Yes, I was Offended. Yes, It was a Choice.

Mormons like to tell the narrative of ex-Mormons that they were “offended” and left the church because of that. They also like to tell ex-Mormons that they “chose” to be offended, with the implication they should have chosen differently. I think the implicit idea behind this narrative is that the church is so much more important than your temporary, mortal feelings. It is the stone formed without hands that will encompass the whole earth. This is God’s work and how small of you to imagine that your petty little hurt feelings matter in comparison to all of that. And then they tell the story about Thomas Marsh leaving the church supposedly over the issue of milk drippings — money! How can money matter in comparison to all the Mormon church gives you?

Well, I’ve spent way too much of my life not owning my own feelings (this is classic Mormonism). So I’m going to own the reality that I was offended. And I’m also going to own that on some level, this being offended was a choice and that it’s a choice I’m proud of.

Here are some of the things that have offended me:

1. The Mormon church refuses to be transparent in its finances. I’m expected to pay tithing to enter the temple and by extension the highest level of heaven, but I have no way of directing my tithing money to projects of the church I deem morally acceptable and away from those I don’t (for instance BYU’s current Honor Code scandal or the payment of legal fees for the church’s project of protecting sex abusers).

2. Gaslighting. When the church refuses to acknowledge its own teachings, from members being told it was doctrine that black people, other races, and handicapped people were less valiant in the pre-existence, and the resulting pain that continues to this day, I don’t see how the institution can get better. We can’t keep blaming the victims.

3. Calling inequality equality. Mormons say that God loves men and women equally. But when I never see a woman standing as a leader, directing men in what to do, and I never see a depiction of Heavenly Mother or a talk about who she is and what she is like, I know that God is for Mormons a male in a male body and that femininity is not part of the divine.

4. Authoritarian control. I didn’t grow up in a Mormonism with correlation and I didn’t realize how dramatically it changed everything until years later. Sure, we eliminated a few harmless crazy people. But what we traded for that small convenience? Autonomy. The ability to say no to what the leaders say and to proclaim that we can speak to God all by ourselves, even when it’s directly opposing leadership.

5. Leader worship. I just can’t anymore with the leader worship. From a float of President Nelson’s birthday to the photos up everywhere to the biographies of perfect men becoming more perfect, no thanks. I was never in Mormonism to bolster egos. And no matter how many times you tell me that we don’t worship our leaders, until you stop doing it, I won’t believe you.

6. Modesty rhetoric. I’m making this a separate category from equality issues because I think it’s so pernicious. When I was a pre-teen, little girls could wear short shorts and tank tops and no one said boo. Teenagers wore sleeveless gowns because they hadn’t been endowed. Since when do infant girls get accused of being sexual because they run around naked? This is craziness.

7. Sexuality problems. Mormonism was supposed to be a religion that had jettisoned all the sexual shaming of other Christian religions. Instead, in our attempt to be accepted by evangelicals, we’ve given this up and ape their sexist and useless ideas of sex only in marriage. We make certain things a girl/woman’s “fault” and other things only in control of men. We talk about healthy marriages, but we don’t know how to create them because we have a whole bunch of stupid taboos that are getting in the way.

8. Prosperity gospel. When we put successful business leaders in our leadership and then complain that too many Mormons are being seduced by Pozi-scheme promises of wealth, what do you think is going to happen? Despite The Book of Mormon teaching us the opposite (supposedly) we worship wealth and we see it as a sign of God’s favor. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

9. Lack of grace. We’re so anxious to get people to follow our rules for a better life that it’s like we’ve forgotten the Atonement exists because we’re all going to make terrible mistakes.

10. The Family Proclamation. We talk about being a family-oriented religion, and I used to love that. But lately it seems more and more, we’re less about celebrating the family you’ve got (however messy it is) and more about the family police, pointing out whose family is better and more godly.

And I haven’t even gotten to the way in which the church treats LGBT+ members, apparently confused as to why they don’t feel “welcome” when leaders keep saying they are welcome, despite the fact that there’s no place for them in church leadership positions (they are often tagged as unavailable to work with youth even when sex offenders don’t get that designation) and no place for them in our depiction of a very heterosexual heaven.

I’m offended by the institution of the church, by the corporation of the President, by the waste of money on many levels. I’m aware that the church does many, many wonderful things. I believe that God directs people on a local level. I hope that there’s some direction from God going on at the higher levels, but mostly I just see bureaucracy and waste and ego-driven programs that are quickly cycled out with no explanation. I see just regular people doing what they pretend is right and using God as a defense for all their flaws.

What I don’t see is a church that is markedly different from other churches. I don’t see “the one true church” operating in a way that would make me want to join it if I weren’t already a member of record. I don’t see love in action. I don’t see people being called to examine their own weaknesses and to help the church as an institution to repent. I see people only being demanded to fall in line and do what they are told. I see people leaving because they are offended and being told it’s their own fault so no one else has to change.

I consider the fact that I am offended by the church’s blithe continuation of its historical practices to be one of the ways in which I am sacrificing for others. By calling out the church and stepping away from my membership in visible ways, I am doing what Christ has asked me to do: to look for the marginalized, to mourn with those who are mourning, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Those were my baptismal covenants and I haven’t forsaken them. I feel that being offended for the sake of others was what Christ asked us to do when he talked about little children and those who harm them being punished by God. If I were to do any less, I could not in good conscience think of myself as a decent human being, whatever my religious affiliation.

Yes, I’m offended. Yes, I’m choosing to be offended. If you’re not offended, I have to say I think that you’re letting your privilege protect you and I’m not proud of how easy that is for you.

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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