018 & 019 Out of the Circle (Parts One and Two): Leaving as a Priesthood Holder
In Part 1, Oliver sits down with three guest panelists to discuss how they view priesthood, how that changed as they walked away from Mormonism, and how they handled being asked to exercise their priesthood once their faith had crumbled but they were not yet public about the change.
In Part 2, Oliver continues his discussion with our three guest panelists and the panelists share their experience as a priesthood holder after they became public about their change in faith.
Each phase of the process (from believer to private-nonbeliever to public-nonbeliever) brings unique considerations and challenges to work through when it comes to using priesthood.
Priesthood power and authority can mean different things to a believing man. Some men may see priesthood as the literal power of God being shared with man and may find a great sense of personal fulfillment in performing priesthood duties, while others may view it as a sense of responsibility and duty that can feel overwhelming at times.
Choosing when (or if) to engage in priesthood roles or responsibilities is often difficult for a man to navigate while living as a private non-believer. Events such as baby blessings, baptisms, and father’s blessings can create uncomfortable situations for both the man going through a shift in faith and for his loved ones and friends.
As a priesthood holder becomes more public about his non-belief - often first to close family or friends and gradually to more people - there are new challenges: does a spouse want a blessing from her non-believing husband? Should he perform the baptism of one of his children if the child knows he does not believe? How will that child view their baptism if they later find out that, at the time, he did not believe?
How a priesthood holder chooses to become public about his non-belief results in different experiences. For people who wish to be more private or move slowly, requests for blessings can result in feelings of inauthenticity or being pushed to become more public. For people who wish to be more public, feeling isolation, judgment or exclusion (especially with family that is still attending) can occur.
In Mormonism the role of father can be tightly coupled with the role as priesthood leader of the family and can lead to formal, structured, rigid interactions. For those who tightly coupled the role of father with role of priesthood leader/presider, decoupling can raise questions about how to be yourself with children. For those that never felt comfortable with the formality, it can feel more natural after leaving, liberating even to just be yourself and show love for them, spending time with them without an agenda, be relaxed, be real. This can also lead to being able to parent in a more realistic way – especially in terms of talking about sexuality more naturally. It is also possible that others may find themselves out to sea.
Worthiness and shame go hand-in-hand – being labeled as an “unworthy priesthood holder” hits at the core of identity. Most people want to be accepted by the people you love. Having the label of unworthy can make church a wedge in marriages. The desire for acceptance and understanding are fundamental.
Our panelists want you to know that you can love your family without being a “righteous priesthood holder” – and that they understand the desire to be understood, and how hurtful it is to have this questioned.
Priesthood is not required to express your love to others. Using priesthood provides ways for men to connect with family and loved ones. As you walk away from Mormonism you can explore new ways to express love, support, and comfort.
Find replacement rituals (activities) for you and those you connected with through priesthood activities: back-to-school father’s blessings, baptisms. Look for ways to maintain connection without having to be inauthentic.
When you become public about your change in belief, set boundaries around what you are comfortable with and not.
Communication is crucial, especially when it comes to your spouse and children. Help people understand where you are to try and avoid resentment, isolation, and judgment.
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