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EX-MORMONISM SECTION 8
A very large selection of posts made by those in recovery from Mormonism. Culled from throughout the Ex-Mormon Communities.
| By "enlightened," I don't mean "better than," or "superior to." What I mean is this person has figured out the Mormon Church is a harmful organization that teaches racism, bigotry, intolerance, and disdain for women, science, and common sense.
When the word "wean" is used in the context of helping remove someone from the Mormon culture, it has to do with the power of the addiction, not the alleged childishness of the addicted person. Check this partial definition of "wean" from http://dictionary.reference.com : "To detach from that to which one is strongly habituated or devoted: She weaned herself from cigarettes."
So when we talk about weaning our spouse off the Mormon Church, we're not disdaining the spouse. We're actually acknowledging a powerful addiction.
Here's a question for parents?
If you had a son who was musically gifted, do you think he would become a world-class saxaphonist without your consistent and sustained hands-on support, and encouragement over a period of many years?
By "hands-on support," I mean driving him to events, getting out the calendar and scheduling performances and practices, finding teachers who will lift "his game," giving consistent and sustained financial support, etc.
Sure, he's gotta have the basic talent, and want to do it, but will he get to the world-class level without you?
What if you had a daughter who demonstrated a talent for public speaking.
Would she find her way to a high school state championship in expository speaking, or Lincoln-Douglas debate without your encouragement and hands-on support over a period of years?
Would she achieve a technically flawless performance without expert coaching, enthusiastic and consistent dinner table discussions with you and your spouse over a period of years, discipline, debate camps, speaking workshops, etc.?
When we acknowledge that achieving excellence, artistic heights, flawless performances, or intellectual depth doesn't just happen--it requires getting out the calendar, scheduling, programming, indeed engineering one's life, i.e., giving hands-on assistance to an immediate family member to create the conditions necessary for the greatest probability of success, THEN WHY DO WE OBJECT WHEN SOMEONE SUGGESTS WE EMPLOY THIS TRIED AND PROVEN METHOD TO HELP REMOVE A SPOUSE OR CHILDREN FROM A HARMFUL AND ADDICTIVE ORGANIZATION LIKE THE MORMON CHURCH?
Clearly, enlightened exmos have a responsibility to do all in their power to wean away their loved ones from the Mormon Church. People don't just break that addiction on their own. They do it with wise guidance aided by smart and consistent scheduling on a calendar of alternative Sunday events, patience, and a long term commitment to change.
Don't get me wrong, we must respect free agency, but just standing back and being all airy fairy about the whole thing simply won't yield the results. It won't turn our son into a world-class musician. It won't turn our daughter into a state speech champion, and it won't provide the foundation in which a TBM spouse with blinders on can transform himself into an enlightened free-thinker.
| I lurk here from time to time. Having resigned in September 2005 after being an active, tithe-paying, MIT convert for twenty years I'm trying to move past being an ExMormon and onto a life as far removed from Mormonism as possible. Fortunately, living way out of the corridor facilitates that immeasurably.
DW is dyed in the wool TBM, a native Utah girl. She'll probably never leave TSCC and that's ok by me. She chose me over TSCC when she could have done otherwise. The kids are much less active now that they have an ExMo parent as an example.
Needless to say there are occasions when Mormonism sticks its ugly head back into my life. In support of DW and my children I make it as painless for everyone as possible. Such was the case last week.
Since youngest DS rarely goes to Cub Scouts anymore (he dislikes his predominantly home schooled ill-behaved church classmates) DW came home a couple Wednesday nights ago with his pinewood derby kit with only ten days to get it done. Previously when I was TBM pinewood derby was an almost mystical rite that me and the respective son would spend an entire month working on. It wasn't that it was so important to win, just that it was an excuse to spend lots of time together. [In fact, each derby was preceded by a father-son lecture on sportsmanship that the boys hate.]
This year was different. I stared at the box totally devoid of desire and motivation. To top it off, this son isn't particularly interested in such things. Last year's mid-pack finish in the standings probably didn't inspire his motivation either.
As I sat on the couch that Sunday worshipping at the latest NASCAR venue on FOX an idea came to my mind. I had been at the local Hummer dealer that morning admiring the H3. Why should we build another pinewood derby race car when we could build a pinewood derby Hummer. That was exactly the motivation I needed.
It took a couple of hours to work out the math and determine that it was feasible within the rules. A scale drawing later and DS was convinced this would be far more exciting than any race car.
It consumed about 10 hours over the next week leading to weigh in. The block of wood provided in the kit is less than half of what the rules allow so a new block was measured and cut to fulfill the height needs of a Hummer. Sure enough, at weigh-in a week before the derby it failed the seven inch length rule due to the spare tire on the back and bumper with D-rings on the front. Major surgery was necessary. Fortunately it looked out of scale in length so cutting it down to size would make it look better. A full centimeter and a half was taken out of its mid-section and it was glued back together with the greatest of care. Indeed it looked better now. The roof rack, side mirrors, and door handles added to the realistic appearance. As a coincidence of its new dimensions it weighed in at exactly five ounces without any added weight.
DS specified that it had to be red. Another couple of hours painting and it was done aesthetically. The next night DS, DD, and I spent ninety minutes polishing the axles to ensure it would do more than just look good.
Last Friday night was the derby. It was an event of high anxiety. Long ago I had gotten over the discomfort of being in the ward building surrounded by Mormons who knew that I had ditched the faith. I was nervous about how the H3 would run. Oldest DS half-a-dozen years previous had won a derby going unbeaten in sixteen heats. I only hoped youngest DS would get a chance to enjoy that same excitement.
It turned out I was worrying without cause. The H3 was flawless in eight heats. The Apostate's Son had won.
As we were leaving the ward building DS remarked how his hard work had paid off. [If you've ever spent ninety minutes polishing four nails with six grits of sandpaper down to 600 grit you'll recognize that it can hardly be classified as fun - largely why I made DS do it.] The full-time missionaries had arrived mid-derby and watched the proceedings. When DS made his comment about "hard work" one of the missionaries remarked "yea, your father's hard work". Fortunately DS did not hear his disparaging comment. At first I was angry at hearing a psuedo-adult speak with obvious intent to deflate the excitement of a young boy. But then I recognized that the full-time missionary was just doing what he did every day: talking about something he had not a clue about.
| What Parts Of Your Personality Did The Mormon Church Steal That You Have Since Regained Or Are In The Process Of Regaining? |
Monday, May 8, 2006, at 07:45 AM
Original Author(s): Johnnysmith
Topic: EX-MORMONISM SECTION 8 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| Religious fanaticism stole my sense of humor. I am regaining my ability to laugh. When I delved into fanatical religion, I became so serious.
Religious fanaticism stole my creativity. I am regaining by appreciation for diversity and the arts. In the church I wanted to talk the Mormon talk, walk the Mormon walk, and climb the Mormon ladder of spiritual success. Throughout my youth, my desire was to be a music educator. I wanted to devote my life to the arts. Though I know the church does not specifically frown on the arts, I could not find one General Authority in the yearly Mormon Atlas’ who had been anything other than a businessman, lawyer, or other similar trade. Perhaps I was not looking hard enough. Though there is nothing wrong with either of those professions, neither of them interested me. It is ironic that I have since settled in a business management profession as an ex-Mormon.
Religious fanaticism stole my intellect. Curiosity did not kill the cat. I am learning that it is good to question. I am learning that a healthy dose of skepticism is good for the fanciful mind. I am learning that there is nothing wrong with seeking truth in ways that are outside of the religious protocol.
As a man, religious fanaticism stole my ability to relate to women in a healthy manner. I once again desire healthy friendships with women. I am seeking to completely eliminate the religious residue that separates the sexes based on fear and misunderstanding.
Religious fanaticism stole years of true friendships. I am reclaiming my right to form friendships based on emotional and intellectual compatibility. I no longer want pseudo-friendships with ulterior motives based on a desire to convert or otherwise change them into mine, or the Church’s image.
Religious fanaticism robbed me of the privilege of being alive. I was so focused on eternity that I was of little earthly good.
How about you?
| How often did you hear this phrase uttered in testimony while you were in the church?
How often did you utter this phrase in testmony while you were in the church?
This phrase communicated an unspoken assumption that the person who is without the church would not have a positive influence in their respective lives. Likewise, the person without the church would be lacking the joy that comes from being a member of such a pure organization.
And so, now I am there. So are you. So brag on yourselves a bit. Where are you without the church?
Let's let our collective consciousness which, for just a moment, focuses on that question we posed and heard posed in Fast and Testimony meetings for years, negate the detrimental affects we assumed would be as a result of not being a Latter-day Saint.
If you don't mind, I'll begin.
Where would I be without the church? Where am I without the church?
Without the church I have begun the process of learning how to love myself. Scary thought. Love ones self? I used to think loving ones self was a result of the selfish nature impeding the righteousness God desires. I am starting to realize that loving myself is the first step toward living life with a healthy mind and emotions.
Without the church I do not view people in black and white. I do not think of people in terms of righteous vs. unrighteous, holy vs. unholy, and pure vs. defiled. Instead, I see people as I am beginning to see myself: an individual with a unique life experience that does not have a superior value to someone of a different culture, race, or socio-economic status. There are times when I think I might have had it tough growing up. There are times that I wallow over the abuse I experienced as a child. And yet I realize that there are ten others who have experienced worse, and ten others who have used the challenges they have faced in life as stepping stones to their success.
