OPINION: Columnist bids farewell to Utah, culture
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 11:12
Several weeks ago, I received a text from an acquaintance asking me if I wanted to hang out. Because this individual had never previously expressed any interest in me, I was surprised, but I responded, “Sure.” As it turned out, he was asking if I wanted to attend an LDS fireside.
Shortly before that, I attended a stake conference in Provo for a friend. One speaker announced a serious problem: In the whole of Utah County, there are several thousand Utahns who are not LDS.
“Bring them to the fold,” he said. “That is far too many.”
Throughout my time writing as a columnist for the Statesman, I have been asked these questions more times than I can count: “You’re angry, aren’t you?” “Do you hate the LDS Church?” “You have a serious bone to pick with the Mormons, don’t you?”
Yes, yes and yes.
These are difficult questions with difficult answers. Explaining what it’s like to be an ex-Mormon is complicated and fraught with emotional hang-ups. Explaining how something that makes you happy also makes me miserable is almost impossible: Even more difficult is reassuring you that I know that the Mormon Church is not true as equally as you know it is. I’m going to try anyway.
One of the primary reasons being an ex-Mormon is difficult is illustrated in the first example I gave: Somebody who had zero interest in my personality invited me to Church functions. Because a fundamental part of the Mormon doctrine is the recruiting of non-members, this is a fairly common occurrence. But if all you can see in me is the potential for bringing a lost individual salvation, it cheapens our relationship and demeans your intentions — and any ex-Mormon can tell you how it feels to be ignored except for spiritual invitations.
We’d actually prefer to be let alone completely. But, as the second example illustrates, that doesn’t happen because the Mormon Church is everywhere. There is absolutely no getting away from it here. Pictures of Caucasian Jesus hang in every window. Missionaries are sent by neighbors who have never taken the trouble to meet me. My friend group, my dating pool and my entire college experience is marginalized because I am not Mormon. The constant exposure is incredibly frustrating.
This is compounded by another common experience many ex-Mormons share: ostracization from family and friends. Often in sacrament meeting, stories are told in which individuals overcome extreme familial hardships when joining the Mormon Church and just can’t understand why their families don’t accept the transition. These individuals are made out as martyrs who are unjustly punished for making a decision that brings them happiness.