Since graduating from BYU I have made a lot of decisions about my life and how I’m choosing to live it. A lot of these decisions aren’t what one would expect from a BYU graduate. This has led to a lot of people that I thought would love me no matter what questioning my decisions and seeming to cut me out of their lives. I felt it was time to explain how and why I came to the decisions I made to hopefully clear up a lot of questions and doubts.
I grew up going to church every Sunday, mutual every Wednesday, participating in Girl’s Camp, Youth Conference, I went to EFY, Stake Dances, all that good stuff that a “good” LDS teenager would do. And I loved it. I had a great ward and a great stake. I had great friends both in and out of the church that supported me and helped me grow into the person I am today. When the time came to choose a college to go to, I had a fair amount of choices to choose from. I thought about staying in Texas and going to school there. It would have been a lot easier. I had friends going to the school I would have gone to and I would have been a lot closer to my family. But I decided to come up to Utah and go to BYU. I was under the impression that that is what all good LDS kids did. So I sent in an application, got accepted and started my life as a BYU college student.
My freshman year at BYU was difficult for me. My family was far away. My brother was at BYU for the first semester, but then he went to Jerusalem for the second semester. I’m not sure what it is about Utah, but, at least to me, members of the church are different here than they are in Houston. I had a hard time with the leadership of my ward and stake. I would ask a question of my Bishop because I was simply curious because I had grown up with a different scenario and he would turn it around on me and accuse me of accusing others of not being worthy. The stake presidency told all of the ladies of my ward that once we got married, we should drop out of school because our husband’s education would be more important than ours. I had a really hard time with that. I had been told that a woman’s education was just as important as a man’s. Being told something that, in my opinion, directly contradicted what the prophet had said, was really hard. I talked to my brother about it, and he really did help me come to terms with what I was being told in my ward and stake. But those things always stuck with me. How can someone that has been called to a leadership position in the church directly contradict what the prophet of the church had said? How is that ok? What was I supposed to do? At the end of my first year of BYU, I went back to Texas a bit confused about my testimony and what I wanted to do.
I spent that summer really questioning my faith. I started dating someone that wasn’t a member of the church. He was really religious, but had very strong opinions about “The Mormons”. He got in my head a bit, but not enough to really shake my testimony. I had a great friend who was on his mission (Matt C. that would be you J ) that I talked to about how I was feeling. He told me in a letter that he knew that I had a testimony, whether I knew it or not. He said that there would be times when I would doubt, but to keep persevering and doing what I knew was right. I did a lot of praying and a lot of reading of the Book of Mormon and tried my best to stay in line with the gospel. I decided to not go back to BYU, but to take a year off to figure my life out. The next summer, I spent some time in San Antonio. I met some great people, all of which were members of the church. While my testimony was still shaky, they let me know that they were my friends no matter what. They were there for me. They helped me get my testimony back on track. I ended up getting a priesthood blessing and feeling more than ever that going back to BYU was the right thing for me to do. That moment was the first time I had felt so sure that a prayer had been answered. I knew that going back to BYU was what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. So back to BYU I went.
