Different Types of Courage

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

The easiest thing to do when you disagree with ideas promoted by LDS Church members and by the church itself is to leave. It’s what I did. There were a lot of reasons that I went inactive within the church, but one was that I found myself feeling more and more uncomfortable with what was being promoted. I admire Kate Kelly and John Dehlin for feeling able to stand up to the church and continue to go there while being threatened with disciplinary actions, including excommunication.

I don’t think I will be going back any time soon. There are certain things that happened while I was active that I never felt comfortable with, as well as things that happened before I was a member that made me feel funny.

  • Right after my mom joined, some members tried to pressure her into getting me to join. Because she didn’t, she faced some ostracism.
  • When Stephanie was baptized, I wore a dress that may have been a little low-cut. I was 16 and a non-member. It didn’t show anything off, but there were comments about it.
  • When I was doing my interview with a missionary and had to answer questions to determine my readiness, some of the questions included my chastity and if I’d had an abortion or helped someone else to get one. I hadn’t had sex and I decided that being adamantly pro-choice didn’t count toward helping someone get an abortion, but the questions made me feel funny.
  • I was told within weeks of joining that I was basically bastard-born because my parents weren’t sealed in the temple. They were married. My mom converted to the church when I was about 10. My dad never did. According to the church, my birth is illegitimate.
  • At an Institute lesson, within weeks of my joining, we were taught that any person who questions the church’s teachings in any way is like gangrene. They’re a gangrenous limb that can be cut off. It made me feel like I had no way of learning about the church. This man also said people who watch horror films are more touched by “the Adversary”, aka Satan; he also said that women’s positions as mothers made them equal to men in their roles as Priesthood holders.
  • Another of his fun teachings, that is actually church doctrine, is that if you have to choose between paying for your medicine or groceries and paying your monthly tithing, you should always pick tithing because Heavenly Father will always provide for you if you do this. Technically, if you pay the tithing, the Church is supposed to help you get by with aid programs. They don’t always do that. And if they do help, it isn’t without even more strings.
  • On the way to a regional (though not our region) YSA conference, shortly after crossing into Tennessee, the co-rep for the Stake’s YSA started calling Barack Obama “Korihor”–aka a Mormon anti-christ.1 The other people in the car agreed with her. Because of her position of power and my tendency in non-internet social situations to be extremely quiet, I just sat and listened to them.
  • I was told that if I really believed in God and in the Church that my mental and physical health problems would be miraculously cured.
  • When friends were talking about homosexuality being unnatural, I said that they were wrong. I brought up that I had 1 guinea pig that had been gay and 1 that had been bisexual, so I knew that homosexual behavior was a natural thing. I was told that was inappropriate to talk about. It seemed odd that it was okay to talk about it being unnatural, but it was horrifying for me to say it was normal.
  • At that same conversation, these two friends were talking about the upcoming election. This was at Halloween 2008. They were talking about how one’s sister had told her class that she supported McCain and had heard little support for Obama. They were talking about how it was nice that so many people in the area were Republicans. They didn’t even know any Democrats. This was when I told them that I was actually a Democrat. They said that wasn’t popular in the church and I should consider changing parties.
  • At the dance, the same member2 who had called Obama “Korihor” was in a costume that seemed to include blackface. She said it wasn’t, but it was pretty clear that she had blackened her face and taken on a costume of an underprivileged person so she could promote some pretty anti-black feelings. I contemplated talking to someone about her doing this at a church dance, but I knew that with the conservative leanings of local Mormons that I might be the one who would be disciplined for not respecting the leader of the group I was under.3
  • At 2 Break the Fast meals for the Ward’s YSA, there was some political discussion going on. Yet again when I just mentioned supporting another party, the discussion was shifted without any acknowledgement that I said anything.
  • At a combined session of Relief Society and Priesthood, which rarely happens, the wife of the then First Counselor of the Church went on a little rant about how we needed to be especially good about building up our Food Storage because Obama had been elected.
  • After giving a lesson on tolerance during FHE for the group’s YSA, I was unfriended by blackface girl. I also saw that she (and other YSA people) had “Facebook flair” that said gingers had no souls. Though I knew the reference was a South Park one, it felt a little personal.
  • On Internet postings by Ward and Stake members in 2008 and 2012, people threatened to leave the country or suggested that the world was going to end because Obama was elected. Anytime he’s said something they don’t agree with, which is pretty regularly, they say this again.
  • On the way home from the Valentine’s Dance in 2009, some of the male YSA members were talking about how people who believe in Evolution are stupid. Since this was another social situation and since I was at least an hour from home, I kept my mouth shut. It was one of the last times I did anything with YSA.

And then there’s been the guilting of my mom, dad, and I to come to church so that we could get aid. The bishop wasn’t amused once when my non-member father and I came without my mom one day when she was too sick to come. He also won’t even call back or answer the phone most times when my mom has tried to call him. We have visiting teachers that don’t come visit, but contact us through the mail, and we don’t even know the names of our home teachers because they haven’t bothered to let us know who they are in years.4

The attitudes of the people I was around are part of what made me feel more agnostic in terms of spirituality. When you are constantly faced with people claiming to be “of God” participating in behavior that condemns or mocks minorities and that doesn’t allow for dissent or for questions, it makes the idea of a God existing seem kind of ridiculous. Before this, I could think of every scientific thing (The Big Bang, Evolution) as God-like actions and would combine religion with science. Now, I have a hard time accepting religion as something good at all. I try to stand up for religions still, but when it comes to being a part of one, I don’t want to ever again. And that’s something that I really think is a result of what I encountered in the Church.

  1. Comparing him to an anti-christ figure was especially hard for me because it triggered some of the Schizoaffective thinking. 

  2. Whose personal hero that year was Sarah Palin. 

  3. Basically, I knew that in the eyes of some in the church, I would be an apostate for suggesting a leader was racist. 

  4. Even when I was active. 

About 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.