I haven’t attended the Latter-day Saint congregation I officially belong to since March of 2020, and I’m coming up on one year of being an official member of Community of Christ. It’s pretty clear to me—and, likely, to others—where my religious future is headed.
Yet, I’ve always expected that I would remain a de jure—if not de facto—member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even if it’s not the right spiritual home for me or my family any more, and even if I have major disagreements with it, this church has been an important part of my life, and I’ve always wanted to preserve that by retaining my official membership. I’ve never thought of myself as an “ex-Mormon,” I don’t like to talk about my faith transition as “leaving the Church,” and when I was recently described as a “Latter-day Saint professor” in a Salt Lake Tribune article, I was briefly perturbed but ultimately decided that I thought the description worked, even if it was a bit misleading. (To be clear, though, this isn’t a dig at Peggy, who knows that I’m a BYU grad and returned missionary but doesn’t/didn’t know that I’m practicing in Community of Christ.)
Yesterday’s reporting from the AP has me rethinking these assumptions, though. To be clear, I’m not saying that every Latter-day Saint should resign their official membership in response to the horrifying allegations that Church lawyers have encouraged local leadership not to report cases of child sexual abuse; in contrast, though, this seeming concern for legal cover and public reputation over children’s well-being and, well, plain old doing the right thing ought to concern every Latter-day Saint. Complaining about negative media coverage only adds weight to this particular criticism. However, I’m already “gone” for the most part (though, again, my feelings are more complicated than that), and my keeping my membership in the Church is more a way for me to keep a connection with an important part of my life than it is a belief that it does me any kind of spiritual or ecclesiastical good.
I don’t believe that withdrawing my membership in response to these allegations are the kind of protest that’s going to actually make change in the Church, and I still think it’s possible to have a love for an institutional church and a religious culture despite clear, structural problems that are causing people harm and that need to be protested. Over the past day or so, though, I’ve been wondering if it would be more responsible for me, given my particular situation, to withdraw my membership rather than provide it tacit support. This isn’t an announcement of intent but rather an open question—one I’ll be asking myself for a while, I expect.
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