I resigned from my religion today.
Rather, I resigned from the religion I was raised in, which is Mormonism. I have been out and proud as an atheist for years now. I have thought about resigning many times but never bothered to do it. Partly because they make it a hassle. They call your family and tattle on you and send missionaries by your house to try to talk you out of it.
Last week, however, the LDS church announced (it was leaked and then confirmed, but whatever) that they are changing some official policies regarding same-sex couples and their families. The quick and dirty version is that same-sex unions were upgraded to “apostacy” and participants in such unions may be disciplined and excommunicated. That isn’t really the big part – people have been excommunicated for being gay before. (Though it seemed the church had been softening its message to the LGBTQ community in recent years). The bit that has everyone up in arms is the fact that they are now prohibiting baptisms of the children of same-sex couples until they are of adult age and even then they have to disavow their parents’ marriage or partnership if they want to be allowed into the fold. There are more details but they are covered in many places. If you are interested in learning more this rant delivered by Lewis Black is a good and entertaining summary.
I was shocked and dismayed by the announcement. It threw me into one of those fury fits that make it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I spent most of last Friday social notworking from the office and posting things on Facebook like this lovely quote from the current president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, who apparently didn’t mean “the disparity among some folks regarding the way that same-sex unions should be recognized” when he said “problem” or “child” when he said “person” (that heartless dick).
Once my passive/aggressive “beat ’em with their own words” hate-post phase passed (which took a couple of days) I calmed down and I had to do some serious soul-searching.
Why is this hitting me so hard? I haven’t believed in ages. I’m not invested in the organization doing or saying the right thing. I can’t comprehend how the LDS church still manages to hurt and disappoint me, even now. After nearly forty years of being embarrassed and enraged by them, what are my expectations? And most importantly, who am I really angry for? Who in my life does this change actually affect?
I have many LGBTQ people in my life, including a child that I would put under the Q category. But none of them are active Mormons. Most were never Mormons. Of course, I see any systematic discrimination as a slap to the face of the entire community. But this was something different. For me, this was personal.
I have decided that it has to do with my own difficult childhood growing up Mormon. And let me first qualify that statement by saying I had a very easy childhood compared to most people growing up poor in the US in the 1980s. We were under the poverty line, but it was a privileged kind of poverty. I had two college educated parents who came home every night. No one drank or did drugs and our neighborhood was so safe that not only did we sleep with the doors unlocked, in warm months we slept with the doors wide open.
I had it pretty easy. But I never fit in. The kids in my neighborhood weren’t allowed to play at my house because my dad wasn’t an active Mormon and was a known coffee drinker. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was also a weirdo. But my dad never came to church and I got teased about it, especially from the girls. And that was just voluntary douche-baggery. This new shit is ordained doctrine from on high. “Ostracize the third grader who lives in the house down the street from you! For he has two mommies! And that’s just groddy!” [congregation shouts in unison:] “So say we all!”
Yes, I’m a straight ally. Yes, I believe that this stance is hurting people and communities. And I have always been happy to stand up and say that I disagree with the Mormons on a host of issues. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a Mormon stance that I do agree with. Have they ever said they believe in the theory of gravity? There may be some common ground there…
But I believe that this proclamation was a bridge too far, not for the adult me, but for the child me. I was the kid who was different. My family didn’t conform and I was punished for it. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. It’s cruel and it’s stupid and they don’t get to do it in my name. They won’t miss my membership on their roles because, frankly, I never paid tithing. But it makes a difference to me.
I went to a rally in downtown Salt Lake City today and stood in line to have my paperwork notarized and signed by a pro bono lawyer. It was a beautiful day. Over 1,000 people showed up to resign or show solidarity. It was a fun event and I’m proud that I got to be a part of it.
I don’t kid myself that the next time the Mormons proclaim something draconian, such as “women who work outside the home shall hence forth wear ankle bracelets!” (should I be writing that? I don’t want to give them any ideas…) that I won’t be outraged and hurt and be thrown into painful reflections. But at least now I can say that I’m not one of them any more. We have parted ways.
Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll hear some headline out of Temple Square I will be able to just shake my head and move on with my day. The fact is, I don’t want to fight with them any more. Isn’t that the point of separation? We both get to be set free? I’m free of their craziness and they should be free of my negativity. I want to focus on the good that leaving religion behind has done for my life. I don’t want to spend one more minute clawing and throwing shade at the LDS Church. And if they want to go on being the cold corporate international syndicate of mean girls that they are, then that’s exactly what they should do.
(It took less than a minute to type that last sentence so it doesn’t count.)