Privacy P. Pratt is a pseudonym which I assumed in October of 2016 to mask my involvement with the non-profit, pro-transparency media organization called MormonLeaks.[^1] The name comes from Parley P. Pratt one of the early leaders of the Mormon Church. As Privacy P. Pratt, I have handled the technical operations of MormonLeaks, as well as participated in the executive and administrative operations. I am here to address my anonymity and why I have decided to reveal my involvement now.
A person very close to me works for the Church.
I don’t want to expand on this point very much at all other than to say that I didn’t want this person to be suspected of even the slightest participation in MormonLeaks. I can honestly say this person had no idea about my involvement with MormonLeaks until yesterday, September 24, 2017. This by far was the biggest reason for my anonymity and the following two reasons were only minor considerations compared to it.
I was not sure of the effects it could potentially have on my career.
I work in the high-in-demand industry of cyber security and absolutely love it. I am paid to protect sensitive, confidential, and private information and undergo extensive background checks before starting a new job. Initially, my suspicion was that it would not adversely affect my career because Mormonism is so small when compared to the rest of the United States, but I wanted to err on the side of caution on this one and consult trusted colleagues on the matter. After doing so, the overwhelming consensus is that it would have minimal impact on my career and in some cases would even bolster my resume. After all, despite being a digital forensics professional, I have learned quite a bit more in the practice due to the different perspective and niche MormonLeaks has placed me in.
The potential adverse effects that it could have on my relationships with family and friends still active in the Church.
I touched on this quite a bit almost a year ago here, but I’ll summarize for the sake of consolidation. There is a phrase that is common among active Mormons that says “People can leave the Church, but they can’t leave the Church alone.” I myself am guilty of having said it about my extended family members who had left the Church back when I was still active. The phrase implies that everyone who leaves the Church obsesses over finding every opportunity they can find to point out the Church’s faults or shortcomings, which, if you spend 30 minutes on r/exmormon you will see is simply not true. It also implies that the opinions, statements, and actions of anyone that has left are hostile and malicious towards the Church. This is an unfair assumption that immediately puts all ex-Mormons at odds with their loved ones that remain in the Church, and is typical of the black and white worldview that most religions promote. Both of these assumptions are what make it so terrifying and nerve-racking to publicly admit to a loss of faith.
In January 2017, an article entitled The Alarming Truth Behind Anti-Mormonism made its rounds through Mormondom and to date has over 77,000 shares. The article itself, and its circulation, are testaments to the incredibly vast misunderstanding that exists between active Mormons and ex-Mormons. In it the author implies through his rhetoric that all those who leave the Church are anti-Mormons, or at least go through a phase of anti-Mormonism. His analysis and understanding of the term ‘anti’ contains absolutely no nuance. I have had many conversations with my believing family and friends who make similar implications that all who leave are anti and they too typically fail to see the nuance.
Most ex-Mormons have left the Church at least in part due to a feeling of betrayal when they realize that the version of Church history which they grew up learning – and in some cases taught to others on their missions – is whitewashed, altered, and misleading. The Mormon Church itself instills and promotes a desire to spread truth by sending tens of thousands of missionaries around the world to baptize as many people as they can and with mantras such as “every member a missionary”. Not to mention the fact that this desire is fairly natural of humans in general. So when the claim is made that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon and an ex-Mormon corrects it by saying Smith really put a stone that he found at the bottom of a well in a hat and claimed the words of the book appeared on the rock, it’s not because they can’t leave the Church alone. It’s because the Church changed the narrative and they’re simply setting the record straight. An active Mormon would do the same thing if what they knew to be true was inaccurately represented. The stone in a hat story, by the way, is a fact that even the Church has recognized is true.
Admittedly, I am being quite a bit more proactive in my quest for truth than simply correctly faithful family members when they misrepresent historical facts. That is because I hold the controversial opinion that there is corruption and abuse that happens within the Mormon leadership. I am not looking to argue that opinion, but everything that I have seen in the past year as a part of MormonLeaks simply reconfirms that opinion. So imagine, if one is written off as nonsensical for simply correcting a false claim, the much larger effects that my participation in such an endeavor as MormonLeaks will undoubtedly have on my relationship with my believing friends and family. It is truly terrifying.
I’m not anti-Mormon. I still love my friends and family who remain active in the Church. If they are happy, I truly think that they should stay. Leaving the Church was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t wish the pain that ensues on anyone. No, I’m not anti-Mormon. I’m for exposing corruption in an organization that tithes its poorest members while its leaders make higher-than-average salaries, rejects those that are different, degrades women, and influences its membership to censor their own thoughts. I am pro-transparency. I am pro-truth.
Since leaving the Church, I have continuously received therapy. I have learned a great deal about myself, my emotions, my psyche, and how my strict Mormon upbringing has influenced all three. My therapist has always encouraged me to be my whole self and to not censor any part of myself on account of anyone else. This has been a great struggle for me as I’ve constantly felt my whole life that I had to fit into a good-Mormon-boy mold and subsequently felt judged when I often didn’t.
Growing up, music was incredibly important to me as I felt that it expressed emotions that I felt inside but could not express. It related with me on a level that nobody else could. As I intermittently struggled with depression, that music was often dark and hard. I often felt guilty when sharing the music with friends or expressing interest in the groups that wrote the music. It has been so liberating not worrying about this anymore and I want to feel that way about every aspect of my life.
I am strongly against censorship, and I think self-censorship is the worst variety. I believe that being true to yourself is the best and most important thing that anyone can do in their life. If you are not honest with yourself, you are destined to be unhappy. Today I am ending the self-censorship that I have put myself through for the past year and completely owning my actions, values, and beliefs. Today I can confidently say that the benefits of revealing my identity outweigh the costs. I am ready to have those hard conversations with friends and family and help each other down the road to empathy. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish at MormonLeaks and I am ready to show it.
Additionally, I not only do this for myself but for the countless others who have censored themselves because of the accusations of not being able to “leave the Church alone.” This applies not to just ex-Mormons, but to anyone else who has lost their faith or stepped away from life-long beliefs. We should not have to live in fear of strained relationships, hostile accusations, and losing our loved ones for simply expressing our discontent and contrary opinions. We should be proud of our journey and feel free to express the feelings and ideas we have developed through it! We should contend that which we think is hurtful and share our stories. Only then will we reach a state of empathy between ourselves and our faithful loved ones. We are valid. We are real.
I’m Ethan Gregory Dodge, and I am Privacy P. Pratt.
[^1]: For those unfamiliar with MormonLeaks, our mission is to “[increase] transparency within the Mormon Church” which we believe will “[result] in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse within Mormonism”. Our leaks have been featured in local publications like the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News and in national publications such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. But I’m not here to talk about MormonLeaks, its history, or my reasons for my involvement. I am here to address my anonymity for the past year and why I have decided to reveal my involvement now.