A friend of mine realized that he did not believe in the LDS church about the same time I did (summer 2005 or so), so we connected over similar experiences. He was serving in a bishopric, and I was in the high priests group leadership. Both of us ended up serving in our callings for a while because we couldn’t get released. So, being dutiful church members, we kept on serving in our callings, even though we did not believe. He served in the bishopric for over a year as an unbeliever, finally calling it quits when he realized that they had no intention of releasing him. As for me, they just put me in the nursery.
One way that we are different is that I had an intense need for people I cared about to understand where I was coming from, so when people asked me why I had lost my faith, I told them. My friend, on the other hand, just says, “I don’t believe in the church anymore, and I have good reasons. If you want to know about it, you’ll have to do your own homework.”
On the one hand, this has been much better for him than it has been for me, as there’s been less arguing, fewer attempts to drag him back to church, than there has been for me. Every time I ever brought up a church issue with friends or family, it ended badly. So, in that respect, he’s chosen the better path. Of course, he’s been told that one consequence of his silence has been rampant rumor-mongering, such as that he was involved in “swinging” or polygamy, or that he started his own cult. He thinks that’s funny, as do I, but I admit I’d probably be a little perturbed if that kind of stuff were said about me.
And let’s face it: in Mormonism, there are few private boundaries that people don’t feel the right to cross. If you’re having problems and someone in the ward knows about it, you can rest assured that your problems are being discussed in meetings, and you may get asked about those things. So, it’s no surprise that church members feel that it’s their business to know exactly why you left; maybe they feel they can bring you back, or at least dust their feet off on you.
But in the end, my friend is right. What he believes or doesn’t believe is his business and no one else’s. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I was raised to be keenly aware of what other people thought of me and how well I was living the gospel. Sometimes I hear about other people struggling with their loss of faith, and I’m reminded of that terrible angst from feeling like other people disapprove of things I’ve done, but for the most part, the angst is gone.
I know why I don’t believe in Mormonism, but it’s no one else’s business but mine.