I know it sometimes feels like you don’t know me anymore and that can be disorienting. I feel very much like the same person but I realize that in one very important way I have have changed and in that way we are now very different. I get that difference can be scary, and I try not to take it personally if you cross to the other side of the street when you see me coming or avert your eyes and pretend you don’t see me in public. In all honesty, I don’t always know how to interact with you either. Its hard knowing that you are disappointed in me. One of you sent the missionaries to my house to talk to me. That’s really awkward. I really wish you wouldn’t. One of you brought a church manual by the house for my family. Again, I really wish you wouldn’t. I’m not trying to convince you to believe like I do. If you want to talk about our beliefs sometime, I might be willing to do that, but only if you can approach it in mutual curiosity and respect. I’m not interested in having you bear your testimony to me, sorry. But I am happy to lend you a cup of sugar, or get your mail when you are out of town, or help paint your fence.
Sometimes you say you miss me and that’s confusing. I live in the same house. Half of the years we lived in this house, I showed up at church every week with my children. Half of the years I didn’t. I’m easy to find. I assume you mean that you don’t see me at church anymore, and that’s true. But we really never talked or connected there anyway. If you want to be my friend, I need those now more than ever. It is lonely living amidst a very LDS population when you are no longer believing or practicing. (When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic) I still like lunches with friends, book clubs, moms nights out, and even service projects (but not if I am expected to listen to a lesson).
Do you want to be my friend? Can you tolerate differentiation? If I admit to drinking a coffee or wine on occasion, will that scare you off? If I use my Sundays for family outings in the park rather than church services, will you assume I’m a bad person? If I wear a tank top working in my yard in the summer or my shorts are at the middle of my thighs, will you judge me and my values? I promise I didn’t leave in order to do these things. I left to preserve my mental health, and because of my integrity in living according to my beliefs. Is it hard for you to be friends with me because I changed? Its hard to be friends with someone who judges.
Your friendly neighborhood apostate
Sometimes it feels like there is an elephant in the room. I try to avoid talking about my change in beliefs because I know it hurts you. I know your idea of heaven requires me to believe and do as you do for us to both be there together someday. Unfortunately I don’t believe as you, and therefore a few of my actions are not in alignment with your beliefs. I still think I’m a good person, but I’m afraid you don’t think so.
I’m aware of the note you sent to one of my children begging them to be more faithful than their parents. It hurts when you tell my children I wasn’t valiant enough and I was deceived. Even if that’s how you see me, I don’t think its appropriate to tell my child that. I don’t tell your children that I think you’re deceived. I’m also aware of a note scrawled on another child’s birthday card that reminds my child to pay tithing on their birthday money. Please don’t teach them to follow your religion. I don’t try to teach your children that they should believe as I do. I know you wrote a letter to my husband telling him how disappointed you were that we weren’t making our 8 year old get baptized and our 12 year old get the priesthood. You compared it to making kids do chores or homework. My husband and I feel really differently about these things. Please respect us by keeping your opinions to yourself. I promise you it is not your responsibility or purview to call us to repentance or chastise us for how we raise our family. I also recognize that it is not my place to preach to you and your family about my opinions.
I was confused and somewhat offended by the church-themed gift you gave my family. You know we no longer believe or practice. We don’t buy you coffee or alcohol, or ask you to do things on Sundays that wouldn’t be in alignment with your beliefs and practices. It comes off as passive aggressive if you give us lesson manuals, scriptures, church artwork, or other religious themed gifts. If you would like ideas of gifts we would appreciate, just ask. We still like doing art projects, playing together as a family, outdoor outings, and above all fun experiences to make memories. We’d love to have more fun adventures with you.
I really would like to have a strong loving relationship with you. Can you love me if I believe differently than you? Will you judge me when my values aren’t the same? I really think we have much more in common than different, though sometimes the differences feel very profound because they are new and on matters you find very important. I know what you believe and I remember what I was taught in church. I still believe most of the same values. My reasons for being good are different, and very occasionally my idea of what is good is different. I just don’t believe in your religion. I don’t revere your prophets. I have no desire to slander them in front of you, but if you bring up church history and I try to share something I have learned that you don’t like, that doesn’t make me a liar or deceived. If you choose not to learn about all of the messy history, that is fine for you. But it is not fair for you to say I am deceived because I chose to learn. Or that my conclusions are wrong. You can’t possibly know that. You can only choose what is the right conclusion for you. Let’s try to respect each other’s positions.
I get that sometimes people are so invested in their worldview that they need to let go of people who no longer share it. If that is the case with you, I will feel the loss. But I can’t pretend anymore just to keep you comfortable. I hope you understand that.
Your apostate daughter, niece, sister, aunt, cousin
Beautiful. I hate the way we LDS folks treat people who leave or believe differently. I don’t like to use the c (cult) word about the church but the way we treat disaffected folks is really disturbing. We have to do better at this.
A wonderful post. While it is written to family members, its reach extends to all of us in the LDS faith. It should be reprinted in the Church Handbook, emphasized in a General Conference talk, and taught to every new Bishop. In the best tradition of posts here, it wrings universal truths out of one person’s experience.
This article is really good! And so true! I have a family member who is this way. When my sister had asked a question about a story in the scriptures, I had pointed her to a blog post that answered her question, and then this family member told her to stick to official church sources or ask her church leaders if she has questions.
Really beautiful, heartfelt post, Chiaroscuro. Thank you for modeling speaking truth is such difficult social contexts. Leaving a high demand religion is a hard and often lovely joinery. I love you and am here for you. ❤️
**often lonely journey