THE MORMON CURTAIN
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EX-MORMONISM SECTION 15
A very large selection of posts made by those in recovery from Mormonism. Culled from throughout the Ex-Mormon Communities.
| I have observed that our experiences in Mormonism are often very, very different.
How we internalize and analyze them and the conclusions we come to in the exit process are very different also.
I loved being a Mormon, for the most part. I enjoyed most of my "callings," especially in music conducting, Roadshows, directing, writing, doing theater productions, writing scripts, etc. I enjoyed the social environment, going to Firesides, and other activities also.
I do think I joined a little different kind of church in the 60's though than what I hear about here. . Some of you might be from my era.
It appears that today, there are more restrictions, less openness, the Golden Days of Mormonism seem to be gone and replaced by more controlling and more restrictive rules, policies, regulations etc. . We actually had discussions in those days! Nobody would have even thought about the number of ear piercings. Many of us had two or three.
I had my share of renegade leaders with their mantle of their calling --halo askew, gross stupiditis, crazy making nut cases, as well as fun picnics, firesides, fun banter with some of the people, joking, and socializing and learning new skills and expanding my knowledge in lots of subjects.
Interestingly, talking to some of my Christian friends, and relatives, they had similar experiences in the congregations: the good, the bad, the ugly came as a total package! It was not exclusive to Mormonism, just a little different. They could oust a minister/pastor, and/or go to another congregation and it was just find to do that.
Those were the days when we really studied--"Out of the Best Books"(three book series) was one class, as well as other country's cultures and other subjects. We had a variety of classes where learned skills in quilting, sewing, first aid, self defense, etiquette, fashion and on and on.
We had experts come to the RS classes. We had a mechanic come to teach us how to care for our vehicles, check and add oil, water,change a tire, etc. We had a financial planner come to talk to us about how to handle household/family finances. We had a funeral director come to talk to us about our options and how they work and what they cost.
That is the LDS Church I attended in three states, in several stakes and wards.
So, if you didn't attend that kind of LDS Church in those days, it is understandable that your experiences are going to be much different than mine.
| 1) The self-righteous insurance salesman, and Stake President. He stands before you in an expensive white shirt, dark suit, and shiny shoes. While trying to sell you insurance, he always mentions the "importance of the Gospel in my life."
2) Bruce McConkie behind the pulpit. His hair looks like a brush, and his voice sounds like the rushing of many waters. He admonishes, chastises, belittles, and quotes with authority. He is a figure of fear and loathing, an image you would not wish to face in the eternities.
4) The poor missionaries in the MTC, walking around when they get two minutes off. They are depressed and lonely, but they smile, and tell those who recognize them how goddam happy they are.
5) The little old ladies in my parents' ward--beautifully done white, hair, expensive dresses, and firm testitmonies. In truth, these ladies went through the grinder when they were young. Growing up a woman in Mormondom is not easy. They are, in their own way, pretty tough cookies.
6) People standing in line to shake "the Prophet's " hand. They dutifully await their turn. They are eager, and so excited to tell everyone they just shook hands with God's representative and spokesman. There is something cultish and sad about it.
7) Returned missionaries in science classes at BYU. They come to class armed with their scriptures, and rush to the front of the class to dispute evolution with the professor. They eagerly turn pages, and let the professor know where he is wrong.
8) The exhausted, harried young mother, sitting in sacrament meeting with her brood. One kid sits on her lap, another is off the her side, eating Cheerios out of a plastic zip loc bag. Her day of rest has been hellishly hard, and there is still one meeting to go. She smiles wearily, and cries to herself.
9) Sitting in testimony meeting, awaiting the next ridiculous performance. You never know what you are going to get, and you wish that you could, somehow, have a change.
10) A bitter cold morning at BYU. Its 7:55, and you are late to class. You parked way off campus to avoid paying parking fees, and your face and ears are numb with cold. You are just about to the door of the Joseph Smith Building, and the flag ceremony begins. Everyone stops, and waits for the music to end. No-one would dare keep walking.
11) Sunday in Provo, The town could not be more dead. Every now and then, a large surge of BYU students will emerge from their meetings, the girls wearing "granny dresses," and the boys wearing white shirts and dark slacks. Most clutch their scriptures, which have been unopened during the entire series of meetings.
Yup, I grew up a Mormon.
| My steps leaving Mormonism: from the FOG to ENLIGHTENMENT!
Some of my steps in the exit process from Mormonism-while writing all the way. From the very beginning, I found an outlet for my process and this board was one of them.
1. THE FOG-DAZE STAGE!
What the hell happened? Saw WHAT???
This is what happened while reading on line (Dr. Shades --to be exact) when I realized that there were no golden plates, no translations, the BOM was fiction, Joseph Smith Jr. told such a blatant whopper (while plagiarizing everything in sight) that it was preposterous and totally ridiculous. This was followed very, very closely by....
2. THE STUNNED HUMOR STAGE!
Oh My Holy Garments!
Millions of Mormons are still believing this whopper Joseph Smith Jr. told and paying 10% (minimum) for the privilege, while wearing regulation skivvies, and going to the temple doing bastardized Masonic rituals.
3. THIS IS NOT FUNNY STAGE:
What a cotton-picking minute here. This is not funny-funny-this is bizarre.
Every one of those scalawags, led by Joseph Smith Jr lied from the get-go and I am pissed! No -- not pissed, I am furious, enraged, damn angry and I am not going to be quiet about it either!
4.THE SPONGE STAGE:
Constant reading, can't get enough, have to know every last thing I can learn about Mormonism's history and how it functions from their own sources. What a hoot that is!
This is also the grateful stage for how they kept records. Those characters wrote everything down!
Hallelujah, pass the potatoes, I read while eating and went to bed and dreamed about it.
5. The HOLY COW STAGE!
This is amazingly intrusive stuff. They have trampled on my personal rights, my privacy, my naked body and told me it was what Heavenly Father wanted.
What was I thinking? Time to revamp that thinking!
6. THE SECOND "ONLY TRUE" HUMOR STAGE!
Mormonism is just too funny, goofy, outrageous to take seriously, except when they are killing people, of course.
7. THE SEPARATION STAGE!
This is where I examined my life, all of it; before Mormonism, as a convert, and as a totally immersed, believing Mormon and figured out what happened on a mental, psychological, and emotional level and took apart the layers of it's impact, both the negative and the positive.
Mormonism does (through it's leaders and members) what they do out of ignorance, (and a bad case of Gross Stupiditis) and for my own emotional well being, I extend compassion to them because they have no idea what they are doing. That is, after I have talked and written about their nonsense ad nauseum!
8. THE NEW WORLD VIEW STAGE: ENLIGHTENMENT!!
This the point where I have researched for hours, read books a couple dozen books, and read about other people's beliefs and decided what I wanted for myself, knowing it was an evolutionary process, and I could change my mind at any point.
Now, I call myself an Eccentric Eclectic because I like a little bit of a lot of beliefs, notions, ideas. Perhaps a lot of you are a lot like me.
I am part: AGNOSTIC:
This is safe and the most accurate. To say you are atheist is so politically incorrect, and unacceptable in this day and age that it is suicide to try to run for office, for instance, also, so many people believe that atheism is of the devil that many relationships are cut off before they begin because of this prejudice.
I find that calling myself an agnostic is preferable and works best for my own survival on many levels. Because I live in a predominant Judeo-Christian society (like most of us posting here) to be too far out of it causes more problems that it solves.
I am also part ATHEIST:
I have been known to say I am a "soft" atheist - taking the default position of non-belief in the unsupported theist claim of a God - which is not the same thing as taking the position of no gods.
I reserve the term: God for that which is currently unexplainable.
I am part SKEPTIC
I want a lot of verifiable information from state of the art sources before I add my allegiance. I do not automatically believe someone because of who they are, what they believe or just because they said so.
I am part HUMANIST
American Humanist - "Humanism is a progressive lifestance, free of supernaturalism, which affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives that add to the greater good of humanity."
Again, I am not sure about the "supernaturalism" part, because I allow for all possibilities. Again, I want verifiable evidences.
I like a few Buddhist ideas also, and I stir all this up with a good dose of humor, satire, and just plain fun!
At this point, I have been on the outside of Mormonism for close to eight years.
My official resignation date from the Mormon Church is (get this -- could not have planned it) JUNE 27, 2002! What a way to celebrate the shoot-out at Carthage Jail!
In the exit process from Mormonism, I have become passionate about freedom of religion, full disclosure and informed consent and informed choice.
I have been shaped by some of the prevailing values in my prior beliefs in Spiritualism, Christianity and Mormonism, however, I can find no reason to believe that those values are exclusive to those beliefs alone.
My personal study and research showed clearly that there are thousands of gods, female ones long predate male ones and how would one choose? So many gods, so little time, so many heavens, so little time, so many myths, so little time.
It became apparent that we are mostly a product of the geography of our birth.
The closer I get to the end of my life, the more I realize that I do not need answers to where I came from and where I am going.
There are thousands of answers to those questions and not a one of them has any real evidences that satisfy the skeptic in me and I am not interested in just relying on faith. Been there done that, and it is unsatisfactory.
I prefer to place my faith in all things, just not in a supreme being, a God, (personalized or otherwise) or creator.
It is not necessary to my sense of well being, my self confidence, my self esteem, my self respect, or how I treat other people, or how I view my place in the world to subscribe to those beliefs.
It is, however, extremely liberating and freeing to know I am not bound by those old myths, teachings, beliefs and am free to think and believe anything I wish without fear of recrimination from some outside source.
I am thrilled that I figured that out with enough years left to totally enjoy it!
| Today being Sunday, Dr. Mujun, the kids and I got up and went to Unitarian Universalist services in the morning. I hadn't attended there since Christmas Eve. UU's don't necessarily believe there is anything special about Sunday as opposed to any other day, but they do tend to go with that day for services. They also don't see any real cause for concern in the fact that I haven't been there for a month. They were just glad to see me this time around, and several friends shared hugs and kind words.
After getting home, my seven-year-old son wanted to go out and throw the football. We drove to a park next to the bay just a few minutes' from our home. It was a beautiful clear day, the temperature was about 60F and the sun was reflecting off the calm water. My son is getting better at catching the football. He has reached a point where he can catch 30-yard passes at least as reliably as I can throw them. He can't throw that far yet, so he prefers to punt back to me, which he does with remarkable accuracy. About a third of the time, I don't even have to move to catch the ball. Today, he was working on catching the ball while running, so he was asking me to lead him with my passes.
I never was much of a jock. I figure it's just a matter of months, if not weeks, until the only advantage I have over him is how far I can throw.
We were out there about an hour today. Yesterday, we were in the same spot throwing the football for about an hour and a half. He wears his Boise State sweatshirt, and we usually spend a few minutes during each session re-enacting the most famous plays from the Fiesta Bowl, defeating invisible Sooners time and again.
If there is a god, I can't imagine that he or she is really worried about our behavior on one particular day of the week more than the others. Personally, I do like the idea of devoting one day a week to family, to self-cultivation and to individual and collective efforts to make the world a better place. Sunday seems to work for that in our family. It's hard to believe that such a short time ago, I subscribed to a belief system that would have questioned the appropriateness of my activity today with my son, not that it would have left me any time on a Sunday afternoon anyway.
I'm all in favor of a weekly change of pace and change of focus, but what could be more worthy or ultimately more sacred than the time I spent throwing the football with my son today? It was no less so yesterday just because it was Saturday. I'm not averse to keeping the Sabbath day holy as long as I get to define what qualifies, but I'm a lot more interested in finding the sacred in every day.
| A Mormon from the Ward happened to call our home recently and in chatting, I was surprised when he brought up this incident, recounted below, from 1998 and how he felt about it. Apparently, he stood up for me. He said he was later "demoted" also. In over eight years, I have never heard from anyone in the ward about this incident!
It reminded me of what happened and why and how it is all part of a crazy-making bunch of past experiences.
It was so nice to hear from someone who was there and knew all about it!
This is the story as I recount it several years ago when putting my "story" on a little web page.
Some of it was sent in a letter to the Ward also.
The LAST STRAW!
