My Faith Crisis and How the Universe Stepped In

While I was prepping this post, I was surprised that more people weren’t willing to discuss religion. I heard from a few of you and I understand where you come from. I see both sides of it, but like I’ve told a friend, for reasons I won’t discuss here once you have seen what the LDS people/Mormons are warned against viewing (and I’m not talking about pornography), you can never go back to the Faith. This is where I find myself these days.

I’m just here to share with you my experience. I have no ill will for the church or its members and have the utmost respect for many of my friends who count themselves as firm believers. I am what you call a Post-Mormon. I was not ex-communicated, I wrote the the church headquarters and had my records officially removed. I have no regrets of leaving and my husband and I have even discussed moving back to Utah.

The Structure

Honestly, I miss the structure. Being LDS encouraged me to do what I needed to do everyday (read my scriptures, have individual and family prayers, and to teach my children to live the Gospel). My religion dictated where I needed to be on certain days and who I was to spend that time with. I’m sure some of the names have changed, but the activities remain the same. I am glad to hear that for the my devout friends that church is now only two hours long instead of the three hour block, I was accustomed to.

My days were filled with Family Home Evenings, Ministering (Visiting Teaching), Temple Nights, Enrichment Activities (Relief Society) and/or attending Young Women’s (Youth activities) as a leader. If I had a calling, I was busy fulfilling that calling. Preparing to give a well researched lesson filled references from past general auhorities or prophets, hoping my lesson would touch the hearts and minds of those participating in that class.

Living in an underpopulated LDS metropolis like Citrus County (tongue in cheek) members of the ward carry more than one calling. On the West Coast, I had one. Here I had three. If I wasn’t willing to accept the calling, I was told, “But don’t you want to follow the will of the Lord? And you know Sister Sant, the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.”

I accepted the callings, this was in 2012. Little did I know 2013 would bring more trials, literally and figuratively. I thought I was strong, but like all things our mental strengths are tested. We climb our metaphorical Mt. Everest time and time again.

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Summer of 1996

I was leaving the only thing I thought I believed in since I bore my testimony on the beach at the “Res” (reservoir) in Delta, Utah during a youth activity for Hinckley 1st Ward. The sun was setting against the water. Brother Larson was leading the testimony meeting. I was 16 at the time. The feelings were there. I choked back my tears. I remember that evening clearly. We had all gone to middle school together and were in high school all attending Seminary. I felt a closeness to the teenagers I had grown up with like I had never experienced.

I bore my testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. So this was what it was like to really feel the Holy Spirit. I felt an all encompassing love that evening, from the seen and the unseen.

Imperfect Me

I’m not going to say I was the perfect LDS girl, but I came pretty damn close when I was married to my first husband. I didn’t swear, drink coffee, alcohol or black tea or smoke.

I was very much into nutrition and wouldn’t dare give my children fast food. Heaven forbid they allow that garbage to enter their delicate systems. Lauryn and Lexi were 11 and 12 years old before I decided that we would no longer attend church.

Coincidentally, since my soon to be ex husband was no longer around and spending his days in a
Federal Prison Camp, I had to get a job and my children had to attend public school. Up until that point, I had homeschooled them from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. My girls had lived a sheltered life for sure. They attended gymnastics twice a week and went to all church functions, but they didn’t know what it was like to attend public school.

I didn’t allow them to watch Sponge Bob because I felt it was like bubble gum for the brain. They played educational games on the computer and watched shows that were church appropriate and not anything morally degrading.

When I ran ,I listened to ungodly music. Mainstream pop music (edited) was my act of rebellion. My husband hated it, but music and running was non-negotiable. I did my best to pick races held on Saturdays and only listened to my music through my headphones or in the car when my kids were not in it.

Life After the Church

When I left the church aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a couple people told me that it was a brave thing I was doing. Brave? I was scared shitless. Terrified. It felt like I was slipping out into the great unknown. I asked my former sister-in-law how she had felt after leaving the church, she said it took a couple of years to not feel guilty for leaving.

