Conditions on Friendship
Now that a couple of weeks have gone by, since I made the announcement that I was leaving the Church, I thought I’d make some observations about the responses that I’ve received from family and friends.
First off, I’d like to say how grateful I am to the numerous supportive responses that I have received; these have been most kind, and needed in this time of transition. I have had many old friends, as well as distant family members, step up and openly support my decision by commenting on my various Facebook & blog posts. I’ve also been surprised so see how many people I know who have gone through a very similar process in their own lives. I’ve even been discussing some of my own cousins’ exit stories with them, of which I was either not aware, or was only told the Mormon perspective (as many of these events happened while I was much younger). This discussion has brought me closer with my cousins than I ever have been, which is the result I hoped for when releasing my essay.
Many of my LDS friends say that they ‘respect’ my decision (in that they won’t try to talk me out of it), but go on to say that our friendship is conditional on me not talking about my views with them. I take offense to this. I have never told my friends not to talk about their beliefs, nor would I ever do such a thing. I find this attitude extremely hypocritical as well as elitist, because they’re essentially telling me that my beliefs or views aren’t worth their attention, yet they share their beliefs every chance they get (and they’re even encouraged to do so by the Church). It’s my opinion that true friends are people who are willing to accept each other the way they are, and are willing to encourage discussion while sharing mutual respect for each other’s views and beliefs. Friends don’t have to agree on everything, in fact, I prefer when there’s a diversity of opinion. This way, it makes me think, and it challenges me as to whether I’ve truly thought about the topic thoroughly. It’s the whole “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” idea; if we didn’t do this, we’d never be able to understand each other in society.
A Mormon’s unwillingness to even discuss alternate or conflicting viewpoints, makes me wonder what they’re afraid of. Is the average Mormon’s testimony really so fragile that they cannot stand up to a little criticism? If they truly believe in the Church, and have truth on their side, then they should have nothing to worry about, because, as Joseph Smith said, “truth will prevail”. Instead, they give the consistent answer of either “I just know” or “it’s too personal to discuss”. People who hold strong beliefs or values are quite often the ones who speak out about them often or the loudest. It’s only reasonable to assume that a true believing mormon (TBM), who has a testimony of the Church’s truthfulness, would be able and willing to defend those beliefs. However, it’s my experience that most Mormons don’t even look beyond the surface of their theology (ie, everyday activities and routines) and have very little to no understanding of the deeper issues that have plagued the Church. As soon as someone, (like myself) who has actually done some research, presents their findings, that’s when TBMs back off and are either unwilling or unable to defend their own position.
Truth has to be substantiated with evidence and reason, otherwise it’s an unfounded belief. So if the Church really is the ‘one true church’, where is the evidence and reason to back it up? TBMs would say that one must have faith, and that one’s own personal testimony is sufficient evidence. However, there have been numerous people who have born testimony that they saw Big Foot, or were abducted by aliens. Though I cannot disprove their claim, I don’t have sufficient evidence to conclude whether these claims are truthful. So I will try to simply say “I don’t know yet”, and hold off on concluding my thinking until more evidence or information is brought to light. Mormons are generally quick to conclude their thinking on issues which oppose their beliefs, simply because they feel that they already have the answers they need. This close-mindedness is what prevents people from learning. Being exposed and actually listening to an opposing viewpoint, gives us an uneasy feeling. However, this moment of uneasiness is when we are truly learning, since we’re actually listening to what’s being said and allowing it to challenge our preconceived ideas. One may still walk away with the same opinion as before, but at least they’ve understood how or why others don’t see it the same way.
Being told by my friends that they essentially don’t want to hear what I have to say, is not only disheartening, but frustrating. This is the same feeling I got while in the Church, where its members are not allowed to voice their opinions openly, unless it is in line with the teachings of the Church. I want to be challenged by my friends, as I find this to make me be a better person. I want to grow and learn, as well as gain an understanding of others’ views and beliefs. If my friends were really secure in their beliefs, they’d be able to stand up to my opposing views, and by having their beliefs challenged, they would walk away stronger in their convictions. Truth will always be able to withstand scrutiny, and that’s what Mormons seem to be afraid of.