It’s been almost four years since my family and I decided to leave the LDS (Mormon) church, and almost three years since I published my document about Why I Left the Mormon Church. This letter has since been read by tens of thousands of people, and still prompts almost weekly emails from readers, mostly people thanking me for the comfort and courage it provided them on their journey out of the church.
Since we left the church, I’ve been on a more conscious journey of healing and self-discovery. Gradually, I feel like I’ve come to a place that is more authentic, real, alive, peaceful, exciting, and loving than I ever knew was possible as a believing and devoted member of the LDS Church.
Within the church, many members believe and repeat these words spoken by a prominent church leader:
“You can leave the Church, but you can’t leave it alone. The basic reason for this is simple. Once someone has received a witness of the Spirit and accepted it, he leaves neutral ground. One loses his testimony only by listening to the promptings of the evil one, and Satan’s goal is not complete when a person leaves the Church, but when he comes out in open rebellion against it.” — Glenn L. Pace, April 1989, LDS General Conference Address
Occasionally, I’ll mention the church or my Mormon upbringing in a blog post, or I’ll share on Facebook someone else’s journey that resonated with me. Yet whenever I mention the church, however tactfully or rarely, a church member will usually respond telling me that they can accept that I left the church, but why do I have to keep talking about it? They ask me why I can’t just leave the church alone. Why I work so hard to tear it down. Or why I’m so focused on doing anti-Mormon missionary work.
I wonder what kind of answer they want to hear from these questions, and what prompts them to ask.
I get the sense that they expect one of two replies, even if only implied:
- I’m an angry and bitter apostate who was too weak to keep the commandments, wanted to sin, resented the church, got greedy, got offended, and now can’t leave the church alone until I see it completely destroyed, and its members brought down to hell, so that I can feel justified in my guilt and make everyone as miserable as me.
- Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize what I posted was offensive to you. I’ll remove it immediately.
With #1, I hope no one actually thinks of me like this, but it sounds like some do, even if only partially.
With #2, I get it. If I’m such a nice guy, why would I post something that might offend someone I care about? If I post things like that, maybe I don’t really care about the person at all. Or maybe I just care more about convincing them I’m right than I do about the relationship. I should stop being offensive and just shut up about this topic.
But it’s not that simple.
The Real Reason
There are many reasons why I keep talking about the church. The most simple is that it’s interesting to me, especially the psychological aspects of belief, asserted knowledge, and how we can open up to new ways of thinking. Movies like The Matrix, The Truman Show, and Inception symbolize what this feels like, but it’s something that must be experienced to be understood. Over the years, I’ve had several of these paradigm shifts, and it’s an incredible, life-changing experience that I love to share. Most people who leave the church go through this, and I find it fascinating to watch the process.
Also, I spent the first 30 years of my life thoroughly believing that everything the church taught was 100% true and helpful to everyone in every circumstance, and was even necessary for eternal happiness. I no longer believe this, but 30 years is a long time to believe and practice something just to let it all go and never think about it again. I’ve continued to be surprised at how some of the thought processes I learned and taught as a Mormon still permeate my thinking, and I enjoy talking about them, and what I’m learning about myself through witnessing these thoughts.
Now, as for the question of why I am attacking the church, my answer is that I don’t feel like I’m attacking the church at all. I’m not working to tear it down. I’m not actively doing anti-Mormon missionary work. I’m living my life and sharing what I’m excited about, and what’s helpful for me, just as I allow others to live their lives and share what they’re excited about, and what’s helpful for them. I share what I’m learning and believe, but I make no declarations of universal truth. I don’t tell church members that they should leave the church, and I don’t tell them to stop talking about it. If you doubt these things, then I invite you to read my document again and notice how many times I mention that this is my own journey, and that I support and respect people who choose other paths.
