When the local Mormon Stake President came to the door, I was half-hoping it was Carolyn, wanting to share a glass of Layer Cake Shiraz (that she had recommended) while our wives were at paddling practice. The kids were wrapping up dinner and Isaac and I were sitting on the couches enjoying warm conversation and cold beers.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Dr. Clayton. He delivered GameBoy over a decade and a half ago. He told a group of us LDS college students of his struggle with doubt during his med school days. He had always been kindly and soft-spoken.
He was standing outside in his jeans and Stanford sweatshirt. I invited him in, and CatGirl immediately left the room. We spent half an hour in pleasant conversation, catching up, making small talk with Isaac and GameBoy.
Finally, he got ready to leave, and asked if I could step outside for a moment. I don’t remember the exact words and sequence, but I’ll try to get this down the best I can. He told me of his long friendship with me. I told him, sincerely, of the fondness I had for him, but reminded him as long as he was still the official local representative of the church, that that impacted our relationship.
He then informed me that I had written something on my blog about the temple (this was as specific as he got) that was offensive to the sanctity of the temple and that I would be receiving an invitation to a council because my mishandling of these sacred things was not in keeping with the oaths I made and my position as a member of the LDS Church. (Yes, I’m still on the books.)
At this point, I said two things:
1. That the things he found sacred I saw as manipulative, coercive, and destructive to many people. I told him that I respected his experience, but that I would resist any attempt to censor the expression of those of us who found that it was a painful, problematic experience. (We own our temple experiences as much as any current or former Mormon, and the Church has no right to silence us.)
2. That I make it my policy to blog any interaction I have with Church officials. I told them that I had overcome much of my anger, and had recently wound down much of my criticism of the Church (with the exception of its Prop 8 involvement), but that if they wanted to pursue this, I would document the whole process publicly. My motivation here is primarily one of openness. I’m laying all of my cards on the table (Dr. Clayton is perhaps extending the same courtesy to me, with his visit).
This pretty much ended our conversation. He wished me and my family the best, and I saw him off.
I came inside and told Isaac, “I think I’m getting ex’d.” CatGirl, who was standing in the hallway, broke into a big smile and said, “Isn’t that what you wanted anyway?” We then went off to get ice cream (our original plan for the evening, not in celebration).
So, many of you may wonder how I feel about this.
- This is the first time I’ve stood toe-to-toe with a Mormon leader and felt like his complete equal in every way. It’s liberating to not feel beholden to Church authority and priesthood power.
- It was nice to have Isaac, of all my friends, to process this afterwards. He’s been close enough to the Church to see both the good and the damage it does, but distant enough to provide objective support.
- I asked Isaac to help me make sure my motives are pure. At this point, I don’t feel angry or vindictive. I do feel a responsibility to fight censorship, and to speak out for all of us who have suffered under the Church. I explained to Isaac, “I started Mind on Fire as a cry out to others, when I felt isolated, and then it grew into a community that could embrace others who experienced similar anguish and marginalization.” I still feel that. I’m amazed at the response I got withing minutes of posting my first tweet. I am definitely not alone. Thank you. And I don’t want to abandon any of you.
- That said, I do feel bad for everyone who is struggling and angry on my behalf, especially Jana. The Church may intend to cut me off, but they may lose Jana in the bargain.
- Finally, I’m proud of my kids. GameBoy is bemused by the turn of events, and CatGirl is positively delighted.
Anyhow, the ball’s in the Church’s court, so to speak. I’m not sure what to expect at this point–I guess a letter in the mail later this week, if the Stake Presidency and the Stake High Council have already made up their minds. Maybe they’ll decide it’s not worth the hassle and will let me (relatively) quietly move on.
I’m ready for whatever. Bring it on.