Without the church I am not afraid of being a hypocrite. That fear is instilled in a religious person. My thoughts used to be, "At the end of time, what if I am the one that the Lord asks to depart from His sight because of my hypocrisy?" And yet, now I am able to be honest enough to admit that I am not perfect and I never will be. There will always be things that I do, say, or think that might be "out of character." And yet, instead of spiritualizing these things, I now admit them as part of my individuality. I realize that I will have a bad day from time to time. Feeling blue, having a small fight with a loved one, or drinking a little too much on a Friday night is not a result of my spiritual deprivation. It is a result of the circumstances of life mixed with the choices I make. I can decide to make another choice tomorrow. One can not be a hypocrite if there is no pretense.
Where would you be without the church? Where are you without the church?
| My mother was an interesting person. She joined the church and married my dad, but she never fit and was never happy. Her coping mechanism for living in a male dominated culture where she felt she had not control – was drug addiction. My father was her primary supplier – thanks to a DEA license. Finally at 70 – my mother went through drug rehab.
I would go and visit her everyday and one thing I learned was that we needed to be honest about our family dynamics and about mother’s drug addiction. While in rehab, mother would talk openly about being a drug addict and about her relationships and life. I never knew my mother at all – and this three week period was interesting for me as my mother came out of her drug controlled, Mormon mania. I felt like I liked my mother. That was a nice realization since I had spent my life hating her.
Even though the therapists told us to continue to be honest and participate in therapy - after she left rehab no one in my family ever spoke about the rehab again. We were back to being the perfect infallible family. No room for truth there.
Three years later she died. I do not know if she stayed clean though I think so – because as she descended back into her life of subservience and control she became so bitter I could not bear to be around her. I think drugs made a positive difference in her ability to survive a life that did not seem to work for her.
Her only sister and best friend came from their home town in Hampton Virginia to attend my mother’s funeral. Mary entertained us with stories about my mother and their growing up years. The portrait of this young woman was far from the life of my mother. The young woman Mary talked about was fun, spontaneous, spunky, and enthralled with life. My mother was bitter, tired, angry, and unwillingly to do much.
After some story telling Mary mused – “the thing I will miss the most is your mother’s visits to Hampton” (mother would go twice a year to visit her sister). Innocently Mary stated, “we would go to Chi Chi’s each Tuesday because they would have 2 margarita’s for the price of one and sister (what she called my mother) loved to drink Margaritas.”
Six daughters froze. Not only did we not know about any drinking, my sisters, of course, considered drinking alcohol a sin. Apparently my mother would take a reprieve from the church in Virginia and then come home again and fulfill the requirements of her Mormon life in Utah.
We have never talked about Mother drinking, her addictions, my leaving the church – we just don’t talk about things that make us uncomfortable. How can you continue to live a lie – well one very important thing to keeping yourself in the dark is to never, ever talk about anything that could shed light and insight into one’s life – especially if that subject is not strictly in line with Mormon theology.
Later my sister and I talked about how difficult it was for our family to be honest. We wondered why. We got along, there was no yelling or hitting – just this thick air that prevented any of us from being anything less than Mormon and having Mormon expectations. Questioning, honesty, and open communication are not a part of that.
I have worked hard to create a different kind of home. My children and I have gone to family counseling, hired a facilitator to help us with communication and I think we have open, warm, and comfortable communications.
As I discussed my family with my daughter, she asked me, “well – do you think you and Vicki will be more honest now.”
“Of course not I told her. The thought still scares me.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“I don’t know – it just was never allowed, never tolerated, I don’t think we can stand losing the pedestal even if it is just an imaginary one.”
The day in the life of a Mormon family.
| I liken my relationship to God to a relationship with an imaginary friend.
The problem with the God relationship is that, at twenty-six years old, I am still trying to settle it in my emotions that my imaginary friend is not real. Part of me wants to believe that my imaginary friend is real. I have spoken with him. He has spoken to me. I have read books about him, written about him, and yes, loved my imaginary friend. I have cried with my imaginary friend, and even laughed with him.
I have yelled at my imaginary friend, and cursed at him. Some time ago, during a time of deep hurt and anger, I ripped up many pages of "sacred scripture" to show this imaginary friend that I was done with him. However, the very rage I was demonstrating was acknowledging the existence of my imaginary friend.
My relationships were ordered by my imaginary friend, and thus, I have avoided relationships based on reality. Who needs to play with other kids on the playground when you have an imaginary friend? Now - get a few others that have their own imaginary friends, and those then become the relatable ones. They understand that imaginary friends are real. We have a common bond. We can all play "make-believe" together.
However, something changes. All of a sudden Suzie Q says that my imaginary friend is just that, imaginary... not real. And yet, she continues to believe that her imaginary friend is real. So, being the naive kid I am, I believe that her imaginary friend is real. Her friend becomes my friend. We start to believe that our common imaginary friend is far superior to the others. We attempt to validate the reality of our imaginary friend based on our mutual fanciful experience, and discredit all the others.
And then I get thrown a real curve ball. Little Mikey says that none of our imaginary friends are real.
Recess is over. It's time to grow up. It's tough to grow up.
I used to wonder about the testimonies of our modern prophets and apostles. Had they really seen Christ? Surely as special witnesses of Christ, they would have evidence far more spectacular than the simple burning in the bosom that I was privy to. Mormons read a lot into testimonies like the following:
"I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way." - Bruce R. McConkie, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane," Ensign, May 1985
"My faith continued to grow..., line upon line and precept upon precept. There are far too many of these to be chronicled individually; some are too sacred to utter." - James E. Faust, "A Growing Testimony," Ensign, November 2000.
"As a special witness of Jesus Christ, I testify that He lives! I also testify that the veil of death is very thin. I know by experiences too sacred to relate that those who have gone before are not strangers to leaders of this Church." - Russell M. Nelson, "Doors of Death," Ensign, May 1992.
"I know by experience too sacred to touch upon that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon us at our confirmation is a divine gift." - Boyd K. Packer, "The Candle of the Lord," Ensign, January 1983.
"I came to know for myself the truth of this work and of the Savior’s divinity while serving as a full-time missionary in England 50 years ago. I know it more surely today, through experiences too numerous and too sacred to discuss." - M. Russell Ballard, "Special Witnesses of Christ," Ensign, April 2001.
The above testimonies either express absolute conviction (as in the case of McConkie), or simply refer to experiences "too sacred to discuss." The reader or listener is then left to their imagination. None of them tell us how they know.
Why can't they tell us? The standard answer goes something like this:
"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." - Matthew 7:6
Or, put another way, we do not to discuss sacred things in a public setting where they might be open to criticism or ridicule.
The more I thought about this, the less it made sense. Early church leaders suffered from no such compunctions:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father." - Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, DandC 76:22-23.
"I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" - Joseph Smith History 1:17
"On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message." - Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith History Footnote
Then we have the Bible and the Book of Mormon:
"As they were going about rebelling against God, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood." - Alma 27:11
"And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." - Exodus 3:2
The LDS scriptures are full of such divine and miraculous pearls, and yet those same scriptures are given away, free, to all who call a 1-800 number and ask. I can't even begin to count the number of such requests I dealt with on my mission, while serving in a college ward, that resulted from drunken frat parties.
Even while fully in the grasp of cognitive dissonance, at a time I was able to bury major issues like the Book of Abraham, Polyandry and Book of Mormon historicity, I was never able to fully ignore of this disparity. It continued to gnaw at me, until I was eventually forced to deal with it and all of the bigger issues pushing behind it.
The church went from "He lives! For we saw him," to "I know through experiences too sacred to discuss," in less than 200 years. What will it be in another 200? "I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of Christ. A spiritual witness–and only a spiritual witness–is the only way for you to learn?"
| One of the things that bothered me was the number of rules about obedience that the Mormon Church has instituted.
In the end, do these rules mean anything? Are they necessary?
I say they are not.
It is never ending. On the one had they say that man is not to be commanded in all things, on the other hand, there is a dearth of things that are not rules, polices, commandments from LDS ORG that govern our lives.
I don't think there is a facet of our lives that is not over run with rules for obedience on how to think and how to behave, how to live, how to dress, now to eat, what do do with our time.
What is on your Freedom List these days?
I can think of a few. Do humans need rules for these kinds of things in the first place?
I have no LDS.ORG instituted rules for:
How I dress. No more regulation 24/7 underwear! Wear any kind of clothing I choose. No more rules about sandels, pantyhose, dresses in the chapel etc.
What I eat or drink. No more Word of Wisdom nonsense. Nobody ever lived it as it is written in the first place anyhow!
How I spend my money. No more tithing or other donations.
How I spend my time. No guilt over not being in church, etc.
How I think. This is a biggie! No more lists of what are "bad thoughts" or "evil thoughts" etc.
Where I go. There are no more places that are off-limits, or evil, or "bad".
What I read. No more books with a "bad spirit."
What movies I see. No more restrictions on R rated movies.
Where I go on Sunday. No more rules about keeping the sabbath holy.
How I treat my body. It is mine and does not belong to the church to be used for rituals in the temple.
The big one is that I am no longer a child that needs to be told what to do, how to think, and how to behave.
I am a fully informed adult that owns my own power!
The freedom of ditching rules that don't matter in the first place is so amazing! I had no idea that I didn't need them until I tried it!
Now, there is no going back to the Mormon mental prison of compartmentalized thinking and cognitive dissonance.
So what if the TBM's don't think the way I do. They can have their little closed society and I do not have to feel guilt or left out. It is not where I want to be anyhow.
The freedom to change my mind is so powerful!
The TBM's do not know what they are missing!
And, there is no way to tell them either.
Well, so be it!
Some days I just have to remember my gratitude for how liberating it is to change my mind about Mormonism !
There is nothing they can offer me!
| In a conversation earlier, I was reminded that back in my apologist days, I had a rather spirited debate with a critic who boasted that he could get me to deny my testimony. It ended with him very frustrated and sputtering that I was crazy. Maybe I was.
