Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who I'm Not

Mormons have a funny way of dealing with "apostates" like me. It would be hard to continue faithfully in the church if all around you there were members leaving for rational, or even spiritual reasons. So the church and its members engage in widespread apostate defamation, this way the active members don't have to wrestle with the possibility that they're living a lie. Those who leave the church are usually bunched into one of the following categories:

They just couldn't handle it--These former members simply couldn't handle living a righteous life. Maybe they tried for awhile, but in the end the call of booze, whores, and all kinds of miscellaneous debauchery were simply too much to resist. Stories of these members are common place at church, and they usually go something like this:

"I saw Jim the other day at the grocery store. *voice grows somber* He had a six pack of beer in his shopping cart."

As the story goes, Jim's carnal desire to drink beer was so strong that it caused him to lose his testimony and ultimately . . . the spirit. Now Jim is seen at grocery stores buying hard drinks, which he no doubt consumes alone in his basement, the place where he has spent most of his time since becoming a degenerate drunkard. Mormons will never wonder if Jim stopped believing in the church before he started drinking. They'll assume that it was the sweet alcohol-y nectar that led Jim astray.

They never really believed--This is a group that I've often found myself being pinned to. When these folks stop going to church, the assumption is that they were never really converted in the first place. Afterall, if they had a "real" testimony there's no way they would ever leave the church, right? People will say that these former-members "borrowed" the testimony of friends and family for too long without ever developing their own. These people simply left too soon. If they'd hung around a while longer, and just kept praying about it, certainly the testimony they never had would have come.

They were offended--Mormons like to say that the Gospel is perfect, but the people who live it aren't(This statement is only 1/2 true)! When these people leave the church, it is assumed that it is because they've been hurt or offended by a fellow member. This is never viewed as a legitimate reason for inactivity, and these members are often talked about as simply "just not getting it."

None of these groups really applied to me. I started at BYU in 2004, fresh off a mission, with a strong testimony to match. I had always lived and believed in the gospel--no shortcuts. I didn't drink, smoke, have sex, or even shop on Sundays. My testimony was real, and I enjoyed living the gospel.

My faith crisis was not a result of being offended, or the desire to whore it up in Provo. My faith crisis was just that--a crisis. There were tears, desperate prayers, and hours spent in the temple, meditating and hoping that it was all true. The core of this struggle took place years ago, but the pain and agony I went through still feels fresh when I write about it.

One of the hardest parts of leaving the church is knowing that I gave it my all, yet I continue to be thrown into a category of apostate losers. I won't be remembered by friends and family as the guy who, after months of prayerful tears could not bring himself to believe anymore. Instead I'll be remembered as the guy who never believed in the first place, the guy who was deceived by "some book," or the guy who just couldn't handle living the commandments.

I'm tired of letting other people dictate my story.

11 comments:

  1. Very well said! I'm going through this right now myself, having just publically left the church a few month ago (but stopped going last October). I no longer believe it's true. There is too much evidence to the contrary. There's too much evidence of cultism in the LDS church. I chose to no longer ignore it. Being there didn't make my life any better; in fact, it only added pressure and stress. I don't miss it at all!

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  2. P.S. When someone accuses of me of leaving the Hive because i wanted to drink, i say, "No, that's not the reason i left, it's just an added benefit." That'll get ya some funny looks!

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  3. Wow. Those last three paragraphs REALLY resonate with me. Thank you for saying it so eloquently. It is so hard to explain the crisis to people and so frustrating that they doubt your sincerity when you do. I, like you, spent a lot of my last few months in the church (and at BYU) in prayer and in tears, desperate to believe what my loved ones believed. I had always doubted. I am a born skeptic. But, I had followed all of the "rules" and counsel from my priesthood leaders, accepted every calling, and earnestly strived for that testimony. I was heartbroken and I came to the conclusion that if I hadn't proven myself sufficently to god to be given the testimony he had given so freely to others, then he either didn't exist or wasn't worthy of my love, worship, or respect. But, it was heartbreaking to feel that way.

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  4. I hate to be another "Ditto Ditto" commenter, but I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the things you write in your blog, and understand what you are talking about. I'm at BYU now. I don't believe in god, even though I tried and tried. It sucks to be thrown out based solely on that. I have been thinking about how I used to think of people who left the church... "Ah, what a tragedy (Good thing I'm better)."
    I've only realized recently that such a step may be the most liberating step in some individuals' lives, and therefore is far from a tragedy for those people.

