Giving things up
This is my first post on Main Street Plaza. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you, and hopeful that I can contribute something to a community which has been a huge support to me over the past few years.
That almost sounds like the way I would have started a sacrament talk a few years ago!! This post is about leaving Mormonism and actually, I think it may dovetail nicely with the post aerin64 did yesterday. Perhaps before I get to the leaving part, we should look at the joining part.
Back in the days when I was a missionary, perhaps the hardest thing about helping a new member come into the church was the stuff they had to give up. We shared this amazing story with them about prophesy in modern days, eternal families and a church community in which they could participate, and once they accepted a part of that, the rest seemed to come naturally.
The stuff they had to give up though… First for many it was their own church and religious community, and then it was a matter for many of quitting coffee, alcohol and tobacco products. The thing I most feared asking them to give up was 10 percent of their income, but for many they were coming from a background where they had been doing something similar anyway.
I got thinking about this the other day, as I thought about my continuing journey out of the church and out of Mormonism. There is plenty I have to gain in this journey, and it has all seemed to come naturally. Coffee isn’t exactly that bad for you, and once you’ve had that, moving over the odd alcoholic beverage with dinner or friends really isn’t a big deal either. I suspect if I didn’t live in Utah, it would be even less of a deal.
But then I got thinking about what I was giving up. Somethings seem obvious and are really easy. Sunday meetings, continuous guilt that I’m not doing my calling as well as I could and an extra layer of underwear when it’s hotter than Hades outside. There are things though that I hadn’t considered when I began this journey, and one of them is the idea of the outside world in a pure state of dichotomy.
Let me explain… for my entire life the idea of dichotomy has been drummed into my head. God is good, Satan is evil. Mormonism is good, other churches are evil. Not drinking alcohol is good, drinking alcohol makes you evil (even 1 sip). You and I could go on and on for days with this list, but the final thing I want to add is this one. Joseph Smith is good, anyone who opposes him is evil.
Joseph Smith – the one man that all of us who have been in the Church revered and likely the cause of much of the reason that those of us who have left, have chosen to do so. Handling it was really easy for me, as I simply switched the roles. Clearly Joseph did some bad stuff, and lied about other stuff, so naturally Joseph Smith is evil (as are all who defend him) and any who oppose him are good.
Isn’t there more to all of us than simply being either good or evil though? I think I could be considered pretty good in some aspects of my life and likely evil in others, and there are a myriad of aspects in between where I am a mix of both. I’ve noticed this when I read things which defend some of Joseph Smith’s actions, or share his history in a positive light. I get angry when people try to defend him and yet I find myself questioning why I have those feelings. Was he not just a man, with a similar collection of attributes both good and bad, and countless more in between those extremes… Much like all of us?
The problem is that I still have in my mind the doctrine of the dichotomy of good and evil. I still judge Joseph Smith on the scales – was he all good, or all bad, and I do the same with those around me. Just snap judgments – this person is good, that person is evil.
I suspect a psychologist could have an absolute field day with my brain, but for now I’m hoping to overcome it on my own. Trying to see people as the complex people they are, and respecting their existence, as much as I value my own. I think I’m making progress, but as with everything in the path out of Mormonism… 30 plus years of brain washing can’t be undone over night.
How about you? Have you struggled to overcome the dichotomy of good and evil, and are there perhaps other things you’ve had to give up to walk away from it all?