Several weeks ago, I received a text from an acquaintance asking me if I wanted to hang out. Because this individual had never previously expressed any interest in me, I was surprised–but responded, “Sure.” As it turned out, he was asking if I wanted to attend an LDS fireside.
Shortly before that, I attended a Stake Conference in Provo for a friend. One speaker announced a serious problem: In the whole of Utah County, there are several thousand Utahns who are not LDS. “Bring them to the fold,” he said. “That is far too many.”
Throughout my time writing as a columnist for the Statesman, I have been asked these questions more times than I can count: You’re angry, aren’t you? Do you hate the LDS Church? You have a serious bone to pick with the Mormons, don’t you?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
These are difficult questions, with difficult answers; explaining what it’s like to be an ex-Mormon is complicated and fraught with emotional hang-ups. Explaining how something that makes you happy also makes me miserable is almost impossible; even more difficult is reassuring you that I know that the Mormon Church is not true, as equally as you know it is. I’m going to try anyway.
One of the primary reasons being an ex-Mormon is difficult is illustrated in the first example I gave: somebody who has zero interest in my personality is inviting me to Church functions. Because a fundamental part of the Mormon doctrine is the recruiting of non-members, this is a fairly common occurrence. But if all you can see in me is the potential for bringing a lost individual salvation, it cheapens our relationship and demeans your intentions–and any ex-Mormon can tell you how it feels to be ignored except for spiritual invitations.
We’d actually prefer to be let alone completely. But, as the second example illustrates, that doesn’t happen because the Mormon Church is everywhere. There is absolutely no getting away from it here. Pictures of caucasian Jesus hang in every window. Missionaries are sent by neighbors who have never taken the trouble to meet me. My friend group, my dating pool, and my entire college experience is marginalized because I am not Mormon. The constant exposure is incredibly frustrating.
This is compounded upon by another common experience many ex-Mormons share: ostracization from family and friends. Often, in sacrament meeting, stories are told in which individuals overcome extreme familial hardships when joining the Mormon Church, and just can’t understand why their families don’t accept the transition. These individuals are made out as martyrs, who are unjustly punished for making a decision that brings them happiness.
Unfortunately, the pendulum doesn’t swing the other way. Although ex-Mormons hear from many of our Mormon friends that they still love us, we want to ask them: Then why don’t we talk anymore? Why can’t you empathize? Ex-Mormons don’t get invited to family reunions, life-long church-going friends abruptly lose contact, and false rumors spread like wildfire–will you pretend there isn’t a correlation?
Often, the rude behavior of Church members is brushed off with the mantra of, “The members may not be perfect, but the doctrine is.” Au contraire, my friends. The doctrine tells parents their gay son is living a sinful, intolerable lifestyle. The doctrine tells youth only to associate with those who hold the same “standards” as they do. The doctrine allowed racism to continue so far past the Civil Rights movement, and the extreme sexism to continue today.
Is that doctrine perfect to you? Because it seems only perfectly hateful to me.
Sometimes, ex-Mormons are told to leave Utah if we hate it so much. But if my church history isn’t much mistaken, it was the Mormon themselves not long ago that were systematically purged from entire states because they believed differently. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, I am leaving. But that won’t change the fact that I do have issues with the Mormon Church. I think it is a force most often not for good, and it does make me very angry to watch it wrong the people I love. I think the sexism, racism, and homophobia is intolerable and you’re damn right I have a bone to pick with anyone who promotes that kind of behavior.
Unfortunately, though, my time with USU has come to an end and so does my angry, bone-picking column writing. I would like to express gratitude to my editor for his patience, and my supporting readers who have encouraged me onward when I’ve wanted to flush my laptop down the toilet. If you’d like to follow me in the future, you can find my writing at lizeverything.com, but in the meantime–don’t psuedo-swear, harass porn users, or get married; but do cross-dress, tip your server, and keep those damn fraternity boys in check.