Wherein Toni Explains the Barneys’ Exit From the LDS Church (aka Please Don’t Read if You Have No Interest in This Subject or You are LDS and Feel Like it Might Be “Anti-Mormon”)

The time has come.

The truth must be told.

I am a heathen.

I’m kidding, totally kidding. Well, actually, some of you may agree with that assessment. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with whatever anyone thinks about me because as of late, for the first time in my life, I am completely okay with me. I am living free from guilt and shame. I feel good about myself. I don’t know the answer to every question. I don’t feel the need to know. I live by my conscience, my own internal compass, and have found it to be a pretty great way to live.

Enough about where I am now, let’s go backward in time for an explanation about how I got to this place, shall we?

First, I will not be able to explain or enumerate every little thing that went into my decision to become a heathen, but I do want to give as good an explanation as I feel able.  My history with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints goes back to my childhood and to explain every feeling, thought, and action related to the Church in some way would take a whole book. So, I will start at the beginning of the end.

Here we go.

Marriage is hard. Very hard. Anyone disagree? Well, you’re exceptionally lucky, then. During a particularly rough patch of married life, I became desperate for help. My internal thoughts went something like this, “Someone help me through these issues in my relationship, please. I don’t know how to handle this.” Prayer, fasting, scripture study, all the things that I had been taught to rely on during hard times, were failing. I needed help. I spoke with both my bishop and stake president. Both amazing, wonderful men. Both gave me advice. Pray, read my scriptures, focus on the Savior. I was! I did!  I was spending hours on my knees in prayer. I rededicated myself to Jesus Christ and tried so hard to think and act exactly how I believed Jesus would. I became certain that I needed to refocus myself personally on Christ and then that would miraculously heal my marriage. It didn’t. The wounds in my marriage were going to require more than that to heal, it seemed. So, we went to marriage counseling. We didn’t care for our first counselor, so we found another. Both counselors were also LDS, as we felt that no one who was not LDS would really understand our issues. The second counselor gave us some interesting insight, but it was still not the miracle I was hoping for. I had a very unsettling feeling that none of this was going to work. That I wasn’t going to get the answer I was seeking. Everything I was doing was pushing me further away from my husband, causing me to delve deeper and deeper into faith and religion and ignoring him completely. At this point, I pictured my future life. I pictured myself being an exceptionally faithful Mormon woman, serving in the Church and raising my children in the Church and just basically ignoring my husband. The Church was not giving us the skills necessary to work through the issues in our marriage, it was just telling us to concentrate on our own faith. I could do that. Absolutely. But what kind of marriage would that be? What would be the point? I pictured myself becoming less and less concerned with my husband and his wants and needs and concentrating only on myself and my kids.

And I felt sad. So sad.  And so lonely.

And then an unsettling thought crept in. Could my faith, my religion, which I had been taught and believed was the answer to every question, actually not be the answer? Were there better answers elsewhere? Answers that would allow me a whole marriage full of mutual love, respect, and trust?

A simple Google (actually, we were probably using Yahoo at that point in time, but that’s beside the point) search began. A search for answers. A search for help. And boy, were my eyes opened. My search for help with my marriage led to some pretty disturbing information about my church. I read, and read, and read. I checked out books from the library, I bought books from Deseret Book. I read and read and read some more.

And then I felt betrayed. Betrayed and angry. I felt that the Church, my spiritual home, had lied to me. I was sick. I was heartsick and I became so incredibly sad and angry that I felt physically ill. I searched for official Church answers to some of the questions I had about what I was reading. There were none. There are apologetic sites on the internet to explain some of the tougher issues about the Church. I scoured them. I wanted them to make me feel better. I desperately wanted them to answer my questions. They did not. I reached out to others online who were in the same situation I was in (there were many). That helped. At least I didn’t feel quite so alone. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my husband about what I was reading. I couldn’t even really process it myself. I didn’t know how to share it.

Of course, things have a way of coming out. Josh discovered what I was reading and demanded to know what was going on. I confessed quite simply that I no longer believed that the Church was true. Josh was angry. I was just sad. I told him that I would continue to go to church with him and the kids. I would just push it all aside and pretend. I didn’t want to lose my husband and I felt like I was betraying him. The previous issues in our marriage were overshadowed by this new thing. This loss of faith. I felt like I was drowning and I was going to hang on to whatever I could. I felt like Josh had married me as an active, believing LDS woman and here I was changing the game completely.

