unknown Speaker  29:16  
That is absolutely the narrative that played through my mind. And I'm like, I'm embarrassed and I'm quite frankly ashamed, looking back, because I remember feeling a lot of conflict, a lot of cognitive dissonance, what I would see, you know, church history on how black indigenous people of color were treated within the religion, how the LGBTQ plus community was treated. I mean, I was in college when proposition eight was happening in California. And I remember being like, why is my church spending money to for like, legislation in a different state? Like, I had a lot of conflict but that was the narrative that

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
helped me and was I was like, You know what? sris you got to stop worrying about it. Like God has a plan. And it's all gonna work out in the end, and you just need to trust. It really wasn't until

Unknown Speaker  30:14  
the lack of understanding was more deeply personal, that I could no longer do the mental gymnastics. I just couldn't do it anymore. Wow. So how long ago was it that your husband came to you and said, Sheree? So I feel like God is telling us that telling me that we need to divorce. That was almost four years ago, almost four years ago. Okay, so, damn girl.

Unknown Speaker  30:42  
journey in the last four years? Yes.

Unknown Speaker  30:46  
So you're not hearing those same things that your husband is hearing from God. So how did that end up all playing out in your life, then? You're obviously divorced today? Yes. Okay. So, um, it was, I mean, essentially, after the hospitalization, that there was a huge reality check. Wow.

Unknown Speaker  31:15  
And I stayed very quiet about it, about my decision to leave the church. Because that decision was essentially made while I was in the hospital. And I thought, you know, what I'm not in obviously, not in the most rational frame of mind. And so I feel like this is a good decision, but I'm gonna sit on it before I tell anyone or do anything with it.

Unknown Speaker  31:41  
So a few weeks went by, and I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover,

Unknown Speaker  31:49  
I bought a different version of the Bible than the Mormon King James version that I'd always read and kind of started reading them side by side and seeing some conflict. And

Unknown Speaker  32:03  
I don't know, it was just, it was a huge.

Unknown Speaker  32:07  
Like,

Unknown Speaker  32:10  
it was a, I'm pretty sure I've made this decision. But I want to make absolute Sure. Because, for me, there was no option to leave Mormonism behind and retain any sort of belief in God. And I know that's really hard. For some people, there are a lot of people that leave Mormonism and go to other Christian denominations, or convert to other sects of Christianity.

Unknown Speaker  32:39  
It just wasn't an option for me, they were very much tied together. And so I wanted to be absolutely sure that I knew what I was doing.

Unknown Speaker  32:50  
And ultimately, I just was like, you know, I will never be 100% sure, unless I crossed that threshold.

Unknown Speaker  33:01  
Um, and leave this behind, and face the fear of all of the things that I've been told about people that leave religion or leave the Mormon Church, that they're evil, that they're lazy, that they're wicked, that they just want to sin, you know, all of these narratives, but so I was really, really afraid because I was like, Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna become like, the thing that I've been told to fear.

Unknown Speaker  33:26  
But I just decided to embrace it at one point, and I haven't really looked back since.

Unknown Speaker  33:36  
I mean, did you have anyone that you were talking to at this time, like, like your sister or your parents, or were you were you doing this all? Pretty much alone? I did have a therapist who, ironically, was a member of the Mormon church. And

Unknown Speaker  33:56  
I have to give him props. Because I think that, obviously, therapists are supposed to set aside their own biases and their own opinions. But I mean, he was really the one that was like, yeah, this doesn't seem like it's serving you. And if it's not serving, you, don't do it. Like if you're miserable. Don't do it. And

Unknown Speaker  34:20  
so we had actually,

Unknown Speaker  34:23  
role played a little bit how to tell my family because that was something that I was very, very scared of my family is extremely tight knit. As I said, multi generational family. I was essentially breaking a chain of devout Mormonism.

