Disowned.

Not a good week for me. I’ve found out what my mum thinks of me, and the level of paranoia about my alleged crimes against my parents and the church are positively Orwellian. I wouldn’t be able to believe that she really thought those things of me if I didn’t have confirmation from one of my siblings who is also likely on the way out of the church.

I’ve been pronounced “anti” my parents and the church, and any LDS person will know the power of that label. It’s comparable to being labelled “suppressive” in Scientology, although Mormons certainly won’t attempt to sue former members or actively attempt to ruin their lives.

I’ve been ordered not to have any contact with my siblings, since I’ve allegedly tried to usurp parental authority, persuade them to leave the church, and tried to influence them to follow me. I don’t believe any of these charges are true, and neither do my siblings. Thanks to the Internet I’m still able to have contact with them, and they think this situation is utter bullshit. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to help with alleviating the impression that I influence my siblings to go against my parents.

I hope over time this situation can be repaired, but for now I’m grateful to have so many good friends in my life. There is so much more to family than blood. I have a family of my own choosing, made up of people who love me unconditionally because of and in spite of everything about me. And I love them back — unreservedly, unapologetically, and unfailingly.

It hurts. A lot. I’ve had to fire up every happy song in my library to banish the ironic version of “Families Can Be Together Forever” that’s been playing in my head.

The Gospel vs. The Church

My relationship with my family has shipwrecked over the last few weeks, and while I’ve been drifting in the flotsam I’ve been able to see the difference between the Gospel and the Church.

A Church is an organisational and administrative body that is meant to facilitate the application of the gospel. Policies and procedures, in theory, should not get in the way of application of doctrines. Churches can change in their size and methods. But the gospel, the core doctrines and source of salvation, is meant to be perfect and unchanging. The Church is supposed to be the means, and the Gospel the end. But when The Church is declared The One True Path, the means and the end become the same thing.

In this unnatural state of fusion, believers can justify being abominably cruel to those who feel that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to happiness. Rejection of the One True Path is equated with rejection of the gospel. Failure to adhere to policy and procedure becomes the same thing as a personal attack on Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith with atheist assault weapons.

My parents said some pretty nasty things to me in our last phone call, which took place just over a week ago and concluded with my mother calling me selfish and hanging up on me. Apparently making plans to fly my sister out for a visit at the expense of her attendance at a church Halloween party qualifies as selfish nowadays. I know the real issues. They feel that Church is more important than family, so much that family visits should never interfere with ward activities, however trivial. More importantly, they do not trust me to interact with her outside an environment they can control. They do not want me to be myself around her. They want the edited, restricted version of me that must stay on her best behaviour at the peril of a verbal beating. Visiting my parents’ house feels more like entering an enemy camp during a ceasefire than being welcomed home.

Now that the communication has broken down and the restrained hostility against me has transitioned to open contempt, I’ve started trying to piece together why my family members react as they do. Most of my aunts and uncles stopped speaking to me after I failed to support Proposition 8. One of my aunts posted a provocative statement on my Facebook page stating that I needed to follow the prophet. I told her I wasn’t comfortable getting involved in political lobbying, and was treated to a tirade that included the entire text of the Proclamation on the Family. Many of my friends sent me private messages along the lines of “Cor, you’d said Mormons are barmy, but now I really know what you mean.”

One of the most frustrating parts of leaving Mormonism is that you go from being a prized member of your family to being treated like a traitor. Everything you do, however innocent, is suspect. I have been accused of attempting to buy affection by giving birthday and Christmas gifts that I would have purchased regardless of my religious beliefs. When I am home and suggest that I take my siblings to the cinema, I am subjected to an interrogation/lecture about not taking them to see something inappropriate. Never mind that I would never take a family member to see a movie they wouldn’t enjoy, whether due to lack of interest or offending their religious sensibilities. I could literally try to take my sisters to see a Disney film and still be treated with suspicion.

What’s in my heart doesn’t seem to matter. I have nearly identical views to my family in many respects. I want humanity to make infinite progress in gaining truth, knowledge, and an understanding of the universe. I want human beings to treat one another with love and kindness, recognising that we are all part of a human family and as such we have an obligation to love one another. The essentials of what the gospel offers — eternal progress, connection of humanity, and love for family — are things I want.