Luckily my first semester back to BYU was a lot better than my first experience with BYU. I had great roommates and a fantastic bishop. I finally felt like I was having the experience that I had dreamed about when I chose to come to BYU 2 years before. I got a great job (even though I had to wake up at 330 in the morning) with a great boss. I met a lot of fantastic people, both in my ward and at work. I was having a great time at BYU. My job especially made me feel at home. My boss was AWESOME! I met people that ended up being some of my best friends. A semester or 2 into my time at the Benson I cleaned bathrooms with Russ (who is still a great friend today), Jared, and Dan. Russ and Jared cleaned together and Dan and I cleaned together. These guys were so awesome. They made cleaning bathrooms at 430 in the morning so fun. Dan and I got to know each other pretty well. There’s nothing like cleaning toilets together to really bring 2 people together J. A few months into working together, Dan told me that he was gay. I had never really been close to someone that had admitted that to me before. I wasn’t ignorant enough to believe that gay people didn’t come to BYU, but I was surprised that he was so open about it. Homosexuality is not a very accepted thing in the church. Dan explained his feelings to me in a way that seemed to make perfect sense. He asked me “Tara, why are you attracted to guys?” I said “I’m not sure, I just am”. He said “well that’s how I feel. I can’t explain it. It’s just the way I am”. It seemed to make so much sense to me. A few months after that, Russ left the Benson. Dan got one of his roommates a job working with us on the bathroom crew. It wasn’t too much later that Dan told me that his roommate was also his boyfriend. They were both graduating and had plans to move to Boston together. They ended up getting married. From what I can see on Facebook, they are happily married in Boston going after their dreams together. They obviously are no longer associated with the Church. I am so happy for them. They truly love each other. They deserve that happiness. Having never been close to someone that openly admitted to being gay before, I had never really developed an opinion on that issue. I knew what the church taught and had, up until that point, blindly followed it. Meeting Dan and Michael and becoming friends with them opened my eyes to a whole different side of that issue. It’s one thing to support the church when you aren’t close to someone struggling to balance their feelings and their faith, but to talk to someone every day who was struggling with those issues and getting very little support was a completely different story.
Time moved on and I continued to enjoy my time at BYU. I had these thoughts in the back of my head about the whole “homosexuality and the church” issue, but I chose to put it aside because it didn’t really affect me. Eventually I met Brendan. Brendan was a Bio Chem student that had seen me around the Benson and thought I was pretty cute (at least that’s what he said). We went on a date, then another one, and then started dating steadily. I knew without a doubt that Brendan was the guy I was going to spend eternity with. He was a strong, faithful member of the church. He was cute, he made me laugh, he was my best friend. When I met his family in Minnesota that was it. I knew I wanted to spend eternity with him. I prayed about my future with Brendan every night for 5 ½ months. Brendan did as well. We knew that we were going to get married in the temple and be together forever. Not once did I ever doubt that I was meant to spend eternity with Brendan. This was the second time I knew without a doubt I had gotten an answer to a prayer. So when Brendan broke up with me out of the blue 2 weeks short of our 6 month anniversary I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that he had decided that we weren’t going to spend eternity together, especially since we had been talking about it just the day before. He told me that he had been praying about it, had gone to the temple, and felt that God had other plans for us. That absolutely shook my somewhat shaky faith. How could God be telling me that I was going to marry this guy and tell him that there was someone else out there for him? It didn’t sit right with me. I tried to shake it off. I told myself that Brendan was just scared of taking that next step. But Brendan, who was so strong in the gospel, had to know when he was being told something from God. I was the one who had a somewhat weak relationship with God. Maybe I didn’t know what an answer felt like. Maybe I just wanted it so bad that I thought God was telling me it was the thing to do? I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I spent the next 6 months trying desperately to throw myself into school, work, and church. On the outside I was the perfect BYU student, but on the inside I was more shaky in my faith than I had ever been before. I was definitely putting on a strong face. And I think it was so strong that I started to believe I was ok.
When I graduated from BYU, I had found a place in my singles’ ward in Spanish Fork. I had made some great friends and had even gone on a few really great dates. I thought that I had finally found my place in the gospel. But then I started really looking at myself. When the date that Brendan and I had picked for our wedding (yes we had picked a tentative date, had planned our honeymoon, had picked a temple to get married in) came, I was heartbroken. I realized I had never really dealt with all of the feelings that him breaking up with me had caused. I really started looking at myself and whether or not I was happy. I realized I wasn’t. I was living the life that everyone expected me to live. I was doing what everyone expected me to do. But I wasn’t happy. I seemed to have a strong testimony, but really didn’t. I had never come to terms with how God could tell me one thing and Brendan the complete opposite. Did God lie to one of us? How could God take away the one person that made my life make sense? That made me feel like I was a good person that deserved the happiness that everyone in the Church talked about? I started doubting my faith and what the Church taught. All of the issues that had seemed so minute in my life, all of the doubts and questions I had about the gospel that I had ignored because they weren’t important enough to deal with came to a head. And quite frankly no one had a good answer for me. No one could tell me why certain things were the way they were. I had questions about everything from dressing modestly (why is wearing a tank top bad? It’s just a shoulder. Why do I have to cover up because some guys can’t control themselves) to drinking (yes everything in moderation. But when science has said that a glass of wine a day is actually good for your health, why is alcohol bad), to hot drinks (why is coffee bad, but hot chocolate and apple cider ok? Is it the caffeine? If that’s the case, why is coffee bad but caffeinated sodas not strictly forbidden?), to the homosexuality issue (I highly doubted that anyone would CHOOSE to have those feelings, especially in the church where it is so strictly forbidden. Why should people with those feelings be forbidden the happiness that heterosexual people get to have? What makes a homosexual relationship so bad? Where does it explicitly say in the scriptures that it is bad). No one could give me a straight answer to my questions. I was told that if I had a testimony of the gospel these things shouldn’t matter. We should just do what the Lord has commanded with no questions. I didn’t like that at all. There were certain things about the church that I loved and knew were true, but I had doubts, serious doubts, about other things.
