And This Is Why I Feel Uncomfortable

If you haven’t heard, the Hunters Creek Stake is convening a disciplinary hearing on the charge of apostasy against David Twede, the managing editor of the online magazine MormonThink.com, a website encouraging debate by critics and church members about the Church and its history. According to The Daily Beast, he could possibly be excommunicated or face disfellowshipment related to his criticism of Mitt Romney.

Honestly, that doesn’t shock me.

I knew when I joined the Church that it was filled with conservatives, but I never realized just how conservative until after I had joined. Actually, conservative isn’t really the word I want to use. The word I want to use is squelching. Differences are discouraged. And that made me very uncomfortable because if there’s one word that describes me, it is different.

I’m a Democrat, when it comes to voting. When it comes to actual opinions, I am much more liberal than that. And that makes me different from a lot of people around here–not just the ones in my Church. I don’t go around spouting off my opinions in public because I get nervous. Promoting equality–racial, orientation, gender, classes–isn’t exactly a popular thing in this region. This, after all, is the region that brought the world such forward-thinking groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the people behind Stormfront.  North Alabama isn’t exactly a very progressive part of the country world. Bigotry is almost celebrated in some parts of this state, including Huntsville. I didn’t expect the intolerance to be so prevalent among Church members, but it was.

I never really intended on bringing up my political views at Church, but the year I joined was kind of a big deal when it came to politics. It was the year that not only brought America the election of President Barack Obama, it was also the year of Proposition 8. And Proposition 8 inspired a lot of my friends from Church to join and promote the Facebook groups that defined marriage as “one man and one woman”, which meant that every single day I had to delete invites to join these groups. Even after I posted on my profile that I didn’t want to join the Yes on 8 groups, they still sent them.

But the Facebook invitations were nothing compared to what I was about to experience.

At an Institute meeting, the teacher of the class stated that anyone who espoused dissent from Church teachings (i.e. The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the anti-Marriage Equality declaration of the Church) or questioned the Church in any way, should be treated like gangrene and be cut off. That was one of my last Institute meetings. I didn’t like that this man, who was basically a church official, was telling me that people weren’t allowed to think for themselves. To me, questioning and thinking are not things that I can simply turn off. And I don’t think that an institution should encourage such a thing. People should be encouraged to question things so that they can be sure that they are on the right path.

Around that time, I was in a car with the female head of the YSA. She was comparing Obama to Korihor, an Anti-Christ from the Book of Mormon. That unnerved me quite a bit, but not as much as what she did at the YSA Halloween dance, when she decided to come as a “mechanic”. The costume would have been fine, except she chose to come in blackface. She made some snide remarks while in that outfit and any respect that I had for her quickly disappeared. That she would be so blatantly ignorant made me feel disgusted.

On that same night, Jennifer and Jamie, during our pre-dance dinner, were talking about who they were planning on voting for. Of course, they were voting for McCain. They were mocking Obama and I decided that since it was just the three of us, I would declare my political leanings. When I did, they both looked so shocked. Jennifer basically told me that being a Democrat in the Church was almost unheard of. She and Jamie tried to convince me to become a Republican. When that didn’t work, they started talking about how being gay was unnatural because (according to them) no other species ever displayed homosexual behavior. I guess that they figured that I would agree on that. Instead, I brought up that it had to be something inherent or else I wouldn’t have had 1 guinea pig that was clearly gay and 1 that seemed to be bisexual. When I said that, they got grossed out and didn’t discuss anything else political that night.

At the next Break the Fast for my ward’s YSA, several of the male members of the YSA were discussing the upcoming election, which was about two days later. They were making comments about different policies and different politicians and I decided that since everyone was being so open that I would be open as well. It did no good. I was shut down. This was something that happened at a few Break the Fast gatherings. Anytime they would discuss politics and I would open my mouth, they would quickly change the topic before I could fully express myself. (Since I’m very, very shy in person, I don’t usually come across as being as argumentative as I do online.)

I quit going to church around that time. I no longer felt like I was in an accepting environment, and I had a feeling that if I kept trying to express myself that I would either be shut down or that I would end up before a disciplinary council. (I’ve known people who had been in my ward that went before them for being different from the norm. It doesn’t usually end well.)

I kept in contact, sort of, via Facebook. Sometimes I would express my opinion on political things and get some comments from church members. I would comment on their stuff as well. I was quickly unfriended by many of my so-called friends, including people that I had known for around 20 years. I was accused of not allowing them to have an opinion, which seemed weird since I was the one who was constantly being told to sit down and shut up. I would get somewhat nastier comments when I would express frustration after General Conferences when one of the heads of the Church would make an intolerant statement–i.e. after Boyd K. Packer’s “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” in 2010.

I went from, in July of 2008, being the girl that was welcomed by so many members to, this past Sunday, being the girl that isn’t acknowledged by people who still claim to be my friends. I’m the girl who most people from the Church won’t call back. I’m the one who they won’t talk to. I’m the one who realizes that, at some point, something that I say will get me into trouble with the Church, and I’m okay with that.

Yes, I would love to be able to be welcome at Church. I would like to think that people there are actually my friends, but I’ve come to a realization that I’m not willing to compromise my beliefs to gain their acceptance. I know they won’t change their beliefs, and I wouldn’t want them to become different people just for me. I just wish that I was able to not feel so uncomfortable when I walk into Church or when I even post a link or an image on Facebook. I want to feel like I matter as person and an individual, and that I don’t have to give up my identity to be wanted. And I know that won’t happen.

So it doesn’t surprise me that David Tweed is being investigated by the Church. It does make me sad that it is happening. And it makes me realize that if they go after one blogger, they may go after many more. It makes me worry about bloggers from Feminist Mormon Housewives and other similar sites. If it can happen to one questioning person, what about the rest of us?

 

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Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.