If I Go to Hell, I Can Always Blame it on My Mom

I am an agnostic, which, as it turns out, is not that unusual in the feature section. However, I spent over half of my life being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, as it turns out, is not that unusual in the state of Utah.

Not only was I a Mormon, I was a very devout Mormon. Sure, I spent a fair amount of time counting dots in the ceiling during Sunday school, or trying not to laugh at the girl who always broke down into tears while bearing her testimony, but I was a true believer to my core.

Then one Sunday, as I was pushing my feet into thick white tights and patent leather dress shoes, my mom made an announcement. She told me, in so many words, that she no longer believed in God?she had become an atheist.

It was an earth-shattering announcement that left me stunned. The reason it was so out-of-the-blue was because my mom had always been the one who pushed us into church.

She was the one who was constantly disappointed in my dad for not becoming a bishop. She was the one who had us make Nephites and Lamanites out of felt for Family Home Evenings.

Now she was telling us that she didn?t believe in God?the only thing I believed could send a person to Hell. The news was so disturbing that I spent the entire Sacrament Meeting crying and finally had to be ushered home.

In reality, her decision was not made that suddenly. She had been having doubts about the church for some time, and so she began reading?a lot. From the Book of Mormon to Why I Am Not a Christian, she had read everything she could about religion and ended up not having one.

After my initial shock wore off, I started to appreciate my mom?s decision. She became a new person, a freed person. She became more passionate and more articulate. She found strength in her non mainstream status and wasn?t afraid to stand up for a person or cause that she believed in.

This is the same woman who, in a previous column, I described as a Martha Stewart wannabe. Imagine a woman who labels everything, bakes cookies from scratch and talks about God being dead, and you?ll have a pretty good idea of what she?s like now.

My mom encouraged my sister and I to stay in church because she knew it wouldn?t be easy to grow up non Mormon in Utah, but she also told us to research our options.

And I did. During my own search, I constantly preached to others about the importance of not being in a religion just because your parents are?so the last thing I wanted to be was an atheist.

I read books, went to some religious classes and services and listened to the dialogue around me. I struggled to find myself in the Jewish religion, considered being a Daoist and was temporarily attracted by the idea of Catholicism (mostly because I liked confession and stained-glass windows).

In the end, though, I had to admit I was an atheist. Despite countless attempts at conversion by countless pre mission Mormon boyfriends, I remained firm in my beliefs.

I finally changed my official title to agnostic in order to keep my mind open (and because I felt bad for always promising God that I would go to church if he found my lost keys, and then recanting on the few occasions that he pulled through).

One by one, the rest of my immediate family members fell by the religious wayside. My dad, who had been supportive of my mom?s decision from the beginning, found the strength to stop going to church and keep an open mind in the face of his religious family.

My older sister?well, she never really gave a damn from the beginning.

To make the move complete, my mom went through the arduous task of taking our names off the official church records. A few fruit baskets and a lot of ?visits? later, we were real non-Mormons.

I know that as a result of saying that, my house will be courted by many an aspiring converter?but it won?t make any difference. Trust me, anyone who can go through high school in Sandy, Utah and still come out an atheist is pretty much hopeless.

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