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EX-MORMONISM SECTION 13
A very large selection of posts made by those in recovery from Mormonism. Culled from throughout the Ex-Mormon Communities.
| No, I'm not guilty of adultery.
But I've been thinking of Hester Prynne lately, the protagonist in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", and how much I identify with her. I, too, wear a scarlet letter "A" on my chest, albeit invisible. My extended family knows it's there, and they treat me accordingly.
My scarlet letter "A" stands for apostate. I am blamed by my LDS extended family, perhaps rightfully, for the "spiritual downfall" of my own immediate family, including my mother, sisters, husband and children. For the past two years, I've worn my letter with a bit of shame, not defending myself, always taking the high road, returning politeness and courtesy for rudeness and condescension. But things are slowly changing.
Like Hester, if I have to bear the mark of a (perceived) sin on my chest, I may as well bear it proudly. I plan to display the most decorative letter "A" possible during the upcoming holidays which are always spent, at least in part, with my Mormon relatives.
Being rude just isn't part of my nature, but being direct usually isn't a problem when the issues are important enough to me. I began wearing my letter "A" with pride during the Exmormon Conference, shamelessly announcing that I was an apostate to the sister Missionaries in the Beehive House. I don't think that will be necessary with my extended family, but I will no longer bear their alternating chastisement, shunning, and then witnessing silently. Responding to their testimonies with a little truth isn't rude; on the contrary, it's the kindest thing I can do. And I plan on delivering a dose of kindness to any family member who, prompted by the Holy Ghost, shares their testimony, gives me a subscription to the Ensign for Christmas, or lovingly needlepoints the Salt Lake temple on a throw pillow for my couch.
Hester Prynne's scarlet letter became a source of strength for her as she stitched each dress she owned with an increasingly elaborate letter "A". Refusing to be ashamed, embarrassed or cowardly, I also bear my scarlet letter "A" with pride and with the hope that it may inspire someone else to have the courage to leave behind the oppressive cult of Mormonism.
| || My Love Affair With Joseph Smith Jr., And How It Ended. How I Went From Love To Anger To Eventual Peace. |
Thursday, Nov 2, 2006, at 07:49 AM
Original Author(s): Susieq#1
Topic: EX-MORMONISM SECTION 13 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| I have thought about the relationship members develop with the LDS Church. It is one of love, great devotion, complete and blind trust, total reliance and acceptance, placing our entire, happiness, joy in the claims of Joseph Smith Jr. the only true prophet of the only true church.
We are promised the moon,and all is well in Zion. Nothing could be better. For many it is their tribe: heritage, their family, their history, their culture, for others it is their adopted tribe.
Then something happens. We notice little things that don't seem to quite add up. But, we ignore them, or we think we are imagining things. We are assured our devotion is well placed. So, we continue on because we are sure there cannot be anything wrong with our bigger-than-life-lover, it must be us. The promises are just too grand for there to be anything wrong.
Then more things happen, little by little, and one day, we have an epiphany. Suddenly, all is not well in Zion, our happiness has been placed in a lover that has been deceptive from the get-go; cheating, lying, taking our money and time and to top it off, they are not who they claim to be. We are shocked, angry, hurled into the emotional throws of betrayal and are confused. What happened? Why didn't I see this coming?
Then the betrayal hits. We have been lied to. We were deceived by a handsome near perfect lover, or so we were told, worthy of our complete trust. However, we have been tricked into a "bait and switch" game all in the name of a pretty glorious promise.
Then our instincts take over. For me, I found it funny, and personally confirming, (ya, I was right all along I can trust myself after all) probably because my love had been waning for years and I was ready to find a reason to leave my lover. Or, better still, to kick his sorry arse out.
The crisis of truth had hit and I was ready to open the door and kick Joseph Smith Jr to the curb along with the funny undies and the Book of Mormon,silly fiction and all the rest of his "stuff." He was out. He was gone. He was a loser, a total jerk. And I wanted nothing more to do with him, the lying, braggadocios skirt chaser!
Reading this board, however, I have observed that most tend to find themselves in a sick, depressed state of mind, in a state of shock and initially, anyhow, barely unable to function. Many seek professional counseling.
For others, the medication they needed to function with a dysfunctional lover was no longer needed when the break up was settled!
I fell in love ever so slowly, I was so well taught, primed, and cajoled into believing everything Joseph Smith Jr and his groupies had to say that I could not imagine ever being not in love!
Then when his true colors came to light, and I realized on an almost subconscious level that I had been jilted, I think that is why, when I put a title to my "story" I called it:
"From Mormonism to Eccentric Eclectic, from Sain't to Aint, My Love Affair with Joseph Smith Jr and How it Ended."
There is much more that can be said about this analogy of our relationship with Mormonism. The above was an outline to give a general sense of how we are convinced we have found our eternal soul mate and how, when one of the partners in a marriage leaves, the other one, still in love with Joseph Smith Jr and his church will choose him as their lover over their own family.
| Over the last several years I've come to realize that Mormon doctrine is really just filler and has changed over the years. What really keeps the organization going to social engineering and the whole system is engineered around marriage, having offspring, extended family, and friends. Mormonism is about using the most powerful force on earth, social pressure, to run the people in the organization.
How is this done? Several ways but where all the roads lead is to the temple. The Mormon Church uses the temple recommend as the social status card. You cannot go to other Mormon temple weddings including family members without one. Your status in the church as an adult without one is severely diminished and the pressure to have one is constant.
This is especially true if the temple is easy to get to because the church pressures the members to go to the temple constantly. This increases the pressure to have that recommend. At the end of it all, you either give in and get the temple recommend or you leave the church.
If you give in and get the recommend the church gets a lot of your gross increase. It dictates what kind of underwear you can wear. You basically swear an oath that everything you have is the churches. Your basically under oath, agree to turn yourself over to the church and they own you. It's a sick form of control. What the church gets is a lot of your money and free slave labor out of you. Why? They scared and shamed you into doing so.
Most of what is in the temple ceremony is just filler. It's what you have to do to keep that temple recommend is where they own you. Why have so many temples been built? Simple. They are the engine rooms of the church. The more they have the easier it is to go to one and the more the church can pressure it's members into praying, paying, and obeying to not be shamed when their favorite niece is marrying some RM when she's 19.
Once you figure it out, it's a sick organization for sure.
| I am a bit of a computer guy so I wrote a program to take care of some of the hack work of being on the bishopric. I had an opening screen on the program that showed who's birthday was coming up so I could be a bit more "caring". I then went back through all the sacrament agendas and had a screen set up that told me how long it had been since people had last given prayers, talks, etc. It helped me work out who had been overlooked and who we had been inadvertently targeting.
Moving callings around is a bit of a game of chess (you move one person then there is a domino effect). I was going to write a module that helped plan all the possible scenarios, kind of like an EIS (executive information system). I joked that I was going to call the program REVELATION so that if asked I could say that callings and assignments came through REVELATION.
Having been involved in many callings, releases and assignments I knew that there wasn't much that looked like revelation involved in the process when it came down to it, at least not like the average member thinks revelation happens. As an insight into how I, and probably most church leaders, thought about the inspiration process I basically assumed that if I thought something then it must be right since I was called to the position and I didn't get anything approximating revelation in any other way. I figured inspiration must have been God influencing my thoughts and my thinking process. The other trick is to do what you think is right and ask God to let you know if it isn't right.
When God's fickle finger of feat plucks you out of the congregation then you want to believe God is guiding you. Clearly leaders are not inspired and they all work out some way to reconcile the demand to deliver inspired decisions against the lack of any clearly definable way to receive it.
| I am not going to discount the need to discuss why we left Mormonism, or even the urge to try coffee or booze after we leave. Some of us find that we have a favorite beer or coffee drink. Some of us find that we want a tattoo or a body piercing. That's all great stuff and it can be rather cathartic after living under the thumb of Mormonism all our lives. We might experience for the first time, in our 30s, 40s, or 50s, the relief that most college students get when they move out on their own for the first time. "Wow, I can watch MTV any time I want. I can swear. I can have girls over. I can even have beer in the fridge. My parents are off my back." Not a complete analogy, but you get the picture.
However, I'm starting to think that I'll be closer to recovery when I'm able to be my authentic self rather than do things as a reaction to Mormonism. I tried almost all the things that most exmos try. I tried drinking. I broke the law in an unspecific way. I got an earring. And I even had my girlfriend come over without permission. I smoked for a few years.
Now I've realized that I am really a boring, middle-class white guy. I don't like to drink or smoke. I grew up with a dad who did both, and I didn't like it. I like coffee. I like hard rock. I'm crazy about my wife. I love my career. All these are things that I found out about myself when I started living by the concept "to thine own self be true."
I have taken up a life which demands rigorous honesty. It just so happened that it started with emotional honesty. Getting my head on straight was a major step. It still needs adjustments now and then, but for the most part I know who I am and I like who I am.
I learned to see the traps of Mormonism, the emotional hooks, and the emphasis of testimony and feelings over knowledge and learning.
Intellectual honesty went along well with emotional honesty. I am no longer willing to accept something just because somebody believes in it, is willing to die for it, or bursts into tears when talking about it. I don't expect them to value what I value, and I expect them to understand that I will not always value what they value.
For me, morals and values are more about how I treat the people in my life and the people I come into contact with as I move through this world and learn about life. Morals and values are not about my sexual orientation or how much money I give to a church. It's about treating people the way I want to be treated.
I have not recovered from Mormonism 100%. And I still have to deal with family members who want to push their beliefs on me. But today I'm doing a bit better than yesterday. And I plan to go on living my life based on what I value, rather than what somebody has told me to value. And I plan to live my life based on who I am, rather than who I am not.
- Fear of nagging doubts that the LDS Church and Mormonism are not true.
- Fear that God (as defined by Mormonism) will be displeased or angry if one doesn't follow the ‘commandments of God’ (as defined by Mormonism).
- Fear that God will withhold blessings from a member or punish him/her if he/she doesn't comply with church teachings.
- Fear of making a mistake or thinking or doing something that will make one ‘unworthy’ (according to Mormonism).