Here's how I approached it: I told him he was privileging a rationalist approach to "reality": he was assuming that there was some verifiable reality that we could all agree on. I assured him that such was not the case. Thus, what he took as the "facts" about Mormonism were hopelessly distorted by language and bias, that the signifier forever obscured a signified, if indeed there really was such a thing.
He took a very simple approach to "reality": he asked me if we could agree that there is a sun that gives its light to the world. I said we could only perceive a sun, but nobody really had any way of knowing that there was really anything there but what we perceived. Even if millions of people said there was a sun, all we really knew was that we perceived such a thing.
He said it was only rational that there was a sun. I said, "Why do you privilege the rational? Religion by nature is irrational, so I embrace the irrational."
He said, "You are one crazy postmodernist. I'm done talking to you."
And that's what I did when I was an apologist: I trashed every way of knowing truth except the one I liked: the witness of the spirit. Yeah, it's a little embarrassing to admit, but it was kind of fun messing with the guy's head.
| I am not only NOT a Mormon, I am not even a Christian OR a believer in GOD or Jesus or the Bible. Yep - that's right -I'm one of those evil atheist persons. Worse yet - I married a Mormon man. I know - what the h@ll was I thinking :-)
Here is the deal. When I met my DH, he was still a member of the Mormon Church but had been inactive for some months. He had been very disallusioned by the church and had suffered a great deal by trying to live the teachings of this belief system. I had no idea he was a Mormon when we met and didn't even know what that meant once I found out. I was completely clueless about Mormonism - I had never known a Mormon before and knew nothing of the beliefs. I just knew the Osmonds were Mormons and that it was a faith deeply embedded in "family". Whatever.... I didn't really care about it - he didn't care that I was an atheist. He never went to church, never talked about church and we just didn't really discuss religion much.
DH and I fell in love and married about 15 months after we met. After we were married DH asked if I would learn a little about Mormonism so I would understand what it was all about. I think he felt it would help me understand him better. That was fine with me - I like philosopgy and was always interested in world religions. I asked DH how one learned about Mormonism and he suggested having the missionaries over.
HUGE ALARM BELL WENT OFF - CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG!! WARNING, WARNING - DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!
As a reasonable human being, I told DH that having Mishies over was completely OUT of the question!!! I would learn about Mormonism the way I learned about everything - I would buy books and read up on it. In DH's defense, he just didn't really know any other way to learn about the church. He was very suspicious of what info might be on the internet since he had been told it was all "anti".
Well.... long story short, I selected books, starting reading and within days was aghast, agog, appalled, and in a state of APOPLEXY over what I had learned. OMIGAWD - I had married a crazy religious nut - what was a girl to do? I was so frightened about what this could mean! Would this man I loved try to pressure me into converting? Would he try to push to have my daughter (6 at the time) be raised as a Mormon???
I became completely obsessed with Mormonism -I read everything I could find online - found RFM - starting reading that - all the while becoming progressively more worried and alarmed. This went on for probably 3 months or more. As I was researching things, I kept asking DH questions about some of the weird doctrine. I know I was terribly disrespectful and insulting about the beliefs sometimes. I didn't mean to be - it was just that they were so, well... WEIRD!!!
Bless his heart - he hung in there with me. Now I realize he was suffering all along. I was asking him questions and making him examine and think about stuff critically for the first time. I finally showed him the material I was looking at online (actually a very powerfully moving and angry essay Tal Bachman wrote was the first thing I got him to read - DH is a big BTO fan) and eventually led him to the RfM board. He poured over everything for days and was completely freaked out to realize it was all false....this discovery completely rocked his faith in everything.
Anyway - things could have gone the other way just as easily. DH was trying to get his former wife to join when they were divorced. She was going to church with him - going thru the lessons with the missionaries etc. There were times I really thought he might try to go back to church and bring me with him - he mentioned a few times that the Mormon church had a "great program" for kids - YIKES!!! This would have been a deal breaker for me. I would have left him immediately if it looked like he was going down this path - and I mean that most sincerely!!!
My DH is the most wonderful man I have ever known and I love him dearly. BUT - I would NOT have allowed him to drag me or my daughter into this dangerous belief system.
I would be interested in hearing about other mixed cou
| The pursuit of excellence should be major work of our lives. . .While it is true that we cannot attain perfection in a total sense in this life, it is also true that we can attain perfection in many specific areas of activity. Furthermore, if we fail to do what we can and should do in this life, we may deprive ourselves forever of the opportunity to do those things later on and thus lose great eternal blessings.
William H. Bennett, “Our Goal Is Perfection,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 29
In 1978, during the spring semester at BYU I met Ann, Mike’s (my husband’s younger brother) new girlfriend for the first time. I immediately felt put off by her. Ann seemed overly confident, brusque, and very cool towards me. Mike seemed smitten. The semester ended and off went Ann to her home in Northern California. All Mike could talk about was going to visit her. He planned the trip in detail. All of his planning must have worked because Mike came back to Utah happy and engaged.
My first child, Trevor was about two weeks old, when Gary drove to Northern California to attend the eternal marriage of his brother Mike to Ann. I didn’t particularly like Ann, but she was now my sister-in-law and would become an important part of my life.
Ann seem to know exactly what to do and when. At least as far as being a wife and mother were concerned. She seemed so calculating to me and that is a funny way to express the actions of someone who is engaged full-time in a nurturing role. She had a confidence that bordered on overbearing. But she settled right in to the role of Mormon wife and mother.
Like me, Ann was pregnant after three months of marriage. Unlike me, it was as if she had done this a million times and she moved through her pregnancy like clockwork. Right on schedule, she gave birth to a healthy, beautiful girl. They named her Jamie and when she was a just a few weeks old, Mike and Ann moved right next door to us.
Ann seemed made for the role of mother. She nursed, she changed diapers, she made dinner each night for her salesman husband, and she bought cute clothes and toys for Jamie.
When it came to winning the smug war, Ann won hands down. She seemed the perfect Mormon woman while I was clumsy and ordinary. She was the perfect mother, while I struggled with the daily routines of raising children. She was the perfect wife, while I resisted submission and domesticity.
Ann and I were young and we viewed our futures as predetermined and inevitable. We were Mormon women. The one thing we both brought to the equation was our drive to obtain perfection. We looked ahead with great anticipation and determination.
Gary and I, Mike and Kathy, his younger sister, and spouses all lived in Provo. Our interactions were quietly hostile as we chastised each other for not being better parents or Mormons.
We would listen to the many talks, lessons, and sermons. We were well read in church books and magazines. All of this information gave us the ability to determine who was living righteously and best and who wasn’t. There is a never ending list of things that are expected of Mormons, therefore a never ending list of failings that we were able to find in each other and those whom we knew. There was no respite from the constant judging. It wore me out. I wonder now if it ever wore Ann out.
As the years passed life did not play out exactly as any of us thought it would. Ann and I became mothers each of four children, married to men that did not seem to be able to get and hold jobs.
As I think back now on those times, Ann seemed as constant as the mailman. She was committed to the church. She knew, as we all knew, that the world was a sinful and dangerous place. Our children were fair game for Satan and we had to protect them through righteous living. Our children’s eternal salvation was at stake, nothing less.
Ann was vigilant. She watched everyone with a careful and critical eye. No one would be lost under her watch. She would make her children and husband righteous.
Ann continued to shine in her role as Mormon woman. She was the relief society president, the primary president, and the young woman’s president. She taught piano, pre-school, and babysat for extra money. She decorated her small home and when everyone was in Salt Lake, we would convene at Mike and Ann’s. She never seemed flustered, but controlled, consant and machine like.
As the years passed I grew to love her, but never to fully like her. Once in a rare moment of feeling like I wanted her to know that she was important to me, I drove over to her house and told her that I loved her. She looked a little perplexed, since things were usually tense between us and then ask me, with some seriousness, if I was dying. Our interactions became kinder as we got older and did less together.
My relationship with Ann was one of love and aloofness. She seemed to be overly strict and had too many rules. When we would visit, she had a list of things that we could and could not do. All were determined by her understanding of living the gospel.
Still, she always opened her home to us and to other family members. Occasionally, I would notice that Ann had a clever wit. It was not often, but there were times when she would say something that made me laugh. And she would laugh. It was always fleeting, but it would these moments that I would remember when I would think about Ann.
I assumed when I left the church that Ann would have nothing to do with me. My leaving was not the final wedge I expected. Ann expressed concern once about the example I was setting for her children, but for the most part, she seemed to accept me.
We lived close to each other and she became my youngest’s preschool teacher and daycare provider as I struggled to put together a career. Matt seemed to love his time with his cousins and Aunt Ann. I knew he was safe, loved, and well taken care of.
Family occasions continued to bring us together. When Gary’s parents would come into town, I would get a call from Ann and we would go over to her home for dinner. She would seem distant and metered. On autopilot, Ann would methodically prepare dinner, clean up, and visit. No real warmth, no real connection, but always pleasant.
Over the years Ann remained active in the church. She did what ever calling she was asked to do, and did it exceptionally well. She always had various ventures going. She made birdhouses and sold them. She did oil paintings and they hung on her walls. She made crafts and home decorations for each of the seasons and her home seemed like the typically Mormon home.
Mike went through many jobs over the years. Ann always seemed nonplussed about the situation and they never seemed to be on the verge of financial ruin or anything. Ever steady, almost machine like Ann moved through her days playing the efficient role of wife and mother.
At 42, Ann got pregnant. I thought I noticed a skip. She was angry about the pregnancy. Of course, once Chase was born, Ann continued on in her metered approach to motherhood. She was a woman of routines, rules, constraints, and repetitions. She was an obedient daughter of Heavenly Father. She did what was expected without failing.
