It’s hard to know what to say when starting an apology. But I’m feeling a kind of tugging sorrow in my heart for the pain I’ve caused my LDS family and friends, and likely many others I’ve never met. If you feel you’ve been affected negatively by something I’ve written, said, or done over the years, then please accept my sincere apology. This post is for you.
When I chose to leave the church, I felt scared and alone and confused. I so deeply wanted to feel understood and accepted in this pain. I also felt peaceful and excited and free. And I wanted to be seen in that also. I published a letter entitled Why I Left the Mormon Church, which increased understanding in many ways. But it also caused some hurt. I have updated and softened it over the years, and have strengthened the introductory disclaimer so readers are aware of where it’s headed. It’s taken time to process these emotions and experiences. I’ve written several posts on my blog detailing my spiritual journey and its relation to Mormonism, and have shared Mormon-related articles on my Facebook wall, some which have been triggering. Sometimes what I’ve shared has resulted in positive discussions and increased understanding; but other times it’s resulted in loved ones feeling uncomfortable and distancing themselves from me. And understandably so.
I realized to a degree that some of the things I was posting might cause you pain, but I saw this pain as justified for the sake of truth as I understood it. I think this was a mistake. I now see that your story of truth is as valid for you as mine is for me, and your feelings as valid as my feelings. I have opinions, but I see that sharing them isn’t always helpful, nor kind. My pain does not belong on your shoulders unless you offer to take it. And your pain is not mine to carry, unless we are both ready.
Since leaving the church, I have felt ostracized and shunned, to a degree, by some of my LDS family and friends. But I can also see how you would feel ostracized and shunned by me. I may have caused you to distance yourself from me by the ways I’ve expressed my story. I thought I was right, and you were wrong. I thought you needed help, and that I had a solution. And that intention came through, even when I didn’t say it. I thought I valued being kind and compassionate over being right, but my actions weren’t always in line with these values. I’ve seen that when I try to help people who don’t want help, it can end up feeling more pushy and disrespectful, than helpful to the other person. And it closes hearts. I no longer expect you to understand or accept me. It is enough for me to understand and accept myself, and to live my life with as much love and kindness as I can. This kindness involves seeking to understand you and support you in your own life journey in ways that feel appropriate to both of us. I can appreciate you – the beautiful person you naturally are – regardless of the beliefs you hold.
I may not live by your church’s story of reality. But I respect the spiritual depth of your faith, and the sense of purpose this brings to your life. To those whom I have offended, I offer my apology, and an invitation to return as a welcomed and respected guest on my life journey, if this feels good to you. If it doesn’t, I fully support you in that choice, too. Priorities and boundaries are necessary for individual well-being, and we all choose how we want to spend our time.
Regardless of our theological differences or life choices, I hope that by offering this apology, it will open space for healing some of the pain that I have caused you. May we both increase in peace and joy, in whatever path we find it.
Also, if there is someone you know who’s been hurt by my approach, and who may not get this message on their own, I invite you to share this post with them, so that we can both heal from the past.
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02 Jun 2019
Hiking the Camino de Santiago With Kids
12 Jun 2018
Seeing our thoughts, words, and actions clearly, from a place of wholeness, including compassion for self and others is no easy feat. It’s far easier to keep repeating the same hypocritical patterns from one paradigm shift to the next and feel like we’re “getting it” when we still may not be fully grasping and embodying that which is actually the most important. Thank you for this beautiful post, Brandon. You continue to be my biggest inspiration in life. We’re all learning as we go and I think your authentic and vulnerable sharing exemplifies that quite well, and also your willingness to show up accountably in your relationships with others. I greatly admire your desire to learn how to better give and receive love in ways that make a positive difference.
Thank you, Jen. So beautifully written. Thanks in large part to you, I’m catching more and more glimpses of the sense that nothing really matters besides love and kindness, and that feels really good.
This blog post is interesting. I also am a former mormon, with deep ties to many current members.