Yes, the document I wrote mentions some controversial church subjects, including historical facts and changing doctrines that the church is finally starting to semi-officially address under the Gospel Topics section of their website. (Yay!) I try not to bring these issues up in Facebook or anywhere else, because I don’t want to offend people, and they’re not as relevant to me as they used to be. I mentioned the issues that troubled me in my document so that there would be understanding about why I left and to satisfy my integrity. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about accurate church history and doctrine can look up the sources and verify the facts themselves. It’s up to you, the reader, to draw a conclusion about what they mean, and determine what you’re going to do about it. Your decision is not my business, but I’m more than happy to lend support to those who want to talk about it.
Of course, there is also the natural human tendency to want to help humanity, especially those close to us. I feel like I’ve discovered something that’s changed my life in positive ways, and I want to share it. Who wouldn’t? Many people have written and thanked me for writing about my journey, telling me how it’s helped them in profound ways. I don’t see sharing these things as attacking or anti-Mormon, any more than missionaries sharing their conversion story is attacking or hateful. Although unlike LDS missionaries, I do not claim that I hold the one and only true belief system that God approves of and that my way is the only right way to live. So if someone doesn’t resonate with my story or doesn’t even want to read it, that’s perfectly fine with me, and I don’t need to mourn for their lost soul or try to “save” them. I would still like to connect with them at that level if they were to choose it. But they’re on their own valid journey, and I’m okay if it’s different from mine.
Authenticity vs. Sensitivity
There is, however, a difficult challenge I am faced with whenever I feel the desire to post something about the church online. It’s the balance between authenticity and sensitivity. I don’t want to offend people, and I want to maintain good relationships with my Mormon family and friends. But I also want to be true to myself, and have deep, authentic, and meaningful relationships where freedom of expression is celebrated and where we love and accept each other wholly and completely, with all our differing opinions and preferences and emotions.
I have some relationships like this now. One is with my wife, Jen, where I feel more completely at ease to be myself than ever before, as does she. After having relationships like this, part of me wonders if I even want to continue fostering relationships that may only ever exist at a superficial level, where part of me will be rejected and never allowed to be fully seen. I want relationships with people who love all of me, not just the parts their religion approves of. With some people, I must always be cautious and hold back so I don’t “offend” them, or the relationship may be strained or end. My very presence may even be threatening to them, because they know I have rejected a belief they hold dear. This doesn’t sound like a very pleasant or loving relationship to me, and I wonder if I even want this. (Note: I do have some Mormon friends and family who accept all of me, and this is wonderful! But it seems a rare exception.)
I can still see the value in sensitivity for the purpose of maintaining certain relationships. If I knew someone was sensitive about a health condition, sexual problem, or relationship situation, I may tread lightly in those areas or not bring it up at all. I can empathize with their pain, embarrassment, and fear. I don’t need to push it. Perhaps the relationship would be more rewarding if we both opened up in vulnerability and talked about these scary things in a loving and supportive way, but if they don’t want to go there, I don’t push it. In the mean time, I can be content talking about other things, while we both carefully hide parts of ourselves. It may still be a rewarding relationship, but in a different, limited sort of way. Less close. I think there is a place for these relationships.
Is it any different with the members of the church? Some members are sensitive about their church’s controversial history, and believe that the church’s teachings do only good and no harm. They believe the LDS church is God’s one and only true church, and it helps them and others, makes people’s lives better in every way, strengthens families, brings peace, meaning, and fulfillment, etc. If an idea threatens to shatter any of these views, it can cause uncomfortable emotions. I can also empathize with this. I used to be there. And I don’t bring up or push the subject when speaking in person with some members because I know it can be a sensitive topic. Yes, maybe the relationship could be more authentic if we openly talked about these discomforts and fears in a loving way, but if they don’t want to go there, I respect that. I won’t push it, and will just accept that we may never connect at those deeper levels.