I suppose what I expected was hellfire and brimstone to cloud my life path. Or maybe God believed I deserved nothing but misery because of the choices I made in choosing to take my children from the only religion they ever knew.

While I wasn’t officially off church records, I was on my way to living a life of a non-Mormon.

I took off my temple garments, I had worn since I was 19. I imagined only bad things happening from here on out. When I had my first cup of coffee, that I drank black. Since then I have come to appreciate my French press, a good flavored creamer with a little bit of sugar. Lightening did not strike me.

After the Ragnar Relay in 2014 that took place from Key Biscayne to Key West, I got drunk with my boyfriend sharing a couple of fishbowls. I didn’t know my tolerance level, but quickly found out that evening. It didn’t and still doesn’t take much to feel tipsy.

That same night, I had the Ragnar logo affixed to my arm permanently. I realized now that there are far worse things I could have tattooed to my arm that night, I’m glad it was what it was. When I arrived home, my kids were shocked. Lexi said, “Mom?! You got a tattoo?!”

“Yes, I did. One day I’ll explain what happened.”

Mind you, this was coming from a mother who once wouldn’t let her children put on fake tattoos, because the mere appearance of it would make them want to get one later. I did not tell them about the fishbowls, they would have thought I was drinking water from fishbowls with fish still in them. I was in my mid-thirties experiencing what 20 year olds were doing.

While I struggled with leaving the church behind, I would look into the mirror staring into my eyes, searching into the deep recesses of my soul. Saying to myself, “Des, what are you doing? You can’t leave the church. What will happen to your eternal family? How will you be able to see your children again once you pass through the veil of death?”

Honestly, the one question that looped through my head had come from another runner. “Excommunication? Why would your church abandon your husband during this time? Isn’t this the time when he needs God the most?

That was a good question. Why would Heavenly Father do that during a time of need? All blessings revoked? These thoughts made my head spin. None of it made sense, until I reconciled it within myself. It wasn’t finding justification for my “rebellion” it was a realization.

Like I said in a previous post, the last time I would set foot in the church besides one other time, I was asked by one of the counselors in the bishophric, requesting that I meet with the bishop. He wished to talk to me.

I went to this impromptu meeting. The bishop was all smiles, until he looked down at his legal pad and adjusted his pen just right before looking up at me.

“Sister Sant, you might want to consider running less and taking the time to be with your children.”

My world had flipped upside down. A couple months prior, at the insistence of my future ex husband and father of my three daughters, he strongly suggested I remain at a dead end receptionist job making $8.50 an hour working eight hours a day, five days a week, while the church took care of the remainder of mine and the needs of my children. I refused because our ward members were suffering more than my own family. We would get through it. Somehow.

I quit the receptionist job and decided to sell skirts through a brand new company called LulaRoe. I would later substitute teach for Citrus County Schools and eventually found a soul sucking job working full time with a title search company. We made it. I survived. Somehow. And it had nothing to do with God.

2021

My best friend since high school recently said, “You cannot deny those feelings you had as a member of the church.

“You’re right. I can’t.”

She wished me the best on my faith journey and we talked about other things. I am incredibly grateful for friends like her. Thankfully, I have been blessed to have many friends that still love me as I am.

The best way I can explain those feelings of the Spirit match those I have heard on a podcast I listen to off and on. It has been a great help during this time. If you’re interested, let me know. I am more than happy to share with you what I have learned.

It’s a Vibe

There is no doubt that there is higher power, but I no longer believe that it belongs to one Supreme Being. I believe that we are all interconnected in this vast universe, so much so that I can feel those vibrations through my entirety. The vibrations you give off are as real as the air you breathe, be it positive or negative that is exactly what you’ll attract.

I have seen it in my own life without attending a church or paying a tithe. I belonged to a non-denominational where I met wonderful people, but I couldn’t reconcile some things. I hope this resonates with you in some way as you grow and flourish in this life. I’m sorry if you think less of me because I no longer share your faith, but just know I am still the same Desiree at my core. In fact, I feel more like Desiree 2.0. I am more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I suppose that comes with age and life experience.

