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Where Will You Go?…

“General Conference is a time of year that some people eagerly anticipate, and some people absolutely dread. In the transitioning Mormon world, Conference weekend is often an advisable time to skip Facebook and find a happy place out in Nature where the internet doesn’t even work.

“This General Conference, Elder Russell Ballard’s talk “To Whom Shall We Go?” will likely be a source of angst for transitioning and post-Mormons, especially those who still have significant ties to the Mormon world via family and close friends (i.e., most of us). These words were particularly trigger-inducing: ‘If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do?’

“I suspect that many people firmly inside the church listened to that question and thought, ‘Exactly! That’s why I’m staying put.’ For many already out of the church, it probably sounded like a condescending question. ‘Are you trying to say I can’t find happiness outside of the church?’

“But I can’t help but think about those people somewhere in the middle. Maybe they’re in the church but are struggling to stay, or they’re ready to move on but aren’t sure about next steps. Maybe they’re half out and considering a more long-term separation.

“For my part, when I had just stepped away from the church, I remember thinking about that question and I had an answer for myself: ‘I don’t know where I’ll go, but I can’t stay here.’ That was enough for me. For others, that won’t be enough.

“When you’re first taking steps away from the church, it can be frightening and scary. It can feel like everything, including your identity, is being stripped away from you. Mormon Spectrum lists many resources to help you on your way, such as blogs and podcasts and reference websites. But the most awesome resource that Mormon Spectrum provides is a world map listing in-person communities near you where you can find support and love and understanding in a safe environment. It might not help you solve the question of where you’re going to go, but it’ll put you in touch with people who have been or currently are in your exact same situation. Maybe you can tackle that question together.

“I personally don’t have any answers for anyone besides myself, and I wonder about my own answers half the time, too. But what I do know is that while I can’t say that I know where I’ll end up, I do know what I’ll do. I’ll stand here, right here on the bridge in-between spaces, and hold up a lantern. If you’re just wandering out of Mormon space and looking where to go, maybe you’ll see a little light and know that I’m standing here ready to give you a hug, let you cry and be angry, and give you the time that you need, however long that is. I’m not going anywhere, and you don’t have to stay any longer than you’d like. You can go back or move on or stand with me or whatever you want. You can take your time deciding. But maybe by the time we’re done, you’ll see lots of lanterns, flickering in a thousand directions, and you’ll know that wherever you end up, you’ll be okay. Because you’ll still be you. And strangely, without you even knowing it, you’ll realize that you’re holding a lantern, too. You always have been.”

Tamra Thacker, 2 October 2016