While I empathize with the desire to do no harm to those still in the faith, and the need to apologize for pain caused, I deeply disagree with the message.
While an individual’s faith may bring them value, the repercussions of that faith may not. I any choose to believe 5 + 5 =17. Over decades, a organization may rise, with many other noble attributes, that teach the wonders of 5+5 =17.
This is NOT a different perspective. It is in error. It is teaching an easily disproved concept as core to their faith.
However, I have very little issue with those that desire to live their lives with. 5+5=17. I DO have issue with that group passing laws that say I need to believe it is 17. Or incorporating 5+5=17 into school curriculum to “teach the other views”.
My personal view has been, love the people, but push back against its incursion in my life and the lives of my fellow human beings. Loving people often means protecting them from the threats that face them.
Your view makes sense to me, Scott. I agree there are times when it’s important to take a stand. And I try to pick my battles carefully, and with respect. I think pushing back to maintain one’s boundaries (and to protect another person) is healthy. And it can be challenging to do this in ways that help people feel respected and supported. It’s something I’m still learning and practicing.
“but push back against its incursion in my life and the lives of my fellow human beings. Loving people often means protecting them from the threats that face them.”
I take it you’re a libertarian then? That is part the libertarian ethos.
Brandon, I think your intentions have always been heart-led. When you first left mormonism and shared your story / reasons / feelings – you had been, and were still going through, one of the most challenging, painful, frightening times of your life. Even when attacked you responded with patience and kindness.
Now that you’ve moved through so much of the pain (and you’ve done it much more quickly than most!) you’re discovering more peace with yourself. I admire your openness and willingness to embrace change, admit mistakes, share your vulnerabilities. It blesses everyone – whether they agree with you or not.
As you continue to grow and share your experiences / views, I hope your readers will recognize your loving heart and honor / respect that, even when they disagree, dislike, or might feel offended by what you speak.
Thank you, Mom. I so appreciate your acknowledgement of what I’ve been through, and my heart-led intentions. And I also hope others who have misunderstood this in the past will be better able to see it now. But either way, I’m ready to focus more on giving love and living fully, and less on trying to get love from others, or “help” them to change when they don’t want to. And I look forward to continue sharing my experiences and insights for whoever is interested.
It’s been a while since I read this post and I’m finally commenting. So, hopefully I still remember the gist.
Although I agree that it’s good to be good to others. I think it is also nice to have people tell their experiences, desires and ideas. It’s nice to be challenged. I think that is how we learn. But I agree that with some people it is good to respect their boundaries. My mother isn’t interested in hearing anything negative about the church. That is fine.
My wife said she was fine with me talking about the negative things in the past about the church. But then she complained that I was negative all the time. I guess I went overboard. So, I keep it at much more of a minimum now. She probably will never agree with me about those ideas. The kids will probably be mormons for most of their lives. As long as they are self-actualized I’ll be happy. It takes generations to build on previous generations knowledge, it would be nice if the process were faster and if we didn’t have to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Jon, you really never know where someone’s journey will lead them. If you had told me, 6 years ago, that Brandon would have opened his heart to spiritual possibilities outside of Mormonism, I’d have told you “no way – absolutely not.” Loving and accepting them whatever their path will give them the emotional safety to share their doubts, questions and concerns with you – and potentially the confidence to explore new ways of thinking and being as they seek and become self-actualized :)
I feel so blessed to witness and be a part of my children’s journeys in life – I learn from them every day.
Brandon… I do not totally agree with what Scott said because faith is not as absolute like a math equation is. I think it is admirable to reach out to those who were/are offended in love.
I also feel it is likely futile because people of all faiths (and especially Mormons) believe they alone hold the ‘truth.’ In this case the necessary keys and ordinances to realize eternal life. When you leave that belief system and publish the reasons why, it is a threat to the security (ie, belief system) of those still gripped by it. It’s unavoidable. You are telling them you don’t believe their belief system is valid, and as a former believer, when you point out the why’s they feel insecure because some of those whys may resonate. And so there is pushback.