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As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post, and I hope to “see” you again. If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to “Buy Me Coffee.” Your donations help this mama out more than you know.

A Partial Tale of Two Valleys: Part 1

The title of this post reflects the small town I moved from and the small town I moved to. They both were located in the valley.

With the exception of starting my life in Huntington Beach, CA, and one year in Carson City, NV, by three years of age, my parents decided they didn’t want their daughter growing up in the city.

“We moved out of the city because we were worried that you might join a gang,” my father used to say.

I used to roll my eyes at the thought. I still do.

Through their parental lens, they were sheltering me from the dangers of city living and as a result, I have lived in nothing but rural towns since then.

What is it like moving to a town far from the people you know?

I was 11 years old when I moved from West Valley, New York to Delta, Utah.

Delta was one of the larger towns in Millard County making it the hub for the public school system. Delda, as the locals call it, had everything from grocery stores, banks, restaurants, and one clothing department store.

I lived in one of those smaller towns. Hinckley is located 5 miles east of Delta. There were no traffic lights. During the holidays, the town’s Christmas tree was set up in the middle of the only four-way stop sign on Main. We had a gas station, an LDS Church, post office, a park, and the remains of the Hinckley Academy.

Here’s an excerpt from my memoir Belonging:

My father knows that moving to the West Coast will bring my mother back. She prefers the drier weather. He speaks to an old family friend we knew from Hawthorne. Dena and Greg have moved to a small town in Utah. My father tells me that if he doesn’t like it after a few months, we will move, but for the time being, Delta is our destination. At the end of the school year, my father packs up what little we have left into his 1975 Ford truck. We head West.

### 

The move from West Valley, New York is not the most challenging part––the people in Utah are different.  It’s hot outside, but people in town aren’t wearing tank tops or short shorts. Women and girls are wearing short-sleeved shirts and shorts that go below the knee. 

Bart, Greg’s son, says I can’t say, “Oh my God” anymore. 

“Why?” I ask.

His little sister pipes in and says, “Because you can’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”

“What does that mean?”

“Because it’s like cussing. You can say, ‘Gosh’ or ‘Goodness’ instead,” says Bart.

I don’t want to be a cusser and adopt these new words into my speech.

Dena asks if I want to come to church with them on Sunday. It’s not what I want to do, but it’s better than sitting in their house by myself. I no longer own any dresses. My mother had stopped making my dresses after the fourth grade because I wanted to wear jeans like the rest of the girls in my class. She says that since I don’t own any appropriate church clothes, Dena takes me to a thrift shop and buys me a denim skirt and a short-sleeved salmon button-up top with a collar. The fabric is heavily starched, and the sleeves dwarf my skinny arms. Dena says that it will work. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to complain. That would be rude. 

We arrive at the church with fifteen minutes to spare, but it appears that people have come earlier. We walk through the foyer and are immediately greeted by church members who provide us with a program. We pass through a set of double doors and enter the back of the chapel and follow other members beyond accordion-style partitions that reveal the overflow where there are rows of metal folding chairs. The dusty rose cushioned pews in the chapel are all taken. Flowery perfumes mixed with fruity lotions evoke a feeling of walking through a department store as people pass me in the aisles to get to their seats.

A woman sitting behind us leans over and gently touches Dena’s shoulder. She says, “Hello, Sister Hawkins. How are you doing?” I have never heard her addressed in this manner. 

Greg turns around and nods hello, and Dena says, “I’m doing great, Sister Anderson.” Someone at the podium begins to speak, and the woman leans back in her chair. She eyes me with curiosity, adding a warm smile before turning her attention to the man in the stand who goes over the program. 

Dena hands me a hard-backed forest green hymn book opened to the song. I push up my big plastic-framed glasses and sing a high note when I should go low. I continue to follow the words but my voice catches and enters into an accidental falsetto far from the tune everyone else is singing.  My throat goes dry, so I mouth the words instead.  The boys are dressed in slacks or khaki pants and wear long or short-sleeved white button-ups with a tie; they look like miniature versions of their fathers. Another hymn is played, and two teenage boys between the ages of 16-18 sit behind the sacrament table where they silently break the bread and divide it among several trays, covering the trays with white linen cloth when they finish. 

