Why It’s Not Enough
Since I’ve begun my sabbatical the first of the year in 2019, there have been numerous changes to the Mormon Church that I’ve applauded.
1. The rescinding of the POX (policy of exclusion) that declared same-sex couples apostates to be excommunicated and their children ineligible for saving ordinances including baptism.
2. Mormon temple changes that meant women and men made more equal covenants to God, rather than the woman to her husband, and women no longer veiling themselves during certain parts of the ceremony.
3. Today, a long-awaited change to allow married couples to marry outside the temple and still be immediately sealed in the temple, without having to wait a “penalty” year in the United States (civil ceremonies have long been required in other countries, such as Europe).
4. Mormon missionaries allowed to call/contact home on a more regular basis, and sister missionaries allowed to wear pants while doing such ordinary proselytizing activities as riding bicycles (my daughter had to figure out elaborate layers of clothing to wear under her skirt and on top of her garments to make bike riding modest, even in the high temperatures of Texas in 2013–2015).
I think all of these are good changes.
And yet, they don’t tempt me to return.
More than that, they don’t make me believe on any level that the current leadership of the church is receiving direct revelation from God. Maybe this sounds like sour grapes. Now that I’ve left, I have to see everything that’s left in the church as bad.
I try to make it clear that there are many things I still love about Mormonism. I still consider myself “Mormon,” even though I say in my tagline here that I don’t believe in the Mormon church. That is to say, I don’t believe in the claim that the Mormon church is the one and only true church of God on the earth. I don’t believe that the hierarchy of the Mormon church is ordained by God, that only men are declared proper leaders of the church, that the President of the corporate LDS church is a “prophet” rather than a CEO, or that tithing (ten percent of income each year) is required to get into heaven.
I’d go further than all of this. I don’t believe that I need other people to mediate between me and God. This is a hard line for me. Church can be a wonderful community of people who are all working toward creating the heaven on earth that I see described in Christ’s teachings. We make mistakes and do better. We apologize and forgive each other. We love and welcome all. Or that would be my ideal, anyway. The problem is that’s not what I see in the LDS Church.
In the LDS Church, I see certain groups of people being seen as more capable of receiving God’s revelations than others. I see structures that allow abuse, of women, of children, of people of color, and LGBT individuals. I see little of Christ or of the God I’ve come to know and love in my own prayers and meditation and poetry.
I can’t give money to an organization that I see covering up abuse at its flagship university, under the guise of “worthiness standards,” or covering up child abuse simply because it doesn’t want to admit it has a problem and that activists have been wiser and more foresightful than the supposed prophets and apostles of the LDS Church.
I love the Mormon idea that a young boy could go into a grove of trees to pray and receive a vision from God. I love the Mormon idea of a Heavenly Mother, equal to a male God. I love the idea of marriage and families being eternal (though Russell M. Nelson warned us all that if we don’t get to the LDS temple and follow the rules, we won’t be with our families). I love the idea that God wants us all in heaven, that there’s no hell, and that resurrection is a universal gift from Christ. I love the hope of the unconditional love of God (but Russell M. Nelson says it’s a mistake to think God could ever love unconditionally, without a bunch of worthiness rules).
So yeah, ultimately, it’s not enough to make me rethink my decision to step away. Because these aren’t real changes in my book. They change the look of Mormonism, but not the substance of the problems that are going to keep coming up until someone looks at the real problem, which is the structure and authority of the LDS Church leadership themselves.