But in my family’s view my methods of working toward this goal are false. I believe that scientific methods, not prophets, are the best way to learn about the universe. I am no longer certain about any kind of afterlife, but am confident that humanity will continue to grow and progress after I have had my opportunity to contribute and made room for newcomers. These are false doctrines in Mormonism. However, there’s one thing that in theory we should be able to agree upon: This life as we know it is a one-shot deal. With that in mind, shouldn’t we be decent to one another?

Mormons have an interest in being kind to those with different beliefs from their own, because they are trained to view these people as potential converts. Apostates, however, are a major threat. When disaffected Mormons are treated with hostility, it reveals that statements of tolerance, respect, and co-operation with those who are different are nothing more than a sham. The niceness to never-Mos is simply bait for conversion, and the nastiness to former Mos stems from the self-satisfied belief that in the afterlife they’ll have the opportunity to point their finger and say “I told you so.”

This kind of certainty comes from confusing the path with the destination. Failure to distinguish between the Church and the Gospel harms non-believers through acts of bigotry, but it also harms believers. If their Gospel is true, then confusing the Church for the Gospel is a form of idol worship. Orthodoxy rather than enlightenment is prized. Correct procedure, not love, is valued.

But then, I’m just a dirty apostate advocating the heresy that there are paths outside the Church that lead to happiness. What do I know?

The breaking point

Yesterday my parents coerced my younger sister into not getting on a plane to come visit me for the weekend. I bought the ticket so we could have some fun bonding time, which we so rarely get with her busy university schedule.

As soon as my parents heard about it they became irrationally obsessed with stopping the trip. There is a church activity this weekend, they say, and your sister has to be at it. Clearly the event will stand or fall on whether or not she is there to slice the green jell-o. My sister had made arrangements with the organisers to have someone else manage the jell-o and punch in her stead. My sister may still live at home, but she is an adult. She made arrangements with the other adults to whom she was obligated, and all parties were satisfied. Why are my parents, who are not members of the singles ward, micromanaging an event in which they have no part?

The night before the flight, I received an angry call from both of my parents, blaming me for ruining the church party and their dinner plans because “they had to deal with this.”

My mum said it was important for my sister to attend because she “needed to be taught a lesson about being so selfish.” I fail to see the selfishness in periodically missing a church event to spend time with a family member. My mum seems to define “selfish” as “a person who does not do exactly what I tell them to do.” That definition seems terribly . . . selfish.

She said my sister could come another time. I asked her when. “Later,” I was told.

That’s when I hit the breaking point. I am sick to the teeth of this abuse.

“It seems like every time I ask to have either [redacted] or [redacted] for a visit, you come up with some reason why they can’t.”

I didn’t say it in an angry or sad tone. I stated it as fact. Because it’s true. My parents are manipulative and bullying and will only allow me to interact with my siblings in an environment they are allowed to control. I don’t know what they believe I am going to do to my sisters. In their twisted view of the world where anything outside the Church they worship is a threat, they probably believe that not only will I force feed them the sinful custard that is apostasy, but I’ll also take them to shoot up heroin while being gang-banged a tattoo parlour. They can’t conceive of a visit in which we talk about school, pop culture, and life in general whilst having nice meals and going shopping.

Mum laid into the usual guilt trip, how this was affecting her health, and how sick she was to be surrounded by selfish people, but for the first time it all just plinked off of me like broken arrows failing to penetrate armour. Her rubbish didn’t make it far enough to stab me the way it usually does.

She concluded with “do what you want” and hung up on me.

They went on to bully my sister so much that she did not even call me to let me know that she didn’t get on the plane. I heard from her later in the day, and we worked out some coping mechanisms for the near future. My parents have refused to fund any portion of her education because she didn’t want to go to BYU. Evil rebel. She will move away soon, and I plan to help her financially as much as I can.

This was the breaking point. I need to have no contact with them for a while, if only so that I can send a very clear message that their childish threats, guilt trips, and outright lies no longer have any power over me. I am not a bad person, and I am not to blame when they become upset because I refuse to conform to their unreasonable demands.

Looking back

On a day a few weeks after I turned eight, my mother was curling my hair as I stood in her room in my white dress. I remembered thinking it was odd that my hair was being meticulously fluffed, as it was about to get soaked. The whole family was milling about in the lounge getting ready to go to the chapel. My dress had lace and ribbons, and a nice thick slip underneath so nothing would show when it all got soaked, Mum had ripped the tag off my knickers because it had black printing on it, as if this would somehow diminish the water’s ability to bleach the sins from my soul.

