This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I grew up and spent the majority of my life as a dedicated member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2014, as I learned more about damaging historical facts that the LDS leadership deliberately excluded from instructional manuals and as I learned more in depth about the LDS Church's unfair treatment of women, blacks and LGBTQ members in the name of godly inspiration, I lost faith that such an organization could truly be led by God.
A faith transition can be very difficult and painful, often resulting in loss of identity, community, friendships and alienation from loved ones at times. Going through such a transition taught me a great deal about myself, those who genuinely care, my place in the complex world we live in and the fact that I can be spiritual without being religious. Here are 10 things I've learned while transitioning away from the faith of my childhood:
1. When the prophet speaks the thinking is NOT done because he could be wrong as many have been in the past and present time.
2. To properly develop mentally and spiritually, I must follow my own conscience whether it is in opposition to the leaders or not. (Mormons are taught from a young age to always follow the prophet no matter what.)
3. Using my feelings (feeling the "spirit") to determine what is true or not is a very subjective and incomplete measurement of truth.
4. Beliefs/revelations/speculations do not equal knowledge. They are what they are: beliefs, revelations, speculations and not perfect knowledge. (Mormons love using the phrase "I know" when expressing their beliefs.)
5. I jumped off the "cliff" I was told my entire life to stay away from and I discovered I had wings. I started soaring and the view from where I stand is magnificent as I discover tastes and colors I never knew existed.
6. Fear, shame and guilt no longer determine my actions. The threat of eternal damnation is lost on me. I believe we create our own heaven or hell right here on earth and, if there is an afterlife, whatever we created will follow us.
7 . I am neither "special" nor "chosen" like I was told all along growing up. I am just like everyone else, trying to make sense of this unfair yet beautiful world we live in.
8. Until the LDS leadership openly and publicly apologizes for the hurt they have caused to women, Blacks and LGBTQ members, I can no longer take the leaders seriously. Not only sincere apologies are needed but reparative actions such as diversifying the leadership should also take place.
9. I can no longer accept the double standards I see at every corner of the Mormon doctrines and the actions of leaders and members such as, "We love everyone but we pick and choose who can fully be accepted among us based on gender, race or sexual orientation" and "Let's make sure we focus on the Syrian refugees crisis but totally ignore the fact that we are tearing families apart and causing deaths among our own people."
10. Last but certainly not least, today I feel totally comfortable with my body, what I wear which does not include the LDS garments I wore for almost two decades and what I do with my body according to the dictates of my own conscience.
I still care because too many members are still trapped and afraid to openly express what they think or feel for fear of the consequences. This is a sad reality for a growing number of members. I admire the members who stay with the hope of making changes of inclusion happen. The only way for change to happen is for the majority to step out of their comfort zone.
I don't think that solely focusing on the good in the church and ignoring the bad is the answer. Working on being inclusive, truly loving and accepting God's children just the way they are is what real disciples of Christ should be about.
Julienna Viegas-Haws was raised in the LDS faith in Belgium. She graduated from BYU with a BA in International Politics. She works and lives in Texas with her husband and three children.