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.
–written by guest blogger http://dadsprimalscream.wordpress.com
For more information about Mormonism, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today(Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.