I left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 1st, 2020.
On Friday, January 3rd, I had this dream:
My parents are visiting me and my family in our big yellow house in Japan. My dad has gone to the little grocery store at the bottom of the hill, and brought us everything that looked delicious. We spread all the food out on the table in my kitchen like a banquet and start sampling our feast. We’re sharing what we love, recommending what we find particularly delectable, and just having a great time. But then, I look down at my food and notice it has a weevil in it.
I’m a little alarmed at first, but it’s just one weevil. One weevil among so many delightful things. I pick it out, figuring that one weevil won’t ruin my meal. I don’t tell my dad. I wouldn’t want him to feel bad.
I go to eat the food again, and there are more weevils, three or four this time. I put my bowl down and say, “I don’t think I can eat this…there are weevils in it.”
“Go ahead and pick something else!” my parents say, “There’s plenty more good food here!”
My dad is still smiling, but a little quiet. He feels bad that my food had weevils.
I open another container, and I’m relieved when it looks clear. Just in case though, I dig a little bit, just to check, and there are hundreds of weevils just below the surface. I set it aside and calmly tell my parents that there are weevils in that one too. Their chewing slows. I open another container of food and there are so many weevils it looks like the food is moving.
“Weevils?” my parents ask. My dad is mortified. He brought us this food. We’ve all already been eating it.
I take a closer look, and I realize this bowl doesn’t just have weevils… I tell them, “This one has centipedes.”
“What?! No!” My mom is disgusted and incredulous. She can’t believe this is happening. I show my parents the bowl, and a big orange centipede rises from the swirling mass of weevils and other little centipedes. The huge centipede just keeps coming and coming, getting bigger and bigger, until it’s curled around the top of the food like the world’s most revolting, massive, glistening jello salad.
There is no food at all.
I am expecting my dad to scream. He hates things like this–he hates creepy-crawlies. But instead he just sits in his chair, looking at this thing, not saying anything. And I realize it’s because he feels so bad. He’s so embarrassed, and so disgusted, that he doesn’t know how to react. So he just stares at it, and I don’t know what he’s going to do.
And then, I wake up.
As I’ve talked to people about leaving The Church, the question that invariably arises is: Why did you leave? I try my best to explain in words, but my mind comes back to this dream every time. When I was still in The Church and I found weevils in the religion’s history, I ran to the modern day and how much things have changed. I felt grateful for a church that could grow and improve, and a prophet that received continuing revelation. When I saw the corruption of the modern day church, I ran back to the origins and told myself that at least the roots were good. When I saw the abuse, protection of predators, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, shame and victim-blaming of the Church’s culture, I ran to the doctrine. I told myself that the doctrine and the culture and the institution were all completely different things. I believed the doctrine was true. When I realized the doctrine itself was full of the same weevils, and that the toxic culture arose directly from it, I ran to Christ, who was pure and perfect, and love made flesh.
And then I realized, if Christ was real and pure and perfect, and love made flesh, He wouldn’t want anything to do with this infested food. He wouldn’t cook it. He wouldn’t serve it. He certainly wouldn’t command people to eat it or be separated from their families forever and cast into eternal darkness.
One weevil was not enough to make me leave. Maybe if I’d been a better person, a more intellectual person, a more moral person, I would have left at the very sight of the first weevil. Instead, for me, it took all of the weevils. It took an infestation.
Because, simply put, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught me to eat weevils. I lived on a diet of weevils for 33 years, and I fought hard to keep eating them. I had been taught to fight the good fight, to doubt my doubts, that belief is a choice, that God’s ways are not our ways, that there is no happiness outside of The Church, that, “A life with God is a life filled with peace. A life without God is a life filled with fear.”
I was taught to fear that it was this food or nothing.
I have since learned that this food was nothing. Nothing but weevils.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Image: It’s Great Except For…