When true believing Mormons (TBM) and ex-Mormons converse it can be a tense time for both parties. More often than not it can end in contention. A rational conversation can quickly transform into a passive-aggressive one, resulting in a fiery explosion which is hard to contain once the shrapnel starts flying. The shrapnel can be condescending remarks, a judgemental attitude, and insulting words. This shrapnel will rip a relationship to pieces, and the wounds can be difficult to heal.
I’ve been on either side of the battlefield. When I was a TBM I felt concerned when my friends would fall away from the Church. Why? Well, because I worried about their salvation. I believed the gospel would make their lives richer, happier, and more blessed. I thought that if they clung to that iron rod of truth then in the next world they would inherit eternal glory and be with their loved ones.
When close friends went inactive it greatly concerned me. I would pray for them most nights. I would ask the Lord to change their hearts and to bring them back into the light. I would do my part by talking to them about spiritual matters; I would try and see if my personal testimony would allow the Spirit of God to touch their hearts and help them see they were on the wrong path, wandering lost into the mists of darkness. Sometimes they would become more ‘anti-Mormon’. Those conversations stung a little, but I never got angry at them. Instead I was inwardly self-righteous and would comfort myself by believing that they weren’t as strong as me, or as smart.
When acquaintances would leave the Church I didn’t take it to heart as much. Sure, I was a bit sad to see them waver, I was perhaps a little disappointed in them for chasing the things of the world over righteousness, but I never felt the need to run after them and berate them for exercising their free agency.
This is why I feel put out by having so many TBMs come at me since I publically spoke out about my experiences with Mormonism. I never felt the need to justify my faith to someone who was inactive or speaking out against it, so why do some of you? Perhaps some of you feel threatened by my views, or disrespected? Maybe you just have a burning need to defend your faith? There are better ways of going about it than passive-aggressive social media comments or e-mails. I know I’ve been discussed in certain circles at Church because I have been told about it, and that’s fine, it was bound to happen when I announced a book.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when we haven’t even had any contact for years and you bring opinions laced with condemnation at me, I don’t value them. No good will come out of it. I will just end up lowering myself to a level that I don’t want to descend to because I in turn will get defensive.
I don’t want to tarnish every TBM with the same brush though. Some of you haven’t said a word; some of you couldn’t care less, and some of you have been kind and respectful about my departure and book. A couple of you have shown me genuine empathy and it has been very much appreciated.
Now that I am ex-Mormon, I know how it feels to be on the other side of the fence. I’ve leapt that fence with 27 years worth of knowledge of Mormonism under my belt. If you haven’t been on this side of the fence before then how can you really know what I see now that I am here? How can you judge my life, my happiness, and my new perspectives with any accuracy? I know where you are coming from, I know what makes you say certain things, think certain things, and act in certain ways, but do you know how it feels to come to the decision to disassociate yourself with a faith you practiced for decades? Do you know how hard it is to find yourself back on default settings? Do you know how stressful it is to navigate yourself through this process, knowing it will strain relationships and aggravate strangers?
I guess my point here is to say that leaving the Church isn’t easy. I didn’t make the decision to have my name removed lightly. I didn’t write my book to piss people off. TBMs should be aware that there are thousands of others just like me, who can relate to what I have been through, who do resonate with my words, and all have their own reasons for deciding to leave. Like it or not, the Church does fail people, some leaders do, some members do, some doctrines do. Just because you love it, you find happiness in it, and you ‘know’ it’s the truth, doesn’t make it a fact of the universe. Your ecstasy being a Mormon doesn’t mean anything to someone who has experienced the opposite. So before you feel the need to belittle someone’s experience by proclaiming yours, please keep in mind that when someone leaves, it isn’t your place to get them back, to defend the faith, to patronise them, or to be angry at them for doing it.
The comments which have irritated me the most during this process are ones like - ‘why can’t you just leave quietly? If you’re so happy now why can’t you leave it alone?’
Is that not a bit rich coming from people who belong to an organisation that sends missionaries out all over the world, who constantly tells its members to be missionary minded, to look for friends and people to convert? Me speaking out, or writing a book is no different. That’s like me asking you, ‘can’t you just live your religion quietly? If you’re so happy, why can’t you leave me alone?’
All I really want is to find a way that we can co-exist without tossing a ticking time bomb back and forth to each other. I’m not forcing you to read my book or to listen to my views. You can take it or leave it. I’m not trying to crusade against the Mormon church, or religion for that matter, I just want to be allowed to express myself before I finally close the chapter on my experiences with the Church. No one more than me wants all of this to be left in the past. I’m looking forward to finally moving on.