Retired Mormon

“When did you leave the church?”

I’ve never liked the question; it assumes too much.  

“Leaving” connotes some sort of tantrum or protest, which doesn’t apply to me.  I never got mad, never was offended, I didn’t read books or scandalous articles… 

While this is another tale for another day, for now it will suffice to say that I had a personal encounter with The Divine that changed me. I was cleansed of the need to identify with any of the organized religions: sports fandom, social movements, political parties, and… Mormonism. 

….except for being a die hard RUSH fan. That’s never going way.  😉

 Like that worn out Led Zeppelin t-shirt from high school that one wife and 4 girlfriends have tried to throw out – it doesn’t fit anymore, but I still have it, and I still kind of love it, though I’ll never wear it again. 

Like that once glorious t-shirt, I’ve simply retired my Mormonism.  

I was born of ‘goodly parents’. 

My Great-great Grandfather is a famous Mormon pioneer. All of my grandparents were returned missionaries. Both of my parents were returned missionaries and were really excellent people. I am a returned missionary.  I married my high school sweetheart in the LDS Temple, had two beautiful daughters together. And like 50% of marriages – several years later, we “grew apart” and she filed for divorce.  

A year later, I had my aforementioned epiphany. 

A black & white photograph of the Salt Lake City LDS (Mormon) Temple, reflected in the water of the reflecting pool. Photo by Paul Duane.
"Retired Mormon" by Paul Duane

In the years following, I’ve a lot of life, had plenty of time and experiences with which to examine my upbringing and former faith.  Modern mormonism is made up of “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture”.  I’ve been able to casually discard of the man-made stuff. With a little distance and perspective, I see and appreciate the divine parts, though they are usually overlooked by modern Mormons who are caught up in maintaining the externalities of piety, rather than pursuing their own relationship with The Divine. We are social animals. It’s understandable. 

Soul Anarchy runs deep in my blood. I love that I’ve descended from Mormon pioneers. They were so goddamn determined to live life on their own terms, that they packed their essentials into handcarts, and hauled them across the plains, into the Rocky Mountains, into a desert valley. Many of them endured hellish conditions, death, and disease to make this happen. They built Salt Lake City out of nothing, for themselves, for me, and my kids – their vision being  that we all may live life on our own terms.

I’ve made these photographs over the years in an attempt to visually communicate those ethereal feelings of hindsight, questioning, disagreement, faith, love, fear, regret, and gratitude. 

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