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Open Letter to the Plano, Texas Fifth Ward

To my former ward brothers and sisters:

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again.  I thought that my posting of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's "Tongue of Angels" talk a few months back when rumors were swirling about me in my former ward might have had some impact.  I thought perhaps you, my Mormon friends, would "listen to a prophet's voice" even if you would not listen to mine.  I thought maybe those of you who claim to follow Jesus Christ would stop engaging in gossip and rumor-mongering.  I guess I was wrong.  It saddens me to learn that a rumor concerning my personal life is being spread around in the ward where my son still attends Scouts and my daughter attends Activity Girls. 

But what really saddens me is not so much that people would spread a lie about me but that the lie itself is considered scandalous in your Mormon culture.  That's exactly what I think needs to change.  You see, the rumor burning up the ward phone lines is that I left the church to take up with a gay lover! 

I look forward to the day when a rumor like that will be about as salacious as a rumor that, say, I sometimes forget to floss, or that I don't make my bed every morning, or that I re-use my dryer sheets.  That a rumor I am gay is considered so scurrilous by the members of my former ward is itself a commentary on today's Mormon culture: narrow-minded, bigoted, and homophobic.  To his credit, one person from the ward (yes, only one) has risen above such pettiness, alerting me that the rumor was spreading.  But what of the rest of you? You who hear something like that and, instead of sending me an email or picking up the phone to call me, call up someone else in the ward and ask "have you heard it? Is it true?"  What do you have to say for yourself? You who call yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ.  Are you not ashamed?

And what of you who started this rumor? Did you think it would hurt me? It hasn't.  First, it is not true.  Second, if it were true, I would not hide it as I think being gay is not something one need hide or apologize for.  So, if I were gay, I'd be more than happy to let everyone know it.  I'll go one step further.  Not only am I not hurt by the suggestion, I am actually a little flattered.  All the gay people I know are exceptional.  I enjoy their association and value their friendship and admire their courage as they deal every day with bigots like you.  I stand by them in their struggle for equal rights and the full acceptance in society.  I'm not gay but I am honored to know that some people might think I am.

I know why you started this rumor.  I have been torn about how much I should say about that.  I don't want to hurt your wife and children, so I have decided, for their sake, to say nothing here to reveal your identity and motive.  It was, however, monumentally stupid for you to start this rumor, knowing as you do that I really have nothing to lose by revealing your own secret.

The rumor itself is interesting from a sociological standpoint, in what it says about Mormonism.   I have been very open about my issues with the LDS church.  I have chronicled my journey out of the church here on this blog for the last 2 1/2 years.  I've posted about Mormon history, doctrine, and practice.  I've identified 96 specific reforms I think the church ought to adopt.  And I've talked about the value differences I have with Mormonism.  I believe in freedom of thought and expression; the church does not.  I believe in honesty and openness in teaching history; the church does not.  I believe in the equality of the sexes; the church does not.  I believe in racial equality; the church does not.   I believe in science; the church does not (when it conflicts with dogma, which is often). And so on. 

But many Mormons seem to have a very hard time believing that anyone could really leave the church because (a) it's simply not true and (b) personal integrity demands it.  No, for many Mormons people leave the church only because (a) they want to sin or (b) they were offended.  The rumor that I am gay fills a cognitive need for some true-believing Mormons--it provides them with a "reason" for my departure that they can understand.  Brother Equality didn't leave the church because he discovered the truth about its doctrinal and historical claims, or because the church is lacking in ethical values.  No, Brother Equality really left because he wanted to sin--with his gay lover!  It's a much more satisfying reason for the devout believer.  It requires no examination of the church, no self-reflection about the things one believes and the values one embraces.  My departure can simply be attributed to my own personal weakness and moral failure.  And to a believing Mormon, what epitomizes better a condition of personal moral depravity than homosexuality? 

So, I understand the allure of the rumor, and I understand why it would be almost impossible for a believing Mormon to resist spreading it.  But it's still disappointing to witness it.  And it confirms to me, once again, that the decision I made to resign earlier this year was absolutely the right one.  I am so glad to be free from the mindfuck that makes people think that way. 

Comments

fh451

Nice letter - did you post it anywhere else (besides this blog) where your former ward members might see it? I'd be curious at their response.

fh451

W2mZ

I love your website. Thank you for all the information and links. Your site is a bastion of sanity in a sea of anti and apolgetics turmoil.

I too hate the rumor-mill that is the LDS ward... I'm sorry this happened to you. Kudos on your courage to resign. On the trek, but not to the exit yet. w2mZ

You Enjoy MyZelph

I am dying to hear if the rumor monger responds.

