For the past few years my spiritual world has gone through a deep chasm, shifting and widening, leaving my soul wandering, departing on a journey to find all that I can about what is good, and most of all, what is right. I found Mormonism in my mid-teens. Although I was hesitant to delve into the world of religion at the time, I quickly fell in love with the people. Mormons are some of the brightest, most hopeful and kind people I have ever met. At the time, I desperately wanted to learn how to be happy and kind like they so easily seemed to be.  I was sad, angry, confused but in spite of this, they saw the good in me. They seemed almost angelic (annoyingly so, at times), glowing and radiating love. And despite my stubbornness and reluctance of making friends with these angels, I eventually did, for the sheer reason that I felt and wanted to feel loved in a time when I generally didn’t. The simple power of being valued, appreciated, loved and given hope changes lives. It changed my perspective, my heart and life. I found my sweetheart and met some of my greatest friends through Mormonism.

In recent years, however, Mormonism has caused a great sorrow to my heart, primarily through disappointment. Today my heart is healing, and as the sorrow subsides, I am better able to see more clearly my journey and the things that I’ve learned going through it. I’ve learned that nothing is ever entirely black or white, entirely good or entirely bad. This is a beautiful discovery, a release of striving for perfection, but also harrowing – my “perfect” Mormon world was showing its cracks and falling before my eyes. Perfect was stable. Perfect was something that I could lean on. However, labeling something as perfect often requires justifying or excusing the bad. In this case, I found the bad (a bad that can so easily be rectified ; a bad that so many recognize but turn a blind eye to ; a bad that is completely contradictory to a loving God) to be non-justifiable. I did not want my “perfect” world if others couldn’t have it either.

And so after leaving the religion that initially brought me peace and light, and as I continue on with my spiritual journey, I’d like to state a few ways Mormonism has given me tools for life, that I practice (or try to) every day:

  1. Perspective.

    In Mormonism, we are taught that all happens for us, not to us. Good things that happen in our lives are tender mercies, signals that perhaps we are going in the right direction, and gifts filled with love from a God that we believe loves each of us equally and infinitely. Bad things that happen in our lives are not all that bad — they are seen as mountains to climb, put in place for us to grow in strength. They are lessons for us to grow from, placed in our paths out of love. We are taught that we have the power to use the negatives and turn them into positives. An example: Instead of being angry that my ex was abusive, I can recognize that that time of suffering also allowed me to be more appreciative of a good, healthy relationship. Scott, my husband now, is the light to that darkness. . . and maybe I wouldn’t have recognized his light if I hadn’t known the darkness of my ex. (Not excusing abusive behavior, which has caused a lot of trauma in my life. This is just one way that changing perspectives can give a healthier outlook on situations and life in general.) I’d like to add that this ideology is technically flawed, because who are we to say that those that have hardships (like Isis slaves, for example) need or deserve the lesson of torture? They don’t, and there isn’t a sweet way to twist how their situation was “meant to be”. But in the day-to-day, trying to develop a hopeful perspective towards the ups-and-downs of life is empowering. It showed me the choice in choosing how I respond to life.

  2. The idea that we are all children.

    Mormonism gave me the perspective that we are all — including parents and grandparents — children. We are all trying to navigate life the best way that we know how to. Furthermore, we all have and share the same basic needs : to be heard, loved, valued and given hope. This perspective has helped me have more empathy and understanding towards others, including my own family. Example: Having the perspective that we are all children (meaning we don’t know anything because life doesn’t have a handbook) has helped me forgive and be more appreciative towards my parents. Their flaws or shortcomings are no longer jaw-dropping (“you’re supposed to be my parent! Don’t you know everything?”), but part of their unique journeys of growth. Of course, I’m not claiming to be a saint. Sometimes I am forgetful of this and expect too much from others. But when I DO remember how human we all really are…my heart pours out love for those that I come in contact with. The old man walking down the street, my neighbor, the mail man, my friends, my yoga teacher, and a stranger. Because when we understand that beneath all of our layers lies a child within each of us, we are automatically connected, as one.

  3. A hopeful and positive attitude goes a LONG way.

    People always ask me why it is that I’m so happy. The truth is that I TRY. I try really hard to constantly see the good, have hope and push forward. It isn’t effortless! In fact, I’ve found that finding hope and joy is like using a muscle. The more we use the muscle, the easier it becomes to use it. If we’ve forgotten to exercise the muscle, we are weakened and we have to exude more power to lift the same object. Therefor, seeing the good has to become a habit, a daily exercise and effort. Living life with a hopeful heart takes energy, but it is well worth it. I believe in energies, that what we put out into the world comes back towards us like a boomerang. If we feel negatively, we will notice negatives (see how I didn’t say that negativity will happen to us? Negativity will always be a part of our lives, no matter how much we use our “hope muscles”. Our “hope muscles” are what get us through the negative times). In contrast, if we feel positively, we will notice all of the good surrounding us more easily, which in turn lifts our moods, impacting those we meet and all that we do. ( With that said, although I am a HSP, I don’t have depression or health issues that may inhibit my chemical ability to feel or choose joy.)

  4. Spirituality and gaining a deeper sense of self.

    Mormonism was my introduction to spirituality, which led to developing a deeper sense of self.  Because I hadn’t grown up learning about religion or a God, the concept of spirituality shone a new light on better understanding my own spirituality and internal desires — the desire to understand where we come from, why we are here, what our purpose is and what we can do in this life. Though the gospel of this church answered many of those questions for me (not perfectly, but generally), it was pondering those questions that grounded me with a deeper sense of self and understanding for who I was and who I could become. I learned to looked inwardly in ways that I hadn’t before and along the way discovered more about myself.

    Ultimately seeking a deeper connection with myself and the world allowed me to dig deeper within myself. It helped me better understand my internal thoughts, core value, hearts desires and brought a certain peace to my life that the temporal world couldn’t provide. I wasn’t “just” Alex Noiret, the model. I was Alex Noiret, a unique soul put here on Earth for a particular reason. Modeling was a piece of my journey and a piece of me, but not all of me. My purpose was to be a light in the world and help others along the way. Become a better self. That was much more empowering and fulfilling than labeling myself as a coat hanger, existing to please.

    I think spirituality can be found in all that is around us — whether it be nature, family, community, art — it’s just about honing in and finding what works for us. That whatever we find may connect us deeper to the earth and our surroundings. Like sinking our toes into the earth. Rooted. And lifted at once.

  5. Pondering.

    A LOT. In the Mormon church, we are taught to pray and ponder often. To always be inquisitive in searching for what is good and true. This act of pondering is also what lead me to leave the church, because I found that not all was good or true. However that being said, I learned to hone in and lean on my instincts, heart and mind religiously. I rarely make decisions without first thinking them through, and I attribute a lot of my life choices (and therefor outcomes, even successes) to this. We hold many of the answers we are searching for within us, if we are quiet enough to ponder and listen (to that still small voice, or in other words, our hearts).

PS: For any of you currently struggling with your own spirituality, in and out of the LDS church, know that this rather-positive post has taken two long years and 35 drafts of pain for me to arrive to a point of peace. Mourning (a spirituality, way of life and community) has taken a long time. I didn’t want to publish anything of anger or write anything that I would later on regret. Not that that pain or anger wasn’t justified. I believe it was, as is yours. Stay strong…and keep searching for the light, big or small.