Younger boys ages 12-15 wait for their queue to stand up and distribute the trays of bread to the congregation. After they pass their tray between the rows, they wait for the tray to return into their possession. Their hands are respectfully held together in front of them. Dena tells me  before the service starts that I cannot have the bread or water because I am not a member. I pass the tray to the person next to me. They follow the same routine with the water. Families fill entire rows. Older couples and widows sit together. Girls my age wear cap-sleeved dresses in floral prints with ruffles and wear pantyhose with their kitten heels. I notice their light brown or blonde hair is either braided or curled with their bangs perfectly teased and sprayed into place. 

I touch my hair, and my cheeks grow warm. The dry air makes my hair frizzy and unmanageable. My headband has somewhat contained my wild uneven hair and my bangs swoop down in an awkward chunk of a wave, leaving my forehead exposed slightly, accentuating my acne-covered skin. Before we moved from West Valley, I had cut my hair with a pair of household scissors. My hair that once sat in the middle of my back is now just above my shoulders. I tug at my skirt, hating the way it bunches up when I sit down. I look down at my white canvas shoes that aren’t so white. There is no one in the chapel a shade darker than cream.  

The church service is hard to follow. They use words that are unfamiliar. The man standing at the pulpit is saying something about the power of the Priesthood and blessings. I stop listening to him and watch the families. Each family sits together, with at least three children by their side. Most of the fathers wear a three-piece suit. Mothers glare or hush their children to sit still and be quiet. They end the meeting with the hymn Families Can be Together Forever. A woman from the congregation comes to the pulpit to pray. She mixes modern words with thees and thous and blesses those that couldn’t make it this Sunday will be able to come next time. She closes with, “We pray that thou might bless us with a good rest of the Sabbath.” I look around and realize that I’m the only one that hasn’t bowed my head, crossed my arms, and closed my eyes. I say my own silent prayer that I will remember not to have the urge to accept the invitation to come back here again.

I am here in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from my friends and a mother across the Pacific. The closest city is an hour and a half away. A typical one-liner in any small town is that if you blink, you’ll miss it. Heading North on Highway 6 at the end of Main Street takes you right past the cheese plant and restaurant to Provo and on through to Salt Lake City. Going straight on Highway 50 East takes you South to St. George, and if you continue to follow the road West, you will end up in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

My father takes a liking to the area. “It’s a great place to raise kids.” He says this to people he meets around town. 

“I like that they care about family so much.” He says to me. Over the years, I have learned to nod in agreement. He’s not asking for my opinion. Besides, I don’t have much to say about raising families. I feel like I’m barely in one. He decides that this is where we will live. He finds a job with an electrician. Three days later, he rents out a three-bedroom ranch-style home five miles West of Delta. We now live in the town of Hinckley, even more, remote than Delta. If you continue to follow Highway 50 West, it will take you over the state border to Nevada. Hinckley’s population is just under 700. There is a gas station, a church, and a post office. If you want to buy groceries, you’ll have to head into Delta. 

# # #

Those who live in the towns surrounding Delta attend school there. I begin my seventh-grade year at Delta Middle School. The locals call it Delda. My English teacher Mrs. Tuttle asks me to introduce myself. I stand up next to my desk. I don’t know what to do with my hands, so I hold them behind my back. My heart is pounding in my chest, “I’m Desiree Bania. I moved here from West Valley, New York, and I live in H-Hinckley, Utah.” Mrs. Tuttle gives me a cursory nod and smiles. I sit down feeling foolish. I could have said other things, but my mind draws a blank.  Of course, I live in Utah. Why did I say that? I feel the blood rush to my cheeks, and my ears redden. My armpits grow damp. I want to melt into my seat. I hate it here. I go home and cry for hours. In my darkened room, my father asks what’s wrong. I tell him I don’t want to go back.

