Friday, August 20, 2010

It's not personal, it's business

Something I'm learning:

I don't have a grudge or a hatred or severe disappointment (etc) toward individual members of the church, per se. I get where they're coming from and understand that they are a product of--for lack of a better word, and i know it's a sticky one--brainwashing. They've been told all their lives or, in the convert's case, many years what is what to the point they cannot see anything else. The church could come out right now and declare something obviously immoral or obviously ridiculous and they will still have members who will bow their heads and say yes.

For me, it was being told the answer to my prayer wasn't as good as the answer the prophet got. WTF?

I know what these people have been told. I know people love to be right (i do). I know people like to feel like martyrs for a righteous cause. They like to feel better than others. To judge and criticise. Religion feeds and caters to all of this, no matter what Jesus or whomever else may teach.

Of course not every follower of any religion is this way, but I'm not loathe to submit that the majority are.

And yes, I've had some serious problems with self-righteous and self-effacing members who get up on their highest horse to tell me that I'm wrong and in how many ways. Their favorite saying seems to be that "you can tell me the sky is green all you want, but it doesn't change that it's blue"

(which is a ridiculous saying)

Or they like to tell me that I'm going to hell, breaking certain covenants (or all of them), going against teh prophet of god, ignoring what i deep down know to be true, etc. etc. etc.


So while I've had issue with certain members and will probably continue to have issue with certain members (can't avoid this and let's face it, though their judgments may bother me less now it can still be fucking annoying), my biggest beef is with the church that pulls these good people's strings. The church that puts words in these people's mouths. The church that lies and manipulates and ignores fact in order to press its own agenda, justifying the means to the end.

And it's made me think a lot. My last blog became a means for me to find my courage to unofficially leave the church. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I did find that courage. I think I started this blog to work to and find the courage to resign because it just seems stupid and disingenuous to remain an official member of a church I cannot stand.

And it hurts for me to say I can't stand it. It was there for me when I did need something like it the most. I do think--though I hate to say it--that I did need to join. But I don't think I ever believed in the purported literal history of the Book of Mormon. I might've thought it was a divinely inspired book, but hardly history. The church catered to some very important needs for the first four years (and that might be generous), but beyond that it broke me down.

Yet in leaving I'm finding a confidence I haven't had, I think, ever. So maybe it's good that way.

But it's not about the individual people. I may feel sorry for them much like they may feel sorry for me, but it's not my place to really say so. They think I'm unhappy just like I think they may not be as happy as they're told they are. But I'm not above thinking some of them are truly happier in the church.

I just can't stand by much longer and be a part of this. I don't know what it'll mean for this blog once I resign, but I'll discuss those thoughts later.

It's all very complicated, my feelings toward the members--but they're humans, too, with needs and whatnot. The church is, for some, all they know. For others it was a saving grace (like for me). For others, they can't fathom anything else.

The church does that. It has progressed and evolved in such a way as to guarantee its growth. They convince the people they speak for God and are thus always right. They tell them if they don't listen, certain things will happen. They say "nonono, we don't pull our members' strings. but we do expect loyalty." They then ensure they are their members' world so leaving is the most frightening prospect of all. So they stay and pay and obey.

And let's not forget their studious PR department that tells them and the rest of the world that they're not really robots.

It makes perfect business sense, and as I was once a girl who bought it all I can't blame current members for believing. I can be annoyed to all hell, but it's probably a projection of my own embarrassment of ever being that way.


  1. It's kind of crazy to read your stuff because it's exactly the kind of stuff I was writing a few years ago. Our collective experience of losing faith and leaving the Church is depressing in its consistency.

    The whole time I was in the Church, I kept telling myself, "It's not about the members; it's about the doctrine." That's how I talked myself into attending church during the 2004 election cycle when every other testimony was about The Truthfulness of George W. Bush or God's War in Iraq. Then, as I left, my mantra was still, "It's not about the members; it's about the doctrine," but I meant something else by it.