Craig

I've had to deal with that same type of shit, but in my case I am gay, so Mormons are even less likely to listen to me or believe me when I say that the main reason I left the church was not because I'm gay, but because of ethical and moral reasons, because the church is a lie through and through. No, they always just see my homosexuality and my evil nature (because I'm gay, therefore I must have an evil nature) as the only reason for my leaving the church. And of course someone probably offended me (yeah, the whole freaking church).

*sigh*

I don't even really try anymore to explain it.

INTJ Mom

Wow, and Wow. Great post, but Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how very little most proclaimed Christians actually understand about Jesus and the revolutionary ideas attributed to him.

Helen Macfarlane

Wow Eric. Some of my fondest memories of you tie back to our times of teaching gospel doctrine together. Time changes things doesn't it. Watched Gretchen's utube clip today. "Wow" to that as well. God bless you both.

Equality

Helen,

Thanks for commenting. It has been awhile. Time does change things, but it does not change any of my fond memories of my time in the church, of which there are many, including the time I spent teaching Gospel Doctrine with you. The lesson you led in the aftermath of 9/11 was perhaps the best classroom experience I ever had in the church--it exemplified for me what a church class could and should be like, and I will always remember it. The people in our neighborhood there in Pleasant Grove were good to me and Gretchen and we forged some fine friendships.

As you will see if you peruse my blog, this latest post notwithstanding, few of my posts are in any way critical of individual members of the church with whom I have associated. The great majority of my interpersonal dealings with members of the church have been positive, even after my disaffection with the church generally. My issues are not, with a few exceptions, with individual members of the church but are with church culture, doctrine, and history, and practices of church leaders.

I am interested to know how you found my blog and how you found Gretchen's YouTube video, since I have not posted about it here. Feel free to comment here again or, if you prefer, email me anytime at equalitytime@gmail.com.

Thanks again for posting. It is good to hear from you. I hope Kevin and the kids are doing fine.

Langdon Greene

Hey - I just stumbled upon your blog for the first time. Quite impressive.

I haven't been involved much with 'Mormon issues' for a few years now (having tired of the frustration), but I am encouraged to see such intelligent commentary being generated.

Best wishes.

aerin

Wow.

Rumors can be so damaging. Equality - I can't tell you how many lessons I remember from yw about gossip and rumors. So I'm sad to read this, for you and your family. Not sure why people would feel the need to repeat something that doesn't concern them.

JulieAnn

Wow, unbelievable. I understand the whole rumor thing. People are people...which is why churches are fundamentally WRONG.

*sigh*

Nice to meet you the other night, btw.

:0)

ja

Current 5th Ward member

I'm a current member of the 5th ward and I have been a member from some time. I have a very good idea who this hate-filled person might be, only because he flounts his dislike of mormonism everywhere. Very sad, I don't like everything about the mormon church, but I'm not going to bash it. Why? For the most part, mormons are very good people as are all people who practice their faith in honesty. I never heard any rumours about anyone being gay - or any rumours about you (if-you-are-who-I-think-you-are)only people who care about you and are perhaps saddened by your actions. I wish you the best, but know that you will never be happy when you are so filled with hate.

Equality

Current 5th Ward Member,

Thank you for posting on my blog. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me; however, I recommend that you take some time to read more. You appear to be operating under the erroneous impression that I am (1) unhappy and (2) filled with hate. I assure you that just isn't the case. I think my posts here over the past 2 1/2 years show that I am a happy, well-adjusted person who harbors no ill will or enmity toward any individual person, not even the person who started the rumor about me or the people who spread it. I am glad you didn't hear the rumor or spread it. Thank you for that.

I agree with you that for the most part, Mormons are good people, as are many religious-minded folks. I think the measure of whether someone is a good person is not dependent on the person's religious affiliation or professed beliefs. I think it has far more to do with how they treat others. You know, the Golden Rule and all that.

As for who I am, that is no secret. My name is Eric Soderlund. I was a member of the Plano 5th Ward until February 14, 2008, when I resigned my membership in the LDS church. My ex-wife and two of my children are baptized members of the church and still on the church membership rolls (though my ex-wife has since converted to Islam, but that's perhaps a subject for another post altogether). Now that I have told you my identity, perhaps you could be so kind as to let me know yours.

