Sunday, January 23, 2011

Labels, Authenticity and Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

Many members live in a isolated social bubble that allows them to believe that apostates are sinning/prideful/offended.  The bubble allows them to believe that it is the first sip that leads inevitably to alcoholism and that atheists are morally bankrupt - having nothing upon which to base their morality.  We have all had the opportunity to see firsthand that these things are not true.  While we may abhor the Church and we may find many church doctrines and policies to be bigoted, deceitful, and so on, we know that it is unfair to ascribe these characteristics to "Mormons" as a group of people. After all, we all have friends and family, people we love and respect, who are tolerant and honest.

For this reason, it is good to be authentic*. It is good to be "out".  I am a firm believer that people need to know that their loved ones are atheist, or gay, or liberal, or democrat, or apostate, or... "different" in whatever way they are different. It's harder to apply labels and their negative connotations to entire groups of people when you love someone who self-identifies as (whatever) and you know they aren't evil and don't do horrible things and, in fact, live moral/ethical lives.

It is also important to remember that when one decides to self-identify as (something), one should represent that label carefully.  If we want our TBM families and friends to know that atheists DO have moral codes based upon their own consciences and humanistic concern for the well-being of others, we need to be kind, compassionate, trustworthy, (Christlike?) people.  If we want them to know that many "apostates" (sorry, I hate it too) leave the church for reasons that aren't sin or pride, we need to vocalize our real reasons.  We need to share and educate.  Just as hate and bigotry are learned, so is tolerance. 

I was just reading the post The Heretic wrote on her response to 8: The Mormon Proposition. My response was perhaps a little different. Before I saw the movie, I knew that the church had been involved, that it didn't seem right to me and that it all made me mad. I can't say that the extent of the Church's involvement was a surprise to me, although I learned a lot of things from the film.  I certainly didn't expect better behavior of Church leadership.  I'm not sure that I was even surprised at how willing so many members were to get behind the proposition.  What did surprise me was how viscerally angry and disgusted I was with the members.  All of them.  I know that there were a considerable number of members who were not comfortable with the involvement or stance of the church leadership and the campaigning going on in their chapels.  Unfortunately, few made any sort of decrial in their wards or among their LDS friends and family.  Fewer still spoke out to the media.  Most sat by quietly - angry but unwilling or unable to voice their disapproval.  I was disappointed to put it mildly. What happened to having the courage of ones convictions and standing up for what is right? I know it's harsh for me to feel that way.  I know that most of those people had much to lose if they had spoken up.  The anger didn't last that long.  But, it did light a fire under me.

I'd been meaning to resign from the church for a few years.  Mostly, I just wanted to get off the harassment lists.  I couldn't seem to get around to it. I kept telling myself I'd definitely do it before I had a child so as to avoid them getting all mixed up in it.  After Prop 8, I realized there was a reason FAR more important to resign my membership.  I didn't condone that organization.  I loathed it. I didn't want to carry that label "Mormon" and all of its baggage around with me anymore because it wasn't something I was proud of to be sure.  I wanted to avoid the appearance of evil. 

I resigned my membership in the CofJCofLDS in 2010.  Resignation was my coming out. It was an important part of representing my ex-Mormon, atheist, and humanist labels.  I'm not a Mormon because I don't believe in god, because the evidence against the claims and character of the church's founder is compelling, and because I honestly think that the CofJCofLDS is a detriment to humanity and I cannot condone its repression of any of my fellow humans. Resignation was also my way of reclaiming my authentic self so that those who love me will see that I am still a good, conscience-guided, compassionate person.

*There are plenty of other reasons it is good to be authentic or course.  It just feels better to project oneself as one truly is.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Alright, so I have to make a confession.  You might question whether I am really even an ex-Mormon after this one.  I am!  I swear! But, I haven't seen Johnny Lingo.

How is that possible?  I don't know.  Where did you all see it? Was it something they showed in YM/YW? Did anyone else manage to completely miss it?

Should I see it now just so I finally know what the hell you are all talking about? I have some vague notion that someone is bartering 8 (or is it 6? 7?) cows either to get a wife or is demanding that she come with 8 cows because she's hideous or something.  Will it make me mad?  It sounds like it will make me mad.  Having heard about the movie but never having seen it, I don't really understand what the message is supposed to be.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Squelching of Passion

I didn't believe much that I learned at church. Book of Mormon stories that my teacher told to the ones graphically and hilariously described by Cognitive Dissenter here were clearly not possibly factual and anyone who took anything in that book, or any of the other Sacred Works, literally, seemed silly and juvenile.  I mean, really. Really? I still don’t believe anyone really, truly believes those things.

