5.27.2014

SQUARE PEG / ROUND HOLE


This is a post about being true to ourselves. It is also a post about church. You know, read it at your own risk. 

One of my clearest memories from when I was a kid was one hot day in Arizona when school had just let out for the summer. I was experiencing my first taste of freedom, my first week off, and here comes Sunday and to my complete surprise, we were going to church.

"Wait--we don't get summer vacation from church!?" I said incredulously in the car on the way there. 

"Of course not!" is what I think my mother said back. 

Anyway, it bummed me out. 

This one, too: I was eight, or maybe nine. I was sitting in Sunday school and I was asked to read a scripture out loud. The scripture said something or other about nakedness, I don't remember the exact scripture. As I got to the part where I was supposed to say "naked" out loud, I lost it. I started giggling. I couldn't stop it, it felt like a volcano bubbling straight up from my toes, and as hard as I tried I could not gain composure. I steadied my legs against the chair, I pressed my mouth shut, I tried to start again. It wasn't happening. As the muscles in my cheeks fought for control the teacher looked at me sternly and told me to leave the classroom immediately. So, I did. I wandered the halls for the last thirty minutes wondering what on earth I had done wrong, and suddenly understanding in a way I hadn't before that in this church there was a Right and a Wrong, and that, sadly, understanding the intricacies of which was which was not something that came horribly intuitively to me. 

These are very glib examples but this is what i'm driving at, friends: I am a square peg. And I am a member of a very round church. 

There's been speculation on Instagram about my undies. Guys. What a weird world we live in. On the one hand, I get it, I totally get it. On the other hand, it's obviously completely and totally inappropriate, not to mention disrespectful, but then, also, yes. I really, totally get it. Anyway, people have been accusing me of not wearing my temple garments for years, even when I was at my most devout--which was so confusing!--so I've long since stopped feeling like I had any control over what people thought of me and I chose to let it go. But I got a comment on my last post that made me think, you know, okay. Let's do this. 

So, first of all, let me put the matter of my underwear to rest: It is none of yo damn business.

But! Here is this:

This year has been huge for me. I've said that, like, too many times you're all sick of reading it. But I feel like i've been through it, you know? And the reason I finally came out the other end was that i decided to allow myself the space to acknowledge that things as they stood were making me unhappy. That I felt one way, even though all of my life I'd been told to feel something else. I decided to come to terms with me, with who I believe God made me to be. I've struggled with this for so long, it's like the on-going theme of my existence, this fight between who I am versus who I am "supposed to be." Between what my values and priorities are versus what my values and priorities are supposed to be. Between what I believe is Right even when I am told that it is Wrong. I have been shoving myself into this round hole. I have been shaving off whole corners of myself to fit, corners that always seemed to grow back. I have wedged myself in so hard at times that I didn't even recognize myself. What it left me with was a total disconnect from God. It left me feeling bereft, alone, insecure, and worthless. And frustrated. Oh my gosh, so frustrated.

I have this picture in my head of what my life with God was like before I came to earth. I picture a warehouse. The warehouse floor is made of clouds--obviously, this is heaven after all--and scattered all around are hundreds of cardboard boxes. I'm walking with God, we're side by side. Strolling, really. Slowly meandering through an enormous maze of boxes, peeking inside this one, stopping for a glance at that. This one here is the box full of courage. "Help yourself," God says. Here we come to the awkward-shaped nose box, for whatever reason, I am totally down for that. What was I thinking? It probably made sense at the time. In my imagination we skip straight past both the thrill-seeking and athletic boxes, and linger for a while near the boxes containing optimism and romanticism and stubbornness. God watched me take just about everything there was in the outspoken box. He was okay with it. For whatever reason, I chose these parts. I chose this me. The great parts and the not so great parts. But here's the thing: God made it all. He made all those boxes, and He made everything inside them. He made me. This me. And I believe He is proud of his creation. Hell, I'm proud of his creation. I am proud to be a square peg. HIS square peg. There comes a point where you have to honor your own relationship with God above anybody else's. I've reached that point, where I'm ready to trust what God is telling me, even if it doesn't always line up with what God is telling someone else. 

Do I believe God works like that?

Of course I do. How else would you explain my cankles when you consider how many slender calves exist in this world? Clearly because it is all good. It must be. There's no way it couldn't be.

There are many things I love about the Mormon faith. For one thing, it's the faith of my family, and I will go to my grave respecting my family and the way I was raised. I love the emphasis on the eternities. I take to the whole "God has a body" idea pretty well, that totally jibes with me. I have always loved the way the faith integrates the God of the old testament with the God of the new. And I love the way you are embraced by a ward family wherever you go. I love the way our children are taught to love their Savior in primary. There are a lot of other things that, to me, don't make a lot of sense. And some things that I straight up do not agree with. But I don't see why it has to be all or nothing. I don't need to force my square peg into this round hole anymore. Instead, I'm changing my approach. 

I love taking my son to church. And I love the opportunity to worship every week. But I am making my own path through it. A path that i think is really fine. A path that I've approached prayerfully and that I feel God supports. A path that has led me to feel more connected to myself, more connected to my God, more happy and free than I've felt maybe in my whole life. I'm going to focus on what God tells me is right or wrong, and I'm going to let go of a few things that I've been told are Right and Wrong that i honestly, prayerfully, just don't believe. 

In the October session of General Conference last year, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said a few things that cemented in my heart this idea that all these parts from all these boxes, that they're all good. They're meant to be honored and explored. That this is my life, this is my faith, and this is my God. And it's okay for it to be personal. It's okay for me to take that round hole and add in a few corners so that I can fit comfortably. It's okay, it's allowed.

"If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: come, join with us. If you have left the faith you once embraced: come back again. join with us. If you are tempted to give up: stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.

To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

In this church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth... We honor their right to worship almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege ourselves.

Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him. For here you will find what is precious beyond price."

October 2013 General Conference
(Link to the whole talk HERE.)
(Gotta love that Silver Fox.)

My Dieter told me there was room for me. He told me to stick it out. 
So as long as that proves true, I'll be taking him up on that. 

Aaand that's that.

**Update: Thank you all for your wonderful, heartfelt responses, it's been such an honor to read them! I just wanted to clarify quickly that this has never been about church culture for me. I made my peace with that a loooong time ago, believe me. I even got to a place where I can genuinely enjoy how funky it can get at times. This is purely a spiritual, doctrinal attitude that I approached very slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. I also hope I didn't give anyone the impression that I don't respect the Mormon church or any of its members or leaders. Thanks again, everyone.

***Second Update: In light of recent events, I'm even more grateful for my personal relationship with God, a relationship that, for me, operates outside the administrative decisions of the church I sometimes attend. I don't agree with what is going on, I'm frankly disgusted by it. Brandon and I are taking it under very serious consideration as we continue to put what we believe is best for ourselves, and our family, first. 

418 comments :

  1. Will you tell us what you've been struggling with in your faith? What you no longer believe in? Not so we can criticize, or at least I won't.. but not all of us are Mormon

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    1. hi kristen! i'd sort of hoped to avoid laundry-listing the things i don't go in for, because (like someone said very well below) i don't want to skew anyone else's beliefs or unintentionally hinder another's testimony with my own doubts. but your question is totally valid so i'll say this much: i am very pro gay marriage and a woman's right to choose, and i feel that some church doctrine + ordinances are rooted in worldly ideas that, to me, don't correlate with grace and the atonement as i understand it. but that is a total minefield that i don't want to get too specific on, so i hope you can forgive me for being vague. xo!

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    2. Natalie, i couldn't agree with you more! I am in the exact same boat as you (Mormon: square peg trying to fit in a round hole). Thank you for your insight and thoughts -- it's helped me tremendously. Love you!

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  2. Annoying! Blogger cut me off. Anyway. I'm just a regular old Christ-loving Christian and I came to be so by deciding I didn't believe in a lot of the rules and just wanted to live in the word. And so, I wonder. Other people's schisms are great reading ;) (and good for the soul)

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  3. THANK YOU for being so open about how you feel about the church. I feel like I have been on the fence my whole life. I have always struggled with the all or nothing aspect because I honestly don't feel like I'm a very spiritual person. I question everything, I doubt everything, and it is a real test of faith. My problem is that I constantly feel guilty for things that I don't consider to be bad, but in the church are borderline horrible, like sleeping in on Sundays and coming to church every so often. I feel like if I don't make it to the full three hour block, I've failed and everyone will notice. I don't think it's that awful to drink coffee or tea (although, I don't do it). I don't like Mormon culture and I don't feel like I fit in. I support gay marriage. I'm finding it to be harder and harder to be a member as I age, and I'm not sure if it fits who I believe I am.