I stared at myself in the mirror, unused to getting this much fuss and attention. I was the oldest grandchild in the family, the example for the next generation of Mormons. My mother probably felt a sense of pride at having produced the first grandchild to be baptised in the extended family, although the race was still on to produce the first future priesthood holder. (Do not fear; she won this race eventually.)

As my head bobbed from the gentle strokes of hairbrush and hot iron, I thought of something. Here I was, about to engage in a very important ritual, and I had never actually agreed to do it. (I’ll be so vain as to acknowledge that I was a rather precocious eight-year-old.)

I turned to my mother, who nearly burnt her finger on the curler from the unexpected movement. “Mum, do I have to get baptised?” The question was not one of fear, but rather curiosity. I just wanted to know if I had any say in the matter, or if having to get baptised was simply another “must,” like eating veg, no telly on school nights, or bedtime.

She looked very alarmed for a moment, but remained calm. “No,” she told me. “It’s a choice. You should only do it if you want to.”

My immature mind considered this possibility for a moment. I was too young to understand that I really was unable to make a real decision on the issue. I had been carefully conditioned since birth to understand that this was the only path to walk on. All of the preparations for my baptism had taken my compliance in the ritual for granted. I had been trotted up to the microphone on fast Sundays and had my opinions whispered into my ear so that I could parrot them before the congregation. “I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. I love my mummy and my daddy and my teachers. I know President So-and-So is a prophet.” My “testimony” was something I’d been spoon-fed, like baby food. So far I hadn’t tasted anything bad, so I had no reason to bite the hand that fed me.

“Well, I think I shall,” I told my mum. She sighed with relief finished curling my hair and sent me out to be admired by the family before we left for the chapel.

An unremarkable moment, But that day a light went off. Although I didn’t grasp the meaning of free will, I recognised the concept. I didn’t really give the decision much thought, but I at least saw that a decision could be made. Even in my first moments of Church membership, the spark of inquiry was there.

Now that I look back on it, I don’t think I ever had what it takes for this Mormonism thing to work out.

Exit Strategy

1: Should I tell anyone ahead of time?

I’ve been able to discuss this issue at length with people who love, support, and respect me — my friends. I cannot have this conversation with anyone in my family because the topic will only result in them feeling very angry toward me. It’s a good sign that your religious beliefs are unhealthy when in theory you are the first person your family members should turn to for advice, but in reality it results in chaos and anger.

My father would be furious if I told my mother directly. He guards her with the sort of patriarchal, patronising attitude that keeps my mum in a chronic state of neurosis. (Sound familiar?) However, my mother will be upset by the news no matter what. I have wondered if, in this case, I could be honest with her that my dad’s overprotective nature has kept me from confiding in her about my struggles. I don’t want to put a wedge in their marriage, but a big part of what keeps my mom repressed, festering, and unstable at times is the narrow, confining pedestal she’s required to stand on. Would it be selfish for me to potentially put a thorn between my parents, if it means that I can really talk to my mum for the first time? Especially considering that my dad may very well disown me when it’s all said and done?

Next up: Should I tell my dad? He knows my general objections, and periodically makes attempts to interrogate/shame/coerce me back into the fold. He’s my dad, and I love him, and I’m thankful for the many ways that he’s made my life better. But all of that comes at a pretty steep price, and I don’t think my debt to him requires me to allow him to hurt me unlimited times. If I tell him ahead of time, he’ll just try to make me change my mind. My first guess is that it may be best to inform him privately after receiving confirmation of my resignation. This way I can spare him false hope.

I have two siblings who seem likely to follow my path out of the Church. I believe that working with them ahead of time will be a good course of action. The possible downside is that they may be mistreated by my TBM relatives if they find out that they knew ahead of time what I was going to do and didn’t rat me out to the Thought Police. However, I think they’ll be good at keeping a secret. The disadvantage is that both of these siblings are still at home. It may be very difficult for me to see them in the future, until they are out of the house and self-sufficient. I will not bother consulting with my TBM siblings. They will most definitely send the dogs after me.

I want my one remaining grandparent to stay unaware of the whole thing. Regardless of what happens, I will lie through my teeth to preserve her ignorance. She is very elderly, beginning to get frail, and is a good, loving woman who has given her all to this Church. She has seen all of her children grow up, marry in the temple, never divorce, and raise faithful Mormon broods. She deserves the satisfaction of leaving this earth believing that no chicks have fallen from the nest.

