There was a long line at the post office in Pleasant Grove on Saturday. Having to wait made the event seem more dramatic. I didn’t have anything else to do (besides trying to not listen to the woman behind me barking into her cell phone). I looked at my letter. It’s dry. It feels emotionless. Emotionlessness is huge. The first two times I seriously considered resigning from the Mormon church, writing the letter was an angst-filled process. I didn’t send it, either time. I’m not sure why. At first, I know I thought, “but what if they’re right?” Abandoning what you’re grown up believing is frightening, especially when it has to do with your entire life’s purpose. Where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going (as they put it). I was so into it that I devoted 18 months to being a Mormon missionary, wearing one of those black name tags (Hermana Mardesich), knocking on doors (or clapping outside non-existent doors in the countryside of Uruguay), looking for people who were “ripe and ready to harvest.” 35 of my investigators joined the church. I took time off of college and spent my own money (and some from an anonymous donor). Not trying to brag. Just explaining how significant it was.
But even though I stopped believing, it was still in me.
Around 2000, I wanted to write a book on my experiences in the church. Word got back to my mother. She called me one night, in tears, and told me that I really didn’t grow up Mormon, so how could I write a book about it? “Your father never joined the church, so we didn’t have the priesthood in our home,” she said. “So you really didn’t grow up Mormon.” I asked her what all those hours of church meant then? It seemed that every day was consumed by meetings. Three hours of services on Sunday, extra time to prepare for my calling (I played the piano for the kids’ services, so my piano lessons, taught by an enthusiastic, ancient woman in our ward, who had survived polio, centered around mormon songs, though I did get to practice the occasional Scott Joplin ragtime). Monday nights were for Family Home Evening. Tuesday or Wednesday the “youth” had meetings of their own, where learning about chastity seemed to be the focus. Fridays there were usually some sort of social event. Saturdays we had outings, things like visits to the cannery — where we helped can peaches, which were distributed to the people on church welfare, or visits to to the temple — where we offered up our bodies as proxies for dead people the church wanted to baptize and save (like those holocaust survivors that absolutely are not being baptized these days). Oh, and every day before school –BEFORE SCHOOL! we’re talking early– we had to go to Institute (the Institute of Religion) for an hour-long discourse on mormon topics. It felt like I’d sacrificed all my free time for this organization. And I didn’t grow up Mormon?
After my monologue, she came back with the only thing she could — she simply asked me to not make fun of something that is so important to her and my brothers.
Honestly, that virtually stopped me. I still wrote bits and pieces, in between long bouts of self-medicating, but she got her way.
So why start writing about it now? And why now, finally, am I resigning from the church? I can’t sit back and do nothing after what they did in California. And Arizona. And Hawaii. And Florida. Next stop? your state.
The heart of this whole issue, to me, is that they believe gay marriage is wrong because being gay is wrong. It’s not. It’s natural. People who are gay don’t choose to be gay. They just are. What’s wrong with that? Why do we have to fear something we don’t understand? And more than fear, hate it. And campaign to strip people of their fundamental rights.
It’s time for people to get over their prejudice. The gay civil rights movement is the last great civil rights conflict of our time. What other disenfranchised group is left?
I finally got to the counter at the post office. I handed the postal worker guy my priority mail envelope. He looked at it. Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes. In the past, I would have felt some sort of shame or judgment, even if he wasn’t intending that. This time, I looked right back at him, not feeling shame, but liberation. I smiled at him. I thanked him.
As I was walking out of the post office, I felt light, free, and completely joyous. I wasn’t prepared for how it was going to feel. It felt like the best part of meditation, that spaciousness and openness, energy rising up through my third eye and out of the crown. That feeling of being connected to all.
That huge burden of shame and guilt was gone. I thought of myself as the creative seven-year-old girl I was before being introduced to the mormon church, finally free and able to move on beyond the roadblocks, and beyond the damage, the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing. I am free.
I don’t know what they will do with my letter. But as of the date I wrote it, I resigned. It really doesn’t matter.
If anyone is thinking of doing the same and needs encouragement, please write to me. There’s also a website, http://www.signingforsomething.org, that is posting letters of people who have resigned. There are also sites, like http://www.exmormon.org, or http://www.mormonnomore.com, or mormonresignation.com, that have sample letters and instructions.
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