Sunday, October 22, 2006

exit story 9: to NOM or not to NOM

Finally I had come to a point where I didn't believe in the church's claims. But I still desperately wanted to believe. I spent a few weeks in an awful back-and-forth struggle trying to decide if I could be NOM--a faithful non-believer. Couldn't I still stay in the church, play the game, be dedicated to the community, keep my parents happy? Not divorce myself from my family and spiritual heritage? Couldn't I just rebuild the building that had crumbled around me, altered, but still Mormon?

I started to evaluate Mormonism from a non-believer's perspective, a religion like any other religion. It had its rituals, its doctrine, its rites of passage, its leadership, etc. Was is so bad to take part?

I went through a series of questions. One had to do with missions. At one point (perhaps it was before I stopped believing completely?) I asked my husband, "Would it be so bad if we continued on? Send our son on a mission, viewing it as a rite of passage, simply so he won't be shunned by the community?" I had never gone on a mission myself.

He answered, "Yes. It would be so bad. Do you have any idea what a mission does to a person? That is the worst possible rite of passage one could possibly go through. It's not worth putting him through that." I imagine he would have called his mission experience a mind rape.

And I knew he was right. I just couldn't put my son through a mission just for the sake of "keeping up appearances." More than that, I couldn't put him through a Mormon childhood at all. From nursery on, the church is indoctrinating children, crunching them into moulds, whether they fit or not. For a few youth, it works. For others, they bend, but their selves are destroyed in the process. Others simply rebel. I couldn't put my child through this. Some churches actually support individual spiritual growth; the Mormon one damages it.


Rebecca said...

You know, my brother (also no longer Mormon) encourages our younger brothers to go on missions because it was one of the best eperiences of his life. He says that it really opened his eyes and made him realize that people can be, and ARE, completely happy without Mormonism. I keep reminding him that not EVERYONE has that experience, and the possibility of having it isn't a good enough reason to go on a mission. :)

from the ashes said...

It's great the his mission could be a positive experience, and he could learn something so valuable. But living outside of UT brings that same knowledge, doesn't it?

And there are missionaries who really had a great experience--when evaluated from with the "bouded rationality" or paradigm of Mormonism. Outside that rationality, it's probably a severe waste of time at best, and a soul-destroying experience at worst.

Rebecca said...

We grew up in CA, so he already lived outside of UT. He just hadn't ever REALLY gotten that people were JUST AS HAPPY believing other things. Because, you know, we were always taught that they only THINK they're happy (like there's a difference). He is outside Mormonism now, and still contends that his mission was one of the best experiences and times of growth in his life.

I'm not saying it's like that for everyone - I know it's not. I'm just saying for some people it's not a regret, even after they leave The Church (insert ominous music here).

from the ashes said...

I'm sure that's true. And I know what you mean about not really thinking they are happy. I believed the same thing.

I'm in an angry phase right now; it's hard to see good come out of missions, though, intellectually, I can acknowledge that's true.