In the meantime, we had so much happening in our lives that it was easy for us to just pretend. I kept attending church with my family. Nothing outwardly changed, but inside, I was completely different. In the midst of all of this, we moved, and I took the opportunity of having a new ward and a new bishop to talk with the bishop about some of my issues with the Church. I still thought that maybe I could fix it. What I got was completely useless advice from someone who knew nothing about me and didn’t try to get to know me. I was sad. I kept going to church. I was there physically. I was out mentally.

And I found that being out mentally was making me exceptionally happy. Free. Light. I felt more true to myself than I ever had. I felt greater joy in my relationships with my children and my husband. My self esteem soared. I felt surrounded by greater joy in the world. I was better able to see the good around me. I was, in a word, happy. And my husband benefited from this happiness. And he wondered about it. And he did some reading himself. And we talked. A lot. And he decided that he was out, too. We talked with our children. We made a family decision to stop attending church. That was several years ago. We have not gone back. We don’t envision a time when we ever will. We are happy.

Just a quick note for any members of the Church who are still reading this…we were not offended. No one offended us. We also were not sinning. We are still not, actually. We live our lives in the same way we did before we left the Church except we don’t attend church meetings, obviously, and we don’t pay tithing. We are also not lazy. We weren’t tired and burnt out with “enduring to the end.” We didn’t just give up. We weren’t looking for an easy way out. Leaving the church, in fact, is NOT easy. There were so many times during the process that I wished that I could just go back. Just go back to the simple faith that I had. I felt like it would make my life so much easier to just go back. I tried. I couldn’t.  There are genuine issues with the Church and refusing to admit that doesn’t do anyone any favors. My opinion is that the issues need to be out in the open and examined or people will continue to leave. And blaming offense, sin, or laziness as the only reasons for people leaving is just sticking your head in the sand.

Now, admittedly, this is just skimming the surface of a very long and very deep story about my relationship with the Church…and it’s possible that I may decide to write more someday. For now, I will let the story end here. Here…in happiness, joy, and love. Just here.

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41 Comments

  1. Margie Lundy
    Jan 29, 2014

    Very interesting. We (and so many we know) pretty much went the same way, but from non-LDS churches. We’re all connecting and discussing and pondering what Jesus really wanted from his church (us) and today’s “services” don’t seem to be even close. Hopefully we can chat more in the future. :)

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Oh, Margie, how very interesting that you had a similar experience. Interestingly, our family has studied different religions in school and now we have quite a variety of opinions about religion/spirituality including atheism, agnosticism, Christianity, and even a belief in reincarnation in one instance (though that is from the youngest child and I’m fairly certain that will evolve). I, personally, consider myself an atheist/Humanist now, though I don’t really enjoy labels. I would love to chat more in the future! Thanks so much for the comment. :)

  2. Kimber Sparks
    Jan 29, 2014

    Toni, I so relate…minus the LSD part. In fact, Ive shared this same conversation with Margie and Allen =)

    I am just as much – if not more, Christian than I was during my church years.

    So glad you’re happy…and part of our gypsy family =) x

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Kimber! How interesting that so many are having similar experiences walking away from traditional churches and embracing their own Christianity. We are happy and thank you for calling me a part of your gypsy family. I love this full-time family community. Y’all are awesome! I feel incredibly grateful to be part of it. :-)

  3. Lucille
    Jan 29, 2014

    A beautiful sharing, Toni. I don’t think you are a heathen. Your Uncle Dan did this very thing years ago and also left–rather was excommunicated when he told how he felt. There is a big, big difference between believing in a church, an institution and believing in the Living God. Dan and I attend church, not LDS, but it’s not about a belief in and blindly following a church tradition, but about a relationship with Jesus, whom I’m pretty certain has a very different idea of church than what we see in the world today. I have always been on the side-lines, the by-ways, but Jesus was pretty radical! May you continue your journey in joy and peace. The Master is close by.
    Aunt Lucille

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Oh, Aunt Lucille, thank you so much for your sweet comment. I do believe there is a big difference between blindly following a church tradition and having a relationship with Jesus. I have seen the difference displayed by different people in my life. For myself, however, my exit from my church eventually resulted in disbelief in any God. I believe we are all on our own paths in regards to spirituality. Just because my path looks different than someone else’s path, does not make one right over the other. I know that many will disagree with that, but that is how I feel and that is what I teach my children.