I decided to take a break from the gospel for a while. I needed to sort things out for myself. I needed to figure out what was going to make me happy, TRULY happy. I’ve been taking a break for almost 2 years now. And honestly, I have never been happier. I love the life I’m living. I love the person I am. I’m not really that different than I was before. I’m still the goofy, somewhat nerdy, person I was in high school and college. I still have my blonde moments. I still love to chat. I still fully support my friends and family that are still in the church. When I found out that my great friend and former roommate went through the temple, I was SO happy for her. I can’t wait for my little brother to get the priesthood this year. I love hearing about people from my ward in Texas getting their mission calls. I am truly happy for those people and the steps they are taking to further their faith in the gospel. I love and support them so much. But I have found that the same is not said about my friends and family and how they feel about me. Some people that I thought would love me no matter what, that would support me no matter what I was doing in my life, have abandoned me because of the choices I have made to separate myself from the church. I get texts, facebook messages, comments on pictures, etc that show that people can’t be happy for me unless I am doing what they think is right. My happiness isn’t important to them. The fact that I have never been so happy, felt so loved, been more at peace with myself and my decisions doesn’t matter to them. I don’t regret for a second the decisions I have made in the past year and a half. It hurts me more than anyone can realize that these people that I care so deeply about can’t see how happy and at peace I am. They are so focused on the little things that I’ve done that they might not agree with. I don’t agree with every single decision they have made, but I respect their right to make those decisions and will support them in those decisions until the day I die. I might not understand it or agree with it, but I will support it. I wish people in my life would do the same for me. I’m not asking everyone to stop going to church, to support gay marriage, or to drink alcohol. I’m asking people to support me in what makes me happy. You might not agree with it, but I need to know that people love me for me.
There are people in my life that have stayed by my side no matter what. My old roommate and I go to the gym together almost every day. She is a strong member of the church who doesn’t necessarily agree with me on gospel related issues, but values my friendship, whether or not we have the same beliefs. The majority of my family sees that I am the same Tara they grew up with and raised. They see how happy I am, and that is what is important to them. I wish I could say that everyone I knew at BYU or in Texas has stood by my side. But I can’t. People can’t believe that a BYU graduate could abandon everything to live a life of sin and faithlessness. Or at least sin and faithlessness in their opinion. I am the same person I was. There are some things about me that might have changed, but the person I am now is the same friend/sister/daughter/roommate/coworker, that you knew back then.
I have tried to cover up the person I am now or at least mask it in order to maintain friendships and relationships with people I knew at BYU. How is that fair to me? Why should I hide who I am just to keep your friendship, love, and respect? You should be accepting of me no matter what. Isn’t that what the gospel teaches? Not to judge? To love unconditionally? I’m tired of having to hide who I am and what makes me truly happy in order to keep you in my life. That is bogus! Either love me or hate me. Don’t make me feel like I have to hide who I am in order to be in your life. If you don’t like it, then you can cut me out. But you shouldn’t, because I am awesome J . I’m not going to force my beliefs on you, so don’t try and do that to me. I’m not going to judge you because you believe something that I don’t, so neither should you.