This is my last absurd experience with the Mormon Church. I had convinced my inactive daughter that going to church would never hurt you and we ought to go once in awhile.
This particular Sunday, we decided to use the woman's restroom. When we came out of stalls and were washing our hands and had pulled up our dresses to adjust our underwear, she saw a man in the double mirrors!
She alerted me while quickly putting her dress down. As I had dried my hands and no longer had my dress up, I approached him and told him it was inappropriate for him to be in the ladies room.
He went ballistic, got right in my face backing me up against a wall as he said he had PERMISSION as he always came in to help his wife. He maintained that his wife would only let him help her in the restroom.
His wife was in a wheelchair and they were in the nursing room area that is adjacent to the wheelchair access toilet where she was eating a cracker and they had the sound up on the piped in Sunday School Lesson.
When I told him he would have to leave, he grabbed his wife's wheel chair and proceeded to shove me through the double doors nearly knocking me over yanking her around tipping her back and forth in his attempt to shove me out of the way so he could get out. She remained absolutely silent through out all of this.
He left my daughter and I stunned and shaking. Fortunately, I was able to keep him from knocking me over and got the doors open so he could exit.
He said he was leaving, however, we found out a little while later that he had only exited the building to go outside and come back in the other door by the Bishop's office where he was telling them I had attacked him!
My daughter and I were very upset, adrenaline was pumping as I had been shoved through two doors by this out of control man when the counselor motioned for us to come inside the office and speak with him and them. Needless to say, we did not enter.
When we came running and yelling out of the bathroom, a "sister" told us that this was the Lord's house and we needed to be Reverent! I could not believe my ears.
It is important to note here that this man proclaimed himself as his wife's sole provider and been taking care of her for over 20 years. She was covered from neck, to ankle, to wrist in clothing on a very warm spring day. I have worked with the elderly and assisted living and this kind of attire is suspect and warrants further investigation, especially when he maintained that she would not allow anyone else to assist her.
One of the counselors kept saying: "CALM DOWN OR LEAVE, CALM DOWN OR LEAVE.” Well, we left! Never to return.
The women and men of the church said that it was just fine for that man to be in the woman's restroom. He was there to help his wife. And besides, he would never LOOK.
This man had access to the women's restroom anytime he pleased, he was NOT helping his wife, she was having a snack in the nursing mothers area taking up all the room so others could not use the room. He could hear all conversations and watch women and children exiting what they thought was a private woman's toilet area as he was behind the side wall where he could not be seen, lurking!
And this is not inappropriate? That complete lack of reason and logic and common sense is just unbelievable. We subsequently found out there are no laws on the books in our county to enforce about use of bathrooms on private property
About nine months later, I happened to go to a yard sale at the counselor's home. I didn't realize it was his home until he came up to me in the drive way and said something about the incident and how it was handled. Apparently it has been bothering him all that time. I am not sure, but I think he was apologizing for how it was handled! ;-)
Have the rest of you found that apologies are difficult to get in the LDS Church from members and leaders? I can recall, maybe three or four!
Usually, as in one incident that I experienced, I was told to apologize for something I didn't do! That is in the story of my last bishop throwing a fit, pounding the table, and releasing me from a "calling" !
For years and years I kept giving the priesthood, the members, the church, one more chance -- thinking there was something wrong with me. After all, "the church is perfect, the people aren't" kept being repeated to me and I was to forgive them and even apologize!
I recalled the story in the Bible of Jesus on the cross. It was my savior Jesus Christ that I could emulate. He said to forgive them for they know not what they do.
I eventually internalized that scripture to mean that I could have compassion and understanding for people who were doing strange, outrageous weird things in the name of Mormonism and the priesthood. Humans quite often,didn't know what they were doing.
No matter how they treated me, I could have compassion, not hate, make no moral judgment. At that time, I believed in leaving that to God - judge not that you not be judged, etc.
Growing up, I had learned to find the humor in life. The one asset I knew I could rely on was my sense of humor and the ability to see "funny" in the most absurd things. I am sure that kept me sane as a Mormon and leaving Mormonism. I finally understood the old saying about insanity: "insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result"...!!! Hmmm. I needed to do something about that!
Several notions and principles of human behavior have remained in my world view, long after leaving Mormonism, as principles that are valuable. They are valuable and useful whether they are attributed to a religious figure, a savior, a God, or not.
They deal with human behavior; methods of how humans deal with other humans, with a way that I can make lemonade out of lemons, as they say.
Mormonism was a mixture of the "good the bad and the ugly"!
I learned about how to deal with the most egregious, bizarre, strange, unreasonable behavior from people which has been very valuable to me since!
My sense of humor in how I see the world was developed when I was very young. At a 50 year reunion of our high school graduating class, it was the importance of laughter that showed up in my statements in our 8th grade school pamphlet; my goals in life were about laughing and enjoying life. I had not seen that book in about as many years and had no idea that I had written almost the same thing about the same question 50 years later... ..what are you doing now; laughing and enjoying life.
I am sure that quality in my thinking process is what triggered my laughter response to finding out that Joseph Smith Jr had told a "whopper." I still laugh about it.
As a Mormon, that laughter (laugh out loud-belly laugh) with it's temple covenant to avoid all lightmindedness and loud laughter, was stifled and it sure was missed!
What is self evident, with a good majority of former Mormonism is their ability to see the humor in Mormonism. The Salamander site is huge. There are parodies, almost daily on the board, and funny comments. It is coping mechanism tha, for me, is much preferable to anything else.
Many former Mormons find the "recovery" process is given a healthy boost with humor, and the satire, and parody, hundreds of Slamtoons, and funny essays, songs, stories, etc. just keep rolling in.They never cease. And that's "a good thing" !
It seems to be almost an automatic response for many!
It processes the good, the bad, the ugly and gives it all an outlet for dealing with what happened and why.
That is why I wrote the Christmas Letters and Newsletters Parody. It was a way for me to see Mormonism with humor and not take it all so seriously. Besides, that is such a "downer."
All the hate and anger and bitterness and judgments are gone, when I think "funny" and I much prefer it! I am convinced that one of the best things I could do for me, is to laugh at myself. It takes the sting out of the hurt and pain.
| Immediately after admitting to myself what I'd been fearing for months, that Mormonism was a lie, I was filled, almost supernaturally, with the strongest sense of purpose and power I'd ever experienced in my life. It was undeniable and beyond my ability to alter or ignore. I knew, without a doubt, that I would save my girls from the clutches of Joseph Smith's cult, no matter the cost or personal loss I might experience.
The realization that the church wasn't true was so painful that it took my breath away. I was sick, miserable, I couldn't sleep or think of anything else. But somehow, at the same time I was experiencing a personal crisis, I had an overpowering instinct to save my daughters which superseded my own grief.
The minute after I told my husband that I knew the church was a fraud, I informed him I would never again step into a Mormon church service and that I refused to wear garments for another second of my life. I know the shock was difficult for him, but I'd been giving hints for months about my questions concerning church doctrine and history. Telling him that I wouldn't raise my daughters as Mormons was infuriating to him - but I meant it. They were young and not fully entrenched in the cult and I felt it was not responsible for me to give them a choice to harm themselves by continued involvement with a cult.
I told DH he could take them to church every other week, but that was all. And they wouldn't be getting baptized. My husband was understandably extremely upset and threatened divorce. He did leave the house and call a lawyer, but I wasn't swayed. He could go or stay, but I wouldn't be moved from my position. I can honestly say I've stayed with him through very difficult times and usually put my needs or desires in last place in order to preserve the peace in my family, but this was an exception. I can be stubborn, but my determination to free my daughters from Mormonism was beyond stubbornness. It was the singular focus of my life at the time. Nothing else mattered more, not even my marriage.
Not everyone has the same reaction when they find out they've been lied to their entire life, I understand that. The intensity of my own feelings and the amount I was willing to risk on behalf of my children surprised even me but there was no equivocating - get them out of the cult or lose everything trying. They are all happily non-Mormon now and so is my husband. My risk taking and drawing a line in the sand payed off for me. It may not work the same for other people, but for me, I wouldn't, I couldn't, have done it any other way.
Good luck to all of you struggling to free your families from Mormonism.
| Fresh faced mishies, middle-aged RS matrons, Mormon young women, and bishops are all well meaning and kind hearted, but they're also often stalkers.
Anyone who hasn't done so, might consider reading "The Gift of Fear," by Gavin de Becker. It's a quick read and is full of safety tips but also provides insight which can help exmormons recover and take charge of their lives.
A few thoughts from the book:
Stalking is any unwanted pursuit. Unwanted pursuers may escalate their behavior to include such things as persistent phone calls and messages, showing up uninvited, and enlisting friends or family in the campaigne.
If you tell someone ten times that you don't want to talk to them, you are talking to them nine more times than you wanted to.
A stalker's strategy might include acting pathetic to exploit a victim's sympathy or guilt.
Often the niceness of a rejection is seen by the stalker as as possible acceptance.
Anyone who chooses not to hear the word "no" is attempting to control the person saying it.
The worst response when someone fails to accept "no" is to give ever-weakening refusals. That gives away power and puts the stalker in charge.
Actions are more credible than words. Better to find a way to show refusal than to merely state it.
I put up with mormon stalking at my house for literally decades in the mistaken belief that it would eventually wane. It didn't and it damaged my marriage, my recovery from mormonism, and my family life.
If I had it to do over, I would have firmly stopped it about 25 or 30 years earlier than I did.
Mormons tend to be wimpy when they are called on their stalking behavior. If push comes to shove, they do back down, but they do it more readily if they aren't given a foothold and it doesn't become a pattern.
I don't know what I'd do if I lived in Utah where every neighbor was involved in trying to force me into their church. Probably, I'd move. But I've learned the hard way that I must never again put up with continued longterm harassment in my own home, and I suggest others should stand up for themselves as well.
Of course many people might not mind continued attention from cults such as JWs or mormons. That's fine. They don't need to worry.
Finally, Mormons when they're stalking, can be like wolves. Once they've put in time and effort on a victim, it's as if they've tasted blood and they don't want to give it up. Better to stand strong and say no and mean it the first or second time. Not doing so, gives away privacy and personal freedoms to a rejected cult and its deluded followers.
| I have tried to recover and protect my relationships as best as possible, negotiating Mormonism with countless, failed strategies -- testing different approaches -- sometimes only reacting, just as I would turn in bed, never able to rid myself of back pain, but always hoping for some comfortable position. But I am at the point where I will just be free and open and let go of the consequence. Though a relation may say, "I've lost a brother," I will keep the door open. I will not attack or invade ... but if they bring up the topic, I will join in, as is natural, normal, and healthy. I know full well that there are consequences for having an identity. These consequences, however, are not as bad as existing as the cardboard cut-out of their expectations. Why prefer that Mormon pseudo-relationship to this Ex-Mormon non-relationship? If I am not going to exist either way within their expectations, why not still exist myself -- as my own authentic self? It is an unfortunate choice, but it is not my choice. It is theirs.
After a few bewildering encounters, I accept the consequences: in breaking with their inherited script for my behavior, THEIR confusion breaks out ... and they must withdraw from the agents of that confusion: my true self -- but they even withdraw from the actualizers of their own Mormon doctrine! An uncle of mine acted out the original Mormon script and had a polygamous marriage, and rather than accept his insistence on attending the family reunion, they canceled it so as not to be "infected". At no point can reality, and the free and open conclusions based upon it, enter their equation -- no matter how good or evil. Their only reality is the inherited script of behavior. (The doctrine only has a cameo appearance.)
I remind myself of this, so that I don't mis-interpret their defensive behavior as the hatred it only appears to be. They don't hate us: they are afraid of not being able to keep the Mormon drama alive because one of the "actors" has just stepped off the stage, stepped out of costume and character … became herself -- and, horror of horrors, kept talking! House security is now scrambling down the aisles and the actress either stops playing herself or is thrown out of the theater of consciousness.
Welcome to ex-theater. It is on the outside that we are real and free. They are always welcome to join us. But if we give in, and re-enter their confusion, there is a price: we exist as a mask for the sake of those who demand it. What kind of relationship is that?
