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A lot of people have asked me when I left the Mormon church. I attend Mormon church, but I have undergone a significant faith transition after a
five-year bout of depression and a crisis of faith triggered by the loss of my sixth child (Mary Mercy) at birth in 2005. A lot of the answers offered
me for why this happened were unsatisfying. I did not want to believe that I was at fault for my daughter's death, but I also could not believe that it
was "God's will" that she died in order to teach me a "lesson."
For a time, it became easier to believe that there was no God at all. And because I also could not contemplate the idea of navigating a massive change
in my family life, I spent five years as an atheist within the Mormon church. As a result of that, I gained a unique perspective on why Mormons believe
and act the way they do, seeing them from this perspective.
In 2011, I decided that I wanted to try to believe in God again. I honestly felt lonely as an atheist. I wrote The Bishop's Wife as part of this
attempt, trying to conceive of a Mormon woman whom I might one day be, thoughtful, skeptical, critical, and incisive. I wanted to be able to reject the
parts of Mormonism that seemed horrible to me, but to keep the parts I loved. I wanted to be a Mormon, but not the way I had been before, and not according
to some outline that someone else had drawn.
To some degree, that attempt has been successful. I believe in God again, and to my surprise, I have become rather devout about it.
I pray every night and have had some very important experiences about God's love through that. However, though Linda Wallheim and I share the
loss of a child and a faith crisis that led to atheism, she is far more orthodox in her Mormonism than I am at this point in my life.
Why do I think I am entitled to speak about Mormonism if I am not an Orthodox Mormon? There are many Mormonisms and all of them deserve a voice.
Also, because I grew up very orthodox, I believe I see the culture rather keenly and understand orthodox doctrine well.
I sometimes say that because of my years of atheism, I became a kind of
anthropologist of Mormonism. Non-Mormons sometimes find this refreshing, as I tend to write about Mormonism neutrally, that is, without bearing testimony.
But I recognize that more orthodox Mormons feel like I am missing the most important part of the faith.
So what happens to a sometimes public critic of the Mormon church who is also trying to remain within it? The full truth is that I've lost some
very dear friends and my relationships with family members have become strained. I've had some talks with my bishop about my writings, but so far, have
not been called to a disciplinary hearing.
I blogged for the Religion Section of the Huffington Post from 2015-2017. Here are some of my posts:
1. Are We Mormons A Cult?
2. Do Mormons Believe in Magic?
3. Mormons Think Eve Was Right.
4. Could God Be Gay?
5. Are Mormons Christians?
6. Why Does it Matter If You're Excommunicated From the Mormon Church
How to Manage Mormon Missionaries
8. Run and Not Be Weary: Why Mormons Don't Drink
9. Why Theists Need Atheists
10.13 Ways to Protest the New Policy
11. Many Of Your Assumptions About Mormons Are Untrue
12.Are Mormons Heretics?
If you're interested in my faith crisis, here is an essay on
"Leaving Mormonism and Finding My Way Back."and Part Two of that story.
I continue to write a monthly column at Jana Riess' blog at Religion News Service.
Some of those essays:
1. My Mormon Family May Not Be Forever
2. Mormons Don't Know Everything
3. My Visiting Teacher Saved My Life
4. Why Don't You Leave
5. Drink a Coffee, Save Your Mormon Soul
I've recently started working with By Common Consent, who began a non-profit publisher, along with their well-known Mormon blog. A couple of essays are here:
What It Means to Sustain A Mormon Prophet
In the Middle Space
And here's an essay on my new book,
The Book of Laman, a retelling of The Book of Mormon from Laman's point of view.
I've done several recent interviews about my life as a Mormon and about The Bishop's Wife. Here are some of them:
1. NPR interview
2. Frank Stasio WUNC interview
3. Doug Fabrizio interview
I use for the old nickname "Mormon" rather than "LDS" or the full name of our church "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." This is a
deliberate choice to embrace the pejorative that I spent much of my childhood dealing with.
I want to say that while I have plenty of questions about the Mormon church, I have come back to it because ultimately there are also many things that I love about it. Some of those things are:
forever families, community, healthy living through the Word of Wisdom, the reversal of typical sexism in the Garden of Eden story, a belief in Heavenly Mother, the Relief Society organization of women,
emphasis on education.
Some favorite Mormon websites of mine are:
1. Segullah, a magazine of essays by and for Mormon women.
2. "The Bloggernacle," which is a site that hosts links to many, many websites and blogs.
4. Mormon Stories Podcast hosted by recently excommunicated John Dehlin
5. Kiwi Mormon, Gina Colvin's blog.
6. A Thoughtful Faith, podcast.
7. Feminist Mormon Housewives
8. A Year of Polygamy, podcast
9. By Common Consent
10. Feminist Mormon Housewives
11. Times and Seasons
12. A Motley Vision
13. Sistas in Zion
18. The Cultural Hall Podcast which also does a daily Mormon news report that isn't officially from the church.
I also have a special place in my heart for some of the old church films from the 70s and 80s, including "Johnny Lingo," which tells the story of Mahana, agirl everyone on the island considered ugly and unmarriageable. Her father offers her to Johnny Lingo for "one cow." But wise Johnny Lingo says that he wilpay 8 cows for her, making her an "8 cow wife." This is supposed to teach women about their intrinsic value to God, no matter if they are physically beautiful.Of course, in my seminary class, it just made all the boys go around and make lists of which girls were "1 cow" and which were "10 cow."
I hope you enjoy yourself here, and feel free to contact me at the link above if you have any questions.
Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2017 all rights reserved.
Last revised August 17, 2018.