[Edited: The post was erroneously titled "The Top Five Reasons Why I'm Not Turning in a Letter of Resignation to the Church". I think that was the title of an earlier post. I've corrected it to reflect the content.]
The most common question aimed at me in the past day is why I’m bothering to go to this council at all. This query has come from the devout, from former mormons, from irreligious friends. It certainly would be easier on me, on Jana, on the men in that high council room if I didn’t attend.
So here’s my list of top five reasons I’m attending my disciplinary council:
5. Because, at some level, I’m afraid.
Totally irrational, I know. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” This will meet my quota for a month. And many kudos to Jana for offering to join me.
4. Because I am a compulsive chronicler.
I work with information and data for a living, and would like to become a professional writer. Transparency and openness are fundamental values (though I respect privacy as well). This is one area where I will probably always butt heads with the LDS Church, because of the institution’s culture of secrecy and manipulation of information that has a profound impact on the lives of its members. (One of my most popular posts is a link to the 1999 edition of the text of the Church Handbook of Instructions.) I’m deeply indebted to others who have spoken candidly about their experiences and left a record online. Anything I can document becomes a part of the public record and a resource for dissenters and skeptics and others who are struggling and face church discipline). I don’t expect to post anything earth-shattering or even new–just something to help others know what to expect if they find themselves in a similar situation.
3. Because I want to avoid caricature.
The fifteen men who will sit in judgment tomorrow evening are all human. I want to resist the temptation to say that they are good men, because I don’t know most of them (even Jesus said that only God was good). I don’t know who is in the stake leadership right now, but many have been very kind to us in the past, and a couple always treat me with respect, even when I encounter them since I stopped going to church. I don’t have to agree with them in certain areas, but I don’t have to make villains of them either. The Stake President was Jana’s OB/GYN and delivered GameBoy safely into this world, for which I will always be grateful.
I also hope that they will see that I’m not some caricature of an apostate. I suspect that some of them will have only encountered my words out of context. I want them to see me, to shake my hand, to interact with me, to hear my response to their accusation.
Hopefully we’ll see each other as complex humans, worthy of compassion. If I don’t go to this meeting on Wednesday, I will know only that the Stake President and 14 nameless, faceless men sat in judgment and made a decision about me. I also would prefer for them to look me in the eye when they announce their decision.
2. Because I care about my community.
And my community is not the mainstream Mormon church. I’ve never written for the median American Mormon. My audience and my community are the folk of the fringe*: those of us who dare to question and are subsequently pushed to the margins, those of us who suppress our open questioning because of complicated relationships with loved ones, those of us who wanted to belong but were rejected because we were different. Closet skeptics, pagan Mormons, ex-Catholics, queers, heretics, and iconoclasts: these are my people. I write for them.
1. Because I want closure.
My entry into the Church twenty years ago was a very public event. Mormon friends traveled hundreds of miles to attend my baptism. I was encouraged to invite my non-Mormon friends. The next day, I was presented before hundreds of people and welcomed warmly into my congregation.
I fully expect to be excommunicated tomorrow. An excommunication is a powerful rite in ways that a letter of resignation is not. I believe in the power of ritual to clearly define boundaries in our lives. I want to be able to point to a day on the calendar and say, “this is when I stopped being a Mormon.”
Most people leave Mormonism quietly. They simply fade into inactivity. Perhaps at some point they write a letter asking to remove their names. This is a perfectly respectable way to leave. It’s one I’ve considered seriously over the past two years.
I don’t expect most of you to empathize with this top reason. It’s intensely personal, and not everyone has the option of being excommunicated. Let me explain. Deconverting and exiting the LDS church have defined the last twelve years of my life. The Church institution and culture, my love for devout believers like my family and friends, and my own desire at first to believe, and later to belong even if I didn’t quite believe, all complicated the process. It has been excruciating, and emotionally damaging. I suspect that if I am excommunicated, it may even be one of the most healing events of my adult life.
*hopefully someone catches the ironic use of the title of Orson Scott Card’s story collection.