Why I Won’t Return to Mormonism

I was invited to guest blog on Latayne C. Scott as part of her series on “Why I Won’t Return to Mormonism.”  My guest blog is reason #170 posted earlier today.  I’ve also posted a copy of the post below:

Reason #170: Guest Blogger on “Conditional Relationships”

By way of introduction, I don’t really like labels but labeling myself for you is going to be the easiest way to give you a quick background.  I am a born-in-the-covenant, divorced, gay, post-Mormon, father of 4. My ex-wife continues to raise our children in the LDS faith.

Seven years ago I was a believing, faithful, worthy, temple-married, former missionary and priesthood holder. My eventual leaving the LDS faith had absolutely nothing to do with the members of the church.  In planning this post in my head, it dawned on me, however, that the top reasons I wouldn’t return to Mormonism are entirely different than the reasons I left in the first place. The reason I wouldn’t return has everything to do with the members.

I wasn’t offended.  I had no hard feelings towards anyone in the ward or in my family. My struggle of faith that led me out was mostly a personal one. It was primarily doctrinal and historical issues and I remained active for the duration of that struggle. As soon as my ex-wife filed for divorce I left.  I just stopped going.

From the outside it probably appeared to be an overnight reaction.  Nobody but my wife and I knew that I hadn’t believed for years.  I also hadn’t told anyone else I was gay at this point.  I hadn’t expressed my doctrinal doubts to anyone.  I hadn’t gotten angry at anyone or shared any “anti-Mormon” ideas. If anyone knew anything about my situation it came from my ex-wife or the rumor mill.

Let’s imagine if all the doctrinal historical and factual information that led me out were somehow changed, patched up and fixed.  Would I go back? NO…I wouldn’t return because of the way apostasy is handled, the way my apostasy was handled. The LDS Church, the LDS members and my LDS family would still be the same and I wouldn’t return.

Although it’s easy to assume that as a gay man I probably sinned by cheating on my wife, losing the spirit and then seeking to find fault with the church to justify my actions and make it OK to leave, that’s not what happened.  As a worthy, faithful Mormon who harbored doubts I honestly believed in the truth of my mother faith.  Yet, sitting in Sacrament Meeting or General Conference listening to the speaker present such a simplified view of doubts and apostasy I knew she didn’t know what she was talking about.  I knew the leaders she quoted didn’t know what they were talking about when it came to doubt and apostasy.

These are surreal moments, like watching one of those comedy programs where the comedian gets children to pontificate on adult situations and the kids say the darndest things. To be caricaturized as a simpleton and a sinner by Mormons made them seem infantile instead.

Legitimate organizations don’t need to demonize folks who leave or use scare tactics to make current members stay. Watching that happen to me merely tipped the lid to the coffin on an already dying affection between me and my LDS faith.

Once that was done, church members and LDS family further slammed the door shut on any possibility of ever reviving that faith.  At this point you’re probably expecting me to detail accounts of mistreatment…but that’s not even what went down. What followed was merely apathy and avoidance.

Having had my share of leadership callings, I had sat through years of instruction and counsel regarding loving the sinner and hating the sin.  I knew the official line of reaction was to reach out to find and minister to the lost sheep, the one among the 99. This actually causes a great deal of irritation among other ex-Mormons as they leave but are never left alone.  But in my case, it was as if I never existed.  It was as if there was a coordinated effort to wipe all traces of my existence from their minds.

If I met former LDS brothers and sisters in the grocery store or when I took my children to church activities I would have been happy to chat or graciously exchange a minute or two of small talk.  As it happens, however, even eye contact was avoided.

Granted, I realize the hypocrisy in expecting them to reach out to me when I so clearly rejected something so important to them. But I guess it was like wanting an invitation to that party that you never planned to attend. You wanted to at least be invited! And remember, I had not aired grievances to anyone so there was no bad blood. As I stopped attending church every LDS person I knew, family and friends were catapulted into outer darkness (or I was…depends on how you look at it).

So what did I expect? I guess I expected those to whom I was closest to say, “I love you and know your heart.  I know you are a good man and wouldn’t make such a decision lightly. I don’t understand it. Tell me about it…” I didn’t expect the following:

  • One friend DID call me up and talk.  He asked questions.  I answered.  At the end he said the following before he hung up, “Well, you’ll always be my friend but I’ll probably never talk to you again.”
  • Another time, a former friend called up and to ask if her husband could take my son on the ward’s father/son campout.  Who automatically assumed that I wouldn’t?
  • At my daughter’s baptism a year later my own LDS sister avoided any sort of interaction with me at all.  Instead, she cowered with my former mother-in-law in the corner of the foyer. These are not people who had any sort of relationship with each other before my apostasy or divorce, but those two things certainly do make interesting bedfellows.

