1 Nephi 9:6 “The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning”
We walk through the heat of the desert like our pioneer forefathers, the heat clawing at our bodies like a desperate animal. In front of me are my school mates — not quite friends. I lag behind, out of place, a puzzle piece that never fit quite right. They look back at me. Their smiles are forced. I can’t muster the strength to smile back.
The building looms up ahead, starkly white against the clear Arizona sky. The others speed up their pace, eager for the relief of air conditioning. The sun bouncing off the church is a blinding spotlight, a beacon of purity which will expose my sin. I would rather brave the heat if that meant I could be spared. Heresy or heatstroke, I would rather choose the latter.
Ether 12:27 “if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness”
I sit in my wooden desk, glancing at the posters of our 13 leaders. All old, male, and white. What crimes have they committed that have been buried? I feel the pain of a deceived lover, lied to and placated and gaslighted. I press my hands into my lap to hide the shaking. I can’t let my desk mate see. If they do then they will ask, and I will tell them what I know, and then the rumors will start. My scarlet letter of doubt will burn brightly, and like chickens seeing red, they will peck and peck until I am weak and alone and bleeding. So I can’t let them see. They will exile me and create their own reason as to why I left, whichever stories hold the greatest shock value. Whichever stories entertain.
Mosiah 4:27 “all these things are done in wisdom and order”
The professor walks in. His smile is kind, he loves the doctrine that he teaches. I used to love it too. I trusted every word they fed me without question, avoiding the outside sources begging me to open my eyes. His eyes meet mine, trying to ingrain within me the love that he feels. But his words don’t conform or comfort me anymore, they confuse me. Did he know the truth as I did? Was he complacent? Surely he knows, he had been asked millions of questions over the years, questions which made preachers cringe and motion for you to be silent. Questions that I can never ask because I know what would happen.
Alma 37:36 “and cry unto God for all thy support”
I am alone. The bathroom stall is cramped and bright. My jacket sleeve muffles my sobs. Don’t let them hear, they’ll come and ask you questions that you can’t answer. The greatest sin is to know God in all his glory and still deny him, but this can’t possibly be God. What God would condone rape and murder and theft and lies and endless repentance that never ceases no matter how many times you pray? As a little girl my greatest fear was my own capacity to do evil. I can’t tell them what I know, because they will immediately reject me, hunt me like the witch I am. They will cast away the sinner as they have been taught to do. But how am I the sinner? How can my leaving be a sin when staying would cause me to violate my moral compass and whatever shreds of faith remaining inside me? I never knew that a person could feel so alone.
I am mourning a death; the death of the version of myself who knew her Heavenly Father and loved him with all her heart. The death of the version of me who could trust, who knew where she came from and where she was destined to go. The horror of watching my faith shrivel inside of me is enough to break my heart. To cry, not just for the injustice done but for pity of myself. I am lost. My heart is a baby bird flying from the nest only to plummet to the rocks below, shattering its little skull. The florescent lights above me provide no comfort or warmth.
Helen grew up as a Mormon in Utah. She isn’t one anymore. Helen is currently a Barrett student at ASU and loves her non-Mormon lifestyle, despite what rumors her old church members might be spreading.