"Diverging Wills"

I read this Church News article right before bed last night, and then found myself too upset to sleep. I'm pretty sure it was written by some well-intentioned but idealistic, ignorant kid who is a lifelong Utah Mormon. Not only does the author not have a clue about the hearts of apostates, who leave for MANY reasons, she also describes the pre-Mormon lives of new converts as "empty." Just, wow.

There is a laughable disclaimer at the end, "Please don't use this as an excuse to judge others." That makes about as much sense as saying, "I will show you how to judge," and then following it up with, "But judge not, lest ye also be judged."

Oh wait, that's already been done.

Anyway, if what was written was presented as a personal opinion, I wouldn't be so pissed off. It's the fact that is is presented in an official LDS publication.

Since I couldn't sleep, I emailed this response to churchnews@desnews.com:

I was recently directed to the article "Diverging Wills" in the April 16th edition of the Church News and found the article to be arrogant, simplistic, and very disappointing in its contrast of a "new believer" and a "once-believer." I believe the Church News can be a force for good, and I am concerned because of the effect articles like these have on earnest, humble readers of the Church News who accept these messages as inspired by God. One such reader is my mother.

I am a once believer and an ex-member, striving to maintain good relationships with family and friends, the vast majority of whom are active and devoted members of the LDS Church. In contrast to what was suggested in this article, my leaving the church has helped me to find greater enjoyment in social connections with these very friends and family. Yet, although my journey out of the church has coincided with a recovery of my emotional health, my family is blinded to this reality because they are taught this cannot be so. They reason to themselves that my happiness is temporary, pleasure-based, and that my life course is on a path to self-destruction. The reality is that I have become happier than ever - and NOT because of indulgence in the "pleasures of the flesh," but because I am learning how to deal appropriately with my emotions and I have greater willingness to follow an internal rather than an external moral compass.

For years, as a devoted and believing member of the Church, I was continually troubled because of my unhappiness. Because of teachings and articles like this one, I believed that my unhappiness could only be explained as due to my pride and selfishness. Thankfully, I finally had the courage to question whether there was more to my misery than those two factors. Through counseling, I was finally able to achieve something that my spiritual life and religious practice could not achieve: I began to like myself and feel hope for my future.

I know there are many people who find that the church helps them to be happy. But others of us do not have the same experience - and it is simply not fair or accurate to make a blanket statement that it is because we "stopped recognizing, appreciating and nurturing the fire of the Spirit," and made selfish and poor choices in our weakened state. How naive! How offensive! What a lack of empathy and understanding!

Please have compassion on us and on our families! Please help our loved ones who are members to STOP feeling responsible for our salvation. I have had to tell my mother that the more she tries to "bring me back," the less I want to be around her. I want my husband and children and MYSELF to be loved for who we are, not pitied for who we're not.

Please help our families to consider that the happiness of their no-longer-believing loved ones is not an illusion based in carnal pleasures of the flesh. That idea is offensive; it is hurtful. It is untrue. This teaching makes it hard for them to trust their own sense of things. It makes it almost impossible for them to be happy for us when we are happy. Instead, they want to mourn with us when we are NOT mourning.

Please, please think of the impact of your words before publishing them! Please help build bridges with "once believers" by helping members to accept us for who we are.


jen said...

Wow. That is awesome! And what a good idea to send it directly to those who wrote it. If they respond, keep us posted?? Thanks again for writing and for sharing this.

Andrew S said...

I'm glad you wrote this, because I wouldn't have been able to remain composed enough to do so.

Christa O'Brien said...

Yeah, Sarah! Your words here are so well composed and just amazing! I agree with Jen, definitely keep us posted if they respond!

ps: When you come to visit :) you have to come in the spring. It is so beautiful here this time of year!

Reuben said...

That article is total bullshit.

Dave P. said...

The LDS church fell out of God's favor the moment it began practicing satan's plan of trying to save everyone through guilt, manipulation, force and control. I hope your mother comes to understand that she's only responsible for working out her own salvation, not yours nor anyone else's. I almost got married to a gal who was a little too nice about that by literally taking on all of her friends' burdens and trying to save them. It was no small secret that she intended to pass them all on to me after we got married, rather than just the two of us worrying about ourselves. We can ease burdens through love and compassion, but in the end, our burdens are our own.

Catherine Pillinger said...

(((((applause))))) magnificent letter!