- Fear of dying without having fully repented of all of one's ‘sins’.
- Fear of not being ‘worthy’ enough to receive ‘Exaltation’ and being ‘eternally damned’.
- Fear that one will suffer forever as Jesus suffered, or worse, if he/she isn't ‘spiritually pure’.
- Fear that a member won’t be found ‘worthy’ enough at the ‘Final Judgement’ to live with their ‘righteous’ LDS family members in the ‘Celestial Kingdom’ after death.
- Fear of ‘Satan’ and his ‘army’ of ‘evil spirits’ who, according to Mormonism, are always trying to tempt mortals (particularly Mormons) and bring about their ‘eternal damnation’ and 'everlasting misery'.
- Fear that a member's testimony isn’t strong enough, especially in the ‘Last Days’.
- Fear that God will test a member's faith with 'trials and tribulations' that he/she won’t be able to bear.
- Fear that a member is not sacrificing/doing enough to build up the church.
- Fear that a member isn't sharing the ‘Gospel’ enough with non-Mormons, and that God will hold him/her eternally responsible for the welfare of the non-members' souls.
- Fear of doing something that is contrary to church teachings (e.g., having a cup of coffee, staying home from church after a busy week) and losing the influence of the ‘Holy Ghost’ as a result.
- Fear of increasing wickedness, wars, plagues, pestilences, etc. in the ‘Last Days’.
- Fear of ‘wicked’ influences on one's children and fearing that they might ‘stray’ from the church.
- Fear that there won’t be enough money to pay one's basic expenses despite paying tithing to the LDS Church.
- Fear of being burned at the ‘Second Coming of Jesus Christ’ if one doesn't pay his/her tithing.
- Fear of not finding a ‘worthy’ man/woman to marry in the temple.
- Fear of what church leaders will think of a member and God will do to him/her if he/she declines a church calling.
- Fear of the spiritual consequences of not going on a mission, and what Mormons will think and say about a young male Mormon if he doesn't go.
- Fear of losing the approval of God, one's LDS parents and other family members, church leaders, and other Mormons if a member doesn't do the things expected of Latter-Day Saints.
- Fear of church disciplinary action if a member voices his/her discomfort with aspects of Mormonism that he/she feels are unenlightened.
- Fear of scientific, historical, and other facts that do not support church doctrines, teachings, and foundational claims (e.g., the Book of Mormon as a ‘true’ historical record of peoples who inhabited the ancient Americas).
- Fear of acting with integrity to one's own truth, exploring life, and discovering one's true/authentic self.
- Fear of asserting one's right to think for oneself and choose one's values and morals.
- Fear of conflict, particularly with LDS authority figures (e.g., Mormon parents, church leaders, God – as defined by Mormonism).
- Fear of questioning church doctrines and teachings.
- Fear of coming to one's own conclusions about mortality, the purpose of life, God, what happens after death (if anything), etc.
- Fear of other people's 'spiritual' experiences that do not conform to the LDS perspective of what comes from God.
- Fear of not wearing temple garments as one has promised and ‘Satan’ or his ‘evil angels’ being able to harm a member.
- Fear of ‘anti-Mormon’ books, websites, etc.
| During my formative and young adult years in the church, the image of the world that was presented to us young Mormons (and reinforced in meeting after meeting) was one that created a lot of fear and many reasons to not be hopeful. We were told that we were a 'Royal Generation', the 'chosen few' who lived in an increasingly 'wicked' world in which 'Satan' and his 'army of evil spirits' were gaining more and more power.
The church indoctrinated us to believe that 'good men of the Earth' were being 'led astray by the Evil One', and God was 'pouring out his wrath upon the nations' in the form of 'wars and rumors of wars', pestilences and disease, natural disasters, and other calamitous events. And we were repeatedly told that as Latter-day Saints, the only 'spiritual safety' was in being obedient to church teachings and sacrificing (for the 'Kingdom of God') whatever was required of us.
We were led to believe that the 'Second Coming of Jesus Christ' would happen in our lifetime, but not before the horrors of the 'Last Days' had unfolded across the globe, including the Biblical Armageddon. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie went so far as to 'prophesy' that there would be a war involving nuclear weapons, which only reinforced the Mormon belief, as per DandC 64:23, that members who didn't pay their tithing would be destroyed by fire.
As a young person being raised in Mormonism in the 1970's and '80's, the LDS Church didn't give me much reason to be hopeful about the future. Myself and other LDS young people were taught that some church members would be 'spared' and live on to witness the 'triumphant return of Jesus Christ'. Until then, however, things on Earth were only going to get worse.
My mother, a highly emotional and generally irrational person, often expressed her intense anxiety to my sisters and I that in the 'Last Days', she would be tortured by 'wicked men' who would want to force her to deny her testimony of the 'truthfulness' of Mormonism. She expressed her great fear to us that she might not be able to endure the horror that some part of her mind had decided was going to happen.
The LDS Church had created fantasy-based, apocalyptic situations and indoctrinated Mormons, including myself, to believe that they would happen. It wasn't a matter of if, but when. Not surprisingly, when I thought of the future of humanity and the planet, I felt considerable despair.
One of the things that I noticed during my formative and young adult years about non-Mormons was that they were far more hopeful, generally speaking, about the future than Latter-day Saints. Watching and interacting with non-members was like a breath of fresh air that temporarily cleared away some of the toxic dust of Mormon psychological conditioning that kept clogging my psyche and 'soul'.
Non-Mormons didn't view people as inherently 'sinful' and 'unworthy' because of their humanity (the dreaded 'natural man', the 'enemy of God'!). Unlike Mormons, they didn't interpret forest fires in Canada, tornadoes in the U.S., earthquakes in Mexico, or natural disasters elsewhere as 'signs' that God was punishing mortals for their 'wickedness'. Their thinking about observed and experienced realities, 'good' and 'bad', was refreshingly rational.
One of the most significant aspects of healing from Mormonism for me - and I imagine for many of you - has been the replacement of despair (caused by Mormonism) with hope. Hope is so vital to our individual and collective well-being. Last night, I watched a PBS documentary on DVD about Winston Churchill, the remarkable British Prime Minister during World War II. Churchill's ability to instill hope in Britons despite the death and destruction that was visited upon them by the military of Nazi Germany was one of the reasons why he was a great man. I've read and listened to many of Churchill's speeches, and contrast the rousing and edifying power of his words with the boring and fear-inducing words of many 'spiritual giants' in the LDS Church.
Churchill didn't promise the British people that God would save them or that angels would be dispatched from heaven to protect them. He didn't tell them that if they stopped drinking, smoking, engaging in pre-marital sex, and having affairs, and started giving 10% of their income to the Conservative Party, 'God Almighty' would bless them. He also didn't terrorize them psychologically with fantasy-based stories of what 'the enemy' would do to them if they weren't 'good' British citizens. What Churchill told the people of Great Britain was based on reality and resonated with the human 'spirit'. He gave them reason to hope that their nation would someday be victorious over a terrible and powerful foe. His words provided them with solace and stirred their courage.
On a personal note, I would not exist had it not been for Winston Churchill. My father was born in Scotland in 1931 and emigrated to Canada in '58. Had Churchill not been the 'lone prophet crying in the wilderness' in the British Parliament during the 1930's, warning Britons and the government of the day about the growing military threat of Nazi Germany, and had he not become British Prime Minister in 1940, it's highly likely that sooner or later, Great Britain would have fallen to Hitler's unquenchable lust to conquer and control. Under Nazi occupation, my father would have, no doubt, not been allowed to leave the British Isles, and I would not be writing these words. It's remarkable to me that a man who was born four generations before I was and half a world away, to whom I have no connection other than being a member of the Commonwealth, could have had such a profound impact on my life.
In Mormonism, the only reasons to hope are not ones rooted in people’s humanity (Churchill, for example, was a very 'human' person). Latter-day Saints ‘hope’ for the better future and ‘healed world’ that Jesus will make happen after he comes back in ‘power and glory’ (according to church teachings). In the meantime, they are told that they can be hopeful because the church is ‘true’ and is led by ‘true prophets of God’. Even if Latter-day Saints die before the ‘Second Coming’, they can be hopeful of a ‘glorious resurrection’ and ‘eternal life’, according to LDS doctrine.
However, in Mormonism, the human experience is not much fun – there are a lot of ‘temptations’ to overcome, ‘trials and tribulations’ to endure, ‘tests of faith’ to pass, and suffering 'for their good'. After all, as mortals, Latter-day Saints are being put through the ‘refiner’s fire’ to see if they’re ‘worthy’ of living forever in the ‘Celestial Kingdom’ (and avoiding ‘eternal damnation’). In short, Mormons' hope (if any) is based on 'externals'.
To lurking Latter-day Saints: Kindly know that much of what you’ve been taught by the LDS Church is crap. Many aspects of Mormonism are dysfunctional and wounding. As a 'spiritual tradition', it causes a lot of people to experience fear and guilt, which undermines the quality of their lives. Mormonism 'programs' Latter-day Saints to place their hope on 'spiritual' ideas that have nothing to do with reality/truth.
If you're a Latter-day Saint and you've struggled with feelings of despair, leaving the LDS Church will do a lot to heal it. Getting out of Mormonism replaces hopelessness or misplaced religion-induced, pseudo-hope with genuine hope.
There is no 'Heavenly Father' putting you under the ‘Celestial Microscope’ day after day to see if you’re ‘worthy’ of certain ‘blessings’. There is no 'Satan' or an 'army of evil spirits' who seek your 'spiritual destruction'. There is no 'Jesus Christ' coming back to save humanity from the consequences of our actions. Such 'beings' are only psychological constructs, the products of people's thinking. Only we can be our saviors.
