Friday, September 29, 2017

Dear Mom, I think I'm still Mormon, though.

Dear Mom,

I'm not sure how to write this one.  It's probably gonna be long though, so gird your loins.

I suppose there's no reason to bury the lede - I've stopped going to church.

There are a lot of reasons, really.  Questionable history.  Practices and policies with which I do not agree. Changing doctrines. The culture. Oh, the culture. The fact that an overwhelming majority of Mormons in Utah voted for a man for president who does not, in any conceivable way, embody the teachings espoused by the gospel they claim to love and live. What it really comes down to, though, is that, anymore, church feels a bit like an old favorite pair of jeans that just don't fit anymore.

I also think maybe it's that the church doesn't really know what to do with me.  I mean that in a few ways.  First, The Church isn't very good at dealing with anyone who isn't straight, white, and married.  It's like a perpetual awkward first date. But also, I think people in the church don't really know what to do with me, specifically. Mormonism was, and to a large extent still is, my culture - I'm not going to request that my name be removed from the records or anything.  But Mormons, with a few rare exceptions, have never really been my people. I haven't ever really attended church for the social aspect.  I mean, the people are pleasant enough, but church is usually a pretty lonely place for me.  When I first moved to LA, it was about a year and a half before I felt like I had any real friends here.  And I went to church every week.  "But wait!" you say, "You have plenty of Mormon friends!"  True.  But I counted.  I can think of maybe a dozen people who I would consider friends who I met at church - and I didn't meet any of them in Utah.  The rest are friends who are friends for other reasons who just happen to be Mormon because I lived in Utah where everyone is Mormon.

I don't begrudge anyone who finds value and joy inside The Church.  It works really well for a lot of people.  And I don't hold anything against the church, necessarily. I still value growing up with that framework.  And I still believe in God and things like love, self-improvement, kindness, compassion, mercy, good stewardship, courage etc.  But more and more I've noticed that the times I feel most connected to those ideas, to something Divine, it has absolutely nothing to do with The Church.  It happens in yoga, or during the fireworks at Disneyland, or watching a sunrise over the mountains, or while playing a sparkly purple hippo in a kid's show because that's what a kid said I should play.  Church is a place I feel increasingly frustrated.

I don't know what this means long-term.  But for now, I need to take a step away.  It's entirely possible that will be a permanent decision.  Right now, I don't know.

There's a Buddhist parable about a raft that goes something like this: A man traveling along a path came to a great expanse of water. As he stood on the shore, he realized there were dangers and discomforts all about. But the other shore appeared safe and inviting. The man looked for a boat or a bridge and found neither. But with great effort, he gathered grass, twigs, and branches and tied them all together to make a simple raft. Relying on the raft to keep himself afloat, the man paddled with his hands and feet and reached the safety of the other shore. He could continue his journey on dry land. Now, what would he do with his makeshift raft? Would he drag it along with him or leave it behind? He would leave it.

A counselor in a bishopric said to me recently, "We're all on our own journey home." I think in this situation the raft was The Church for me.  And I can be grateful that it served me, but I can also recognize that for now, my journey doesn't require a raft and I can let it go.

Now comes the difficult part of facing well-meaning family and friends who love me and are going to try their darndest to reach and rescue me.  They'll send me Ensign articles and share scriptures they read that morning and mention conference talks in an off-handed way. And I know it comes from a place of love. I do. But Mom. No. I just...I can't. I grew up in the church, remember? So I know all about that stuff. I know all the tricks. And also, I didn't reach this decision because of a lack of study or prayer. In fact, the journey to this place has been a journey of study and prayer. Though I know it comes from a place of love, when people share scriptures, or issue spiritual challenges like that, it says to me, "You don't know what you're doing, and I don't respect you enough to make your own decisions.  Let me show you the right way."  But I do know how to make my own decisions.  God and I are good.  I don't need to be rescued. Ya know?