    When I left, pretty much all of my friends were Mormon and most of them were really open-minded people who were totally understanding when I left. They knew I wouldn't try to talk them out of membership and they wouldn't try to talk me back into it. So all was good between us.

    Then Prop. 8 happened. And I felt totally different. I felt bitter against the membership, not just the leaders, for the first time. I looked at my friends and wondered how they could justify handing money to a church that turned around and used it to oppress gay people. (Yeah, I know tithing funds aren't supposed to be used for that. I'm skeptical.) I thought they should take a stronger stand. Even though I knew that I wouldn't have been able to do that were I still a member - didn't do it, in fact, when Amendment 22 came up in Utah. I just left the room when homophobia came up in F&T and when the letter was read over the pulpit; I cried in the bathroom rather than speak up; I silently voted against it rather than proudly take a stand for equal rights. So who was I to judge? Still, I did.

    I also feel like the Church offered me something I really needed at the time. Community, stability, guidance, a vision for humanity... all of that came up when I was facing a serious illness and had no prospects for my future. Eventually, I was able to step back and think about things more rationally, and that's the death knell for religiosity.

  2. I did the whole "not the members, but the doctrine" thing for the first few years I was a member. But then I started rethinking the doctrine when I considered honestly for the first time what polygamy really was.

    Now as an inactive I hear often from friends and family the same thing: "not the people, but the doctrine." I tell them every time that if my leaving was due to other people, I would've left years ago. They dunno what to say to that.

    I prefer to think of it now as the problem isn't the people, it's the doctrine.

    Prop 8 killed me. I couldn't stand to sit in church and listen to people go on and on about their fucking values and how marriage and society at large was under attack.

    I fumed when I heard the letter being read. The sign up sheets asking for money in the foyer.

    It was fun, however, to pass along those volunteer sign ups for doing whatever they did to support Prop 8 (phones, passing out flyers, etc) without even giving it the benefit of a glance, let alone my signature. That was the only way I felt comfortable protesting the bullshit. Which I hate now. I wish I would've spoken up more.

    I guess I kind of did when I went to my bishop. I was really messed up over the whole thing after a few friends told me I was wrong because "the prophet said so" and reminded me of everything I'd ever learned about following and sustaining the prophet.

    He asked me how I voted in 2000 on Prop 22. I told him I voted yes but that it was due to my young age, naivety, a wish to grab the one chance I had to make my mom AND the church happy, and a great deal of ignorance and lack of thought.

    I don't think he expected that answer.

    Prop 8 sucked in a lot of ways, but in the end I felt a peace when I decided to vote no. The same peace I felt when I decided to join the church. You can't tell me one is Satan/my pride and the other is of God.


    And yes on yr last paragraph

  3. Hi Lisa! So..., you left the church? I used to read "The Liberal Mormon..." but stopped b/c it made me feel crappy. I made a few comments there and we congenially bantered back and forth. But, I think you're interesting and your experience in the church intrigues me. Is there room here for a devoted LDS woman or should I just go away?

  4. @annalee: first, hi :)

    haven't officially left, but it's been a year since we've been to church. seriously considering that resignation letter--it'll probably happen sometime in the near future.

    There's always room for genuinely nice people, but I can't promise that I won't make you feel "crappy." If the last blog did that, I can assure you this one will, too. Also, I held back a LOT at my last blog and feel no need to do so here. There will be lots of cursing, saying bad things about leaders and doctrine, irreverency and so on. It won't be exclusively related to LDS but to Christianity as a whole--trying to figure out where I fit in spiritually. Sometimes "agnostic" doesn't seem to fit, either. Then there are the political rants I'll make from time to time.

    I'm just done debating whether or not the church is true. I don't think it is. If you do, cool, but I don't. If we can respect each other in that, I think we'll be fine.

    I always try to be fair.

    It's up to you and yr comfort levels, k? Either way is fine with me.

  5. Hi there,

    Cool. Not looking for anything from you but honesty and patience in explaining your side. Thanks for the welcome.

    p.s. I hope you don't send that resignation just yet.