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A Mutually Loving Impasse

Most religions implant psychological safeguards against apostasy, little emotional bombs of fear, guilt, shame and self-loathing that get triggered by the mere act of questioning. In religious orthodoxy, doubt is the domain of fools. It is the consequence of having hardened your heart like Pharaoh or resenting God’s power like Lucifer. Oh ye of little faith!

So says Valerie Tarico in response to Michael’s story of leaving Mormonism.

I must confess that even though I’ve made my peace with the idea that not everyone will see Mormonism the same way that I do, I still worry about my family’s future.

I attend sacrament meeting most weeks, and every time I do, the reasons that I left reinforce themselves to me. When I was Mormon, I assumed that anyone who attended church enough would eventually soften their heart to the truth. Every time a relative attended church who hadn’t been there in years, I imagined that they would realize what they had been missing and come back into the arms of the church. I enjoyed church, so I assumed that they had simply forgotten how good church was, and with a little reminder, they would remember and return to the faith.

Now I see the LDS church differently, and I finally understand that for some people, attending a Mormon church service only gives them more reason to stay away. It’s not a problem of forgetting; they object to Mormonism on principle. I never imagined as a Mormon that the words spoken the pulpit could be disturbing and repulsive.

As a Mormon, I thought that anyone who disagreed with the teachings of Mormonism was being deceived by Satan, that the antidote was to feel the joy of the Holy Spirit in church. I now see that is too simple. As I continue my life outside of Mormonism, I am generally happier though I have good days and bad. Mormon teachings give me no joy, so attending church services has no hope of persuading me to return—none that I can see.

So I understand why someone else might not find the same joy as I do in the ideals of freethought. The idea of doubting and not feeling certain about our beliefs is frightening for some, even though I revel in it because it feels authentic to the human condition.

I’ve seen both sides, and I see how unhealthy Mormonism (or any other fundamentalist, cultish group) can be. I don’t like the idea of my family being stuck there. I don’t like the idea of that separating us. I hope they can find their way out. I want them to wake up to the toxicity of Mormonism. They want me to wake up to the joys of Mormonism. We are at an impasse.

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