You can be hopeful about your future and the future of humanity. Many people around the globe desire a better world and are working hard to make that vision a reality. My recommendation to you would be to leave the small, closed village of the LDS Church and venture forth into a vast continent of experience in the wonderful world outside of Mormonism. You will feel more hope than you have felt in a long time, and perhaps ever.
| When I was a TBM, I was the most gullible person around. I thought nobody ever lied. I was afraid to disagree with anybody, and if anybody ever disagreed with me, I froze. I was such a people pleaser, I thought I had to answer every question I was asked, even if it meant that I didn't get to put in my two cents. I was afraid to make eye contact, and people always asked me to speak up.
To sum up, I was afraid of confrontation for 2 reasons, 1) it chases the spirit away; and 2) learned helplessness.
OK, so here's what's different. My law school is sending 2 teams to the regional negotiation competition. I'm on one of the teams. Without going into too much detail, we're leaving for the weekend in a few hours. Our coaches are 1) general counsel for a major corporation; and 2) the top ADR professor (IMO) in the Midwest.
So big deal, right? Sounds like a bunch of arrogant people having a shouting match. Not really. It's more about gathering information and generating solutions, while keeping your cool under pressure. Being confrontational is only a minor part. It's knowing when to press that button that wins points.
So my point is, I never would have been able to do anything like this as a Mormon. I was too afraid of people, and of losing the spirit. Since I left Mormonism, I've come out of my shell in many ways. I have found that I'm not a bad person when I have to call somebody out.
I'm actually being kinder to myself and the other person by not being a doormat. Being a doormat, by the way, was my passive-aggressive way of saying, "Sure, I'll agree to that, but only because I'm afraid of what might happen if I say no. When it becomes a hassle, I'm going to change my mind and you won't find out about it until it's way too late."
Not everybody grew up in a home like mine. In my home, every idea you had was minimized. There was no emphasis on rationale. The biggest person in the room got the remote control and the last dessert.
If you had great parents and you are naturally assertive, good for you. Only those of us, who had to consciously learn that skill set and overcome decades of bad information and fear, can really appreciate what it means to be assertive without being argumentative. We can appreciate how it feels for the first time to not be afraid of what others might say. When I realized that I am no longer afraid of other people, and I'm not afraid to advocate for my own needs, I had to chuckle. I finally feel like a human being.
| When I look back on it all, I realize they did not want me--or anyone else--to be able to grow up. The older I became, the more controlling and intrusive the church became. When you were a kid, they treated you as a kid. But when you grew up, they never stopped treating you like a kid.
I had thought the mission would be the "coming of age" test, the step between adolescence and adulthood. Little did I realized that most kids had far more freedom than missionaries. I was rather shocked to learn what Mormonism really meant. I expected rules--not cult orientation and control.
I was told when to sleep, when to wake up, what to eat, what to read, when to walk, when to talk, when to bore others with my testimony, when to sit, when to stand, and when I could go home. This was a totalitarian system, carefully designed to ingrain mindless and complete obedience. Good Mormons follow this "discipline" for the rest of their lives. They learn to do what they are told.
When you go to the temple--another coming of age event--you get the same damned thing. You learn that the church will now control every aspect of your life. And you swear to it. You promise, to obey, follow, and not complain. You are given special underwear, and a lifetime pattern to stick to. You lose your individuality, and your freedom. You are made into a permanent child.
For normal people, adulthood means things a Mormon will never understand. Adults can drink alcohol, choose how to spend their money, and how to make their way through life. They get to attend the church of their choice--or attend no church at all. No-one bothers them. They have enough burdens as is. Adulthood is a struggle. In Mormonism, adulthood is slavery.
The brethren ensure adulthood is not something for the faithful. Mormons become aging children, unable to function comfortably in the rest of the world, unable to choose what they want, and unable to define their own happiness. We know Joseph Smith liked adolescents a great deal. His attitude has carried over into everyday Mormon life. Mormons are owned and controlled, browbeaten and bullied. And if they don't like it, they have to suck their thumbs and shut up. When the brethren have spoken, the thinking has been done. When you are a Mormon, you are a child, and you do what you are told.
| As I have observed my behavior and the behavior of others while actively participating in Mormonism, as well as in my post Mormon experiences, I have often wondered why we allowed ourselves to be treated so poorly by a belief system, which supposedly originated from God.
As a Mormon, I suffered intense depression and self-loathing. This emotional state began around age eight or nine and then continued off and on up to about nine months ago. I always thought the problems I was experiencing were my fault. I never felt worthy enough even when I was doing all that I thought I could to be classified as someone seeking and worthy of the spirit. I prayed, I tithed, I served, I studied, I did what I was supposed to, yet I still never felt good enough and worthy of the love of the capricious, perfectionist Mormon god. Mormonism could not be the blame for my suffering; according to them, I was always to blame.
Following my mission and suffering a great deal including a nervous breakdown (which I have never told anyone about until revealing my experience to my wife last week), I discovered that my family has a history of depression, so I began taking anti-depressants in a hope that they would work. The various treatments did not help. I tried several drugs, all with the same results. I never once thought that my belief system would be the cause for all this inner pain and suffering, which again according to Mormonism, was simply my fault for not doing and being enough.
About nine months ago when I put all of the Mormon puzzle pieces together and discovered the reality of Mormonism, there was a very physical sensation which followed my discovery. The weight of Mormonism, which was holding me down, fell from my shoulders and my mind. It was as if a vise, which had been squeezing my head, had fallen from my head to the floor. It was so exhilarating to realize that I was not insane, that there really was more to the picture, that I was not to blame for failing in trying to please the Mormon god of perfection and exactness. For the first time in a very long time, I felt real tangible inner peace.
As a former captive of Mormonism, I have often wondered if the depression, doubt, self and leadership inflicted mental abuse did not cause us to experience some form of Stockholm Syndrome. What causes Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence or reprisal. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.
It's important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors. To my knowledge, such a study on the adherents of Mormonism has not yet been conducted.
Now I am not making the connection that we were rounded up or kidnapped physically into Mormonism, but the effects of the belief system seem to have very similar effects on the minds of the adherents of this religion. Over the years as I came into contact with things which refuted Mormonism, I would reject the attempt of mind rescue, opting to defend my spiritual captors and their methods for holding me bound. I allowed myself to suffer mentally at their hands, and then turned and thanked them for the abuse. It was a very real struggle for survival. Mormonism could not be wrong, my belief system had always taught me that I was nothing without it.
Now I am free. I no longer have to sympathize with and defend my captors. I no longer suffer the mental pain and heart-rending depression I experienced as a Mormon. I still have moments of sadness for those I love who still worship and defend their captors, but I am free and happy in a way I never knew before.
So what think ye? Do Mormons suffer from a form of Stockholm Syndrome?
| I am one of those people (maybe the minority here?) who did not "study their way out." Oh, I knew certain things were undoubtedly being purposely sugar-coated as far as the history is concerned and that there were deceptive practices condoned by and carried out by the LDS Church (temple bait-and-switch tactics for example). But I basically figured the reason something didn't "feel right" all the time with the church was something that was wrong with me.
The "you suck and you always will" theme that is a constant in mormonism really wore on me over the years. Eventually, I had learned to hate myself so much and was so consumed with frustration about not ever being good enough no matter what I did that I sank into sort of a depression, I guess. I remember going out alone and praying my heart out, telling God his demands were impossible and that I was admitting I would never be what he wanted me to be. I begged him not to hate me just because I had been somehow born "defective."
I had never had the big answer that everyone had talked about where you "know something with every fiber of your being." But that day it all changed. Only I didn't get the answer I was expecting. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with an incredible sense of well-being. I knew for sure that God hating me was never something I would have to worry about again, and that environments where I would hear such things were certainly not sanctioned by Him, despite claims to the contrary. I was sure we weren't meant to be boring, perfect little clones, but were all worthwhile and lovable without trying to put on a mask and hide our true selves from God. I almost felt drunk on my first taste of self-esteem as it washed over me and drastically changed the direction my life would take.
I felt like a caged animal who had just been set free. I felt a joy that was rivaled only by the joy I felt when my newborn babies snuggled into my arms for the first time after problems with infertility and miscarriage and then finally miraculous, healthy, long-awaited new life being born. My whole outlook changed almost immediately. Old grudges I had been coddling somehow could be let go now. I had an undercurrent of inner peace running through me that I had never known before. My husband came home hours after the light bulb had gone on in my head, and as soon as he walked in the door he said, "Wow, you look different. I can't put my finger on it, but something's different?" I didn't even have to tell him there had been a transformation....he could see it in my eyes immediately without me saying a word. As it happened, the weekend following that beautiful day when I finally got my "testimony that it *wasn't* true", we had scheduled a little getaway. Nothing fancy, but we did take pictures. Going back through the pictures from that little trip, I see what he was talking about. I'm not grinning from ear to ear or punching my fist into the air in exultation or anything, but my face has a change to it that I can't quite put my finger on, but it's definitely there. I look truly happy without posing and saying "cheese" or anything like that.
I'll always remember the joy and the hope and the incredible feeling of being released from a mental/emotional straightjacket that describe that moment. I'll never forget that day, that huge turning point of my life that came rushing in and consumed me all in one beautiful moment.
| I'll start with a quote from the latest PH and RS lesson manual, Lesson 7:-
"Testimony meetings are some of the best meetings in the [Church] in the whole month, if you have the spirit. If you are bored at a testimony meeting, there is something the matter with you, and not the other people. You can get up and bear your testimony and you think it is the best meeting in the month; but if you sit there and count the grammatical errors and laugh at the man who can’t speak very well, you’ll be bored. … Don’t forget it! You have to fight for a testimony. You have to keep fighting!"
Some points on this topic including some that got me thinking in my dying days as a TBM.
Why do I have to fight for a testimony? Isn't truth enduring? If I am a critical thinker and of at least average intelligence, shouldn't my "knowledge" be a composite of the accumulated experiences of my life? Do I need to "fight" to know that 1 + 1 =2? Do I need to "fight" to know that the sun will come up tomorrow? No, of course not. What I would need to fight for is to maintain a belief that the moon is made of cheese or that people live on the sun.
