Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Epiphany About My Epiphany to Leave Mormonism Part 2


When my daughter told me that she vehemently wanted to have her name removed (which I have not done), I thought about her Mormon extended family members approaching me and saying, "Why would you allow that?"

And I thought about how I would answer.

"It's her decision."

"She wanted it and I couldn't deny her of that."

"Why wouldn't I allow it??"

And then I realized, as I contemplated possible responses, that I should be able to reply to my OWN reasons for wanting to be severed from the church.  And I do indeed feel as though I've severed myself from the organization, regardless of being on the records or not.

But WHAT could I say that wouldn't warrant the typical responses of, Ashley just didn't truly have a testimony OR Ashley doesn't understand the meaning of Joy (an actual thing that's been said to me) OR Ashley didn't do all the things she should have done.  

So I went back.  I thought very deeply about the time that I pulled away.

And I realized that I tried damn, fucking hard to stay.

Go back and read my previous post!

I say it ALL in my initial post of this blog, as well.  I was/did/said/believed everything.

I wanted desperately to be able to explain myself in a way that couldn't warrant any- ANY- dismissive response.  I needed it for me.  As a final rite of passage through my former identity as a LATTER-DAY SAINT.

And I discerned very easily that there wasn't one thing that I could have done more thoroughly, more acutely,  more intensely than I'd already done or had been doing.

I was so earnestly looking for a reason to stay.

And nothing ever felt good.

So, tell me, what can you say to that?  Can you truly write me off as a lost cause, as someone who maybe just didn't get it?

I was born 'in the covenant'.  I was baptized at 8.  I went to BYU looking for kinship.  I married worthily in the temple.  I scrapbooked!

And... as I referenced in the previous post... I, Pamela Ashley Wilkinson Neves, at the age of 35, after a  lifetime of being a truly good Mormon girl, felt... done.

There was nothing more to do.

There was nothing more to be done.

There was nothing that I did half-heatedly or incorrectly.

And I felt abandoned. And an aloneness that I'd never experienced before in my life.

It truly was like a death.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An Epiphany About My Epiphany to Leave Mormonism Part 1

"Ashley left Mormonism cuz her husband was gay."

I just gotta think that people wanna simplify my excruciating journey away from the church in this way.  Or something similar.  Regardless of the pain of so many major events for me (the Prop 8 summer, my divorce, this talk by Boyd K. Packer, my bishop rolling his eyes at me when I needed help paying rent although I'd been a full tithe and fast offering payer for 20 years, to name a few).

I also gotta think that a lot of active members that I know have to try really hard to stay in the church.  Like I did for years.  And when I was trying really hard to stay in it, I would see friends who'd left and think, "They're not trying as hard as I am (hair flip)."

Ever since I've considered myself done with Mormonism (i.e., Ashley no longer believes nor participates) one of my greatest distresses has been that I haven't known quite how to articulate to still believing members why I left.  Not to convince them that they should leave or that I'm right and they're wrong, but to simply help them understand me. 

In all honesty, I haven't really tried.  I mean, really really tried.

I know all the pat assumptions/responses/dismissives that I'd get. 

I've used a few analogies. A common one used in post-Mormon circles- my shelf broke.

This has to do with cognitive dissonance, shelving all those troublesome topics that we can't reconcile in our heart/with the teachings of the church, but we soldier on with Faith...until the shelf is so full that no amount of Faith will hold it up anymore, and it collapses. 

So I'd use that , but that distress would still be there.  I've had members say to me, "You'll come back.  When you're ready.  You will."  And that would make me slightly angry, because the subtext of a response like that is, You still believe deep down, and you didn't try hard enough to stay. 

Here's the thing:  I don't believe anymore.

And I did try.

And this is where I get to the point. 


How many times do members have a 'trial of faith' on some level?  Minor trials of faith to a full-blown faith crisis?  On that broad spectrum, each member finds themselves somewhere one time or another.  It's not to say that members go back and forth between completely losing and regaining their faith, per se (although some do), but more commonly, asking innocently 'why' or 'how' to this or that... because we're human beings attempting to live a 'higher law' that we don't always understand. 

So we have these 'trials of faith', and what do we do?  We delve into the scriptures more.  We pray more.  We go to the temple with our questions.  We seek priesthood blessings.  We read our Ensign. We study our Sunday School lessons in advance.  We pay a full tithe, if we haven't already.  We make a more concerted effort to pay fast offerings.  We serve others. We bear our testimony so that we can hear ourselves saying that we still believe.  And sometimes, we just ignore.  

And check. 

Usually, we are sure to cross all the T's and dot all the I's before we hit Faith Crisis Status.

Instead of leaving for lack of trying, like so many active members want to believe about those who've left, I left because I did try.

And in that trying, I felt more and more depleted.

I felt less and less hope.

After weeks on end of doing all those things I listed above, and thinking outside of the box, trying new things, like asking my active friends, "Why do you stay? How do you stay? Help!"...    I was just empty.

It was like my faith was dead on the operating table, and the repeated, desperate defibrillation was in vain.

And then what?

I asked myself some goooood questions.

What did I miss? 
What's wrong with me? 
What did I do wrong? 


Nothing. Whatsoever.

And I looked around and all I could see was that Shelf.

The faith, and even hope, I'd had that was now dead couldn't divert my attention from my wobbly Shelf.

And I felt like an asshole.

How could I have so proactively denied blatant shit storms going on all around me within the church- the homosexuality issues being only one of them.


Why the sudden need for me to say all this now?  My daughter had her name removed from the records of the church at the 4th Annual Mass Resignation last month.  And it got me to thinking.