Saturday, March 31, 2012

What I Don't Miss from Mormonism

This would be the B-side to What I Miss from Mormonism.

This is also probably going to be a much more difficult post to write, only because there's so much to say and I'd like to keep it relatively brief.  You know, so people actually read the whole thing instead of giving up 4,000 words in.

So what is it that I've gained from escaping Mormonism?  What's better about life since I ceased attending?

1.  Independence
In the church, I was just following the planned-out map for my life.  By the time I got to college, I wasn't enjoying it anymore, and it led me to become extremely unmotivated.  I flunked out of BYU and came back home.  I was working at a fast food restaurant, living at home, sleeping in the room I grew up in and driving my mom's old minivan.  

Then I left the church.

Since I could suddenly work Sundays, I was offered a promotion into management.  Shortly thereafter, I was promoted again.  Even though I wasn't making gobs of cash, I was making enough so that I could easily live on my own.  I bought a car.  I moved out.  And I was on my own, away from my Mormon parents' supervision.  My life started to feel like it was actually mine.

2.  A Need to Prove Myself
Growing up in the church, I felt like I'd already proved myself.  I was a stand-up guy and a first-class Mormon destined to be a Stake President someday.  I was even a good student.  And I did all of that without really trying.  I'm not trying to brag that it was easy, I'm just saying it didn't cause me to develop any kind of motivation for anything other than to continue doing whatever it is I was doing.

Then I left the church.

Suddenly, it became important for me to prove myself to my family.  I know I'm right and that the church is false, but I don't know how to make them understand.  So I feel like working hard to garner a certain amount of happiness and success without doing the things they think I should do (go to church, finish school) will help show them that there are multiple legitimate ways of living, being successful and being happy.  Will it work?  Probably not.  But at least if it doesn't work I'll still be happy and successful.  And at least I'm motivated to work hard for what I want these days.

3.  Better Friends
In my twenty-one years in the church, I had maybe two Mormon friends who I felt comfortable talking to about personal problems.  It wasn't necessarily that I felt alone, but the church atmosphere was such that I felt like I was supposed to project an attitude of happiness so there shouldn't be much to discuss in the way of personal problems unless somebody ran over my dog or my grandmother had a heart attack.  Most of these friendships felt very superficial because everybody was too busy being happy to have problems.  Therefore, there wasn't a lot of emotional support.  And that meant a limited amount of emotional bonding.

Then I left the church.  

In the three years since I left the church, I've abandoned some of the prejudices that I had as a member and I've gained a new group of friends--people who swear, have sex outside of marriage, smoke, drink, and get tattoos.  But they're good people.  They're people that I can call up without hesitation whenever I need help with confidence that they'll have my back. 

4.  Perspective about People
That brings up another point--judging people.  I was raised with the understanding that there were a large number of bad things that lots of people did, and I tried not to associate with those people--the people that did the things I just listed  above.  

Then I left the church.

I realized that smoking cigarettes does not make someone a bad person.  I discovered that I could be good friends with people who have tattoos.  I also found that people who have sex before marriage can be loyal friends who can bail me out of a tough situation when I need their help.  I realized that, despite the bad things that some people do, at the core they're still people.  They have feelings and they usually want to accomplish something good.  And even if they swear like sailors, they can be valuable and trusted friends.  I'd never really considered that when I was in the church.  

5.  Strength of Character
I was a cookie-cutter child.  A Mormon automaton.  I toed the line, I did the job, I followed the plan.  I parroted somebody else's ideas about right and wrong.  I was nobody.

Then I left the church.

My options opened up.  I could actually be my own man.  I could carefully, rationally make decisions instead of pretending to make the ones that were already made for me.  I could actually decide whether or not I wanted to do something on the basis of whether I thought it was right--as opposed to whether the church thought it was right.  I began to develop my own moral code and my own methods for making decisions.  I began to have character in the sense of behaving ethically instead of being a character in the sense that the church wrote my life for me and expected me to act it out.

I suppose I'll close by bearing the Ex-Mo version of a testimony:

I know people say this a lot, but leaving the church was one of the most difficult and most rewarding things I've ever done.  I'm so much happier without the gospel and I'd like to thank all of you that helped me get there (although most of you didn't do it on purpose and I doubt any of you has seen this blog).  I know Joseph Smith was not a prophet.  I don't know if God exists, but if he does, I doubt he's properly understood by any of us.  

I say this in the name of reason, equity, freedom, and honesty...Amen.

(I'll just grab a tissue on my way down from the podium.)

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