As it stands right now, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I am dating someone that loves me for me. He doesn’t care what religion I practice, or if I practice any religion at all. He loves the fact that I’m goofy, blonde, silly, stressed, busy, loving, kind, all that good (and not so good) stuff. I know that he is the man I am going to marry and spend the rest of my life, and forever, with. I can’t imagine my life without him. He loves me for me. He doesn’t judge me based on the decisions I’ve made or the mistakes I’ve made in my life. He loves all of me, the good, the bad, and the ugly. He is my best friend.
Yesterday I posted a link on my facebook that showed my support of gay marriage and gay relationships in general. Yes I support it. I don’t see how I can tell someone that they can’t marry someone else, no matter the circumstance. I don’t believe that anyone should be denied the happiness that I have found with John. Who am I to tell someone who they can and can’t love? That is not my job, nor do I want it to be. There are people in John’s family, people that will become my family, people that my kids will grow up knowing and loving, that are gay. I will not let other people, even if those people are in my family, tell me that those people in John’s family don’t deserve the same happiness we have. These people that are in John’s family have become near and dear to me. They are great people, people that make me laugh, people that can help me make fun of John, people that love John unconditionally. I will love them like they are my flesh and blood. You will not speak badly about them and the lifestyle they have chosen. You don’t have to agree with it, but know that I will defend them until the day I die.
All I’m asking is that people accept the fact that I am happy with the decisions I’ve made, the opinions I have, and the lifestyle I live. I’m not asking you to agree with it. I’m simply asking you to set your prejudices aside so that we can go back to the way we used to be. Yes I don’t go to church anymore, yes I support gay marriage, yes I drink (occasionally), yes I wear tank tops. I’m not asking you to do any or all of these things. I’m asking you to accept the fact that I do, just like I accept the fact that you don’t. Am I asking too much?
If anyone has any issues with anything I have said here or with me in general, don’t comment about it, don’t text me about it. I’m asking you to simply remove me from your friends list and not contact me again. I don’t need or want people in my life that can’t support me and my decisions. This may be harsh, but it’s how I feel. I’ve spent too long trying to please other people and be someone I’m not. I’m at a point in my life where the most important person for me to please is myself. I need to make sure I am happy. Having people constantly texting me about the decisions I have made or hounding me on facebook does not make me happy. I don’t want to remove or lose anyone in my life so I’m not going to delete you. If you have a problem with me, take it upon yourself to remove my “bad influence” out of your life. I know that I’m not a bad person, but if you can’t see that my choices don’t make me a bad person, then please don’t let me negatively influence your life anymore.
If this has come across as harsh or bitter or anything like that, please understand that this a year and a half coming .I have tried to tough it out. I have tried to keep my mouth shut while people all around me talk badly about me, people I care about, and decisions I have made. I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I’m standing up for myself and what I believe to be true.
Thank you so much for those that have stood by my side. I love and appreciate you all. I know it can be hard being friends with someone that has seemed to lost their faith. The thing I need, and that anyone in this situation needs, is people to stand by my side through thick and thin. I need people to stand by me not just when it’s easy, but when it seems impossible. I’m lucky to have some friends like that. I thank God everyday that people like Ky, Craig, and Jason continue to stand by my side regardless of what I believe or don’t believe. Thank you so much! You don’t know how much your love and support mean to me.
I hope this helps other people going through a similar situation. Hang in there! Your true friends, the people you really need and want in your life, will stand by you and support you no matter what . If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to me! I would love to hear your story and what you have to say. I would like to think that there are other people out there going through this as well. It’s not easy being a “former” member of the church out here in Utah. People can’t believe that we would let the
“true church” go from our lives. I get it! I hope that others see this and know that I am here and ready to meet more people like me!
“true church” go from our lives. I get it! I hope that others see this and know that I am here and ready to meet more people like me!
This just tells a small part of my story. It was long, but this long blog post doesn’t begin to describe who I am or what I stand for. If you want to know more about who I am and what defines me, please explore the rest of my blog and subscribe! Check out my book blog, check out my facebook page, reach out to me and let me show you the real me. I would love it! I hope to meet and/or rekindle lots of friendships!
Until next time (where hopefully I won’t be ranting or defensive, but my normal happy self),