Testimony meeting's main purpose is to brainwash people through repetition. Even the GAs need it. This quote from the lesson manual... "Every month the First Presidency and the Twelve meet with all the General Authorities in the temple. They bear testimony and they tell each other how they love one another just like all of you. Why do the General Authorities need a testimony meeting? The same reason that you need a testimony meeting". I can only agree, brainwashing at every level is needed to compensate for the total lack of experiential or empirical evidence in most people's lives, even GAs!
I am also always deeply disturbed by the tactic to put the blame for a person's lack of seeing evidence of the church's "truthfulness" back onto the individual. Truth may need explaining to be understood however inflicting injury on a person's self worth, if they don't see your point of view, is nothing more than a cheap stand over tactic dressed up as teaching. It shows a lack of respect for individual value and, when seen for what it is, takes away from the truth being demonstrated rather than adding to it. Testimony meetings can be boring for many reasons, even to spirit feeling, righteous (maybe not righteous enough :-)) TBMs. To suggest that not feeling the spirit at testimony meeting is the fault of the poor attendee is abhorrent in my view.
These questions and concerns created noise in the background of my TBM mind which I couldn't comprehend while in it but look crystal clear the longer I am out. If I was still TBM I would have been teaching this lesson, and probably doing a good job of it. I am so glad to be free of it now and to no longer be part of perpetuating the myth of mormonism.
| According to the passage concerning sexual assault in the Miracle of Forgiveness (someone else can provide the page number because my copy of this hateful book went out to the trash with my BMs), it is better to die than to loose your chastity. Of course, this only applies to some mormons not all because if it did Elizabeth Smart would be a pariah.
My church leaders knew about my own personal experience with this subject. That means that their wives also knew. Which in turn means everyone in the ward knew. I give myself ample amounts of credit for sticking it out another decade after this experience simply because I was viewed as damaged. I don't know how my younger, less stronger, self handled the looks and the whisperings. There was no place for me in the ward society. Mormons are more effective than the rapists of Darfur. They do not need to bite or cut through tendons to mark their untouchables. They are more effective with the quiet gossip. I guess that's more civilized?
What I would like to know are your views on this question: Psychologically speaking, did knowing that I was damaged and now not worthy, encourage bad moral behavior. I did not act out in any other way but I had lost my virtue, meaning I had lost ALL, so why bother. It was almost an attitude of why bother protecting something that was gone. Heck, what's the crude phrasing? Something about shutting the barn door after the cows have already escaped?
I suppose I am trying to reconcile my behavior, to finally forgive myself. It took me 14 years to forgive myself for being raped. I will never forgive my rapist. I simply don't have to and will not suffer for it. After hearing my bishop tell me that I was responsible for being raped, that my 'prettiness', my wearing make-up, my being 'nice' and being construed as 'over-friendly' encouraged, if not, demanded that I be raped, I viewed myself as a whore of a woman and acted as such following the act. Many men have hard time understanding why sexual abuse victims end up being promiscuous. They will never understand that the victims now know that their worth lies in giving away their bodies. They have no worth outside of being receptacles for men.
I can't even imagine what my feelings would be if I had been born in the generation where women owned their own bodies, the Sex In The City generation where women weren't ruined, might as well be dead, if they had sex. I may be angry at all of the injustices that I suffered through the mormon church but taking my sexuality, taking my self-worth, making me an emotional eunuch, those are sins that even a real god wouldn't forgive.
| Something which I have observed since leaving the Morg is how the TBM mind automatically views apostates in a state of spiritual amnesia.
My wife’s sister and her husband came by tonight to confirm their belief in the Lard’s true cult, just so we would not forget. He then provided us with a letter, directed more at me in which he basically gave me the first missionary discussion filled with testimony.
It is astounding how these people think, or should I say don’t think. I was a life long member. I was on the seminary council in my high school, president of all of my YM quorums, missionary, YM president, gospel doctrine teacher twice, and YM adviser to both teachers and priest quorums. However, some how I forgot everything I ever learned in Mormonism the moment I told them it was a fraud.
I have concluded that this mindset is purely defensive for them, and highly offensive for me. They can’t refute so they testify and assume I am nothing more than an ignoramus. I obviously received the wrong answers, therefore I have gone from respected and knowledgeable in matters of Morg doctrine, to drooling doctrinal idiot with a simple declaration of belief.
Here is to all of you apostates suffering the pains of doctrinal amnesia. May you continue to discover the joys of an exmormon existence along with all of your own self-hidden Easter eggs.
| I've been accused by my former Bishop and a couple of LDS apologists of being a "black and white" thinker. Some of my extended Mormon family feels the same way. In fact, they felt that way about me when I was a Mormon.
Much of my extended family are inactive LDS, or less than active. As a gung-ho fully believing Mormon, I viewed them with near derision for being too weak to live the Gospel. They had a "take the good, and leave bad" attitude about the church that they still maintain to this day. Although I no longer view them with near derision, I still am unable to comprehend their allegiance to the Mormon church, and their delusion that they can pick and choose what to believe when it comes to doctrine.
According to Mormonism, their prophet is as infallible as Vatican II claims the Pope to be - that means, when declaring doctrine, managing the affairs of the church, and knowing the way of salvation, HE CANNOT MAKE A MISTAKE! God will not allow it! Therefore, a Mormon can do nothing but accept declared doctrine and the way the Prophet runs the church unquestioningly and obey accordingly.
Either Gordon B. Hinckley and every previous prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are one hundred per cent correct concerning church affairs and doctrine, or they are false prophets. There is no other option. And unless the current prophet declares a past prophet's doctrine incorrect, or gets "new" revelation because God changed his mind yet again, then all he said STILL STANDS and that cannot be ignored.
So, deciding to accept the Word of Wisdom because it's "good" and disregard polygamy because it's "bad" isn't doctrinally an option. Anyone who thinks they can do that is utterly deluded. Remaining a member while believing women should hold the Priesthood makes no sense whatsoever. Either God, the creator of the universe, runs his one and only true religion on the face of the planet PERFECTLY through the prophets of the Mormon church, or he doesn't. And if you don't believe God does that, then you shouldn't be a Mormon.
When I was a member, not accepting church doctrine or the council of the Prophet was unfathomable. If I didn't understand something I "put it on the shelf" because to decide I didn't believe it meant the end of my faith. Yes, I may have been a black and white thinker, and may still be in many ways, but I've searched this over and over in my mind, and I cannot comprehend any other option - believe all of Mormonism or believe none of it. As far as I can tell, there is no getting around the fact that belonging to the "One True Church" is an all or nothing proposition.
If anyone wants to keep the good and leave the bad, that's possible in one way - retain the goodness, charity, purposefulness, or other praiseworthy attributes you believe you found in Mormonism and leave the church behind. It's bad. No good it does isn't done better by hundreds of other organizations across the world. Join one of them, keep the good that's in you and drop the cult like the dead weight it is. It's not always easy, but it is worth it.
| As a TBM, I got really comfortable exploiting loopholes.
It seems that every time I was faced with some knowledge that challenged my faith, there was always some logical acrobatics or loophole that allowed me to assimilate the new knowledge without destroying my faith.
For instance, with DNA evidence linking Native Americans to Asians, rather than Israelites, we can resort to the limited geography model, we can claim that Israelites in the New World intermarried with the settlers that came from Asia, we can cite X or Y example that shows how all middle eastern DNA would have disappeared from modern Native Americans, etc. If all these variables fall into place, then it's conceivable that the Book of Mormon history might still be possible (although even this would require an adjustment to traditional Mormon interpretations of the Book of Mormon).
Likewise, with 'horses' and 'steel' in the Book of Mormon, we can just say, "Well, even though it says 'horses' and 'steel,' they could have really been referring to this or that."
With the Book of Abraham, there's the explanation that the portion of the papyri that Joseph Smith was really translating from has been lost, or maybe he needed the papyri in front of him to encourage him or give him confidence and faith enough to receive revelation, even if Abraham's words weren't technically written on the scrolls.
With the link between Freemasonry and the temple endowment, there's always some explanation that insists that the endowment really could be of ancient origin, even if Joseph Smith got it through the Masons.
With Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine, we can insist that Brigham Young was just misquoted (apparently not just his scribes mis-transcribed things, but so did other apostles and several regular members, on multiple occasions--it must have been the work of Satan). Or we can explain that what BY really meant to say.
After a while, you get tired of making excuses for the Church. It seems like there's always some alternative explanation to explain what really happened, or what someone really meant to say. But it gets ridiculous after a while. Maintaining a traditional testimony requires you to make some really questionable assertions. If God gave us the ability to reason, why would He want us to totally turn off this ability in matters of spirituality?
Oh, that's right--to test our faith!
| While cleaning up/organizing my files, I came across text from the Oct. Ex-Mormon Conference presentation slides on how Mormonism wounds self-esteem and what people can do to heal (the audio link is at http://exmormonfoundation.org/files/m...) |
In case it might be of use to some people visiting this board, here's the text from the slides:
Fundamentally, each person is a ‘unit’ of awareness that exists in a physical interface system (their body).
We are aware of:
To become more aware is to expand the fundamental characteristic of our self.
To increase in awareness, even if doing so involves the collapse of a cherished belief system, is ultimately a choice. We can choose to become more aware, or not. Either way, there are consequences.
All healing and personal growth is rooted in increased awareness.
No one can diminish their awareness by mentally fleeing from facts/truths/realities that conflict with their beliefs and not pay the price psychologically.
No one can betray their rational mind by reinforcing their irrational/nonsensical thinking and not pay the price psychologically.
People with healthy/high self-esteem respect the truth more than need to reinforce their beliefs.
Mormonism psychologically conditions people to mentally flee from, trivialize, or condemn facts/truths/realities that do not support the LDS Church’s foundational claims, doctrines, and teachings.
Mormonism psychologically conditions people to betray their rational mind in order to maintain their irrational/nonsensical religious beliefs (i.e., their ‘faith’).
The cognitive dissonance that many Latter-day Saints experience is the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts (e.g., The Book of Mormon is a ‘true’ record of peoples in the ancient Americas, but DNA and archeological evidence does not support it as an actual history).
To what extent does the quality of our self-esteem affect the quality of our lives? Completely/profoundly.
