I recently watched a very long but very interesting interview over on Mormon Stories. John and Brooke McLay were True Believers and highly involved in the LDS community, until they became disillusioned with the Church. There are four segments and each is about an hour and a half long, but it’s very much worth listening to.
I do read a bit about Mormonism, mostly fiction like The 19th Wife, and I’ll admit to the occasional conversation with missionaries on Mormon.org when I’m bored. But listening to John and Brooke speak casually with a sprinkling of Mormon jingo reminded me that the daily experience of being Mormon is still very alien to me.
Since much of my interest is with the more fundamentalist sects of Mormonism, I was interested to hear John talk about his discovery of polygamy in the early Church (part 2). He believed, as I have heard from missionaries, that polygamy in the early Church was okay because it was about finding a way to provide for widows. But John realized the other side of polygamy – being married, yet still having sex with more than one woman. From there, he was horrified to learn that Joseph Smith was known even to take other men’s wives, such as when he sent the husbands on missionary trips. This knowledge, for John, was a major step in his disillusionment with the Church.
Other factors that John lists in the segment are the homophobia and racism that are part of the doctrinal foundation of the LDS Church, and the conflict between his faith and his understanding of evolution.
In part 3, Brooke talks very movingly about the isolation that religious beliefs can cause. As a Mormon, she felt that she had to exclude non-Mormons and gays from her life. So moving away from the Church was her way to let more people into their lives. But because ex-Mormons are treated with such disdain by the Church, the McLays lost many friends.
But Brooke was wary of becoming an atheist and therefore having “no moral authority.” It was a throwaway line, but it shows just how far she still has to go to shed the intolerance of her upbringing. The statement was especially meaningful given John’s apparent lack of belief (while he never identifies himself as an atheist, he was casually using a lot of jargon from the atheist community, in the same way that both he and Brooke used Mormon jargon).
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the interview is when John explains that anything critical of Mormonism or the LDS Church is branded as anti-Mormon, even if it comes from within the Mormon community. It was interesting to read the same complaint from Miriam Namazie in regards to Islam. It points to the way communities have of closing ranks and dividing the world into clearly delineated teams of supporters versus detractors, with an inability to see that criticism can be constructive and well meant.
(h/t: Friendly Atheist)