I understand what Mormons might think of me now.

4 01 2013

I want to let my readers know something (particularly the Mormon and otherwise religious ones). It’s okay if you don’t want to talk to me about the events outlined in recent posts or if you don’t want to read what I write about my new beliefs or if the whole thing makes you uncomfortable. I understand.

I’m going to share with you a little insecurity of mine. As people continue to find out about my divorce and change in religious beliefs, the thing that I am most afraid of is how my Mormon friends and acquaintances will react to it. You know, time passes, people move away from each other, people have less contact with each other, close friendships become less close, perhaps, but, regardless, I still care about the people who have made a difference in my life and I care what they think of me and my choices. I am constantly trying to imagine myself in their shoes, finding out for the first time that someone they knew to be a devout Mormon is now a non-believer and lost his marriage because of it. I remember how I felt as an active Mormon about people who left the church and I remember the Sunday school lessons, both explicit and implicit, about those who leave the church. To be honest, none of those things make me very optimistic that many active Mormons will continue to think very highly of me in light of recent events.

The reason I wanted to write this out is to let my religious friends know that I get it. I understand the suspicions and misgivings you might have toward me now. You are all too polite to say it to me but if you’re anything like I was as an active Mormon you probably have your theories about why I ended up going down this road, very few, if any, of which reflect favorably on me. You might even think I’m a less moral person as a result of all this. I understand what I represent to Mormons now. In a way, I’m a threat. I am someone who has spurned something that Mormons consider extremely sacred and special. I am someone who has knowingly rejected the core doctrinal precepts that give Mormons and other believers their sense of purpose and meaning in life. From a believer’s perspective, and in a very simplistic sense, someone wouldn’t do this unless they were stupid or wicked or, at best, misguided. And I get this kind of thinking. I’ve been there myself.

I realize that I’m painting with a broad brush here and greatly simplifying complex issues. And I’m speaking from my insecurities, too, so the negatives may be exaggerated in my mind. I understand that not all Mormons are the same, just as not all atheists are the same, or Muslims or Hindus, etc. And not all Mormons have the same interpretations of gospel teachings as I did when I was an active member. Luckily, I do have many friends and family members who, while they may not agree with my spiritual decisions, have reached out to me during this difficult time, proving that the reasons for my insecurity are not as generalized as I feared.

I also understand how difficult it is to think of something to say to someone who has just gotten divorced. I haven’t had many such opportunities myself but when I have, I sure don’t know what to say and if the divorcee isn’t a very close friend, I usually just opt not to say anything. So, I get that as well.

Maybe this all seems like I’m just playing the victim here to drum up sympathy for my situation and guilt people into reaching out to me. If it seems like that’s what I’m doing, then please ignore me and don’t reward my behavior. It’s not my intent to make anyone feel bad. Rather, I want people to feel understood, just as I want to be understood. I don’t want to be a threat to anyone. The people that have been important to me in my life, I want to keep in my life. I really hope that my beliefs don’t get in the way of that. But if they do, I get it.

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6 responses

5 01 2013
Lester Leavitt

Peter, it is a difficult bridge to navigate for Mormons who want to keep ex-Mormons in their lives, and I admire your diligence in continuing to reach “back” to stay in contact, but the truth is, you moved “forward” and many Mormons are not comfortable deviating from their carefully charted course at all…in any way, shape, or form. To reach out and stay in contact with an ex-Mormon is seen as letting go of the “iron rod.” It is a very real threat to them when they do that. To any who dare do this, I give them my highest admiration. They are truly the courageous ones. As a gay activist, not a single person has done this to stay in contact with me without demanding that my conversations with them stay on the “safe” topics, which, to me, is worse than having any kind of a conversation at all because it is totally contrived, but since you have not crossed to the “dark side” perhaps your experience can be different than mine. Writing these last blog posts has been among the most courageous things I have seen you do. I hope you have one or two respond. Love you.

6 01 2013
Peter

We’ve had conversations about this before. I try not to think of it as me “moving forward” because that implies too many negative things about people who choose to remain Mormon. I’m totally okay with it if my Mormon friends don’t want to bring up certain topics with me. I think it’s entirely reasonable that certain topics are appropriate with some people and not others. If it was my job to convince people of something (a politician, for example) and my peers didn’t want to address certain topics, then it would be a problem. But the kinds of relationships I have with most people don’t require that kind of strictness. I’m much happier building bridges and making it okay for people who think differently to get along. I appreciate your support for my approach to things. :)

6 01 2013
Aunt Lisa

Peter, you know we love and accept you for you who you are and always will. You will always have a place in our home and our hearts – we love you :) We LOVED having a quick visit with you and wish we could have visited longer and had you stay with us. I scanned a bunch of your family pictures at the reunion that Aunt Fara had brought from an album that belonged to Grandpa Leavitt. I initially scanned them thinking of you and then quickly realized that Andrew & Flora would probably like copies as well. Sadly, the pictures were all from before Ruth was born so there are none of her. The same holds true for my kids. There were only pictures of the oldest three. We NEED to have a longer visit next time where we are here and you can stay over – a long weekend maybe? Good luck with this next semester. We know you’ll do well :) Love you lots!!

6 01 2013
Peter

Love you guys, too! I agree that we need a longer visit next time. I’m currently looking for good excuses to come to San Diego when I have time off.

9 01 2013
Fred

Hey Peter, if you’re looking for sympathy I am more than happy to give it to you. You’re going through a tough time in many ways (school, marriage and fundamental beliefs) and I can only imagine how difficult it must be. I’m sure you understand that I for one am more than comfortable talking about anything you want to. We’ve done it before and I’m sure we will do it again. Love you, Uncle Fred

10 05 2014
Patricia Morgan

I’m on a similar path, and I find the same reaction from members of my ward. I’m some-what new to the area and only went to church to get to know people, and because my 10-year-old suddenly expressed interest. But when I sit there I remember what I used to feel when people said certain things. Now I feel other things, and I agree, it’s not at all the way it has been described to me my whole life. I didn’t fall away and turn to a life of sin. I am basically the same person I was. I dress modestly. I don’t drink or smoke. I don’t sleep around. No piercings or tattoos. And I still feel “the spirit” when I’m there; the warm, fuzzy feeling of familiarity and love. And when I go, I dont feel resounding guilt that I was raised to believe the less-active members felt. I read your post with the list of why you still consider yourself Mormon. It’s the same for me. I explained this to my friend who was raised Southern Baptist, but is now Agnostic. It’s my culture, my heritage. I’ll always be proud of our great history, and cringe at the not-so-great. But I won’t turn away from them. (Though, some might say I have.) And when members bear their testimonies, I will smile and love them even more for bearing their soul. Because that’s what members do, open themselves up with love and trust. I love that!!

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