I’m not saying that I need to talk about the church with everyone in order to have a meaningful relationship. I’m saying that I prefer relationships where freedom of expression is encouraged, rather than suppressed; where the entire person can be accepted, even when their views are different. If someone is uncomfortable with something I said, they can tell me, and I can hold back out of respect for them, even though it may mean adding distance to the relationship.
But in a public forum like a blog or Facebook, I don’t have the luxury of knowing who is reading my words. And if someone doesn’t want to read them, they don’t have to. Perhaps someone will feel uncomfortable with something I’ve written. But someone else will be inspired and helped by the same words. Does this mean I shouldn’t write them to protect the potentially offended?
The core problem with this question is the false idea that I should be responsible for the emotions of others. Reading an article is a choice. Taking offense is also a choice. If you feel uncomfortable reading my words, is it my words that cause you the discomfort? Or is it your belief about those words and the thoughts you’re telling yourself about them that cause your discomfort? The words don’t cause discomfort to everybody, and wouldn’t cause you discomfort if you viewed them differently. So the discomfort must be coming from inside of you, not from the words themselves, or from me. You may believe the discomfort is coming from God or the Holy Ghost who is warning you that these thoughts are dangerous, and reminding you of all the bad things that will happen to you if you continue thinking these thoughts. But he isn’t warning everybody the same way. Some people feel peace, inspiration, or make positive life changes after hearing the same words. Can you accept responsibility for your own emotions, and allow others to have theirs?
It’s natural to want discomfort to go away. It’s natural to want to avoid ideas that conflict with our current beliefs. Discomfort will arise whenever our current beliefs are challenged, religious or not. What’s empowering is the realization that we have a choice about what to do with this discomfort. We can try to silence the source of it or shut ourselves out from it through avoidance, rationalizing, arguing, ridiculing, or attacking. Or we can simply observe the discomfort and see what we can learn from it. As unpleasant as it may be, I try to welcome discomfort, because underneath it I often discover something I didn’t know about myself, and why I feel the way I do. It’s one tool I’ve used to bring about those paradigm shifts I mentioned earlier.
I understand if someone feels too uncomfortable reading my words, and chooses to stop reading my blog or unfriends me on Facebook. They may decide they never want to talk to me again. That’s okay. My true friends will realize that I’m just being me, living out of the experiences I’ve had, on the path I’ve chosen, and they will love me for it, even when I openly share opinions they don’t agree with. They don’t take it personally. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
It’s About Me
Let me make myself clear. I believe the church is not what it claims to be. To use stronger words, I believe it is a fraud. I can state this openly and without fear of offending because I am only speaking for myself. It is only my opinion, based on my own experience and research. I’m not saying that you’re wrong if you choose to believe otherwise. I’m not saying the church doesn’t do good, or that it’s completely deceptive. I’m not saying that all members are blindly obedient or following unconsciously (only that I was blind and unconscious, and still am in many areas of my life). I’m not saying that you should change your beliefs or do anything different. If you’d like to debate, I welcome the discussion. If you’d rather not talk about it, that’s fine too. If you believe the church is 100% true, it’s perfectly okay with me and it doesn’t need to affect our friendship. I still accept all of you, and that the church is true for you and important to you. I try to accept even that part of you that just wants me to stop talking about it.
To summarize, the church played a huge part in my life and I’m still interested in aspects of it. I claim my right to have opinions, and also to share them publicly and privately. In private, I try to exercise sensitivity, even if it means an occasional superficial relationship. In public, I try to share myself authentically as well as sensitively, for the benefit of anyone who resonates with my words, and for deeper connections and authenticity in my relationships. For those who don’t resonate with what I share, I allow them to own their emotional responses, try to empathize with where they’re at, and to love them exactly as they are. No change required. You’re perfect.
I am writing about myself and my own journey.
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I’ve followed your journey. What you are experiencing with other members of the Mormon church doesn’t surprise me. Even though you receive positive emails and feed backs on your journey out of the Mormon church, most of these come from people you don’t know. So it feels less impactfull than what’s going on with friends and family.
