Monday, September 14, 2015

No, I Was NOT Offended

A popular notion in the LDS church is that people leave due to offense, or hypocrisy. There is a story that is told in Sunday school and Sacrament meetings about two women in the early days of the church. The full version of the story of Thomas B Marsh can be read here:

The moral of the story ends up being, you shouldn't leave the church because someone offends you. People are human and imperfect. The gospel isn't.

A lot of members seem to think those who leave do so because they were offended. Or they didn't like the hypocrisy of members. Or they thought the leadership had problems. Or they weren't adequately fellowshipped. In short, they had a bad experience in the church which lead to their ultimate dissociation.

And here's the kicker for me. I was not offended.

Nope. I actually had a very good experience. With the members at least. I don't think anyone ever treated me badly. Sure my visiting teachers were flakes, and my home teachers never really came around. But to be fair, I wasn't the best visiting teacher anyways. Nope, I liked getting dressed up and going to sing hymns. I even liked answering questions and teaching lessons. Wasn't much for public praying, but I did like going to church.

When my husband starting questioning, I was overcome with fear. Even though I had questions too, my upbringing taught me to put them on a shelf and ignore them. There were things about the church I didn't like, but I had come to terms with the fact that God made the rules, and I had no say in it. When I couldn't keep the questions on a shelf anymore, I first sought answers from the church and it's members.

Here is where things got nasty. Now, in my experience, as long as you are a good member, a good sheep, everyone is nice to you. The minute you start to question, a figurative A gets painted on your forehead and you are labeled apostate. Maybe not explicitly, but you are viewed differently. Everything you say is offensive, or apostate, or sign seeking. It's hard to discuss questions with avid members of the faith because they are afraid of them. They are conditioned to be. "Only read from the best books". "Do not engage in anti-Mormon literature or media". "Are you a part of any organization in direct conflict with the teachings of the church?" It's very much a matter of fear and control. The minute you start to turn away, it gets ugly.

So no, while I was a believing member, I never had a bad experience. Not to say that's the case for everyone, but it was the case for me. I didn't leave the church because I was offended. I left the church because the gospel didn't make sense. The teachings were paradoxical and immoral. The god that I was taught existed was unethical. Women were treated as inferior and second class (they will tell you this isn't true and defend it to the death). But in a patriarchal organization where women are put on a pedestal, but counseled to stay home and have children, not given church wide leadership positions of authority, not allowed to hold the priesthood, and forbidden to participate in church finances, I think that speaks for itself.

What's most difficult for me now, is how I am perceived by people who are still in the LDS church. I am lost, I am a sinner. I left because I was offended, or I left because I wanted to sin. I am a weak link. I was easily overcome by the devil. I lost the spirit. I stopped doing the things that were important. I was seduced by the lies of the world. My children will suffer for my mistakes. My family will be in a constant state of sorrow over my lost soul. I will always be seen as the lost sheep, or the "maybe" prodigal son. It's depressing.

What I would love more than anything is to share my experience with just one member of my family who will look at me and say, "ah, you might be on to something here." But none of them will. It leaves me feeling very alone, isolated, outcast. Especially when I think of how they perceive me. "We love you" translates into "we love you because we have to, but we don't approve, we are disappointed, saddened, and upset".

One thing leaving religion does is make you realize you do things because you want to. Not because any supernatural force compels you to, but because you want to. I love my kids for the sake of loving them. I help someone in need not for the promise of heaven, but because it brings me happiness. It all becomes very different when your motivation is yourself, and not an unseen god who promises heaven to the faithful and damnation to the weak.

But no, I did not leave to sin. I did not leave because someone hurt my feelings. I let because I saw through the lie. And my integrity wouldn't allow me to live it any longer.

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