And if we then throw our expectations upon them? What have we learned? To love them, we must let them be themselves. If their decision looks something like hatred toward us, we are mistaken. It is only fear and confusion. I accept it. Let the play go on, impromptu -- but this tug of war of expectations -- this insistence upon this or that consequence hooks into their misunderstanding on the one end and into ours on the other. Neither can be free, neither can be authentic, when a mask is imposed … "or else!"
The relationship, positive or negative, is two-way. I accept them without casting my expectations upon them, but refuse to don the mask of their expectations. If they want a true relationship, they must accept my true self. The other half to this choice, then, is not mine, but theirs. I will endure mutually respectful silence, when we cannot delight in mutual openness, but none of this one-sided respect wherein I coddle their need for my non-existence. There is no other way. I cannot become myself and live according to their expectations. And I cannot become myself and force my expectations upon them! I must let go of the consequences. They are free of my expectations, just as I am free of theirs. Only then is an authentic relationship possible.
Either we make masks for each other or we love each other enough to be open with each other … or one of us becomes who we already are, and the other walks away as if an authentic relationship were some sort of crime. Openness may work out. But it may not. In most cases it ends in a wall of cold and formal politeness. Being open, is a gamble on the relationship. But authenticity is certain.
| As a boy, growing up as the oldest of four children, one of the great events celebrated in our world of kid-dom was the feast on Thanksgiving Day. My two younger brothers and I would place bets before the meal to see who could eat the most plates of food. The requirement was that they be full plates, no stuffed celery with a dollop of stuffing, these had to be fully laden in order to qualify.
One year I managed to eat eleven plates full of food, which rendered me in pain and bloated, yet the victory of this gastronomical triumph was mine. As I lay on the floor writhing in painful victory, I felt full, and satisfied.
As a Mormon boy, I was always hungry for the answers. I was the kid in every primary and Sunday school class who could spout off the answers to the questions posed by my teachers. At times, this annoyed me as I would be the only one answering, but I answered nonetheless. As each lesson was taught, I wanted to know more and more of the subjects taught me. I would ask questions and listen to the responses, all the while feeling the passing self-satisfaction of knowing the answers, yet through it all it was never enough, I needed more; I was starving.
There came a time in my teen years, when I felt that my questions could not be answered. No matter who I asked, I could not get the answers which satisfied and fed my inner hunger for more. I was starving for more information, but all I could find were tofu laden responses which in the end left me empty.
I entered my mission experience with the hope that my answers would be found there. Surely, I would have the inspiration, experiences and instruction, which would feed my inner hunger. The temple did not do it. The MTC did not do it. The vast and at times complex discussions with my German investigators did not do it. My college educated, CES director Mission President did not do it, and in the end my mission left me with a greater hunger than when I began.
Following my mission, I continued my attempts to find ways to satisfy my hunger. I read and studied, and asked more questions. I sought out materials which I was told held the answers to satisfying my inner hunger, yet through it all I remained empty and starving. I read apologist responses, official church pronouncements and doctrine, yet in the end the pangs were there, and slowly I began to resign myself to the notion that hunger was simply going to be part of my life, no matter where I went.
Then one cold February night after many years of severe hunger, I decided that I needed to be satiated at all costs, and I would go wherever I could to find the nourishment I desired. I found an all night buffet of knowledge, whereby I began to gorge myself. Soon my heart and mind were covered with my newfound nourishment, which satisfied with every thought, word and expression. I could not get enough. Page after page, essay after essay, day after day, night after night, week after week, I ate and ate until it seemed I could not consume another thought or morsel of knowledge.
As I rested in my chair following my knowledge filled gorge which rendered me in pain, with tear stained cheeks and satisfied yet bloated neurons, I was full and this spiritual and knowledge filled victory was mine. I was finally satisfied, my starvation ended. I had been liberated from my “Auschwitz of the Mind,” and I knew the satisfying and life giving truth.
| A thread about self-loathing got me thinking about that most pernicious of all Mormon doctrines: the natural man is an enemy to God.
As I understand it, whatever puts us in conformity to the church (and by extension, God's will) is good, whereas any desires we have to disobey the rules come from our natural man and thus should be denied and beaten down. Of course, what we are is the sum of our desires, so we grow up as Mormons loathing ourselves for simply desiring what we naturally desire. Mormon parents worry about their 5 year olds being impure by touching their penises, and those same 5 year olds sit through excruciating "worthiness" issues, terrified that the bishop will see through the facade and know that they gave into the natural man, as their mothers had worried.
But on the flip side, where do the "good" desires and feelings come from? Why, they're from God. Mormons hate it when people describe their testimonies as "feelings," because everyone who has a testimony knows that these feelings are way stronger than just ordinary feelings. Feeling "the spirit" is also an acceptable feeling, as is the desire to obey. Also, feelings of guilt are from God, as they motivate us to repent and go back to that positive conformity.
So, to recap:
When you're a believer, it's easy to sort out the sources of these feelings because in essence we insert an external source on them. It's not us: it's God, or Satan, or our natural bodies.
- Good feelings that are in line with church teachings come from God.
- Other feelings (good or bad) that conflict with church teachings are from the natural man (or maybe even Satan).
The point of this, I believe, is to make us more easily controlled. If we have no control over our feelings (and they're not really even ours, are they?), we must need someone else to control them for us. And here the church gladly steps in.
When we leave the church, we suddenly realize that the separation of feelings into God/good and man/bad no longer applies, and we wonder what exactly the source is for our feelings. What feelings are ours?
Of course, the answer is that they are ours, though we have been manipulated into responding to them the way the church wants us to respond. Real recovery, I believe, involves reclaiming our feelings and desires and losing the shame and self-loathing we feel for having them.
It's OK to desire, to lust, to dislike, to feel anger or hurt. And it's even better to own your feelings and refuse to give them up to anyone's control.
| I've been out of the Church 7 years. It's hard to believe, but a lot of time has passed and apparently quite a bit of healing. I think I really hated myself back then. I used to care a great deal what other people thought about me, and I would cringe in horror at any criticism of me that had any truth to it.
I've been scanning my childhood photos into the computer, and I've been realizing that I wasn't the ugly kid I thought I was. I was actually a really cute kid. There was a time when I couldn't even bear to look at those photos. I didn't like who I was or my personality, and I thought I was weird and there were people in the Church always confirming it. I've talked to lots of ex-Mormons who have experienced the same thing. What's funny is that today, I really like the person I've become and the things I like about myself are the very things I hated about myself when I was a kid.
I think it has to do with the combination of Mormon perfection and conformity mandates. Anyone who cannot become the ideal of an insurance salesman from the 1950's will never get anywhere in Mormonism. It's true - God is an insurance salesman, and the ultimate goal for Mormons is to become like that. Those who do have that sort of personality will really be in their element and feel good about themselves in that religion. I could never be that person, and I never wanted to be. For me, Mormonism was a living hell, marching toward an eternal reward that seemed more and more like a punishment the more I examined it. I hated - and I believe I was conditioned to hate - any personality trait in myself that departed from that goal. What a screwed up self image I had.
Today I'm able to laugh about myself, my interests, my political affiliation, my atheism, my hair, etc., and it only bothers me a little bit. Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough - and doggonnit people like me. hehe
Wow, what a mindjob that cult was.
| I had heard about all the evil people get up to when they leave the church. Surely, I would become a person of deep and dreadful darkness, full of evil, capable of only harm. I would walk in darkness, harm the faith of the faithful, lead the chosen away from the truth.
I must say I am stunned at how little I changed. Aside from the huge feeling of relief--freedom--I felt when I figured out its not true, nothing changed. I learned I was the same person, and that the only real influence the church had on me was guilt and fear--not basic morals.
My morality, or concept of it, has not changed. I did not run out and cheat on my wife. I did not become a drug addict, con man, chronic liar, cheat, or spreader of strife. I was pretty much the same person. Hell, I am a pretty boring fellow, all considered. There is precious little excitement in looking at my conduct.
Amazing! Morals don't really change, and neither does behavior. Yes, I like to hoist a schooner of malt now, but that has not hurt anyone . The only real difference between Mormons and non-Mormons can be found in talk, or attitude--not behavior. There are some very vicious and rabid Mormons--even though they warm a bench on Sunday.
The church does not change anyone . They are the same person, in or out of the fold. The arrogant remain arrogant, the vicious remain vicious, and the crooked remain crooked--with, or without the "true church."
| I have to get this off my chest as it still upsets me despite my recovery.
My baby sister, now in her late 40s, spent most of her life in the church. She was born with Angelman's Syndrome (aka Enfant Marionette - Puppet Child) and has been severely mentally handicapped, blind and paralysed. To this day she needs 24 hour care.
My baby brother, now in his mid 40s, was born with Downs, having been diagnosed as 'low grade' mental capacity. He has been in need of constant care throughout his life and has attended a wonderful school for the mentally handicapped until he came of age.
Mother raised 8 other children, all healthy but until she died was a full-time carer, with our help, of our brother and sister. She was a widow and in receipt of her own pension and government allowances for her charges. The government allowance (as she had Power of Attorney) together with her own pension put a considerable amount of money into mother's hands. This money was to pay for expensive care equipment, respite care and all the extra costs of taking care of two handicapped adults, as specially adapted vehicles, bathroom facilities and bed/bedroom had to be paid for also.
Because all three of them were tithed by the church, mother struggled to cover the basic living needs for her family, thankfully the rest of us were there to support her, though we were being tithed individually at that time.
We didn't find out quite how much the church had extracted from them until she died. We discovered that mother had been uber-TBM to the point where she'd been guilted into paying extra fast offerings etc. As a sick woman herself (she had cancer of the oesophagus) she became very depressed and even more dependant upon the church for moral support, despite which visiting teaching/home teaching was scant at best, coupled with the lack of church welfare systems here in England.
Despite all this our mother attended the temple regularly (paying extra respite fees to enable this) and discharged her callings with honour and great dignity. She was a woman of amazing faith, strength and love, who is greatly missed by us all. We know that her love for the true Jesus was paramount and had she discovered the lies of the church that knowledge would have destroyed her.
I struggled to see any of her qualities within the church environment and hell will freeze over before any of us do.
Wherever our mother is today, we are certain that she is at peace.
Long live Grace (yes - that truly is her name)
| These are some of my observations from different threads on RFM; I thought it would be an interesting exercise to put it all together, since there are so many insightful people with so many things to say about leaving, that I really wanted to see it all laid out.
Step One - Choosing the Red Pill
As a TBM, there will be a moment, and maybe more than one, when something catches your attention; something about the church doesn’t quite add up. Something that you believe will not match something you learn; it is at this point your mind will reach cognitive dissonance, in that it cannot hold two conflicting ‘truths’ simultaneously. You can react to this one of two ways: 1) bury the conflict by repeating over and over, “I KNOW the church is true” and shelving the uncomfortable topic or 2) Decide to look deeper, in search for real answers.
If you choose option #1, there is nothing more to discuss. You no longer think rationally about the church, and no amount of historical evidence, rational thought, or truth is going to change your mind. (And this is impressive; it takes a great deal of faith to believe in the doctrine and history of the Mormon Church.)
However, if you choose option #2, you should be fully prepared. The Mormon foundation is no sturdier than a house of cards; when you start to question and the cards holding up your belief start to fall, nothing will ever be the same again. The more you research, the more you find, and there’s nothing like watching ten, twenty, thirty years of intense programming reverse in an instant. And you, too, are irreversibly changed from this moment on.
However, you must know that this truth comes at a very costly price; one that might be too high for some to pay. No matter how strong you think your family and friends’ ties are, they might not be strong enough to withstand what you have discovered. Marriages break up; spouses you love with all your heart will tell you that you are a tool of Satan, or an unrepentant sinner. Friends will turn their back on you to protect their own fragile belief, and you will be driven out of the church while being reminded that you have just forfeited your right to the CK and your eternal family. Your TBM extended family, and sometimes even children of your own, will not understand your decision, and you could end up alone; if not physically, certainly emotionally. Yet, for many, the lure of truth is stronger still than the lie of a perfect life in the Mormon world and afterworld.
