Going through the exit process with our parents this past month was really hard—my parents took it better than Mr. T's parents, but it has all been extremely painful emotionally. It's no wonder that so many of us squelch our misgivings, put questions back up on the shelf; the social consequences can be tremendous. To my parents and my in-laws, I have rejected an eternal life with them; therefore, in their minds, I'm rejecting them, and I'm definitely rejecting God, since the Church was God's only true church, and its leaders the only true leaders. I don't see it that way. I feel that I am rejecting the human institution that is particularly harmful to certain people in ways God, if that God is a loving God, never intended in the first place. Losing faith in the revelations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young also made me lose faith in the current leaders—as well-meaning and kindhearted as they may be. The Church is a very different institution than it was in its early days, but many of the harmful elements are still there (Doctrine and Covenants 132, for example, and the insistence on rigid gender roles). I reject the either/or fallacy—that it's better to be in the Church and deal with the injustices and stifling psychological manipulation than to be a-whoring and a-boozing out in the streets. Look, there's a few more life choices than just those two options. There are good people who correct problems as they recognize them and if they have kids, they teach their kids to respect others and themselves. You can reject the frying pan AND the fire.
If there is a God, I trust that God will understand that I needed to leave for my own health. And that God also understands—unlike many Mormons—that there are many good communities on this good Earth, and many people who could benefit from my help and friendship. And I from theirs. I hope that my family can see that I am still a good person. I have hope: as my friend said recently, as soon as they realize that I'm not shooting heroin or embarking on an open marriage, they will relax. It will take time. We're trying to move slowly too; we haven't broken the Word of Wisdom yet (a major Mormon shibboleth), and we haven't decided on whether or not to remove our names from the Church records—the final cutting of the umbilical cord.
I have to say, not being a member is fantastic, despite the heartache (and it ought to be stated that I will always, in some ways, still be Mormon—another post for another time). I feel more in touch with my body and my husband, and I'm more able to be myself. I feel that I am a real person on a real Earth that has real issues I can respond to, not a passing traveler trying to hurry up and get an A on the test of life so I can get into heaven. I don't have to "endure" life. I value time with my family more, since eternity is in question. I don't dismiss others' issues as quickly, saying, "Oh, God will take care of all that in the next life." I don't feel as much guilt for not wanting to have another child, one of the major pressures I experienced as a woman in the Church.
I feel quite humble—more than ever before—now that everyone else is my genuine equal; I no longer have something eternal that they don't. We have many of the same struggles. I don't have some secret key to happiness—there are some good general principles, but Mormons not the only ones who have or teach the value of work, gratitude, love, service, etc. Additionally, if I help someone, I help them because it's a decent thing to do, not because I get rewarded for it or because it's a commandment. I feel much more genuine in my interactions with others.
I feel like I have reconnected with some of my siblings through this process, so I actually feel closer to some family members than I ever have before. I don't have supreme anxiety about girding myself for intellectual and spiritual battles every Sunday morning. Sundays are actually a day of rest. I don't have to fight for a place at the table; there are other tables, it turns out. Other communities. There are some days I still grieve for one reason or another, but other days, as Demi Lovato sings in "Let It Go," "I know I left a life behind, but I'm too relieved to grieve." There's a reason that song has taken off in Utah. We have a lot of things we have to let go.
However, I recognize that this peace might be uniquely mine. I'm sure for some other person in some other situation, particularly for those who live in Utah where their community IS their congregation, it may be pure hell to have lost loved ones and/or one's faith, and that overshadows any benefit to leaving the Church. I don't think that leaving is the best thing for everybody. But as for me, I am at peace with the decision. It was certainly not made in haste.
Mr. T and I have sat down and have talked about "transferring," if you will, some of the good things we did for our LDS community to the larger community of the world. We like the concept of giving generously to a cause, so we researched foundations and charities and we've divided the 10% we paid in tithing each year into local giving, personal causes (mine are women's literacy and sexual education), and to a larger foundation that we feel is top-notch and doing some amazing things in the world. We're in a position where we can still give a tithing to the world. But it feels so much more meaningful to do it of my own free will than because it is a commandment.
We then looked for service opportunities in our community. There are so many! I can also choose to serve in a way that I enjoy. I like tutoring girls in math and science, and Mr. T likes mentoring (like Big Brothers Big Sisters), so we found an organization that provides both. Community and contributing is still important, we feel, and it's good to develop relationships elsewhere. Feels healthy.
I'm determined to focus on my new life, and not enmesh myself in Facebook battles. I gave one last solid round in calling out Elder Tad Callister's article on morality, and I know that lots of people read it. And it made some people angry. And it made some people think. If I am leaving with a final public message to my friends who are members, it is to question what leaders say and weigh it against their hearts. They may find that their hearts may actually have something to say if they have some breathing room.
But I need to move away from directly pointing out problems and having these mini-skirmishes with my friends and family. I seriously doubt their efficacy, anyway. I feel good about that last message, and now I'm stepping away from that forum. I like people knowing how I feel about things, and I like dialogue. But things have changed now, and I don't need to "convert" others to the dark side. I'm not even telling most people that we've left. If they have questions, they know that they can approach me. This has already happened with some friends, and once they ask, I will answer. Privately.
But what to do with articles I happen to read (and though I try to read them less, I still see them from other friends) that I feel are important? I'm going to post them here. They will be quick links to other sites (like this one, below, from the Exponent II). That way I will have passed on information I feel is important, but I can do so in a way that won't bring such a time-sucking, mind-occupying backlash every time.
So here you go. Here is a great post from the Exponent II about why all-male disciplinary councils are wrong and harmful. There are no checks and balances for the women.
And now I can move on to the other things I need to do for the day. Whew. It's nice to have this outlet for posting articles and working through things. It feels healthy. Sometimes God closes a door and opens a window; other times you need to open the door yourself and leave, because perhaps God wasn't the one who closed the door in the first place.