After eighteen years of marriage Gary and I separated, then divorced. Gary moved in with Mike and Ann and Matthew our youngest son would spend most weekends there. Ann joked that he was really her son. Though Matthew spent so much time at Ann’s home, I saw less and less of her over the next four years. I would occasionally see her when I would go pick up Matt, but the awkwardness of the divorce kept me from participating in the family activities that previously brought us together.
I felt grateful to Ann. She had been a good Aunt to my children and a good friend to me. We were so different and would never be kindred spirits, still we had raised our children together, had struggled with our marriages and families together, and had made peace with each other.
It had not been quite a year since I had last seen Ann when I got a call early at work. It was Matt.
“Mom, you know Aunt Ann.”
“She’s dead. She hung herself.”
I cried. I sobbed. I screamed. I was overcome with sadness. I was overcome with anger. I cried that I had not been a better friend. I cried that something had gone so wrong. I cried for the lost dreams of our youth. I looked at our lives and how different they were from what we expected 25 years earlier when we first met. What had happened?
Mike had asked for the divorce, had insisted on it. After years of living with an angry and abusive wife and mother, he wanted out and he wanted custody of the children. That morning, he had told Ann she would be served papers.
They had fought. He had scratches on his face. She had cuts and bruises on her face. He had taken Chase, their six year old and their two granddaughters to McDonalds to get out of the house and to let Ann calm down.
She did not calm down. She went into the garage and made a noose. She climbed on a chair and stepped off. The noose did not hold. She fell and broke two ribs. She must have been in terrible pain as she put the noose up again. She got on the chair. She stepped off again and this time it held.
Mike came home to a quiet house. He called her name, and then looked for her. When he opened the garage door and saw her limp body, he just shut the door, walked into the living room and sat down. He called the police, his children, and his family.
Ann’s funeral was Saturday, September 8th. It was Matthew’s 14th birthday. Had she been alive she would have made him a cake. Ann would be memorialized as an active and faithful member of the church. A devoted and wonderful wife and mother.
Her children told me a different version of her life. The secet version. I heard the story of a woman full of rage who was abusive behind closed doors, demanding and hard on her children and husband, but to the world presented a righteous daughter of the lord, an obedient child of Heavenly Father.
He and the children tried to get her to get help. She refused. She was calculating, machine like and moved to a steady, constant, driving beat. A beat that never stopped, never let her rest, never let her sleep, never allowed peace. A beat the prodded her on, taunted and teased her about perfection, but never ceased to demand that she march to it, that her family march to it, until she had filled her home with hate. The beat drove her until one day she put a rope around her neck and all was finally quiet.
| The last few days I have been content. I have thought of almost nothing spiritual, and have spent my evenings after work with those I want, when I want, and where I want. Though my workload has not decreased, my stress level certainly has. Nothing has changed in my work environment, but something has changed in my mind’s environment. |
I have lived much of my life consumed by whether God approves of my thoughts and deeds. To be free of those feelings, even if just for a few days, has been extremely fulfilling. I say “even if just for a few days,” because I have been down this road before. I have felt these unrestrained feelings of liberty before, and yet, in my life I have often reverted to the bondage from “whence I came.”
The bondage of believing that there is a God that is actively involved in every aspect of my life. This belief makes a harsh word from a friend, a bad day at work, and even a traffic jam out to be the work of the adversary. Worse, it makes these circumstances of life out to be a test from God. Fanciful answers to real life challenges produce false results.
Let’s take the very real emotion of joy from the cult perspective. If there is no joy, there is no peace. “Where can I turn for peace?” The religious person asks. The like-minded, religious person answers: “Turn to Heavenly Father through prayer in the name of His son, Jesus Christ.”
The genuine seeker of spiritual fulfillment heeds this advice, and seeks God for answers to his/her lack of joy and/or peace. When this joy is short-lived, the religious person thinks there must be a spiritual reason. The religious person asks the following questions of him or herself:
1) Have I prayed enough?
2) Does God really love me?
3) I wonder if this is one of those tests from God to prove my faithfulness to Him?
4) Have I sinned?
5) I have repented. Has God accepted my repentance?
6) Do I really need to see my Bishop about this sin?
7) I wonder if I should really be taking the sacrament?
The list of questions can continue until “the cows come home.”
The answers to these questions are based on fantasy. The emotional reaction to these fantasy-based answers is much like the emotional reaction to a captivating movie or fiction book. The movie we have been watching and the book we have been reading became a pseudo-reality; a fantasy world that planted seeds of fear in many of us, sprouting the fruit of anxiety, depression, and self-hatred.
At least, this is my experience.
I still believe in God, though I have not reconciled this belief to the understanding I have gained through experience. Perhaps, one day, I’ll decide to stop going to the movies.
... or at least the ones rated R.
| My daughter is a Mormon woman. She does not practice her family’s religion. She does not even really know that much about it. But she knows that there is something about this religion that makes her feel at home when she is in Utah, and makes her feel different when she is in California.
I have not wanted my children to become active or invested in this religion. I am still afraid of it. I see good in the church and I see goodness in my family, but I am still recovering and though my problems were sourced from many things, including my own mental health, I keep a safe distance and want that for my children.
After we left the church, Erin held on for a few months taking her sister to church on Sundays. But soon it stopped. She continued to claim Mormonism, but never really did the church thing again. In high school she signed up for seminary, but mostly so she could ditch. She also played competitive softball and excelled. Her senior year, her team was ranked number one in the state.
At the high school championships, they lost to their high school nemesis team. It was a crushing defeat and the girls cried and cried after the game. I set in the stands and waited for the lugubrious display to stop. Finally, Erin came to get me. Her face was tear stained as we walk to the car, she told me that this was the worst day of her life. I told her, that what I knew at 41, that she could not know at 18 was that this was not the worst day of her life. There were going to be days much worse. She looked at me and smiled. Thanks Mom, for the encouragement. We both laughed, but I knew.
I knew that life is not easy. Our hearts are broken, and there are times when it all gets so heavy. A softball game would pale in comparison.
She wanted to go away from Utah for school, but I could not afford to send her. She stayed and went to the local community college for two years. She got excellent grades and as soon as her two years were up, she packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles. She left in May and started USC that fall. She immediately started to thrive in the world of young, free thinking students at her school. She was majoring in Broadcast journalism and became a host for the college talk show.
After a year, because of my marriage to my second husband, she did not qualify for the same scholarships and grants that she had the year before and we were having a hard time figuring out how to pay for schooling. She decided to drop out and to pursue acting.
She got a job bartending, started taking acting classes, got a manager, and settled into the LA life. I would tease her that she was living the life I wanted to live and so I would just live vicariously through her. Once when she told me that she wanted to get married, I told her she couldn’t because I was not ready to get married.
She has become my friend and confidant. I remain her advisor and listening ear for all the frustrations that come with an acting career that does not immediately become successful.
I want her to learn from me. Not how to live (something that I didn't seem to figure out), but how to not live. That has been my primary gift to my children.
Once Erin called about a problem she was dealing with. She wanted my advice. Well, I told her, you just have to trust your heart. She paused, thoughtful and then agreed and we hung up.
I started to think about all the times I had felt in my heart something was the right thing to do and then it had been such a disaster. My marriages, both of them. Some of my career decisions, definitely decisions around finances.
Trusting one’s heart all of sudden did not seem like such a good idea. It seemed like a religious idea. You trust that the prophet is telling the truth and you trust that you should have children, and you leave thinking behind.
It just started to seem to me that my advice was not that great. I called Erin back. Honey, you know that “trust your heart” advice. It hasn’t really worked that well for me.
I think you should listen to your heart, but definitely don’t trust it. Combine it with some serious logic. Nothing wrong with really thinking something through.
I wish someone had told me to stop and really think. Think about consequences and outcomes, and who I am and what I want and see if it all gels. Instead I was told to trust.
I am not one of those people who looks back on their life and says "I don’t regret anything, I would do it the same." I regret everything, and I would do everything different, but in all my fancy dreams where I do get to do it all differently, I still have my four children. I yet hang on to superstition. I think if I ever imagine it differently, that somehow it will bring bad luck. I have evolved, yet am still so human. Haven’t figure out how to get over that yet.
It was Christmas. Erin and I were driving and talking about Mormonism and our Mormon family. I stated, “There just is something wrong with any religion that teaches perfection and that those in the religion are chosen or somehow above others.”
I am not sure I had ever voiced this strongly my feelings about Mormonism. I had pretended to keep an open mind, but the words tumbled out of my mouth.
Erin looked at me perplexed. What do you mean?” she said.
"I mean there is something wrong about that. It is just a fatal flaw. That one thing seems to invalidate all the rest for me. Mormon’s are not really taught to be good, they are taught to be better than others. This is intolerance and arrogance. This is the stuff of the tragic hero. We look at Mormons and see pretty families and clean communities and behind many doors are cruelties, abuse, hatred, suicide."
My mother was a drug addict, my sister-in-law hung herself, I have made so many bad decisions and done so many stupid things and I really think the genesis of most of this craziness is this crazy church.
It makes no sense. Perfection is dangerous and hurtful and displaces tolerance and acceptance. How can you accept yourself if you must achieve perfection? What is perfection anyway? Who really knows, but in the church there are so many people that put considerable energy into deciding those exacting standards and then creating a culture that punishes all who fall outside of it.
The punishment is so subtle. It is rejection, and condescending smiles. It is the looks and comments. It is the competition and the comparisons. This harsh and narrow world made my mother a misfit, me a misfit.
