Having sent the kids off to the grocery store to replenish a few kitchen basics, I finally have a little quiet time to set down some thoughts here again.
I've told only selected friends about my resignation from the Mormon church. I've not announced it on Facebook and I certainly haven't told anyone in my family of origin, who are already having extreme difficulty with my coming out. Friends' reactions have varied widely. Some have praised me for courage. Some have wondered what took me so long. Some have been matter of fact, saying "whatever makes you happy." A couple were quite indignant.
One guy, a friend since college days who's spent his life teaching for the Church Educational System in Utah, was probably most upset. His almost instant response was a very agitated "Well one of us has been completely deceived!" Eventually he calmed down, but the reaction was very telling. He's known me for long enough that he understands I don't do things rashly, and that when it comes to major decisions, I do my homework thoroughly in advance. So I wasn't just some superficial, ignorant crank whose judgment he could dismiss as ill-informed. He knew my previous depth of commitment and understanding. He knew my record of church service. And for someone that educated and knowledgeable to conclude that it just ain't so, that he'd been wasting a lot of time trusting things that didn't deserve it, well, that shook my friend to his foundations. It took hours of conversation to calm him down and persuade him that I wasn't going to try to talk him into doing what I'd done, and that if Mormonism worked for him and helped him be a better person, then I'd say great, wonderful, good for you. The hardest thing for him was to overcome all the "either-or" programming that instantly pushed him to fearing I'd be a raving hostile apostate. He seemed to think there wasn't any other kind. I never bring up the issue now, if he wants to, that's fine, but obviously so far he doesn't. That's okay.
Another friend who's also gay but remains active in the church was angry with me because I hadn't insisted on the "court of love" thing so I could pull a Thomas More vigorously denouncing prejudice and defending truth before Parliament thing before the stake presidency and high council. Except I would defend equal treatment and tolerance for gay people and denounce homophobia and bigotry and maybe open their eyes. Meh. While I admired his passion for speaking out in defense of truth as he sees it, and I was flattered by his belief that I could have made that kind of difference, he didn't know the local authorities like I did. Ultimately I did talk with both bishop and stake president and it went wonderfully well. More on that later. But at the time I had no idea what might happen. And everybody knows what happened to Thomas More after he gave his speech.
Tomorrow is my one year anniversary of resignation from the Mormon church. And I have lots of friends who remain there, even gay friends who are still believing Mormons and trying to reconcile like I did. I talk with them, read their blog posts, their Facebook updates, comments and questions. So filled with sincere faith and obvious desire to continue in the church.
I can be the diplomat, no problem. I'm not wanting to unleash a torrent of anti-Mormon content in their direction. I truly do try to practice what I preach, live and let live, respect others' freely-chosen beliefs as long as they do no harm to others. Even if I think the beliefs are flat-out wrong, even fraudulent. I believe in freedom of choice and self-determination, how could I do otherwise.
I was in the same position as my still-Mormon friends for most of my life till I started looking at it all with objectivity and no agenda. I used to trust completely subjective feelings as trumping anything objective and empirical too. I've grown beyond that now and I trust the integrity of truth to be consistent with itself and able to withstand any examination no matter how rigorous. And in my opinion, Mormon claims can't withstand that kind of scrutiny.
So it's weird to see my still-faithful Mormon friends talk about Mormon stuff as if it were all irrefutable truth. Things I've thoroughly and exhaustively examined and found to be false, or distorted beyond all semblance of veracity, or misrepresented, or so incomplete as to be totally untrustworthy. It kind of makes me feel like I used to when the kids were very small and talked so seriously about what the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus would bring. I didn't dare tell them what I knew, of course, it would have devastated their childlike innocence. I never saw any harm in those childhood myths that help make the world a more magical and wonderful place.
But for educated grown-ups to cling to beliefs about alleged facts that don't stand up to adult-level scrutiny, for them to make life judgments based on those beliefs, for them to treat others fairly or spitefully as they think their religious beliefs require, that is a different thing altogether. I concede that I was for a long time part of the group I'm now gently, respectfully, taking issue with. I know people have their own timetables and abilities for this kind of thing. That's why I don't presume to criticize any of my still-Mormon friends for their beliefs. If they're happy where they are, then I don't want to discomfit them gratuitously.
But privately, I struggle just a teeeeeeeeentsy bit. Because I know they're smart. Their hearts are good. They are well-intentioned. They are talented. I want to believe the best of them. And I honestly and truly believe that I am right, and the Mormon church is wrong. So it grates just a tiny bit for me to see my smart, good-hearted, talented, well-intentioned friends continue to believe in, trust, and make life decisions in light of a religion that I think, to put it bluntly, is deceiving them. Nobody likes to see their friends taken in, especially about such important things. I care about them a lot and I don't want to see them hurt. And while I know the Mormon church can create and do a lot of good things, it has also inflicted incredible pain and tragedy on lots and lots of people, especially gay people and their families. On gay people as they try to resolve the completely impossible conundrum of being happily gay and happily Mormon--it can't be done, utterly impossible. And on their families, whom the church persuades to mourn and grieve for the "loss" of their gay children from the eternal family just because a kid is gay and realizes a happy, fulfilled life as a gay Mormon is impossible. It's cruel and barbaric what the church does to those families. The unnecessary anguish it inflicts is unconscionable.
But ultimately it's their choice. If they want to talk about such stuff with me, I'm happy to do it. But I won't push them. If I'd been pushed I would have pushed back; hell, I did, a lot. I remember doing it. I changed when I was ready. I just have to continue to be the respectful diplomat, love and respect my friends sincerely, as I do, and hope that someday they will see things as I do. And if they don't, I'll still love them. Though I don't accept the Mormon version of Christianity anymore, I still try to follow the Savior's teachings, and I still believe that charity--the pure love of Christ--never faileth.