Mormon apostle Russell Ballard gave a talk in October 2016 General Conference entitled “To Whom Shall We Go?” where he said the following:
If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?” If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do? The decision to “walk no more” with Church members and the Lord’s chosen leaders will have a long-term impact that cannot always be seen right now.
A new website, wherewillyougo.org, has been dedicated to former Mormons submitting their own answers explaining where they’ve gone and how that’s worked out for them. This is my submission:
10 years ago as a gay, newly divorced father of four and former Mormon, where I would go and what I would do was indeed the looming question
A lifetime of seminary, sunday school, priesthood, mission, BYU and church leadership had me imagining myself at best as a drug addicted felon like Matt Foley living in a van down by the river with no friends, family, job. At worst, I’d lose my family in the eternities.
The fear is real. And some of it is well-founded. I had a difficult time financially and emotionally for several years. Divorce in and of itself can and often does do that to a man. Add coming out and leaving your lifelong religion to the mix and it’s not going to be a cakewalk. But as I tell other men in the same position I was in 10 years ago, don’t divorce thinking you’re transitioning into some dreamlike peace and happiness. Do it if divorce is a reward in and of itself.
I’d offer the same advice for awakening Mormons making a rough decision to leave or to stay. Leaving needs to be a reward in and of itself, regardless of what exciting or terrifying experiences lie ahead. For me, divorcing and leaving Mormonism have indeed been their own rewards. I have had the exciting task of developing my own moral compass and creating a life that reflects my true soul rather than sticking to what some men tell me is “safe” and acceptable.
I’ve chosen to love my fellow man and have rejected doctrine, policies, standards and beliefs that don’t show that love…and it has made all the difference in the world.
Fatherhood has been my crowning achievement in that. In all that has passed, my four kids have always come first. I believe I’m a better father today than I ever would have been working 10+ hours a week out of the home on church callings, unhappily married to their mother and repressing such a fundamental part of my soul. I’ve been fortunate over the years to spend 1 on 1 time with each of my children and I have an unconditionally loving relationship with them, even with the ones who are still gravitating towards the LDS church.
What’s new is that my entire life is patterned after my own hard-fought-for values, rather than the pre-packaged standards and rules created by others. I’m still single. I haven’t replaced Mormonism with a different belief system. I still have good days and bad days. But I’ve experienced deep passionate love, familial love and acceptance, and financial successes that shadow the failures.
Where did I go?
Towards love, authenticity, and a genuine daily life. It has made not pretending worth it.