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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Does She Tell Her Family About Her Decision to Leave the Church?

Dear Bro Jo,

Let me preface this with saying that my question does not have anything to do with LDS dating, but rather with a problem (? I’m sure if this is the right word) that I am facing with my LDS family.

I am not sure who else to seek advice from this with, so I figured I might give you a shot.

I am a 20-something female graduate student who was raised outside of the Mormon bubble, but in an extremely devout LDS family.

I am at the tail end of a large family, and because my siblings live in different states and I live in a different region of the country than most of them,

I often only see them (and our parents) only once or twice a year, at the most.

I have left the Mormon Church.

I cannot ever fathom myself returning, and have zero doubts about my decision to leave.

I am the only one in my family (and my extended family, that I know of) to do so.

My family does not know of my decision, because I never felt the need to outright tell this- this was very much a personal decision for me.

I am fairly positive that my family knows that I am not actively attending Church, but they are passing it off as a “phase”.

I do realize that the Mormon religion is very important to my family, and I do not want my actions to cause them anymore distress than is absolutely necessary.

I also want to continue to have at least a civil relationship with my parents/siblings, and I am not sure how some of them will respond.

My religious differences with my family have caused some tension.

On the rare occasion that I am home with all of them, I will occasionally be asked to give a prayer over a meal, or to participate in scripture study.

I agree, because I respect their right to practice their religion within their own homes, but I feel like I am losing a part of my integrity by pretending to worship a deity that I do not believe in.

Should I tell them that I no longer consider myself to be a member, and that I want them to respect my right to non-belief?

Or should I keep my mouth shut, and keep on keeping on?


- Nonbeliever

Dear Friend,

Until you write your local Bishop / Branch President / Stake President and ask that your name be removed from the records of the Church, you're still a member.

Just so you know, that person will typically require that you go meet with them, just to verify that you're really you and that what you're requesting is really what you want to do.

It's a big deal, and not to be taken lightly . . . not that you would . . . or have.

I mean, once your records are removed . . . it's like you were never baptized.

You lose your right to the blessings that come from baptism, and lose your entitlement to the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

If that's where you're at . . . make the call and set the meeting.

Assuming, of course, that you haven't already. (I'm inferring from your email that you may have not done all of that yet. Please forgive me if I'm incorrect.)

I have no idea how your family will react.

And so I have no idea whether or not they'll respect your decision.

It is possible to love someone and not agree with the decisions they make.

You and I are no different than anyone else in that regard, I think.

I mean, you love your family even though you don't agree with their faith. I can tell that's true in what you've said.

If you didn't love them you wouldn't be so sensitive to their feelings.

I respect that.

I can't promise that your revelation isn't going to hurt them.

You may not believe in eternal families anymore, but they still do; and you know how they're going to feel when you tell them what you want to say.

Can I be honest with you?

I'm not sure that you telling them or not is an issue of your integrity; I think on some level you think that "getting this out in the open" will make you feel better, and I think that you're willing to hurt them to do it.

You know, it's like "honesty".

There's telling the truth and then there's being brutally honest.

Hey, if you've read any of my stuff you'll know that I often mess this up, so I'm not one to preach without guilt here.

I'm consistently too brutal for my good or anyone else's.

All I ask is that you consider whether or not you'd be saying something for them, or for you?

What's your goal here?

What do you hope will be the outcome?

What's the best and worst case scenario? And can you live with the worst case?

I suppose one way to test the waters would be to start with the one, closest, most supportive relative you've got.

Preferably one that wouldn't spill the beans before you're ready. That might be a good "test the waters" thing to do . . .

While I don't know how your family will react . . . and I suppose that reaction might be relative to your reasons why . . . I think I can tell you how I'd react.

I think at first I might be angry or argumentative.

I admit that would be the wrong reaction, but I know me, and I'm afraid I'd make that mistake.

Then I think I'd be very sad.

I'd probably spend many hours with Sister Jo trying to come to some kind of understanding. I'd think I'd failed my child and my Heavenly Father.

I'd analyze everything I ever did . . . or didn't do . . . everything I ever said, or didn't say . . . wondering what mistakes had I made . . . I'd morn the difficulties my child was inviting into her life . . . and the blessings she'd be missing out on.

I might take some comfort in my belief that families are eternal and that my wife and I, who are sealed for time and all eternity, have been promised by God that if we do what we're supposed to do . . . what we're asked to do, that are children are ours forever.

(FYI - If you're sealed to your parents that doesn't go away just because you don't believe anymore.)

I would be frustrated and disappointed and . . . again, very sad.

Because I believe in the Church and the Doctrine and I have a testimony of the Joy that comes into the lives of God's children when they do the best they can to be Disciples of Christ.

But I would always love my child.

In fact, it's that love that would be the reason I'd feel all of those things.

If I may leave you with one other thought tonight, it's this: we all have doubts, we all have struggles, and we all have crises of faith.

Everyone questions and wonders and struggles.

I'm not sure what has lead you to where you are now, and I'm happy to talk to you about those things if you wish.

Not to change your mind or convince or "re-convert" you . . . that's not what I do . . . but I might be able to help with some of the things you're struggling with . . . whatever the outcome.

You've lived through some difficult things, I'm sure, but before you make a Big Next Step, I think you should let things marinate for a bit.

As someone who jumps off the cliff way too soon way too often, let me tell you I know there's wisdom in waiting.

It isn't going to kill you to say the occasional prayer when asked . . . and it's not like you see these people very often . . .

And it's not like praying or reading scriptures makes one a bad person.

You're not being a hypocrite in those moments; you’re just doing something nice that makes your family happy.

Where's the harm in that?

Surely you can find something positive in those activities.

I'm not Catholic, but I think the Pope is a pretty cool guy.

I talked to a guy at Church today who's Jewish. He comes to LDS meetings, I think, to honor his wife who is LDS.

He's extremely bright (certainly a lot smarter than yours truly), and clearly doesn't subscribe to LDS Doctrine.

He's respectful, but asks some pretty hard questions in Sunday School.

He and I aren't going to agree on some pretty big stuff . . . but I can still respect him.

And I hope he can respect me.

He's not in Sunday School to be converted, but he IS open minded enough that I think he learns some stuff.

And I learn some stuff from him.

And maybe all we're learning sometimes is how different we are when it comes to some things.

I see you in a similar situation with your parents . . . just because you don't believe in what a particular verse of scripture has to say, that doesn't mean you can't learn something . . . perhaps about your family . . . or even yourself, from reading it. I say let things soak. If and when you do or say something . . . be unselfish.

Do it because it will help them, not just because it will help you. I'm here anytime you need, if I can help in any way.

And I appreciate the email. It gave me a chance to think about some things.


- Bro Jo

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