I write a lot about Mormonism on this blog, and even though I’m not shy about being critical, I think I’ve also made clear that in relative terms, I’m on pretty good terms with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not on such good terms that I’m still an active member of that church, of course, but I still feel a lot of fondness for it, and I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself an “ex-Mormon”—the great thing about the word “Mormon” no longer being officially approved is that it makes it all the more appropriate for describing my own religious identity.
Staying on good terms with Mormonism is something that I want to keep going in my life, but I also recognize that it can get me into trouble sometimes. Earlier this week, I hopped onto a Zoom call with some Community of Christ pastors wanting to know how to support some people transitioning from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Community of Christ. I was there to provide some of my own perspective and put the struggles of faith transition into context. I think I helped some, but in the moment (and especially in the days since the meeting), I’ve felt like I did too much to soften the edges of the way that Mormonism can be hurtful and harmful. I think there’s room for nuance, but I felt more like a “reply guy” who was musing and getting into technicalities instead of actually contributing to the purposes of the conversation. I’m not sure I actually helped the people who asked me to be a part of the conversation, and I need to find a way to make up for that.
What’s surprised me more, though, has been some recent considerations about how my efforts to stay on good terms with my previous faith transition might also be unhealthy for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m reading Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving as part of a class on Peace and Justice. One passage early in the book that stood out to me was the following:
Forgiveness is not some airy-fairy thing. It has to do with the real world. Healing and reconciliation are not magic spells. They do not erase the reality of an injury. To forgive is not to pretend that what happened did not happen. Healing does not draw a veil over the hurt. Rather, healing and reconciliation demand an honest reckoning.
“Reckoning” has been one of the themes of the class for me so far. Forgiveness is good, but it is not mutually exclusive with reckoning—in fact, it very much requires it. This book has helped me realize that all too often, my desire to achieve forgiveness has actually been a papering over of hurt and pain rather than reckoning with the injury that others have caused me before laying that injury to rest. I’ve been trying to use some of our weekly exercises to reckon with the ways I’ve been hurt by Mormonism. This is very much not an effort to dig up old injuries or invent new wounds to besmirch the name of the LDS Church; rather, it’s an understanding that I won’t fully be at peace in my faith transition and that I can’t truly be on good terms with that church until a reckoning of some kind happens.
The focus of this past week has been on a first step in the journey toward forgiveness: telling our story. In that spirit, here’s a paragraph that I submitted as part of my weekly assignment. I don’t think that posting a short paragraph to a blog that no one reads really counts as “telling my story,” but I think it’s a small step in that direction:
The hurt I feel most in my life right now comes from perfectionism, anxiety, and depression. At a basic level, no one has actively caused me this hurt; it’s part of my own brokenness as a person. Recently, though, I’ve felt a need to reckon with the way people and organizations have enabled, facilitated, and even encouraged my perfectionism (and the anxiety and depression I experience when things aren’t perfect). I grew up in a religious context that emphasized “one right way” of doing things; told me I was special, unique, and chosen because I knew that way; and warned of dire, eternal consequences for veering from the way. This all gave me a lot of comfort earlier in my life; even if I wasn’t perfect (like I wanted to be), at least I was most of the way there. When it came time to revisit these assumptions, it tore away a lot of my framework for making sense of the world (and my own imperfection), which has caused my anxiety and depression to flare.
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