I’d left the Church over a decade ago, right after college, long before starting my career. Still, I squirmed in my seat, feeling guilty that I had once tithed my part-time, minimum-wage paychecks to an entity whose members bankrolled a successful campaign for legalized discrimination. I felt ill and ashamed. When I saw footage from a General Conference, I cringed, not wanting to actually hear the old men from Salt Lake unleash their peculiar cruelty on gay men and women.
As the General Authorities made their wrong-headed statements, the crowd around me hissed. I was startled to feel outrage, not against the prophets but on their behalf. It’s the strangest thing; I recognize the homophobia, racism, sexism, and logical inconsistencies in the Church, but if I hear a joke about magic underwear or the Word of WisDUMB, I somehow forget about all the attacking done by the Church and take offense at attacks against it.
That gut reaction gives me perspective, reminds me of the pride I feel in my Mormon heritage. My ancestors sold everything they had in England, sailed across an ocean, and then crossed a continent in ox-drawn covered wagons, all to live a life that they believed in. Who couldn’t be proud of that? And then there’s gratitude to specific Mormons. In my four years of college, I never once had to take a taxi or bus between my dorm and the airport; there was always a Church member who offered a ride.
Growing up as a rare Mormon among Southern Baptists taught me to withstand peer pressure. Very early I learned to get comfortable being the only one not drinking iced tea. That in turn gives me the courage to take the unpopular stance among friends, family, and work colleagues. And the habits of keeping journals and maintaining daily routines have served me well in my job.
So I feel grateful for what growing up Mormon has taught me: how to be self-reliant, how to stand up for myself, how to plug away with diligence, how to be a good neighbor. At the same time, I am ashamed of and angry at the Church. Its intolerance has misled too many away from loving relationships. Its insistence on conformity has kept too many from their best chance for happiness and instead driven them toward despair.
These conflicting, complicated feelings are easier to bear as part of a community, but I don’t believe they have a resolution. Instead, I try to be grateful for the turmoil.
Whether an unquestioning Mormon or a virulent anti-Mormon, I could only be certain of a kind of personal stagnation.