"Erin," - I said, "This church looks at you and finds you unworthy. Why, because you do not go to church. And even though you are brave, and smart, and talented, your cousins talk about you and feel sorry for you. Your aunts and uncles wonder what I did so wrong that caused all of this to happen. That one thing stopped Denise from getting help, from even admitting she needed help. That one thing made my life so difficult. I know that most people are good and will gravitate toward the goodness of a religion, but the core, the essence, it is wrong. It just doesn’t make sense."
There was silence. Erin was stunned that I felt, not ambivalent, but strongly that the church was not just not true, but dangerous. At least to me.
Erin has always been my greatest fan. She wanted a mother that was devoted to her and that was a loving and supportive mom. When I wasn’t any of those things, she just acted like I was. Sometimes she would be disappointed, but it felt as if she was so committed to having a great mom, that somehow her energy made me great.
She is an excellent writer, a talented actress, and an amazing person. I love to be with her and go to LA to visit two or three times a year. I went a few months ago and brought John, my lover and companion along. John is what ex-Mormons call a recovering Mormon. He gradually left the church over about a ten year period, but made it official a couple of years ago. He is still fresh with anger and resentment. He makes quips about Mormons and Mormonism a lot.
Erin grew weary of the comments. Once when she was worn out by my anger and sarcasm, she commented that I was a little too bitter. At one point John mentioned he wished he had never been raised in the Mormon Church. Erin said, "she wished she had been." She stated that she thought the Mormon Church was good.
I think both John and I were a little surprised. It is hard for either of us to imagine anyone wanting to go through what we did. Later, back in Utah, I thought about her comment.
I called her. "Erin," I said, "Let me tell you where you would be right now, if you were Mormon. You would be married, and probably have two children. You would be married to Murph or Freddy. I know you can’t imagine that, but you would have married them because, you can’t have sex otherwise and it makes everything so intense. And before you would even know it you would have children and bills and pressures and wondering if this is really what your life is suppose to be about. You would not think, - what do I want - but what am I suppose to want.
You would not be in LA, pursuing acting, traveling to Bulgaria for a movie, learning all the things you are learning, taking care of yourself, growing, risking and do such brave and amazing thing.
I know that you look at all those cute houses with the picket fences and it looks great. But you of all people know that things are not always what they seem. Honey, I am so proud of you. Live your life. You are smart enough to make good decisions and you will be happy."
I think Erin romanticizes the Mormon existence and the Mormon Church. She looks at the perfect families, with all matching outfits, the smiling women, the strong men, and it is a fairytale world for her. I think she longs for sure answers, and clear rights and wrongs, dead babies that come back to life in the eternities, and all the magic that the church promises to those who live worthy.
I think Erin hopes that one day she will yet be that perfect Mormon woman. She will marry a perfect man for all eternity. They will have children and those children will be theirs forever. She will be beautiful and Heavenly Father will love and protect her. She still wants to believe that a prayer will save a child’ life, that paying tithing will assure divine intervention and that she will live forever.
| Sitting in Sunday School ™ yesterday I experienced a moment of clarity… |
Any individual or religious organization that accepts the Bible (Old and New Testaments) as god’s literal word must be wallowing in the depths of absolute moral depravity.
To illustrate my point I offer the following four words:
…The Book of Joshua…
I sat and listened in absolute amazement (interesting how perspective can change so dramatically in so short a time) as the class plowed through the approved material: …a warring tribe that thought nothing of killing tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children…
Yes I have heard all of this material before and yes I understand that most of the Book of Joshua is only based in some archaeological fact and even less historical fact. However, it was brought into sharp relief today just how morally bankrupt the LDS church (or any other Christian denomination that even remotely accepts the atrocities of the Old Testament as justifiable in their god’s eyes) really is.
It was even more painfully apparent in this particular lesson since the whole point of the discussion seemed to revolve around one simple point: You had better be willing take someone else’s land and kill innocent men, women and babies simply because they practice a different set of beliefs if you want your tribal god to like you and help you! The instructor and several of the class members kept pointing out their astonishment that the Israelites had a hard time obeying god™ (i.e. partaking of the divinely forbidden spoils of their wanton destruction of innocent and lives) even though they had so many signs given to them.
Did I miss something here?...
Your worried about why someone would be so thoughtless as to take gold and fine linen in the aftermath of a divinely sanctioned genocide? Why would that surprise you when these same people have just brutally slaughtered women who were begging for mercy; babies screaming as they are torn from their mother’s breasts; men who watched helplessly as their wives and children were mercilessly run through with the blade, dismembered, decapitated, burned and crushed?!
And all of this because ethnocentric maniacal tribal leader wanted some ultimately worthless piece of land for his own inheritance, heard voices in his head telling him so and conveniently decided to make up a god-myth to justify his twisted reasoning and take whatever he (and his filthy band of outcasts) wanted…
“The land had to be cleansed…” opined one class member.
”…Just as the world will be cleansed when the ‘savior™’ comes again…” said another.
Forgive me for being blunt, but since LDS theology equates Jesus with Jehovah of the Old Testament, I could theoretically hold the Mormon Jesus personally accountable for the atrocities of his ’chosen’ race! Based on that line of thinking, the crucifixion was woefully inadequate justice in my opinion! However, since I don’t march in lockstep with the complete idiocy of LDS thinking when it comes to lessons such as this one I really don’t hold an esoteric Palestinian faith healer who lived roughly 2000 years ago responsible for these godlessly brutal acts.
However, any individual or religious organization that has the gall to accept such atrocities as divinely sanctioned for the cleansing of god’s™ earth for his chosen generation should necessarily be regarded with the same contempt and loathing that is reserved for butchers the likes of Adolf Hitler.
Upon further consideration, why should any individual or institution that accepts these atrocities as justifiable have any problem with the advances of militant Islam? These people are simply following the example of their progenitors: ‘…cleanse the world of western iniquity…’, ‘…destroy the infidel who will not accept the rule of Islam…’
Any individual or organization that regards (either literally or symbolically) Joshua (or his heinous book) as an example of proper obedience to god™ is completely and morally bankrupt! The god™ manifest in these blood-soaked pages is a callous, thoughtless, tribal warmonger and ought to be maligned, demeaned, defamed, lampooned, ridiculed, deprecated and cast into the absolute lowest level of the hell that he reserves for those who refuse to carry out his blatant acts of hate-filled genocide.
…This god must be crucified afresh!...
…This god must DIE!
There should be zero tolerance for this type of religious warmongering. Unfortunately, however, classes just like this one will continue to be taught around the world, wherever fundamentalist religion is allowed to fester under the protection of law. Furthermore, I must be principled enough in my own life to allow these ‘Christian’ militants the right to hold their opinions. The only consolation that I can take from all of this is that rhetoric like the class I observed yesterday will serve as easily distinguishable and utterly repugnant examples of bigotry, tribal racism and hatred that I can hopefully teach my children to rise above.
| Michelle, my youngest daughter, has embraced the church. She always did. As a five year old she would refer to the scriptures, a term Mormons use to refer to their sacred books that include the bible, book of Mormon, doctrine and covenants, and pearl of great price as the Holy Scriptures. She liked adding that important qualifier.
She loved all the ceremonies, lessons, and most of all the feeling of righteousness and safety that the church gave her. When Dan and I left the church it was hard on both of my girls, but Michelle most of all. She wanted her family to knell in prayer and supplicate our heavenly father for blessings and protections. She wanted us to go to church and be beautiful, spiritual, and mostly a part of this world she had grown up in and embraced. She wanted her father to be a priesthood holder and to give her blessings that would guide her and heal her.
At first Michelle did not go to church much. She was young and it was awkward. In high school, she attended seminary and started to go to Sunday services more and more. Out of high school she became a committed member, going to church and other activities, reading the Holy Scriptures, praying, and longing for her mother to someday regain her testimony and come back to the faith.
One day when Michelle was in high school, I was driving with Michelle, Matthew and Erin in the car. Matt asked a question about evolution and the biblical story about how the earth was created and the age of the earth. I stated without any emotion or real interest, that no one today believes the bible’s version of how the earth was created or thinks the age of the earth is consistent with biblical accounts. I continued on in my monotone school teacher approach, that evolution has been proven and that we know that life evolves. To make my point I talked about frogs that have evolved during the time frame that scientists have been studying them and how viruses mutate and change making it difficult for the development of vaccines and treatments for certain diseases.
And as long as I was educating, I talked about dating processes that show the earth is millions of years old. Humankind is so far just a blip on the radar screen. I have always loved to read and learn and share with any willing listener my thoughts on a variety of subjects that I know very little about. My children are often put in that position and listen patiently.
When I took a breath, Michelle stated with some emphasis, that she believed the bible account. Michelle and I had both already learned to stay away from the difficult topics of religion and things like gays, marriage, etc, that are often defined by religious leaders. Our views over the years had become more divergent. Where I had once been seen as a reliable resource for many topics, I was now viewed with skepticism and doubt.
While I had accepted our differences, this just irritated me. It was one thing to believe in a religious dogma. It was another to ignore science. I knew many people that accepted science that seemed to be in conflict with their religions beliefs by just recognizing that maybe the bible is not literal, or that all things will be reveled in time, or that maybe the story is just not being interpreted correctly. My “bridge” concept at work. But to just ignore evidence and to believe something so absurd, was ridiculous. Still, I made no attempt to discuss or debate the issue. My word against Heavenly Father’s was never very convincing to my daughter. Since she believed that she had Heavenly Father’s perspective and Heavenly Father’s view, mine was invalid and I had no standing in the conversation.
