So the seeds of doubt had been planted. I mean, I obviously wasn't about to leave the church while I was in grade school or jr. high, but the feelings of uncertainty and hurt where there for sure.
Throughout Jr. High School, I was still strong in the church. I realized that there were things about it that really felt strange for me (ie, polygamy etc), but I went with my family regularly on Sundays, and found myself going to Young Women activities at least some of the time. I never got over how those girls had treated me, but I suppose I found some kind of place within the YW program, even if I still felt like an outsider. I tried my best to fit in.
In 9th grade, I began my Church Educational System (CES) experience. For the first time, I was graded on reading scriptures and doing religion-themed handouts and activities. It always felt a bit strange to mix school with the church (perhaps this is one reason why I would never attend BYU) and this was reflected in my success within the class--I rarely did my scriptures reading and took a rather half-assed approach to the class as a whole. I realized then something I had known, deep inside, for a while: I hated to read the scriptures. It was not a simple dislike, or something I found a little daunting, but I REALLY hated to read from the scriptures. They were repetitive and uninteresting and bland, and I gained very little of anything from pouring over their pages. And of course, doing something is always worse when you are assigned to do it. My great dislike of reading from the scriptures must have really begun around this time, in the same way one doesn't like a book they are forced to read for English class.
Not only that, but I didn't like scripture study at home, or when teachers would tell you to open your scriptures during church lessons. It was like a switch, and as soon as it was flipped I lost interest just like that. I don't know if I believed that they were true or not. I must have at least thought that I believed in them. But if so, why did I despise them so much?
Around this time, another important thing happened: there was a ward split. This means that our ward was cut and part of it was added to a different (smaller) ward. This did wonders for me. I already knew a few people from this new ward, so I at least had some friends. Here, I felt more accepted and loved. I was able to start from scratch and got to know many of the girls. The younger ones looked up to me. I really regained positive feelings for the church at this point. I attended classes and activities much more frequently and often enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, what happened over time was that church became a social thing instead of a spiritual thing. Well, okay, it hadn't been all that spiritual to begin with, but as I made more friends and laughed and hung out at activities with them, that became my main reason for attending.
In high school, I felt quite void of spiritual influence. I went through the motions but did not really "feel" it. I went to seminary but often wished to skip class. I grew frustrated in class often because something would be said or a lesson would be taught that conflicted with what I felt in my heart. I also realized that most of the people in class were only there because they had to be (their parents made them) and not because they wanted to be. It seemed sad to me that religion would be forced on someone like that, and the same went for me. So many of those students couldn't care less about it, and yet they had to go because their parents had expected them to go and signed them up and now they had to go to get marked on the roll. How sad.
I was still friends with A., but there were new people going in and out of our group. Throughout high school the people we hung out with periodically changed, but there almost always were a few "mormon reject" sorts--people who weren't into their religion and did things like go to wild parties, watch 'bad' movies, and drink coffee or booze. I grew accustomed to them and accepted them, although I still tried to live the mormon life. I was not a molly mormon by any means, but compared to most of my friends I was the good kid. I think that I wanted my parents to be proud of me. Regardless of the fact that they wanted the church to be a heavy influence in my life, I loved and respected them as people and wanted very much to please them. I know I was raised well, and I wanted to be 'good' for my parents more than I wanted to be 'bad' for my friends. It was a struggle.
I tried not to talk too much about the church with anyone. I found I wasn't very proud to be a member--I just WAS one, that's all. I disagreed with much of the doctrine the more I learned in seminary, and I never found a passion for reading my scriptures. I guess that I was on the edge, even back then. I didn't have a testimony. I didn't truly believe. I wasn't a mormon...I just played one.
More in Part 3.