I live in a very populated Mormon area. My friends are mormon, my family are mormon, my kids’ friends are mormon. The majority of people I know are hard core believers. When I first realized that I didn’t believe, I was the Young Women’s president. For those that don’t know, that is an assignment to be a over the 12-18 year old girls in my area. It is a very involved calling and I became very close with the girls. I became a role model to them. This was a particularly difficult situation to be in. If they saw me leave the church there was a chance that they would start to question too and that was the last thing that I wanted. First off, they are extremely smart but they are also extremely impressionable. So I grudged through each Sunday for months, trying to not shout out at things I didn’t agree with. I would just assign all the lessons I didn’t want to teach to another member of the presidency. After a while I lost my fire for it. I decided to go and see my bishop. I had to be honest with him.
Here, dear reader is where things can go very wrong if you’re not careful. I consider myself to be a pretty good communicator. I have been a personal trainer/weightlifting coach for years. There have been many times where I have had to convey messages to someone in crazy ways to get them to understand what I am saying. It is not hard for me to get my point across while keeping cool. I had done months and months of research and I pretty much could pull it all out if I needed to but I didn’t want it to go there. A favorite quote of mine is “if you want peace, prepare for war”. Well, I was very prepared with the knowledge I needed to express my feelings in a way that may come across easier. I also knew that I had very personal boundaries and they were not going to be crossed. The bishop is just a guy. A lot of people will say they are close with their bishop, or he is a friend to their family. Do you hang out with your bishop on the weekends? Do your families go on vacations together? That would be a friend. For the majority of people, your bishop is just your “church friend”. There are a lot of those in religion. They are your friends when you are there but once you aren’t they don’t have time for you. You really need to distinguish between real friends and church friends.
Anyway, I walk into the bishop’s office a little nervous. This will be the first time I have come out to someone other than my husband. I laid it out like this…”I no longer have a testimony of the church and I don’t feel like it is in the best interest of myself of the girls if I continue in this calling.” He was pretty caught off guard. Expect this…Immediately my credibility was questionable and I was viewed as a threat to the group. While I knew this was coming, it still stung. We chatted about the girls and how we should go forward with the least amount of waves. When he probed and asked a question that was personal, I simply told him that it was a personal question and I didn’t feel like answering it. And guess what…he is not a detective! He has no right to interrogate you. You do not have to give any information that you don’t want to give! And I didn’t. We did, however, make an agreement that I would keep it quiet. Especially on social media (which I planned on doing anyway). I told him that I loved the people in the ward and would love to serve in other ways that didn’t involve teaching. That idea was pretty short lived but hey, I gave him the option. And that was that.
So point number 1. BOUNDARIES- its no one’s freaking business what you believe. Learn to skirt topics and make it clear to people when they are crossing a line. They seriously have no idea most of the time.
Number 2. Don’t tell everyone what you’ve discovered. Trust me they don’t want to know. And if they do want to know, there is google. You are not google. Keep your facts to yourself or share them in a private forum where people will actually appreciate them.
Number 3. Don’t be a douche and post all of the pictures of you partying to “show” everyone in the church how much fun you’re having. They don’t see some free birds out discovering themselves. They think “how sad”. And should you give a F^%$ what they think? no. But if you are doing it simply to “show them” then you obviously do give a F#$@ what they think.
Number 4- Don’t avoid people from church. Let them know you are still a normal person. Talk with them if you see them in the grocery store. They need to know that you are not some poisonous snake that is a threat to their salvation. Talk with them about their kids, about their vacations, about their jobs. If they bring up stuff about church, just smile and nod. Remember that just because it isn’t a part of your life, you still need to respect their beliefs the same way you would any person of another religion. If they ask you why you haven’t been to church, be vague. Normally they will format the question like this “I haven’t seen you at church in a while. I hope everything is ok?” You say, “Thanks for thinking of me. Everything is great.” None of this “yeah, well I don’t believe in it anymore” or whatever. That is just opening up a door that you don’t want to open. Now this is if its just some random church friend. If its a real friend, that’s different.
Number 5- communicating with your real friends. I had a really good friend come up to me and bluntly say “just tell me why you don’t believe anymore. My testimony can handle it.” Such a good friend. But I simply told her, I have just done a lot of research that I didn’t feel lined up with the things being taught. If you want to know, there are essays that the church has put out that you can read. They shed some light on some of the things I have discovered.” That was it. And man, she opened that door for me like she was inviting in a vampire! But I didn’t take the bait. Her journey is hers. Mine is mine. If she wants to know, she is gonna have to search for it the same way I did.
Number 6- family. ugggghhhh. This one is rough. Personally, I feel the same way about talking to family as I do about friends. If they are hard core believers, it might be best if you just don’t say anything for a long while. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that you pretend to be a believer. You just don’t talk about it. Or you can find safe members of your family who are a little more open minded. Everyone has a few of those in their family tree. However, if you feel like you need to come out to them to be authentic, I understand and respect that. I don’t see my family enough to have that kind of pressure. But I suggest going with rule #1. Have some boundaries. Be vague. Don’t answer questions you don’t feel like answering. Keep the conversation calm. Do NOT throw facts or history at them. Do not lay everything out on the table. In fact, present it as ‘you are struggling with your testimony’. They will preach at you. Just let them. In their eyes, your salvation is at risk and they are going to do everything they can to try and save you. That’s what families do.
Case in point- find similar people in your area who you can go to lunch with and discuss all the juicy details. Respect those around you who still believe. Let them come to their own answers the way you came to yours. I understand there are some cases where it might not work out. But you have control of you and that’s all that matters.