I did not understand people who seemed to ignore evidence and held on to their beliefs so vigorously. I would read about the Christian right and just feel frustrated they wanted to have creationism taught, or prayers in school. Any evidence that suggested that gays might be a normal variation within human sexuality did nothing to persuade them to tolerance. That there are people think the Ten Commandments should be displayed in a court room just made me angry. What made these people so adamant that they were right and that their rightness was right for everyone.
I still have no idea, but I think one thing that might be a part of all of this, is that religion offers a certain amount of control in a world that is frighteningly out of our control. In the end it is a lie. There is no control, but one can feel safe and protected from the capriciousness of the universe under that blanket of religious beliefs.
Through pray you can protect your children, through forgiveness you can earn heaven, through righteousness you can live in a mansion for the eternities, through blessings you can regain your health, through tithing you can be financially secure, through family home evening you can stop your children from using drugs, through temple attendance you can be directed and know what decisions to make.
In a world where people die, children get sick and hurt, lovers leave, finances fail, evil exists, it is a wonderful thing to have answers and reasons. It is a wonderful thing to have power and control. It is a wonderful thing to have purpose and meaning. Religion can give you all of that, even if it is just an illusion, it is a wonderful illusion.
I knew parents who had lost a child that were so comforted knowing that they would get to have that child again in heaven and that in the mean time their child was safe and happy. I knew people that trusted that whatever hard time they were going through was a test and that they were not failures or at the whim of some unpredictable force, but given an opportunity to prove themselves worthy.
The price for this control was belief, even in the face of evidence that would suggest their beliefs were wrong. Rather than give up this control, people chose to believe. I choose to believe. And when I choose to not believe my foundation for my control was gone. I felt like I was falling.
When I questioned my beliefs that did not hold up to scrutiny, I also in that very act had to question my beliefs that I loved, wanted to believe and that offered me safety and security. The free fall was a scary time for me.
I know I faced my deepest fears without a sword or armor. My children could die. My children could get sick. I could die and that could be it. No after life, no redemption, no repentance. It was possible there was no Heavenly Father waiting to intervene, if not in this life at least in the next life. There could be no ultimate justice. No final accounting that would make my sacrifices worthwhile and righteous. I felt so alone and vulnerable.
The Mormon faith is such a complex set of beliefs and patterns that no other religion replaces it easily. I did not find solace in Christianity at large, or any religious belief.
When people would ask what I believed I said I did not know. Mormon’s have pat responses to all of this and I heard it all. Not believing is a cop out, it is the easy thing to do. Believing is hard and the true test. I had to laugh. Clearly, those speaking such nuggets of wisdom had never not believed. It was not easy at all.
I had well-intentioned friends explain how wonderful it was to have a prophet of Heavenly Father on the earth. To know that Heavenly Father spoke to us and was personally interested in us and was guiding the prophet and therefore me in my life. That I could have surety and confidence because of this. I could trust his word on how to live my life. I could know what to do and what not to do. It all sounded good enough, but it just wasn’t true.
There was no prophet, no person that knew what I needed to do or not to do. No ultimate spiritual guide that had a direct link to Heavenly Father and therefore to truth.
This ultimate knowledge had not protected Denise, my mother, or me. This ultimate truth did not spare my ancestors from hunger, death, pain, financial ruin, or failed love. This spiritual knowledge did not make me a good mother or a ready mother. It did not stop depression from ravaging my life or the life of my son. It didn’t because it couldn’t.
Now faced with no knowledge or wisdom, I started to search for my own. My own answers, my own path, my own direction. I didn’t become a murderer or a thief or a prostitute and my children did not die. We went on, just now we were being honest.
After a life of not living honestly, never questioning, never thinking for myself, it was very difficult to do. I used to stop periodically during the day and ask myself, what do I want to do. I would have to stop and really concentrate to tell the difference from what I thought I should do and what I wanted to do. I started to realize there was a lot I wanted. I wanted a happy family and healthy children, both mentally and physically. I wanted financial stability. I wanted a good relationship with my husband.
What surprised me were the values that I thought I had because I was Mormon, I discovered I had them because I was. I wanted to live honestly, kindly, and with respect for myself and others. I wanted to love and be loved. I wanted to enjoy life and laugh. I wanted to surround myself with honest and kind people. I did not want to do drugs and I want to be an alcoholic.
At first I became very cynical about belief in anything and felt threatened by people who believed in Heavenly Father, or a prophet, or a doctrine. I resisted believing in any kind in intervention. I refused to believe in miracles or blessings or any control. I was angry at having been deceived by the church, my father, and the men who claimed to know what I should or should not do. I could not be deceived again.
There were things I trusted. Hard work would lead to better outcomes, kindness lead to better relationships, honesty kept things clear, I needed to love my children. These things I trusted. But I did not believe in prayer, or tithing, or prophets, or scriptures, or tarot cards, or astrology, or psychics, or life after death or magic or miracles.
By giving up everything I thought could give me control, I found that I did have some control. I could make decisions based on probable outcomes and be reasonably sure on the outcome. I could think things through and make choices based on what made logical sense and move towards what I wanted to achieve.
I started to look within and not without. And I stopped falling. I found my footing and my balance. I found my power. It was not earth shattering and my life did not change over night, but over the next fifteen years I would discover many things. Mostly that I am my own prophet, my own wisdom, my best source for guidance, and my most important voice.
I know look at those that cling so desperately to beliefs hoping for control and I do not ever want to give up my complete lack of control. It is now where my safety is.
| My beautiful, sweet, loving daughter turns 8 tomorrow. I have recently been reflecting on this milestone and am so happy that she will be spared many of the experiences that I endured as a child and teenager. I do not assume, that at the age of eight, she is responsible and accountable for ANY major decisions. She's eight for Pete's sake! She's just a kid.
I really think that the "age of accountability" doctrine set forth in Mormonism is a huge problem. Many parents view a small child of eight as being much more responsible and mature than they are, therefore saddling them with chores and responsibilities that are not age appropriate because of this doctrine. After all, they are accountable for their "eternal salvation", they can surely take on some more responsibilities at home and with younger siblings.
An eight year old is certainly not mature enough to make any kind of serious life decision. My daughter can't remember to bring home notices from her teacher, she forgets her lunch money, forgets her homework, can't keep track of her shoes, and agonized for weeks over what color to paint her bedroom(one of her B-day presents). How could a child this age be responsible for sin? A child this age doesn't even understand the concept of sin.
I am so glad that we are raising our daughter to be a free thinker, to explore her world around her freely and learn the natural consequences of her actions. We are not indoctrinating her with archaic misinformation about life, the universe, and piling on a layer of guilt that will scar her for life. I wish I'd been that lucky ;)
Perhaps just for kicks, I should baptize her in the name of the Invisible Pink Unicorn by dribbling pink paint(the color she chose for her room) over her forehead ;) I think immersion would be a bit much ;P
| My father got married. After my mother died, his high school girlfriend contacted him. They had not seen each other for sixty years. Sixty years and many lives later, they met again and decided to become companions and lovers.
The wedding was on a Wednesday. An odd day. Those my siblings who worked took the time off and we all were able to attend. Well that is not exactly accurate. Everyone attended but me. I dressed up just like all of my sisters. I went to the temple just like everyone else. But then my family all went into the temple. And I waited outside.
I cannot go in any longer.
The temple is only for active members in good standing. Those who do not drink coffee, alcohol, or tea, pay a full tithing, go to church, stay monogamous and only have sex in marriage, do not smoke, verbally state that the Mormon church is the only true church, have no affiliations with other religions or anti-Mormon groups, and some other things can qualify for a temple recommend. I do not qualify on so many levels.
Marriage in the temple is very important to Mormons. It is a sacred covenant that is required to obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom – the Mormon version of heaven. Getting your endowments is something you do as an individual and you do not have to be married to do this, but you do have to get your endowments to get married. This is where you make special promises to Heavenly Father, and Heavenly Father to you. I would compare it to baptism – only more so. Every Mormon who can – should take out their endowments. Young men – before they go on missions do this. It is at this point that Mormons wear the notorious “funny” underwear. The underwear is always worn next to your skin. These underwear or garments as Mormons call them are a reminder of your covenants with Heavenly Father and Mormons believe a protection from the evil and harm in the world. The protection part is taken very literally.
All people are encourage at any age (after about eighteen) to get married in the temple. This marriage is for all time and eternity, not like secular weddings that are just for time – until death do you part. Pretty much everything about the Mormon Church is superior to any other church.
Mormons, though they no longer practice polygamy – still believe in it. They believe that in the celestial kingdom polygamy will be the proper order. It seems all so theoretical and distant that women talk about it as some future possibility – but certainly not something that has to really be dealt with. I used to think that if there a came a time that polygamy was required of me – I would either be in heaven – perfect and therefore – it would not be a challenge or that somehow I would be blessed with strength to endure. It scared me so. I had been taught that the second coming was eminent. Just around the corner. As a youth I was told over and over – that it would be my generation that would be the leaders for the second coming of Christ. Once Christ ruled – the laws of the church would be restored. That included polygamy. And the very righteous would accept and practice this. When I was busy striving to be one of the very righteous – I worried about what might be expected of me. But for now – the second coming had not come, I was not in heaven (that was a definite) and I pushed all of this aside.
What all this meant to women was that a woman would be sealed (married for time and eternity) to one man. But a man could be sealed to many women. A man whose wife had died, could marry someone else for time and all eternity – provided that this women was not sealed to another man. If so – then the marriage would be for time only. So if a man was sealed to more than one wife – then in heaven those women would be his wives.
Growing up I knew from as early as I have memories that getting married in the temple was my only choice. I would find someone worthy and we would go to the temple to be sealed. Then our children would be born in the covenant (to parents who were married for time and eternity) and we would be an eternal family. This belief is one of the favorites of Mormons. I loved it. I loved the idea of being sealed for all eternity to my true love. And as each child was born, even my stilted and blurred maternal instincts loved the idea that this child was mine. If this child died – they were still mine for all eternity. And in the eternities all was fixed. Unhealthy children were strong and disabled children were whole. This part of Mormonism was easy to accept.