Step Two - Untangling Yourself From the Church
Once you KNOW the church isn’t true, it doesn’t take long to find out the rest of the story. The most prevailing emotion is anger--anger at being duped, anger at wasted time, and anger at giving yourself so completely over to a lie. And as many have said, it’s usually not the casual, social Mormons who leave the church; it is usually the people who wanted the most for it to be true; who obeyed the rules, even the ones that changed from day-to-day, who did the research, who faithfully followed their callings, and through one of these avenues ultimately (and often, quite accidentally) discovered its deceit.
Those who are in the Mormon Church for ‘the good that it does for the family’, for ‘a social network’, or ‘because there’s more good there than bad’ sometimes don’t care about the truth. The litmus test appears to be in the following question, posed by you, to the people in your life who are going to need to know about your new life:
“Hypothetically, if I learned that the church wasn’t true, would you want to know?”
This can go one of two ways:
If this is the answer, then it honestly doesn’t matter what you say next. You can say that you no longer believe that the church is true, you can give reasons, you can get mad, or not; it quite literally does not matter. All they will hear is, “I am rejecting the church, and by extension, you, and I’m not going with you to the CK, and also I have unresolved sin in my life, and I’m a tool of Satan, to boot.” In some of your cases, I wish that I was exaggerating.
However, when telling a spouse, it has been known to help if you separate the church from your spouse; in that, “I do not believe the church is true, but my love for you has not changed, nor will it”. Reassurance is needed during this difficult time.
You may also struggle with feelings of tremendous guilt for ‘causing such pain’ to people you love deeply and you will be reminded of this by just about every TBM in your life. Make no mistake. YOU are not causing them pain. The Church that is NOT TRUE is causing all of you pain; you are just the only one that knows it.
Be prepared for any reaction, including spreading the news to everyone you know in hopes of getting you back in line. Be prepared for threats of divorce, of custody battles, of discipline from the church. These may or may not come to fruition, but remember, you are NOT the bad person in this situation, and you need to remember this constantly because no one else will. YOU didn’t break any binding agreements; you never would have agreed to anything had you known the truth. YOU won’t be blocked from the CK; Joseph Smith made the CK up, and regardless of what you choose to believe after leaving TSCC, no God that you believe in would fault you for turning on the brain he gave you and using it.
However, even while you are struggling with your own feelings of devastation, of guilt, and desperately wanting to make things right, you must be able to take care of yourself in the process. You are vulnerable, and it is tempting to agree to everything a spouse may demand at this point. And sure, you can pretend to believe, you can still wear the garments of protection™, you can go to church to not rock the boat, but at this point, you are being disingenuous to yourself, and enabling the delusions of your spouse. Not to mention, you know first-hand the dangers of the church, and you know that the responsibility of showing your children a world outside Mormonism falls solely on you at this point. It is NOT fair for anyone to ask you not to share your beliefs (or non-belief) with your children, and it is completely within reason to split Sundays, whether you stay married or not. One Sunday the children can go to church with the TBM parent; the other they can do something with you, be it another church, or something fun outdoors. That is NOT an unreasonable request, and you are not ‘keeping the children away’ from anything except Mormon-brand mind-control™.
You have been given a yellow light--proceed with caution. Most people found that they cannot dump their entire research on a TBM and expect it to have an impact. Slow is good; finding out what their personal trigger points regarding the church are is good, and unconditional love is key. If someone genuinely wants to know the truth about the Mormon Church, you are certainly equipped to tell them. And maybe, just maybe, you can take more than yourself away when you leave.
Step Three - Make the Changes (if possible)
Leave the church. Fully, completely, no apologies. There are many resources available to aid in this process, and for many, actually resigning gives them a sense of power and control back, as well as slams shut that chapter of their lives.
If both you and your spouse leave the church (or your spouse was not TBM), leave the state of Utah immediately. No matter how beautiful the mountains are, how gorgeous your house is, or how much you like your job and neighbors, you are now an apostate. You (and your children!) will always be less-than in the eyes of the Mormon Church, and this is an unnecessary burden to place on your new lives. Not to mention, you know better than anyone the culture of the church. If the Mormon Church can get your children in, they will. Living among TBM’s (especially family members), puts constant pressure on your children, and there is the very scary, very real danger of them meeting and falling in love with a Mormon, ensuring two things: 1) you don’t get to attend the wedding and 2) you are never free of the Mormon church.
But above all, there is no timetable on your recovery. Each person moves at their own pace, and on their own schedule. And it's different for everyone. And it's my understanding that that's what the culture of RFM is all about.
| Mormonism is not making anyone in my family happy.
Some Mormons say that even if Mormonism isn’t true it helps them live happy, productive lives and keeps their family close. I used to think that might just be the case with some people. I used to think if it “worked” for them then it couldn’t be so harmful. Now I’ve changed my mind – the harm may take some time to appear but it’s there.
During a recent visit my sister told me that she is concerned about our mother. Apparently she’s going through a breakdown – she feels that she failed as a parent. Despite all the hours she put in teaching us about Mormonism, dragging us to church events, and even teaching early morning seminary (not to mention all the prayers on our behalf) all three of us have left the church.
My little brother was lucky as far as Mormonism is concerned – he was really rebellious as a teen and that kept him from getting caught-up in it. He is very open with my parents about his lifestyle (he parties a lot) and it kills my mother that he drinks. The downside is that he has always been very depressed and even suicidal (that was several years ago and he’s doing much better now). I’ve talked to him about it a lot and it’s specifically the lack of parental approval that has hurt him.
My little sister was basically shamed out of the church when she got pregnant. It was very hard on her because she believed just enough to feel guilty and bad. Anyway, now she is getting married. She has been living with her fiancé for three years and they just had a baby. My sister and her fiancé were going to visit my parents (they haven’t seen the baby yet) but they decided at the last minute it would be best if he stayed home. My mother told my sister that they’d have to stay in separate bedrooms! I can understand why he felt uncomfortable.
And then there is me. I went to Ricks College and I went on a mission. I got married in the temple and I blessed my own kids. You get the picture. Anyway, my departure from the church was sudden – I think in many ways it’s easier for my mother to accept my brother’s apathy towards the church than it is to accept my total rejection of it. My mother left my house in tears saying, “I’m a bad mother because none of my kids live the gospel.”
So what has Mormonism done for our family? It has broken it. My parents (my father is a lot more accepting of us but we can still feel the disappointment) don’t accept us for who we are. I wonder if there was some talk or pamphlet or Ensign article about the importance of telling your adult kids you “don’t approve” of something about their life. That’s my mother’s favorite phrase: “I don’t approve.”
Anyway, my sister is planning on getting married in Vegas. She already has two kids and she wants a small wedding. Both our family and fiancés family have deep roots in town so if they got married there it would have to be a big event. But that isn’t the biggest reason. His family is Catholic. Neither of them attends church but if they have a Catholic service my family will be offended but if they have a Relief Society room wedding . . . well, she's not going to let that happen. My sister wants to get married in Vegas so they can have a canned wedding and avoid religion altogether.
This whole thing is killing my mother. What is so sad is that all of her upset and disapproval comes from her desire to be a good parent. Unfortunately she defines “good parent” as someone that has created another generation of Morgbots. Because of this she has damaged her relationship with all of us – especially with my sister. It is so sad because her fiancé is such a nice guy and my parents (well, my mother at least) can’t see that. They have literally scared the shit out of him. He thinks they hate him. And why shouldn’t he think that – they have had years to get to know him and yet they have made no effort to do so.
My rift with my mother happened just after I left the church. My wife was going to divorce me but after hiring a lawyer she cooled down. Anyway, I was very hurt and alone and my parents were not able to be there for me because Mormonism was at the heart of the divorce. They made it very clear that they thought this was all my fault and that I should get back to church. That was a huge blow to me and my therapist (very helpful while exiting the church, btw) at that point told me to distance myself from them as much as possible. No problem. Not having a meaningful relationship seems to suit them just fine.
So, are we a happy family? No way. And it looks like the worst is yet to come. As long as my mother believes what she does we will disappoint her. She was reduced to tears this year while writing the family Christmas letter and almost didn’t send one – nothing to brag about now that her kids are out of the church. Every time she goes to the temple and puts our names on the prayer list she is going to be disappointed – putting our names on that paper isn’t going to change anything! When her grandkids start turning 8 next year she will be disappointed (even my TBM wife has agreed to let the kids choose to be baptized or not sometime in their teens).
It is specifically my mother’s belief in Mormonism that has caused this.
My wife’s family is even more messed-up because of Mormonism. Her oldest sister was disowned for getting pregnant. She was later diagnosed with Aspergers (sp?) (a kind of autism) but still has no relationship with her father – like he can’t be her father again because he’d have to admit he was wrong all those years ago.
Her mother divorced her father because the spirit told her to. Apparently the worst thing he did was watch R rated movies. Actually, it wasn’t that he liked to watch R rated movies so much as his refusal to repent for it. Also, there wasn’t anything bad enough for him to have to go through church discipline – she was denied a temple divorce and they both had valid temple recommends during the whole thing. It was very odd. Anyway, she since had the spirit tell her to marry and promptly divorce two other men in less than a year and a half (total for both courtships and marriages). Personal revelation isn’t working out so well for her.
My SIL and her husband have borrowed just shy of a million dollars (that they’ll admit to) from other people for their business and they are now considering bankruptcy. I know this is not unique to Mormonism but I point it out because I think it their Mormonism might be why they have let this bad idea drag on for so long – just because they felt inspired to start the venture does not mean they should keep hanging on, borrowing more money and making things worse. In any event, even if Mormonism is a cause or contributing factor in their financial mess it certainly didn't help them!
Another SIL is totally depressed – she has 4 kids already and can’t keep up with them but it’s time for her to get pregnant again (her words) and she gets depressed for feeling guilty about not wanting to have another kid. The really sad thing is that she'll probably get pregnant very soon because she thinks that's what her life is supposed to be about.
And then, of course, there is my TBM wife. Mormonism almost destroyed our marriage. I think the only thing that saved it was that my wife took the kids to my MIL’s and got a good look at what she was doing. Her mother divorced for Mormonism and she is far from happy. Even though we are much better now the Mormon issue is still there. I’m sure you guys can understand that.
So, within the two Mormon families that I am familiar with Mormonism has not done anyone any favors.
When looking at Mormons as a whole it is clear that their Mormonism doesn’t help them fare any better than the non-Mormons around them. Despite all the tithing they aren’t wealthier; despite following the Word of Wisdom they aren’t healthier; despite all the pro-family talk their families aren’t any closer. Considering what belief in Mormonism does to people it is amazing that Mormons as a whole aren’t obviously worse off than they are.
| I have read that many of you fear the fight. I have seen that some of you would rather not see the battle. You have found your freedom, you find yourselves comfortable in your escape. You write about yourselves and your reasons for being here. You're not sure you need to make a difference in the lives of others still under tyranny and oppression. At least not in any way that brings you discomfort or challenge. I don't call upon you to sacrifice your lives, or even your lifestyle. You will not face inquisitors with any real power, only the power you relegate to them. It takes courage to make a difference in the world.
Five hundred years ago there lived a man with courage. In an age and time that personal religious beliefs were not allowed. In an age when dissenters were subjected to the cross or the stake to meet horrific death, this man began to doubt. He was not alone by any means, but those around him would never utter such disbelief. They had not the courage to condemn to Pope for fear of a mighty army directed from Rome. With courage in his heart and trepidation in his soul he wrote his reasons for his moral break with the world as it surrounded him. Martin Luther walked the lonely distance to the cathedral door and there he changed the world and gave birth to protest against tyranny. He didn't have all the answers, and said so, but he knew the Pope could only take his life, not his heart. He knew his actions would lead to bloodshed, strife and suffering. But he held truth and courage because he knew that the hardships he would bring down upon himself might serve to free enslaved minds and souls. He made a differencein the world.
