Leaving the Herd
by my friend, Natalie Andrews
I was a rule follower with every fiber. I trusted those rules and I trusted those guidelines. I didn’t Google, I didn’t question.
And then I did.
And there were no answers.
And then my world fell apart.
I knocked on hollow doors and bounced around rooms devoid of answers until my heart gave out and I stopped trying. I stopped speaking out. I attempted conformity. I stayed silent, attempting to focus on the good, but then that was hard to see among the fog of other things.
So I sought higher ground. A connection with a God that would love his children regardless of sexuality, race or gender. I believed that a God all-seeing and all-knowing would not create a place so unsafe for so many. Feeling like the one in 99, I left the herd behind.
The herd did not come looking for me.
At first, I missed the community of the herd, but then I found new people who offered a listening ear and who brought me soup when I was ailing. They didn’t judge the pain I was experiencing as a wrong feeling. They encouraged me to stop trying to fit the round me into a square hole. The path was rocky and unknown but gradually I found my footing.
I missed the music, but there was YouTube.
I realized that my God will always be the characteristically loving Mormon God and when I prayed to that God at night, I often wondered if I could come back. Would the herd ever change? Could I rejoin and still feel true to myself?
That longing caused me to avidly follow people staying in the herd, trying to put cushions in hollow rooms. Trying to make that empty feeling a soft, welcoming space it was supposed to be. I followed their journeys and sought them out because they were courageously following their truth. They believed God did not want me silenced. If they were accepted, could I be? Could I follow my truth and join them?
And then , that door slammed shut. Those rooms with carefully placed cushions of progress were emptied once again. The ones that spoke out – that said things my heart wanted to say – are being silenced.
And people cheered.
“If you think differently find a new church.”
“If they were true Mormons, they wouldn’t be pushing for these things”
“Maybe now they will repent!”
“Maybe now they will repent!”
And those were just the comments I saw on Facebook. It’s as though they were watching Jesus clear the temple and celebrating. But this doesn't feel like a decision from the loving God that Mormonism taught me about. The God that gave me a voice to speak. And the God that welcomes my pain.
So I write to say a formal goodbye to that herd I left many years ago. Officially knowing that I can never rejoin. That herd is fine. I have friends and family in that herd that I love dearly. I will always miss that herd, and sometimes I will miss it in a painful way.
But that is not my herd. I have sought higher elevations. And while at times it is steep and bruising, it remains to be the hardest and best choice I’ve ever made.