In fact, I was struck with how non-threatening and gentle your manifesto was. In it’s original form. You clearly wanted understanding and to explain your thought processes, but it was inevitable walls would be created simply because your thought processes cause insecurity in the deeply held beliefs of those you have apparently lost intimacy with.
Yet…. I also see it going both ways. How to believers of that faith think others feel when their missionaries go into people’s homes and tell them God told Joseph Smith all the churches are wrong… and only Mormonism is right? Or a family member who converts telling his friends/family that their way is wrong and ‘listen to me about what is right” ???
There is no way to stand up and proclaim what you believe without that challenging or offending someone.
It’s very sweet that you are trying to reach out to some of them (and I have no idea how many there are or the level of intimacy you had with them), but I suspect if the message resonates with any of them, they may state a desire to simply not talk about religion with you.
And that is unfortunate because making it off limits would be offensive to you. I had a family I loved dearly as a kid. And when I left the church they made it a requirement to our continued association that I not speak about my beliefs or the reasons why. Yet they still talked about ‘the brethren’ continually. And so, I was offended and I have had no contact with them for 25 years… and I am okay with that. Eventually you will reach a spot where you are okay with letting go of those who can’t accept where you are now…
“There is no way to stand up and proclaim what you believe without that challenging or offending someone.”
Agreed, but there are more offensive and less offensive ways to state a belief. As far as Mormonism goes, I no longer care to push for what’s “right” or “wrong”. If pressed for my opinion, I’ll give it. But it’s just an opinion, and it doesn’t need to stand in the way of my relationships, which are more important to me than religious beliefs. If someone takes offense with my beliefs, that’s totally fine. I probably would too if I were in their shoes. If they don’t want to hang out with me because of my beliefs, no problem. There are plenty of other people who do. But I want to provide a safe place so people feel like they can be themselves around me, without my judgment, and how can I expect others to give that to me if I don’t give first it to them?
“I suspect if the message resonates with any of them, they may state a desire to simply not talk about religion with you.”
Yes, and I’m fine with that. There are plenty of other topics that are interesting to me. That said, I think with most, I feel I’m at a place where I could discuss religion in a way that wouldn’t be offensive, but respectful and supportive of the good their beliefs are bringing them, and I think people can sense that.
I am an active LDS member, and I am deeply impressed and moved by your post. I think the LDS community also needs to be understanding of the fact that those who have left the Church want to share what they believe just as much as we do. Those outside of the Church most likely believe they are living the right way (or trying to) just as passionately as Church members believe they themselves are living the right way (or trying to, again). Thanks for your respect, and I am so sorry you have felt shunned and ostracized. I think many members of the Church need to be more open-minded and remember that when dealing with any person of any faith or opinion, love is the MOST important thing. Not proving them wrong or “bringing them back” or trying to correct them. Simply and sincerely caring and loving them as a fellow child of God. Thanks again for your post!
Well said, Danielle. Thank you for your comment and for your efforts in seeing the world through another’s perspective. That kind of empathy is how bridges are built and love reaches through.
Brandon, thank you for your fantastic writing and open, loving, integrity-filled perspective.
I think we have a mutual friend (since this is a public comment I won’t name him here), who referred me to your story, and I’m still reading it. But in the process of that, I’ve also been reading some of your blog posts, and I have really liked what I’ve read so far. Partly because your experience and thoughts match mine very well, but also because, written so clearly, I am able to better comprehend my similar feelings and views.
I especially liked your comment above, “I’m catching more and more glimpses of the sense that nothing really matters besides love and kindness”. This really sums up my journey so far, and so succinctly that the impact on me is profound.
Thanks for your comment, Nick. Yes, I sometimes wonder – if all people were more focused on love and kindness than on truth and rightness, how much of the world’s problems would be eliminated? But if we’re to hope for a change like that, it must start with you and me.