Evolution has planted within us a deep sense of tribalism. Once our means of survival, now this tribalism creates unnecessary wedges of “otherism” between us. The corrupt like to capitalize on this instinct by blaming and shaming those who are outside the tribe.
Throughout time, a few brave women and men have sought to bridge the imagined gap that separates “us” from “them.” Many of them were killed in the effort. But because their dogged determination to stand up to injustice and bigotry, they changed the course of history.
Because of those courageous people, slavery was abolished and blacks eventually became equal citizens. Because of those people, women gained the right to vote, to hold office, and to serve in capacities that once excluded them. Because of those people, gay marriage was legalized and LGBTQ individuals are becoming more and more accepted by society.
Though they were hated and persecuted in their time, those valiant individuals knew history would vindicate their efforts. And it has. Both the bigots and the bystanders have faded from view, while the movers and shakers are immortalized in our collective memory.
Today, our fight does not require the sacrifice of our blood, but it may require some of our life. Our fight may require us to sacrifice some of our comfort, some of our relationships, and some of our good standing among others. Though our sacrifice may not be as dramatic, it is just as significant.
The LDS Church, like every other organization trapped in the mire of their own prejudice, continues to draw lines in the sand to separate “us” from “them.” It brands those with legitimate questions apostates and enemies, forever demonizing them in the eyes of their family and friends. It belittles women, confining them to scripted roles and valuing them only by their ability to produce offspring. It produces an ethnocentric worldview that demeans people of other races and nationalities. It blames homosexuals for societal decay and traps its LGBT members in depression with no hope for release beside death.
Too many LGBT individuals have committed suicide because they could not reconcile their inherent nature with the LDS narrative. Too many women have trudged through their lives in submissive depression because they were not allowed to live up to their potential. Too many dark-skinned members have questioned their own worthiness due to racist doctrine. To many families have been torn apart because a member can no longer believe.
It is time to take a stand. It is time for the silent voices to find themselves. It is time for the bystanders to become activists. If every person who has quietly left the church stood up today and told their friends and families what they really believed, it would shake the church to its core.
When Harvey Milk was battling for gay rights, he said, “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.”
In that same spirit, I am inviting every closeted ex-Mormon to be open about their where they stand. We can’t stop the demonization of ex-Mormonism until we humanize it with our own faces.
This week is the perfect opportunity. Jeremy Runnells, author of the infamous CES Letter, is being summoned to a disciplinary council where he will likely be excommunicated. His only crime is that he has asked sincere questions about the LDS church. Because his letter has influenced so many to leave the faith, he is now being punished.
The CES Letter is one of the most effective documents in getting people to see the truth of the LDS church. The more people who see it, the more people will leave. Those who don’t leave may at least begin to understand where ex-Mormons are coming from. Either way, the truth must be told, and we are the ones to tell it.
Stand with Jeremy. Stand with John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, Marisa and Carson Calderwood, Rock Waterman, Michael Quinn, Sandra Tanner, and every other “apostate” who put their reputation on the line to do what was right. You are likely only where you are because of them. Now is your chance to pay the favor forward and help enlighten someone else. You don’t have to pick a fight. You can and should be respectful and loving. But be authentic.
When I left the church, I told my family and then Facebook. Because of that post, several of my friends have likewise left or are leaving. When I met John Dehlin at a Mormon Stories event, all I could do was thank him. I told him I felt like I had been reborn, that I was seeing the world again for the first time. Perhaps you’ve felt the same thing. Now you can give that to someone else. You can be the one who looses the chains that bind the intellect and compassion of Latter-day Saints.
Now, I don’t pretend to know what is best for every person. There are precarious situations that do not allow for such blatant announcements. I would not encourage anyone to do anything that would jeopardize their mental, emotional, professional, or even physical security. Each person must decide what is best for them and their family.
This call to action is for those who want to tell others but are presently too afraid. This call to action is for those who are in a place to make a difference. Do not go gently into that good night! Be brave!
Do it for the 34 LGBT youth who committed suicide in wake of the church’s bigoted policy change! Do it for the impoverished saints who go hungry so they can pay tithing, while the demagogues make a feast of fat things in their lavish chambers! Do it for the suffering Utah citizens who can’t get medical marijuana because the church’s pressure on legislators! Do it for every single man, woman, and child who has ever been physically or emotionally abused by the LDS church!
Do it in the way you think best. Make the “I Stand with Jeremy” graphic your Facebook profile picture. Write a letter. Make phone calls. Post the CES Letter itself. It doesn’t matter how you do it; just do something.
The media is not picking up Jeremy’s story. Somebody has to let people know what is happening, what has already happened. So why not us? Why not now?
It’s been said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. If you want to see a world purged of bigotry and injustice, know that it starts with you and me speaking up.
The church has controlled the narrative for almost 200 years. They have hid their history, manipulated their doctrines, vilified their critics, and crippled their own members for far too long. The bigoted tribalism must end. It’s time we take a stand.
It is time for us all to decide who we are
Do we fight for the right to a night at the opera now?
Have you asked of yourselves what’s the price you might pay?
Is it simply a game for rich young boys to play?
The colors of the world are changing day by day
Red — the blood of angry men!
Black — the dark of ages past!
Red — a world about to dawn!
Black — the night that ends at last!