Endings and Beginnings


What do you think about the new theme? Since my blog is my home on the web, I like to rearrange the furniture once in a while. I hope you enjoy the clearer text, cleaner layout, and larger header photos. I only have a few up so far, but I’ll be adding more headers into the rotation–at least one for every place we’ve ever lived, and maybe one for every place we’ve ever visited.

In other news, the weather is hot, the kids are enjoying going to the pool several times a week, and we’ve decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Mormon church. I won’t bore you with all the details, since the story would take at least a dozen blog posts, if not a book, to convey. Suffice it to say that despite the many years and many hours we’ve invested in the Church over the course of our lives, it currently doesn’t feel like a place where we want to raise our children. I do want to say that we love our ward and everyone in it, and our decision to leave has nothing to do with any type of personal conflict.

We have a number of concerns, but the most serious–and the ones that finally prompted us to leave–have to do with Mormon teachings and social norms about gender roles. You may have heard in the news about the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, a prominent Mormon advocate for the ordination of women to what is now an all-male Mormon priesthood, in which nearly every male over 12 but no females of any age are presently included. Although her excommunication is not in itself the reason we are leaving, it is somewhat indicative of the general climate in the Church right now, and certainly influenced the timing of our decision. We may come back some day, but for now what our family needs is to take a step back from all the difficult and haunting aspects of our childhood faith.

Obviously, this is not a decision we’ve made lightly. We are saddened by the distress our leaving might cause our families and other Mormon friends. However, we’d love to maintain our relationships with all of them (you). I’m not at all open to reconsidering our decision, but I am very open to answering any questions you might have, so long as they are respectfully phrased.

We like having a church community, so for the past several weeks we’ve been attending our local Unitarian Universalist church. We’ve felt very welcomed there, and really enjoy going every Sunday. The openness to different faith traditions is refreshing, and I’ve loved learning a whole new set of hymns. Every day reconfirms to us that we have made the right decision, and we’re so grateful we had the courage to do it, even though it was hard.

17 thoughts on “Endings and Beginnings

  • August 5, 2014 at 1:03 am

    As Christian parents to two daughters, the doctrinal issue that most concerns my husband and I at the moment is that of female leadership in the church. We have family who believe strongly that men are the divinely-led leaders of both church and home, but our own understanding of scripture is exactly the opposite–that God calls both men and women to spiritual leadership. We just moved again (#8 in 11 years of marriage!) and while there’s a lot we look for in a church, we won’t consider attending a congregation that forbids female leaders. This excludes the churches of our youths (Catholic and Baptist), but it’s the right thing for our family. We attended a Lutheran Church for the first time last week and our 5-year-old has asked to go back. All this to say, your post hit home. Even when it looks like stepping away, one can in fact be stepping, in faith, towards God.

  • July 30, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Sarah, I too would like to wish you all the best with your spiritual journey. I think you are a very brave woman and from what I’ve seen a woman of great personal integrity. I certainly wouldn’t agree with all of your views but I would go to war to defend your right to have them and express them. Enjoy Greece when you move there and take care.

  • July 29, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Hi! Just wanted to mention that my husband’s cousin is on a similar path to yours–she also has started attending a Unitarian Univeralist church, and has commented on how open and accepting she feels the environment is there. My only interaction has been that all my high school piano recitals (my teacher was a conservatory professor) were at a UU church. Great piano! 🙂 I wish you and your family joy, peace, and healing on your journey. Nice-looking blog, and great writing as always.

    • July 29, 2014 at 6:55 am

      Thanks, Anna! Our UU church has a nice grand piano too. They just found out that I play, so I got invited into the rotation :). I was the ward organist in our Mormon church, so it will be fun to do something musical in church again.

  • July 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Love the new website and I really like the Coexist photo for this blog post! 🙂

  • July 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I can’t imagine what this transition must be like. Oh wait.

    Good luck on the journey! I know you’ll do it more gracefully and thoughtfully than us.

  • July 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Sarah, I’m a long time reader of your blog and I’ll continue to be here to read your adventures. I’m sad that you are leaving the church – we really need thinkers and doers like you and your family – and I wish you the best. And like I said, I’ll be sticking around to read:)

  • July 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Yeah, I want to change my header photos too. 🙂

    I am so glad you’ve felt happy with the UU congregation.

    And I liked your book about backpacking in the Philippines.

  • July 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Also I am curious about what your children think. If I were brought up in a faith from day 1 believing that we must do X, Y, and Z in order to be with our family members for all eternity THEN halfway through childhood – after I was baptized into the faith myself – , mom and dad change directions and leave this faith that promises eternal godhood and family togetherness, I might be confused, shocked, scared … or maybe excited since I never liked all those rules to begin with. (I’m trying to put myself into your children’s shoes here.)

    I hope you find my questions respectful enough. I intend them to be. I’ve never been a Mormon nor plan to be one, but I am trying to think like a child who was raised to believe something (which I was!) and then having that somewhat ripped away by my parents during my formative years.

