Surreal experience at the Cafe Brazil
After church last Sunday, my husband and I went to Cafe Brazil on Cedar Springs for some tasty migas. (There's still a little Mormon part of me that feels guilty eating out on Sunday. Is that keeping the Sabbath day holy? I've never heard anything about that on the pulpit since being Catholic, nor have I read about it. I'm not sure.)
Anyway, so my husband and I were sitting there, and started hearing the words Mormon over our shoulder. In our little area of the restaurant, we could hear the two people sitting next to us having a "get to know each other" type of conversation over their breakfast. The gentleman started slowly divulging his past. He was born in Salt Lake City, BIC ("born in the covenant", meaning his parents were sealed in the temple before he was born - basically a "cradle Mormon"), married in the Temple, divorced, married multiple times, and now he was gay. It was interesting hearing his stories about how his family would not let him see his children after he came out and the struggles he has had since coming out. (He was kind of loud, and verbose. I'm really not that nosey).
It made me think of how my life has journeyed since leaving the Mormon church. When I first left I was passionately anti-Mormon. Most ex-Mormons who left because of doctrinal differences get this way for a while. It's a good way to vent the feelings of anger and betrayal that most exMo's have. I then was agnostic for years, but still trying to find a "center" in all of it. I learned about wicca for a while, and went through a wild phase. In my mid-20's, I came back to the church for a bit, and felt more hollowed and betrayed after I left again than before I came back in.
It's odd how my Mormon past comes back to haunt me in odd ways and in the weirdest times. Like the breakfast thing earlier. Is it a sin to eat out? I don't know. I feel mischievous sometimes when I drink a Coke. I've never had guilt drinking tea since leaving the church, but I still get a thrill every time I drink a Coke. I don't do it often, but when I do I feel like the kid who swiped a cookie when their mom wasn't looking. I still am very reserved about cussing in public and have an overdeveloped sense of public dignity. I can spot a missionary a mile away, and my husband has gotten where he spots them too. On random occasions and with no provocation, I get "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" stuck in my head.
It's odd hearing how much hurt ex-Mormons have about the betrayal that they feel when they leave the church. I could hear the obvious hurt in that diner's voice, about how he could not visit his children because of the Bishop, and how his family had shunned him. One of my favorite blogs is Joseph's Left One, an exMo whose family is still strongly entrenched in the Mormon church. Other than talking to my best friend (whose family is still all Mormon but him), and my mom, I don't have anyone talking about Mormonism to me. It's pretty much behind me. But he's dealing with it on a daily basis. His wife is feeling pain because of his loss of testimony.
It's so confusing being an exMormon. I've been getting a lot of random out-of-the-blue comments about my blog from what I assume are God-Fearing active Mormons. Most of the comments are like, "If you'd just feel the spirit, you'd still be Mormon" and "why do you criticize the church, you don't know what you're talking about!" Things like that. What is the point of criticism like this? Do they think they're going to guilt me back into the church? "Oh my Gosh, I was lost, but then this person said I was making false assumptions about the church and all I need to do is pray and I'll come back. Why didn't I think of that?? I'll go pray right now!" What good do they think that negativity is going to do me? Or them? Does it make them feel better to put down people with differing opinions than them? It's one thing to share personal feelings about something in one's blog or in one's circle of friends. It's a totally different thing to go into someone else's home or blog uninvited and attack them for their beliefs.
I was asked by someone whose opinion I greatly respect if I brought anything good out of Mormonism. I thought about it for quite a bit. And you know, I did. Some of my best memories from my tween and teen years were with my Mormon friends. I met my best friend at a Mormon church, and my life wouldn't be the same without him. I learned lots of homemaking skills, like how to iron a shirt and how to cook. I learned how to study, and I learned how to defend my beliefs by learning everything I could about a subject. Much of my family is still Mormon and they have not had the kind of amazingly hurtful things happen to them that I have read about on the RFM boards (well, that's not totally true, but they were able to move past the hurtful things and remain faithful members).
But doing this evaluation made me realize something else - I learned nothing about God while Mormon. Everything I learned was false, based on the claims of someone whom I have come to believe is a liar, and the things I did learn didn't move me with passion. The temple was boring (and heartbreaking - it kept getting thrown in my face how single people were less worthy than married people and I hated that), sacrament meeting was amateur hour. Fellowshipping for me simply didn't exist. Doing endowment sessions didn't move me nearly as much as attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist does now. Every single Sunday I look forward to communing with God in the most intimate way possible. I looked forward to the Temple because I liked dressing up, and feeling like I was doing what God wanted me to do. But I never felt close to God. I always walked out of there feeling lonely. Every time. I often cried in the Celestial Room because I couldn't understand that if I was supposed to be doing God's work, why did I feel so alone? When I'm in Mass, praying in front of the Tabernacle, I never feel alone, even though sometimes I'm there by myself.
And here's another thing - I love being Catholic. I love going to Mass, I love hearing the homilies, I love receiving the Eucharist. I love wearing my St. Benedict medal, and I love praying the Rosary before Mass. I love blessing my food before I eat, and I love learning about saints. I love the feeling I have when I pray to God in gratefulness for the sacrifice that Christ made for me. I love the calm, centered feeling that I have now, whether I'm in church or whether I'm sitting at work. Sometimes it washes over me in waves and makes me just genuinely happy about life. I love feeling my prayers, if that makes sense. It's all so good. It's like being raised on fast food, and then being introduced to Vietnamese Pho, and Enchiladas, and Spaghetti, and Chinese Stir-fry. There's a world of good things out there that exist outside of the circle of Mormonism, and I'm experiencing all of them that I can.