Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Church Issues

It's been a few years since I left the Mormon church. I don't regret it and I know it was the proper decision to make for myself. I was ignorant of a lot of issues that have surrounded the church since its inception and I think that actually made the issue of leaving/staying much easier for me than it might have been otherwise if I had been enmeshed in a great debate. In the end, it came down to a question of logic. Is the church true? I don't know. Is the Book of Mormon true? Archaeological and genetic evidence points to no. Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Well, maybe, but his dubious history led me to suggest otherwise. Based on those two points, I concluded the church wasn't true. It was fairly easy to then reach the logical conclusion that I didn't want my name associated with something I didn't believe, so I resigned. Since then, I've been able to keep in touch with some of the other issues that have gone on and had gone on in the church. I became more convinced I had made the correct decision, but more importantly, I was able to connect with others who were having frustrations about the church and the doctrine involved. I've loved that because I do love to know the truth about things and I am connected to the church in the sense that it's my background and I don't hate it. I never felt much anger towards the church on a personal level. I never felt betrayal and I never really had many bad experiences.

Today I heard news that sent me reeling. I don't cry very often, but I was sitting in my car in the Target parking lot on the very brink of tears. I still haven't recovered. Two notable activists or, to be more accurate, figures in the church are being faced with a disciplinary committee. They will very possibly either be disfellowshipped or excommunicated. For those who don't have any acquaintance with the church, this means that what they consider to be ordinances or acts necessary for salvation or forgiveness of sins will be denied in one form or another. They may be kicked out of the church and essentially cut off from their family in the after life. For a Mormon, these are both very serious issues and concerns. To my knowledge, something like this hasn't happened in 20-some years and I am incredibly disheartened and discouraged. These people have either been trying to help Mormons fit into the church in some way and come to terms with their differences to do so, or have been advocating for change from within, not mass apostasy. More gender equality. More acceptance of others who feel different or that they aren't valued. I had truly hoped that this would have worked. I wanted so very much for the church to be more inclusive. I would still have wanted to be apart from it, but I would have welcomed it as a very positive change and something I could be more proud of or at the least less ashamed of.

I can't help but feel that no matter the outcome of these disciplinary councils, there will be an intense backlash. Already, I know someone who is contemplating leaving just from these actions. I'm sure she isn't alone. I feel that local leaders may feel empowered or be explicitly instructed to discipline members that they know sympathize with or downright support the positions held by these figures. I'm incredibly concerned by that.

I worry about the sense of loss these people will feel and the increased sense of a lack of belonging that the church's actions have caused. Just a few words from a dear friend made me hurt inside. "IS there a place for me in this church?" Is there a place for someone who questions? Someone who tries to fit in and who has a different take on things beyond the accepted version? I don't know. Is there a place for a feminist? For gays? Trans? I truly don't know. I've been increasingly dismayed by the reaction of the church to a group of Mormon Feminists. I feel they've constantly tried to bat at them like a pesky gnat that just won't go away. I feel that the message that they've tried to get across is that they're simply not wanted. They've been told that they're apostates and they don't adhere to the words of their prophet. These women (and men) have wanted to have more dialogue about ways that there could be steps towards greater gender equality. That's a good thing! It addresses the concerns of thousands of women and their male supporters. In some ways, this latest action feels like the final signal and the final blow. Finally saying that there is no room for someone who questions or doubts. Someone who wants more fulfillment than the church is willing to give them. I can't help but mourn with these women. I feel their anger because I know what it's like. I know what that feeling is and it hurts deeply. It pains me to see these people who are questioning and dealing with the very real struggle to decide to leave or stay to be told they're turning their back on God and his church and leaders or that they're going to lose blessings because of their decisions and other such things. There is nothing less helpful than words like those. If they're struggling with a sense of guilt, those feelings will only be further inflamed. If they're struggling to feel accepted, this will only make them feel even less so. Unconditional love and acceptance. Come or go, either way, you will be cherished. That's the message that needs to come across. I know that because I've been there. I've been afraid to tell family members I love dearly that I had left because I didn't want them to think less of me or to feel sorrow because I had disowned them in the afterlife. I felt so relieved when my brother asked me what my status or feelings were towards the church and after I explained, he said he understood where I was coming from. No judgement. Nothing conveyed that he thought less of me or was worried for my salvation, just acceptance. I felt free to discuss my concerns, which, in turn, made me feel more validated and loved.

I don't know how things will turn out and I want to believe the best and think that the church will decide to let these members remain, but I also know that they're doing this as a show of strength, so I find that an unlikely outcome, sadly. I'm hoping for the best and we'll see what will come of it. In the meantime, I'm still hurting.

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