    I always have to remember those words from Uchtdorf and I have to remember that the church I belong to is a worldwide church, and not the narrow little view I get here in Utah. I lived in Europe for the majority of a year and the members there were such a breath of fresh air. My thoughts are all over the place....so I may be commenting again. But yes, I agree with you. Let's find where we belong, Natalie. <3

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    1. oh candice, right??? the biggest release of my life was the day i decided to believe the answers god had been giving me and just find my own in between. it sounds like we share the same black sheep gene. fist bumps, sister. :)

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  4. This is such a beautiful post, Natalie! Your philosophy on faith and religion is inspired. I feel the same way. I'm not terribly religious as it is, but I've always had the idea that my relationship with my God is just that, MY relationship. I don't believe I need someone else to interpret what He wants me to understand. It's not picking and choosing, it's acknowledging that I am a single human being in this wide world, and I have the power to choose how I pursue my faith. You put it beautifully: if God made me, He made me question the right of others to tell me how to believe. He made me like doughnuts more than vegetables and hate garish colors. Those things are all beautiful and should be respected, beyond that, celebrated.

    I don't believe in absolutes. I don't understand why my feelings or circumstances should have to match with someone of a completely different nature and situation. Religion, faith, belief, those are all such personal, intimate aspects of life. I cant' stand that they should be judged by other people.

    The Internet is a harsh place, I'm sure you know that better than anyone. It's difficult enough to have an open discussion about religion offline, where people don't have the mask of anonymity. I want to thank you for your courage, passion, and transparency. I adore your blog as always! Congratulations again on writing such a strong, powerful post! xx

    The What's In Between

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    1. thank you, zoe! means so so much. xo!

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  5. Think of it as a really big circle, that can fit all kinds of shapes. Especially squares, because everyone knows... It's hip to be square! I'm happy for you, that you have been able to find and be true to yourself. I think you inspire people, and this just makes you that much more inspirational! ✌️

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  6. Just stunning and gorgeous. Well said. Only you are able to judge your relationship with God. If it makes you happy, then I'm sure He's happy with you

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  7. Thank you for being open and honest with this. I think you talking about this out in the open will push people to do the same, and I think that open and honest discussion is something the Church could really use--being honest about the fact that people have questions, even if they're uncomfortable questions, and that's ok. I admire your bravery and good luck on your continued journey.

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    1. leith, i completely agree. thank you for your support, it means the world. i'm hoping more of us decide not to choose nothing when we honestly don't feel comfortable choosing all. xo!

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  8. I love this. I've been going through my own personal discovery of God and my relationship with Him. Thanks for writing and sharing.

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    1. thank you! good luck to you, sister mandee! :)

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  9. I'm not religious, but many of my friends are, and I support them in that faith, often going to church with them. I'm not that way inclined at all, it just doesn't hit my soul or make me feel anything. But I'm so intrigued, curious and just generally interested in the beliefs of others. Your writing is wonderful as usual, and it's so very valid too. To be confused or lost, and to be sharing that with others. Hopefully with this post you can break down some of the stigmas that go along with the Mormon faith in out modern world. Congrats on speaking up girl.

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    1. thank you so much lucy. i too find religion + cultures so fascinating, which is part of why it's been so hard for me to feel completely at ease being so exclusively "one way." thanks for your open minded heart! xo

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  10. I hope you find a path that makes you and your family happy. it's got to be so hard to go through life on the internet being judged. Your relationship with God is just that YOURS. It's up to you to find the happy medium with the Lord and no one should criticize you. It's their job too. Im so thankful it's not up to me to judge others. God Loves you and as long as your love you then get on with ya bad self. It's always so funny to me that people are so quick to pass judgement and think it's being Christ like. Anyway, send love and good vibes from Satans Ass Mesa, AZ

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  11. I hope that this is the way that the "Mormon" church is going. I'd love to be apart of that. Thank you for so openly sharing what so many of my conversations with many good LDS people sound like. xoxo

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  12. Thank you for your honesty. I have been struggling with the same things in the church, and it's scary admitting that because I am afraid of being judged by those around me. But it makes it easier when I read things like this, it helps me to know that I am not alone. It is okay to be on our own separate paths! Our relationships with God are so personal it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, no one can decide that for us. Thank you again, for helping me gain the courage to pursue my own spiritual journey!

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    1. it's completely scary to admit, but let me tell you, it feels amazing. i'm feeling god's love today like woah. good luck to you! it's tough but worth it. xoxo

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  14. I love my Dieter! No one better.

    While you and I may not see completely 100% eye-to-eye, I admire you for proclaiming your faith. The "umbrella" (if you will) of the church is very broad and has no limits. Everyone is welcomed in with open arms, no matter how they choose to believe. Stay fierce and true to your faith, my friend! xoxo

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    1. Oh Ellen, my dear sister, you see through rose-colored glasses.

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    2. thank you, ellen! i've been hoping with all my heart to find just this. thank you for your support!

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  16. I remember reading a comment on your instagram of a lady not being so nice and replying saying, I understood where she was coming from ( but only because you are such a sharer) but that it was something sacred and personal that you never ask. I believe our comments were deleted and I remember feeling so bad. I hope you didn't feel like I thought what she was saying was ok by saying "i know where you are coming from" and were offended. As a member of the church ( all my life) I totally get it.I've been uncomfortable with others not being so nice, having the doubts, the questions. I found my own testimony and I believe what has kept my faith the church and it's doctrine is my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know that no matter what HE is there and HE loves me. Mistakes and all! and also I just love elder uchtdorf, he just knows how to talk to me.

    http://thebudusadventure.blogspot.com/

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    1. hi melissa! i'm so sorry if i made you feel bad. i come and go on whether i should leave comments like that up or take them down, when one person attacks and another defends. sometimes i blanket delete all of them, and sometimes i leave them up. you didn't offend me and i hope i didn't offend you either, it's just that i sometimes wonder if i should be keeping my instagram + blog comment feeds from spiraling into off-topic arguments, or if it should be a free for all? if that makes sense? but i really appreciated your comment and it was food for thought. it definitely helped lead me to write this post (and i'm really glad i did).

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  17. I don't know you. You've got a cool vibe, and even though you intimidate the hell out of me most of the time, I've enjoyed reading your stories over the years.

    I just ... really really really needed this post today.

    If you ain't an unconventional answer to prayer, girl, I just don't know what is.

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    1. lady this is probably the nicest thing i've ever read. weird that i think being intimidating is a compliment? but i do. haha :). you're so great for commenting today, i'm lucky to have people like you reading my blog. xo

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  18. I appreciate your realness, and this is why although I don't know you, I love you and your blog so! You never sugar coat things and always speak your mind (I'm very much the same) and that is why you my dear are my fave blogger! ;) I was baptized in a Catholic church although we never went to church growing up. When my Mom divorced she started seeking out religion to help her cope and sadly this didn't go well for her. We spoke to some missionaries as a family and although there seems to be so many great things about the LDS church their stance on same sex marriage was a huge turn off for me ("Pray away the gay", that hurts my heart...). My brother is gay and I would never try to change anything about him. Anyways this isn't judgmental, I'm just trying to say I have ALWAYS struggled with the concept of God and different religions trying to say what's "wrong" or "right". I'm about to turn 23 and I pretty much am sure I'm never actually going to fit in anywhere religion wise. And I'm okay with that. I'm glad you are accepting yourself as you are too no matter what anyone tries to say! I love the Natalie that writes here everyday, I don't think that girl needs to change a thing! ;) Hugs.

