FORMERLY "FORMER MORMON SCORNED": I CHANGED THE NAME OF THE LIST ABOUT WHY I LEFT THE CHURCH
Thanks @Fitz for this challenging list request. Sorry it took so long. By no means would I consider this list comprehensive, but it is at least an attempt at honesty.
- •In my senior year of college, after almost a year of avoiding discussing religion with my parents and, when that failed, avoiding my parents, I finally called and confronted them with the truth: I had stopped attending church.
- •They already knew (my mother having tearfully browbeaten my sister into confirming her suspicions), but it was still an incredibly difficult conversation. Possibly the most dreadful of my life.
- •At one point during the talk, my mom asked me if I could tell her why I had stopped going to church - what were my reasons? when did things change? To me, it felt like she wanted a concise list of arguments she could rebut, doubts she could ease by recommending verses of scripture or prophetic counsel.
- •I couldn't give her that list.
- •...so this request is tough. Because it's basically my mom's plea from the worst conversation ever. But let's take a crack at it now.
- •First though I should say, I still don't feel entirely capable of providing a solid list of reasons. Even several years out I'm still processing my feelings toward the church and religion and spirituality in general. And even after leaving, I don't hate Mormonism. Far from it. It is my mother tongue. It shaped who I am in innumerable ways.
- •But after much reflection, here are the things that currently keep me from returning to the fold:
- •The church's official stance on social issuesEspecially gay marriage. Mormons, of all people, should understand the flexibility of the definition of marriage...
- •The patriarchal nature of the churchThe priesthood, the power of God on earth, can only be held by men. Therefore, the leadership of the church is almost entirely men, except for the designated women's auxiliaries which are, natch, women. A woman's most sacred duty is motherhood, a virtue which is held up as the counterpart to the man's priesthood (but notably, not his fatherhood).
- •Guilt/Shame cultureA professor in college once made the following comparison: in a guilt culture your community punishes you for your indiscretions, in a shame culture you punish yourself. Mormonism sort of does both. Mormons are heavily self-policing. In some ways it's good - most Mormons are sweet, wholesome, service-oriented people. In other ways, it's less good, breeding conformity and a resentment of anything that rocks the boat.
- •A tendency to take scripture literallyI am certainly not the type of condescending academic atheist/agnostic who looks down on all religion and spirituality. I mean, obviously. How could I be? I was raised Mormon. But I don't think scriptures should be interpreted literally either. Creationism is hard to swallow in the face of scientific evidence.
- •My own latent rebelliousnessThere is a certain satisfaction to meeting people's expectations. Who doesn't love a pat on the head? For a long time I lived for the validation and sense of identity I got from being the person I knew my parents (and others) wanted and expected me to be. But then I started to question my reasons for playing by the rules, and the siren song of sin became a lot more seductive. Turns out, I enjoy feeling less inhibited and repressed. Go figure.
- •I'm not currently interested in getting married or having kids.My top two womanly duties.
- •I am still interested in sex and dating even though I'm not currently interested in getting married or having kids.My parents are setting themselves on fire right now. I am shattering their hearts into pieces. Mormons do NOT do premarital sex in any form. It's the biggest shame barrier of all. But I'm 24 years old, I already hurdled that barrier, and I'm not keen on resurrecting the feelings of guilt and confusion I first felt for enjoying and craving physical intimacy.
- •I'm lazy?Mormonism demands a lot in terms of behavior, and those behaviors are reinforced by establishing an ENORMOUS time commitment. Growing up we went to church for a minimum of 3 hours on Sunday. Every Wednesday night I went to youth group. Monday nights were designated family time. As a teenager, every morning before school I woke up at 5 for a scripture study class. I'm only scratching the surface! Then I stopped going to church, and I discovered all this free time! Tbh I am loath to part with it.