What aspects of our lives are affected by our self-esteem?
1. Family-of-origin, marriage, and other relationships
2. Schooling and job/career
3. Financial situation
4. Civic lives/involvement as citizens
5. Social life/recreation
6. Our self-judgments and other thoughts/mental ‘tapes’
7. Our beliefs about what we can accomplish with our lives
9. Our sexual lives
The degree to which Mormonism affected our self-esteem is a function of our age when we began to be psychologically conditioned by it.
The foundation of our self-esteem was created in our formative years, particularly in our childhood.
Our self-esteem was influenced profoundly by our parents (or parent or whoever had the primary responsibility to take care of us and interacted with us the most).
People enter adulthood with self-esteem that is typically as healthy or impoverished as the extent to which they were loved and respected or neglected and abused during their formative years.
No matter how low/wounded a person’s self-esteem, it can be improved/healed. However, to do so involves ‘legitimate suffering’ (e.g., confronting our fears, becoming aware of our repressed anger and non-destructively expressing it, feeling and working through emotional and psychological pain resulting from abuse, confronting people who have mistreated us, establishing boundaries when our learned tendency is to be silent, etc.).
“To trust your mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem.” Dr. Nathaniel Branden (U.S. psychologist who pioneered the study of self-esteem and author of several books on the subject)
More specifically, self-esteem is:
1. A feeling of being worthy and deserving.
2. The reputation that we acquire with ourselves over time, particularly with our mind.
3. Confidence in our ability to think correctly and in our judgments.
4. Confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life.
5. Confidence in our right to be happy and successful, however we define ‘success’ for ourselves.
6. A feeling of being entitled to assert our needs and wants, develop our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.
Healthy self-esteem is based on the following practices:
1. Living consciously
5. Living purposefully
6. Personal integrity
“When we live consciously we do not imagine that our feelings are an infallible guide to truth.” Dr. Nathaniel Branden
Living consciously involves:
1. Allowing ourselves to become aware (e.g., of repressed emotions, our personality, intellectual ability, desires, ambitions, sexuality, etc.).
2. Having a mind that is active rather than passive.
3. Taking pleasure in our intelligence and intellectual abilities.
4. Being “in the moment” without losing the wider context.
5. Seeking out facts rather than avoiding them.
6. Discerning between facts, interpretations, and emotions.
7. Noticing and confronting impulses to avoid or deny painful or threatening realities.
8. Knowing where we are in relation to achieving our desired goals and projects.
9. Being concerned that our behavior is in alignment with our values and purposes.
10. Searching for feedback from our environment so as to adjust or correct our course when necessary.
11. Persevering in the attempt to understand in spite of difficulties.
12. Being receptive to new knowledge and willing to change old beliefs and assumptions.
13. Being willing to see and correct mistakes.
14. Seeking always to expand our awareness and being committed to learn and grow.
15. A concern to understand the world around us.
16. A concern to know not only our external reality, but also our internal reality (e.g., our thought patterns, feelings, aspirations, motives, etc.) so as to not be a stranger or a mystery to ourselves.
17. A concern to be aware of the beliefs and values that govern our behavior and their roots so as to not mindlessly (i.e., unconsciously) live according to the beliefs and values of other people.
Self-acceptance is the refusal to be in an adversarial relationship to oneself, to non-judgmentally regard ourselves just as we are (and as we used to be).
Self-acceptance involves understanding that everyone acts according to their level of awareness. Mentally beating ourselves up (i.e., feeling guilty) does not make ‘better’ people; a desire to change one’s behavior does. Guilt is an unproductive emotion. No one was ever made “good” by being told that they were “bad”.
Self-acceptance involves letting go of negative judgments about ourselves, our thoughts and behavior, the things that we have not done or achieved so far in life, how many years we spent in Mormonism, etc.
Accepting, compassionate interest does not encourage undesired behavior, rather it reduces the likelihood of it recurring.
Perceiving oneself as a victim is a psychological obstacle to becoming more empowered. Taking responsibility for our happiness is empowering. No one owes us the fulfillment of our wishes. Each of us is responsible for:
1. The achievement of our desires.
2. Our choices and actions (our behavior).
3. The level of awareness that we bring to our relationships and work.
4. How we prioritize our time.
5. The quality of our communications.
6. Our personal happiness.
7. Deciding which values will govern our behavior.
8. Improving our self-esteem and quality of life.
Self-assertiveness means standing up for ourselves, to be authentic in word and deed, and to treat ourselves with respect. It means honoring our wants, needs, and values, and seeking appropriate forms of their expression.
Self-assertiveness involves understanding that our lives do not belong to other people and that we do not exist to live up to their expectations.
Self-assertiveness involves ‘unleashing’ our personality, intellectual abilities, talents, etc., whether other people like it or not.
To live purposefully is to use our powers to achieve our goals. We have the right to establish goals for ourselves based on what we think and feel is right and good. Whether anyone else approves of them or not truly does not matter.
Living purposefully involves living productively. To live productively is to support our existence by translating our thoughts into reality.
Living purposefully also involves taking responsibility for formulating our goals and purposes, identifying the actions required to achieve them, monitoring our behaviour to check that it is in alignment with our objectives, and paying attention to outcomes.
Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs and behavior.
Acting with integrity to what we deem to be right for ourselves is the key to being happy and at peace.
Acting with integrity to the truth, including our personal truth, often involves paying a price, which is sometimes high. To do so takes courage because sometimes there are unpleasant, life-changing consequences.
It comes down to a choice."
| If you are a convert, you will probably understand what I mean!
I was a convert with a very unusual background in basic Christianity, while quietly practicing Spiritualism on the side. I was 19, almost 20 when I converted with my little family. The one that was the reason to investigate Mormonism, in a youth camp, never, ever joined! The irony does not miss me!
One of my first problems was accepting that there was a modern day prophet. Prophet? Those went out in the Old Testament. My view was that Joseph Smith was a medium and was channeling dead spirits - American Indians that lived hundreds of years before.
Our little family had sat in hundreds of private seances with mediums who regularly tranced dozens of American Indians whooping and expounding their wisdom for years and years! I grew up being told I was "rocked to sleep by spirits" when I was a baby!
Of course, my mother and I (I was the oldest of four) made sure we never mentioned this to any of the LDS. I happened to touch on some of it at one time,and you would have thought that I had joined forces with Satan, Lucifer the father of all lies and needed to wash my mouth out with soap immediately!
Note to myself: I was a quick study. Never do that again!
Little did I know that some years later, I would find out that at the time of Joseph Smith Jr,, B H Roberts referred to him as a psychic! (I have posted those quotes! Amazing story from original documented LDS history!)
Another problem I encountered was how the organizations were set up. I was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Relief Society in BYU Married Student 37th Ward in 1963 and had no idea that when one of the women was released, we were all released. I couldn't believe that my position just evaporated. Nobody explained that one to me. It was a shock. I kept minutes, I collected dues, I read the minutes in each meeting. I was an important part of the organization. Then poof. Gone. No explanation, just assumed that I knew how it worked. I had not been taught to think like a BIC member!
As a Christian, growing up in a family of ministers (three generations preached a sermon in OK in 1930), my "mom" (maternal grandma) was the daughter of a preacher and her brother was a Chaplain Major in the Army and a graduate of Yale Divinity School and served in WW1.
Our teachings were simple. You prayed to God, you got your answer. My "dad" (maternal grandpa) who only finished fourth grade in about 1908, proudly proclaimed that "you can find the answer to any question in the Bible", however, never opened one to show me where to look!
The only advice I got about going to the temple from the members,was that I couldn't wear my sleeveless dress (I only owned one) anymore. Nothing more. That was it. No explanation. Nothing!
The other problem I was to find out later, was that the helpful (?) RS pres ordered the one piece temple garments (only ones available) in nylon in a size too small just as we were moving from OR to UT. What was she thinking?
What a horror that was. No wonder I would take them off in my sleep. I could not stand them. I am also convinced that these tight nylon panties worn day and night are the reason for so many urinary/bladder infections, but that's another story. Changed to Bemberg-Rayon, that helped, but when I took them off for good, I never had another infection! Took up drinking coffee in the a.m. and that helped my allergies and the headaches that went with them. Rarely have a headache now but that happened many years later.
As a young adult Mormon soon married in the temple (what a bizarre experience that was!) I was to defer to the Priesthood, I was a priestess to my hubby, the bishop was the father of the Ward, etc. and if my answers to my prayers were not in line with their view, I was to pray again until I got the same answer they did. Yup. If you are not in line with the brethren you are to stay on your knees until you are! How could that be? I had to pray to get the answer someone else got? Didn't make sense. But I did it as best I could.
If I didn't agree with a male member, (and sometimes a female member) they took it upon themselves to make sure I knew that they would soon straighten me out and teach me properly. Ya. Like that was going to happen! The arrogance, the smart comments; I just took them as a joke and laughed them off! What I didn't know at the time, is that they were dead serious!
Yes indeed this particular man, so bent on straightening me out was an Institute Director and he was serious. He even took it upon himself to tell me that my TBM hubby was to ask him to assist him in a blessing, not me. I asked as hubby asked me to! Then that fool had the nerve and audacity when giving me a "blessing for the sick" prior to having major surgery in the a.m. to tell me the Lord wanted me to follow my husband, honor the priesthood, etc etc etc, and went on and on in the middle of the blessing. I never asked him for another one! Again, I was shocked he would use that as a way to chastise me! Unbelievable! I had been a member for about 13 years at that time and never had anything like that happen before.
I didn't get much support from a BIC generational TBM hubby with five generations of Mormonism in his DNA. He will probably never "get it" and understand what it is like to be a female in the LDS Church. He tried, but here is no way it will sink in.
I was raised with the notion: "where there's a will, there's a way" and I learned to be independent and make things happen. Why did I need anyone to straighten me out, or tell me I was not doing it "right."? Made no sense to me.