Unknown Speaker  34:42  
And

Unknown Speaker  34:44  
there is not a formal doctrinal teaching in Mormonism that says if you have a family member that leaves you have to shun them. There isn't anything like that it does happen. I've seen people be disowned for leaving the church. I've seen people be completely cut off from their family.

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
numbers. And I didn't think that my family was going to do that. But I had no idea how they were going to react. Because I mean,

Unknown Speaker  35:09  
it, I thought I was gonna die a Mormon, like I never expected to leave. So my therapist and I had kind of ran through some scenarios, and kind of come up with like, Okay, this is probably what's most likely to happen. And I sat my parents and my sister down at

Unknown Speaker  35:30  
my parents kitchen table and just said, You know, I feel very strongly that I need to step away from the church. And this is exactly what I mean by that.

Unknown Speaker  35:44  
I didn't give them reasons why they didn't ask, they still to this day have not asked, which don't really

Unknown Speaker  35:52  
say I blame them for, because in their minds, there's really no reason for me to leave, that would be good enough, right.

Unknown Speaker  36:00  
But I mean, to say that it was devastating is an understatement. And I was very empathetic to that. Because if the roles have been reversed, if even a few years prior to that, my sister had sat us all down and said, Yeah, I'm stepping away, like, I'm not gonna not gonna be devout anymore. My life would have been shattered. Because

Unknown Speaker  36:27  
basically, what I was telling them is like, Hey, I'm not going to live in heaven with you. I'm not like, we're not going to be together in heaven.

Unknown Speaker  36:38  
And so it was really hard for, I would say about a year.

Unknown Speaker  36:46  
It was just very tense, it was very uncomfortable. And

Unknown Speaker  36:51  
I had a job opportunity pop up across the country. And I flew out and interviewed and was just like, this is it. I'm single, it don't have kids.

Unknown Speaker  37:06  
Like, I've been looking for an excuse to get out of Utah to get out of the culture. And so I took it. And

Unknown Speaker  37:15  
I think, quite honestly, that was one of the best things I could have done for those family relationships was give them some space and some distance, because things are so much better now. And

Unknown Speaker  37:28  
let me be clear, like that's after some very uncomfortable conversations, and a lot of boundaries being set and a lot of boundaries being

Unknown Speaker  37:38  
enforced from both sides. But, but

Unknown Speaker  37:44  
I mean, our relationships aren't perfect, but they are much improved from what they were. And I feel very lucky, because that is not the case for everyone. And I, I recognize that.

Unknown Speaker  37:57  
That's great. I mean, so base, are you pretty much like the first one in your family line in generations to leave the faith, the Mormon faith? Um, yes, I do. I mean, I have some extended family that has left.

Unknown Speaker  38:19  
But certainly within my immediate family, I'm the only one and I think, on my mom's side, I might be the only one to.

Unknown Speaker  38:30  
Yeah. And so today, like how are your relationships with your sister and with your parents? Like, are you guys able to? I mean, it's, it's convenient, isn't it? When we live hours away from our loved ones, right? Like it creates a safe space for us to be able to learn how to live our lives for us, right and to be have our own autonomy to do the things that we would like to do and live the way we'd like to live.

Unknown Speaker  39:00  
I've been moved, I've been away from my most of my family for like the last over 20 years, and it's was the best thing I could have done for my myself and my marriage and like my parenting. Um, yeah. So how are those relationships today with your with your mom and your dad and your sister? Yeah, um, I would say they're really good. And you know, it's a double edged sword because it's so hard. Sometimes it's so hard.

Unknown Speaker  39:30  
Because I do miss them because we were so close, and it's so shitty to not be able to run over to my sister's house and play with my nieces. It's, um, my grandpa was in the hospital recently. And it's just, it's not fun to just be like, I can't I can't do anything I 2000 miles away.

Unknown Speaker  39:52  
But that being said, it was 100% without a doubt the right decision for me it was the best decision

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
And like I said, I think that it really truly was necessary for those relationships.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai