I didn’t have any plans to bring back to the Looks Like Wondering Podcast—I didn’t rule it out, but I just didn’t have any plans to.
…But here we are! Welcome to Season 2!
This season, instead of career paths or life paths, we are specifically talking about navigating faith journeys and transitions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other words, we are talking about navigating a faith crisis honestly and openly, and how to lovingly support those who choose to leave the church. While we are specifically talking about this in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am almost positive that most of what we talk about will be applicable to anyone of any faith. All are welcome.
I want to start by sharing about my own faith journey, and why I ultimately decided to stay in the church. In upcoming interviews, this will NOT be our focus, but I want to help normalize faith journeys, doubts, and questioning—and show that you CAN experience these things and remain active in the church. Then I’m going to share my views on how to show Christlike support to friends and family members who decide to leave. This WILL be our focus moving forward.
I, Allie Barnes, have DOUBTS, GUILT, and SHAME. I touched on this lightly in my book, Not According to Plan, and I talk about navigating a culture crisis as a guest on an upcoming podcast episode (of a yet-to-be-released podcast!! But I’m sure excited for it!), but I want to dive more into the nitty gritty here.
I began experiencing doubts even before the pandemic hit. Even before I lived alone and had a LOT of time to think. And even before I left Northern Utah, where I had been solid in LDS culture for over a decade.
For years, I have felt guilty for wanting to ditch church after sacrament meeting. I struggle with social anxiety, so even before church began—even SATURDAY NIGHT—I often felt stressed about being surrounded by people for hours. In this way, I admit, having a break from in-person church over the last year has been a huge relief to me.
I would also feel guilt and even shame for my sins—and the sometimes lack of guilt I felt over them. I had slipped into an “if-then” mindset—If I kept this commandment, then I will get this reward—but more often it would turn into, If I don’t do this, I will disappoint God. This was a huge struggle specifically with dating and intimacy through my 20’s. I talk a bit about this in chapter 4 of my book.
Gratefully, I have had a lot of time to let go of this mindset—but that’s a topic for another time. The point is, I regularly felt the heaviness of guilt—even if I knew the atonement was there, even if I would tell anyone else that they are worthy of everything in the world. I felt like I was hiding. Even now, I feel like I don’t fit the mold of what I imagine the “ideal-Latter-Day Saint” would look like—but I’m gratefully more okay with that, and with my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
There are also some things I struggle with on a doctrinal level. For example, I don’t quite believe that God would prevent other passionately devoted Christians from living with Him someday, in the highest levels of heaven, just because they hadn’t gone through a specific building—the LDS temple. I just don’t know. There is so much goodness in the world, and in so many other faiths—and I think God knows that.
As I said previously, I have decided to remain an active member of the church. There is still so much that I don’t know, but I’m more okay with that now. I’m practicing being uncomfortable with unknowns, and savoring the grey areas. And I’m remembering the things I DO know: that we have a loving Father in Heaven, and a Mother in Heaven who I want to learn more about. I know the Bible and Book of Mormon are testaments of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith saw a vision—I feel a confirmation of that every time I recite the words out loud from Joseph Smith’s record of this vision: “I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun…” You can read Joseph Smith’s full account in the Pearl of Great Price, another record in the back of the Book of Mormon.
However, there are still some things about the culture that worry me—and a big part of that is how we view and treat people who have left the church. I grew up hearing that we are the ONE true church, that we have the FULLNESS of the gospel, and that we are called to “rescue” those who have left the church. I now cringe every time I hear the word “rescue” in this context.
I don’t think that most people who leave the church are being “deceived,” or following Satan. I believe that most people—both in and out of the church— are simply trying to find a way to connect with their Higher Power in a way that feels right to them. If we do want to create a welcoming environment, it will not be by guilting, shaming, belittling, excluding, manipulating, or coercing. If we want to create a welcoming environment, it will be by becoming truly Christ-like.
During His earthly ministry, I don’t think Christ made anyone His project. I think He genuinely loved people, with no ulterior motive. If they chose to follow Him, great. But if they didn’t want to follow Him, I don’t think He ever stopped loving them. I don’t believe that Christ’s love is dependent on membership status, worthiness, if they stayed for all 2 hours of church, attended every Relief Society activity, or whatever else we may expect of the people around us.
I think He just really liked people. I want to be more like Him.
I want people to have left the church to feel like they can share their feelings with the people they love. I want them to feel welcome at church potlucks. I want them to know that they are accepted and loved just as they are—that this acceptance and love isn’t dependent on them being a certain way or following a certain path. I believe that that’s the kind of love that Christ offers, so why shouldn’t we?
In the next few episodes, I will be interviewing people who have left the church. The conversations won’t be about WHY they left, but about how we can better show up and love them. How we, as members, can create a more Christ-like culture around this circumstance. And the conversations will be initiated by me, an active member of the Church.
I hope these healthy, respectful, and kind conversations will help heal some of the hurtful culture surrounding people leaving the LDS church. I hope that active members of the church will feel open to listening and learning.
Again, my highest priority is to keep these episodes and conversations respectful and kind. I intend to create a safe space both for the individuals sharing, and also for those listening.
I want to share some resources that I found while I was going through my own faith journey—or as I like to call it, culture crisis—last year. These resources helped me expand my vision of discipleship and of the love of God.
Episode 238 of the Jody Moore Podcast: God’s Thoughts about You with Kurt Francom. This episode taught me that God is NEVER disappointed in me—and how Kurt shared this belief is just incredible. I highly recommend this episode if you want to better understand the infinite depths of God’s compassion.
Camille Osborn spoke about navigating a faith crisis at SALT Summit in fall 2020. She shared that there are actually MULTIPLE aspects to the church—such as culture, doctrine, organization, etc.—and identifying what areas we struggle with can actually help us remember the areas that we DON’T struggle with—or something to that effect. I wish Camille would share more about her insights, because they are SO insightful and helped me so much.
I also began following some Instagram accounts of incredible women looking to promote vulnerability and openness in the LDS culture. @RosieCard opens the door to difficult conversations about topics such as politics, racism, and more. It’s refreshing to see someone talk about these issues respectfully and openly—especially when I didn’t feel like I could talk openly about them with many people in my life.
The Instagram account @certain.women also regularly cultivates conversations specifically about LDS culture. According to their bio, they’re “A safe place for all active, post, and somewhere-in-the-middle Mormons seeking to positively change Church culture.” I LOVE THIS PAGE.
I recently found Chelsea Homer (@chels_homer), who has shared about her faith journey at the hashtag #sundaychatswithchels. Again, it is just so refreshing to hear someone talk openly about this topic.
A couple months ago I wrote about creating more authenticity in the LDS church through vulnerability. That article is in many ways tied to the purpose of this podcast.
Lastly, the thing that finally, after months of questions, helped me feel like I still belonged in this space: Monica Packer sharing about her faith journey on her podcast, About Progress. She shared in 2018, then again in 2020 (I listened to 2020 first, but technically it’s good to go in chronological order).
Thank you SO MUCH for listening. I don’t have set days or times when new episodes will be released, but you can find all updates by subscribing to this podcast, following me on Instagram @lookslikewandering, or subscribing to my email newsletter at allieabarnes.com or lookslikewandering.com.