The members of the Mormon church, just like in many other churches, believe that they are in a mission to save others’ souls. Just you posting Facebook messages or expressing what you believe must be seen as an influence against saving people’s soul.
Think about it this way. What if someone joins the Mormon church but never try to save other people’s souls? Would he be seen as a true member?
In religion, all feelings are stronger. Just creating doubts in people minds, or sharing your journey, is most likely seen as something that creates doubts in other people’s minds and “unsave” them. You are an unsaver! (I dont mean it negatively).
I believe your friands and famille on the Mormon Church could work with the fact that you are not in the Mormon church anymore if you kept quiet about it. But like you explained, it wouldn’t be true to yourself.
In my opinion (and it is just my opinion), you’ll stay friends with those who you have a strong link with that is stronger than the Mormon church. I believe that everyone you met through the Mormon church will be hard to keep in your life, unless you have a passion in common… Religion creates a strong common link and this link is broken.
I can even imagine some members of the church telling each other that they met you… And seeing it as something bad. That you are a bad influence… Imagine, every time you speak up about your beliefs, you are challenging their faith.
Members of the church hang out together because it strengthens their faith, because no one chanllenges it, because it is safer…
I’ve written this as it came out, based on my experience in the US as a member of the Evangelist church. I hope it helps you and your family.
“Remember that your life is the exact reflect of the expectations of those around you.” – Tony Robbins
Very insightful comment, Millie. Thank you for sharing!
While it may have only taken hours to write this post, it has been almost four years in the making, as we’ve been experiencing (and trying to understand) the after effects of leaving the church. It feels great to finally be more empowered and clear about this topic. I love how thorough, vulnerable, and authentic you are in your writing about it. I’m also really enjoying what we’ve learned (and are continuing to learn) about loving and communicating in ways that foster the kind of relationships we want in our lives. I’ve learned the value of holding space for everyone to have a voice, not only those people who I agree with. In trying to resist other opinions, I reduce my ability to more fully understand myself and others.
Beautiful said, Jen. I’m so lucky to be going through this journey with you, and am so enjoying the real you that you so vulnerably share with me.
Steve Jobs said in 2005 something that shook me awake: “Don’t be trapped by the dogma of others”. I’ve come to understand the church – in fact all Western religions – to be sets of controls and guides for how to live life in good and dark times. The church has had such an influence in humanity for more than 2,000 years.
Humanity is waking up to a broader understanding of our universe, and our infinitesimally small place in it, in terms of both space and time. This is as difficult to reconcile as was a round world and a helio-centric solar system was 700 years ago. This understanding shakes the core principles and beliefs of Christianity, Judaism, and Muslim religions.
Knowledge advances humanity, but it also destroys antiquated systems that will be fiercely protected by those sold into their dogmas. Those with power refuse to release it. They whip up their constituents into a froth by calling those who have asked and answered hard questions about their faith the ones who have been sent to challenge the church – usually by the devil himself.
My god is the universe itself. Or even the multiverse, in which our universe exists amongst an infinite number of other universes. I am humbled and in awe of the enormity of those thoughts.
I only wish others would be so brave to question the world around them without being trapped by the dogma of others.
It will be interesting to see what the world looks like in 50 or 100 or 1000 years, and how the world’s belief systems will change over this time. Thanks for your comment.
Great read thanks. I highly recommend Joseph Campbells works on your learning journey! He has helped my understanding of how tribal thinking comes about and myths and religions.
Yes, I want to read more of his works. He has some great insights. Thanks.
Wow, wow, wow. Brandon (and Jennifer): thank you very much for posting this (and some of the previous posts/documents on the subject)! It is so well-written and respectful and loving.
Also, it is incredibly similar to how I feel about things; almost ridiculously so. Since I read your google doc a couple months back, I’ve thought that if I someday decide to post about my own beliefs/feelings/journey, I’ll simply link to that document (and now this post as well) and say to my friends and family, “if you want to know how I feel, read this and you’ll be about 95% there.”
