April 25, 2015

Examples of Shame as a Disfellowshipped Mormon

I was shaking from the nerves. I was scared to be in church. I felt like I did not belong. I felt like I would be asked to leave. His glare made me want to leave. He was disrupting my worship.

After I spent the week rehearsing Brightly Beams Our Fathers Mercy with the double men's quartet, I didn't give thought to the routine sustaining of church leaders that happens at every ward conference. I was caught off guard. After the Bishop announced the order of the program, the high council member got up and started going down the list. Starting with the Prophet and First Presidency, "All those in favor". My hand didn't move (remember, I am disfellowshipped). Next was the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, "All those in favor". Again motionless. Then back to sustain all fifteen men as prophets, seers and revelators, "All those in favor". I tried to look non threatening, but the he saw me and my absence of sustaining actions.

After the sustaining concluded, the second councilor in the Stake Presidency looked at me. You know, like one of those looks that burn from the glare. He then leaned over to the high council member and began talking (this is the same high council member who singled me out in Elder's Quorum for not thanking and sustaining the new presidency). They both began looking at me. As I try to listen to the one of the speakers, I am glancing over to see them looking at me while still talking.

The two of them conclude and the high councilman leans to his other side and begins talking with the second councilor in the bishopric. They are now both looking at me. I try to remain motionless, looking attentively at the speaker, who is still talking. The high council member and the councilor conclude looking at me and stop talking.

At this point I am shaking. I am scared. I have to get up after this speaker and sing in the double men's quartet for the special musical number. My mind begins running through a scenario of what will happen:

I get up and begin walking to the podium with the other guys I am singing with. The second councilor in the Stake Presidency gets up before we start signing and taps me on the shoulder. He whispers in my ear, "I don't think you should be singing. Please be seated." I turn red in the face and whisper to my friend who is conducing the group, "they won't allow me to sing, sorry." I then begin an embarrassing and shameful walk off the podium and through the aisles of the chapel, to my seat which I left only a few seconds prior. I sit in complete and utter humiliation while listening to the group of guys singing, now without me.

I shake the very real scenario from my mind and look up at the podium again. I now see the Stake President leaning over and speaking with the Bishop, both of whom are looking directly at me.

At this point, I don't know whether I should get up and exit the chapel, leaving the group to wonder where I went, or risk the chance I get up there to sing, only to have them ask me to go back to my seat.

My throat goes dry and I dread hearing the testimony of the speaker which signifies the closing of their talk and the beginning of the musical number. I decide to take my chances.

I get up and walk to the podium with the other seven guys. I avoid making eye contact with anyone sitting on the podium. I take my place in the semi-circle. My legs are trembling and I am waiting for the tap on my shoulder.

We begin to sing. No tap.

I feel void of the spirit while we sing, unlike the power I felt in the rehearsal before sacrament meeting.

We conclude and I return to my seat. I avoid eye contact with anyone on the stand and only focus on the speaker or avert my eyes to the wall behind them, the ceiling or my phone which is now in my hands. I finish out the rest of the three hour block without anyone from the stake or bishopric speaking to me.

Why must I sit in fear at church? I believe the bishop must have stuck up for me when talking to the Stake President. He always comments that I am, "super", or "a good man". I believe that if the second councilor in the Stake Presidency wanted to silence me, Bishop would stop him. After all, it was the Bishop who asked me to join the choir. He knew singing and music was the biggest draw for me when I came back to church. My bishop is a good man.

I wish I could tell the second councilor that the world isn't black and white. I wish I could tell him, not all good people are Molly's and Peter's. I wish I could tell him how his talk at Stake Conference last month drove the spirit away and I left the meeting feeling empty. I left Stake Conference wanting to never come back to church and it was in large part due to his Packer-esque talk. I wish I could tell him to be more like my bishop, who is kind, loving and accepting of me and my need to worship even if I don't prescribe to the Peter mold. I wish I could tell him he made me scared, in church, while I was trying to worship and receive the spirit. I wish I could tell him of the struggles I already face just coming to church as a disfellowshipped member and let him know I don't need him adding to them.

I wish I never have to see him again.

Oh wait, I am singing the same song in a men's quarter, this Sunday, at another ward conference...


  1. No one should have to worship in a place where they do not feel welcome. The whole point of a religious community should be a place where anyone who wants to be there and worship should be able to do so without fear or discomfort. There is also something very un-Christlike about the reaction of the member of the stake presidency. And yet, he is a full member of the Church in good standing, and you (who are there singing and worshipping despite all this) are not. From where I am sitting there is something profoundly wrong with that. I admire your attending Church despite this. It is not something I could do.

  2. As I was reading your narrative, I believed you were going to reveal that this was just a very bad dream and thanking God that it was only that --- a bad dream! I can only imagine the pain and suffering you must have experienced. Stay strong and valiant my friend. You have a wonderful gift that needs to be delivered regardless of those who are devoid of compassion and true Christian love. No one should ever feel unsafe and unwelcomed let alone experience the pain and shame of exclusion. Peace be with you and remember ---- you are not alone.