  4. Lance Branum
    Jan 29, 2014

    Thank you for your honesty, integrity and faith! I am so proud to call you cousin…

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Oh, you’re making me blush! Thank you, cousin!

  5. christy and ranee
    Jan 29, 2014

    Very will told sis we love u and miss u all kaylee still not won’t to come out she will on the 18 thank god I am so ready love u sis

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      I love you, too, Ranee. Tell Christy that Aunt Toni loves and misses her.

  6. Josh
    Jan 29, 2014

    Thank you for writing this my love! You are amazing. It has been a fun, crazy ride and I look forward to more fun and crazy.

    • Marianne Boydell
      Jan 29, 2014

      Toni, Thank you for writing this, Craig and I (and the family) left the church about 3.5 years ago. I especially like your statements about not being lazy or offended and how leaving is absolutely not the easy choice.

      • Toni
        Jan 29, 2014

        Marianne,
        Thanks so much for the comment! I hate the idea that anyone who leaves is lazy or was offended by someone. It’s so not true for the majority of people these days. From the outside looking in, it seems apparent that the church needs to change something or continue to lose good members.

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Thank you, Josh. I love you so much!! How about more fun than crazy??? :-)

  7. Paul Anderson
    Jan 29, 2014

    Beautifully said. Nearly identical to my story and so many others. It’s amazing how so many deconversion stories are the same. Same challenges, same accusations by members, same amazing mental and emotional freedom when we finally allow ourselves to escape the tiny mormon box and see life for the beautiful thing it is.
    Best of luck to you both as your new life begins.

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Paul,
      Isn’t it crazy how many stories are similar? I know when I started my research and found others asking the exact same questions as me I felt so much better. I think I would have gone crazy without it. I love what you said about the “tiny mormon box.” I’m amazed at the difference in perspective now. It’s like the world was in black and white before and now it’s in full color. It’s amazing! Thanks so much for your comment.

  8. Debbie
    Jan 29, 2014

    Thanks for sharing your journey to where you are now! Sounds like a lot of soul searching and research and listening to yourself. Good for you! My husband grew up LDS and left at age 17 because he questioned all the same things. He has some family still in and some that left as well. It’s been interesting from the outside. Glad you had the strength and perseverance to find your own way and find what felt right to you.

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Oh, thanks so much Debbie. I bet it is interesting from the outside looking in with your husband. My husband and I are fascinated with what we see from the outside now ourselves. It’s been a journey for sure and we’re so grateful to be where we are.

  9. Kelly
    Jan 29, 2014

    This popped into my feed after John Dehlin commented on your post, and I just wanted to say something. I have gone through a similar experience. Writing something like this is incredibly vulnerable and I appreciate getting to read it. Sometimes in the middle of a faith journey it can feel like you are so horribly alone that it’s nice to see others on a similar road. I can also say that while I am glad others have found their ultimate happiness in the church, I have never been a happier, more grateful, more loving person than since I made the decision to walk away. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s a living hell around me, but inside I am finding me and my peace. I commend you and respect you for finding yours. I wish you all the best!

    • Toni
      Jan 29, 2014

      Oh, thanks so much for your comment, Kelly. I appreciate you stopping by. This post has been a long time coming for me and it felt scary and freeing all at the same time when I hit that publish button. And I agree with you completely about being a happier, more grateful and loving person outside of the church rather than in it. Good luck in your journey!

  10. Sarah Allen
    Jan 29, 2014

    I’m so sorry you were struggling so much:( I wish I could have been a better friend through it. I love you and your sweet family. I’m glad you’re feeling happier now. ❤️ You’re a brave, smart, deep, & thoughtful person. Everyone needs to know how they feel and decide what they believe for themselves. I support that. Enjoy this nice break with your good family.

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      Oh, thanks Sarah. You were and are a good friend. There was nothing that anyone could have done for me. It was a hard time, but I’m happy to be through it and on the other side. Thanks for your kind words!

  11. Wendy Porter
    Jan 30, 2014

    I too am so sorry you struggled soo much! I appreciate your honesty Toni and love you and your family just the same! I’m so glad you are feeling love and joy in your life. I love reading your adventures!!

