Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Mormon Diaries




This post is to tell you about a fine memoir written by a blogging friend of ours, who, to protect her own and her family's privacy, is using a pen name. Here are the back cover blurbs:

“Sophia Stone has a fine eye and a searching heart. Her story of growing up in and reaching through her Mormonism for a deeper, more authentic spirituality reflects all the ways that religion can both keep us satisfied with easy answers and push us to more difficult and complicated realizations. We need a hundred more books like this one . . .” –Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl

“Sophia Stone captured my attention from the beginning. This collection of personal essays, about questioning the legitimacy of Mormonism after having faith in the religion for the first 30-something years of her life, is not just a controversial quake to a reader’s heart and soul. Stone’s voice is brave, bold and intriguing. And surprisingly relatable to someone who is not religious.”—Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge 

Sophia was kind enough to answer these questions since inquiring minds definitely want to know.


Why did you hide your faith struggles from those closest to you?

I was afraid my faithful Mormon family and friends would think me either prideful or influenced by Satan if I admitted to doubting The Church. There’s a common phrase faithful Latter-day Saints use to explain away uncomfortable issues: “The Church is true. The people are not.” Those who leave the church are often labeled as angry, easily offended, prideful, lazy, or deceived. There’s no good reason to doubt, no good reason to question, no good reason to stop believing. Faith yields loyalty and obedience.

How is your family coping with this? Do they support you?

Well, it depends on what part of my family you’re talking about. My kids have been great, but they’re pretty young. I’m continually amazed by the open mindedness and trust of small children. I really think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

My husband, on the other hand, is having a really hard time. We’ve had to do some negotiating about the kid’s religious education. He wants them to believe in Mormonism and is very much attached to the outcome. The thought of his kids choosing to leave the LDS church is absolutely devastating to him. 

There are certain things that (for him) are non-negotiable. The kids WILL get baptized at age eight whether I want that for them or not. The kids will continue to go to the Mormon church each Sunday until they turn twelve. (He’d said eighteen originally, but has since softened). 10% of his income will continue to go to The Church whether or not I agree with that particular donation. We’re a single income family so that’s a pretty big deal, but he’s frightened, truly frightened that if he stops paying a full tithe, he’ll lose his job.

Although, in fairness, he say it has nothing to do with fear. Rather, he has faith in the principle of tithing. God will bless him for his financial sacrifice.

As for the rest of the family, my mother is struggling, the brother just younger than me acts as if he doesn’t know, my older brother has been accepting, and my sister is unpredictable. I’m not even sure how to characterize that relationship at this point. So overall it’s been a mixed bag where tolerance is concerned. As for support—no, I do not have family support. Nor is it something I can reasonably expect.

How do you get someone who thinks you’ve been influenced by Satan to 
        consider your point of view? 

Short answer: you don’t. 

Long answer: It’s odd to be on the other end of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric. I always considered myself a fairly good, honest person. And I have to admit that I don’t feel like a different person just because I don’t believe in Mormonism like I used to. Certain things just don’t change, you know? I still like chocolate milk shakes. I still like people. I feel, in many ways, closer to God than I did a year ago. So it’s been kind of shocking to have people who always trusted me assume the worst.
   
How do you build relationships with people who think you are broken?

Oh, man, I wish I knew. Honestly, it depends on how important their Mormonism is to their identity. Those who are capable of accepting my brokenness without trying to fix it are much easier to have relationships with than those who work extra hard to fix me.

How has your change in beliefs affected your marriage and children?

I think it has benefited my children in a number of ways. First, by showing them that goodness isn’t based on legalistic rules, they are more accepting of themselves and others. Second, by helping them see that there isn’t one right way to be a decent human being, they are able to think the best of people. Third, by opening up to other ideas and spiritual philosophies, they are more open as well. 

As for my marriage, my change in beliefs has brought to light problems I’d been ignoring for years. Things having to do with power dynamics, issues with inflexibility, and some fundamental disagreements in parenting styles between my husband and I. My marriage has suffered and I worry about it often. But I also know that without the insights I have now, the relationship would continue to grow more unbalanced and necessary change would never occur.

I’m crossing my fingers and holding out hope in the marriage department. 

What are the best ways to support someone going through a faith crisis? 

The most important thing is to listen. Don’t distance yourself. Don’t shy away. Don’t give advice, and definitely don’t judge. Just be a friend. Period. Sometimes it really is that simple.

How did your falling away from Mormonism affect your view of the religion?

Hmm, well, when I believed in Mormonism with my whole heart, I rationalized away any issues I had by saying members were human and made mistakes. I believed The Church was as close to being a perfect institution as anyone was likely to find. God had made it. He had ordered it. Who was I to question what He had formed?

Now I see all kinds of problems with the institution. Not with the hearts of members or leaders (who I believe are honest people acting on faith) but rather with group think. It shuts down a lot of voices that threaten the status quo. There’s not much tolerance for free speech where church policy and doctrine are concerned. Speaking against the leadership is taboo, and there are lots of unwritten rules about not exposing the flaws of the organization to the outside world. It’s a lot like a dysfunctional family that way. Loyalty to the church trumps personal spirituality.    

Do you ever feel angry . . . if so, why?

On my bad days, I feel more disappointment than anger. Mostly because I believed with all my heart the promises found in Mormonism. I thought I was happier than other people, that I had greater access to spirituality, that I knew my most important and fulfilling role. I believed I had divine knowledge and purpose. Now I’ve found that many of these promises are smoke and mirrors. 

And I’m further disheartened when I see religion hurt families. You’d think a family centered church would shout from the rooftops not to shun family members who’ve fallen away. You’d think they’d allow non-believing parents to see their believing kids get married in the temple. You’d think they’d support all different kinds of families, not just those that meet one definition. But all too often an ideal is promoted that benefits the church over families that are struggling. “Traditional gender roles” and “conservative family values” are taught as religious principles.

Here's how to order the Mormon Diaries:

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mormon-diaries-sophia-l-stone/1112764678?ean=9781477548059

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0096BFE5K/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1RS2CC2KXK5GPC1A4X8V&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

Sophia has also created a twitter account where she will take any questions about Mormonism and answer them minus the usual spin under the hashtag #mormonquestions.

The twitter account is sophia stone@ask_a_mormon  The underscores are kind of important because someone else has that address without the underscore marks. 


5 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've read excerpts and it's powerful.

Clarissa Draper said...

Well, keep going Angela. You shouldn't have to believe something that doesn't ring true. I applaud your bravery.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That must've been a difficult book to write.

RHYTHM AND RHYME said...

This was a great read and I am so pleased you managed to write it.
Good luck
Yvonne.

Gina Gao said...

This is a really great book to read. I liked reading this post a lot.

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