On apostasy

The sunday school lesson on apostasy has been going around in church for the last few weeks, depending on where your ward is on the scheduling. I know, \because I have heard ripples of irritation almost every Sunday from questioning, but practicing, mormons.

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Last Sunday, it was our ward. Dan came home in fury. He knows the stories of too many apostates to let that lesson roll off his shoulder. Mine of course, but also our friends’ stories. I’ve found that when you put two apostates in the same room, their story is going to come out. The conversation gets raw. Gets heavy. Gets real.

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….And then sunday school happens, where the teacher writes three words on the chalkboard, and the rest of the class is spent validating these reasons as the only possible causes for people to stop believing. (Not to mention how “apostate” automatically equates with “anti-mormon.”)

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I’ve sat in these meetings. It’s humiliating.  The things these people openly believe about us… Like, that I would turn my back on God and covenant because I was offended; as if my relationship with God was so fragile that a bad moment with another mormon would shatter that.

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But I heard a wonderful wonderful thing. In another ward, my friend had the apostasy lesson too. But his teacher didn’t write the apostasy formula on a chalkboard. Instead, the teacher prepared early by calling in a “apostate” friend—a person who chose to leave the church—and gave him the floor during sunday school. And he shared his story.

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I’m pretty damn well sure that he didn’t share a story about how the bishop forgot his name. He got to share his story, uncensored, live, face-to-face, and all that jazz. That gives me hope. Hope that mormons and apostates can understand each other, and that religious diversity doesn’t need to affect the relationship… that families won’t break when someone leaves the church. Someday.

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It happens a lot. Errors on both sides. Apostates breaking under the strain of isolation. Mormons heartbroken over broken family sealings. Apostates have little pocket communities; Mormons have wards. Both need to change, but as an apostate myself it is all too easy to point the finger and say that if the lds church wants to really be about families—and not just the “families are forever” kind of family—they need to change this chapter of the lesson manual. Lessons like that create a mythical chasm between believer and unbeliever. It can kill families. It sets them up for failure in the case of apostasy.

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Years ago, I told a true-blue-mormon friend that I was leaving the church. Her response was a one line e-mail: Are you getting a DIVORCE??

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Is that response indicative of the larger conversation surrounding split-religion homes? Yes. It is. It is most explicitly taught young. The youth are taught (like many other religions) to only marry someone who shares their same faith (or else…).

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Well, why can’t the “shared faith” be simply: hope, kindness, forgiveness?  The rituals of organized religions all vary, but are still all based around these same tenets.

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I just … I wish religions would stop being so threatened by each other. I wish that they would celebrate enlightenment no matter under what religion’s name it was being practiced.

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And here is a relevant article from the New York Times called “Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt.”

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