What I’ve Gained By Leaving Mormonism

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It’s been almost 3 years since my wife, Bonnie, and I left Mormonism.  It’s a very difficult and painful process, especially when you are as loud and vocal as I am.  We are still dealing with the aftermath.  We’ve lost friends.  Relationships with our family has changed dramatically, not in a good way.  I got pushed out of my company (although that has turned into a positive because business is better than it’s ever been, with our new company.  It’s very exciting!).

What hurts the most is the change of the family dynamics.  Mormonism claims to be the best religion for families.  What they don’t tell you is…. It’s a great religion for families, so long as your family does what Mormonism says.  Once a family member chooses another path, then Mormonism becomes a very destructive force.  (I’ll make a blog post about this later, probably)

While these are some hard and painful situations to work through, the fact is this….  Bonnie and I have gained so much more than we’ve lost by leaving Mormonism.  What have we gained?  The largest positive thing has been….. People.  Friendships with people that we never would have met or rekindled if we were still Mormon.  I’ll explain.

Mormons are so focused on a strict list of Do’s and Don’ts.  Especially the Don’ts.  I won’t list them because it’ll take too long.  You’re also taught to not accept behaviors and people (Mormons will say “hate the sin not the sinner” but in reality too many people end up with “Hate Both”).  A good Mormon “avoids the appearance of evil,” which means you don’t go into a bar, rated R movie & etc.  You don’t want someone you know to see you in a place where “sin” is performed because they might judge you OR you might be weak and give into The Devil and his temptations.  If you’re married, you should never be friends with a person of the opposite sex, unless you are supervised by your spouse or theirs, and you NEVER friend anyone of the opposite sex who is single.  Duh!  That’s just Mormon Common Sense right there!

When I was Mormon, I literally had 3 close friends, although I knew a lot of people.  Those friends were, Dobie, John and the husband of whomever my wife’ best friend was at the time.  That’s it.  My circle of influence and support group was very small and I was pretty miserable.  Now, I have so many friends that I can call anytime, anywhere.  I don’t believe these friendships would have developed if I was still Mormon because I was a judgmental prick (although I kept those judgments largely to myself).  I would list the friends, both here in Houston and online, but I’ll leave someone out and I don’t want to do that.  Instead, I’ll focus on two people that have become family to us…. Lauren & Amanda.  Let me share the story of how we met and how quickly our relationship has evolved.

It was the Spring of 2014.  I was getting some maintenance done on my car, so I walked across the street to a restaurant/sports bar called Wolfies.  I sat at the bar.  The bartender, Lauren, asked me what I wanted.  I ordered a Dos XX in the bottle.  At this point, I had only been drinking and going to bars for about 18 months.  The experience was still new and I probably looked like a bit of a fish out of water.

Lauren is a great bartender, so she struck up a conversation with me.  She had recently gotten engaged and she told me her fiancé is sitting at the table behind me.  I turn around and see 4 women at the table.  I ask Lauren, “Which one is your fiancé?”

She points and says, “The one with the hat on.”

I tell Lauren, “Awesome.  You know what, I want to buy them all shots to celebrate your engagement.”

She replies, “We’ve been engaged a few months….”

“Well, this is the first time I’ve met you and hearing about this.  So I want to celebrate it with y’all.”

Lauren gets 5 shots made and takes them over to their table.  She tells her fiancé, “That guy over there bought y’all shots…”

Immediately, her fiancé gives me this look that said, “Who are you douchebag and why are you buying us shots?”  To be fair, Wolfies is a sports bar and some of the people there are…. well, I’ll just say the look I got was justified.

I jump up, with my shot in hand, while Lauren is explaining why I bought them shots, and I say, “Hi!  I’m Barry.  I just met Lauren and I heard y’all are engaged.  I think it’s awesome and I just wanted to say congratulations.  Cheers.”

10400859_10202653182959878_9117825565946682450_nLauren’s fiancé shakes my hand and says, “Hi. I’m Amanda.”  We took our shots.  A few minute later, Amanda walked over to the bar and we talked.  That was the moment, who my friends and family know as, “LaurenandAmanda” entered mine and Bonnie’s lives.

10269636_10202045998700651_6034971155911509271_nBonnie and I needed to find a venue for our 15 year vow renewal ceremony and Lauren recommended the place they are getting married at.  That weekend we went to see it and booked it that day.  I went back to the bar to give Lauren the good news and thank her for sending us there.  From that point forward, our friendship hit hyperdrive.

Amanda is a Fire Fighter, so her hours are insane.  Lauren is a Nanny during the day and a Bartender at night/weekends.  They both work incredibly hard, 10418525_10202499006825571_4541710500437444124_nit’s impressive.

Wolfies became my spot.  I brought Bonnie in to meet Lauren, as she probably heard A LOT about her very quickly.  Bonnie loved her instantly and then got to meet Amanda.  Yup, same thing, she loved her.  Lauren read my blog and had all kinds of questions about Mormonism and why we left.  We started hanging out outside of Wolfies.  Going to happy hours, dinners and texting almost daily…. 10593198_10202634656656732_1965050028095628566_nOK, we definitely text daily.

Then we decided to go to see K-Ci & JoJo in concert with our friends, Adam & Jennie (another couple we’ve become extremely close with since leaving Mormonism).  K-Ci and JoJo were horrible.  In fact, the following week Lauren and I impersonated the performance K-Ci & JoJo gave in this video below.  I call this video B-Ci & LoLo. 

We left the concert early and went to a bar, Drinkery, in Midtown.  That night, Lauren & Amanda asked me if I would officiate their wedding.  I was shocked and overjoyed, so of course I said YES.  The next morning I text them, “Last night y’all asked me to officiate your wedding.  Was that for real or just drunk talk?  No worries if it was drunk talk…”

They immediately said, “It was real.  We’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

Damn, I was pumped and honored!  I got ordained!

