Throughout my departure from Mormonism, I’ve often heard countless times that my personal (negative) experiences within the church should have had no bearing on my testimony. I’ve also lost count of the number of times still active members have told me that I simply didn’t try hard enough to understand the doctrine or didn’t pray enough. The idea that I could have come to a different conclusion about the church is foreign to them. Some members even believe they have the right to dismiss my experiences as invalid. Simply put, no matter how much evidence I bring to the table regarding my disaffection, it’s just not enough.
I’ve engaged in dialogue with several believing Mormons since I’ve left the church, and most will pointedly ask why I don’t discuss my doctrinal issues. It has been inferred that I only left because I was “treated poorly”. The truth is, I don’t often speak about the doctrinal issues I had with the church, which is not to say I don’t have them. I do. However, as I began to write about my journey out of the Mormon church, I purposely steered away from the doctrinal issues. There are other Ex-Mormons who have already succinctly described the issues I have with the teachings. The issues I had with Mormon doctrine acted as the catalyst in questioning the religion I had been born into. Yet, I don’t believe that these doctrinal issues authentically express my entire departure from Mormonism.
The personal experiences I dealt with ultimately pushed me over the edge. From the way I was treated by members during my pregnancy, my parents abuse, to the way I was treated by The Ex during our short marriage. All of these incidents compounded with my doctrinal issues pushed me out the proverbial door. There is this cultural idea within the church that people who leave, leave only because they want to behave badly. I can say confidently, a good percentage of Ex-Mormons leave for several reasons, and not just one particular event or doctrinal issue.
The rhetoric within the Mormon church regarding those who have left can be summed up in a simple statement: They basically say and think we’re quitters. There are heaps of talks and literature within the church that pays tribute to this thinking, trying to demean our valid reasons for leaving. Ex-Mormons who leave want to “sin”. Ex-Mormons who leave haven’t “tried hard enough”. Ex-Mormons who leave are “under Satan’s control”. Those who leave are often described as weak, ungodly, and evil. Ex-Mormons are spoken of in a way that not only insults, but discounts our personal experience within the church. Even when you do state that you had doctrinal issues, you are often slammed with insults regarding faith, your own intelligence, and motivation. No matter, what you do, you can’t win.
It’s tiring to hear over and over again that my disaffection means that I didn’t try hard enough. It’s insulting when I’m told I simply didn’t follow the rules, or understand the doctrine well enough. It’s demoralizing to be condescended because I allowed the negativity portrayed by some members “get to me”. I was told to ignore the poor behavior of those in the church, because “the church is perfect, and the members are not”. Like, Louis C.K summed up in his recent opening monologue on SNL, it’s our fault that we “got our feelings hurt” by someone else.
Using my experiences as a weight to judge my participation within the church is legitimate. It’s ridiculous to think that you should just emotionally bind yourself, repress any negative feelings, and just to continue participating in an organization that often condones the inexcusable actions of their members. Leaving because you have been bullied is absolutely a good enough reason.
Most of the Ex-Mormons I have met in my own life, and online didn’t just wake up one morning and leave the church because someone insulted their skirt, or hair style. Most spend, like I did, years contemplating whether or not they should move on from the Mormon church. It’s this process that takes years of conscious thought, reflection and a harsh reality your friends and family may actually shun you, whether it be physically or emotionally. The mindset that Mormonism is the one and only true church gives way to a certain superiority complex that trickles down in the place of empathy and understanding.
I sacrificed a lot to be in the Mormon church and I’ve sacrificed a great deal to leave it. Many lose relationships with family, some lose marriages, and even children. You lose friendships. Some have lost jobs, and have been purposely ostracized in their community. On the other hand, some choose to stay because they know that their world would be turned upside down. It’s not as simplistic as leaders within the Mormon church promote it to be.
I left for doctrinal reasons, but I also left because I was treated abysmally. Both reasons can stand alone, or they can be melded together. Either way, they are valid, and worthy of discussion.