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  19. I say cheers to being YOU! Everyone deserves to feel the happiness and freedoms you felt you were missing. No matter the lifestyle, there will always be those who criticize or doubt, so you can truly only do your best. The best way you know how. I, like you, respect the church so much, but have never felt happier than when I built a personal relationship with God vs. a church relationship with Him. Self discovery can be a long road, but I always found it easier to just be myself. I figure, we are all going to the same place when we die (God only knows!) so we simply MUST enjoy life the short time we are here.
    www.thismomsgonnasnap.com

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  20. I love this, I understand why people have particular struggles with particular things in the church, what I struggle to understand is why people with varying opinions about it turn to anger and contention (from all sides) before just saying, you go your way and i'll go mine and maybe they will overlap somewhere sometime.
    But I want to think that surely there is a way that those that want to find their way in or outside of the church can do it without judgment or vitriol. That its just as ok that I DO want to go to church as it is that someone else can't stand to. I've learnt that you have to decide for yourself, sometimes over and over, what you believe in, what you have faith in and how you choose to live your life to manifest those things. Thank you for being so eloquent, and kind!

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  21. Ok. Seriously. We must of. had to have been. no doubt about it. Friends or something before this whole earth thing happened. 'Cause dang girl you took all my words and all my life long feelings right out of my heart and splattered them all over this post. I feel the same. Literally word for dang word. I have read your blog for so long and it is one that I never give up on because I see myself in so many ways here. It is so comforting to hear , see and read. My belief in this church is my own. My relationship with God is my own. Right or wrong in anyone else's mind, I couldn't give a crap. And I am glad to see neither do you. You are beautiful and so are your words. Thank you for them. Anywho. You're awesome. That's pretty much all I wanted to say.

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    1. i totally believe it, we had to have been bffs. :) you're awesome too, thanks so much for the love. xoxo!!

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  22. Natalie...no one is perfect, and we are here to endure the best we can as a member of the church. I was 20 when i joined so obviously I didn't grow up with learning any proper values that my girls are now being taught. I didn't grow up with a foundation of God in my home, and I am extremely grateful for finding a church, God, religion that strengthens me, and that I know is true. We are all different, and are on different levels of spirituality. God knows your heart, and what your struggles are within the church, and I know that with time, and fervent prayer that can change. I struggled a bit when I first became a member, and had major issues that I had to resolve through counseling. It took me 11 years to get to the temple (I was 32) to be sealed to my family, and I'm so glad that I went at the time I did...on my own motive. I'm sure there are so many people male, and female who are on the same boat as you when it comes to struggles within the church whether it's people, word of wisdom, tithing, porn, basically overall major weaknesses. I write a lot about my faith, and family, my struggles on my blog because let's face it...we all have a weakness. I'm 42 with four kids, and each day I count my blessings for the good, and bad days. But I know that for me I am strengthened by reading scriptures, attending the temple as much as I can, and praying my heart out every morning and every night that each day no matter how rough they can be each day will have some good in it. I appreciate your story, and want you to know that I think you're amazing. You are you...beautiful, spunky, stylish, with a husband who has unconditional love for you. You have a darling little boy who thinks the world of you, and a lot of supporters in the blogging community that look up to you with unconditional love. Haters are gonna hate, and unfortunately that's something that the "big time" bloggers such as yourself have to deal with. Keep the faith, stay strong, and always remember who you are.

    xoxo

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    1. thank you rose, i always love seeing your comments + tweets. xoxo!

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  23. thanks for writing how I've felt about myself my whole life growing up in the church for me. it's like I didn't know how to explain myself and you just did it for me. not a lot of people can be so bold. people think I'm outrageously bold, but you my dear, are an inspiration.

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  24. This was a good one. I've felt like this my whole life but especially since we moved to Scotland 6 yrs ago. I just do not fit in and I'm tired of trying. I'm tired of doing my best and it never being enough. Or whatever I have to give isn't worth anything because it isn't the same as someone else. It is exhausting and frankly super uncomfortable. I got a text yesterday from someone in church yesterday and it just hurt me. I walked all around town and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was getting discouraged. Then my husband told me, "We're not going for them. We're going for our Heavenly Father. That's it." So that's what we do and we're going to keep doing.

    ps. love the dress. it's gorgeous.

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    1. thank you! i always love seeing your comments, mary. good luck to you, i got your back!!

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  25. Explain the "God has a body" part, please. Do you mean spiritually, as in a body of believers?

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    1. hi rachel. the mormon faith teaches that god has a physical body. it's explained here far better than i could ever do: http://www.mormon.org/faq/nature-of-god

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  26. "there comes a point where you have to honor your own relationship with God above anybody else's."

    love this.

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  27. Natalie, I love this post. It's made me feel like I'm not alone. I'm 16 and I'm currently being taught by the missionaries and hoping to join the church, and I LOVE so many parts of it! But there are also some things that frankly just stress me out, some things I just straight up don't believe and my missionaries are like 'but if its what God wants..' And yeah I get that, but I also don't think he would want anything that I really don't want? This is just such a confusing time in my life, and I'm still trying to figure out if I want. It kind of especially scares me because I'm from England where the church is a whole less popular. There are a lot of Mormons who are just very very conservative and it makes me feel as if I will be judged. I really respect you for how you are, and I feel that it's probably how I will turn out too, haha. And not going to lie, the whole fact I won't be able to wear what I want annoys me! And there's things in the temple that I'm scared of at the moment but I know I will learn to love it. I'm not sure where this post is going but yeah, thanks Natalie for setting a good example of a strong woman in the church. :)

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    1. oh abi, good luck! there is so much beauty in the faith, and there is so much love + peace. sometimes it's just hard to find it using someone else's idea of what it's supposed to look like. good luck! xoxo

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  28. <3 i'm willing to bet you've already read it, but someone gave me a copy of timothy keller's 'the reason for god' several years ago and i was oh so glad they did.

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    1. i haven't! looking into it now, a few people have recommended it now, i'm excited to check it out!

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  29. This was lovely to read, Natalie. As a non-Mormon who follows blogs of Mormon women (who doesn't these days, huh?) I've thought about this so much. The Mormon message of hope and family is sometimes so tainted by the ugliness that comes with comments about two piece swim suits and taking photos in church. It's genuinely confusing to me.

    But I guess it's the same for us all: my (Hindu) grandfather once said to me (a good ol' Protestant) "You know what ruins Christianity for me, Jerusha? Christians." And right then I realised, our stupid cultural ideas of what is and isn't appropriate is crapping all over the beauty of the Gospel.

    Does any of this make sense? Anyway, all this to say: I loved this post and I hear you, Sister.

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    1. Jerusha! You sound really cool. loved your comment! Tha

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    2. Jerusha! You sound really cool. loved your comment! Tha

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    3. Jerusha! I really appreciated this comment as well. We can be so unkind and critical of each other sometimes, geeez! Thanks lady!

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    4. thank you jerusha! that is a really great name btw. also, yes. what on earth is that about? it's something that has plagued me since this whole blogging thing came up. i think it comes down to insecurity, always. it's hard to do what feels right if someone else is doing differently i guess, no matter what the differently is. :) xo!!

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  30. I was raised Mormon but don't practice anymore. I too am curious about which parts you struggle with. I guess mine are the Joseph Smith part (pretty fundamental) and the gay marriage part (my brother is gay). As a result I've decided to take the values I believe in and apply them to my life but don't go to church each week. Religion is definitely very black and white and I like to think of myself as liking the shades of gray in life.

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    1. pretty much, meghan. i bet our concerns are very similar. i don't want to laundry list them necessarily, but brother joe and the temple, and the way women are treated, the "modesty" doctrine, these are all the things for me, you know? but they're things i am optimistic can evolve. and if not, maybe i can evolve instead? open mind, right? something like that. taking it as it comes. xo, fellow gray person :).

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  31. Beautiful post...you are an incredible writer and person. xo

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  32. I feel very similarly, and it's good to know I'm not alone. I have a lot of friends who have left the church and are vocal about their unhappiness with it, but I don't want that. It did, after all, save me when I needed to be saved. Thanks for writing this.