Two hundred and twenty five years ago in an age or discovery and exploration, a group of courageous men banded together to fight another type of tyranny. They too knew that their actions would bring bloodshed, strife and suffering. But like Luther before them, they weighed the consequences and knew that generations to come would be free in the pursuit of their dreams and happiness. The Declaration of Independence was not hidden or hard to find. It was not subtle nor cowardly. It was not non-intrusive or solicited by those to which it was addressed. It stood as a testament to bravery against a mighty oppressor who might surely squelch their voice with its might. But they stood and fought to forge a new and great nation founded on principles of freedom from tyranny. Thomas Paine, one of the framers of this new and courageous nation, would later write, "of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, it is the tyranny of religion that I fear the most, for it seeks to follow a man from this world and into his eternity". Many of these men gave their lives for their beliefs, to free their countrymen from the control of heavy handed oppressors. Not everyone was up for the battle, and many loyalist fought the opposition even from within. Their voices faded in a destiny of greatness. Today there are few in this great nation of the United States that long for the days of a monarchy to rule them. These courageous American patriots made a difference in the world.
Forty years ago in the United States, that freedom had not been realized for a large portion of society. All men were created equal if they had a white skin, but the black man still hung his head as he moved to the back of the bus, literally and figuratively. But a lone man stood at the forefront and dared. He dared to say it wasn't right. Dr. King stood at that fateful podium and with courage in his heart declared "I have a dream". Heresy to many, but freedom to others. He fought and died in the pursuit of freedom for all men and women. He made a difference in the world.
One hundred and eighty years ago a new tyranny began to stir. Conjured in the mind of a mad man and powered by a force of oppression and control Mormonism raised its ugly head and began its reign of lies, and deceit as it fights for the hearts and free thinking minds of men, women and children. In a more educated era of this new millennium it has had to don a new facade. It has put on its slick sophistry, it has developed well its friendly smiling face. But for all the apparent wonderful intent, it robs the mind and soul of truth, it destroys families disunited in belief of its fables, it takes the lives of those who fear they wont measure up to the impossible requisites. It is not benign, but a terror and a misery, a wreaker of havoc. It seeks control of the heart, the body, the mind and the resources of each one it touches as it infiltrates the unsuspecting and unaware.
It took me forty years on my own to break from that paradigm. How often I have wished for a mentor, a savior from that oppression earlier in my life. Many of you have the same experience. What is my duty now? What is my passion? Can I in good conscience sit idly by as hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting victims, unaware that they are even victims, are consumed each year by the monster. Their individuality fading, their hearts surrendering, their minds stifled to a slow swirling haze. The men of Normandy gave their lives to stop a mad man. They leaped courageously into the breach and sacrificed their very bodies to halt an oppressive philosophy. What will I do? Will I shrink into my comfortable leather armchair and mull over my pity? No I cannot in good conscience wallow in my freedom. But I know it will take courage to make a difference.
Now arises a new voice. A voice small and almost unheard dissention from this terror. A voice that meekly cries out no. That voice is hardly heard. It must be amplified if it will make a difference in the world. The owners of that voice, a tiny band who have found freedom have a chance to be heard. They are not called to offer their lives or to sacrifice freedom. They only must speak up for truth, for freedom, for thought. They must make their voice loud enough to be heard. The battle rages for the freedom of souls from this tyranny. A meek cry and a hidden agenda will make little difference. It takes courage to make a difference in the world.
| What you felt was exactly what you felt - good feelings. The Mormons didn't plant those feelings in you. What they did plant in you was the association of those feelings with the confirmation of truth.
That you can identify truth by feelings is, well, patently absurd. However, it took me a while to get to that realization. When I think about how utterly impossible and false the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon are, and at the same time people's bosoms are burning over their alleged truthfulness, well, that forced me to throw the whole concept of identifying truth by feelings right out the window.
The "burning bosom" is really the perpetuation of Joseph Smith's con man tricks. In all likelihood he borrowed the idea from the Methodists and used it to "convert" people. It's a great trick that continues to work again and again.
I also think there is something about people in groups communing together that generates emotional buzz. Ever been to a concert and have your bosom burn? I have. For me it was indistinguishable from my Mormon experience. You can observe this buzz going on in all kinds of churches everywhere. Insincere people can also easily fake it. Have you seen the Borat movie where he fakes a conversion experience in a Pentecostal service? It's as easy as pie to manipulate people with this kind of stuff. There is nothing uniquely Mormon about it.
| My personal experience has been one of learning new, interesting, and sometimes painful lessons in stages after leaving the church. The first lessons involved learning to see through the Mormon Church's manipulation and lies. This was accompanied by a realization that the Bible was also fiction generated with ulterior motives in mind. This stage was humorous, liberating, infuriating, fear inducing, and at times bewildering.
Next were lessons on evolution, the big bang, string theory, the monist view of the human mind, etc as I realized these were the most likely explanations for our existence and experiences. These lessons were exciting and intoxicating.
Both stages involved learning to take my power back and to be assertive. I am still working on this and learning new skills in dealing with people. I sometimes call this wrong but am improving as time progresses. This too has evoked many emotions. At first I felt very uncomfortable and afraid standing up for myself and speaking boldly. These feelings still occur but not as often.
Dating again after an unexpected divorce from my TBM spouse has resulted in many lessons also. I have made some very good friends dating and I have learned about pathological behavior. One committed partner turned out to have numerous issues in spite of a very successful career and an initial impression that was very impressive. This has taught me lessons similar to those learned when initially leaving Mormonism only on a micro level. It pays to be skeptical about dating partners, watch out for nefarious behavior, and devote time to learning about what can be amiss with personalities.
As I reflected this morning on how I currently address challenges in life the reality of the changes in my behavior and thought processes became evident. Gone are the prayers, blessings, and consultations with bishops. My reactions are now ones of information seeking from true experts, careful analyses of any advice given and the situations, and then carefully thought out responses. Rather than seeking to change myself and influence situations through prayer, scripture study, and fasting I take a direct approach of placing responsibility where it truly lies; on me.
In all of this I am learning about this tightly connected dynamical system of society, humans, and natural environment in which we live. I continue to make mistakes but am more comfortable with the error prone nature of human existence and the need to continue learning throughout life without self- or “god” imposed flagellation. Forgiveness belongs directly in the hands of those wronged rather than in a god. Right and wrong is based most importantly on the feelings and wellbeing of those involved. “First do no harm” and the Golden Rule are very good starting points for a kind, gentle, and just society in my opinion.
It has been and continues to be an incredible journey. I look forward to the future lessons and anticipate a largely intriguing and enjoyable sojourn on this planet.
| Early on in my studies about something other than MY religion I read "The Varieties of Religious Experiences" by William James. I don't even know if I finished it but as a TBM I was somewhat shocked with what I read. It's basically an overview of how and why people have spiritual experiences.
What I found so earth shattering was that the description of these experiences was so close to Mormonism, both in its founding stories and in my personal experiences.
I don’t know why I found it so surprising but there are hoards of people who describe religious experiences in the same way the LDS do…”a still small voice,” “a burning in the bosom,” ”peace, love and forgiveness.” In talking with others, I find it fairly easy to conclude that the witness of the spirit is not an exclusively LDS phenomenon nor is it any less powerful in other faiths. If it testifies of the truth, then the truth is far more expansive than LDS doctrine would allow. It was my first baby step out.
I think this quote from Edwin Way Teale says it well:
"It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it." - Edwin Way Teale (1889-1980), Circle Of The Seasons, 1953
I find it much more rewarding now to see the range of human emotions God gave us and to recognize that we all experience them. Me, my Catholic, Protestant and Muslim acquaintances all feel them and they’re special and good but they don’t testify of the truth. They’re a gift from God to ALL MANKIND or there are reasonable biological explanations for them, however you want to look at it.
| A Bee against the Window Pane.
When a Bee is buzzing against the inside of a window, it dies early -- not from a lack of food or water, but from stress. It sees nature. It sees light. From the other side of this invisible barrier, natural cues have called up a behavioral script that is incompatible with its new, artificial environment. It has no alternative script. It can only "try harder" … increasing its stress.
I try to put the influence of Deseret culture into perspective. I imagine a worker bee, praised for its industry, but with a life plan buzzing against the window of its own impossibility. I imagine the birth of my mind, as this bee in nature, foraging and seeing a flower within a house. I have made no choices. At this point, it is only my comfortable "destiny." I fill out an inborn script appropriate to a natural cue. I pass easily through this open window. Half of my task is completed. … but then the window closes. Unable to complete the second half, I spend my life in a futile panic against this "invisible evil" … this, "thou shalt not" … that I am ill-equipped to understand. What has happened?
Just as a house exists to oppose the elements of nature -- the wind and rain, the heat and cold -- so does the closed institution exist to oppose the elements of my own nature. There are many layers to the invisible window it has put up. I name only a few.
1. There are the thousands and thousands of repetitions of a single answer forced upon me, and repeated through me. What is habit is normal. What is beyond habit is abnormal. And so what is correct, when it exists beyond habit, is abnormal. My sense of normality has become an invisible barrier to the correct understanding of my reality. Habit is the sword of God. It makes the difference between Brigham Young and Warren Jeffs, saint and scoundrel, one eternal law split into the respective Good and Evil of their times.
2. The deliberate withholding of relevant information from my childhood throughout my adolescence enabled the church to select bits and pieces of history, creating a new “history,” and by this means engineer my conclusions. AND even engineer my claim that I had "reached" these conclusions of my own free choice. Nifty. A strategy for the future, when based upon a false past, finds itself behind that past and unable to get beyond that barrier, buzzing … wasting life. Confused. Depressed.
3. Then there is family … my community … from whose dependency, theirs and mine, I had placed "my worth." Our moral projections of what constituted worth and worthlessness was a barrier that any member of a good family would recoil from. On this side, their respect for my normal inauthenticity; on that, the worthlessness of my true, and therefore abnormal, self.
Five generations after my ancestors entered the House of the Lord, I was born and carried through the window before my earliest memory. I found myself within this artificial environment, a church that had built itself around me, as "my nature. I was this bee with an artificial flower on a clean, varnished table -- under a lamp, satisfied at times. At other times I found myself against the invisible barrier, the real sun in sight, real flowers, and the natural destination for which I was made … with a script for open spaces and free movement, but which I could not fulfill.
I could not distinguish between the two cues to these two scripts: at times an artificial cue with its temporary relief, and at other times, the real cue, whose way was barred -- and against which stress increased as encounters themselves increased, conditioning me against my own nature! The "evil" of unrestricted and unauthorized contact with my own reality, my own nature, was indeed felt as frustration and confusion. The evil temptation to be true to myself increased alongside the horror of this apostasy … and of an eerie pull toward social suicide. My own emotions testified against me. I was undeniably frustrated at the window. What else could exist beyond that frantic confusion but evil?
Where could I gain freedom from this stress? I had been given the way. It was the answer already provided. I was to turn from the open and free world wherein I could have fulfilled my script naturally. I had experienced only panic at the window ? to the “evil” out there. And the House of the Lord, the very agent of my stress, provided a carefully engineered script. I took flight from the tension of my natural self toward a dying flower on a square table and flew toward this artificial, temporary relief.
I was even engineered to use this misunderstood release of tension as a warm, burning confirmation of whatever new flower appeared on the table. That was curious, but easily understood now: the fact that the old eternal flowers were constantly being replaced with new eternal flowers did not matter at all. What mattered was that there was only ONE alternative to the invisible barrier. The unidentified stress, and the flight from it, was what mattered.
It is easy to think of the genuine happiness of the escape as if it were also a “happy arrival,” until we arrive. What is the alternative to an unavoidable stress BEFORE that alternative disappoints? Hope. As with the gambler, it is the Hope in the destination that relieves and the arrival that disappoints. An impoverished gambler’s hope in the next “relief” IS the relief, but only if he protects that hope from a memory of the whole cycle of poverty ? the history of which yields only doubt and disappointment. On the way to the Casino, in direct proportion to the “strength” of his newest hope, what “confirmation” do his emotions provide for him? What “spirit” does he lose with the slightest doubt? The whole cycle of poverty continues, breeding warm and fuzzy hopes.
