The “Offended Out of the Church” Myth

The lesson in Relief Society and Priesthood today was on Forgiveness. This lesson always goes to a place that makes me cringe. A hand is raised…

“Most often, people leave the church because of something someone said or did that offended them…”

That is verbatim from my lesson today. Another hand raised…

“I pity them. How SAD it is that their testimony isn’t strong enough for them overcome what someone said. They are missing out on an eternity of blessings because they just could not forgive.”

Double cringe.

A survey was done of over 3,000  “Mormons who, having once held firm belief in the Church, subsequently lose that belief in part or whole.” Of this study only 4% said that being offended was their strongest reason for leaving the church. The majority of people who leave, this survey found, was for doctrinal issues. The entire survey can be found here: http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

Did you get that? FOUR PER CENT. Four.

People want to believe that people who leave only do it because their testimonies aren’t strong enough to handle the occasional jerk who says or does something offensive. Why? Because it scares people to know that there are issues with the doctrine that could be big enough to claim even the best of saints. It’s easier to believe that people who leave are bitter, hateful and angry.

Losing faith, losing testimony, falling away, whatever you want to call it is found across religions. I’m not sure though, if the stigma is as harsh other places as it is within the church. You hear it  A LOT: “Molly’s son FELL AWAY. It’s so sad!”  Members don’t understand how terrible this sounds. It makes the person who left sound like they are less. It makes them feel like they are less. That there’s something wrong with them because they couldn’t just stay true to the church. This is not true!

For me personally, the people of the church are the reason I still go. The members, for the most part (including the people who said the things above, they just don’t know better…)are wonderful people. They are caring. They are charitable. I love the members of the church.  I have had horrific things said to me on my other blog by members of the church. These things STUNG even more than you could imagine. But people are people.

I believe in forgiveness, too.

Who Am I?

For my entire life, I’ve framed who I am within the contexts of the Mormon Church. I come from a long line of faithful Mormons. Those who crossed the plains as pioneers. Who were sent by prophets to settle areas of Utah and Arizona.  My grandfather has many close personal friends within the quorum of the twelve. When my grandmother was sick, one of the apostles came to their home to administer to her.

At 8, I was baptized by my father. I had been taught right from wrong and now I was accountable. From here on out, my sins were on my own head. I had learned how to repent and was taught that it was the only way to truly be happy. The only way to be with my family forever. This was important to me especially, because at eight, my father had already been diagnosed with cancer. He would die shortly after I became a teenager.

I remember thinking that everything would change after I was baptized. That, like in Jesus’ time, the Holy Ghost would decend on me. I’d FEEL differently. I was confused when I didn’t. I remember my aunt asking me how it felt to be so clean. I answered, “good!” That was the first time I’d ever just said what I knew I was supposed to.  I knew I was supposed to feel different than I did. But I didn’t.

I feared that if I told anyone that, they’d think that for whatever reason I wasn’t worthy to be a member of the church. That my family would hate me. I was afraid that maybe the devil had his hold on me, and that’s why my baptism didn’t make me feel clean.

I felt normal. I felt like me.

I’ve spent the last 22 years fighting the feeling of just feeling the way I do. Afraid that people would view me as lesser, as a child of the devil, as anything than just ME if I didn’t say what I thought I had to say, do as I thought I should do. I’ve always been afraid that people of the church would hate me for asking the questions that have burned within me for so long.

Honestly, I’m still afraid of that. That’s why I’m writing this on an anonymous blog, and not my personal blog. A blog that is frequented by those I love most in this world. The same people I’m the most afraid to say these things to.

I’m not sure where this will go. I only know that I’m better in writing than I am in any other form. I need to write this all out. I need a place to collect what I am feeling, and then judge from there as to how to move on.