Perhaps I will write my own thoughts, as well, but until that time, your thoughts and the way you express them will very competently do the job.
I wish you all the best and happiness, meaning, and love. I truly hope to meet you all someday.
Wow. Thank you, Andy. I’m touched by your comment, and I wish you all the best and happiness, meaning, and love also. Keep in touch.
I am overwhelmingly happy that you have been able to find such peace and joy within yourself and outside of the world which was once your safety net. You are such an inspiration (not just to all of the random people who read your blog, but also to your adoring sister). Thank you for sharing this and for being brave and comfortable with who you are, and for being so authentic. I love you and your beautiful wife and children!! -Little sis.
Thanks Ash! I love you, too! As you mentioned in your Facebook comment, it is so nice to have a more authentic relationship with you now that my “judgmental glasses” are gone, and no subjects are taboo. You are an amazing person and I love who I am around you. Thank you for shining!
First off, I completely agree with you when you say that you are not responsible for others’ emotional reactions to your writing. I’ve read a lot of your blog posts, and I’ve never been *offended,* only curious. People that choose to be offended at your articles need to stop reading them.
Now that said, after reading the article, I feel like you believe that since your articles are about you and your journey, any changes that happen within other people because of your articles are not your responsibility (although perhaps a pleasant surprise). Words can be persuasive and powerful, so acting like you should not have to take any responsibility for the *effects* of your persuasion is a false notion in my opinion. In other words, you may not be *trying* to tear down the church or do anti-missionary work with your articles, but your articles are still having that effect. Just like publicly sharing positive church experiences could potentially lead to people joining the church (and would hence could be considered missionary work), doing the opposite would logically have an opposite effect, and hence could be considered anti-missionary work (passive or otherwise). If I am a powerful and persuasive writer, and my publicly available writings have the impact to persuade people to do something that is ultimately harmful or helpful to them, I feel like in the end I will have to take a portion of responsibility for my harmful or helpful influence. In other words, if your articles influence people to ultimately be happier, you should take some credit for that. If your articles ended up being misguided and influenced a bunch of people to be lead astray, you’ll have to take a portion of the blame. I guess what I’m saying is that by making your opinions public, you intrinsically have to take a portion of the responsibility for the effects they have on people. Do you agree?
Hi Bryan! Thank you for posting. What a great question. It really got me thinking. I can’t say that I know the answer for certain. But here are my thoughts.
Yes, I am influenced by my surroundings, including the people I meet, and the things I read. I may get an idea from someone, and take a different course of action because of it. But I think a relevant question is if my choice is voluntary or involuntary, conscious or unconscious. Am I influenced beyond my ability to choose (a victim)? And if so, does this mean that these influences are partially responsible for my actions? Or is it still my responsibility to become conscious and choose for myself? If I am conscious, then I can choose whether or not to change my course of action after being exposed to an outside influence.
Someone may tell us a lie (or the truth), and we may believe them and make life choices because of it. But isn’t it our responsibility to find out if what’s they’re saying is true, and our responsibility to decide how we will act on it? The speaker just presented an opportunity for us consider our own thoughts on a subject, and I welcome that as it can lead to growth. Yes, some of us are easily influenced, but I believe that is our own responsibility to overcome if we choose to. Unfortunately, impressionable young children don’t have this luxury. Because of their childhood conditioning, some adults are just as impressionable, and maybe they ARE more of a victim to outside influences. But I also believe this can be overcome.
Actually, I believe that each of us have triggers, mental blocks, conditioning, brainwashing, whatever you want to call it, that cause us to react to certain events or ideas without much thought. We’re all unconscious to some degree and in some areas of our lives, although we like to think we’re perfectly in control. So maybe the responsibility does lie partially with each of us as we interact with each other, especially if we’re aware of each other’s triggers and are using them to our advantage, as many in authority do (and in marketing).
