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The Burden of the Lone Voice

I’ve heard a number of people express lately to me that they’re sad I’ve stepped away from attending the Mormon church. And I’m sad about it sometimes, too. Except when I’m really, really angry that I lost my community and that it all happened so quietly. So today I’m saying, on behalf of others like me, if you wanted me to stay, you needed to not make me the only voice. You needed to stand up for me and make me feel less alone.

So I guess I’m going to say this to other Mormons out there who have resonated with things that I’ve said, but who don’t stand up regularly in church to either defend ward members who are saying controversial things or simply to disagree with a harmful teaching that is being expressed in church. If you don’t call it out, you’re part of the problem. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh or judgmental. I’m really not trying to be that way, but I don’t know how else to say that you need to be brave enough to take a hit or you’re going to end up being the lone voice because everyone else will have left before you.

One of the things that I’m most disturbed by right now is the insistence that the church loves its LGBT+ members and wants them to attend. I just hear this over and over again, from the top to the bottom. But it feels meaningless to me. If you don’t realize how harmful the current teachings about only heterosexual marriage being eternal/celestial/divine are to children and teens, then how loving are you trying to be? If you haven’t listened to someone who has tried to commit suicide explain to you that the only thing the church teaches for LGBT+ people is a life of lonely celibacy, then how loving are you being? If you haven’t raised your hand once to call out this teaching as harmful, or if you haven’t walked out of a meeting once where this was being taught, then you are part of the problem.

When you sit in a class about The Book of Mormon and come to the passages about dark skin being a curse and you don’t call this out as racism, you are part of the problem. You are making it more difficult for Mormon meetinghouses to be places of worship for people of color. You are teaching your children to be silent when our past (and our present) racism comes up. When you celebrate the 1978 policy change allowing blacks to participate in exaltation without talking about current problems, you are part of the problem.

I could go on.

All right, I will go on for a bit.

If you felt “the spirit leave” when someone talked to you about sexual abuse and coverups within the church and didn’t want to hear about it, you are part of the problem.

If you didn’t call out prosperity gospel stories, you are part of the problem.

If you didn’t ask questions about Joseph’s polygamy when the church lesson was about Emma’s difficulties and how much she loved her husband and held to the church, you are part of the problem.

That’s a heavy burden to put on you, I know. I carried that burden alone for a long time. It was too much for me. I had to set it down. And now there’s no one in my ward who is speaking up and I feel guilty about that. But I couldn’t do it alone. The church can’t be changed by the lone voices who stand up and call things out. They get excommunicated either literally or metaphorically like I was, Sunday after Sunday.

If you care about a person like me, start standing with them. Or you’re going to be the lone voice, too.

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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