Thursday, March 3, 2011

A letter I wrote as an angry ex-Mormon

This is a letter that I wrote some time ago to vent my frustration at the facade I was keeping. I had been an apostate for approximately six months, and would have described my religious status as "agnostic" (although, in retrospect, I really was an atheist, but wasn't ready to admit that to myself). For many people, leaving Mormonism has an anger stage, and this was mine. Many of the emotions that I express in this letter are no longer applicable to me, but at the time they were very real and nigh overwhelming. And, when I am feeling strong emotion, my typical coping mechanism is to write.

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Dear roommates, visiting teachers, classmates, professors, FHE siblings and others: this letter is to inform you that I am not who you think I am. I may look like an innocuous Molly Mormon, but rest assured, more lies beneath the surface.

I am one of those who has never broken curfew. My conduct with respect to For The Strength of Youth is irreproachable. In other words, I seem like an ideal Mormon girl. Because of this, many of you seem to be quite fond of me. I appear very safe and docile and stereotypical. This is not the case.

If you asked, I could tell you things about Mormonism that would make your hair curl. From things you have heard about-- polygamy, blacks and the priesthood-- to things that would seem to you like they came from an alternate universe-- blood atonement, Masonic temple ordinances-- your life and perspective would never be the same.

I look to you like ideal temple marriage material. I can cook and sew and play the piano. I love children. I know the answer to all the questions in the Sunday School manual-- more detailed and sordid answers than you would be comfortable with, in fact. Mormonism is in my blood. It goes back six and seven generations in my family. In one sense, I will be a Mormon until the day I die. And yet, there is more. If you asked me what I really believe about religion, you would wish you hadn't.

If we should remain in contact, you will one day be shocked and surprised to learn that I have removed my name from the records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I wonder what thoughts will go through your mind when you hear of this. If you should ask what happened, I will inform you that all those years you knew me, you never knew me. For the four years that I contributed to Sunday School, Relief Society, and religion classes, I did not believe a word of what was said by me or others. It was all a charade.

Perhaps you will ask why I pretended. Why did I deceive so many people as to my true self? The answer is complicated. Perhaps I do not really know the answer myself. Consider, though, what you now think of me. Is it positive, or negative? I would wager that the word "apostasy," along with all its negative connotations, has crossed your mind. Consider what it must be like to be branded an apostate by those you love. Consider-- if you were in my shoes, would you make yourself known at once? Would you be willing to take the consequences of coming out immediately? You have heard about how early Mormons were shunned and persecuted when they left the faith of their fathers-- be it Lutheranism, Catholicism, Presbyterianism or what-have-you. Do you pretend that Mormons do not do the same thing to those who apostatize? Do you think I wanted to make my mother cry and become a living example of the bitter fruits of apostasy?

Perhaps you are not aware of certain aspects of the CES Honor Code. You know that my education is one of the most important things to me in my life. I chose the school I did because I thought it would be an excellent beginning to my academic career, and because I still believed in the Mormon church at the time I enrolled. When I discovered what I did, I was already on the road to a degree. I still liked my school, in spite of all its trappings in which I no longer believed. I had no money to transfer. This is where the Honor Code comes in. Religious freedom does not exist for BYU students; if they are LDS at the time of enrollment, LDS they must remain for the duration of their education. To do otherwise would mean expulsion. Expulsion, you say? Yes. Students must be members in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As I am sure you are aware, apostasy does not constitute good standing, and as you may or may not be aware, it is grounds for excommunication. Expulsion from an LDS school on grounds of apostasy entails educational credit revocation. I refused to allow this to happen. Therefore, I put on the act that you thought was my true identity. Perhaps my motives were not the best. Perhaps you think I should have made myself known to the world at once, and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps you are right. However, I did not and do not ask for your approval. My actions are my own, and I do as seems good to me. I do not believe that I have any responsibility to an organization that deceived me. The time, place, and circumstances of my revelation are to be on my terms, not those of an organization that has manipulated and lied to me from the time I was a child.

You don't know me. You never knew me. Until you have walked through the valley of the shadow of doubt, you cannot know me. You cannot possibly understand the feelings of shock, betrayal, anger, depression, fear, and resentment attendant to the apostasy that you so vilify. Similarly, you cannot know the irony of the bitter fruits of apostasy. The fruits of apostasy are bitter, yes, more bitter than you can possibly imagine. Yet the knowledge of the truth is often bitter. I have learned not to fear the bitter fruit of knowledge.

Therefore, I ask that you judge not, lest ye be judged. You may need me one day. Should you one day find yourself in my shoes, you will know where to find understanding. When you have nowhere to turn, you will have a friend who has walked the road less traveled. When you grapple with the fear and uncertainty, someone who has already grappled with them will be there to shine light and hope in the darkness. Perhaps you will never find yourself in that situation. Perhaps you will believe until the day you die. One never knows where the road of life may take one. But, perhaps, you will one day find yourself on a road that you never expected yourself to walk. For that reason, I ask that you not censure the road I have taken until you have walked it yourself.


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