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  5. Great post! I get thrown into the "couldn't handle it" section, the reasoning being that it's because I'm gay. Now, as any good atheist knows, being gay is not a sin nor unnaturual, but of course to Mormons I couldn't handle living the "law of chastity" and being celibate my whole life.

    The reality is, leaving the church had very little to do with my orientation. Long after I accepted myself as gay, I still believed. I imagined that God would explain why he made me gay, some day in the Celestial kingdom.

    Instead, thanks to the internet, I found out the truth about my faith... and indeed, about christianity and all religions. I'm now a much-happier non-believer!

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  6. Only a few posts deep -- Please keep writing! I'm a grad student at BYU and I need you!

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  7. You're an extremely talented writer. I live in Nevada, which believe it or not is filled to the brim with Mormons. My high school was across the street from the Mormon church, and that was where we took all our big examinations. The Mormal was a second prom. Everyone I knew believed in the gospel so deeply...I wondered if any of them ever questioned why they believed what they believed. Your blog has convinced me that they do.

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  8. What we need to bear in mind, as people who have left the faith is that they put us into these baskets (and overall I agree with the writers observation, these are the most common groupings used by believing Mormons to categorize the dissaffected) as a way to cope. Using my own experiences, even if you choose not be vocalize your objection to the Church, just the fact that you are "there" is a threat to the confidence of your friends and families faith. Not because we are alway's there to issue a challenge, but because it forces them to recognize that certain challenges exist. In order to deal with that, they have latched on to these straw men arguments, not always out of a desire to simply denigrate us, but to reduce the challenges to Mormonism into petty issues that they can deal with. So they make it about the allure of a less prohb lifestyle, not just to make us appear wicked, but because they can actually sympathise with those reason without having to ever really challenge their faith. It simply becomes an issue over the amount of effort required to "endure", as they like to say. If however they had to contend with more legitimate issues, such as the validity behind their precious beliefs (and they hold them precious, whether we appreciate that or not), it could result in the crisises of faith that most of us have experienced. They are simply trying to avoid that. They don't even want to go there, so they have built firewalls to protect them against it.

    So, in sum, we shouldn't feel the need to take so much offense to these categorizations. Whether our good Mormon/religious friends want to hear this or not, the observable reality is that in most cases, we have the experience they don't. We honestly know what it is like to view the world both from the eye's of belief and religious skepticism. The span of our ideological evolution is greater than theirs because it spans more distance and includes more periods of change. When we talk about religion, we draw on all this experience to form our view, whereas those who have never challenged their faith can only draw from a limited scope of experience. Quantitatively that gives us the advantage, even if we turned out to be wrong!

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  9. I just found your blog and am and instant fan! I'll be checking back often!

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  10. I would like to offer you the opportunity to review my controversial new novel release, A Mormon Massacre, available on Amazon. Here is a little information about the book:

    This modern-day novel is informed by the actual massacre of 150 innocent Americans allegedly by Mormon zealots in the Utah Territory in September of 1857. This reigned as the largest mass slaughter of Americans by Americans until the Oklahoma City bombing, excluding the Civil War. In present-day Nashville, Tennessee, Jeremiah Cameron grows up with a prejudice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the murders in 1857. Many Camerons died at the hands of Mormon assassins at Mountain Meadows.

    Jeremiah’s hatred multiplies when his father, Luke, informs him that his mother suffered abuse at the hands of her Mormon husband after being forced into marriage at twelve years old. Due to his father’s association with the Mormon Victim’s Action Committee, Jeremiah gets an opportunity to go undercover in hopes of exposing Mormons as abusers. With his father’s encouragement and the knowledge of his mother’s horrific experience, Jeremiah accepts M-VAC’s offer to train and insert him into an LDS community.

    Jeremiah’s objective broadens when he sees more than he expected. Now he wants to expose the entire Church as a violent and dangerous fraud.

    If you are interested, please email me at rinald47@hotmail.com and let me know which format you would prefer. Electronic formats only, please. Thank you.

    Joe Rinaldo

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  11. I have often wished it were possible to get the opinions from my relatives on what they think of my leaving the church. All I get from them is disapproval, but I'd love to know the specifics of why.

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