This is going to be quick (I think) and a recap of some stuff I shared on twitter earlier today (at least, that’s the plan). *Exhale* ok, here we go.
I joined in an interesting conversation today about who should be involved in discussions of Mormonism, sparked by a friend suggesting that those that have left the Church spend more time invested in it than active members and should leave it alone (that’s a rough paraphrase and said friend read and responded very gracefully to a large amount of pushback and is a genuinely great human so don’t focus on that tidbit). This was happening right on the heels of a separate conversation about the problematic nature of the phrasing “leave the Church” that another good friend started in a different online Mormon space, which made me extra sensitive I think to what was going down.
Anyway, I think this raises an interesting question about who can participate in conversations about certain things and how we value different perspectives in a way that highlights some tensions within Mormonism that I frequently feel caught between, so let’s chat about it.
The phrase “leave the Church” is problematic for me because I (along with many other progressive/Middle way/fringey/whatever Mo’s) feel like I’ve “left” a lot of what some would consider Mormonism, YET am still a remarkably active, devout, faithful, believing, temple recommend-holding Mormon. I think there are a variety of ways to Morm, as it were, and that we would do well to embrace that diversity. But that aside, I’m not sure what’s a better phrase (and there’s definitely not one that signals that collection of meanings quite yet), so I’ll probably use it to some extent still.
That being said, I think the Mormon community can be a stronger one by engaging with invested postMo’s. Some of the most insightful friends I have personally about Mormonism have “left”, but they still care about the community and have valuable insights and perspectives to share. Many may have remained Mormon if certain circumstances were different and that strikes me as a characteristic that suggests they have things of value to add.
And yes, sometimes people can be nasty and terrible and that shouldn’t happen, BUT typically that anger and frustration comes from a very real place and is directed at an institution, not individuals (and I maintain, despite SCOTUS’s insistence to the contrary, that institutions/corporations/entities are NOT people). Ideally they’d be respectful, but many of them have been and continue to be treated poorly by the Church and its members, vilified and demonized and mischaracterized and until we stop that, we cannot demand different from others. Also, anger is not necessarily a bad emotion. It can be healthy and useful and all that. I’m not a big fan of it personally, but I know it does good for others.
It is also important to understand that for many of the most stringent “anti” people, they are trying to help others avoid the pain and sorrow and heartache that they were caused. Sure, that can tend towards zealotry, which I think is almost always dangerous and harmful regardless of ideological leanings, but it is quite possibly motivated by something good, just like our missionary efforts to save people or the efforts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Baptists, or anyone.
I don’t know how that all weighs out. I do believe that sharing your own bias/position is good practice and can color how we interact with different ideas (I mean, someone that doesn’t attend and hasn’t attended regularly for a decade or so is going to be somewhat out of touch with what the lived, church-attending life is like), but doesn’t require us to dismiss off hand any perspectives.
Essentially, I think if someone wants to invest the time to write about and think about and talk about the Church, they should do so. The more perspectives and voices we have that are different from the norm, the better I think we’ll see what we are doing really well and what we may be really struggling with. Whoever you are—in, out, left, staying, post, ex, prog, fem, fringey, ultra-orthodox, traditional, never-Mo, whatever—I am interested in what you have to say.
I think people are people first and should be treated as such. Mormonism is meant to entrench itself into every fiber of your being, so of course people that have “left” won’t really leave. It’ll still be a part of them and they should talk about that if they want. Let’s bring awareness to the Many Ways to Morm (and shed some light on me and my fellow fringey folk, making our liminal, grey space a bit bigger and friendlier every day).