(Writing this last bit has made me imagine what it would sound like to hear “Families Can Be Together Forever” sung by Judas Priest. That would make an excellent metaphor for how fucked-up LDS family dynamics get once someone decides to switch off Gospel Auto Pilot.)

2: Is doing this going into the holidays a good idea?

If I do this now, it means that my family could find out about it just before the holiday season. This offers two possibilities. First, I could be seen as “ruining” the season by doing this at a time when families are supposed to be together. If I become unwelcome in my parents’ home, I would be conspicuously absent and family events will be soured by the constant reminder that I’m a dirty traitor apostate. Second, if everyone realises the consequences of option one, they may decide to play nice and try to all get along. This means that although I’m still a dirty traitor apostate, I have the chance to smooth things over through family time and activities that build positive memories. My apostasy may be able to disappear into the background, only resurfacing during events such as temple weddings. Unlike a male apostate, I won’t have extra ways to shame my family by not participating in baby blessings or priesthood rituals.

3: How much should I worry about how my extended family will respond?

I have virtually no day-to-day contact with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We see one another at family gatherings and have a nice time stuffing our gobs and keeping the little ones from murdering each other. You know, what all large families do. I expect nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction from my extended family if they find out what I have done.

4: Should I attempt to broker a deal to minimise damage?

I have considered offering a truce to my father; out of our shared interest in protecting my Gran from this information, we can simply avoid telling anyone outside the immediate family. My family gossips like, well, like a large Mormon family. Mormons gossip. A lot. As a child I knew a lot more about everyone in my ward than was remotely appropriate. I knew whose marriage was on the rocks. I knew who had been disfellowshiped. It’s pretty alarming how bad Mormons are at respecting privacy. If something needs to stay a secret, the worst thing to do is follow the normal chain of command and tell the Bishop about it.

But if there is one thing Mormons do better than gossip, it’s keep up appearances. I don’t really care what my aunts and uncles think of me. They’re lovely people but if they cut me off I would only be disappointed, not devastated. I had a dry run for this during Prop 8, when my father’s sister left a psychotic rant on my Facebook page and promptly de-friended me after seeing me comment that I didn’t support the idea of mixing religion and politics. We have never spoken since. I have never met her two youngest children. I regret the loss, but it didn’t ruin me, as it only means that I’ll never see someone whom I barely saw anyway. (She lives in Utah, and I avoid Utah like the plague since leaving BYU.)

Due to the semi-immigrated state of my extended family (they’re spread out across the Mormon Belt, with a few holdouts back in Britain) I believe I can make an attractive pitch that there is no sense upsetting an applecart that only gets wheeled out once or twice a year when we all get together. I don’t care if they know, and I don’t care if they don’t know. But they need to not know if my Gran is to be protected. And really, now that I think of it, it isn’t any of their business. We’re relatives, not friends. They have too little context of my life to understand my reasons for making such a big decision.

In a deal I would also agree to never discuss my apostasy with family members. I’d likely be lying a bit, as I intend to help my two youngest siblings if they need it when they have to make their own break with LDS, Inc. But I can agree not to proselytise to them or present them with any troubling information about Mormonism. That’s rather generous of me, if I say so myself, since I won’t be extended the same courtesy. After all, I was taught in Primary to turn the other cheek and do my best live with higher standards than the world around me.

5: What am I missing?

Ideally I’d like this to be a coup de grâce. I want to end my schizophrenia that comes from not wanting to be a Mormon but feeling like I have to stay because it’s holding my family hostage. I want to kill the fear I feel over wondering if the church will find out what a horrible evil sinner I am and call me to a disciplinary council, forcing me to resign my membership before I’m ready to do it on my terms. But I want to do this so that, for once in my bloody life, I’m looking out for myself first. I’ve been a doormat for too long. I’ve cut myself down to size and tried to fit in the box, but it doesn’t work and I’m sick of forcing it. I just want to make sure that when I do this, I do this so that it has the best possible outcome for me, and the best possible outcome for my family that I’m willing to accommodate.

Lines in the Sand

Last night I was speaking with a friend who comes from an Evangelical Christian background and has similar experiences with leaving a strict and coercive religious and family environment. She mentioned that she was impressed that I visited my family so often and made as many efforts as I do to stay in touch. She said that, although I clearly had strained relationships with my family members, I also enjoyed spending time with them. All of this is very true.