Imagine my surprise when I prayed about a "calling" and was told I was not to do what I felt inspired to do. No big thing. Just something rather small like being told not to use the lesson manual so thoroughly ... I was taking too long to teach an 'In service Lesson" -- I was reminded some time later that my reply was: "Ahh, no problem I'll just memorize the lesson then. I was a musician with good memorization skills! Anyhow, that "calling" went bye bye very soon. I just would not follow their silly rules and ideas.
I recall being told I was "called" and "chosen" by inspiration to take a particular "calling" and I took that at face value and believed the bishop. Imagine my surprise when the organization female leaders decided to change my "calling" and give it to someone else because they wanted me to do something else. I walked out of that meeting!
I walked out of several meetings! I remember another instance when the bishop called me into his office to sooth the hurt feelings of a woman who claimed I wasn't doing my calling with "love"..apparently she took offense at some comment and I had no idea what it was about. I said, well, I have no idea what you are talking about and walked out!
Another time, they brought my TBM hubby in to talk to the bishop and they went on and on (I forget about what) and again, I told them to work it out amongst themselves as I walked out!
I also walked out of the bishop's office when he threw a fit and yelled at me and took my calling away because he said we were to SING SING SING! That is another story of such absurdity that when I look back on it, I am convinced these LDS men (the bishop and the stake president -- more conferences!) were completely twisted.
If a bishop is out of line, the idea is that it is your fault and you must go to him and apologize. Yup. I was to apologize to a bishop who threw a fit and yelled so loud and pounded his desk with such force, that when I came out of the office, (scared me silly) the people in the hall stood there with shocked looks on their face. I realized immediately, when I went in the room (note to self, never meet with a Mormon leader alone again) that he was raging with anger so I took a seat by the door. Then when he was through with his childish outburst, I said :"I see you have a problem with me" and walked out.
I had the mistaken notion (as well as TBM hubby) that the stake president would chastise the bishop for throwing a fit. But no. I was to apologize to the bishop. At no time did the stake president "get" what I was saying, as he would look to my TBM hubby when he answered me! It was like I was invisible! So TBM hubby paraphrased my answer and he "got it." I was shocked that this adult man could not understand and "get" what I was saying but he could understand another man. I was flabbergasted.
Eventually I took the advice of the stake president and went to the bishop and told him that I was sorry he got so upset with me! I couldn't apologize for anything I did. I didn't do anything! Apparently that soothed his guilty feelings! He knew he screwedup...BAD!
What really is bizarre is after all this strange nasty treatment this poor man had the nerve to tell me" You are one of my favorite people." Well, I wondered, if this is how he treats his "favorite people" I shudder to contemplate how he treats people he does not like! That must be a real horror. I resigned myself to stay in his good graces!
Still, I tried to make it work. I had that automatic script running in my head and repeated by the members: "The church is perfect, the people are not" and I was not to let someone making a mistake affect my salvation, etc. Well, that is such an absurd statement. In the first place without the people there would be no church!
I tried to make this outrageous system of bizarre rituals, ridiculous treatment, lack of respect for women seem reasonable and stick it out for a few more years, thinking that going to church can't hurt anyone!
I still could not figure out why these people were so uncaring, so unconcerned for the welfare of women, so blatantly out of touch, so arrogant. so unable to deal with people in a reasonable manner.
Did not make sense.
Little by little the code to the emotional bond/attachment to the LDS beliefs began to crumble, and eventually snapped. When I was told to "CALM DOWN OR GO HOME" when my daughter and I were assaulted by a man in the women's bathroom with his wife in a wheelchair, I took his ranting advice in April of 1998 my daughter and I left never to return. (see my story on my homepage:http://hometown.aol.com/sllestodd/myh... ) Both of us, and others in our family have resigned or do not consider themselves Mormons.
Then I found Dr. Shades Mormonism Page about a year later.. And it was all over. I was a sponge. I searched the internet and read books and hit the library, even the LDS one, and ...bingo, I had the reason.
The LDS Church is the fruit of the tree of Joseph Smith Jr.s lies, hoax, sham, scam, and there was not an ounce of support for their claims. No wonder they were so screwed up and twisted.
No wonder they were so screwed up. They had nothing but feelings to back their claims up and they were left in such a deficient position, all they had to deal with anything was anger, rage, and bizarre nonsense.
That started me on my steps in the exit process of leaving Mormonism's world view and creating one of my own. The story of Joseph Smith's outragous scam and hoax stuck my funny bone and I have been snickering and laughing ever since!
And what a great experience that has been. Laughter, really is the best medicine! I laugh a lot and need a good belly laugh daily!
Eight and a half years later, I have resigned, and built a life on freedom, honesty, ethics and morals that are not dependent on people spouting nothing but religious nonsense !
I took the good, the bad and the ugly from living Mormonism and sorted it out, unraveled it, little by little and kept what works for me as a human being, adding my own understanding which will always over ride the emotional bond to religion with it's magical thinking, supernatural metaphysical visionary claims.
Ahh... life is sweet! The release from Mormonism's heavy load is the door to real joy and freedom!
| There's been a lot of discussion on the board lately about male/female roles and the exit from Mormonism. The fact is, that men and women are different and have different strengths and weaknesses. I can't imagine anyone debating that. The issue of women gaining the assertiveness necessary to stand up for themselves has nothing to do with denying men or women their inherent strengths or insisting that women or men are able to do everything equally.
Women, no matter how different they are in temperament, need to have the gumption to take up for themselves. If they don't have the strength to do that, then it's imperative to develop that strength as soon as possible. Mormonism does train women to be weak, and some of us took to that training better than others. But even the weakest woman leaving Mormonism should learn to stand up for herself, and sooner rather than later. After all, the self-respect that comes from trusting your own judgment and abilities and standing up for yourself is a necessary part of recovery.
Our Home Teachers, Bishops, and Visiting Teachers are after all just human and doing what they think is right, the same way we did when we were members. They're not evil monsters, hyenas, or maniacal devils and discovering that and learning to stand up to them is incredibly empowering.
Might some women need more support and encouragement than others while going through this process of learning to enforce boundaries and develop the assertiveness necessary to stand up for themselves? Of course. That doesn't mean a husband should jump in and take care of business. That means he should be more interested in supporting her, backing her decisions, and encouraging her self reliance than rescuing her.
Maybe it's a little painful and takes longer than expected to garner that much needed strength, but why put off the effort? It's never going to get easier. Letting a husband fight our battles is only putting off the pain for another day, because eventually, we all have to be able to stand up for ourselves.
There are times when, after exhausting all her efforts, a woman may need help from her husband in warding off Bishops or intrusive relatives. The point is, that the woman be encouraged to try first on her own. In all likelihood, she's an adult woman with the capability of running a family and has more strength and ability than anyone realizes. She may need her husband standing next to her, holding her hand and encouraging her while she calls her Visiting Teachers to tell them not to stop by again. She may need to role-play to gain the confidence to even make the call. But we wouldn't deny our children the opportunity to learn these things, why would we deny our wives or husbands, as the case may be?
Is it bullying to insist that children learn to tie their own shoes, dress themselves, deal with occasional teasing at school, and complete homework on their own? No. And it's not bullying to believe that women need to learn to stand up for themselves, which is as essential for a happy, productive life as learning to dress one's self.
There may be a very few cases where individuals are suicidal and completely incapable of any decision making after leaving the church, but that would seem to require more than a husband calling off the dogs on her behalf. In situations like that, I would imagine medical and or psychological intervention is in order.
There may also be some cases where the Bishop or even family members are so obnoxious that being told bluntly to "stay the hell away" or "F*** Off" by a woman still does no good. In those cases, of course it wouldn't hurt to have a man try to solve the problem. They're usually bigger and have a physical intimidation factor that women don't possess. It would be silly, after several attempts on her own, for a woman to decline to use her husband's attributes to her advantage.
Things aren't always black and white, but women always need to learn to take up for themselves after leaving the cult of Mormonism. And their husbands should give them the support they need to do that and not jump in to rescue them before they've had the opportunity to learn.
| I got out of the Mormon church 3 years ago after returning home early from a horrible time being a mishie in Texas. I hated my time as a missionary. My companion would tattle on my every move to the mp. I was hot and bored most of the time, and to top it all off, most people we talked to told us we were in a cult and slammed the door in our faces.
One day while we were out going door to door, we were greeted by a sweet middle aged lady named Cathy. Cathy let us into her house and asked if we'd like a piece of pie and some ice cream to go with it. We were so hungry that we said "Yes!" and ate it all up as fast as we could. (We were living on canned spaghetti and Ramen noodles mostly.) Cathy let my companion start the lesson, but when he got to the part about the burning in the bosom, she grinned and pulled out a package of Rolaids and said, "Rolaids spells Relief." Then she told us we can't rely on our feelings since they change so quickly.
Well, it was obvious that we weren't going anywhere with Cathy and so Ted* (*not his real name) made us leave.
Before we left, Cathy asked me, "If you were to die tonight, which level of heaven would you go to?" (She didn't believe in levels of heaven, she just wanted to make a point) and I said, "probably the Terrestial one" since I wasn't married at the time, and she said, "and what about a person like me? Which level would I go to?" And of course, I had to say the Terrestial level since she had been so nice to us and all.
I figured that was the last we would see of Cathy, but I was wrong. She had a beautiful Collie dog that she would walk at all times of the day. When she saw us she would wave and say, "remember, Rolaids spells Relief!" We would chuckle and say, "There goes crazy Cathy," but sometimes I would wonder why she would go to the same level of heaven as I.
One day we were in a grocery store in her neighborhood and she saw me. My companion was getting apples on one side of the store and I was getting milk on the other side. Cathy came up to me and said, "You know Wayne, if your Church is really the truth, then you shouldn't be afraid to look into it." I told her, "I know my church is the truth and Joseph Smith is a prophet." She told me I should look into the history of the Mormon church and of Joseph Smith. Then she gave me a tract that had quotes in it by the Tanners and I told her I couldn't read it because they were anti Mormon. She just smiled and said, "If your church is the truth, then nothing they say can change your mind right?" Well, I took the tract just to prove her wrong and hid it in my pocket so Ted wouldn't see it. Ted said hi to Cathy when he came back and asked about her dog and then we paid for our food and left.
