One of my favorite songs from Mary Chapin Carpenter:
“And the three greatest gifts of moving on
Are forgiveness, hope, and the great beyond.
After that perhaps peace can come
Peace will come
And you see that you’re leaving…
And you see that you’re gone…”
I am convinced that “moving on” from Mormonism requires forgiveness, hope, and facing the future.
Whom should we forgive? I don’t believe most of the leaders and members of the church intentionally taught me that which isn’t true, so I don’t know that I need to forgive any of them for just doing what they thought was right. I suppose if I had to forgive someone, it would be Joseph Smith for starting the ball rolling. But it seems a little silly to forgive someone who lived and died 120 years before my birth. But I guess he’ll do as the object of my forgiveness. That doesn’t mean I accept that what he did was right or true (I’m sure it wasn’t), but I’m past harboring bad feelings toward the man. And I can forgive the people who have treated me less than charitably since I left because they’ve been taught to do that. I don’t hold them totally responsible, anyway.
As for hope, I think some of us have a hard time seeing anything but the ruins of our faith, the wreckage of our personal relationships, when we leave the church. Hope to me involves expecting that things will get better–and they usually do–but also the wisdom to let go of false hope. We’re not going to have the same kinds of relationships with our friends and family, and we’re never going to look at life the same way we did before–hope means letting go and enjoying the possible and the real. Without getting too horribly personal, I’m quite sure it was the inability to hope that led to my suicide attempt. Those days are long gone.
To me, the great beyond is the future. Too often I get stuck in the past, thinking of all the things that happened to me during my time in the church. You can only grieve so long, only regret what might have been for so long. Then you have to let go of the past and face the future. I think of it as deliberately turning around and facing the light, not letting someone else direct me away from it.
Then peace comes. It really does.