I agree with you that, as a general principle, people who are filled with hate are not happy. I am neither filled with hate nor unhappy. In fact, since leaving the church, I have never been happier. The idea that people who leave Mormonism invariably end up miserable and bitter and angry and hateful is a vicious lie perpetuated by church leaders through talks and lesson materials. It is simply untrue. One reason church leaders repeatedly warn members against reading sites like mine is that they know that there are, in fact, many ex-Mormons like me who are living lives of peace and contentment outside the church. This creates a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when members of the church begin to realize that the LDS church does not have a corner on the happiness market. If the church is lying about the condition of so-called apostates, what else might it be lying about? Think about it.

As for your assertion that you "know" I am unhappy and filled with hate, I ask how do you "know" such a thing? Can you point to anything specific in my words here that is hateful? I find it odd that you would say I am filled with hate when I am the subject of the rumor started by someone in your ward and spread by others in your ward (none of whom, by the way, has offered a single word of apology--another example of christian discipleship in action?)

Anyway, as I said, I don't hate you or anyone in the ward, or anyone in the world for that matter. Well, maybe Osama bin Laden. But you know what I mean.

Peace.

Current 5th Ward member

It doesn't matter who I am - you probably don't remember me anyway. (I'm not in the habit of posting my name on the internet - or doing blogs for that matter. I only found this blog by mistake. I was looking for the building phone number!) You're right, I do not know anything about what you feel(happiness, hatred, ??), nor am I equipped to argue with a lawyer. The ward is almost completely changed as far as membership goes - all new families. I just wanted you to know that NO ONE is talking about you - honestly. Also, I never said that happiness hinges on being Mormon. I'm glad you're happy now, so happy that you've moved on with your life and never have to resort to attending conferences for exmormons or writing blogs to ease the non-hate you feel. Interesting blog though, I was wondering what happened to your family. I'm sorry for your divorce and wish you and your family well.

Equality

Current 5th Ward member,

Thanks for the compliment about my blog. I am glad you find it interesting.

Don't worry about being equipped to argue with a lawyer. We don't need to argue. We can discuss things and share our thoughts and opinions without arguing every little point.

I do think your latest comment betrays a certain passive-aggressiveness that you may not even be conscious of. On he one hand, you wish me and my family well and say you are glad I am happy. But then, in the next breath, you insert a sarcastic jab about how my attending an exmormon conference and writing my blog is an example of my happiness and the non-hate I feel. I guess I am confused about how attending an exmormon conference and writing a blog has any bearing on one's state of happiness. I must say I sense a latent hostility from you in your two comments. And I wonder why you feel the need to post under the cloak of anonymity. Obviously, I don't believe that anonymity is always a bad thing; sometimes it is both useful and necessary. I just wonder why you feel the need to remain anonymous.

It is also interesting that you mention my attendance at the exmormon conference. I haven't blogged about that. I did send an email response to an invitation to a ward scout committee meeting that I received while at the conference. I had to decline the invitation to attend the meeting because I was out of town at the exmo conference. But unless you were a recipient of that email, you wouldn't know about it because, as you say, NO ONE in the ward is talking about me.

Feel free to continue to read and respond here. I welcome a continuing civil dialogue with you.

Hellmut

If you put it that way then I am kind of jealous that no one has called me gay in a while.

Current 5th Ward member

Just so you know, the reason I know about the exmormon conference is because you emailed it to the WHOLE ward! No one is talking about you. Take care!

rebecca

Wow, Current 5th Ward member sounds super happy and filled with non-hate. Yay for him/her!

As far as the post, Equality, the ward rumor mill (oh, how I am familiar with it!) reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbhnRuJBHLs

Equality

Funny video, Rebecca. Yes, what current 5th ward member failed to mention about my emailing the whole ward is that I only replied to all to an email inviting me to a Scout Committee Meeting. Since my son is a member of the church and active in Scouts, I as a parent am on the Scout Committee. I received an email on a Saturday night inviting me to a Scout Committee meeting the next day. I was in Salt Lake City and simply replied to all that I was out of town attending the Annual Exmormon Foundation meeting and as a result, I would regrettably be unable to attend the Scout Committee meeting. I thanked them for the invite and said that I might be able to attend the following month. So it was not quite the way current 5th ward member portrayed it--I didn't just affirmatively send out a blast email to the whole ward; I just responded to an email that was sent to me. They have not sent me another invitation since (although my son is still a member and still in Scouts).

Grégoire

This is so pathetic. It happens so often. After I got married, nearly fourteen years ago, my parents and siblings actually made up a bunch of nonsense (sexually-charged, mind you) about my wife. They had never met her.

