“They Just Can’t Leave the Church Alone”

“They Just Can’t Leave the Church Alone” November 13, 2018

“They just can’t leave the church alone” is a phrase many progressive or post mormons hear often from their believing friends, family and community members. It’s a phrase that is found belittling, marginalizing and offensive. Here is a good explanation as to why this is the case.

Today’s guest post is written by Ashley Ruttan. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author. 

Ashley is a Canadian Mormon Feminist. Her ward callings and research have given her an enduring love for accuracy in teaching Mormon history, a dedication to promoting Mormon feminism, and a love for pushing the boundaries of Mormonism to be inclusive and equitable for all. She also is a self proclaimed macaron connoisseur.

“They can leave the church, but they can’t leave it alone.”

I don’t know how many times I heard that phrase while I was attending, and it rings in my head now that I am not.

We apply that phrase to those pesky rabble-rousers who can’t seem to shut up about the problematic narrative that is the Sunday School version of church history; those crazy feminists who just don’t understand what we understand about the gospel and if they did they wouldn’t be pushing for greater representation, visibility and authority for Mormon women or crazier yet those who want to explore the theology of Mother in Heaven; those who just don’t have a solid testimony of The Proclamation to the Family and push for safer spaces for LGBTQ+ folks and push back against a revealed policy; those supporting that rogue former bishop whose concerns have already been addressed by the church; and all those other angry people who just don’t understand. Who just want to cause trouble. Who just want to make the church look bad. Who have just lost their way.

I’m speaking for me, but there’s a reason I can’t leave it alone: I still care about the community of faith that shaped me. I have put just as much time energy and effort into this as you reading this who remains faithful has. I have spent countless hours crying, praying, fasting and pleading. I have spent many nights reading and researching until I could no longer keep my eyes open. I have spent time in the heart of the religion as well as on the fringes of our faith community. I have listened to and shared the pain of those who don’t know what to do with all the sharp edges of Mormonism. I have felt the betrayal.

I know how you see me, because I used to see these people “who can’t leave the church alone” through your eyes.

But… I’m still Mormon (I type through tear filled eyes), maybe not in the way you would like me to be to be, but that’s ok. I’m happy here with all my queer, apostate, feminist, history-loving, marginalized community of misfit Mormons. And just maybe that is why President Nelson wants to move away from using Mormon. Because us out here on the fringes are making a community where you don’t have to fit in, but where you can belong.

Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.

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