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Post-Mormon Mette: Mourning Changes

One of the real problems of stepping away from Mormonism is that you find yourself in a difficult emotional situation every time the church does the very thing that you had been asking for and begging for, and sometimes the very thing that you were either silenced over, shunned for speaking about, or actively excommunicated for advocating for.

The racist policies of the church that ended in 1978 (or at least officially ended then).

The rescinding of “November Policy” from 2015 that specifically targeted same-sex married couples for excommunication and their children for withholding of rituals and blessings.

The change recently allowing women (and children) to serve as witnesses to special rituals like baptisms.

Changes in policies about youth being interviewed behind closed doors by bishops about sexual topics (though these changes are still in need of revision).

Women being asked to pray in church, and then in General Conference publicly.

Women leaders being more visible in General Conference, and being asked their opinions (sometimes) about church policies.

Transparency on church historical issues, from multiple accounts of the First Vision to polygamy and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Some of these I experienced, such as the end of the November 2015 policy of exclusion (or “pox”) that happened only months after I had given up trying to advocate for LGBT people within Mormonism and had formally asked to be released from callings and began to consider other churches. It was such a strange feeling, seeing the prophet and his counselors on the news, announcing that the policy was over. I wrote about how frustrated I was that they seemed to throw God under the bus, never admitting that they were the ones who had made a mistake, but implying that they were the nice guys petitioning God to change his mind, and finally succeeding in getting mercy for “the children.”

But it was more than anger and frustration. There was something deeper going on beneath the surface that I hadn’t understood until more recently. I was mourning my loss of my community and my religion once more, even as they moved forward toward more inclusion and love (I hope). I was left behind, alone and sad that I couldn’t celebrate with them. I was still mourning the church that I had left, not the one that existed now.

It’s hard to celebrate changes when it feels like *you* didn’t get that. Of course, you should celebrate that other people, younger people mostly, won’t have to deal with the same problems you did. But it also feels like a loss. And yes, part of the problems is the lack of acknowledgment of that loss and the gaslighting that some institutions (like the Mormon church) are great at, pretending that it was *always* this way.

I remember when my oldest daughter went on a mission just after they changed the age for female Mormon missionaries to nineteen from twenty-one, I thought hopefully about all the changes that the church was in for because those young women were going to be a force in the church. They were going to ask for more visible roles and demand that they be heard in council meetings. And indeed, that has happened. But I’m not there to see it or to celebrate it anymore.

Yes, I could go back. I know that. Would it be less painful then? No, it wouldn’t. I already made the decision that I made. I’m not regretting my choice. And I’m not even angry that I felt pushed out. I think this was genuinely the right choice for me and I’m glad that there are still people pushing for changes from within. Those people are making a difference and I applaud them.

I suppose I am angry about one thing, though. I’m angry that with the gaslighting assumption that things were *always* this way, it makes people like me, who left for very good reasons, look like they were petty or impatient. I was neither. Ultimately, this is why I keep going back to the problem that is behind the problem of the changes that are petitioned for: that these changes have to come from the largely white, male, cis-hetero leadership that can’t apologize or see their own mistakes or how far behind the times they are. I guess I will have to learn to live with this. But I will still allow myself to mourn.

Written by

Author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series, The Mormon Sabbatical Podcast, Princeton PhD, fiction editor at Exponent II, autist, she/her

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