Leaving the Fold
James W. Ure, editor
We feel and know that we are eternal.
[p.183]She’s an attractive woman, well-known, active in a variety of Utah projects.
You were born in a small town.
Technically, I wasn’t born there, but I spent my whole growing up in central Utah.
Was your family active in the LDS church?
My mother more than my father.
Did you come from pioneer stock?
Oh, yes. My grandmother was particularly devout.
And you were active, I take it, as a young person.
Oh, yes. The whole town was, with rare exceptions. It’s just part of growing up.
At what point in your life did you become less active?
It was a gradual process probably, but more after leaving college and after getting married.
Were you married in the temple?
[p.184]You became less active after that?
Was that influenced by your marriage?
No, not necessarily. In fact, for a number of years in the early, early part of it, we still participated a lot, because our children were involved with the neighborhood children. It was more a cultural thing than a religious thing, though, as the years progressed.
Did you move to Salt Lake City shortly after your marriage?
Yes. We spent most of our married life here.
Do you have a bedrock belief, a faith, if you will, in the basics of Mormonism today?
No. If you want me to describe my beliefs at this point, they’re pretty universal.
What do you believe?
I think there’s a force or an order to the universe. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s there, and that’s good enough for me.
What were some of the factors involved in your withdrawal from active Mormonism?
I’d have to think about that. I think I was becoming less and less convinced that much of what was accepted as doctrine really lacked a lot of reality. I just couldn’t quite accept that that’s how everything happened.
The gold plates …
Yes, and it was almost too man-made. It almost lacked the majesty of a God, and some of the things that were demanded seemed like they were very earthly rather than heavenly, if you will. Much of the ritual and the explanations seemed to be too pat and too cut and dried. I just couldn’t see how anybody could be that absolutely positive that’s how everything was. It makes life very simple for people who can accept it, of course.
But you can’t?
Some of it’s very difficult to deal with. Some of it’s wonderful. I mean, there are the positives and the negatives.
Wonderful, caring people. In my case, most of my association has been with people who are really very fine people, very willing to participate to support their community, particularly their friends and their neighborhoods who are part of their culture, as it were. I think the negatives though, you see in a broader sense—while I’ve never really experienced the insular part of the culture, the lack of acceptance of diversity. I live in a neighborhood where, even though I’m not active, the active Mormons are very … That doesn’t matter, we’re still friends. In some areas I’ve heard that’s really very difficult. But I’ve seen too much of it and I’ve heard too much about it from non-Mormon associates and friends, stories of their children having such a difficult time. That’s a big negative to me. I think, too, if you want to go back in time, one of the things that bothered me, of course, was the exclusion of blacks. Way back. This was back when the whole civil rights thing was going on, and I never understood that. And the older I got, the less I understood it.
What about women?
You’ve opened a whole new door. Of course, it doesn’t bother me that women don’t have the priesthood because I don’t care, personally. I do feel there’s been a real patriarchal society that’s made it very difficult for women. I never had to deal with that personally. But I’ve known people who did, again. So that wasn’t my reason. It’s just personal, developing my own philosophy, approach, whatever you want to call it.
How did you feel about the opposition of the church to ERA, for instance?
I never understood it. I objected to it because I supported the ERA.
Did you raise your children as active Mormons? Did you feel a need to send them to church?
They went. The older ones probably were exposed more than the younger ones. Their attitudes probably developed along with ours, parallel with ours because of what we were doing. So they’re all inactive.
You were giving me a definition of your personal beliefs. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
[p.186]I consider myself a very moral person, and if that’s part of spirituality, then yes. It’s your approach to life, and I think how you live your life is your religion. What’s important to you becomes, to me at least, my religion. I don’t have a great, great anger towards the church at all. It’s just something I’ve gone beyond.
Can you see a time when you might return to active status?
Can you see any circumstances under which you might ask to have your name removed from the rolls or be excommunicated?
Probably not. I mean, I’m perfectly comfortable with how things are.
Did you ever feel any conflicts internally—guilt, shame, anything like that—that you might’ve attributed to your upbringing in the church, conflicts that were later created because of your taking another direction?
If I did, it was so long ago I don’t remember. I’m very comfortable with how I feel about things, and I’m very comfortable with how my children are dealing with it, too. It’s sort of a live-and-let-live attitude, I guess.
Are many of your friends active members of the church?
Yes. It’s about half and half, and I can move between both. They don’t mesh a lot of the times, but I can be with a very religious group and be fine, although we don’t often share the same topics of conversation like, “Where did my sons go on missions, and when are they getting back, and who’s going to be a mission president.” That’s often their whole conversation, but it’s interesting to me what they’re doing. That’s fine. Fortunately, they ask me about my children.
Some people say they believe that within a minute they can tell if a person is active or not. Do you believe that’s true?
Not within a minute. Somebody would have to be really very overt in their discussion of the church. If they called me “Sister,” then I’d know they were active in the church, yes. I guess that’s your one-minute sign, but just in the course of a conversation …
How do you think active Mormons view inactives?
I imagine some of them don’t want to be around us. And that’s their [p.187]problem. I guess some of them would think we were really lost, but I don’t worry about that. Again, if that’s how they feel, there’s nothing I can do about it.
What about a hereafter? What’s going to happen?
I have no idea. Do you?
I have my theories. I think I’m going to continue existing in some form—whether it’s in the sense of ashes to ashes, dust to dust, with the result being a tree that grows from soil that’s replenished by my carcass, or whether it’s something more literal as in the Buddhist or Hindu beliefs, where we come back as another human or another form of life. I don’t feel like the energy of life is lost.
I don’t either, and I still wonder if there isn’t another dimension that we can’t even see out there. It’s possible.
Yes. If we were active, we’d have all that clearly defined for us.
It’s much easier not to question, but too much of it begs the question.
Did your process of leaving happen suddenly?
I think it was gradual.
You felt comfortable as you passed through?
Withdrew. Yes. Withdrew is more the word.
My mother participated in the auxiliary units, but it was the social thing to do in that community. They really thought it was important that we went as children, and they certainly thought it was important that the grandchildren went.
I think our children got the picture, as well, that it’s not the overt religious acts as much as how you’re living your life—that basic core of integrity.
And that’s a very strong thing to hold on to.
If you don’t have that integrity, there’s a little bell inside that goes off as you begin to deviate, and it doesn’t matter if you’re active or inactive.
But you have to be exposed to knowing what integrity is. And I’m [p.188]not discounting that some of the church experiences didn’t add to that as I was growing up.
Some of the integrity, though, is universal. It’s not just Mormon.
That’s true. I wonder sometimes if some of it isn’t genetic. I mean, there are certain things we do that we know are right, and other things that we know are not.
I’m sorry I don’t have a more dramatic story to tell.
It’s an honest story. It doesn’t sound as though you’ve had much difficulty in dealing with it.
In fact, actually, it was easier to live with when we finally decided this really is how we’re going to live our lives.