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      Aww, Wendy, you know I love and appreciate you and your friendship so much. You were a good friend back then and you still are. Thank you!!

  12. Michelle Wann
    Jan 30, 2014

    Very well said Toni. I have been having some if the same issues the past couple of years. I feel Church is just not holding all the answers for me and there are things that I just don’t agree with. I am not saying what is being taught is wrong. I have found myself much happier since not going. I still live by my morals and that is what we are teaching are children.

    I really enjoy and appreciate your blogs. There have been quite a few I can relate to, so thank you!

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      Michelle, thanks so much for your comment. I am always amazed at the number of people who have questioned how we are raising our children now without morals. What?!? Just because we don’t attend church doesn’t mean our morality goes out the window. Religion (thank goodness) does not have the corner on morality. Good for you for following your own internal compass!

      Thanks so much for reading and I’m glad you enjoy the blog. :-)

  13. Sadie
    Jan 30, 2014

    What a great post! Here’s to authenticity and happiness!

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      Authenticity and happiness. One definitely leads to the other. Yes!!

  14. Jodi Lee
    Jan 30, 2014

    Church and gospel are not the same thing. Which one a person follows will determine a lot.

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      I would love to hear you expound on that thought, Jodi, because I don’t really understand what you mean. Thank you for reading and commenting! Love you.

  15. Angie
    Jan 30, 2014

    Great post! I too just left the church a couple of years ago and have never been happier! Life if great!! I wish my family and friends could understand.

    • Toni
      Jan 30, 2014

      Agreed, Angie! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. Britt
    Jan 30, 2014

    Thanks for sharing, I feel like I just read an excerpt from my own journal. :) Leaving the LDS faith was not easy for me either, but what a blissful freeing peace I found by walking away from it! How awesome it is to do things because (gasp!) I choose to do them and believe they are right for me! Hooray!

    • Toni
      Jan 31, 2014

      Right, Britt? So awesome and freeing to trust yourself. And isn’t it amazing how many people have nearly the exact same exit story?

  17. Brett Menzie
    Jan 30, 2014

    Toni,

    Thank you for sharing this personal story. You are so very right on your points about the effects of leaving the church. By the way, my sister-in-law, Amy Jaten, shared this blog post with me.

    • Toni
      Jan 31, 2014

      Brett, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. Amy told me she would be sharing with you. I wish you and your family the very best!

  18. Viesta (prissy) Morrison
    Feb 1, 2014

    Toni,
    I read each and every word of your emotions, your decision to leave the church and that of your family. It was well thought out and your views that you shared are so honest. You are brave in my opinion Toni, so many would have just drudged on and continued, believing or not. And it is even more genuine, loving and strong that you made this choice as a family.

    My story is not so different, I was born and raised a catholic, in my early teens I rebelled and asked all the questions that seem to anger people more than enriching me with the answers I craved. With time I departed, with no belief in gods or demons. I believe in life, living, the adventures that come with the living, I believe we should never stand by and watch life, but rather jump in with both feet and live, really live. Our time here is short and we need to create our own adventures and truly live.

    I hope you don’t mind me reading your blog or even sharing my thoughts time to time. You really have grown up to be a wonderful young lady, have a awesome family and I know Liz must be so very proud of you.

    Keep living your life your way and never stop the adventure.

    Viesta Morrison, (Canada)

    • Toni
      Feb 4, 2014

      Prissy,
      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’ve been humbled and awed at the number of people commenting and private messaging me over this post. I appreciate you taking the time to comment so much. Thanks for reading!

  19. Randy
    Feb 3, 2014

    I’m so proud of you guys!!! Big hugs to the Barney’s. You guys are an inspiration to others in your situation and a beautiful example of what it means to be a family. I love you guys, and I’m proud to be related to you all.

    • Toni
      Feb 4, 2014

      Randy-Rando,
      Thank you so much for your support and love for us. It means a lot! Hugs right back to you. We love both you and Brittany very much and think you’re both awesome people. I pretty much have amazing family members, truth be told. :-) Thank you. Love you!

  20. Jon Webb
    Apr 27, 2014

    Guys! Love your story. LOVE. Thank you for posting, thank you for typing this.

    Oh, the things I want to type on here, not bad things, but supportive things……but there is not enough time in the day or space in the text box.

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