Or maybe this is just human nature playing out. We all act as we do based on our past experiences, present beliefs and conscious (or not) choices. The fact is, we can’t always know the consequences of our actions, or if the end result will be harmful or helpful, or even when to call it the “end result”? Life is constantly changing, as are we, individually and collectively. Our “negative” experiences could be the turning point to something much more positive, and vice versa.
So, If we can’t predict the long-term outcome of our actions, does this mean we should keep our thoughts and feelings and journeys to ourselves? There’s always a possibility that we might be wrong, or that someone might hear our words and make a choice that could have consequences at some point down the road that someone might view as negative. There are so many factors that come into play with every choice we (and others) make.
Rather than trying to control the situation or another’s actions through my words (even if it’s just trying to “protect” them), I prefer to try and share myself authentically with the world, and allow others to do the same in whatever way they choose. To me, this is what brings deeper human connection, learning, and growth. It’s what love and life are about. By welcoming all viewpoints, including my own, I also become enabled to make more informed choices for myself about what I will believe and do. The trick is making the choices consciously, rather than out of conditioning.
Thanks again for the thought-provoking question. Love and peace to you always.
Said a different way by C.S. Lewis in his preface to Mere Christianity
“I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions–as if man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is the rooms, not in the hall that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: “Do I like that kind of service?” but “Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?”
When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
I’ve been reading *The Lucifer Effect*. You might enjoy it. It is about the Stanford Prison Experiment done in the early 70s by the creator of the experiment. He then goes into the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. Then he goes into possible solutions. I’m just finishing the first part.
I find it fascinating because not only does the experiment have repercussions on the prison system but on other hierarchical systems, like families, churches, government, work, etc.
As someone who left the Mormon Church 12 years ago, I resonate with your writings on the subject. I’m grateful for many aspects of my upbringing which taught me to love reading, communication, and frankly, to become a student of life itself.
I am fascinated by the paradigm shifts and spiritual development that can occur within a lifetime. I often reflect on how my Mormon upbringing impacts my current thought processes. I speak about Mormonism with my friends of all faiths, because we are fascinated by human psychology, group behavior, and the subject of influence.
At the age of 33, I’m certain I’ll experience many more shifts in perspectives and spirituality in my life. And Mormonism will alway be a part of my story as it was a wonderful jumping off point for me at the beginning of my journey.
Thanks for your insightful writing on this topic.
What a wonderful comment, David. And what a great outlook. You have a like-minded friend here; I wish you all the best!
I really enjoyed reading this post – I’ve also been skimming over your “Why I left the Mormon Church” doc – although not raised a Mormon as you were, I can still relate to a lot of what you say. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NOKEgr8BZF_wjokl10I8JD8LvLkUsK28ROQX0srPYg8/edit
I was raised Catholic, and grew up believing everything with all my heart – then something happened (health-wise) to me at age 18 that left me no longer able to ignore the things that simply didn’t make sense to me about my religion. I ended up concluding that it was a man-made religion and that the teachings were not likely from God, but from the minds of men.
It’s a weird feeling in a way – I feel like maybe there is a god, and maybe there isn’t – I don’t think anyone can know for sure. And if there is a god, I don’t think they are exactly as depicted in religion.
Since I no longer believe with any kind of certainty that there is a “heaven” for us to enjoy eternity in after we die, I now feel a greater urgency to make the most of THIS life.
I feel more strongly than ever that we can’t waste the life we have to live right now – it makes this life seem so much more precious to me, so much more valuable – what if this is all we get, and then we die and it’s all over for good? No heaven, no afterlife, no nothing!
I’ll never forget the first time I met someone who was openly agnostic – it was in highschool – I was honestly SHOCKED that this guy who was raised with no religion whatsoever was a good person lol He was normal as can be, a nice person, well mannered, seemed to have as good a moral compass as anyone else I knew. I laugh now, at how naive I was to believe that if you weren’t raised religious you were not a good person.