    • July 28, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Susanne, that was our biggest concern also. I pictured my children feeling much the way you imagined they might–confused and distressed. So we were very careful about how we presented it to them.

      We didn’t initially tell our kids that we were planning on taking a leave of absence from the Mormon church. We just said that we were going to visit a different church that week. After we went, the kids said they loved it and wished we could go to the UU church every week instead of the Mormon church. Axa liked the emphasis on taking care of the environment, and they both enjoyed the less rigid format of Religious Education at the UU church. They liked how it felt there. So we had a little family meeting and decided that we’d rather go there than the Mormon church. The main thing I like about UU is that they don’t really care what you believe, and the people in our congregation come from diverse backgrounds and follow different spiritual paths. We don’t view it so much as a change of identity (“I used to be Mormon and now I’m UU”), as just a change in where we’re going to church right now. We still do some Mormon “stuff” the we enjoy, like Family Home Evening every Monday night. There would be major rebellion in the ranks if we gave up FHE. Going to 3+ hours of Mormon meetings every Sunday, not so much.

      We were really pleasantly surprised that our children were so completely on the same page as we were. But looking back, I’m not sure that it’s so strange. During the past few years, my husband and I have been open with our children about various things that we hear at Church and don’t agree with. We’ve also toned down a lot of our “only true church” teachings at home, because we feel like truth is found in many places. Before we left, I spent a lot of time commiserating with like-minded Mormons who were also wanting to stay in the Church despite the many issues, and felt like they had to debrief their kids every Sunday after church. Honestly, my kids are probably relieved not to have such angst-ridden parents anymore. I don’t think they experienced the type of cognitive dissonance Tony and I did, but they’re smart, perceptive kids, and they knew we were feeling it. I don’t necessarily expect them to believe everything they hear at the UU church either, and neither do the UU people. We’re pretty big in our house on checking everything we hear against our own internal compass.

  • July 28, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I read this last night, but didn’t think of anything to ask until after I got off the computer. I vaguely remember your daughter being baptized into the faith so I am curious how this choice you and your husband are making affects her. Is this something you got OK’d with her (since she made a commitment to the Lord (?) by agreeing to be baptized) or as her parents, you feel it’s OK to do what you feel is right for your children regardless of a vow (?) she made to God and the LDS Church? Sorry if that’s not clear.

    I appreciate your sharing this about yourself, and I wish you well as you search for Truth.

    Your blog looks nice as always.

    • July 28, 2014 at 10:04 am

      This is a really good question, Susanne. Baptism in the L.D.S. church is kind of in between infant baptism and adult baptism. It’s pretty set in stone that kids should get baptized at age 8. It’s portrayed as a personal decision, and in a lot of ways it is, especially for some more mature kids. But a personal decision made at age 8 is very different from a personal decision made at, say, age 18.

      I personally view L.D.S. child baptism more as a rite of passage and induction into the community than as a binding personal decision to follow Christ–because if it’s that kind of decision, I think it’s inappropriate for us to expect all of our children to make it at age 8, regardless of personal maturity. There’s extreme cultural expectation and pressure to do it, and it’s the rare 8-year-old who decides otherwise. Still, keep in mind that like many of my beliefs, this is not necessarily a mainstream Mormon view of baptism.

      I’ve obviously also been baptized and participated in other Mormon ritual covenants, and don’t feel like I’m breaking any commitments to God by ceasing to attend a church that I no longer really believe speaks solely and exclusively in his(/her?) name. We do the best we can with the light we have, and when we know better, we do better, to paraphrase Maya Angelou.

      My daughter also doesn’t conceptualize attending the UU church rather than the Mormon church as breaking a covenant she’s made with God, probably in large part because of the somewhat universalist views we’ve held as a family for a while. I don’t think the thought of breaking a commitment would even have occurred to her, since she still believes in God, and still tries to follow God. We don’t talk badly about the Mormon church at home (in fact, we have a policy of not talking badly about any religion at our house), and I think my children still have quite positive views toward it. I would be supportive of Axa or Raj if they decided at some point that they wanted to go back to the Mormon church.

      I hope that’s a good answer. You ask such insightful questions I sometimes feel like I’m writing a book to answer them.

      • July 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        Yes, you answered my questions very well. Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers. I really enjoyed reading your replies!

  • July 28, 2014 at 2:36 am

    We will miss you, Sarah! All the best in your spiritual journey.

  • July 28, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Sarah, I will continue to enjoy reading about your life and your family. There are so many things you do that inspire me. I respect your choices because that is part of what I have been taught and hopefully who I am. I know you think through everything. I can’t help but say I am a little saddened because the church needs you and your family and I believe you need the church. But do what the Spirit guides you to do.

    On another note, what blogger system do you use. I have always loved how your header pictures change.

    Love you and your family.

    • July 28, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Hi Ellen,

      I use wordpress. My new theme is called Radiate. I like it a lot so far. I felt like I wanted a wider space for actual posts, and less clutter. Responsive design was important too, and I couldn’t resist the parallax header.

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