In a way it was beneficial, because it started her (and her entire extended family) on the road to never taking Mormons seriously or giving them the least bit of credibility.

I talked about the concept a few weeks ago here:

http://pristalica.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/de-mormonification/

Really, it's such a disgusting attribute that exists in Mormonism, and seemingly *only* in Mormonism. It'd be funny if it weren't so sickening.

Current 5th Ward member

This note is just to somewhat confirm what Eric said. He did say that he wouldn't be able to attend because he was attending an ex-mormon thing - but why say that? Why not just say, "Sorry, I won't be able to attend" and email only the person who sent him the invitation? I have never emailed him. I'm not even a member of the scout group he's talking about. I don't even have a child in scouts. As I know you are aware, sending an email out to the whole ward stating you were attending an ex-mormon conference is thumbing your nose at them. Most people you emailed probably don't know who you are or didn't know you were actively against Mormons as you are. Until I received that unsolicited email, I didn't know you were even out of the church - some people drop out for a while and come back - its a big ward.

I've found that Mormons are no different than anyone else. There are kind ones (most) and ones I'd rather not associate with just as there are with all people. I suppose I'm lucky because I haven't suffered as you have from anyone who happened to be Mormon. The person who caused me and my family the most grief (rumors and much more) happened to be Catholic, but I don't have a blog against Catholics and Catholicism. In fact my best friend is Catholic. It's not the religion, is called being human. Look to God and Jesus Christ if you seek perfection. Creating blogs that promote hate don't help anyone. I would contact the Bishop if I had these feelings. He really is a good man with a great heart. He could help.

Equality

Current 5th Ward Member,

Thanks again for posting on my blog. I appreciate your point of view. From your latest comment, it looks like there are a couple of points on which we might agree.

You said "I've found that Mormons are no different than anyone else." I agree for the most part. The Mormon church provides nothing special or remarkable or supernatural that would set Mormons above non-Mormons or ex-Mormons. Mormons are just like everyone else. Of course, Mormon doctrine teaches otherwise. Mormon doctrine says that Mormons are "chosen" and a "peculiar people" who belong to the "only true and living church upon the face of the earth." Mormon doctrine teaches that only Mormons (and, indeed, a small subset of Mormons) are "worthy" enough to reach the highest heights of celestial glory and live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ forever. Mormon doctrine teaches that Mormons have greater spiritual knowledge than non-Mormons, and greater light than non-Mormons. Only Mormons have the gift of the Holy Ghost--non-Mormons may receive occasional glimpses of light and occasionally encounter the Holy Ghost, but only Mormons have the gift of constant divine companionship. Ex-Mormons like me are, according to Joseph Smith and the current prophets, in the clutches of Satan, wandering in darkness, etc. (See my latest post on the subject). And only Mormons have the right to perform binding ordinances that are essential to human salvation. So, your statement that Mormons are no different than anyone else, while an idea I can get behind, is actually something that might land you in a "court of love" if you keep proclaiming it, as it clearly contradicts Mormon doctrine.

You also said "Creating blogs that promote hate don't help anyone." I agree. Certainly you are not referring to my blog, are you? I have read some hate-filled blogs, some of which were created by Mormons who spouted hate and bigotry in support of Proposition 8 during this past election. I am glad you are willing to join with me in condemning hate and bigotry whatever its source.

Finally, you said "[the Bishop] really is a good man with a great heart." I agree. I like Bishop Richmond (I assume he's still Bishop and that is to whom you are referring). I think he's a good man with a great heart. Some things, though, good-hearted people just can't help with. Unfortunately, the Bishop's good heart can't make things true that simply are not true.

Thanks again for commenting. I do find it interesting how offended you became that I simply told people that I was out of town at the Exmormon conference. Fascinating what passes for persecution in the modern Mormon mind.

ex- 5th ward member

Stumbled across your blog again. This time I suppose I was looking for it because I was looking for things refuting mormonism. I've left the church, but just kind of drifted out of it - nothing drastic. They are just people and frankly they just didn't care about me and I had nothing in common with them.

In truth, I never knew and I still don't know what is true. I don't think the Mormon church is "true", but I do not know it not to be either. Hopefully if there's even a God, He will be merciful of my ignorance. I want to do what's right and good.

Lastly, I what offended me about your posts had nothing to do with mormonism. It was your lawyer spin and how you would turn things around to become argumentative. As a lawyer, and possibly by nature, you've been trained to do that. As I also said, I cannot compete. So I bow out with no hate only wishes of peace.

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