This is something I found that I think is pretty great for approaching these kinds of conversations:
Things to say and not to say when a loved one leaves the faith.

Anyway.  I'm rambling.  Shortly after making the break, I had a moment where I thought, "Am I making a mistake?" and then I just felt peace.  I'm good.  I have some larger contextual thoughts I may share with you another time, but for now, I think I can be done.

If you need me of a Sunday, you can probably find me in yoga class, or wandering the beach, or reading a good book in my hammock, but you won't find me at church.

Love you,

Greg

16 comments:

  1. I love this so much. and you. beyond much.

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  2. Greg, I know how hard this decision can be, I made it years ago. I'm really happy that you have found peace and I wish you luck on this journey. It can be hard at times especially when friends and family are questioning your every move. But trust in yourself to know what right for you and you'll be just fine. Sometimes a door closes so you can find the right door for you.

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  3. This was so heartfelt.. thanks for sharing. And personally, I needed to hear the parabol about the raft, so greteful you shared!!
    Sending love!

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  4. I love you and the way you say everything in a loving and peaceful way!!

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  5. Loved this until I got the part of "In fact, the journey to this place has been a journey of study and prayer." Study of what? Study or reading? And prayer? You said you still believe in God? How about scriptures? No judgement here but just want to understand.

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    1. I infer from this statement that you didn't love that part. Is there a reason for that?
      To answer your questions:
      Study of church history, human nature, the scriptures, scriptural history, scriptural scholarship, religious myths, science.
      Reading and study.
      I did say that, yes.
      I believe that scriptures have good things to teach.

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  6. Which beach? Love ya...jeff and Marcia

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  7. I have always like you because your you! People will judge you no matter what you do or don't do.
    But you will always be one of my favorite people! OXOX

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  8. Thank you for writing this. It felt like it was me writing it. My wife and I left the church about 1-2 years ago. You and I probably had different triggers, but the core principles were probably very similar. The hardest thing by far is family not understanding. The church had a much easier time leaving us alone about not going to church. Good share on the raft principle. Another one is the bow and arrow analogy as shared by Joseph Smith (if you believe in Mediums): "Groups or clubs give momentum like an arrow and a bow. The church is a bow and the person is an arrow. At a certain point the arrow flies free of the bow and the bow does not go with them." (http://www.salamandersociety.com/conversations/). You and I and God are good. It's only social teachings that teach us we're not. Yes, we can improve and work on things, but that doesn't mean we are evil until perfect.

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  9. But what about the people that need you at church? What about the people who don’t know how to build their own raft? They will only know that they are supposed to go to church to find answers, and you with your unique and beautiful insights will not be there to help them. You are obviously talented and insightful. The church needs people like you. You would be an incredible youth leader, teacher, leader.

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    1. "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath..."

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  10. Yep, yep, yep.
    As a divorced mom, the only ones in the ward who talk to me are the ones assigned to.
    Yoga has been far more healing and is FAR more enlightening lately.

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  11. Many of us were voting for supreme court justices not the office of the president--presidents come and go but supreme court rulings last forever. Also, if you have two or three good friends in life, you are lucky so maybe the friend problem is you. And people are not really judging you or paying you attention like you think--most of us are usually thinking about ourselves. And so many people who leave the LDS church can't leave it alone. God's greatest gift to us is agency so do whatever you want but just do it and move on.

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    1. I'm not sure exactly what to say here, except that I'm sorry you felt the need to be so spiteful in your response. And I'm disappointed, though not surprised, that you couldn't at least have the courage to associate your name with your comment. I hope you find love, compassion, and empathy in your own community to ease whatever suffering might have caused you to react this way.

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  13. Sometimes I think about going to a different church. Maybe they don't have the restored priesthood, but maybe they also talk more about Jesus and less about keeping my shoulders covered. Maybe they're less concerned about home teaching numbers and more concerned about feeding the homeless. Maybe a church that also believes men and women are equal, but actually act like it. Also that can get worship done in less than three hours.

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