Mormon Fragility 2

How beliefs stand up in the face of… everything

J.A. Carter-Winward
Recovering Mormon

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Alpenglow Crows © by JAC Winward. Use only with permissions

I had a friend growing up whose mother just passed. I reached out to her to give my condolences, and she encouraged the dialogue with questions about the process of grief when you lose a parent. I’ve lost both of my parents, and sometimes my insights help. She asked, so I gave them, mindful of her religious beliefs (she’s a practicing member of the LDS Church.)

During the course of the conversation, I wrote something that offended her, despite how careful I tried to be.

While I’d been addressing grief, I wrote of my experiences with loss, and how human beings, for all our understanding of the world, are out of their depth when it comes to loss. We should be better at it, but we’re not. We’re terrible at it. So, I spoke of the time we have here, how precious it is, because when someone’s gone, that’s it on this plane of existence.

Now, I didn’t write that last part because it was strongly implied throughout my messages. I even used all the right Mormon catchphrases and verbiage. My intentions weren’t to fix her loss. I wouldn’t know where to begin, and I wouldn’t be so thoughtless as to try.

So, I did what I always do: validate, identify with her loss via personal experience, and encourage the acceptance of her humanity during her grief. That was it. She already had people there to smile and tell her “This is only the beginning!” and “You’ll see her again!” and “She’s happier now,” and all the other clichés that are supposed to help alleviate the loss of a loved one.

Whatever the case, when someone dies, they. Are. Gone. From. This. Earth. Not much to argue with, there.

Somehow, she inferred that I was declaring (before she’d even buried her mother) that there was no afterlife — because that’s the kind of insensitive person I am — pushing my lack of belief on her during this vulnerable time in her life.

Then she told me how sad she was for me (why are they always so sad for us?) that I discounted so many people’s belief in an afterlife.

Now, I’m barely an authority on my own life, let alone LIFE, let alone an afterlife, so that’s (basically) what I told her. I wrote “If we all had perfect faith, we wouldn’t grieve.” Okay, so maybe that was a bit of a challenge, but I softened that with the above assurances. That in no way would I be so arrogant as to dismiss the idea of an afterlife out of hand.

I have no idea what happens after we die. I can only speculate. But ‘not knowing’ isn’t code for ‘need to know.’ Not fully believing in the idealized version of a family reunion after death doesn’t mean that people without the Gospel in their lives are somehow empty or devoid of the necessary coping skills for managing their human experience.

If I state that I don’t believe in God (as they do, the anthropomorphized image of God-as-man), that isn’t something believers need to feel hurt over, yet it hurts them that I don’t believe. It doesn’t hurt me that they believe. Why is that?

Discussing religion with believing family and friends ought to be interesting and thought-provoking, and there was a time when it was, but now, the brittleness of LDS skin has become tiresome. It isn’t worth it. My calves are sore from tiptoeing around.

Religion ought to be an especially safe subject, since I think I can say with some authority that in talking religion and God, you’re not talking facts, you’re discussing beliefs, exchanging ideas. So, what’s there to get all ruffled about?

Those of us who have left The Church, or any other form of organized religion for that matter, are not empty vessels waiting for ‘your truth’ to fill us, just as members of the Church are not overflowing vessels we’re itching to empty out, scoop by scoop, with our evil and worldly ways, or with our ‘truth,’ which is just as subjective.

There was a time when the majority of Church members (at least from my experience) were open-minded, willing to engage, and were respectful when others disagreed. I recall feeling their unwavering faith as they spoke to me, realizing that they weren’t threatened by my disbelief because they believed. Now, they’re ‘hurt.’

I’m no psychologist, but what does this say about today’s Church members?

One can only speculate.

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J.A. Carter-Winward
Recovering Mormon

J.A. Carter-Winward, an award-winning poet & novelist. Author site, https://www.jacarterwinward.com/ , blog: https://writeinblood.com/ Facebook and Youtube