On Sunday, I was approached by a member who’d heard my short introduction when I attended for the first time in years. We were leaving the Gospel Doctrine class, and this person, after a brief first-name only intro, requested my email address. I won’t identify him/her by gender or other characteristics for what, I suspect, may eventually be valid reasons. It’s just... I get asked for my email often enough because of the publishing and art shows I’ve done, so I didn’t think much of it. This afternoon, I got an email asking me a single question:
“Why did you leave the church in the first place?”
My first thought was, how did this person know I had left in the first place? I’d mention being inactive and returning, but the word “leave” wrinkled my brow. Most people who go inactive in the Mormon church don’t leave it. They just let their church-interest sit and grow weeds. It fades as they fill Sunday with boating, sports and drinking ice tea. Sometimes they even hide behind the door or window curtains when a “friend” from the Mormon ward visits, plate of cookies in hand. They forget, avoid and even hide from church. But they don’t completely leave it. What's the difference? Forgetting, avoiding and hiding are mostly passive. Leaving it is active; a near final act of determined purpose. Disregarding your strong childhood conditioning and leaving resolutely is to rebel against the church or its leaders and give God the spiritual middle finger (assuming our spirit body also evolved an odd number of fingers).
Maybe this person didn't mean “leave” that way. But I think I know Mormon lingo well enough to feel sure that, perhaps by how I dressed or a tone in my voice, this person sensed I had truly left in mind, spirit and in body. That they sensed it would mean they recognize where I am, but for some reason of their own are still attending. Why did I leave in the first place? The answer to that is complex.
I’ll take my time to think of a succinct and yet meaningful answer.
I'll keep you posted. Until then, Happy Breezes from Florida.