My “spiritual wager”: I was up against the barrier of my own life’s poverty and saw a “chance.” I set off and turned away. In this moment, mid-flight, doubt was my stress. Hope was my relief. I had my confirmation -- my warm and fuzzy relief -- for as long as I could set off from the window … for as long as I was mid-flight, my back to the window, to reality. What a godsend it was on those occasions when curtains were closed successfully, darkening the room around my destination … my "one and only" light. How bright was the weakest flicker of hope in this complete darkness!?
There are those on the inside buzzing to get out and not knowing that that is what they are doing, … the barrier is so invisible it is "not even there." But neither does the one on the outside fully comprehend that he is buzzing to get back in, not understanding that by his very debunking of the House of Falsehood, he addicts himself to revenge. He cannot revenge the betrayal, the brainwashing, the loss of family respect, and the loss of his reputation; he can only buzz at the window. This was the most surprising: the barrier remains, even from the outside. He only need ask himself: “Can I keep both my relationships and my integrity?” He is outside, buzzing against the pane. In rare moments, he is free and open … as life should be. Then without a word to say for himself, he finds himself again buzzing at the pane.
A single stimulus reorients the whole of consciousness. We fix ourselves in a flash. But we fall apart in a flash too. I am nature. I have never been separated from my own reality, only from an awareness of it. I cannot sever myself from my need for scripts; I can only understand myself better. Repetition is everywhere, and it manufactures a frame for each of my diverse contexts and into which my thoughts fill, given this or that stimulus. The only question is whether or not I or my institution is in control of what repeats.
I have two scripts and their corresponding stimuli. One is natural; the other, institutional. I must now negotiate a third which takes the other two into account and which leads toward healthier behavior. I need my reality to remind me that it is not only their exclusive behavior that sets me outside the window pane -- this stress-trap -- it is also my true nature, provoked into the foreground … discovered.
I keep the stimuli in place that keeps my mind real, and I do it again and again. History. MORMON history. It is important to choose stimuli specific to my predicament. I do not need "anti-Nazi" literature (known by our culture as "History"). I was not indoctrinated to be a Hitler youth. I do need Mormon History (what is called "anti-Mormon" literature in our culture). With fascism, I am naturally and culturally repulsed. In Mormonism, I am naturally, but not culturally repulsed. I have been conditioned against my nature … against my self.
And real people! … for once. Non-Mormons. Ex-Mormons. Mormons too. Just so long as all are in free and open contexts. No window can survive the open interchange between a diverse selection of responsible minds. When the window does appear, I stretch black and yellow tape across it, to warn myself against re-entering their confusion, and under which I write my own scripture: "I will integrate myself with diverse people and their diverse ideas. I will live an open and free life. Instead of one experiment to compare myself to, I will have a thousand. I will no longer let an institution restrict my friendships and information but will let a tolerance for diversity moderate this inherited fanaticism.”
I should not be discouraged when it all “falls apart.” The sudden appearance of the window is not a failure of the strategy; it is only one stray instance within an overall tendency. My thoughts are, however, a consequence of the present stimulus, and I must have a “faith” in the strategy when I find myself buzzing against the window, “for a good reason.” I was born and engineered to project and maintain my own invisible barrier. I have no time machine. I cannot change the past conditioning, but I can change the conditions within which I presently live and with that, take a little control over my own outcome … my own mind, “for an equally good reason.”
I let the new repetition meld my mind back to my reality, over time, yielding an authentic relationship between thought and nature. It comes and goes at first, but gets stronger and stronger. Every morning I wake-up, stretch, and then I wake up a second time: I read a single page from each of several carefully selected books, not just to expose myself to diverse and alternative information, although this is important -- but with equal emphasis, to re-orient myself away from the brainwashing of my youth. I evaluate their contribution to my store of knowledge, but also pay close attention to how I react to them.
I keep all of the real, real … and constantly before me. I am outside the delusion, turned away from the window, correct AND normal, in an open and free life. The window does not break, and it does not really vanish -- it never existed except in my mind: I just wake up from a bad dream, and to the beauty of a very real daybreak in all of its color. I read a book take a walk, make a genuine friend. Not a metaphor ...
| Behind my house is a Mormon Chapel. It is constructed of red brick, and it has a gleaming white steeple pointing heavenward in deference to the Mormon god. Every Sunday, the parking lot is filled with Suburbans, trucks, and an assortment of vans and cars. As I gaze through my kitchen window, I watch as the occupants of these vehicles make their way through the chapel doors and disappear around the corner as they make their way to their various meetings and classes. As I watch this parade of faithful Saints, a feeling of dread comes over me, as I recall that less than a year ago, I too was one of those who made his way to enter those doors and begin the process of Mormon Sunday worship.
As a child, I enjoyed going to church, well most of the time. I liked to sing the primary songs with gusto and answer the questions posed by my teachers. I liked my ward and the warm and friendly people I met with every Sunday. I can honestly say in many ways, I truly loved being Mormon, it was my home and I was safe. There was a comfort, a reassurance that those around me loved me and loved God. This made me happy inside and glad to be a part of something so special. The ward I was raised in really was filled with kind and loving people, who truly cared for one another, not just in word, but in deed. I never had another ward quite like it. Thinking of that time still brings warmth to my heart.
As these memories flood over me, I mourn their parting. I mourn the loss of something which I thought was true, and right and good. How could something which brought me peace and happiness, also bring such misery and pain? How could something so beautiful on the outside, be so dark and cold on the inside? The Mormonism of my youth is what I mourn, the Mormonism of my adulthood is what I hate.
As with the dreams of youth, my religious past has faded. Where once was beauty and love, there is now ugliness and falsehood. Where once was surety and ignorance, there is now uncertainty and wisdom. I mourn what once was, but in the end I mourn a dream, a fantasy, nothing more than a day trip on the Trolley with Mr. Rogers in his land of make-believe.
I look to my present, to the here and now. With each day, I ponder about my life in this post-Mormon existence. Overall, it is an existence, which is filled with intellectual peace. Gone are the days of titanic doctrinal struggle which raged in my mind. Gone is the embarrassment and guilt of not being good enough. Gone is the loathing of self and those who I thought were less. But where there is loss, there is also gain.
I have found true friendship in others. I have found deeper love and the true understanding of being counted for truth and integrity despite the costs they demand. I have found a depth to my soul which goes further than I could have imagined. I view the world and everything in it with reverence and awe at what I find. I accept, I cherish, I embrace so much more than I ever could before. Where once shallow waters ebbed, deeper waters have filled their place. I am learning the peace of contentment.
| Thinking about it, I learned to become a pretty good liar in my youth, thanks to the LDS church. It started when I was a kid, around seven years of age, when TBM mom and dad would urge/direct me to bear my testimony. Of course I didn’t know that the church was true or that JS was a prophet. I knew that my parents believed that, and of course every seven year old wants nothing more than praise from his parents, so I got up there and lied to the congregation that I knew the church was true, JS was a prophet, etc. I suppose most kids bearing testimonies in their youth were the same way.
It continued in adolescence. I began going to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. TBM family members and ward members promised us that the sacredness and truthfulness of the temple would make us feel wonderful, special and touched by the spirit. I went to several sessions and never felt a thing, except a strange doubt in the back of my mind that these rituals are a bit wacky. Me, a tall, blonde haired, blue-eyed adolescent getting baptized for an Eduardo Hidalgo Ruiz who had died in Bogota in 1931 seemed a little strange. But of course, when my parents and other ward members exclaimed, “Oh, wasn’t it a wonderful experience…didn’t you feel the spirit so strongly,” I again had to lie and tell them how special it was.
This practicing of lies made it easier when I had to go in for those worthiness interviews as a youth. I mean really, if all teenage males really told the bishop of their shortcomings regarding their tampering with the “little factory,” how many males would even make it past the level of Deacon. Statistics show that an overwhelming majority of teenage boys masturbate, but after years of Morg-conditioned lying, I was able to answer that question with a straight face.
In the end, the Morg certainly understands that there is a preponderance of lying taking place during their worthiness interviews, temple recommend interviews, tithing settlements, etc. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used it to their advantage. By conditioning kids to lie in their youth, they condition the mind to be accepting of lies. This makes the lies that the Morg perpetuates more easily digestible when those young minds develop later in life. By blurring the lines, the brain is conditioned to accept lies as fact and fiction as truth.
| I joined the Church when I was 20. I was seeking a better path than drugs rather than immerse myself within the drug culture of the 60's and 70's. It worked. The peer pressure of the young adults kept me drug and sex free.
I did all the right things. I served as a stake missionary for two years. I served in primary, the hole they place new converts in that disallows them to grow knowledge-wise in the gospel principles. Sure, I could have read my scriptures, but I would have preferred attending adult classes and learning adult-level material. It stunk! I served as a "bishopric secretary" for six years for 3 bishops within two wards. I was the media specialist for the north half of the Houston North stake. I was both a record's extractor and the assistant stake coordinator for the record extraction program. I was a ward librarian, ward organist, and the assistant activities director.
I grew up in a home where respect was important. When I started attending young adult functions, I noticed that males expected to be placed on pedestals; we were to worship the ground they walked on. I declined two marriage proposals, both from RM's. While one guy was proposing on the grounds of the Hawaiian temple, I said, "Look at that flag pole!" Something didn't feel right about both of these situations.
I filled in papers to serve a mission. After I passed the physical exam and by the time I met with the bishop, my feelings to spend a year and a half as a missionary turned lukewarm. The conversation with the bishop ended with him asking me if I wanted my papers back "for nostalgia purposes." I had withdrawn my request to serve.
When I was be able to attend relief society, I became board. The lessons were geared for sisters who currently had children. Those of us whom were not married, those without children, and the elderly might has well have been sunning ourselves on the beach.
When I was 25 my bishop interviewed me for a temple recommend. I passed the interview. Then I was referred to the stake president. He called me at work to set up an appointment for an interview with him. Then he asked, "How old are you?" I replied that I was 25 years old. He said, "I thought you were older. You can not have a recommend." He hung up. I left my desk, ran to the bathroom, and cried.
Between the expectation of bowing to LDS males, nothing intriguing occurring in relief society, and the temple recommend rejection, I began dating nonmembers. That fall I married a non-Mormon. He and I have now been married for well over 22 years, a marriage that was forecasted by the elders quorum president at the time as being one that "will not last."
We moved to another state via a transfer. It took a couple of years for me to venture back to church. I had more than cuddled with my fiancé before marriage. Gasp! Having a guilty conscience, I finally visited my new bishop. I sat in his office and began telling him, "We had sexual relations before we were married." Before I could complete the sentence, he interrupted and said: "You don't need to tell me any more" as he stood up and headed for the door. I looked at the bishop and said, "That's it?" He responded, "That's it." My sinful past, which had kept me out of church for two years, amounted to nothing. I asked God for forgiveness and left the matter at His feet.
For the next twelve years I served in various ward and stake callings, and I "magnified" those assignments as much as possible. When asked, I gave talks over the pulpit that were well researched, prepared, and delivered. I was a good worker bee.
Finally, my husband retired, and we moved to another state. We settled in a community which we found out later to be backwards, backwoods, and behind the rest of the country by decades. Picture both my husband and I being college educated, fluent in English, and with type "A" personalities living in redneck country.
My former bishops had welcomed someone who was willing to serve with gusto and go that "extra mile." The new bishop pulled me in to issue a calling, which I accepted. Then he said he would give it to me on one condition: that I would "calm down." I looked at him and said, "Calm down? As in, you don't want me to scare any of the members?" He chuckled and responded, "Yes, don't scare any of the members." I didn't calm down, and neither did I scare any of the locals. I held that particular calling for 5 years.
Eventually, my very nice, spiritual, countrified, fourth-grade teaching, cow-raising bishop got released. In his place we received a mouthy, baggage-carrying bishop. Members, such as the high priest group leader, walked out in protest rather than sustain him in. The accusations of the bishop's family's problems spread rapidly through the ward. Complaints were filed with the stake president by members and "James," a former bishopric member, had even filed complaints when the bishop was called as a high council member. But, "the bishop was called by God" as the new bishop. We were truly stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The stake president received complaints from four members saying that "James'" comments had "hurt their testimonies." Adding the gossip that the bishop was "bisexual" to the bishop's own personal baggage, was not one of "James" smartest moments. In lieu of loosing his membership and priesthood, the stake president made "James" apologize over the pulpit at the beginning of sacrament meeting for his comments against the sitting bishop (November, 2000). "James" cried as he recited the spiel required by the stake president to vindicate the bishop while raising his hand to the square. Archaic? Yes. But this apology had no effect on the level of gossiping about the bishop that was being spread. In fact, it probably enhanced it.