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    1. i know, christina. the answer doesn't need to be all the way out just because the answer isn't all the way in. good luck to you, and i know what you mean about being saved. xoxo

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  33. Your post resonated with me and my faith, I am a Chistian and go to a Presbyterian church, though hold no denomination as my own, Christ is my faith. I don't know so much about the Mormon faith, I even went to Mormon.org to read a bit in an attempt not to speak out of ignorance, but I can't help but say that it almost sounds as though you are struggling with the idea of 'doing to receive God's grace and salvation in life', which I believe is a part of Mormon belief. Most Evangelical Christians believe that Christ's gift of grace and salvation is wholly and completely His doing, He offers it to humanity not because of how well their fitting in or following the rules, because really, we're all square pegs when it comes to salvation...none of us have the power or ability to fit into or fulfill God's requirements without His grace.
    I say all of that not to say that there aren't guidelines by which Christians live by, many are very similar to Mormon guidelines as well, yet very different in others, mainly because our fitting with God doesn't depend on our doing, it depends on his grace. The doing doesn't gain the faith, it's fruit of the faith.
    Because grace is a concept that is so hard to understand it has been distorted in so many ways, so many 'Christians' will say that we can do whatever we want and that God will just have to give grace...but the thing is, God's grace is too great a gift and He is too great himself to be toyed with that way and misunderstood, God's desire for His people is that they love him, serve him, worship him and believe in Him, a lot of actions, but ones that are all powered not by our strength, but by Gods. Basically, it means we're gonna mess up a lot, not because we can believe we can and that God just has to cover over our sins because he should, but because following Him is something so different then we are capable of, failing means we depend on him more and depending on him more allows the freedom of knowing it's not by our own means that we secure ourselves in regards to Him and heaven.
    Faith by grace and not by regulations means relationships with Christ are very personal, because God's grace manifests itself so differently, both in appearance and timeline, in each person. Rules and actions are pretty straight forward, they generally look the same in each person's life, or at least many times should, and that complicates grace because it itself doesn't even fit into the way rules restrict certain things.
    So, that was pretty long, haha :)
    All that to say, when I read your post it just sounded like you were searching for freedom, freedom to love Christ in a way that isn't so tied to regulations and restrictions and requirements. I felt like I should just write a little bit about the Christian faith, you may have already heard it all before, cause a little of it is similar to Mormon faith, but their is just a huge part that, if I understand the Mormon faith, is very different.
    I hope you find your place in Christ, He's got a lot of space and love for square shaped people! :)
    Cheers!!

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    1. As a lifetime Mormon who has strived to gain a relationship with God and grow in goodness, I just wanted to say you hit the nail on the head about exactly what mormons believe when you said:

      "God's desire for His people is that they love him, serve him, worship him and believe in Him, a lot of actions, but ones that are all powered not by our strength, but by Gods. Basically, it means we're gonna mess up a lot, not because we can believe we can and that God just has to cover over our sins because he should, but because following Him is something so different then we are capable of, failing means we depend on him more and depending on him more allows the freedom of knowing it's not by our own means that we secure ourselves in regards to Him and heaven."


      that is quite literally what we believe!!!!! God desire for us is to love Him, serve Him (by serving all His people all around us) and worship Him and believe in Him. We could need get to heaven to be with Him without his grace and mercy but we are expected to love Him, serve Him, worship Him and believe in Him and he will make up the difference!

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    2. i absolutely love this and like jocelyn, i completely agree. that's what we're suppose to believe! for some of us the extras help, for some of us they really don't. thanks so much for your support! (both of you!)

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  34. I posted on your other post (probably as you were getting this one ready to publish), and I just keep getting more and more confirmation that we would be great friends. This post took some serious bravery, and I admire that. I just recently posted my first non-garment-friendly picture on ig, and I was terrified. Nervous sweats, heart palpitations, yikesss. But I felt like I shouldn't have to hide aspects of my life, especially when hey! I love this picture of me and my kids!
    About two years ago I was in the RS presidency, and I was doing my absolute darndest to be devout and orthodox and doing everything as I should. I was trying so, so hard. And I have never felt more dishonest in my life. I was having panic attacks before, after, and during church. Ducking into supply closets until I could get it together. After presidency meetings I would go straight to bed and hyperventilate as I laid there. After a while it was clear to me that this just wasn't working! I did decide it was best for me to leave the church completely, but I commend you for forging your own path. It's so hard, but your being open about it will make it easier for others to do the same.

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    1. thank you courtney! it's hard but feel so, so right. i know exactly what you're describing. when you're not being authentic to yourself and your relationship with god, you feel it. you just know. it's impossible to deny. good luck to both of us!! xo

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  35. http://terrylgivens.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Letter-to-a-Doubter.pdf

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  36. It cut me off, but that letter by terryl givens always makes the hole feel less round for me.

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    1. definitely going to read it, thank you for the link!

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  38. *sorry I was signed in under my husband's google account, here's the comment under my name!*
    Even as someone who hasn't been a member of the church my whole life, or even a whole decade yet, I totally get this. One of the things that can be really great about our church - the fact that our leaders and teachers are just average members of the congregation - can also be a big stumbling block because it can perpetuate an awful lot of "the church" that is actually just "the culture" and has no doctrinal basis. And anyone should be able to reject whatever cultural constructs they want to, without fear of being rejected.
    Also, I really appreciate that you highlight your personal relationship with God. I've honestly felt for a long time that if we all just invested our energies into developing our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus, rather than looking to see what anyone else around us is doing, right or wrong, we would all be happier, more Christlike, more able to love and serve, etc.

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  39. Thanks for being real in a very judge mental world. I am mormon and there are times that judgements from myself or others are so overbearing that it's easy to forgot that God loves us all. I have many times gotten tired of life and how hard it is or how hard I was making it for myself that I want to throw in the towel and than God shows me a small sign that he loves me and my faults and my imperfections that make me me. That make me human that make me beautiful in my own right. And for a minute I forgot about the others and the judgements and the people that try and tell me how I should feel and act and simply be. I love my Savior, I love my Father in Heaven. I know they live and I love the gospel and the freedom it gives me when I allow myself to simply remember. I wish I had your poetic ways of putting down words on paper, I thank you for allowing me to share my simple testimony. That life is hard and amen to us all finding our own journey and our own way of living it. Stay beautiful stay true God loves all of you and you are amazing don't forget that:)

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    1. right??? thank you so much for this comment!

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  40. Awesome, Natalie. Love your courage and willingness to share! I wish I could meet up with you for coffee or brunch or ice cream and give you a big ol hug.

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    1. dude, me too. hug from the internet in the mean time :).

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  41. What is it with religion. The man made part. As a cold i was brought up CofE and then my Mum decided she would follow the Church of Christ .... The rules changed and I didn't know what to expect...only that i could expect to be wrong most of the time. Religion has a lot to answer for. None of us are wrong...we just are ....amazing unique people. x

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    1. thank you robyn, i agree so, so much. xo

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  42. This was a great post. I have to remind myself not to be overly judgey, because I kinda tend toward that direction. I know, it's bad. But I loved this. I love that you're open and honest and real. I love your thoughts about the warehouse and the boxes with god. That totally resonated with me. I do think we got to choose what personality traits we would have while here on the earth. I think the most important thing, at the end of the day is to have a personal relationship with god and to love our fellowman. Isn't that what Christ taught while on the earth? You rock, keep on keepin on and keep posting awesomeness!

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    1. thank you ashley, it means a lot! xo

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  43. As a child.....not cold

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  44. I would love to know how one continues to be active in the round church when one doesn't necessarily agree with all of it's teachings. I have left the church and have missed it in many ways but just don't know how I could go back and....say....get called into yw or primary where I am supposed to "bear my testimony"to them regularly. How do you do that?

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    1. haha, i'll keep you posted. i think a lot of it will come down to having the courage to be honest with your bishop + with yourself + ask for what you feel you really need, and be prayerful all the while.

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  45. I think you're one of the strongest women out there! I read your posts and find so much strength in you. It helps me to dig a little deeper and find some of my own.

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  46. Dig this post, dig your honesty. I was raised by a religious mom and a very anti-religion dad so I've always struggled. I guess I fall somewhere in between. Optimism is a great trait to carry, as well as a weird nose. :)

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    1. such an interesting dichotomy to grow up in! thanks for the sweet comment :). xo

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  47. REALLY REALLY love this. I don't have any questions....because I don't feel like you need to explain anything else (although I will totally admit - I had NO IDEA what the underwear thing was, so I had to google it). I think that almost everyone has to feel like a square peg in a round hole with every religion, no? When I was little, I remember telling my mom I was going to start a "church of me" because I couldn't find a religion that I agreed with everything on. I was raised Catholic, and now that I'm 25 I go to Catholic church - alone or just with my family, btw, because my husband isn't religious at all! & of course there are things in the Catholic faith that I don't agree with - maybe more things than that are things I do, sometimes. But I think if the priority is just a relationship with God, then the religion isn't really what it's about. If God made us all to be different, then we aren't all going to fit a perfect definition of a follower of Christ - the important thing is just to follow him, on whatever path we find.

