The courage recently shown by 150 ordinary Americans whose action could, and likely will, cause them to lose everything and everyone they held dear in their lives, is awe-inspiring.
What bold and risky move did these people take? They left the Mormon sect.
A group of about 150 Mormons quit their church in a mass resignation ceremony in Salt Lake City on Saturday in a rare display of defiance ending decades of disagreement for some over issues ranging from polygamy to gay marriage.
Participants from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and elsewhere gathered in a public park to sign a “Declaration of Independence from Mormonism.”
…The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its culture of obedience, and the mass ceremony was a seldom-seen act of collective revolt.
Author Martha Beck has written extensively about her own decision to become an “apostate,” as Mormons call the people who leave the cult. She described the threats toward her family in her book, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith. These included promises to make her husband unemployable, ostracize her children, and more darkly, alert the “Danites,” a type of Mormon assassins whose existence, like polygamy, the church denies.
If you’ve read the book — and if you want to know more about the Latter Day Saints I highly recommend it, along with Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven — you realize how extraordinary was the move by these 150 people who could no longer go along with Mormonism’s bizarre teachings.
Some leaving the church Saturday did so with trepidation, as Mormon culture often stigmatizes those who fall away, leaving some without social or business connections.
“It’s hard, so we have to be very careful,” said Robin Hansen, a participant who said she quit over a “culture of abuse” which she believes is cultivated by church teachings promoting obedience.
Hansen said her husband had not joined her in leaving the faith because he works in a church-related business and could lose his job if he doesn’t maintain his membership.
To resign from the church, Mormons must submit a formal letter asking their names be removed from church rolls, a church instructional handbook for lay leaders published on the Internet in 2010 shows.
On Saturday, participants filled a basket with their letters for mailing by Larsen, who split with the church over doubts about the veracity of a translation of ancient Egyptian writings which are included in sacred Mormon texts.
Being a Mormon believer means accepting a sort of time travel version of history wherein Jesus comes to the New World, Native Americans are descended from Israelites, and indecipherable and likely imaginary hieroglyphics are accepted as sacred.
Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ nominee for president, is a highly-placed Mormon who gives millions to the church, which coincidentally, spent millions in the fight to overturn California’s same-sex marriage law.
Romney’s family members fled this country when polygamy was outlawed in the late 1800s, crossing the border into Mexico and founding colonies where they could continue the practice. His father, George Romney, was born in Mexico, and Mitt’s cousins with the Romney name live there to this day.
Presumably, none of the issues of concern to the 150 normal people who fled the cult, including widespread and persistent accusations of sex abuse and pedophilia, bother Romney.
The church bills itself as the one “true” Christian faith, and its theology promises families eternal relationships among those who remain faithful, sealing those gifts through special religious rites.
Among the reasons cited by those resigning are the church’s political activism against gay marriage and doctrinal teachings that conflict with scientific findings or are perceived as racist or sexist.
Others cite inconsistencies in the Mormons’ explanation of its own history, including the practice of polygamy. The church renounced plural marriage over a century ago as Utah was seeking statehood.
By resigning the church together, the 150 former Mormons hope to escape the harassment and threats experienced by those who leave on their own. We wish them well.