The stake presidency went on a witch hunt to determine which members were spreading the guy's baggage. They had "determined that there were 4 to 6 members," but were unable to identify which ones. What they failed to realize was that it was the old timers, those that were deemed to be sinless, non-rebel rousing, who were the ones they were looking for. Nah.... It couldn't be them. Funny!
During the witch hunts the stake president called me in. He wanted to know who was spreading the gossip and causing all the problems in the ward. I declined by saying, "If you start looking for members, it will be construed as a witch hunt!" He agreed. The stake president said that he thinking of disbanding the ward if the members didn't sustain the bishop. We weren't sure if he could do this. We had never heard of it happening before. Eventually, the witch-hunts died down, but there was always someone under suspicion for something.
I was asked by the stake president's first counselor to keep him apprised as to what was going on in the ward through sending him emails: "Keep in touch so we know what is going on in the ward." I declined to do this. I was not going to be the ward snitch. I even sent him a letter through the US Postal Service telling him that I would not be sending him information on the ward members. A few years later, he denied asking me to report on the members. Being lied to by someone that I liked as a brother and trusted hurt me to the core.
The new bishop had "problems." On one occasion I was serving as the ward librarian and the bishop had called requesting that I order some material for him. Then he started to get a little raunchy on the phone and told me that he "could spank me if I misbehaved."
Eventually, I was called into the stake president's office to be asked why I couldn't sustain the bishop. I responded, "He is sarcastic, degrading, and condescending," and I proceeded to explain his inappropriate spanking comment. The stake president responded by saying "The bishop was just probably having a bad day, but I want to know about anything else he says like this." Actually, the bishop should have been called in and taken to task for his comments. Perhaps this type of conduct would have ended.
It wasn't but that a week had transpired when the bishop made more inappropriate comments. I called the stake president, told him what had happened, and there was silence on the other end of the line. Then the stake president said, "I don't know why he said that." Neither do I, but it is wrong! The bishop already had a PPI scheduled for that evening. After the discussion with the stake president, the bishop was required to apologize. A couple of weeks after the last incident the bishop called me into his office. The apology was, "Sorry about the comment. I was out west when I heard it." I said, "Thank you. I accept your apology. But, if you want true forgiveness..." the bishop interrupted and said, "then you need to get it from God." I smiled and said, "You need to get it from God." End of story, or so I thought.
What reached the stake president's office was quite a different story: The stake president got a hold of me, and I was chastened for "not forgiving the bishop." No. That was taken care of on such and such a date, you signed my recommend. The situation is over with. But, by the time the stake president got through with me, I lost two high-profile church assignments: One as the institute teacher and the other as an ordinance worker. I was made an example of, much to the chagrin of the other ward members.
I had 17 people signed up for the institute class. After I was released, only 4-6 attended. There is a requirement of a minimum of 8 students in order for a class to be held. The other members went on strike (not at my request) and would not attend class because I was released as their teacher. I became their martyr, which was appalling to the stake president.
We had lectures from the pulpit via the stake president for years afterwards on the principle of forgiveness and forgetting. One of the members laughingly remarked that they were intentionally meant for me.
Eventually, other sisters came forward with their complaints about the bishop's conduct, which did nothing to help the "Your bishop has been called by God" image. Salt Lake determined that what we (the sisters) had been going through was "sexual harassment." During a phone conversation with Salt Lake, I explained what was occurring and the comments being made by the bishop. Then I said, "If I was still working for Marriott Corporation, this would be considered sexual harassment." The brother in Salt Lake said, "This IS sexual harassment." I responded, "Yes, it is. Can you help me?" He explained that the phone number I had called was strictly for the purpose of helping bishops and stake presidents, that I would need to contact my area representative. I called the stake president to inform him of my conversation with Salt Lake. When I tried to explain this to the stake president, his response was, "I don't want to hear it!."
When a bishop knows he is going to be released, he provides the stake president a list of brothers he feels are qualified for the position of bishop as his potential replacement. The brothers, and their wives, attend an interview with the stake president. The stake president determines who should be the next bishop and calls the person to the position.
Several of us knew that the stake president was going to be interviewing two couples on a particular Sunday. Those of you who have worked closely with the bishops and stake presidents know that when these types of interviews are scheduled that you will be receiving a new bishop shortly.
After interviewing the X couple, he asked the brother if he would serve as the bishop. He agreed. Then the stake president headed towards the bishop's office and released the sitting bishop on the spot with no notice! Picture steam coming out of the bishop's ears.
My visiting teaching companion was the activities director. She was lazy, disenchanted with her calling, and by her own admission didn't "care" to do it. She needed an assistant and had me called as such. Her husband, the then ward clerk asked during the Wednesday bishopric meeting, "My wife wants to know if she can have Sandy called as her assistant to the position of ward activities director." The bishop responded, "You can call that fucking sister to what ever calling you want to! I have been released!" There is nothing quite like a bishop showing his true colors.
The ward rejoiced and was VERY relieved the next Sunday when the bishop was released. During the following fast and testimony meetings, members were commenting on how glad they were to have a new bishop. One of my friends remarked, "It isn't that the new bishop is that good. It's that the old bishop was THAT bad!" Funny!
The next bishop arrived frightened out of his wits, but with manners.
When we first arrived here, we sang our sacrament hymns accompanied by recorded CD's from Salt Lake. No one was playing the piano, and no one knew how to play the organ. I used the church organ to practice, and eventually taught myself how to read music and how to play the organ using the church's Allen organ and study manuals. I had a terrific time.
The new bishop called me to be the ward organist. But, so I would not "offend Sister CW" who had returned from inactivity a couple of years earlier and by this point was playing the piano during sacrament meetings, I was not allowed to be fully functional in the calling: Members wondered why I was only allowed to play prelude for twenty minutes prior to sacrament meeting and not during sacrament meeting itself. I told them that if they wanted me to play during the meeting, to let the bishop know.
There was another gal called to be the ward pianist (so much for offending Sister CW) when CW was not available to play. CW traveled for work by this point. One day the new ward pianist was practicing when I arrived to play prelude. What we used to do is acknowledge each other so she knew I was there, and when she finished practicing a hymn, I began playing prelude. This system worked out well and the members probably had 30 - 45 minutes of hymn music to enjoy prior to sacrament meeting.
One Sunday the replacement pianist called me over upon my arrival and said, "Sandy!!! Sandy!!! I'm so stressed out!!!!! Can you at least play one hymn during sacrament to help me out?" Unfortunately, I had to explain to her that I was only allowed to play prelude. She looked at me and said, "BUT you play better than I do!" I responded that there were some hymns that she played better and some that I played better. She left the piano, came over, and hugged me tightly. I returned to the organ and began playing hymns. When I looked up, she was leaving the room crying. About 5 minutes prior to the meeting, she returned with her Kleenex, still crying. She played the hymns for the meeting without fail.
A week later I was called into a meeting with the first and second counselors (the bishop couldn't get off work in order to attend the meeting) to determine if I was causing "dissension" in the ward. Someone told them that I had said that I would "never play in sacrament meetings." Knowing that I had not said that, I sat there contemplating what I really had done to warrant this hearing. I responded that I had not said it. I also commented that by the time someone hears a story that has been passed around the ward, something they think was a factual comment, it can get distorted to a point that it is not factual and added that some people don't have enough to do. The counselors agreed.
In order to help the stressed out replacement pianist, I prepared sets of hymns that I was ready to play for sacrament meetings with no notice which I presented to the bishop. But he still wouldn't allow me to play during sacrament meeting.
I began my calling as the "assistant to the activities director" by getting called on the carpet for changing the menu for a potluck. We had many elderly in our congregation, some with diabetes who would not attend if the menu did not include other food items that were easily digestible and conducive to dealing with their health problems. The original menu only contained corn bread, beans and ham (for Pioneer day). I included chicken and desserts. Heck! There had to be prairie chickens available. One of the bishopric members who had diabetes thanked me for changing the menu and told me that he and his wife were not planning on attending had it not changed. But, I was confronted and chastised because I had changed the menu. Do some people not have enough to do?
I found myself making all of the arrangements for the activities, circulating requests for others to bring food, purchasing items which I was not reimbursed for, and having to set up for potlucks. There was no way in Hades that I was going to clean up! And I didn't.
It was at this point that I found that over the years I had given my all; was tired of people not carrying their own weight; was beginning to learn more about human nature and what made people act the way they do (ex. wearing out the carpet to the bishop's office), and what they gained (or didn't) by way of their actions. I guess you could say that I began studying the inner vessel, mine. I didn't want to be like them. I wanted a new church home.
I still had a testimony of the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, of the sacredness of the temple. Where do I turn? Do I find another restoration-rooted church?
The last Sunday I attended with full privileges was the last Sunday in August, 2004. Knowing in advance that this would be my last Sunday, I dressed in the outfit that I wear to funerals. In fact, I had played the organ at an LDS funeral in this attire at the request of a sister. I attended all three services.
Two weeks later I was baptized a member of the Community of Christ, RLDS church.
I sent in my temple recommend to the bishop with a very nicely worded letter. We talked about it in his office per his request. I was to be released from my callings. Before I left the chapel, I walked around taking in the sites and visually received my last wonderful impressions of my former church home. Tears flowed.
Even after I left, I maintained my affiliations with my LDS friends. I continued to use the genealogy center at the local chapel. One evening I decided to attend an institute class. Except for a new couple that I was introduced to, I knew the other four people in the room. The discussion for that evening centered around the New Testament, specifically the chapter in the NT manual on the Last Supper. And, not being a shy person, I participated in the class discussions. We discussed (among other related topics) the portion of the Scriptures were Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. At that point I said, "The Community of Christ still participates in this ordinance (washing of the feet). We still do this in the Reorganized Church." The teacher (who spent the remaining 30 minutes of the class period discussing her wayward, prison-inmate son and her heartache because of it) later headed into the bishop's office to complain about my comment that evening (which I didn't learn about for a couple of months).
While I was still active in the LDS church, I had promised to financially assist with a young man's mission to Germany. Even though I was no longer active I kept my promise, and the Sunday after the institute class, I placed two $50 bills in a donation envelope with a donations slip and tossed it under the clerk's office door.
The stake president was also at the chapel that Sunday morning. I was studying ancient Biblical Hebrew and located a great Hebrew/English study Bible. Since the stake president was also the CES coordinator for the area and had a great knowledge of the scriptures, I passed him a copy of this study Bible. He looked at it and said, "Why, thank you!"
I missed the mail lady the following Wednesday. I received a yellow slip indicating that I had a certified letter waiting at the post office from the bishop. I called the executive secretary and ask about the letter only to find out that he was no longer the executive secretary. He said that he didn't know about it, and told me to contact the bishop. I decided to wait until Thursday morning to pick up the letter.
Unfortunately, I opened it up while still in the post office. My knees weakened out, and I nearly passed out in the lobby from the printed word on the page:
Sister XYZ (full name),
The Bishopric is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you have been reported to be in apostasy. You are invited to attend this disciplinary council to give your response and, if you wish, to provide witnesses and other evidence in your behalf. The disciplinary council will be held on 8 May 2005 at 2:00pm in the Bishop's office of the X ward.
Having served as the bishopric secretary, I was well aware of the procedures that were involved when members needed to have disciplinary councils held in their behalf. The "proper" procedure is that the bishop is supposed to meet with a sinful person. If the bishop feels that he should hold a disciplinary council (name changed from "church court" during the 80's because the term "court" was too ominous), then the person is referred to the stake president. If the stake president feels that one is warranted, he will refer the person (such as a sister or an Aaronic priesthood holder) back to the bishop for that purpose.
In my case, none of these procedures were followed. The summons was supposed to be delivered by "two trusted priesthood holders." Again, it arrived unannounced in the mail. How chicken can they get?
