Date: March 06, 2023 02:20PM
When someone stops coming to church, one of two things usually happen. They are either love-bombed by a few members, or totally ignored. When I stopped attending the ward I had been attending for thirteen years, the silence was almost deafening. I was a faithful member, a full tithe payer, recommend holder, and held many callings over the years. I was one of the ward members who came to church weekly, did at least half my home teaching each month, and stuck around for Elders Quorum, and later, High Priests Group.
So, I knew most of the people there, at least superficially. After a short but intense study of church history that completely destroyed the belief I had in the church’s authenticity and authority, I abruptly stopped showing up. I discussed the problems I found with my wife, and little by little, made my new attitude of complete disbelief known to her, but to no one else. She stopped going too, and said she liked Sundays without the stress of getting ready for church. Once in a while she would go, and I told her I would go with her if she wanted, but she knew how I felt and didn’t push me to go. After a while, she stopped going and just stayed in bed. She said she still believed in it though, and I didn’t argue. I just let it be.
As we talked, I found out she’d had issues for years, but never really brought them up. She sucked up the dissonance pretty well. Her issues were polygamy, and the church’s attitude toward woman, steering them out of careers, and instead, teaching them canning and ‘crafts’ like scrap booking, and acting as if these activities should more than satisfy the needs of the righteous daughters of Zion. This curriculum, devised by geriatric xenophobes living at high altitude far too long, is fine for women whose sole purpose is to be impregnated by their husbands, then care for the children full time. It frees up the priesthood to attend to weightier matters like sitting in ‘council’ with each other where we call each other ‘president’ and comment on the awful state of the world full of Godless heathens all contentedly sinning their asses off. For women with a brain though, or talents that don’t require undressing, the nineteenth century pioneer curriculum can, I believe, induce boredom of biblical proportions.
After not attending church for several months, the Bishop showed up at my house one evening. We talked for a while, and I wondered if he smelled the beer I’d been drinking. I expected him to ask me where I’ve been, why I stopped showing up, but no, he just made small talk, and so I did too. He left without trying to get me to pray or commit to anything, just offered some wimpy, ‘hope to see you at church.’
IN THE THREE YEARS SINCE I STOPPED SHOWING UP, NO ONE ASKED WHY I NO LONGER ATTEND—NOT EVEN ONCE. The wall of silence has descended, and I think it’s a result of my ongoing failure to provide communal reinforcement (testimony) of their belief that ‘the church is true.’ I’ve seen through that illusion, but I’ve told no one about my enlightenment. All I’ve done is stop showing up.
Showing up at church means you’re a believer. You get the benefit of the doubt unless you say otherwise. Bearing your testimony from the pulpit is the best communal reinforcement of all, and brings rewards like more callings, and praise like ‘I enjoyed your testimony,’ from the happily reinforced. But if you stop showing up, the assumption that you believe is eventually withdrawn. Doubt sets in, then fear. Then silence.
The wall is a necessary part of any system, like Mormonism, that requires separation from a rational world so rational thinking doesn’t infect it. Mormonism, a system designed by ignorant, nineteenth-century, Yankee money diggers has survived more than a hundred and fifty years, but requires strong insulation to protect it from the words of those who don’t believe.