I posted this missive on Facebook following my Love & Horror post. By writing this, I hoped to give a voice to every apostate from mormonism as to what they wish they could say to their families who remain mormon.
Dear Mormon Family,
You didn’t expect that a person with “hell” in their name wouldn’t raise some of it every now and again, did you?
I know I won’t reach everyone with this missive; out of self-preservation, some are looking in the other direction or have unfriended me completely. I understand. You should do what you need to do to protect yourselves. So as prayers are being emitted on my behalf from homes in every clime and place this weekend, I just wanted to let you know that I love you and that I always will. I would never purposefully harm you. That being said, please read on.
Growing up Mormon taught me that family was the most important institution on earth. Where would we be without our families? I still hold that families are the most important organization anywhere. I was born into a great one. But something is coming between us, barring open communication and the building of relationships. It is the Mormon church. Did you know that I mute what I really want to say on Facebook and in our personal interactions? I do, for fear that you might take offense. Often, I read a great article or essay that I’d love to share on my wall, but I can’t. It contained a swear word. Nor could I previously air my current views on the LDS church or religion. My family is amazing and I love knowing you and keeping in touch, but Mormonism is preventing us from knowing each other as we really are. Does it seem right to you that we have to wear masks in front of each other?
In a previous post, I suggested that members are in love with the LDS church and that’s why they feel that any criticism of the church is criticism directed toward themselves. It hurts to be criticized over something that we can’t change. I know the pain, because I was once in your shoes and I felt it. I wish that it didn’t have to be so! The thing is, being part of the Mormon church is a choice we’re making, right? It can be changed, right? You can leave…as long as you’re okay with disappointing your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins—basically all the rest of your family who are members, past and present. It almost feels like they’re holding my family hostage. (What a jealous lover!)
LDS church leaders know that in our hope to always be loved and accepted by our family members, we don’t want to disappoint them, so many members stay with the organization to please their families, even with a mental shelf heavy with problems or issues that they privately hold about the church, but don’t dare to explore. Mormon teachings have institutionalized a divide by labeling those family members who leave as inactives, dissenters, unbelievers, amoral/immoral, prodigal sons and daughters, apostates, lost, anti-mormon, Korihors, unworthy. By assigning a label, the church would have you believe that those who leave should be cut out of the family, lest they infect the rest. The only reason that it’s safe to have an inactive family member at family functions is if they don’t say anything negative about the church. I believe that’s why my family hasn’t turned their back on me so far—because I knew that the church was a sensitive subject that I needed to keep quiet about. It’s like walking on eggshells around this entity. This is the same reason that my other relatives who have left do not speak out about the church. In fact, I write this knowing that they’ll probably experience pain by proxy, knowing that it will hurt my believing family members to hear me speak plainly. Is it too much to ask that we stop all the secret-keeping?
Mormons whose family members have left the church literally believe that those who have left are lost to them, because they’re not going to end up in the same part of heaven as a forever family. But we’re not lost. We’re right here with you. If the church was gone from the earth tomorrow, we’d still be a family. Literally forever.
There are a lot of great qualities about the LDS church. They have done craploads of genealogical research and shared it with the world so that everyone can know their roots. They have wonderful music and the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The church has inspired artists to create lovely works of art and literature. But they don’t have a monopoly on everything lovely or beautiful. Consider all of the wonderful and amazing art and music that was created before the church came about and is still being created outside of the church. Isn’t that also inspired?
I was once in an abusive marriage, but didn’t realize it. I didn’t know verbal abuse was actual abuse. Family members offered their hands to try to help me out, but I waved them away. I was fine. Except that I wasn’t. My right hand didn’t know what my left hand was doing. While I was manning a military post as a gate guard one night, my ex-husband was carousing and committing crimes against other people. And I was along for the ride. The LDS church is harming already-marginalized people (and their children) by trying to convince their members that any family unit that doesn’t meet the cookie-cutter mold of Mormonism is wrong, bad or evil. Some Mormons may disagree, but what can they do? They’re along for the ride.
I wish that Mormons would not agree and go along with everything their leaders are preaching, especially because they can’t be sure whether they’re truly inspired by God this time, or just men speaking as men (as they’ve characterized racist statements made by Brigham Young and other leaders). I know why members can’t stop following blindly. It’s because they are in love and that love has made them blind to any faults that the church or leaders have. Instead of creating an enemy out of anyone who is different, the LDS church could be tackling real-world problems like eradicating world hunger or disease. They probably already do some work to eliminate these (actual) problems, but what is the purpose of perpetuating an Us versus Them myth? In my opinion, it is being done strategically to “circle the wagons,” just as Mormonism has done since its inception, by spoon-feeding its members out of a big bowl of persecution complex. But if you believe in a loving god, why would He want you to exclude people who are different? They are still people, after all.
Think of what this newly-enacted policy regarding gay members teaches Mormon children. Kids can be cruel, especially when they view themselves as living in a black and white world with no gray areas. Not only will they learn that it is okay to be fearful of (and fear leads to hate) LGBTQ folks, but the progeny of those people as well. They already create mini-tribes of their own within the church—exclusive clubs who pass judgment on and exclude their peers. I first ran into such a group when I moved to Utah. I don’t know if it was because I was ugly, poor, didn’t have a father, or what. The exact reason that a particular group of girls my age wouldn’t open their arms in friendship and inclusiveness to me during all of our growing-up years remains a mystery. I was 8. Do we really want to keep perpetuating this exclusivity and judgment of others?
So, I want to ask my Mormon family members to break up with their abusive boyfriend—the one who controls what you think by repeatedly telling you what you should think. You are proud when news articles cast Mormonism in a positive light, but embarrassed, confused, or defensive when the news is not so rosy. It doesn’t have to be a divorce, just take some time away in order to develop some outside perspective. Call it a month-long mini-break. Talk to his mom (read Lucy Mack Smith’s diary), read church history (the earliest versions of the Doctrine and Covenants available). Read any biography on Joseph Smith you can find.
The LDS church leadership doesn’t want their secrets spilled, especially to their members. In fact, they’d rather rename the term “secret” to “sacred” because being secretive might denote something sinister. So they keep sacred secrets. But if a neighbor or authority figure told your child to keep a secret—even a sacred secret, would you be okay with that?
In the end, if you stay with the Mormon church, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s nice to feel comfortable and safe. I felt comfortable there for 30 years, until I realized I was being lied to. I love you, all of my family members and I always will. I want you to leave this belief system that is harmful to you and to our family. The sacrifices they ask you to make are too great. I hope you will take this in the spirit of love that it was intended to be. I know that I don’t possess the flowery language heard over the pulpit. I haven’t been deceived by Satan. I’m still me. This is the real me and I’d like to know the real you. I’ve learned some things about the religion that we all grew up in that you should know about. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research and discover for yourselves. Ask former members why they left. Just…”do it.”
P.S. Don’t let your embarrassment by proxy cloud what I have just said (Mom). I literally do not care what people think of me. I shed that hangup when I left the church. I just want my family intact and out of this organization. If this essay cuts me out of my family, well, that’s exactly what the LDS church would want, isn’t it?