However, I noted to my friend that although she makes fewer efforts to revive the cold links between herself and her mum and dad, she also did not tolerate any abuse from her family. I probably put up with more abusive behaviour than I should, especially from my dad. My father does very little to perpetuate a relationship between us. If we ever speak, it’s because I call him. I can’t remember the last time I received a gift, birthday, Christmas, or otherwise, that was purchased, wrapped, and given by him. I get gifts from “Mum and Dad” that were selected by my mother. Lots of this is probably just because he’s extremely busy with two full time jobs: the one that pays a salary and his Church calling. But recently I’ve realised that my Dad only speaks to me if I call, if I’m physically visiting his home and happen to be in the same room as him, or during these visits when he periodically decides to corner me alone late at night and have an agonising discussion about the dreadful state of my testimony. Discussion perhaps isn’t the best word; he asks questions and I think he believes he gives me an objective hearing, but he is not receptive and is a master of Doublethink to the point that he is not even aware that he does it. These interrogations are a blend of many forms of abuse: Laying the responsibility for destroying my eternal family on my shoulders, discrediting my legitimate doubts and concerns about the Church, pre-emptively blaming me for “what this will do” to my mother, shaming me for betraying God, threatening to keep me away from other family members, and attempting to make me doubt my own sanity by suggesting that none of the information I have studied so intensely is real at all. I feel sorry for my dad, who is just following the programming of a Good Priesthood HolderTM. He believes he is trying to help me escape the jaws of hell. These “discussions” leave me so ill that the next day people look at me and ask if I have the flu. I can say that 50% of my interactions with my father now fall into this category, although they are thankfully rare. But the other 50% of our interactions are tainted by the tension of knowing that at the next opportunity, he’ll do it again.

My friend is not close with her family, but she does not endure abuse. I am close with my family, and when we all get together we have a great time. But lately I’ve felt the drift between us increasing. At the last gathering of my LDS relatives, I was repeatedly shocked by hearing children and adults alike express sexism, homophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry, often in the context of expressing patriotism or religious loyalty. I realised that this was nothing new, and that my own mind used to exhibit the pollution of this shared worldview. I find that I have less and less in common with the people I love every day, and wonder when the balance will tip so that relationships I currently find 70% fulfilling and 30% abusive become primarily abusive. If I came out of the apostate closet, that balance would shift drastically and instantly. I wonder what sort of family I’ll need to create for myself if that happens, and how much of my old family I could possibly keep. It’s time to start booking my plane tickets to visit family for the holidays, and I keep putting it off because I fear that what are supposed to be heartwarming gatherings will be tainted by my father interrogating me in the middle of the night, or my mother openly rebuking me because I failed to participate in criticism of homosexuals. I don’t want to hear otherwise sweet and loving children spewing the filth their parents pump into their heads.

It’s disheartening planning your holidays around landmines of personal belief. It’s shattering to realise that the straightest path of truth would drag you over every one of those mines and blow it all to hell.

Ouch.

I haven’t really been able to get to sleep tonight. I am visiting the family this weekend, and earlier tonight while I was looking for a scrap of paper to write on in the drawer in the kitchen where pens, paper, and other common-use junk is kept, I flipped open a little notebook to rip out a sheet of paper. The page I turned to, however, wasn’t blank.

The page and the next several pages was covered in my mother’s handwriting. It seemed to be some note she had written to herself as she planned some hypothetical conversation she and my dad would be having with me. Specifically it listed objections to my current boyfriend, who was never Mormon and does not believe in a personal god, an immortal soul, or spending any time contemplating these issues. You know, like most non-practicing but technically baptised Protestants. But he’s also a good man and treats me better than any other bloke I’ve gone out with, especially when I compare him to the Mormon ones I used to date. Many of the “nice” Mormon guys I can think of always had something; neurosis, flagrant sexism, racism, or homophobia, or a belief that membership in the Democratic party was cause for excommunication. There have been genuinely great Mormon guys that I have gone out with or befriended, but at the end of it my beliefs in equality clash too much with church doctrine for us to get to the point of serious relationships or marriage. (And yes, I do know that there are Mormon men who oppose the church’s second-class treatment of women, minorities, and homosexuals, but I was never lucky enough to find any in my singles wards.)