He tells me that isn’t possible.

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First of all, thanks for reading my work. This concludes the excerpt from my memoir, Belonging. Stayed tuned for more. Thanks for stopping by!

The Choices We Make

We make choices everyday, some are more complex than others. Press snooze or get up? Eggs or a smoothie? Marry him or wait for the right one? 2 kids or more?

I can’t change the past, but I can choose to live better.

August 4, 2019

The obstetrician stopped me mid push when he noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. He cut the cord. Why isn’t she crying? I searched my husband’s face for answers. He gripped my hand and looked on as the medical personnel worked on our baby.

It felt like time stood still laying in the hospital bed, waiting for a friendly face to provide us with the reassurance that everything was okay. No one was smiling. Minutes later we heard her first cry. Everyone in the room let out a sigh of relief. Brooklyn had arrived.

Brooklyn – August 2019

It’s hard to believe she is now two years old and the loudest. When she hears “No.” she’ll try harder to get her way. She tests the patience of everyone around her. I know her type of fighting spirit will serve her well when she’s older, but for right now we’re teaching her to reign in her tenacious ways. She is quite the little actress.

Brooklyn- October 2021

Brooklyn was four months old when we found out we were expecting another one. I was older than 35 which made this my second geriatric pregnancy. I cringe at the word geriatric, but it is what it is.

Kylie was born June 26, 2020. Zero complications. Thank the powers that be. Another healthy baby girl. My husband is outnumbered 7-1. He has more patience than me, either that or he’s better at ignoring the insignificant moments. I have come to believe that he sees the bigger picture much better than I give him credit for.

Kylie- June 2020

When Kylie hears the faint sounds of a melody her shoulders start to shift up and down and her hips begin to sway. She has an old soul that loves ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Her two other loves are her thumb and her purple blanket.

Kylie- October 2021

80, 42, 30, 19, 18,  8,  2, 1…

This isn’t a number sequence or a countdown. These are the ages of everyone in the house.

Parenting two children is a challenge, but combine that with a very opinionated mother-in-law and 3 step children is anything but easy. We face a myriad of challenges at home. Different personalities, moods and disagreements pop up everyday.

What’s a day without drama? It’s not a day.

Timeline

Raised Mormon since the age of 12, I bought in the ideal timeline. Go to college, marry a returned missionary in the temple, multiply and replenish (have children) and live happily ever after. During my sophomore year in college, I met my first husband through a mutual friend. Within two months we were engaged and the following July we were sealed (married) in the Salt Lake Temple. My mother said I was too young. What did my mother know about life in America? She knew more than I did, but you can’t tell that to a headstrong 19-year-old.

Experience

I should have listened to my mother.

I am the type of a person that learns from experience. If you tell me don’t, I’ll take your thoughts into consideration and depending on the thing, I will probably do it anyway.

I was taught by my parents that my outward appearance was the most important. I learned through Mormonism that our hearts were even more important. Through my doing, I have learned to judge less (I never said I was perfect). I have been humbled countless times. I don’t have a problem telling my kids I don’t know, but there are days when I wish I had all the answers. My parents didn’t have all the answers. They were just making the best choice they could make based on their collective experience.

In personal essay writing I spend a lot of time reflecting. It is wrought with pain, shame, guilt, and forgiveness. Once I learned how to forgive myself, I could let go of the past. On November 16, 2021, my essay titled Not Me will be published online. I’ll share the link once it goes live. In the essay, I made a choice I NEVER imagined I would experience.

I write about my life experiences to share the things I have learned in hopes that it could lift another up and out.

We have this one life to live. I hope you choose to let go and keep on keepin’ on.

The Addiction: Part 2

This is Part 2 of The Addiction. Part 1 is available here on my blog. After leaving Mormonism, I threw myself into the sport of ultra running, got remarried for the 2nd time to another runner. As I said in Part 1, I realized that we had love, but it wasn’t for each other. It was for running. During that time of realization, the man I met at work changed how I understood the meaning of love.

Continue reading “The Addiction: Part 2”