Sunday, April 16, 2006

WE WANTED TO BELIEVE THE CHURCH WAS TRUE


My husband and I are LDS but hope to be officially informed soon that we have been removed from the rolls.

A brief background:

Although we had a lot of reservations about the factuality of what we were being taught when we were investigating the church last year, we were urged by the missionaries and our best friends - also Mormon - to just go on our feelings. We liked a lot of what the church emphasized - responsibility, good work ethic, family values. I believe now we deliberately chose to ignore a lot of the stuff that didn't make sense because the religion is so well-packaged and welcoming that we wanted to believe it was true. In October we were baptized into the LDS organization.

It wasn't long before we started to be concerned about some things that just couldn't be ignored - things you don't see until you're in it. For one thing, we both noticed that while there is a prohibition on caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, the temple was full of some morbidly obese people who were walking heart-attacks. And I - pressed into a calling right away as a Primary teacher - was very put off by the slow-drip indoctrination given to the little ones to "follow the prophet." I told my husband it reminded me a lot of the way kids were urged to sing praises of Communist leaders. Creepy.

Finally I approached our branch president with some questions I was having and was told that the devil was making me question. He told me I didn't have a testimony (funny, he had told me a month earlier I had a strong testimony). I thanked him for his opinion but continued to press for an answer. He quickly took umbrage, particularly when during our conversation I had the unmitigated gall to refer to the prophet as a "guy". Actually, to say he took umbrage is putting it mildly. He got really unhinged. I asked him, "If the prophet isn't a guy, what is he? A god?" I never got an answer. I did get told that the devil was making me disrespectful. I was also told that I had too much pride, as if being curious breeds the unfortunate side-effect of self-esteem. I finally told him we didn't believe in deifying leaders and ended the conversation by adding that if he couldn't answer questions without evasiveness and personal attacks then he must not have too much faith himself.

After that conversation, a lot fell into place for me and my husband. The emphasis on family has a dark underbelly; if a person values family they will easily buy the spiritual blackmail of being told that unless they obey church rules to the letter then they will lose those precious relationships for all eternity. The emphasis on hard work and personal responsibility also plays in the church's favor. People who are working their hearts out in various callings are less likely to take the time to question. Those same people who work hard at their jobs and following the church rule of tithing are contributing to the coffers that fund all those opulent (and dare I say tacky) temples. Since our initial questioning began, we've found out other troublesome teachings, such as this nonsense that blacks carry their skin color as a "curse" for the misfortune of having an ancestor (Cain) who allied himself with the devil. What nonsense.

My husband and I talked a good deal before requesting to have our names removed from the rolls. We are sure that when this is done we will lose our long-standing friendship with a couple we hold very dear. As "True Believers" (in mormonism), I'm sure they will choose their faith over our friendship and cut ties. The thought of this was so upsetting that we even discussed staying in the church but being inactive, but then we decided that to do that would be to forsake our conscience. Given the church's stance on blacks, it would be like belonging to the KKK but not attending the meetings. So we've contacted our branch president who has promised to get our names removed from church rolls, although he did give us the standard, "You'll-lose-all-your-blessings-if-you-do-this," speech. I told him we'd take our chances.

— V. R.

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