As someone who just joined the LDS Church in 2011, it may seem presumptuous of me to give advice to lifelong Mormons transitioning away from their faith. However, I am eminently qualified to offer my expert analysis because I’m a lifelong quitter; particularly when it comes to churches. In fact, I’m currently on the rolls of five different churches in the Phoenix area, four of which have not even noticed that I’m gone. So take it from someone who has joined and quit two churches in the time you’ve been reading this blog post – don’t try to be understood.
There seems to be an innate desire among post-Mormons to be understood by their friends and loved ones who are still members of the Church. The thought goes something like this: “Sure, I’ve destroyed their dream of having an eternal family, but they’ll understand once they learn about the Kinderhook Plates.” Really? You’d have a better chance of getting a porcupine to eat from those plates with a knife and fork, or to get said porcupine to translate those plates into a history of ancient American peoples. As we all know, modern science has proven that porcupines are only fluent in Mandarin Chinese and therefore, they don’t have the language skills for such a task.
Similarly, your friends and family won’t understand your decision to leave the church by reading your blog post or listening to your episode on the Thoughtful Mormon Expressions of Stories That Matter podcast. They didn’t come to their testimonies of, say, the historicity of the Book of Mormon through a careful examination of the scientific evidence. They gained that testimony through a burning in the bosom that confirmed the truth for them. So unless you are going to speak in terms of a spiritual confirmation (or will be serving them spicy food prior to reading your blog), you simply won’t be speaking the same language. In other words, it’s all Reformed Egyptian to them (i.e., they no habla Apostatese).
And while I sympathize with the desire to demonstrate that you have made a sound decision to leave the Church, it’s time to come to grips with the truth – they won’t get it. Some will think that you were simply too lazy to keep the commandments. Others will think that you could no longer resist the call of drugs, sex and greater than room temperature caffeine. And others will think that it’s all Obama’s fault (which is partly true, “Thanks, Obama!”). And there is nothing that you can do about it. You can blog until your fingers fall off or appear on 100 episodes of A Thoughtful Faith podcast (or the time-equivalent of one episode of Mormon Stories), and they’ll still think that you’ve been ensnared by the “Evil One” — Kate Kelly.
So, in the immortal words of W. C. Fields, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” There comes a point when we all must cut our losses and accept painful facts. For example, a few weeks ago, I turned 48 and had to finally accept that I am never going to be a rocket surgeon or an underwear model or financially solvent. And I also had to come to grips with the fact that the neighborhood children are going to pee in my pool. Let me explain.
As residents of Arizona, we have a pool in our backyard; not because we are rich, but rather because we are required to do so by local ordinance. Apparently, this is a very obscure ordinance because our neighbors don’t seem to know about it. As a result, we are a very popular family during the summer months (i.e., all of them except for two weeks in January). And for the first six years after moving here, I would annually sit the neighborhood kids down for Mr. Carter’s Pool Safety Awareness Talk™, which largely consisted of (1) no diving headfirst into the shallow end, and (2) no peeing in Mr. Carter’s pool. Sadly, the neighborhood kids have not harkened unto my counsel … on either score.
And while a legal waiver does the trick in protecting us from liability in the former case, it does nothing to lower the PeeH balance in our pool. However, rather than trying to get the neighborhood kids to read my Pee in Your Own Pool blog or listen to A Thoughtful Swimmer Doesn’t Pee in Other People’s Pool podcast, I’ve adapted the philosophy of the Serenity Prayer:
‘Grant me the courage to change the things that I can change, the serenity to accept the things that I can’t change, and the wisdom not to start throwing these kids in the shallow end headfirst myself.’
In particular, I’ve opted for serenity with regards to the neighborhood kids. Rather than berating them for doing something that they are going to do anyway, I simply accept it and act accordingly. For example, I now chlorinate my pool to the maximum legal limit. In truth, if you just drive past my house, your eyes become slightly red. As a result, I now encourage the kids to pee in the pool to cut some of the chlorine.
I suggest that you adopt a similar mindset and accept the fact that your loved ones will likely never understand why you left the Church. And if you invite them to read your blog, listen to your podcast or attend Mormon Burning Man (i.e., Sunstone), they aren’t going to come away from these experiences with a newfound respect and gratitude for your apostasy. Instead, they are likely to, shall we say, “rain” on your parade. So take my advice and just stock up on chlorine (you have the space now that you aren’t doing food storage). And the next time you feel the urge to explain why you left the Church, say the Post-Mormon Serenity Prayer.
‘Grant me the courage to live in integrity with my newfound beliefs, the serenity to accept that others think that I’m sinning or was offended, and the wisdom not to forward my latest blog post to my mother. I say these things in the name of Rock Waterman. Amen!’