“I’m leaving the church.”
Over the past month, I have heard/read this phrase seven times. Once from an incredible woman in my home ward who can’t take anymore of the ward’s judgement. Once from a family member who has felt the church is too restrictive for years. Twice from young adults my age whose knowledge and testimonies of the gospel have buoyed my own in the past. The rest from good friends and acquaintances. Some of these announcements I’ve been expecting for months and years. Others, I never ever expected.
The intensity of the grief I have quietly shouldered these past few weeks has been hard to describe and has left me with an alarming loss for words. In the miniature chaos of having, as one friend described to me, multiple individuals whom I propped my testimony on discard their own, I’ve found myself wondering why I even bother. My social media accounts have been inundated with angry words about members of the church being voiceless and cowardly, critical articles about confirmation bias, Joseph Smith, the church’s stance on gay marriage; friends who virtually laud their doubts and tear apart the testimonies of my other friends. In the middle of this, I see some of my friends faltering and questioning, wondering why they stay, and it’s overwhelmed me. I’ve not been able to blog for weeks. I thought that was because I just felt uninspired. I’m suspecting it’s because I’ve been deeply discouraged, not wanting to add fuel to the flame, not wanting to hurt or be hurt by other people who are just waiting for a chance to do it. Not wanting to defend the beliefs that are so much a part of me, that I’d imagine I’d crumble apart without them, and only because I worry about how others would react.
Because of beliefs I have expressed on this blog and others, I’ve been cyber-bullied and sexually harassed by online strangers who have put me in virtual stocks to throw tomatoes at. I’ve been called horrible names and told I’m a horrible person in the comments on my blog. I’ve been told that I’m a totally brainwashed Mormon and that I’m on the verge of apostasy all in one long digital breath, and I’ve dealt with it. But to see some of the things my friends and family are saying? To see members of the church turning on members of the church? To watch so many doubt and then cause others to doubt and then invalidate their feelings for them? It’s crippled me.
I don’t want to and cannot stay quiet anymore.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.