So, my sisters were in town over the Easter holiday and I suppose it was inevitable that the topic of my disaffection would come up at some point. Every time we would get together, the topic loomed over us but it was never talked about until Sunday night when I actually decided to bight the bullet and say something. What ensued was a 3 hour argument/conversation. I’m still not too sure what to think of it all but here are some highlights.
The conversation started by me asking my oldest sister why she was the only one in our family who chose not to make some kind of contact with me after my letter was sent to the family explaining that I had decided to leave the Morg. She quickly went down the testimony rout and said that I was making a huge mistake and that she “knows” that the church is true. I have heard that phrase so many times in my life that it has lost all meaning for me. What does that even mean? She then said that she had nothing good to say so she chose to say nothing.
Various aspects of my decision to leave were discussed including my decision to go on a mission due to the pressures and stigma attached to someone who does not go and how that affected me. I told them in very tactful but blunt ways that I never really had a testimony and that I only went through the motions for many years. I tried not to get into actual doctrinal issues too much because I did not want to upset them.
The conversation turned to how I believe the church has changed its policies over the years to conform to social pressures. Examples I brought up were the repeal of polygamy, allowing blacks to hold the priesthood and the release of the proclamation of the family. Much to my surprise, my mom actually agreed with me that some were the result of social and political pressures but refuted my claims that the change in who could hold the priesthood had to do with that. My younger sister found the rational that the change to let the blacks hold the priesthood was like unto the church not letting people cook in the church anymore, and that neither one had a huge affect on the truthfulness of the gospel. I of course, had to respectfully disagree.
This same sister told me that I just have to have faith. In response to that I decided to test the waters and I broke out some historical discrepancies. I presented the information regarding the different first vision accounts and asked which one I was supposed to have faith in; the first ones that Joseph’s Myth wrote in 1832 and 1835 or the one that appears in the PoGP which was written in 1838 but not published till 1842? I don’t recall receiving a good answer to that. My mother, with tears welling up in her eyes looked shocked at the information I had just lain down in front of her and she made a point to ask that I not bring up any more information like that claiming that I was attacking her faith.
After a while, they turned their attention to my wife and began to focus their question on her and how a convert could possibility go back on the testimony they had when they were baptized. They held her to a higher standard then me for whatever reason and they could not really understand that you don’t know everything about the church when you are baptized so as you learn, you either gain a greater testimony of the gospel or your belief is torn down. I was then blamed in part for her loss of testimony because I became a negative influence on her.
For me the all-time highlight of the night was when the topic of the Word of Wisdom came up and how I was a bad influence on their kids who were present because I mentioned that I had some tea the other day. In the conversation, my sister actually said that drinking tea was just as bad as molesting a child. When she said that, my jaw dropped to the floor. I don’t understand how anyone could make such a claim. She went on to try to clarify her statement by saying that both are equally bad because they both keep you from being able to enter the temple. What kind of messed up thinking is that? That is like saying it is just as bad to lie to someone then it is to kill them. The church teaches that there are different degrees of sin. Otherwise, there would not be unpardonable sins such as denying the Holy Ghost or murder. Also, if her statement was correct, then you could be excommunicated for the smallest of infractions. I kind of feel sorry for her because that seems like a really crappy way of looking at life. She was even willing to completely disassociate from us if we ever spoke about drinking tea or alcohol around her kids again.
In the end, the night was a mix of both good and bad moments and overall, it was probably a healthy conversation. I was glad that I was finally able to get the issue out in the open and get the first major discussion over with. It is sad to me that they are so closed minded regarding the church. I wish there was some way I could make them open their eyes for just 30 minutes so I could show them the hypocrisy found in the church, especially my mom. I think that if she was really honest with herself she would say that she is not happy in the church but she is in too deep to let that happen.
I am the second of her four kids to leave the church and I am sure she feels like it is her fault in some way but really, she should not feel too bad. Even God lost 1/3 of his kids so why should she think she would fare any better?