So, scriptural stories of miraculous adventures, visions of angels, and the stone-facilitated translation of golden plates were the sorts of things I didn’t believe. 

These are the things I wanted to believe:
  • That my family would be together forever if we happened to exist, in some form, following this life.
  • That although misguided and willfully delusional, my fellow church members were good and honest, loving people.
  • That there was some wisdom to be found in the transparently false scripture stories, simple metaphors, and trite “real-life stories” of blessings bestowed upon the faithful that made up the lessons I heard in church each week.
  • That even if it was all a hoax or the result of a few caught-up individuals believing the rantings of a crazy person proclaiming himself to be a prophet (and then passing these rantings as fact to their children for many generations), adherence to the plain and simple lifestyle (as dictated from the podium and socially enforced on the members by the members) would result in stability and security and loving family and ergo, happiness. 
  • That I could find intellectual stimulation, passion, romance, excitement, and adventure within the confines of that lifestyle. 
These are the things that I knew:
    • That I had a loving family in this life.
    • That my family members were good, honest, loving and tolerant people.
    • That I wanted stability, security, loving family AND intellectual satisfaction, passion, romance, excitement, adventure and happiness. Just, you know, “It All.”
    These are the problems with the Church’s prescription for happiness and a life well-lived (please add at will in a comment):
    • The preoccupation with the eternal family precludes the fullest enjoyment of family in this life, which is the only one we know we get for sure.
    • The preoccupation with the eternal family makes members unable to accept or tolerate family members who don't share belief in LDS doctrine. This can strain or destroy otherwise healthy and happy relationships.
    • The LDS lifestyle, with all of the callings and duties, leaves little time for the enjoyment of family. Hence the need for ONE (and only ONE) designated night reserved for family.  Although honestly, is Family Home Evening - complete with a boring lesson, scripture study, maybe a game, and dessert – really the best way to build meaningful relationships and enjoy our families?
    • The “wisdom” found in LDS teachings would have one believe that strict, unquestioning observance of every rule is the path to peace and happiness.
    • Preoccupation with the rules distracts people from developing the characteristics of genuine goodness – like honesty, love, tolerance, charity, integrity, and loyalty – and can delude members who manage to follow each and every rule into believing they are exemplary people.  These rules aren’t the ones given by Jesus, which actually do describe how to be a genuinely good person. (I’m no Christian but Jesus is at least reported to have said some pretty great things.)
    • Preoccupation with who is and who isn’t breaking the rules prevents members from seeing the more substantial strengths in each other and in their family members. This scrutiny results in the fear - of scorn and retribution - that tends to keep people in line which is good for the church of course.  But, it is completely lacking in compassion and doesn't help people to build meaningful friendships.
    • Shared  trivial rule-following does not result in the same level of camaraderie which can develop following compassionately shared experiences and struggles.
    • Tithing away 10% of the family income does not promote security or stability.
    • Parents barely have time to be parents, let alone companions, lovers, or partner’s in crime (or deviant sexual sins like ***gasp*** oral sex). Parents who lack sufficient time to be passionate, loving couples do not promote stable home life nor do they model loving, equal marriages to their children.
    • The prescribed lifestyle devalues intellect (particularly in women).
    • Blind faith and obedience are held as virtues, while doubt and personal study are a sure sign of a sinning individual seeking to justify their sins.
    • Women and Young Women are encouraged constantly to develop their talents, but it is implicitly conveyed that the only values women have that are worth developing are those which would help them to be good wives, mothers and homemakers, or to magnify church callings.  (Do you happen to rock at science but not so much at cooking, sewing, or playing hymns on piano? Too bad - get back in your proper sphere.  "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." And you all must aspire to motherhood.)  
    • The LDS lifestyle is tedious, monotonous, and just plain boring. It leaves little to no remaining time to pursue interests and broaden horizons.   The church would have one believe that this monotony is good for people.  In reality, it just drains ones inner resources and thereby squelches the individuality, energy, and natural human curiosity that enable people to live spontaneous, passionate, adventurous, curious, brave and joyful lives.
      And these, dear true believing Mormons, are the reasons I never found peace within the church, the reasons I left, the reasons I will never return, and the reasons that I just can’t “leave the church alone.”  I want others to see the church for the dehumanizing force that it is so that they may find courage to reclaim freedom and pursue lives well lived.

      Please remember to vote for the 2010 Brodie Awards! There are a lot of really great blogs and posts nominated.  Competition is tight! One of my posts was nominated (thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever you are!) for Best Philosophical/Religious Discussion.  I was shocked and humbled that my post was included among the others in the category.  I am now highly motivated to keep writing, write more often, and write more better (wink) in the coming year!  

      Happy New Year and much love!