Anyhow, enough rambling for now – but thanks again for sharing your thoughts!
Thanks for your comment, Sheralyn. I had many of the same thought patterns surrounding how I viewed people with different religious beliefs. I didn’t realize that my judgment was not actually protecting me or helping them, but was only driving a wedge between what could have been enriching relationships. It feels great when I can let go of the “I’m right. You’re wrong.” mentality, whether expressed or not.
I was reminded of your post when the missionaries came knocking on my door again this week. They felt oh, so badly for me – how sad it must have been for me to give up something that was oh, so precious… how empty my life must be without it…. won’t I please let them (re)share the gospel with me???
Despite my kind but firm assurances that leaving Utah and leaving mormonism (and organized religion altogether) were the best decision I could have made, that I am happier, more at peace, and more successful now than ever before – and not only that, that my family has never been closer…. enjoying a far more authentic relationship that when we were all active members…. they still had pity on me and kept trying to get me to “come back to the fold”….
And then asked if I knew anyone who I could recommend to them to hear their message. LOL…
I am much better-natured about it now that I was 10 years ago, when their visit and totally clueless and insensitive comments/expectations would have ticked me off. This time I refused to even discuss why I left with them – just that I did, and I’m not going back, and I’m very, very content with my life path.
But honestly – if you want us to leave YOU along, please leave US alone!
I think the key question you have to answer, in every relationship you have… is one you asked in your post:
“….part of me wonders if I even want to continue fostering relationships that may only ever exist at a superficial level, where part of me will be rejected and never allowed to be fully seen. I want relationships with people who love all of me, not just the parts their religion approves of.”
With family members, especially immediate family…. you will likely have a need to foster a relationship – even a superficial one. But aside from that, why would you? I asked myself this same question, and I came to the conclusion that fostering superficial relationships are a waste of time that could be used fostering meaningful ones. Nobody should feel obligated to continue superficial relationships.
I was raised a devote Mormon, and as I’ve said before, when I read your manifesto however long ago it was, I was struck at the similarities in commitment and devotion to the church.. And the best friend I had growing up, his family was like a 2nd family to me. I even lived with them for several months. I loved them. When I saw them in 1995, the church came up and it’s role in fighting gay marriage in Hawaii. I expressed that I thought the church was wrong in that. You could have heard a pin drop upon those words. Eventually they asked if I was gay. When I affirmed that I was, again… awkward silence. It was an awkward goodbye as well.
A few days later I was painting my house and she dropped by. She said she was upset at the discussion the other day, and that if we were to continue a relationship, I needed to agree not to disrespect the authority of the LDS leaders, or their judgment… and that I needed to NOT speak about anything pertaining to gay rights or being gay… I sat quietly listening. Thanked her for stopping by. She left.
I’ve never seen them again since. Nor do I care to. It may sound harsh, but with some people there simply is no room to be yourself, so what purpose does it serve unless there is a feeling of obligation somehow?
Like you mom (and I just got off the phone with her and she told me about this latest post of yours)…. back then these things bothered me more than they do now. I rarely speak of anything relating to Mormonism. Am definitely not an anti-Mormon missionary, but also feel it’s a fraud.
If the subject comes up I will say what I think or feel… If they can tell people that God and Jesus told Joseph Smith that all of the religions (including that of the person receiving the discussions) are false…. then they should be able to withstand someone telling them that theirs is false. If they consider telling others that their religions are false is an act of love, then why can’t they see that what you are doing in explaining why you feel as you do.. is also an act of love?
Anyway, good post… as usual – you are a very gifted writer.
I like your take on not needing feel obligated to continue superficial relationships. There are more fulfilling ways to spend time. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of old relationships that were once stronger (or at least appeared to be), but being willing to let go opens doors. Thanks for sharing!
You are great people of courage. Please never give up. You have inspired me more than you will ever know.