I was in the living room, my mom around the corner in the kitchen, when I heard her discussing my blog on the phone with her brother. Among comments of how she didn’t know what happened to me, I sat rigidly perched on the couch, no longer reading the book in my hands. Over lunch an hour later, I told her I heard her discussing me on the phone, and I told her it hurt my feelings.
My mom gave me a polite look. “What did I say that hurt your feelings?”
“Well, the whole part where you’re gossiping about me and talking behind my back. Especially when I’m right in the next room.”
On Sundays, Mormons are pumped full with the prejudice that ex- or inactive Mormons are sinners, projects to be preyed upon, and poor unfortunate souls that got sucked up by the devil for not saying their nightly prayers. When they open their mouths, evil is going to spray forth, so you better bring your umbrella to every encounter. They are people that didn’t try hard enough.
From the pulpit, speakers cry over what a loss to the kingdom of Heaven these lost sheep are.
But people are so focused on themselves being right and everyone else being wrong that they don’t notice that lost sheep stays home on Sundays and cries because they’ve lost the security blanket of religion.
I recently heard the difference between pain and suffering described like this: Suffering is when you quit and give up all hope of trying.
Do people look at ex-Mormons and think they are suffering? Because they should. People who leave the Church (or any religion, for that matter), especially in the Utah bubble, quit trying on the religion that demanded to be the center of their lives. At home, they lose entire social circles, not just of friends, but of community. They trade open conversations with family for their mother’s tears. Some are cut off and rejected completely by the parents who raised them.
But it’s more than tangible loss. Reader, if you are religious, imagine losing God. If you’re not, imagine losing the sun.
Everything you’ve ever believed in crumbles. You trade daydreams of learning the secrets of the temple with an eternal companion for staying awake for six months straight with the anxiety of dying and losing consciousness forever. You realize that nothing and no one matters, and for a really long time, your outlook is scary as hell because you’re scared of being alive. You don’t get a magical book to read that saves your soul. You don’t get to fall on your knees and talk to someone who has the power to make your life change. You don’t get to drive half a mile to visit God’s house (the temple) and take peace from being so close to your Father.
You give everything you were ever taught to believe in for nothing. And unless you’ve done that, you have no idea how alone and terrible you constantly feel. There’s more than one reason there are more suicides in Utah than any other state.
I am part of a generation of “heathens” that is suffering enough from the demons in our own minds without the world’s condescension. Instead of looking at us as Satan reincarnate, look at us like artists who have gone blind, runners who lost their legs, birds suddenly too heavy to take flight. We are little boys and girls, coming out of the baptismal font dressed in white, who grew up and opened their eyes.
And opening your eyes is like pulling the trigger on a gun—you can never take the bullet back.
The world needs to realize we didn’t shoot them, though. We shot ourselves. Please, treat us less like murderers and more like someone who needs medical attention.