I left the tract hidden in my pocket for a day or two, waiting for a time I could read it without Ted seeing me. I had to finally fake a case of diarrhea so I could read it in the bathroom without being found out. I was floored by what I read. Things I had never heard about. Joseph Smith was a Polygamist. I had heard a few rumors about Brigham Youngs many wives, but not Joseph Smith as well! Joe had around 33? wives and one of the youngest was a girl of 14! My sister was that age at the time and it totally grossed me out to think about it.
Joseph Smith used Seer stones to translate the golden plates, and in a hat of all things!! Joseph Smith had 3 versions of his first vision and the one I learned wasn't anything like the original! All these things combined made me sick to my stomach.
I decided I didn't care about the stupid strict mission rules anymore and started to break as many as I could. I made Ted come to the public library with me and I looked up Joseph Smith on the internet. Ted would go balistic with all the crap I was doing, but by then I didn't care. I knew Joseph Smith was nothing more than a con-artist and the Mormon church is nothing more than a fraud.
I got sent home in disgrace and asked that my name be removed from the church records. I have had a horrible time with my TBM family and former TBM friends, but I'm happy to be out of that cult. I feel the most hurt from my former so-called best friends. They can't accept my decision to leave and have abandoned me. It's like a nightmare where you are stuck on a merry-go-round and you're going round and round and can't get off. I got off the merry-go-round, but they are still stuck on it. They don't realize they are going nowhere.
I found this quote somewhere on the internet, but it sums it up nicely for me: "The truth always stands up to investigation." I've decided to "investigate" mainstream Christianity. If it is the truth, then it should be able to stand up to investigation too.
Jesus said that he was the Truth. I hope he is because I'm going to investigate him and the Bible now.
| Part of leaving mormonism is sadness. Mourning over the fact that you've been lied to since you were a zygote. Heartbroken that the people you love and care for believe such horrible, disgusting lies, and function entirely upon them. I hate that my family is so sucked up in such a controlling, depressing society.
I've been through so many emotions, having realized the church for the fraud that it is. I've ridden the entire rollercoaster that is the Küber Ross Grief Cycle.
Shock: What? The church isn't true? No way! It can't be. My whole family is in this. My whole FREAKING family.
Denial: Absolutely not. Yeah right. This is just Satan trying to tempt me. Be strong, just be strong, remember the prophet? The prophet is your friend. Trust the prophet. The church is good. Really, it is. Really very good. The problem lies with you, not the church. Never the church. NEVER.
Anger: WHAT. THE. HELL. I can NOT believe that everyone has lied to my face my entire FREAKING life. How DARE they! Paying money, made to feel like crap, damands on my time--and for WHAT? So that Joe Smith could bang teenagers? So that Breedem Young could kill people in the name of God? So that I could wear ugly underwear and never be desired again? So that I stay home like a good wife, barefoot and pregnant, obeying my husband and the priesthood?? So that I can keep the mormon machine well oiled?? HELL NO.
Bargaining: Okay. So, the church is a lie. But, who cares? I can keep going, no one has to know, I just need to keep going. If I keep going it will all make sense. Heveanly Father, if I go back, please bless me. Answer my prayers and I will go back. We'll make this right, together.
Depression: Now what? Does it even matter? I've been lied to my entire life. Does anything really matter? Temples don't mean a damn thing. Sealings don't mean a damn thing. Nothing freaking matters. What's the point. If there is a God, he screwed me and doesn't freaking care. And that's IF there IS a God. Who knows anymore.
Testing: Wearing sleeveless shirts, drinking wine, and seeing if I spontaniously combust. No? Still here? Really? Wow, it was all an elaborate lie. Damn.
Acceptance: So, this is it. It really is a whole lot of nothing. Okay then. Let me get my exit letter together, and finally move on with my life.
Though, I know that it is common to not get through all the stages gracefully. The research on changingminds.org states: "A common problem with the above cycle is that people get stuck in one phase. A person may be stuck in permanent anger (which is itself a form of flight from reality) or repeated bargaining. It is more difficult to get stuck in active states than in passivity, and getting stuck in depression is perhaps a more common ailment. Another trap is that when a person moves on to the next phase, they have not completed an earlier phase and so move backwards in cyclic loops that repeat previous emotion and actions. Thus, for example, a person that finds bargaining not to be working, may go back into anger or denial."
I've certainly had my shares of cyclic responses. My favorite to go back to (it seems) is anger. I'm angry I've been gyped. I try to think, what it would have been like if I had a choice in the matter of morg membership. If I had been a convert, instead of born into a mormon family and conditioned from the begining. I don't know what I would have chosen. Part of me hopes that I would do my proper investigating before commiting, but I'm not quite sure. The good thing about being in this cult mentality for so long is that I NEVER accept things as they are. There is too much at stake, in my mind. The last thing I want is to exit one cult to enter another, already primed for control.
So, now, here I sit, exit letter in front of me, with mine and my daughter's names on it, and I am upset. Upset that it had to come to this. Frusterated that I have to release myself and my documents. The choice was made for me when I was eight years old, I did it because I wanted to please my parents. But it's all a lie. It's heartbreaking. Families are ruined by the church everyday. I wonder if my family, if my husband's family, will be harmed when they learned I resigned from the church. I guess its inevitable. I wish I could wear my eminant self controlled departure with pride. I'm just not there yet. I know what I'm doing is right, and neccesary. When the family finds out--well, that's the other shoe that has yet to drop. It's going to painful. All I can do is ready myself, hold my head high, and let the gossip and harsh words fly from the families and "friends".
And it all comes back to sadness.
My older brother converted when my mom converted, and he was 12 years old. He has since left the church. My mother asked him why he ever joined in the first place, if he didn't believe it. His response? "I love you. I trusted you mom."
I have a vivid memory of getting ready for my baptism when I was eight. My other brother was going to preform it, fresh off his mission. I remember being so nervous, but excited, because I was doing what all my friends had already done. A "You Jump I Jump" mentality. My mother fussing over my every detail. I was her little girl, and I was being beautifully obedient. I was perfect. I was going down into the baptismal font, and everyone was seated above me. All the little kids had crowded at the edge of the font to watch. I was standing there, looking at everyone.
It's sad to me now. I never questioned it, I just obeyed. My little eight year old self, long blonde hair tied behind in a clip, and, right before I was dunked, I looked at my mother, square in the eye. She smiled at me.
I smiled back nervously, as if saying: "I trust you, Mom."
| From the time I was born I was told of the miraculous beginnings of the Mormon Church. The stories were repeated over and over and became deeply held and ingrained personal beliefs.
The beginnings of the church and the settlement and growth of Utah were my history. My great grand parents were part of the young and ever growing church. My ancestors were guided by the spirit to recognize the truth and they came from England, Denmark, Germany, and New England. The prophet Brigham, inspired to colonize the west sent my ancestors to settle in Vernal. The story of my family and the church intertwined and mixed until there was no separation.
Everything I learned as I grew up was what one would expect about the restoration of the one true church, about a prophet that was second only to Jesus in importance, and about a people chosen before the foundations of the earth to come and prepare the world for the second coming.
The first time I heard something different I was taken completely off guard. One day in my high school history class I learned about the Mountain Meadow Massacre. This tragedy had been painstakingly researched and written about, but I had never heard about it. I had heard about the faith promoting stories of the early saints as they endured persecution and I had heard about my own ancestors and their travails as they joined the church and came to Utah. But I had not heard of the murder of 120 men, women, and children at the hands of Mormons.
My high school history teacher did not delve into the story, just a quick historical accounting. We had over a hundred years of American history to talk about. He stated without emotion that in 1857, a group of Mormon leaders and Indians massacred 120 pioneers from Arkansas. All were killed except for 17 children. These children were taken and placed into Mormon homes. Eventually the children’s extended families in Arkansas found out about the massacre and demanded that the children be returned. There was a cover-up of the incident and 20 years would pass before one man (out of the approximately 30 who participated) would be convicted and executed for the slayings of 120 fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.
I felt confused. Mormons and especially Mormon leaders, men who sought and followed the spiritual promptings of the Holy Ghost, men blessed with the priesthood would not do this. I had been taught about the lies that the world spread about Mormons in an attempt to discredit the church and the work of the Lord. This was an example of how people persecuted Mormons and spread rumors. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I had felt superior, maybe not in my own life, but in the fact that I was a part of the great plan of salvation in a way that none of the kids or teachers at my high school could understand.
These people had not accepted the gospel; they had not been born into the covenant. They were not worthy to judge the Mormons. I told my teacher I did not believe this story and I would find out the truth. I intended to set the record straight.
I went home and told my father about what I had learned and had two interesting experiences. The first was to find out it was true and to feel humiliated. This was inconsistent with my expectation of people that were guided by Heavenly Father and lived the true gospel. These were people that were Mormon, therefore faithful in the pre-existence, willing warriors on the Savior’s side during the battle between good and evil. How did the most valiant participate in a massacre? I had always looked down on those not Mormon because of the assumed righteousness and superiority of the Mormon Church. This story was a direct contradiction of all I believed. I felt ashamed of my heritage and wondered what people must think of Mormons. Did they think that we were evil, a cult, and a foolish people? My equilibrium was off and I was dizzy and disoriented.
The next interesting thing was to hear the spin. My dad explained that those Mormon men involved in the murders of the emigrants in the Fancher wagon train had suffered great persecution in their lives. They had endured the martyrdom of the prophet, Joseph and his brother. Some of these men and their families had been chased out of their homes in the dead of winter, losing everything at the hands of those who wanted to destroy the church. Some of these men had lost loved ones in the Haun’s Mill Massacre where a Missouri Militia, under the Mormon Extermination Order had killed 18 men and boys.