I think she may have wrote this note due to the recent passing of Valentine’s Day and the fact that my trip was rather last-minute. Perhaps she thought he’d pop the question. We have been dating a year, which in Mormon time means I should have been married seven months ago and ought to be pregnant by now.

The note hurts on several fronts. First off, I wasn’t expecting it and being blindsided makes it worse. All I wanted was a bit of paper to write down a phone number. I wasn’t snooping, and it’s the last place in the house anybody should have left such personal thoughts. I object to reading people’s journals because it’s an intrusion of privacy, but even more so because you’re reading someone’s thoughts in an unfair setting. Journals are for venting and for putting down half-formed ideas. It’s wrong to judge someone in their private mental workshop, because the ideas that they end up taking out into the world might be very different and more useful than the jumble of thought they poured into a private book. I don’t like that I suddenly found something before my eyes that allowed me to see thoughts that went through my mum’s head. I have no way of knowing how strongly she feels this way, although I suspect that what she wrote does probably reflect her true feelings. However, it’s the worst possible way for me to learn about them.

Second, this note hurts because it’s loaded with foregone conclusions. She chastises me for not asking herself and my dad what they think of my boyfriend, and has a bullet point asking me to “open my heart and mind.” She then goes on to list all the reasons why I should not marry my boyfriend. If it’s a foregone conclusion there’s not much point in opening my heart and mind, is there? It all comes down to one thing; he isn’t Mormon. He could have any flaw in the universe, and it wouldn’t matter a bit to her if he was a garment-wearing, temple-recommend-toting, returned missionary. It doesn’t matter that he is intelligent, kind, loyal, responsible, mature, and has a great job with excellent career prospects. No virtue can compensate for failure to be Mormon.

The most disappointing aspect of this note is how evident it is that my happiness is not even a consideration. Among the massive list of my errors that she lists (all of which are things that are not bad in themselves, but just don’t correlate with the sort of behaviour that the LDS church prescribes for me) there is never a question like “does he make you happy?” or “do you think that you would be happy with him as a husband?” She does make one fair point that he was a bit more antisocial than he should have been at the last family gathering, which was where I introduced him to my relatives. I also felt he could have made more of an effort to participate in conversations, especially as this was his first impression, but poor performance at one social event is hardly an excuse to write him off completely. But the rest operates with circular logic: “I don’t want you to be with him because he isn’t Mormon and because he isn’t Mormon I don’t want you to be with him.”

I have been lying awake trying to decide what to do with this information. If, when and how should I reveal this information to my boyfriend? Should I let my mum or dad know that I stumbled across this? Should I just leave it be? I suppose it’s just a matter of time before I have to have this conversation anyway. I don’t date Mormons because it would be unethical to date some poor nice guy who expected me to follow a belief system that I can’t support in good conscience. The only way to make my parents happy would be to delude myself, lie to myself, or hide myself and pretend to be a good Mormon. I couldn’t lie to myself and my family just to meet my parents’ demand for orthodoxy. Ironically, my parents taught me better than to be such a hypocrite.

I’m not shocked by the contents, as I could roughly guess my mum’s thoughts on this matter anyway. But I am disappointed to find out that religious orthodoxy matters more to her than happiness, or perhaps that she believes that happiness is dependent on religious orthodoxy. I don’t know if it’s possible to make her understand that for many people, those two things do nothing but cancel each other out. I wish I could explain to them that I am happier not believing in Mormonism, and the greatest mental pain I’ve gone through in my life came from trying to pound a square egalitarian peg into a round Mormon hole. But in their worldview, you can’t be happy if you are not a good Mormon. And my failure to be a good Mormon brings guilt and shame on them, because they believe they’re going to have to answer to God for their failure to be good Mormon parents.

That’s not a feeling I ever wanted to inflict on my parents. It is utterly unfair for parents to be responsible for the decisions of their children, especially when no actual harm is done and it’s simply a difference of philosophical opinion. But whether my intentions in leaving the fold were malicious or honest, it makes no difference. They still feel the guilt and sorrow. Perhaps that’s why Mormons can so easily paint those who leave with the same brush; they are “apostates” and “angry ex-Mormons.” When you truly believe that you are RIGHT and your religion is the ONLY way to be happy, then anybody who leaves must naturally be wrong and unhappy. That’s not quite how it is, as anybody who’s left the faith system of their birth can say. But getting the orthodox faithful to listen and think sometimes seems like an impossible and depressing task.