I’m Anna Renvall, a writer and self-help enthusiast in Minneapolis. Thanks for listening to FO-MO: Dating and Relating As a Former Mormon. I’m creating a platform for the stories of navigating relationships, sexuality, feminism, and other social issues as a former Mormon. As a former Mormon myself, I hope to build a sense of community and loving support. FYI, this podcast is for grown-ups as it contains adult themes.
To kick it off, I’ll tell you my life story. The short version! I have awesome parents, a mom and a dad, and I was raised as the oldest with a sister and two brothers. I was born in Finland (where my mom is from), but at 7 months old, we moved to the U.S. to Virginia (where my dad is from). The summer before 9th grade, I moved with my family to northern Utah, and after university I moved to my current home state, Minnesota. My mom joined the Church as an adult before my parents married, and my dad’s parents had joined when he was 3 years old, so I was raised in the Church. I loved it. I had a joyful and loving childhood. I have full confidence that my parents always follow their heart in doing what’s best for themselves and their family. The community felt steady and comforting to me, and I have always considered myself deeply spiritual. I love belonging, rituals, traditions, and symbolism, so religion appeals to me in many ways. I was deeply committed. In 2007, at age 22, I married in the temple and in the next 6 years I had 2 children.
When my daughter was a toddler and my son was a newborn, what had long been uncomfortable doctrines became increasingly disconcerting to me. I started to think about whether or not I would stop attending Sunday church if one of my children were not straight heterosexual. Would they feel confused by the punishing doctrines even if the members of the congregation were welcoming? Would they feel inferior if they couldn’t fully participate in the ordinances and covenants and leadership structure of the Church? I decided I wouldn’t participate because no matter how friendly the individuals, the entire system would undoubtedly shame them. But the chances of a gay kid are so remote, I told myself. That didn’t sit right. I wouldn’t want my kids absorbing the message that anyone was inferior or cursed by their sexuality. Simultaneously, my tolerance for the patriarchal organization of the Church waned. I developed the conviction that women should be able to be ordained with the priesthood if they desired it. I no longer glossed over the fact that decisions on all levels of the organization are ultimately endorsed or trumped by a man, and never by a woman. There was more to my faith crisis, but these were the main points which eroded the sense of sanctuary I had previously enjoyed at Church. When my belief in those principles shifted out of alignment with church policies, I felt I could no longer personally endorse the Church. I stopped participating gradually, over the course of several years.
Mostly unrelated to my faith transition, my marriage had deteriorated, and I divorced in 2017. I had grieved the course of the relationship and attended therapy among other health practices for years before that, so, newly single, I felt ready to jump into dating and revitalize my social life. But not only had I not been on the dating scene for 10 years, I had never dated as a mom, I had never dated as someone who didn’t identify as a practicing Mormon fixated on finding a fellow good Mormon to spend eternity with. When last I dated, there were no apps, no swiping. Online dating was growing but still a a little stigmatized. I knew the expectations and lingo of dating within the Church in Utah, not as a 30-something in Minnesota. I felt like an alien! It was awkward and hilarious and keenly isolating.
I was incredibly lucky in love, and happened to meet my current partner very soon–on a dating app! He’s open-minded and supportive. He makes heaviness lighter, and happiness more saturated. He had almost no knowledge of Mormons, so explaining my priorities, my baggage, my hang-ups, even my sweet childhood sentiments that are so colored by my Mormon upbringing really pulled me more into a spectator perspective. I have to explain everything with basically no existing context. I’ve always been both introspective and a tribe-seeker, but in a new and deepening relationship I felt extra pushed to really break down my beliefs and my identity and analyze how my past plays in my present. It amplified my desire to connect with people who can relate to navigating adulthood as a former Mormon…or a non-practicing, a non-traditional, a progressive, a transitioning, or an ex-Mormon…or the friend or lover or family of someone who can relate to that. There’s so much to talk about! I hope you’ll join the conversation!