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  48. Oh my gosh if I could jump in my computer and squeeze you I would. I LOVED this and couldn't agree more; you literally took the words out of my mouth. We were given personal agency for a reason; not to be confined! I wish we were in the same ward I just know we would be friends! Words to live by written by Nat :) -xo-

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    1. thanks tanya! i'm sure we would be!! xo

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  49. Thank you for sharing! Your journey sounds very similar to mine. It's scary to voice different beliefs from the church because I feel people are quick to call apostasy! It's good to know you've found a happy place and are at peace, I'm working on getting there myself. This is hard stuff!

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    1. it is scary. and surprisingly worth it. good luck to both of us!

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  50. I usually don't comment, but wanted to tell you I really love this post. No matter what your faith, I think it is always important to remember you are God's creation so love yourself and your beliefs! Way to go - your church and your family will be better for it.

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    1. I love and totally agree with this post!

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    2. thank you! both of you!

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  51. It seems pretty disingenuous to write, "there's been speculation on instagram about my undies. guys. what a weird world we live in. on the one hand, i get it, i totally get it. on the other hand, it's obviously completely and totally inappropriate, not to mention disrespectful." You post pictures of Huck in his underwear all the time. Does he not deserve the same respect from his own mother, the respect you say is lacking when people question whether or not you are wearing garments? I don't care whether or not you wear them or what you believe, but this comes across as very hypocritical. If it's disrespectful to ask someone about "your underwear," how it is not also disrespectful to post pictures of a child (who is not able to give legal consent on what images of his you use, because he's 3) in his underwear?

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    1. I think it was more along the lines of, it's inappropriate to question her commitment to her faith on the basis of underwear. She posts pictures of herself and Huck in bathing suits that aren't much different from underwear, at least coverage-wise. And those are worn in public, so... If you really want to pick apart what someone should or shouldn't share with an internet audience, it could really go on forever, but everyone's threshold is different, so it's really kind of pointless.

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    2. what cole said! (thank you, cole.)

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  52. This post is word for word how I feel about all of it, but said a lot better, obviously. I was baptized Mormon but my family were never really all that devout, and the older and more liberal I got, the more the church's ideas didn't jibe with mine. But, I do like the culture and the positivity about family and motherhood. I don't really get the same sense of that anywhere else. I kind of wonder what it must be like for you to be so frequently compared to another blogger of the same faith who is obviously more of a round peg--this is a weird world we live in and the internet is even more bizarre. I've never seen any speculation about your undies and I'm not even a good enough Mormon to totally get what the undergarments are all about. I have seen a nasty debate or two about bathing suits and I JUST don't get it. I can't believe in a god that wouldn't let you into heaven because you wore a two-piece.

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    1. ditto, cole. fist bumps. thank you for the comment + your support. means so so much!

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  53. you are the raddest on the internet! I live by the mantra "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." truly, you are the raddest.

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    1. than you! your mantra reminds me of something brandon likes to quote at me all the time: "sound your barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world!" oh, dead poets society. ;)

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  55. We are all square pegs trying to fit into round holes. That is why we are here. To shave off our edges and become perfect like our Father in Heaven.
    Your blog is one of the raddest on the internet :)

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  56. This is absolutely phenomenal, Natalie. It is really true, we do not have to be anything for anyone but ourselves, our family, and our God. He loves us for our strengths, for our flaws, for who we are wholly and completely. Thank you for being such a bright spot on the internet, through your honesty, you have inspired more than you know.

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    1. thank you sarah! such a wonderful thing to say. xo

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  57. And all of the square pegs rejoice!!! Couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing, Natalie.

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    1. :) fists in the air! hah, thanks sarah!

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  58. This is so, so, so, so, great!! You sa "read at your own risk" but you should really say, "don't read at your own risk". I found so much comfort in your words! God is love! I think any an every religion, especially Mormons (which I am by the way) could benefit from reading this. Every member does not need to be cookie cutter and I wish more members would embrace that just as God does! I forgot about that talk from Elder Uchdorf, but WOW he is amazing! Thanks for the perfect thing to read to start my day!

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    1. oh, thank you whitney! can't even tell you what your support means. xo!

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  59. I have only commented once before (on your chocolate chip cookie recipe post). I live in GP in your aunt's stake. She told me about your blog so I read it occasionally. Anyway, I just want to tell you that you are "standing for something". Prepare for the subtle shunning but know that you have unknown people who support you.

    I am the only person in my stake who publicly favors the ordination of women. I will not bear false witness and reject that which I know to be moraly wrong: denying full participation because of gender. Anyway, it is tough to do something that is against cultural norms. I love your integrity. Stand tall, daughter. If you ever make it down to GP I will sit next to you in church.

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    1. i remember you! tell my aunt i say "yo!" i'll keep an eye out for you the next time i'm in town. xo!

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  60. For most of my life I never questioned my belonging in the church. I was always obedient and somewhat self righteous. I always had an idea in my head of how my life should be and most of that idea was based on the teachings of our faith. I imagined that at this point in my life I would have a temple marriage and at least two babies. Instead I am happily single with no babies. God had a different plan for me, different than the one my young woman's leaders told me about and different than the one I thought I wanted. I also feel like a square peg at times and feel lost in where I belong. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has a place for all of his children. Your post was such a comfort to me and I admire your strength in being true to yourself.

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    1. thank you so much for this. it's crazy how life changes on us, but how god's love will always be the one, most important constant. good luck! xoxo

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  61. Thank you for being so honest. This is a constant struggle for myself and from the looks, so many of your readers. I am not of the Mormon faith, however I find myself often struggling with the square and round peg issue. I think the best thing we can do for our faith and relationship with God is to be honest with ourselves and be true to the person that God has created. Finding our square hole that fits our square shape - finding our purpose for being here is the ultimate journey.

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    1. here's to making holes more inclusive! xo

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  62. Someone else in the comments mentioned the Givens--they wrote a book called The God Who Weeps. Only church-related book I ever felt resonated with me without creeping me out, kind of. Read it, if you're a reader. It's beautiful and the idea of God is very similar to yours.

    Also, I just got a tattoo--a rather large one, on my arm--and have been getting a lot of uncomfortable reactions in my community (Utah valley). Go with it, girl. I can't wait to see a picture of yours. It's given me huge confidence in my image of God to just brazenly, strumpetly walk in to Costco with my pretty moth on my arm and just say, f you guys, I love you with all my heart, but I'm going to be me.

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    1. i'll have to look it up, thanks for the book rec! and rock on sister with your tatted self. did you find making the appointment was the hardest part? hah. xoxoxo

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  63. Thank you so much for this post. I've gone through a similar faith transition (though it's felt like a crisis for a long while up until recently, ha). My dad came out that he is gay three years ago and my "eternal family" has since become what would've been unrecognizable even five years ago. People wonder why it's not easy to just "leave" if there are parts of the church that don't resonate with you, why there is push-back... it is such an excruciatingly painful experience, to realize that what your heart is truly saying doesn't correlate with church teachings, what you have been taught as THE ultimate truth your entire life. For me, at least, it caused a three year identity crisis (during the midst of which I decided to get married and have a baby, smart! ;))

    I've written a few posts here and there as I've gone through my experience of learning to have true faith, vulnerable and human. Faith in myself, that I am good. Faith in God, that He is good. One of which I discussed having the opportunity to exchange emails with Carol Lynn Pearson, a turning point in my experience, about her experience of discovering the "truth"...

    http://hannah-soup.blogspot.ca/2013/07/god-is-love.html

    If you're interested, my "coming out" post, coming from a place of so. much. fear...

    http://hannah-soup.blogspot.ca/2013/06/my-integrity-wont-allow-ignorance.html

    and my most recent post, finally coming to a place of peace. A place where I feel more than ever, that God is...

    http://hannah-soup.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-mystery-in-darkness-is-perfect.html

    Thank you, again, for sharing your real self with us! It means more than you know, to so many people.

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    1. thank you! it's always so rewarding to know your experiences are shared by so many. good luck to both of us!! xo

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  64. I think it's more like, we're all round pegs and the church is a square hole. Some people fit in the hole perfectly, and others not so perfectly, but nonetheless, we all fit.

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    1. i love this corina. thank you for the comment!