Even the 2 or 3 LDS friends I’ve reunited with who do seem to love and accept me now acknowledge that in doing so they go against the grain.  They are the exception rather than the rule.  And they’re the only ones I’d want a relationship with anyway.

What it all comes down to is the realization that LDS friend and family relationships are mostly conditional.  And that’s a trait that seems to be a product of the belief system. So, even if one day I met their conditions…If I were struck straight…If homophobic doctrine were purged from the church…If they began telling the truth about church history and doctrine… I still wouldn’t go back.

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About dadsprimalscream

I am a divorced father of 4 children. I'm a post-Mormon. I am a gay man. This blog is my "primal scream" as watch my children faithfully indoctrinated with thought-terminating experiences and mind-lulling pressure... and how my rowboat of reason doesn't stand a chance against the religious and emotional battleship in their daily lives. How do you stand by and watch delusion take hold? Intervention seems to just push them farther into the hypnotic embrace of their mother religion.
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9 Responses to Why I Won’t Return to Mormonism

  1. Joy says:

    “Well, you’ll always be my friend but I’ll probably never talk to you again.”

    I totally HEAR you on that one. A good friend of mine has said similar things since I have “come out” about my disbelief too. It’s almost like she is afraid of me in some ways. I know she feels saddened about my stance and feels like I’m lost now. I tell her I’m happier but she thinks I’m kidding myself.

    In some twisted way I think they’re afraid that we *are* happier and they don’t want to consider that an option because they believe they are stuck in it and don’t want to admit it. Who knows. It is sad that the friendships can’t survive outside of the church circle though.

    • Reminds me of an experience I had once while serving as Ward Exec Secretary. A sister in the ward had had an affair with her next door neighbor, left her husband, converted him and was petitioning to erase her sealing to her first husband so she could be sealed to the second. It was all very white trashy and the talk of the stake until my divorce trumped it in the game of scandal. Anyway, in a bishopric meeting the first counselor was aghast that she thought she could “get away with it!” meaning that she could get out of an unhappy situation and create a better one for herself. It was almost as if he were jealous that she could “sin” and change her circumstances when he’s been suffering faithful all these many years. I think that sort of thing is indeed behind some of the treatment I’ve received as well.

  2. Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am very glad that my leaving has been very different. It actually started conversations with my family. I had lived in hiding for so long that finally being honest opened up amazing things for me… that said, I know I’m the minority. And I don’t know how extended family or former friends will handle it. At this point, only my really good friends and immediate family know.

    I have no children, but I have a really good friend who has 4 super-TBM children who have treated him very poorly since he left. He blames himself, but its not his problem. It sucks that leaving caused this, but no one should have to stay just to be treated with love and respect…

  3. Becky says:

    Agreed. I really do not blame the people for the conditional love/prejudice/etc. I blame the religion for breeding these attitudes with their teachings. I think you said something similar to that–if I understand right (I always come on here when I haven’t slept–worked 13 hour shifts the last 3 nights, should be asleep!)

  4. John says:

    That is very sad. I have an aunt that left the church and while she had a wide range of problems that meant my mother didn’t want her children to have too much contact with her, but she still treats her like her sister. I know my parents have unconditional love in their hearts, but I recognize that many of my LDS friends would disassociate themselves with me because I’ve seen them do it to others in varying degrees.

    I’ve had Priesthood leaders who were just full of love of their fellow man, Mormon or not, and ones that were strict and looking to punish.

    I do think that they could do better in a lot of things, and that they have to treat an apostate worse than a non-member might make sense from an organization sense but not on a personal one.

  5. Trev says:

    Reading this made me very, very sad. How can my church so utterly fail at such important things it says it tries so hard to do?

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • I would only say in response that I think there exists a huge gap between what the church wants to APPEAR to do so hard and what it actually tries to do so hard through lessons and political activities. Leaders speak out of both sides of their mouths. Members are left with a dichotomy of choices… compassion and love or … not appearing to justify and tolerate the least bit of “sin.” My experience is that most gravitate towards the latter.

  6. Molly says:

    I’ve had such a similar revelation — my own family has pulled away from me substantially. The biggest disappointment of my disaffection was not mourning the death of my faith but the realisation that the love my friends and family had for me was conditional.

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