When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leave the church, their former friends shake their heads sadly and gossip among one another.
“She left because she was offended.”
“He left because he wants to sin.”
Many ex-Mormons become infuriated by these accusations, but I want to say for the record, “I’m offended, and I want to sin.”
I’m offended that Latter-day Saint leaders refuse to apologize for the church’s history of oppression against black members (and non-members). That they refuse to apologize for past oppressive doctrines and policies against Native Americans, to acknowledge theology that demeans women. I’m offended they won’t apologize for ordering the physical torture of LGBTQ students at their church-run Brigham Young University.
Or that they refuse to discipline the member in good standing who helped design the U.S. military torture program. In fact, they made the guy a bishop.
To paraphrase Celine Dion, “The list could go on and on.”
But feeling offended isn’t the only reason I left. I also want to sin!
I want to watch R-rated movies and TV shows with sex and language warnings. “Schindler’s List.” “The Accused.” “Maurice.” “Wind River.” “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “The Lives of Others.”
I want to read inappropriate books. Even if they contain four-letter words. Or awkward history. Or challenging questions.
My other sins?
I support the Equal Rights Amendment. I support marriage equality.
Even if advocating for fairness and justice were sins, I support the right of people to commit them.
Just as we have the right to be baptized or refuse baptism, the right to be married in the temple or instead at City Hall, to attend church or go fishing, I believe we have free agency in secular matters as well. We can accept medical treatment or refuse it, donate a kidney or not, donate blood or bone marrow or plasma or not, no matter the moral implications.
I support the right of people to acknowledge their gender and make decisions about their own bodies, even when it pertains to their genitals. I may not “approve” of someone’s tattoos or piercings, but what they do with their own body is really none of my business. Just because they got a Prince Albert doesn’t mean I have to.
Too many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to turn their personal decisions about their own lives into laws forcing everyone else to make the same decisions for theirs.
You know, like Satan’s plan to force everyone on Earth to be “good.”
A plan Mormons say God rejected.
Leaders of the LDS Church claim they don’t want to be involved in politics but do feel obligated to speak on “moral” issues. Yet what qualifies?
They refuse to back universal health care. How can health care not be a moral issue, though, when they consider marijuana one?
I believe that Black Lives Matter, and I don’t believe a righteous response to that sentiment is a murderous rage against the person who expressed it.
I believe housing is a human right, whether or not a person pays their tithing or stops smoking.
I don’t accept that capitalism, a system that postdates the Bible and the events in the Book of Mormon by centuries, is ordained of God.
I believe that “not taking a stand” on fossil fuels and greenhouse gases is no better than Pilate “washing his hands” during the trial of Jesus Christ.
LDS leaders refuse to insist lawmakers ban assault weapons used to kill children at school, families at movie theaters, friends at music concerts.
But is enabling murderers with thoughts and prayers moral? To paraphrase Jim Lovell, “Salt Lake, we have a problem.”
I’m confused that more people who claim to believe strongly in morality don’t find it moral to right wrongs and make the world a better place now rather than wait for a messiah to clean up our mess at some vague, undetermined future date.
Leaving social justice up to God in the afterlife when we could do something about it ourselves in this life is a sin.
Despite my decadence, obvious in so many ways, this isn’t a sin I want to commit.
And I’m offended that so many others in my faith tradition do.
Johnny Townsend, Seattle, is the author of, among other books, “Am I My Planet’s Keeper?,” “Racism by Proxy” and “Queer Quilting”