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  65. Hey! So not to be a weird stalker… but. I read in one of the comments you made in a previous post (or maybe instagram?) that you said (with a wink, I'm sure) that you're just too lazy to find another church. I wasn't sure if you were joking or being serious - either way, please don't feel judged. I thought that kind of meant that you had decided to leave the church, but then this post, you know, the whole roaring aspect of being a mormon, contradicts that.

    Oh, and to add my own little thought to this whole thing here, I recently read this quote by Joseph Smith: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God”. It is very hypocritical and just weird for anyone to question another's journey to finding Heavenly Father and really getting to know him. Culture - ESPECIALLY church culture - should never get in the way of that very important step in mortality. I have found my relationship with Him through this gospel and because of that, I want to shave down the squareness of my peg - not to fit into the culture of the church because let's be real. That will never happen. But to make myself the person I think He wants me to be, which is one who follows the words of the prophets and apostles with as much exactness as I can, repenting all along the way. More than anything, though, I know that what I need to do is know my Savior and Heavenly Father, keep the covenants that I've made, and love my kids and husband like crazy. Anyway. Sorry for the long comment. But just wanted to bear my little testimony and tell you that I appreciate your honesty and your testimony.

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    1. http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1552 here's the talk, by the way, that I referenced. It's super, super good.

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    2. hi brooke! there was totally a wink that should have gone along with that. i'm not too lazy to find another church, i suppose the right word at this point is "disinterested in finding another church." we believe we can make this one work for us, because it already does in so many ways. if it turns out we're wrong, we'll happily + respectfully find our way somewhere else, but i'm hoping it won't need to come to that. time will tell i suppose. thank you for the link! excited to read it.

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    3. Gotcha. Well, good luck on this journey. And if I have any say in this tattoo business ;), just don't get the Young Women's medallion tattooed across your stomach, k? I know it's tempting.

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    4. Brooke, I laughed out loud at this one! I was at a youth standards night once where a guy kept asking dumb questions like "Can I get a tattoo of the temple?" and "How about the prophet? Could I get a tattoo of him?" Natalie, just say no to YW medallion and temple tats. You probably don't want a Dieter tramp stamp either. :-)

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  66. THIS. I am reading with tears streaming down my face because this is me. I have been struggling to find my place in our church for nearly 2 years. And frankly being me and being Mormon in suburban Utah is not easy to reconcile because at times it feels like everyone is watching and "keeping score" so to speak. And I get that is their issue, and my issue is the way I allow myself to react to it but for now I've bowed out in the attendance department trying to figure myself out. I guess what I'm trying to say is just thank you. Thank you for letting the other square pegs out there know that we aren't alone.

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    1. thank you, colby! good luck to you in finding your sweet spot. xoxo

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  67. natalie, i really appreciated this post. i'm not a religious person myself, but i'm surrounded by quite a few. it just seems to be the circle i run in (and married in to too!). and i'm always in awe of them. their seemingly unwavering faith and blind following of their church(es). anyway, i love how open you are about your path through your faith and i totally respect that. i think that's what it's all about. finding your own faith path to follow and do what works for you. i was raised unitarian universalist which i think is an awesome place, but the whole church thing just wasn't for me. my path was more of a moral one and didn't involve a church. and i'm cool with that. i'm glad you're owning your own path too. you do you!

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    1. thank you, bri! your support means the world. (always have loved those unitarian universalists!)

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  68. awh man, I wish we really were the best friends that I feel like we are from reading about you every day. Haha then it wouldn't be weird for me to ask you a million questions. I was lucky to be raised in a family that went to church but taught my that no matter what your, relationship with Christ is #1. I've started to blame my here and there uncomfortableness or questions on my age. I haven't been around long enough to know for sure what is for me and what's not. I'm really jealous that you seem to have it figured out! You go girl.

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    1. haha, i hardly have it figured out, but i feel like i'm going the right direction. thanks for the comment! your family sounds amazing!

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  69. I just wanted to say that I, like so many of your other readers, applaud you for being brave enough to put this post out there. In the end, I believe that religion and spirituality are all about your personal, sacred relationship with God. The way I honor and worship is different than the way you do, or the way my family might, or the way that one stranger on the street does -- there's no way to compare or measure your faith against others. Ours is a loving God, and the way you choose to love isn't important -- it's still love.

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  70. you look so much like your dad! what does he have to say about this?

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    1. i haven't spoken with my dad about it directly, though we've had many conversations about my feelings on this. my parents love + support me no matter what i do, and as a grown woman, it's no longer their place, nor mine, either to give or expect permission for what i do or don't do. and i know! i am a total randy lovin clone. :)

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  71. I'm curious about why you choose to stay with a church that doesn't quite fit. Is it because of the familiarity? The family connection? There's a lot about Morominsm that I don't understand but the one that's been tugging at me the most is the "families are forever" thing I've seen a lot. Unless I'm really missing something(always possible) that's true for every Christian faith (that I know of). If your family is baptized and believes in Jesus Christ...you're together in heaven forever. I'm puzzled because I've seen it mentioned a lot in different Mormon blogs, and I don't get it.
    Regardless, I want to give you a giant Internet hug and say that faith is personal. God designs us to ask questions(he even provides quite a few answers!) and mull and puzzle. Otherwise, he wouldn't have given us free will. Questioning is normal. It's good, and it makes your faith stronger. Read the bible, pay a lot, and rock on with your self!

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    1. thanks frenchie! that's a good question, i'm not totally sure what the answer really is, yet. i agree with you. mormons do not have the patent on eternal families, and a lot of the feelings that i had to come to terms with in this experience were about precisely this, and about what we are taught is "required" for us to be together eternally. basically, i'm sticking around because this is my family's faith. it hits most of the important buttons i expect a lot of other churches would hit, so as long as the church will have me (and it seems they will), i feel comfortable taking it the way that feels right to me. if it turns out i'm wrong, i'll deal with that then, i guess. thank you for the comment + your support! :)

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  72. as a decidedly round peg, i appreciate your perspective. thank you for sharing it here with all of us. i think the more we share, the more we can understand and love each other, despite our differences.

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  73. this is just about everything i have tried to articulate regarding my own feelings on religion, but haven't been able to. so, thank you! i am not a mormon, but, likewise, i kind of even hate the labeling of religions. i grew up in the christian church, and i believe in god, i believe in salvation, but i don't believe that only one particular way is the right way for every single person on this planet. personally, i believe god is awesome enough to build unique relationships with each of us, and it isn't just about those things the guy in the pulpit espouses every sunday. honestly, i feel like most religious doctrine, most churches try to stuff god into a round hole, and i think god can be any kind of shape he wants to be. so we should stop trying to keep him from being square or triangular or hexagonal, and just let god be god...whatever that means to each of us. beautiful, beautiful post, natalie. thank you for using some of that courage to share with us all.

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    1. i equally hate religious labeling. i think all faiths have more in common than not, and it'd be so wonderful for all of us to embrace the similarities and be more forgiving and inclusive. anyway, i so appreciated this comment, and thank you! xo

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  74. During a group interview for acceptance into a BYU grad program, my sister was asked whether feminism had any place within the LDS faith. This was in the mid-90s...right after the September Six...and another girl in the group had already said that there was no room for feminism within the Church. In front of the entire group, my sister said that everyone who wants to be a part of the Church deserves a seat at the table...and that includes feminists. She actually credits that answer with getting her into the program. There are lots of us square peg/a la carte Mormons out there, I hope you are hearing a big collective "Amen!" to this blog post. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. your sister sounds like my kind of girl. and so pleased to hear she got in. there are more of us than any of us know, is my suspicion. lots of love to you and her! xo

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  75. I am a long time reader (although I've never commented) and truly enjoy all of your posts. I felt the need to comment today to tell you that this is so well written and absolutely beautiful. I am not Mormon, I am Catholic but have felt all the same struggles of trying to be this person I am "supposed" to be. You put into words what I have been trying to figure out for years and I thank you for such an inspirational post on faith.

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    1. thank you danielle! good luck to you!! xoxo

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  76. Great post, Natalie. I admire you writing about these sensitive, personal things. I'm Mormon, too, and while my life may look very conventional from the outside, I often have felt different from those around me. Another leader, along with President Uchtdorf, that often gives me comfort is Chieko Okazaki. "Be spiritually independent enough that your relationship with the Savior doesn't depend on your circumstances or what other people say and do. Have the spiritual independence to be a Mormon – the best Mormon you can – in your own way. Not the bishop’s way. Not the Relief Society president’s way. Your way."