There were those who for some reason chose not to marry in the temple. Some to include family members that were not Mormon, some who could not get a temple recommend, others for reasons we did not know. My father always condemned these people. This was wrong and they were wrong. To chose family over Heavenly Father and your religious commitments was sinful. A year later these people could and often did go through the temple. It did not seem to matter then that they had waited. They still had prestigious callings, became bishops and relief society presidents. But my father let us know that this was not a worthy choice.
There were others who would have temple ceremony and then a reception that was very similar to a ceremony. Again for various reasons, but mostly to include those who were excluded from the temple ceremony. My father condemned this openly and viciously. This was wrong. This showed little respect for the sacredness of the temple and the covenants made there.
When a couple choose to marry in the temple, even when both of their families were excluded – they were hailed, at least by my father. This was the gospel and this was the price of obedience to Heavenly Father. My father had stories and stories of sacrifice from his life and from our pioneer ancestors. My great grandmother had given up everything, been kicked out of her home because she became Mormon. She left her family and moved to Utah. My other grandmother held a dying child as she made the trip to Vernal at the prophet’s command. Sacrifice was the price of membership. Families were the corner stone – but only if those families were Mormon. Otherwise – they were to be left, as they surely would be in the afterlife. The family members had chosen poorly. They had given up their eternal exhalation. They could be loved, they could be cherished, but they must not be chosen over the church, over the temple, over Heavenly Father.
When my father met Elaine 60 years later, she was not quite as committed to all of this as he was. She no longer paid a full tithe or attended temple sessions. Though she had been married already for time and eternity and the wedding ceremony would not be a sacred sealing, my father would not be able to make even a “until death do us part” commitment to her unless it could be in the temple. My participation was never a consideration.
So in the building they all went. My entire family, willingly and comfortably leaving me on the outside. They believe that someday they will go on without me in their lives. Though it is all still theoretical and distant, certainly not something that has to be dealt with, yet. Perhaps they think when the time comes and they enter the celestial kingdom leaving me, and perhaps a child behind – they will be with Heavenly Father – perfect, gloriously happy, and therefore – it will not be a challenge. But for now we are all here on earth and we all push this aside. And though I do not yet have to be left behind I am.
I do not know what I believe about death and families and an afterlife. I only know that I sit here on the outside of the temple alone.
| This may be old news to most of you, but I have experienced something of a perspective shifting epiphany the past few days. I want to share it because it has drastically cut down on the amount of anger I've been experiencing when it comes to dealing with the church.
Here's the background: I have been trying to figure out how the church has managed to survive for so long. I mean lets face it, the foundational claims of the church are pretty weak. So why has it grown and how does it continue to function?
My mother was a hard core believer her entire life. I've tried to imagine what a conversation with her would be like if I could go back in time to before she died and discuss the church with her.
I've also had imaginary discussions with my Father in law. I've rehashed discussions I've had with former bishops and stake presidents. In each case I've mentally put myself in the other person's shoes and tried to appreciate their views and perspectives.
So here is the non-earth shaking realization I came to:
They all believe.
I know, big surprise. But I didn't stop there. I also tried to figure out why they believe it. This is where my eyes really opened. Most members of the church are good people. Like the rest of the population on earth they want to do good things and live good lives.
Children of members are taught right and wrong and they seek to be good as viewed through the Mormon lens. The parents of those children are driven to instill Mormon values and attitudes because it is what they believe is right. They believe it's right because the church leaders tell them it's right.
Even the over zealous bishop that heaps guilt on young men over the big “M” thinks he is doing what God wants him to do. And he will be backed up by a stake president who called him as bishop because he received revelation directly from God telling him to make him a bishop.
Here now is the critical piece, it is very rare that the average member ever has significant interaction with any leader of the church beyond the stake president level. In fact, interaction at the stake level is severely restricted. So you end up with a bunch of self contained units that are focused on themselves. In addition, the members of the unit are kept busy with assignments and various tasks that keep them focused within that unit.
When someone questions a doctrine or finds something that doesn't smell quite right what options does that person have for resolving the issue? Parents, quorum presidents, bishops and stake presidents all believe the church is true. They don't have to fake their testimony, it's real. They testify with passion because to them believing is literally a matter of exaltation or damnation! It's hard to peruse a doubt or a question when everyone you trust tearfully tells you there are no problems. If you persist the beloved leaders will start to question your worthiness. Shame is a powerful motivation for conformity.
In such an environment ideas and information that contradict the system are quickly exterminated. As a result, most members of the church are living in a vacuum. The most insidious part is that the vacuum is self perpetuating. The general authorities don't have to micro manage the individual units of the church. In fact they probably run better when left alone. Just select a stake president that knows “the unwritten order of things” and he'll take it and run with it. The individual member is more than happy to play their part and do their duty. That duty just happens to include eradicating dissent because that is the “right thing to do”.
Having gone through this mental exercise I now understand why the problematic issues are never discussed among the believers in church. It now makes sense why I never learned anything about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or of Joseph's teen-aged wifes. Masonic origins of the endowment and the complete lack of archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon are among the topics that just never get discussed because they don't exist in the vacuum of a functioning ward or stake.
The biggest surprise is understanding, now, why the church cannot officially endorse F.A.R.M.S. If they did it would break the seal of the self perpetuating vacuum at the unit level and all hell would break loose.
My anger turns to pity.
| Following is a list of things that I found strongly indicate the Mormon Church is a fraud.
1. Changing accounts regarding the first vision.
2. Lack of reports in the local press about Joseph Smith prior to 1830 even though he claims that he was subjected to substantial pressure from the church communities around him. Religious news was readily reported in the local press meaning if there really had been a first vision it would have been reported prior to 1830.
3. Joseph Smith's association with folk magic (i.e. divining rods).
4. Joseph Smith's "money digging" and attempts to avoid legitimate employment.
5. Similarities between Joseph Smith's accounts of uncovering the gold plates and the writings of Solomon Spaulding.
6. Similarities between the Book of Mormon and "View of the Hebrews" and several other books of the period.
7. Portions of the Book of Mormon that quote the New Testament prior to the writing of the KJV of the New Testament.
8. Changes to the KJV by Joseph Smith that have not been supported by documents that have been subsequently uncovered (i.e. The Dead Sea Scrolls and biblical texts that are older than the sources utilized by the KJV translators).
9. The Kinderhook plates and Joseph Smith's "translation" of the fraudulent characters.
10. The changing locations of the supposed Hill Cumorah in spite of recorded statements from Joseph Smith and others to the contrary. (i.e. Zelph the white Lamanite and his participation in the last battle, and the ancient Manti supposedly being located in Randolph County, Missouri).
11. The Book of Abraham and the total lack of comparison to the papyrus.
12. Joseph Smith's "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" and proof of this alphabet being bogus.
13. Joseph Smith's prophecy concerning the Civil War was predated by discussion in the popular press stating the same thing.
14. Unfulfilled prophecy concerning building of temple in Independence (the date for that has long since passed).
15. Unfulfilled prophecy regarding Second Coming in reference to Joseph Smiths age (the time frame for that is long passed).
16. Lack of DNA evidence concerning the peoples in the Book of Mormon.
17. Book of Mormon denouncing polygamy and initially the Doctrine in Covenants. D and C changed to accommodate polygamy.
18. Joseph Smith concealing polygamous marriages from Emma. In some instances even performing a second ceremony so that Emma would not know that he had already been married to certain individuals.
19. Joseph Smith putting time pressure on women to marry him.
20. Joseph Smith through the vehicle of "revelation" threatening Emma with destruction if she did not accept polygamy.
21. Joseph Smith using the vehicle of "revelation" in the form of supposed blessings for accepting and cursing for rejecting proposals for polygamous marriages.
22. Joseph Smith marrying women that had husbands still living.
23. Joseph Smith sending individuals on missions that may have opposed plural marriages.
24. Brigham Young using manipulative tactics to obtain polygamous marriages.
25. Over 200 polygamous marriages being performed after 1890. One as late as 1907.
26. The churches denial of post manifesto polygamous marriages until it was revealed to the general public to a degree that they could not deny.
27. Joseph Smith denying that polygamy was being practiced until the 1840's.
28. FARMS and the church "spinning" evidence and the Book of Mormon account to fit the current evidence.
29. Gordon Hinckley and Dallin Oaks concealing evidence in the Hoffman case.
30. Dallin Oaks stating that it is acceptable to not tell the truth when it casts the church or its leaders in a bad light. What about the temple recommend interview question? "Are you honest in all of your dealings?"
31. Church history being presented in a one-sided fashion and many times in a totally dishonest fashion.
32. The church's censure of BYU faculty and other individuals who produce works that are truthful, albeit casting the church in a bad light (i.e. concerning church history, research concerning the Book of Mormon, etc.).
33. Gordon Hinckley lying to the press about the church's doctrinal stands on polygamy and the divine potential of human kind.
34. The temple endowments plagiarism from Masonic ceremonies, which by the way have been shown to have originated from other places and times than most members are led to believe (not the temple in Jerusalem).
35. The macabre penalties that were removed from the temple ceremony.
36. The changes to the Book of Mormon (i.e. "he was a going" hardly sounds like the work of an all knowing God).
37. Unfulfilled prophecy from Brigham Young concerning blacks and when they would receive the priesthood.
38. The teaching that when blacks and Lamanites repent they are supposed to become a white (changed recently to "fair") and delightsome people. I have lived around many church members who are either African-Americans or “Lamanites” and their skin color does not change even after many years in the faith. Their descendents skin does not change either. People living closer to the equator have darker skin than those closer to the poles, indicating an environmental cause for the pigmentation differences.
