Ep 482 – Meet the Incredulous Pete Nixon

Interview

Posted May 3rd, 2018

Randy and Glenn sit down with Pete Nixon, 3rd place winner of the last essay contest, to talk about Pete’s experience with families and homeschooling and leaving the Mormon church.

Glenn

Randy

  • windy_way8192

    Randy, maybe you were thinking of John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath.)

    • Randy_Snyder

      You are absolutely correct Windy.

  • windy_way8192

    About your letter, Pete: imo sometimes you gotta lay down the conditions, including your views. When boundaries have already been crossed, it’s a way of saying, “This is what you’ll have to accept about me if we can go anywhere from here.”

    My parents are really good people, anxiously engaged in staying in contact with all of us, helping us when we need it. They are thoughtful, nuanced believers in the church. However, it still hurts. We don’t share as much as we did, and they’ll always be sad knowing that we aren’t on the path to true happiness anymore.

    It was painful for them, too. They cried, but were loving in response, if brief.

    Here’s my letter to them, names and identifiers redacted:

    Dear Mom and Dad,

    First, I apologize for saying this in an email. There is just so much anxiety attached to this and concern, too, about everyone’s feelings. So I think it is necessary to be able to write it all down so everyone can process it as rapidly or as slowly as they need to. And, the phone connection is so unreliable that I did not want to have an important conversation by phone! And I also did not want to wait until our trip home this summer, at the risk of the subject dominating important family time.

    So, our feelings and beliefs about the church have changed dramatically. I no longer have a testimony of Joseph Smith as prophet. Husband is pretty much in the same boat. We are struggling with all the ramifications that this entails, and we have no desire to push anyone else out of their own testimonies or expect anyone to embrace our own newfound paradigm.

    However, Husband and I are extremely grateful for the good that the church has brought into our lives. I am extremely grateful for the good you both have brought into my life through your belief in the gospel and church. I am very proud that as my parents you have focused so much on Christ, have allowed the church to create good in your lives and that you have then brought that to me, and my siblings, and my family. I cannot adequately express my gratitude.

    **********************************************************************************************

    I have anticipated some concerns or questions you might have, and I’ll address some here.

    1. What about your kids?

    We want our kids to feel free to believe in the church if they choose, and we are willing to support them as they express an interest in church and ward activities.

    2. What will you do now?

    When, in my distress, I first blurted out to Husband that I could not be Mormon anymore, I then asked him if he would divorce me for this. He held me in his arms and laughed at such an idea, “Of course not.” So, our first instinct in all this has been to draw closer to each other and our kids.

    3. What do you believe?

    I believe in Christ and recently came to articulate this: I am focused on the kingdom Christ established in his mortality, specifically: His fulfillment of the Law of Moses, baptism, True Religion, the Beatitudes, the First and Second Greatest Commandments, the doctrine of two gathered in His name, and the Comforter. His spiritual kingdom.

    Husband also maintains a testimony in Jesus Christ and his gospel. He bore a sweet and simple testimony at church at the ward’s last testimony meeting. I bore mine the month before.

    We still pray together as a family.

    Our children vary in beliefs. Not long after I told her about our changed minds, Oldest Daughter confided to us that she is agnostic, and has been for three years. Next Daughter feels very relieved by our changes. Younger Kids seem to be indifferent. Oldest Son, however, being the serious, cerebral kid who has read his scriptures extensively and is very committed to his beliefs, is understandably troubled by our change. I have emphasized to him that he is free to continue to believe, but I understand that his concern is not just for himself but for us. I try to focus on keeping a good rapport with him while not focusing on areas of disagreement. I can also see that he seems to be making a conscious, thoughtful effort to do the same. He is a very good young man and I am proud of him. I’m proud of all of our kids.

    Before and despite these changes, it has always been important to me that we talk candidly and openly with our children. I continue to place a high priority on valuing kindness and individual worth and thoughtfulness. Husband continues to focus more on bonding through time spent together: listening to music and simply enjoying being together.

    4. What is your relationship with your local church?

    This could change at anytime, if the leaders feel it necessary to take action given our changed beliefs, but right now it is good and pleasant. We bring our kids when they want to go. Oldest Son still dutifully attends seminary.

    5. What does this have to do with the tenant problem of the last two years?

    There is definitely a connection, but despite the former tenant’s continued persistence in falsehood, Husband and I are both comfortable with letting go of the conflict. We love and appreciate the bishop, stake president, and the members of the ward. So, that horrible experience played a role in our epiphanies, but is not the reason.

    That said, we will continue to be very watchful and wary when our children participate in church activities. Our girls get very agitated when the former tenant is also at church, so we feel it is important that they are accompanied by us when they go so they can feel safe.

    6. Do you intend to proselytize your beliefs against the church?

    In short, no.

    We are happy to talk openly about our reasons and objections to the church with those who wish to talk about them.

    Yet…

    The last time husband and I both went to church, at the insistence of a good friend, I was forced by a direct question to reference my disaffection. We spoke outside, and even then I felt uncomfortable. I respect church as a place for believers and those who are interested in participating in faith-affirming experience. Per the culture of the church, I have no desire to bring arguments against it into its walls.

    I also feel reluctant about doing so within our family, with you or my siblings. There are plenty of resources available for people to look at, and I would rather direct family to seek those resources on their own, than be a possible instrument of disaffection in the [our] family. So I don’t have the intention to proselytise, certainly have no desire to rant in front of believing Mormons, and even feel reluctant about sharing details with close family members on my side of the family. I was really worried about how we were going to manage this with family reunion coming up. I didn’t want any of us to have to be fake, nor did I want to drop a metaphorical bomb on the event. I hope that by getting this out now, we can all benefit more from the time we’ll spend together, thinking about other things. We are so excited to see you and everyone else!

    When we feel the need to discuss our distress, our objections, our negative emotions, we talk to each other or participate in private groups and groups intended for such a purpose. Thankfully, there is an impressive network of post-Mormons trying to reach out to disaffected and transitioning members. The goals of different entities vary, but generally share the mission of helping people transition, so their lives don’t fall apart as their paradigms shift so traumatically. We have benefited greatly from these resources.

    7. Do you still put your pants on one leg at a time?

    Now that’s getting a bit too personal and controversial…

    **********************************************************************************************

    To close, I want to again say that I love you very much. Thank you for being you, thank you for loving me and for being there for me. We feel very blessed in our relationships with you.

    Love,

    Me and Husband

    My father later requested that we not bring up religion at our family reunion. I complied (except in privacy with an already unbelieving sibling) but later felt like that request stifled connections that could have been made. I have tried for years and years to be diplomatic over differences with people, and I believe I could have been sensitive and discreet if I personally felt to bring up the subject in conversation.

    FTR, my beliefs have changed and I consider myself a skeptical optimist. After the family reunion, I did start posting in social media comments critical of the church, but only in limited ways.

    I guess the point of me posting this is that it sucks. It hurts. I think I communicated well, and we had/have a fairly good relationship, but the distance still feels so wide.

    So I join you, Pete, in the hope of closer connections with family. Thanks again for your essay.

  • Heather Nixon

    As someone who’s had a front row seat (and a bit of a backseat driver) to the Nixon shit show, I have to say that Pete was more than generous in his description of his parents and upbringing. #obviouslyunbiased 😉

  • Delaney Darco

    Nice work, Pete. I have friends with parents similar to yours and they have had to put down strong barriers to protect themselves from a damaging relationship. And they haven’t even left the church. I agree with a Glenn, I understand why you wrote what you did after listening to your interview. You and your wife sound like very stalwart and cool skeptics. Congrats on your winnings!