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  77. I, too, am a long time reader (first time commenter) and although I am not Mormon, nor do I know much about that faith, I believe in an accepting and loving God who forgives, is kind and gives grace to his children who are "trying to figure it out". After all, that is what life is about, right? Figuring it out, and trying to be the best person we can be. So, consider yourself fully supported. And, thank you for writing such a sweet and funny blog. You really (truly) are my favorite internet person.

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  78. Oh Natalie, this post is helping my heart so much. I'm going through an irksome divorce right now, with a man who fit all the 'guidelines' for who I was supposed to marry, according to the Mormon culture. He was horrible. Flat out. I try not to say it too often, but he was. And now, as it's almost over, I've met a fella who is not LDS at all, but he is the kindest, sweetest man I've ever had the experience of meeting.

    My mom has desperately tried to help me see that this sweet, lovely man should just be kept as a friend, nothing more romantic than that, because he isn't up to par, not being Mormon.

    My thoughts are, God loves this man just as much as he loves me. Why on earth would God say that this man isn't good enough to be more than a friend to me, if he makes me feel like a princess (cheesy but seriously SO refreshing and needed), he makes me feel important and wanted, when my LDS ex did nothing but tear me down? Obviously religion doesn't determine the goodness of a persons heart, and God knows that.

    Our whole religion is centered around being Christlike. So why do so many of us forget that and judge the pants off of those around us? It drives me crazy.

    And that's my rant. Thank you so much for this post. I want to hug you for it.

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    1. heather, this comment is everything. thank you so much for sharing, and oh gosh! good luck with your divorce. i'm seeing second-hand just how frustrating that can be, and how being "good on paper" means absolutely nothing whatsoever. good luck to you and your new relationship! he sounds amazing!

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  79. I've been a reader for years and never comment on your (or any other) blog. Today though I need to respectfully express a (really only slightly) different opinion. You seem to welcome differing views and have asked that comments stay kind, I will respect that.

    I so agree with many of the things you said. I, too, think that our relationship with God is designed to be personal and that we are expected to exercise agency; and that as a result of that agency, members in and outside of the church look and act very differently from each other but yet we are asked (expected even!) to love, accept, even embrace those differences. Like the others, I do commend you for your bravery in expressing some of your deepest feelings and beliefs. You have chosen to put your life in the public's eye and of course, it would be hard to not share something like this when you share so many other things. I get that, I really do. But what I see here is a bold manifesto that groups cultural and doctrinal pieces of the church together, and that, I can not agree with nor can I read these comments of others and not say something.

    Because of your interpretation of Uchtdorf's quote (while yes, I agree to an extent) it worries me that Mormons and Non-Mormons alike who read this post will leave with a skewed view on what it means to be a "strong Mormon woman" as you are now being referred to in many comments.

    There are cultural implications placed on members of the church. We know this. People outside the church try to know this. These cultural pieces can include (among many) body piercings/number of earrings, tattoos, swimwear, dare I say it, even political stances. These are left for our interpretation and I refuse to believe something like a tattoo would keep someone from reaping full benefits of the gospel, because, how silly is that?

    What is, for someone who has made the covenants, not a cultural option is temple garments. I know you understand the seriousness and sacredness of them and that they are a symbol of doctrinal principles, at the absolute core of the gospel. Choosing to not follow the culture of the church does not make you unworthy or unaccepted in the temple yet I am afraid that that idea might now be believed by hundreds of your readers. I don't mean any of this in an accusatory way, really only meaning to clear that up for other readers/commenters.

    Words out of the mouth of other members of the twelve hold equal weight as Dieter F. Uchtdorf's. In October 2012, Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that if we "prefer to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast. . . We face a lot of long nights and empty nets".

    I have admired you and your family for years and I support you in your own search for answers and I believe that's what it's all about, truly. But as someone who understands the symbolism and sacredness of temple garments, it alarms me to read this. Not because I don't think it's your right to live and to figure things out as you please, because absolutely it is, but because I'm afraid you may have unintentionally sent out somewhat of a distorted view to just as many readers as have applauded you in your courage.

    Again, not my intention to accuse or offend. I hope I have made that clear in my tone.

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    1. This could have been said any better Ariel! I love it all! I also believe that it's good to grow outward in our faith, as long as we follow the rule and guideline of the church (wearing our garments, attending the temple regularly, following the word if wisdom, etc.) Someone in my ward just this Sunday said that they feel like they have to fake it til they make it, and that's okay!
      Natialie, I honor your decisions in your life and know that you will do what is best for you & your family!

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    2. absolutely, ariel! i completely respect where you're coming from. and in a sense, i agree. this issue has been the one i've most grappled with, attacked the hardest in therapy, and really, really considered most strongly before coming to a peaceful decision. i don't mean to paint myself as the 'new mormon woman' or to give permission to anybody else to 'slack off' or take their covenants lightly. to be incredibly, stupidly honest with you, i just don't believe that the covenants i made in the temple were covenants i made with god. i'm pretty sure admitting that is going to get me a looooot of crap. but through many, many years of prayer, that's the answer i've received time and time again. it isn't the "right" answer. and i would never try, nor would i ever want to try, to convince anybody else that it is. but for me, for this time in my life, for my personal relationship with god, those covenants are a stumbling block and not a strength. and so i'm choosing to honor the answers i've been given in prayer, even if they aren't the answers someone else would tell me are "the right answers." in time the answers i receive may change, and if so, wonderful! if not, great! you know? i do truly appreciate your support, and i'm so glad you left this comment. it's a very, very good point.

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    3. i think you're making excellent points here ariel. and i'm glad you clarified, in a way, for those who are not members. especially the holland quote - i've been thinking about that too as i've read these church related posts. my interpretations is that natalie simply wanted to say that how she personally lives the gospel is nobody's business but her own, unless explicitly referred to such as in her blog (thus leaving it up for conversation). because frankly, can't we agree asking someone about their garments is a bit....invasive? thank you for your thoughts, ariel! i'm glad you've thrown in this side of the conversation.

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    4. I appreciate both your original post, Natalie, and your comment, Ariel. I think that nobody could really disagree with the stance that faith is personal and that it´s important to figure our your own relationship with God. I think that many of us Mormons are feeling like square pegs, and the response to this post is indicative of how many of us are grappling with similar issues.

      I suppose that although I completely understand the theory of being yourself and figuring out which parts of Mormonism to keep and which to discard, I don't necessarily understand what the actual practice of that would look like. For example, will you still hold callings in church, especially teaching callings where you have to bear testimony of gospel principles? Will you encourage Henry to go on a mission to baptize people into a church you don´t completely espouse? And if you have decided to stop wearing your temple garments (I know it's nobody's business but since you brought it up...), or if you do choose that in the future because you no longer believe in the temple ceremony, will you encourage your son to get married in the temple? And what does that mean for your relationship with your husband-- you didn't talk about whether his faith path is similar to yours, but if not, how does it affect the dynamic of a temple marriage when one spouse believes and one doesn't?

      Like I said, I certainly don't disagree that it's important to find your own faith path. I just wonder, in a church that demands so much in terms of time, resources and conviction, how it's possible to be Mormon but not believe; and though I feel like many of us "square peg" Mormons have our favorite leaders (Elders Uchtdorf, Elder Holland, Sister Okazaki) it is true, as Ariel said, that the words of our other leaders hold just as much weight even when we roundly disagree with them (I'm looking at you, Elder Packer). So how do you reconcile that?

      Thank you for starting this conversation, Natalie. I've been reading your blog for a long, long time and am continually impressed with your courage in sharing a lot of really private things. I hope that my questions come across as non-judgy and as a sincere attempt at thoughtful discussion, which is how I wrote them.

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    5. P.S. I wrote this comment but didn't post right away, and now you've addressed some of the things I asked I guess. Just curious-- is your therapist LDS? And if not, how in the world did you explain the temple ceremony, ha.

