I was recently told by probably the most important person in my life that they don't matter to me because of the way I chose to live my life. Because I don't live by their standards, or their values. If they really mattered to me, I wouldn't choose to live the way I do.
Over the past few years, I chose to lie to this person. I lied by omission, and I lied about things so they wouldn't find out the truth.
Well, here's the truth.
When I was young, I wasn't active in the church. I was baptized, but I don't ever remember being active. I don't remember going to church as a family. I don't remember praying before meals. We did those things occasionally, but I was never taught how important those things were to the religion. I was the kid that wasn't allowed to play with other kids in my neighborhood because I "didn't go to church."
As I got older, I was told I was going to start going to church functions like activity days, young women's, girls camp, EFY, seminary, etc. Never really given a choice, but I would go anyway.
The standards of the church were clear. No smoking, drinking, no more than one set of piercings in your ears, no tattoos, no sex before marriage, and many more.
Starting young, I got multiple piercings, but I never saw it as a bad thing. A lot of other people gave me crap for it, but I didn't mind. For my 18th birthday present to myself, I got my first tattoo. I hid it in fear of what people close to me would say, but I loved it and saw no problem with it if I was happy.
I can honestly say to you those are the only things I did "wrong" as a kid. Do you know how many times I was offered drugs? Alcohol? Even sex? Too many times to count. Even my "super Mormon" acquaintances were engaged in these activities, but I was looked down upon and treated differently because I couldn't physically hide my "wrong."
I never considered myself LDS. I never truly accepted it. But I felt guilty. Why? Why did I feel guilty? I felt guilty because my family made me feel that way. I was supposed to accept the church. I HAD to.
After high school, I started hanging out with one of my cousins that knew how important the church is to her. It is her everything. She didn't doubt a single thing. I love that about her. I look up to her. I wanted that too.
I started going to church. Truly living the lifestyle. With her help, I was going to become what my family wanted me to be. She helped and influenced me more than ever, and I'm forever grateful.
I had an opportunity to move to Illinois and be a nanny. I worked for an LDS family. I became the most involved in the church than I've ever been while living out there. I fasted, prayed before every meal, when I woke up in the morning, and when I went to bed. I went to church EVERY Sunday, paid my tithing, had a calling I went above and beyond for, I was approached about preparing myself to go through the temple, and I studied the Bible and Book of Mormon daily. I was finally what my family wanted me to be.
But I wasn't happy. I didn't understand this church. There are no answers to my questions except "you just have to believe." There's no explanation for the things I want to know. My questions were shot down, dismissed, even laughed at.
I was always told I was going through a phase as a kid and as a teenager. That I would understand the church when I grew older. I'm older. What I finally came to understand is that this church is not for me.
I chose to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Please don't get me wrong. I DO NOT think poorly of the LDS religion. If it weren't for the standards this church taught me, I wouldn't have stayed away from the drugs, sex, and alcohol in my youth. I wouldn't have the compassion I was taught, and I wouldn't have the friends or family I have now. I respect this religion, I appreciate it, and I will never speak illy of it.
I removed my records, but I hid it from everyone. I only told a select few people. I've been terrified, and still am for them to find out because I know they will no longer accept me. I've been lying about it. Hiding the real me. But it's time to come clean. There's nothing left for me to lose at this point, because I've already lost it.
I'm Ashley Anderson.
I waited until I was 21 and out of the church to have my first alcoholic beverage, and I occasionally drink.
I have 10 piercings and 5 tattoos, none of which I regret.
Again, I waited until I was out of the church, but did not save myself for marriage.
I live with my boyfriend and have been for a year.
I've never smoked, I've never done drugs.
I love me for who I am, and am proud of who I've grown to be.
I'm kind, I'm compassionate, and I'm caring.
I'm open minded. I know there are two sides to a story. I may not agree with a side, but I respect it.
I believe in other peoples' opinions.
I will never tell someone they are wrong because their values are different.
I AM NOT a bad person for how I choose to live my life.
I'm done hiding and living a lie. You can love me for who I am, or you can judge me for the "wrong" I do in your eyes. But I am happy. And now, I am FREE.