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Heavy Meddle: I Want To Leave The Mormon Church, But I'm Scared

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Dear Steve,

Here are a few facts: I was born and raised in the Mormon religion. All members of my immediate family (and most of my extended family as well) are currently active Mormon members. I went on a two-year religious service mission when I was 19. Shortly after returning home from this mission I met a Mormon girl and married her in a Mormon temple (which, according to Mormon standards, is a really big deal). Six-years and two beautiful children later, I’ve come to realize that I no longer want to affiliate myself with the Mormon religion. There are many reasons for this conclusion — reasons that (for the sake of brevity) I won’t expound upon here.

In a nutshell, I’m scared. I’m scared to follow through with my feelings and personal convictions. I’m scared about losing my kids. I’m scared about dishonoring my entire family. I feel paralyzed by all of this fear.

Here are a few questions: How can I gain the courage to do what needs to be done?  If there is so much at stake, should I do anything at all? How might you handle this situation?


Brokeback Mormon

Dear Brokeback,

I wish I could tell you how I would handle this situation. Truly. But I’m a secular Jew whose only strict family tradition involves Chinese food on Christian holy days. In this sense, I can only imagine the kind of anguish you must be feeling. So the first thing to do is to stop and acknowledge that you’re in a real crisis. I mean by this that you need to stop beating yourself up. You didn’t choose to lose faith in Mormonism, just like you didn’t choose to be born into a Mormon family. This isn’t your “fault.”

It sounds romantic to say, “Follow your heart!” or “To thine own self be true.” But if heeding these aphorisms costs you your entire family, that’s a lot more complicated. It’s no wonder you’re paralyzed. It would be unnatural to feel any other way.

If you are able to remain honest with and merciful toward yourself, the right answers will eventually come to you — not from up high but from within.

My immediate advice is to seek the help of those who have traveled a similar path. After all, there are tens of thousands of people who have lost faith in Mormonism and decided to leave the Church. And there are thousands of practicing Mormons who have gone through a similar phase of questioning their beliefs. These are the people who know the crisis you’re facing, and whose counsel will aid you most. A good therapist is crucial, as well, someone who can help you face your feelings without succumbing to the opera of self-recrimination.

As for taking action, I would work from the most intimate, essential questions outward. The first thing you need to do is decide if you still love your wife and want to remain married to her. If the answer is yes, it seems to me you need to share these feelings with your wife (and eventually with other loved ones) and hope that they will find it in their hearts to love you, despite your decision. If they can’t, you then have to decide if leaving the Church is worth losing your wife, and access to your children, and contact with your family and community.

The one thing I can tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that there is no “right decision” here. There is only the decision you make and how well you manage the repercussions. It may be that you can find a way to make peace with remaining silent about your loss of faith, so as to hold on to your family. That wouldn’t make you a phony in my book. It would make you a loving and loyal husband, father, and son.

Likewise, it may be that you simply can’t silence your doubts and have to leave the church to hold on to your sanity. If this is the case, I only hope that those who love you can accept that you’ve lost your faith in Mormonism, not them. And I hope that they don’t make their love for you contingent on adherence to a shared dogma. That would be heartbreaking for all involved.

Please know that whatever you choose, you have my undying respect.

I don’t happen to believe that God exists above us. I believe that God exists between us. The great miracle, to me, is human consciousness, the power that we hold to examine our lives and to take stock of what we believe and who we love and how we are to best spend our brief span on earth. A crisis of this magnitude brings these fundamental questions into focus. If you are able to remain honest with and merciful toward yourself, the right answers will eventually come to you — not from up high but from within.

Were it in my repertoire, I would pray for you. As it is, please know that I’ll be thinking of you with great hope and admiration. You can do this, friend. I know it.

You already are. ♥

Editor's Note: Need advice? Steve "Heavy Meddle" Almond can help. Email us.

This program aired on July 15, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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