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  82. As always, what a beautiful post! I like what some said in your comments today, about thinking the church as a huge round hole that fits many different shapes! I believe that we were placed on this earth to find Heavenly Father in our own way. Haven't we always been told not to follow the beaten path ;) I have been a member all my life and I've always just gone with the flow, weather I felt uncomfortable or when I knew this was what He wanted me to do. I know I need to get out of Utah where I feel the round whole is pretty small. I have loved my time here & have grown so much in my faith, but to continue growing, I can't be round anymore, I need to be me! And be okay with being me. Thank you for your post. I always love your stories and adventures. Thank you for being YOU!

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  83. hello,
    i will make you laugh but I didn't really understand any of it because for me, religion is personal and you do whatver you want with it as long as you respect others. My parents are muslims. My sister married a jewish guy. My brother married a catholic. We respect each other. I pray in my own way and everything is great as long as nobody judges.
    I really love your blog and your creativity. Please continue and f*** the haters lol !

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    1. hah, thank you! and yes, i agree. i've always believed a good muslim is a good jew is a good buddhist is a good christian. all of these faiths have SO MUCH in common. we could all do well to encourage each other to just do good, however that happens. thank you for the comment!

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  84. love love love love love love this. you are so inspiring to me natalie, in SO many ways. for me, religion is what works between you and your God. i am of the mennonite faith and my husband is unsure of his faith. he was never raised in a religious household and has a hard time believing in a higher power. it's hard for me to completely agree with my faith (you must be baptized in order to be saved) when my own husband (and myself, as i've never been baptized) isn't sure what to believe. so, i'm come to decide that what works for me is this: live a life that God would be proud of, raise my children to know Him and keep talking with my husband about faith. that's what God wants, right?

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    1. lacey, i love this! my brother-in-law's family is mennonite, and it is such a beautiful faith. it's made him such a strong, upstanding guy, though his family no longer practices + has found their own way to worship christ. it's a neat thing, all these different faiths and truths, and how similar and wonderful they can be if we approach them with hope + love. thank you for the comment!

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  85. We (my mom and I) left the Jehovah's Witness congregation when I was 13.
    I am certainly more myself now, I found out that I am much more open-minded than I'd been raised to be and my personal life has benefited from my departure, though I am still learning the difference between 'concerned' and 'controlling' but I now have the ability to walk away from a person who treats me unkindly without congregational distain.

    Anyways, it is not an easy path, but it is more than worth it in the end.

    I benefited from the departure and I believe my children will benefit from the woman that leaving the congregation has made me. It makes me happy to know that if I have a male child he is not doomed to be a chauvinist, misogynist or abuser. And that my (currently imaginary) children will never be in a religion where thinking for themselves could cause them to loose their friends, family, identity ...their entire life.

    I believe this decision has ensured (to an extent) the safety of my future family. And as a (one day) Mama, what is more comforting than knowing your children are safe?

    Additionally, there are bad people everywhere, but when people behave badly within the congregation it can be so much more demoralizing than if 'worldly' people misbehave. Because the expectations for certain behaviours are not there. After my mother married my father - a 'worldly' women's rights activist who felt the religion was a cult, who has been the love of her life and displayed an immense amount of character in the face of various struggles throughout their 20 years - the behaviour of those in the congregation was shocking to me, a little girl who trusted the members.

    I learned that the congregation was much more harmful to one's spirit, moral and sense of humanity/decency than the 'world' could ever be.

    It is not an easy road, and it takes time to find oneself outside of all that one has ever known, but after the loss, grief, anger, disillusionment and pain; I think you and that little red-headed baby boy of yours will look back and be happy with your decision.

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    1. shay, this was completely beautiful, thank you for sharing. your feelings mirror mine completely. congratulations to your future babies for having such a kick ass mom. lots of love to you! xo

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  86. I've been struggling with very similar feelings and not knowing what to do with them. It's a relief to read another person's perspective and feel a peace about what they wrote. You did that for me.

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    1. oh lindsey, thank you for this. and i'm so glad. this is one of those times where the more i've shared my feelings + truth, the more supportive + uplifted i have felt, + the more of god's love i have seen. have courage and be brave! xoxo

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  87. I think it's nice that you can feel you can share your feeling on here, but I agree a little with Ariel above.
    I hope that you understand the difference between 'the Mormon church' and the doctrine. The doctrine is perfect but the church (& the culture that comes with it) is not. I have felt many times that I feel out of place at church, but that doesn't prevent beliefs, testimony or church attendance. Because, let's be honest, it is always between you and God. If you follow the doctrine correctly, the rest will not bother you. Church attendance, tattoos, piercings & modesty among other things are down to agency and individual interpretation and the act of covering knees may not matter, but it's the principle of obedience that does.

    I love your honesty in your blog, and your experiences have helped give me perspective in my efforts to start a family. I wish you and yours all the best!

    caneedham.blogspot.com

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    1. thank you anna! the gospel of christ is indeed perfect. how it is interpreted by men might not always be, but the gospel at its core, that's what i'm trying to cling to. thank you for your strong testimony! xo

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  88. oh man. thank you thank you thank you for writing this. and so eloquently! i'll be sending some people over to read this one. also - how great are your readers?? these comments have made me glow today. i love seeing that i'm not the only one out there with trepidation about the church after having moved to utah. the church just doesn't feel the same here. it's been a struggle for me. but wow are your readers/commentors great! obviously this was a very inspired post, as so many of us really needed to hear these words. THANK YOU, natalie. thank you so much for your courage to share.

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    1. oh my goodness, right? totally the raddest people on the internet in here. it's been such a wonderful experience, i'm so humbled by it all. thank you so much for your support, i'm so glad it touched a good spot. lots of love to you! xoxo

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  89. In a lot of ways I understand you perfectly. I've never been that sunny, blonde mormon girl who enjoys crafting, sewing, and baking. I'm pretty sarcastic, artsy and have been known to laugh at a good dirty joke and swear on occasion. As a teenager I totally felt like I didn't fit in with the other kids at church. Now that I'm older I'm so glad that my parents raised me to be a different person. What made me feel different back then, now makes me feel proud of who I am. At 31, I feel like I have reached a balance between believing and following God's laws, but still being myself. I believe that God expects A LOT of us, but he also forgives us infinitely. I hope you find that balance too! You are a adorable and I love your blog.

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    1. thank you for this comment eden!! xo

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  90. I remember when I was 21 my aunt said to me "Maybe I am not the most conventional Mormon. But God loves me just the same." That is something that I have always remembered, my whole family is full of liberal, democratic, gay, straight. Some of us are still active in the Mormon faith and some of us are not. I tired for a while to fit my square peg into the round whole. And what I have found is this, the "church" and the Gospel are very different things. And sometimes its the Church or (people) who make us feel like we have to fit in so much. And most importantly is that there is room for all of us! There is room for those who read the scriptures every night and room for me who considers it a victory if it happens once a week. God loves us the same. Good luck on your journey, and know that even though a lot of us don't actually know you, we want you to be happy!

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  91. I've been wondering about your feelings with the LDS Church and how they have evolved. I've been a long time reader and remember some of your posts in the past about church. I think the questions about your g's are so inappropriate! It's your undies! It's personal. I think it's weird that people think it's ok to ask those sorts of questions. But I think it's just the culture of narks that the LDS Church breeds.

    I wanted to share a post I wrote a few years ago when I decided to leave the Church. I felt like it was a more all or nothing thing for me, but it was more based on my upbringing and experiences living in "Zion".

    http://mersmemoirs.blogspot.com/2011/11/you-should-know-why.html

    You're not alone, Nat! We all have our own journey to go on, and you don't have to be a full blown Mormon to go on it.

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  92. Thank you so much for this.

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  93. Can we be friends? I've been struggling with this exact same thing for over a year now. I feel like recently things have sort of started to gel for me I that I can still be a faithful member, but I might piss a few staunch Mormons off in the process. Wow it's been so hard to just let some things go. I've come at this thoughtfully and prayerfully and what feels right to me is that God never expected everyone to think, feel, and believe the same way. We are all different for a very good reason. I may not be the most popular person in my ward because of how I have come to view things, but I am so much happier and generally content now than I ever have been. It is so wonderful to know that there are others out there like me. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  95. Wow, I didn't think that so many would respond to your post, but I just wanted to thank you for reminding me of this talk. Not that I had doubts, but as I saw people leaving the church this talked reminded me of our agency. Each of us must take the path we feel is right and we should encourage people to seek that path; even if (specially if) it is not the same as ours.

    Best of luck, best wishes and "fresh courage take"

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