We continue to hangout as much as possible, talking daily.  In fact, if Lauren and I don’t see each other for a day or two, that’s too long!  We go through friend withdrawals.  Twice we’ve gone a week…. that sucked.

Amanda invited me to her bachelorette party in Austin, which was awesome because I don’t get to see her enough, due to her work schedule.  It was a great trip!

Fast forward to March 14, 2015…. Lauren & Amanda’s Wedding Day!  Unquestionably one of the greatest days of mine and Bonnie’s lives.  

I wrote the wedding ceremony.  Lauren made us practice and practice and practice at their house, prior to the wedding.  (For those interested, a copy of the ceremony will be at the end of this post)  I was so nervous because I didn’t want to cry.  This was their special day and it had to be perfect.  Thankfully, I didn’t cry!  (I focused on my iPad while Lauren was walking down the isle)  Their ceremony and the reception afterwards was absolutely perfection!  They were both gorgeous and happy!  Everyone celebrated and partied with them!  What a great night!  A beautiful couple.  I love their relationship!

11070183_10204113944758010_8699694712526860533_n11112441_10204759029084715_1224002948470435358_n11036268_10204113048095594_7308729359051762330_o11148759_10206593940386373_4198228888989053106_n

 

Here’s a short video of their wedding:

OK. I could write for days about how incredible Lauren & Amanda are and how they’ve blessed our lives.  This is already too long, so I need to wrap it up.  My point is this…. Had Bonnie and I not left Mormonism, then I never would have walked into the sports bar, Wolfies.  I never would have met Lauren & Amanda, not to mention all the other friends we’ve made through them.  Having them in our lives is reason enough to leave our parent’s religion and makes all the pain and heartache associated with that choice worth the price.  They have blessed us more than I could ever express.  We are so lucky to love them.  I look back on that decision to walk into Wolfies that day as one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  Yes, walking into a bar became one of the best life changing moments because of “LaurenandAmanda.”  We love you, Lauren & Amanda.

Family will always be family.  However, as they say, Friends are the Family you choose.  Those words couldn’t be more true when it comes to Lauren & Amanda and a few others that we’ve become close with in this Life After Mormonism.  Bonnie and I are very blessed to be surrounded by so much love and support, the likes of which we’ve never experienced on this level. 

 

Lauren & Amanda’s Wedding Ceremony

Who gives these Ladies away?

We’ve been brought together today because of Love. They say, “The Heart wants what it wants.” I agree. I don’t think we have much of choice in who we fall in love with. Love is the strongest emotion or feeling we will ever experience. It drives us to make sacrifices we never considered before, putting someone else above us. It causes us to forgive when we’ve been hurt. Seek comfort when needed.  The simple physical touch of a loved one can change any given moment. We exist because of the power of Love.

Today, we aren’t only celebrating Love but also Choice. While we may not be able to control who we love, the power to decide who we will spend the rest of our lives with… that’s always our Choice. One of the most beautiful things in the world is when Love meets Choice. That incredible combination becomes Commitment.  Amanda and Lauren are here today, making these vows, because they are committed to each other.

I’ve had the incredible opportunity to get to know Lauren and Amanda quite well, over the past year. I’ve seen them express the spectrum of emotions. I’m always amazed at how quickly they bounce back after a disagreement. Recently, we were kayaking down the Buffalo Bayou….. Yes, people actually kayak in the Buffalo Bayou. The instructor told us Couples Kayaking is the true test of a relationship. I saw this first hand, as Lauren and Amanda would go from threatening to hit each other with their paddles… to singing pop songs at the top of their lungs, literally within minutes. They were so happy to be with each other. Their personalities perfectly compliment the other. It’s beautiful.

I asked Lauren and Amanda separately about why they love the other and are making this commitment.

Here are their responses:

Lauren said, “She is my best friend. I’m amazed at her selflessness. I love the way she loves me.”

Amanda said, “I know in my heart she is my soul mate. My Better Half. We bring out the best in each other. For those reasons and many others, I know we are unstoppable and will prove to the world that our love is true and will last forever.”

(Look to the ring bearer)

May I please have the rings?

(Look to Lauren and Amanda)

As we know, your rings are circles. A circle is a symbol of the sun and universe; the symbol of wholeness, perfection, peace and unity. Like circles, your rings have no beginning and no end. In the sacred tradition of marriage, rings have come to symbolize eternal love and the endless union of body, mind and spirit. These rings will show the world your love and commitment to one another. May the presence of these rings always remind you of the eternal love you have pledged; the devotion you willingly share from this moment on. These rings seal the vows of your marriage and promise of Forever Love.

Please face each other.

Amanda, take this ring.
Lauren, give her your left hand.
Amanda, repeat after me:

“I take you to be my Best Friend,
My Faithful Partner,
And my One True Love.
I promise to encourage you,
Inspire you
And to love you truly through good times and bad.
I will forever be there to laugh with you,
To lift you up when you are down
And to love you unconditionally
Through all of our adventures in life together.”

Lauren, do you take Amanda to be your wife?

Lauren, take this ring.
Amanda, give her your left hand.
Lauren, repeat after me:

“I take you to be my Best Friend,
My Faithful Partner,
And my One True Love.
I promise to encourage you,
Inspire you
And to love you truly through good times and bad.
I will forever be there to laugh with you,
To lift you up when you are down
And to love you unconditionally
Through all of our adventures in life together.”

Amanda, do you take Lauren to be your wife?

Lauren and Amanda, by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you Wife and Wife! You may kiss Your Bride!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you, for the first time, Amanda and Lauren Erekson!!