A couple of weeks ago a girl I grew up with was interviewed on the Mormon Stories Podcast. She grew up down the road from me and is one (of many) girls whose parents restricted them from playing with me because of my parents’ lack of church attendance. She was always kind to me, but the barriers were clear. The podcast explores she and her husband’s religiosity and why they chose to leave the church six months ago.
When I first saw the podcast, my jaw hit the floor. It had never occurred to me that it might be necessary to share why I believe the Mormon church is false. I’m still not sure how to approach the subject, so for now, a little history.
I didn’t grow up like most of the Mormon kids in my neighborhood (and the majority of them were Mormon). My Mom had an on-again-off-again relationship with the church, but the values and belief systems were taught in our home. Before the age of twelve, my brother, sister and I would go to Primary, while my parents stayed home. From ages 12-19, I either went alone or with neighbors. The majority of my extended family actively attended and still do. My immediate family’s lack of involvement was brought to my attention often which left me feeling like I was on the outside looking in, no matter how much I participated.
Religion has always fascinated me. By the time I graduated from high school I had attended Sunday services at nine different religious denominations. I attended Mormon Seminary every day in school grades 7-9, and every other day grades 10-12. In my teen years, when I was going to church alone more frequently, I would sit in the back of Sacrament Meeting with my notebook and write questions to ask my seminary teachers. I wanted to understand how the doctrine of the church made sense. Unfortunately, my questions were too often answered with, “have faith.” I remember how troubling “have faith” was to me as a budding adult — it felt like a cop-out that left me hungry for answers.
Whenever I discuss my religious journey, I explain how the LDS church brainwashed my tiny brain by singing me songs about faith, prophets, and truth. This is one of them:
1. Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.
Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.
Faith is like a little seed:
If planted, it will grow.
Faith is a swelling within my heart.
When I do right, I know.
2. Faith is knowing I lived with God before my mortal birth.
Faith is knowing I can return when my life ends on earth.
Faith is trust in God above;
In Christ, who showed the way.
Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow
Whenever I obey.
Wtf, right? That whole last verse, and then the ending, “Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow, whenever I OBEY.” Since when has obedience been a measure of truth? Every single time I open the Primary Children’s Songbook I find language that encourages small children to look outside of themselves for truth. It’s no wonder that abandoning the belief system is so difficult.
There is a particular song called, “Follow the Prophet,” that my mother would not allow us to sing in our home. It goes,
“Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.”
Whenever I would sing it, she would stop me and say, “don’t do what anyone else tells you to do. Do what you feel is right. The prophet does not know what is best for you.” Every day I am thankful I am her daughter.
To be fair, not all of the songs are as awful as the ones I’m showing you. I loved the primary songbook. I used to carry around a miniature copy that my grandma bought for me. Primary songs taught me about love, honesty, and family, all of which I cherish and value today. This is one of my favorites songs, even though I currently believe that Jesus is a myth.
The ripple effects from me watching that Mormon Stories podcast are profound. My compassion for my childhood neighbor is high, and I am so proud of she and her husband for their bravery. By proxy, their courage has borne courage in me, and I am ready to start telling more stories about what it was like growing up in the small town of Draper, Utah.
If you would like a sampling of more children’s songs from the Mormon church and have Spotify, click here.