I did an informal survey over on the Recovery from Mormonism board asking people to describe in one word how they felt when they figured out the truth behind the facade of Mormonism. As I suspected, it split almost evenly between those who, like me, were devastated when we finally realized what Mormonism is, and those who were relieved.
The people like me used words such as “horrified,” “screwed,” “foolish,” “angry,” “confused,” “nauseated,” and “numb.” I think I experienced all of those emotions. Mormonism was my life, my worldview. All my life I had believed it was Mormonism or nothing; if I lost my faith, I would be completely lost in the world and would probably end up in a very dark place. Compounding the devastation was the reaction from family and friends. My marriage nearly collapsed over my loss of faith, and things have been up and down since then. My mother still has a hard time talking to me at all about religion, while my father says I should just not take it seriously and go with the flow. I really wished I could, but I can’t.
On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of people who worked really hard to make Mormonism work in their lives, but in the end it was like shoving a square peg into a round hole. For them, it was a relief to know that the life they were trying to force themselves to lead was not based in reality. They could let go. These people use words such as “epiphany,” “liberated,” “awake,” “ecstatic,” “exhilarated,” and “validated.”
I like that last word. Figuring out that Mormonism is indeed not true can be extremely validating for a person. I look back and see how I rationalized Joseph Smith’s deceptive and coercive practices of polygamy and polyandry, and I feel validated that at no time did I ever feel “right” about these things. I shelved them, but I never really accepted them. I also used to beat myself up because everyone around me would testify in sacrament meeting that the gospel made them happy. But I wasn’t happy. What was wrong with me? It turns out nothing was wrong except the church.
So, I went through both of these stages. I was once devastated–“gobsmacked” as one poster put it–but now I feel relieved and very much validated as a human being.
And that’s quite liberating.