These emigrants, the ill-fated members of the Fancher Party, as they made their trek through Utah taunted and teased the Mormons. They bragged about killing the prophet. They boasted that they had helped kill the Mormons at Haun’s Mill. They callously claimed that they had helped kick the Mormons out of Missouri and then Illinois. The emigrants threatened to kill the Mormon settlers and swore at them. The brazen verbal attacks of the Francher Party had incited and provoked the Mormons. The emigrants proudly promised to come back to Utah with the Federal Troops and kill all the God Damn Mormons. Full of anger and fear for their own lives and the lives of their families, these Mormon men had over reacted. The combination of rage and panic had led to this regrettable tragedy. Surely I could imagine what those men felt and how they could feel endangered by these evil, malicious, and haughty emigrants.
It was a terrible thing, a mistake my dad assured me, but understandable. The emigrants had been complicit in the events. They had, really, brought this on themselves. When the Prophet Brigham found out about the massacre, he was devastated and sought to bring those involved to justice. It all ended with the hanging of Bishop Lee, the man who had been responsible for the massacre and the erection of a small memorial for the few passerby’s that came to the remote location in Southern Utah. My dad counseled me to not confuse the gospel, which is perfect, with the members of the church who were often imperfect. In the end, the Lord would be the judge.
It was a short answer and it appealed to my sense of justice and vengeance. I could feel for those men and I could hardly blame them. I had heard all my life about the atrocities the Saints had had to endure at the hands of mobs. I could not imagine what those men must have felt. Most importantly it preserved the “truthfulness” of the church. Still it was hard to imagine why they killed all the women and children over six? It also seemed crazy to me that the emigrants had been so careless and threatening. I wondered why these Mormon men had not been more righteous, more guided by the spirit.
My father was the ultimate authority for me and if he told me this was just a few men that had acted in rage and fear, then that is what happened. I pictured a chaotic scene of men, out of control, consumed with revenge and vengeance wildly shooting into the wagon train, not realizing what they were doing. I had read about other massacres that had happened. I knew abut the My Lei Massacre, the Charles Manson murders and the murders recorded in the book In Cold Blood. People snapped, people did crazy things; it happened all the time. I had never heard the names of those accused of the carnage that occurred at Mountain Meadow but I knew that this was not an act of the Mormon leadership or the church. This was not a massacre perpetuated by the Mormons, but an act of a few evil men. I went back to school ready to set the record straight; my arrogance once again intact. But I felt devastated and confused.
My father took this opportunity to teach me the ways of Mormon reasoning. The things I had learned did not matter, he said. The church was true, Joseph Smith was a prophet of our Heavenly Father, Joseph Fielding Smith (the current prophet) was a living prophet today and I could believe in this. The Book of Mormon was the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ was here on earth in the Mormon Church and I could give myself whole heartedly to this great design. I was a part of a divine master plan and I was blessed. I was one of the chosen, before the foundations of the world. My father told me to not be fooled, but be faithful, obedient and the lord would bless me and help me to live as I should. All would be well with me. I could trust the leaders, the prophet, and the church. The Gospel had been restored. All would be made known to me in time. It would not always be easy nor would it always make sense. I would be tested in this life. That was one of the purposes of this existence. Could I remain faithful when things didn’t make sense, when the truth was challenged, when the world distorted and perverted the truth? I could trust that even though there were things that seemed wrong – all was right. I was chosen, the church was true, and this was God’s plan.
I wanted to believe in my father and in our moral superiority. But I did not get over it, it did not go away, I could not just go back to believing without question. I started to imagine not being a part of the church, my family, and my life. My black and white world had turned to gray.
As I discovered more and more misrepresentations and lies I felt angry. The pattern would be the same:
No- I don't believe that. I am Mormon, I know my history.
What? - it is true.
Embarrassment and confusion.
Then I would hear the spin - Oh, that makes me uncomfortable, but I guess I can accept that.
Anger that I was not told, regardless of the spin and the reason, why all the lying?
Repeat the above over and over until the betrayal was finally just too much to bear.
Over the years I continued to feel lied to by my church who claimed not just moral superiority, but ultimate truth and position. I still hate the feeling of having been so deceived. I think it must be like having your spouse have an affair, or having someone you trust take your money. I felt so betrayed.
Finally I left and all the lying stopped. It was such a relief. I still feel relieved that I do not have to put up with all the lying.
It is such a relief to not be Mormon.
| About fifteen years ago, I heard a talk in a Mormon sacrament meeting, a few key points of which were largely incidental to Mormonism and have stayed with me over the years. The speaker, one of the more insightful people I have known, was talking about an ongoing, affectionate inside joke he shared with his wife. According to his description, it typically played out like this: His wife would ask him if he loved her. He would reply, “I married you, didn’t I?” She would then ask him how much he loved her, and he would reply by holding up his thumb and forefinger just a few inches apart and saying, “This much.”
He went on to explain that this joke was based on Aristotle’s Theory of Infinite Regression. Basically, the theory holds that you can take any quantity or any measure of length and cut it in half, but you will still be left with something. You can take what remains and cut that in half, and be left with something yet again. This theoretical halving can go on forever, yet something always remains. (For you football fans, it’s like successive penalties that are each half the distance to the goal line.)
The speaker did indeed love his wife, and his unusual way of expressing the degree of that love had great meaning for the two of them. Where most people would have seen inches within infinity, they were seeing infinity within inches.
When I first disclosed my unbelief to my mother, she was about six months beyond her 70th birthday. It was an ugly conversation, full of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. More than once, she said, “This life is nothing!” Having barely gone past the halfway point of my own life expectancy, I wouldn’t presume to know what mortality looks like from my mother’s point of view. Maybe I’ll find myself saying the same thing when, and if, I reach her age. Still, the thought that occurred to me at the time of our conversation and that has come back to me over and over since I let go of my former beliefs is this: what if this life is everything? Increasingly, over time, I have had to acknowledge that all the evidence – or lack thereof – indicates that it is. Genuine recovery from Mormonism (which is just one variation on recovery from magical thinking in general and recovery from erroneous convictions of things that are inherently unknowable) is about acknowledging this reality. Genuine recovery is about coming toterms with the possibility – indeed the probability – that each of us only gets one time around. No re-rides. We can hope for some kind of conscious existence beyond death - I know I do - but hope alone, without evidence, isn’t much of a basis for belief, let alone for something we could claim to “know.”
One’s own mortality can seem like a harsh reality, especially if you’ve spent a good chunk of your life denying it. Shedding your former beliefs means finding a new definition for the meaning of life. It’s a daunting task when you’re accustomed to having a meaning provided to you and when you’ve been conditioned to believe that there really is no meaning to life for people in your position. The good news is that, like so many other things you’ve been conditioned to believe, it’s just not true.
If your experience with recovery is anything like mine, you find a richness in life now that you never experienced before. I see beauty and profundity everywhere. I don’t feel like I have to view them through any particular lens or interpret them within any particular framework. They just are. Knowing that this life is probably my only opportunity to experience these things makes them that much more poignant.
The belief that our time in this world is just a nanosecond within eternity reinforces the mentality that life is something to be endured. How many times did we hear about enduring to the end? When you understand that it probably really is the end, you start to realize that the time between now and then is something to be enjoyed, not just endured. Happiness and fulfillment are not things we can afford to postpone.
Acknowledging my own mortality hasn’t cost me my sense of wonder, my reverence for creation, my humility in the face of our human fragility or my feelings of gratitude for simply being alive. I would have to say that the opposite has been true in all cases. My sense of wonder is heightened by the complexity of our world and the realization of how much we just don’t know. My reverence for creation increases every time I absorb the beauty of nature without any filters. I am compelled to be humble when I realize that despite all of our collective human knowledge, wisdom and ingenuity, we still owe our very existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. Gratitude for all of that requires that I be aware of the “for what” part. I don’t have to presume to know “to whom.”
In my old view, I saw this life as inches within infinity. I now see this life as infinity within inches. In which view does life have more meaning?
| Years ago, I heard Boyd Packer say this: "There is the need now to be united with everyone facing the same way. Then the sunlight of truth, coming over our shoulders, will mark the path ahead. If we perchance turn the wrong way, we will shade our eyes from that light and we will fail in our ministries." |
So the important thing is that we all conform, that we all face the same direction and follow the lead of the brethren. I thought about what would happen if we turned around and faced the light, instead of turning away from it and following the lead of those we suppose know better.
We know that if those who refuse to conform are a small number, they are marginalized (every ward has a token "liberal" or "nonconformist") or are expelled from the organization (think of the September Six). But what would happen if large numbers of members finally took control of their lives back and turned to face the light. What would happen if the leadership could no longer count on their members' worshipful obedience?
I suspect that the church would fall apart rather quickly. Once you turn and face the truth, you see church leaders who do not know any better than you do (and perhaps they know less) where they are going. Members would see a manmade organization run by some rather short-sighted and narrowminded men. And the organization would fall apart.
That's the reason we see such heavy emphasis on obedience and on ignoring the "alternative voices." It is a church based on control, and when people think for themselves, the church loses control. And then watch out.
| Other bad advice:
Snap out of it.
What's wrong? The cat got your tongue?
Grow a spine.
Quit your whining.
Claim you want to kill yourself? Just shut up about it.
Telling a hurting or needy person that they're bad usually makes them feel worse and seldom inspires them to do better.
I've learned from being a teacher that blanket insults don't often help anyone take reasonable steps toward learning or toward better behavior. What works better is reassurance that the person can and will learn and/or specific help or advice to get them on the road.
Telling someone that they're too shy, too subervient, too sad, too depressed, too fat, or too anything is saying that their problem is who they are. It doesn't give them hope or help, but tends to impose guilt, despair and often more of the same of whatever is bothering them.
What kinds of advice usually works better?
What worked for me is . . .
How about trying this . . .
A first step could be to . . .
You feel overwhelmed? How about . . .
A few ideas that have worked for others are . . .
Here's a specific tip I think you'll like . . .
I've seen this help others like you . . .
Rapport and empathy usually create a helpful starting place when helping someone in need. Bold judgmental edicts and insults might seem helpful but usually are just the opposite. They usually only to make the speaker feel superior to the person he/she is claiming to "help." Advice that is specific and is presented easy to follow steps can often be the most helpful, at least in my experience.
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