The summons letter arrived undated, unsigned, and it is a wonder that the letter did not arrive "Postage Due." It requested that I attend a council scheduled for 2:00 p.m. May 8th, Mother's Day. Mother's Day??? I called a brother who had been a member of the stake presidency. He thought that the letter was a "joke." No date, no signature, and we don't hold councils on Mother's Day. Fine! My husband and I discussed the letter and came to the conclusion to not attend. I spent Mother's Day out of town as usual. When I returned, I drove past the LDS chapel. It was roughly 2:45 p.m. The parking lot was vacant.
The definition of apostasy straight out of the LDS Handbook of Instructions is:
Apostasy: as used here, apostasy refers to members who:
1. Repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after
they have been corrected by their bishops or higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocated plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or higher authority.
In such cases, excommunication may be necessary if repentance is not evident after counseling and encouragement. Total inactivity in the Church or attending or holding membership in another church does not constitute apostasy.
What on earth could I have done to warrant a summons? Even with the formal definition of apostasy straight from the Church Handbook of Instructions, I never received any "counseling and encouragement." Heck ... for the life of me I couldn't fathom that I would have done anything listed within the definition.
After the date of the council, a week went by, and I never head a word from the LDS church. Finally, two weeks went by, and I called "James," the executive secretary, and asked him if the council had been held. He said that the council was held, that he could not tell me the outcome, and suggested that I contact the bishop. I placed calls, but I could not get the bishop nor the stake president to return my calls.
I waited until Wednesday evening and called the church. The first counselor answered the phone. I asked what the outcome of the court was. He said he could not tell me, that I would have to speak directly to the bishop. The bishop would not call me.
Finally, a letter arrived in the mail with the following (grammar and punctuation unaltered):
Disciplinary Council was held 8 May 2005 in your behalf. With your decision not to attend the results was as follows: XYZ has been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.
No date on the letter, but at least it was signed. If you don't attend your council, the penalty cannot be increased to excommunication.
I still didn't have the foggiest idea what I had done wrong. I laughed and cried over the issue. Nine months after I turned in my recommend, I was excommunicated for apostasy. I thought that excommunication was reserved for someone who had done something ghastly, something so horrible like murder or child sexual abuse. I thought the penalty of excommunication was used sparingly unless the person was unrepentant, lacked humility, or again, had some type of serious situation that required them to no longer be associated with the church.
Then I received another letter. It had the same beginning sentences, but a change and several additional ones:
XYZ has been excommunicated for apostasy. Teaching false doctrine is contrary to the teaching of the Church is apostasy. When excommunicated one does not enjoy any privileges of church membership, may not wear Temple Garments (darn - I thought they were ghastly anyway) or pay tithes and offerings. All Temple blessings are severed. Church participation is limited to attendance only.
BFC. (Signature but not dated).
So .... Now I went from "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church" to "apostasy" for "teaching false doctrine." I'm still baffled at this point.
Then I received a third letter. It contains all of the above with the addition:
It is our prayer that you once again investigate the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and with real intent ask Heavenly Father if those doctrines are true. The invitation is to return to the fold of the Shepherd. We would like to help if you will allow us. However, it is not possible to maintain membership in the Lord's true church and teach or support in any way doctrines or principles contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
BFC No signature, no date.
I'm still not sure what it was that I taught that would be considered false doctrine. Finally, I sent in a letter asking what I had done wrong. Eventually, I received a call "James" stating that the bishop wanted to meet with me. It was Memorial Day weekend at this point. I was told that I was excommunicated because of the comment that I had made in Institute class regarding the Community of Christ's practice emulating Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I asked, "Really! It was for that? You excommunicated me for that?" The bishop said, "Yes, I did. Had you not attended the Institute class you would still be a member." After I looked at him in shock, I asked him if he could reduce the discipline to disfellowship. He replied, "You have been excommunicated. You need to learn to live with the discipline."
I left and wrote the stake president whom I had known for over 5 years. Apparently, I included too much in the letter. When he found out that I had been the substitute teacher for the Community of Christ gospel doctrine class that past spring, he sent back a ghastly letter. The last paragraph of which told me that if I promised not teach Sunday school in the Community of Christ, he would "consider" reversing the decision of the council. I agreed and sent my letter to the LDS bishop stating that I would not teach Sunday school class at the Community of Christ. I can't believe that I agreed to not teach, but my LDS membership was still very important to me.
The stake president did not reverse the decision of the council. In shock, I called Salt Lake for assistance. One of the gals who works in "confidential records" told me to send them (confidential records) a letter explaining the situation. I sent it, and a couple of weeks later I spoke with Br. Andrew Allison, the brother in charge of "confidential records." I explained my situation. He asked various questions such as whether I had been tried by the stake president ("you went though a stake court?"). No, I was tried by the bishop. He responded, "You really had a miserable time with this, didn't you?" Yes, I did. He could not tell me if they received word that I had been excommunicated but did look up my file. I waited for a response from the church.
A few weeks later, I received the following letter from the bishop:
We will reconvene Ward Council in your behalf Sunday 18th of September 2005 @ 2:10 P.M. In order to bring you back into full fellowship this is a necessary step we must take. If this date is a problem please let me know and we will make the necessary changes.
BFC (dated and signed).
Wow! Bring me "back into full fellowship?" I was THRILLED to get this letter. It seems so positive. I called a former member of the stake presidency. He thought that this meant that the decision of the council had been reversed and even that an apology from the Church would be given for having been wrongly excommunicated.
The day arrived! I got nicely dressed (even passed my husband's inspection) and went to this council happy and content that "things" hand been worked out. When I arrived the bishop was sitting behind his desk. The counselors were along the right wall. I had the chair closest to the clerk's office door. A clerk was taking notes.
The bishop offered the prayer and then the barrage of negative statements started pouring from his mouth: "You didn't keep friends here." My response, "Yes, I did. I maintained my affiliations with the church members." The list of what they felt I had not done was endless. At one point the second counselor would not accept my answer to the question. I had answered it, but he kept hounding and hounding, pounding the same question in to me over and over again. This would have been called "badgering the witness" in a real court and would have been stopped! BUT, I could not get anyone of any caliber to attend the court with me. I called two former stake presidency members asking them to be with me during the hearing. One never responded. The other declined saying, "I'm in enough trouble as it is."
At one point the bishop said that I would have to meet with him on a monthly basis with someone else in the room. I asked, "Why would someone else need to be in the room?" He said, "If I feel my life is in danger, the stake president said that I can have someone else in the room." I was doubly stunned!! (Comment from a friend: This is the part where you figure out these people all sailed to LALA land long ago). I responded, "I don't understand. Bishop, have I ever harmed or hurt you in any way?" He responded, "No, you have not." Then I said, "Have I ever flirted with you?" He responded, "No, you have not." I wanted these items in the official record. I wanted whoever reads them to know that I never harmed the bishop nor did I ever intend to.
Finally, after about 20 minutes of negative statements (most of which I was able to counteract with the truth;, some of which didn't make any sense), I said that I thought this council was convened to return my membership. The first counselor sneered at me and laughing said, "That is what you thought? Ha!" At that point, I took the letter out that the bishop had sent me and read it to enter it into the record. The bishop responded, "I knew what the letter meant."
I assumed (my new definition of assume: Assume makes an ass out of you and me) that this was going to be a council to return my membership. And I told them this. It wasn't. It was more crap. When the reason for the excommunication sentence did not stand up, they went witch hunting and dug up what ever they could to feed their fears. And it was little piddling stuff like "do the scriptures you (I) use have the name of the LDS church in them?" Translation: Are they copy righted by the LDS church? "Yes, mine do. What relevance does this question have to my excommunication?"
After 20 minute of sheer nonsense and sensing that my membership was not going to be restored, the council hadn't even concluded when I stood up and said, "Thank you for your time gentlemen." I opened the door and walked out. I glanced back at the bishop on the way out. He was frantically looking over his notes with the assistance of the first counselor (his father-in-law). Had he covered everything?
Late in September, I called the bishop to find out the date of when the excommunication had been finalized. The bishop didn't know and said he would have to look it up at the chapel. The he said, "X (first name), "We really need you here. You could be an asset for us."
When I explained to my former priesthood leaders why I had been excommunicated, their responses have ranged from "This is absurd!" "This is ridiculous" to "this is a little odd." It was more than odd: It was insane. A former member of the bishopric warned me years ago, "If you ever go before a disciplinary council, you wouldn't stand a chance." In the words of the stake president's former counselor, "They were gunning for you!"
I still don't understand how one statement in that institute class caused my excommunicated. If they wanted me off their rolls, I would have been preferable for them to just send me a letter in the mail asking me what I would like them to do with my membership. Or call me in and say, "Here is what we heard that you said .... Chances are that you will be excommunicated. We know you. You have served here. Rather than go through a disciplinary council, we would like to give you the option of removing your name from the rolls of the church."
From the first summons appearing in the mail through the final letter from the stake president, the process took eight months. Eight months of my life! No one "won." It wasn't even a "win-lose" situation. Now that my husband has removed his name from the records of the church, you (the LDS church) have gained nothing and lost it all.
With love, in tears, and with a knowledge that God loves his children immensely.
| Forget Telling Any Mormon Leader That You Have Been Abused - It Goes All The Way Up The Authority Ladder |
Wednesday, Mar 21, 2007, at 08:11 AM
Original Author(s): Not The Girl You Used To Know
Topic: EX-MORMONISM SECTION 15 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| I filed for divorce from my ex who at the time was serving in the Stake presidency. I had a restraining order against the man.
I sent a letter to both my bishop and the St president telling them of my decision to divorce and why. I sited all the incidences and types of abuse I suffered being married to this man that they adored. I told them I would not meet with them so that they could try to convince me to stay in the marriage. I did plead with them to help my husband to understand that his behavior was abusive. I begged them to help HIM.
Gordon B Hinckley said in conference "We will not tolerate abuse on any level" and I believed him. I trusted that these men would come to my aid and help my husband understand the error of his ways.
The first thing the St president did was to never discuss the contents of my letter with my ex husband. He never questioned him.
Instead he permitted my ex to continue serving as his counselor giving his famous talk on "marriage" to the different wards in the stake every Sunday. Then he had me released from my calling because I was "no longer a good example to the sisters".
Within a couple of weeks of receiving my letter the St president flew out to Utah to look up an old boyfriend of mine from high school. I had not seen him in over 20 years. He happens to be a bishop himself and a professor at BYU. The purpose of the trip.....to find dirt on me that he hoped he could use to discredit my character. It was a witch hunt. In the course of the visit this St president shared very private confidential information about me with my long time friend. I had enough evidence against the st president that I could have sued for breach of confidentiality.
When I found out about this I could not believe what was happening to me at the hands of those men whom I had trusted to protect me. Now they were out to get me.
I made a call into the Area President's office and filed a complaint against my Stake President indicating I would not have any further communication with the stake president regarding this matter as I had discovered that he betrayed my trust beyond belief.
I later found out from my friend in Utah that the Area president was in on the witch hunt as well... In fact, it was at his suggestion.
I cannot put into words the gross betrayal I felt by these men who were supposed to be righteous priesthood holders.
I believe this experience helped me to begin to realize that something was really wrong with the church. I eventually sent a letter to the first Presidency chronicling the whole thing (as if they cared)But that was before I came to know the church is one big fraud.
I am so happy to be out.
The abuse and the lies and the betrayal are at EVERY level.
| I remember being so afraid of the "world." So afraid that I might lose a child to a worldly philosophy. Being any where that wasn't Mormon could make me feel uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone.
My world was so small, so cloistered, so controlled. I could not distinguish between fear (being out of my comfort zone) and bad (actually being in a place that was dangerous like a gang member's den right before a drug sell goes bad).
Safe and controlled was "good." (Bob McCue did an excellent post on this phenomenon).
Of course, post Mormonism I realize that those emotions are not the HG telling what to do and who is evil - but rather my own thinking that has been defectively programmed by a church that wants to lay claim to my money though claiming my soul and their right to divine intervention on my behalf. (breathing hard from writing such a long and convoluted sentence).
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