I want to talk a little to those people who have told me that they “hope I heal” from my experience with Mormonism. This isn’t just for the last person who said it to me. Over the years, I’ve heard this from friends and family, as well as well-meaning true-believing Mormons (TBMs). It’s always said in response to my angry expressions about ongoing harms by the Mormon church.
I want to say this: I have healed. But I’m still angry.
Anger is not necessarily a sign that something is broken or someone needs healing. Anger is the natural and appropriate response to seeing injustice, to seeing other people harmed.
One of the ways that Mormon church (and other conservative Christian churches) shields itself from criticism is by demonizing anger and shaming people for feeling anger. Mormons can be quite explicit about this. They say, “Contention is of the devil.” But what would a church, or any human institution, be without some contention, some friction, some anger? Tyrannical. Totalitarian. Apostate.
Weren’t the prophets of old contentious? Weren’t they angry? Especially at seeing the privileged take advantage of those without privilege?
This also manifests as the injunction to forgive. And yet forgiveness can actually facilitate ongoing harm if the perpetrator is not really repentant and/or does not cease doing the thing that causes harm. And the Mormon church is not repentant. Its leaders are not repentant. And its defenders and apologists are not repentant.
Now I will admit that I am not unbiased in my anger. The things I get most angry about are often around issues involving harm of a similar kind that I experienced. For example, I am outraged at the Mormon church for shaming LGBT youth (and adults) for their sexuality. And I am angry about how the Mormon church shamed me for my own (heterosexual) adolescent sexuality. That’s not a coincidence. But neither does it mean that I haven’t healed.
How do I know that I have healed? Well, I guess I would say that I think I’m healed because I don’t feel raw about it any more. I don’t feel it come up anymore (unless it’s provoked by something new). I don’t go around thinking about the Mormon church or my experiences with it. My bad memories with it don’t usually rise unbidden. And I don’t feel any need for further resolution. But …
… when I see something on the news, or hear about something that has happened recently, some new policy or some new statement by a LDS church leader, which is bound to cause more harm to other people … yes, I am outraged. Yes, I am angry. And yes, I remember all the harms done by the church, to me and to others. Because they are all connected.
I don’t think I have to forget to heal. In fact, I think it would be wrong to forget, to pretend that each new instance of harm has happened isolation. No, we have to remember.
Remembering is good. And anger is appropriate.
Sometimes I think it’s just passive aggressive blame-shifting for people to say, “I hope you heal,” in the context of larger institutional injustices and systemic harms. Other times, I think people really do care and they don’t want to see me (or others) hurting. I appreciate that. I really do.
But I’m going to hold on to my anger, thank you. It serves a purpose. In fact, I want to see more people get angry. So, the next time someone says to me, “I hope you heal,” I think I’ll tell them, “I hope you get angry.”