I became a Mormon zealot at the age of 19, while on an LDS mission. My own thoughts were subjugated to those of “the Brethren.” I became convinced that the way to love God, myself and my fellow man was to follow the prophet faithfully and work hard to save the non-Mormons from their misery. I continued in this state until I hit a wall at age 33. I had been married for 10 years with 5 kids and one on the way. I was both a Ward Mission Leader and a Den Leader at the time. I was maxed out and miserable in just about every area of my life. My marriage was struggling, my relationship with my children was deteriorating, and financial pressures were mounting. I’d always been an avid temple goer, genealogy researcher, scripture reader, tithing payer, home teacher, family home evening holder and on and on. I lived the Mormon “Gospel.” The peace of mind that the scriptures promised to the Believers, however, wasn’t there and it was getting worse by the day.
I soon lost my desire to attend Church, but was far too committed and afraid to not. For several years I continued to live by Church teachings and pray that I would get my testimony back. Then one day the Stake President asked me to be the new High Counselor. “At last,” I thought, “my prayers have been answered! While serving in this new calling I’ll certainly regain my testimony.” Serve I did, faithfully for the entire three year rotation. When I was released, however, it was clearer to me than ever that I and the Church were on two completely different wavelengths. I saw suffering throughout our Stake, people feeling alone, unloved and unsupported. I had worked to do something about it for years. This desire, however, didn’t seem to be one that was shared by my fellow leaders. Our mandate was to preach obedience. From the reports the Stake President would give, upon returning from training meetings with Apostles and other General Authorities, it was obvious that preaching obedience was what they wanted as well. The mantra seemed to be, “If everyone would just follow the rules, everyone will be happy.” Well, I did and I was miserable. My neighbors seemed pretty good at being obedient, as well, and they didn’t seem too happy either.
As my awareness of the indifference to Member’s social, spiritual and emotional needs grew; my dissatisfaction with the Church did too. It seemed to me that somewhere along the Church’s 180 year history the idea of the Church being there for the benefit of the Members got reversed. Instead of the Church existing to help its Member’s, now it seemed that the Member’s existed to be there for the benefit of the Church. In the end, it was the doctrine of obedience before love or, more specifically, the preaching of obedience as a substitute for love, which drove me away.
Now it all seems so simple. The message of Jesus was never obedience before love, but rather obedience to love. For me, that is where, what I call Spirit, comes in. I no longer view God as someone sitting on a throne, but rather as a benevolent force that is love. Spirit informs me in every moment whether a choice I am making is in harmony with love or not. So, sure, commandments can be useful in the beginning, like training wheels for a child learning to ride a bicycle. But once we begin to mature, the reliance on those commandments and the “Brethren” should be replaced with direct interaction with Spirit. The real path of peace is inner-guided. The path of love is clear to me when I take the time to listen, both to my own thoughts and to Spirit directly. I find that I not only have peace, but that I love my life, myself and those around me. I now live true to myself and am giving the gift I was born to give. My children and I have real and meaningful relationships, my finances have steadily improved and, funny thing is, I am closer to Spirit than I ever was as a “card-carrying” Member.
If practicing the LDS faith deepens your inner peace, strengthens your ability to love and nourishes you spiritually, then Mormonism is probably perfect for you. If, however, you are like me and it doesn’t, please know that Spirit has a path for you that will. Although a bit scary at first, this path is an amazingly rewarding one, filled with personal growth that leads to a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”