39. Reliance on circumstantial evidence in current members lives as "proof" the church is true.
40. When faced with the crushing evidence against the Book of Mormon, we are encouraged to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, both of which can and in billions of cases have caused faulty conclusions, i.e. Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam. If the answer is still in the negative then it is our fault and we need to pray again.
41. Treatment of members that is in line with the way that cults treat members. Building your own testimony by bearing your own testimony (this is brainwashing).
42. The teaching that if someone does not believe they need to read more. Again brainwashing. For instance, we don't need to keep rereading chemistry texts to re-convince ourselves that they are true.
43. Manipulating, trying to induce guilt, trying to induce fear of loss of blessings, and trying to induce fear of being cursed within those who no longer believe (unethical and immoral). If these tactics were employed in a secular organization there would be serious legal action leveled, and you would lose in court.
44. The church's paranoia about the truth. The truth will stand for itself. If the truth is being suppressed and twisted then you are dealing with a fraudulent organization
| Latter-Day Saints, like Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. are taught over and over to believe 'spiritual' ideas that are not reality-based. They're psychologically conditioned to interpret experienced and/or observable facts (e.g., the car breaks down on the way to the temple) through a particular psychological 'filter' (e.g., "Satan went to a lot of effort to keep us from going to the temple"). This filter is constantly in place in the psyches of many Mormons, and they're not even aware of it.
Why do educated and otherwise intelligent Latter-Day Saints believe Mormonism's irrational concepts and the church's nonsensical teachings? Two reasons: 'spiritual' survival and religious ego. Many Latter-Day Saints strongly believe in the church's teaching that only 'righteous' Mormons will be 'exalted' after death. According to LDS theology, every other person will experience 'eternal damnation'. Furthermore, the church teaches that only 'faithful' Mormons will be permitted by God to live in the 'Celestial Kingdom' with 'worthy' LDS members of their family as well as 'spiritually purified' Mormon friends and relatives.
In Mormonism, the only way to be 'worthy' of 'exaltation' is to be a true-believing and fully obedient church member. Mormons who dwell on their doubts about the church and its teachings stray from the 'path of righteousness', and allow 'Satan' to gain power over them, according to Mormonism. 'Satan', his 'army of evil spirits', 'Heavenly Father', the 'Holy Ghost', and the resurrected Jesus Christ are all ideas that are integral to the LDS belief system. Mormons have been systematically indoctrinated to believe that these 'spiritual' beings are as real as you or I. They are unaware that such 'entities' are only psychological constructs, products of LDS systematic indoctrination and psychological conditioning.
To avoid being punished by God (as defined by Mormonism) for not believing in church doctrines and teachings, and having 'Satan' gain power over them (as he has gained power over us 'apostates'!), Latter-Day Saints have to believe. Psychologically, they're not free to do otherwise. Their 'spiritual' survival depends on them believing church doctrines and teachings without any doubt. Doubting leads to apostasy which leads (so often!) to leaving the church which leads to punishments from God and the 'protective' influence of the Holy Ghost being withdrawn which leads to more 'sin' and 'inquity' which leads to 'eternal damnation', which is suffering forever - eternal misery, woe, and torment of one's soul. It is the fear of suffering 'spiritually' and being punished by God for doubting and not fully complying that keeps Latter-Day Saints psychologically chained in prison of Mormon irrationality and rational-mind betrayal.
The fundamental message of Mormonism is: Comply or else; obey or you will suffer. Through religious fear and induced guilt and shame, Latter-Day Saints are psychologically and emotionally manipulated to reinforce their irrational beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that many aspects of Mormonism are not true.
The religious ego that so many Mormons have is rooted in the elitism of the church's teaching that only 'faithful' Latter-Day Saints will be 'exalted', not the 'spiritually' deceived of the world, 'unfaithful' members, and 'apostates'. Fully-believing, 'faithful' Mormons are part of a very small and elite group (from the LDS perspective). They are 'in the world, but not of the world', God's 'chosen few'. Such 'spiritual' elitism strokes Mormons' egos greatly. The fact that Latter-Day Saints constantly categorize people as LDS or non-LDS reinforces the illusion that they are separate from, and spiritually better than, the rest of humanity.
| Here's what it means for me:
We're here to get back our lives. We gave up entirely too much to the LDS church. We are learning how to deal with life without expecting supernatural answers. We are learning to live without massive guilt. And we're learning to make real friends, some of us for the first time, instead of being friends with people who are assigned to visit us the last day of the month.
And we're learning that financial well-being comes from hard work, not giving away 10% of all we earn. And if we want to give something, we give it not because it's a test of our obedience or a way to get into a secret room for our daughter's wedding, we do it because we really want to. We don't have to worry about whether the money we hoped would go to charity ends up going to buy a $1 bil. mall.
We learn to give of our time in a way that makes other people happy, not because we're assigned to. We can give to the youth of the community by coaching a soccer team, where the kids really want to be in the first place.
And we learn to really seek for truth. Real truth. We might learn that if we want to believe in a God or Gods, we can. Maybe a loving God who thinks I'm already whole and complete and loveable the way I am. How about no Gods at all? That's fine, too.
We might get a better grasp of science after discarding old ideas and superstitions. We learn to enjoy things that we are meant to enjoy. Real friendship. Real love. Real sex. We rediscover ourselves, or discover ourselves for the first time.
Today, that's what being an exmo is for me. What does it mean for you?
| It has been interesting to follow some of the recent threads and people’s reactions to them. Case in point seems to be the Was Jesus married?/DaVinci threads and alot of the Warren Jeffs/Polygamy threads. Most of the posters seemed to have a “I can’t believe I used to think like that!” or “Did I really belong to a church that taught that?” response.
There have been some however, who seem to have an almost nostalgic fondness for the church of yester-year. They enjoyed being a member of a church that had all these wacky beliefs, which made them distinct from the mainstream. Bold, even ballsy! What they appear to find hard to digest is the bland, insipid, ‘say nothing decisive one way or the other’ church that the Latter-day Saints have now become. It’s hard to compare "I am going to tell you how God came to be God” with “Be a good citizen” isn’t it?
It just goes to show that we are not a homogenous group. Each here as a result of our individual experiences that pushed us onto the path out of the church, each of us looking to find, and share, help and support in our recovery. While my ‘situational’ recovery is going slowly, my emotional and spiritual healing continues apace, and as I reflected on what brought me to question my beliefs I wanted to share the following thoughts.
For me, the church/gospel never had to be logical; it didn’t have to be explainable or convenient, or provable, or generally accepted by society. What it did have to be is what I can only describe as internally consistent. The more I learned about the church the less it seemed to have that internal consistency.
I get the need for continual revelation; a living prophet to guide us in these latter-days. But I thought that was to correct the misunderstandings in the bible; or the philosophies of men that arose in the dark ages. It seems a lot of subsequent revelation has been required to correct the teachings of Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, James Talmage, Mark E Peterson, Bruce R McConkie etc etc.
I get that plural marriage is necessary for salvation, but if it is then you say so! Teach it to the world and you take on the chin whatever comes your way. You don’t practice it in secret and lie from the pulpit that it isn’t going on.
I get that Joseph Smith was a “seer” and could therefore translate ancient documents, such as the golden plates or the Egyptian papyri. So how come David O Mackay couldn’t translate the fragments found at the NY museum? How come we didn’t bring all the dead sea scrolls to the COB for the prophet to translate? Isn’t that the main message of Mormonism? That such things have been restored? That god is the same yesterday, today and forever? Why do we sustain the ‘brethren’ as “Seers” when they don’t fulfil the one observable and independently verifiable function of that office – to translate ancient records?
I get that the endowment ceremony provides us with all the things we need to be able to know and do in order to return to live with god, but why does it keep changing?
Case in point, the whole “was jesus married?” thing. Despite what early church leaders taught the current church has stated it has never been ‘doctrine’. But if A) A person has to be sealed in order to enter into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and B) Jesus was baptised to show us that even he needed to be baptised and ‘fulfil all righteousness’ then surely Jesus (according to mormon doctrine) would have to be married and sealed in order to qualify for celestial glory. So why not just come out and say it?
In matters not to me, but as I discover more and more that an area of LDS teachings is not consistent with another area of LDS teachings, it pushed me to question the entire foundation of the church. And the second I started (like the thread about the Jaredite barges) look at the church with an enquiring mind that was it for me.
| Tonight I watched a BYU women's conference broadcast with my wife, wherein the speaker was talking about ways to prepare for temple attendance. The emphasis was all on wearing the right clothes, getting there early, being quiet, etc., in preparation for the quiet pondering that can only take place in a temple (I've always wondered why they say that, as you're really too busy to ponder much in there, but I digress.)
When she spoke of being "spiritually prepared" to enter the temple, she talked about the importance of following the prophet. She told the story of a little boy who asked his Primary teacher, "Do we believe in the same prophet?" "Yes, of course," replied the teacher. "Then why do you have so many earrings?" asked the little boy.
My wife chuckled, but I sat there kind of stunned. I wondered what kind of religion dictates personal grooming down to the number of earrings. And what kind of religion judges an individual's faith and commitment based on their outward appearance. Ironically, the woman spoke of how God looks on the heart, but the way we look on the outside is a good indicator of what is in our hearts.
I recently asked my wife what she would do if she were absolutely certain that the church was not true. She said she would not leave because she knew of no other church that taught higher standards or helped develop better people.
I don't know about that. If I'm going to trade truth for something, it had better be something better than a prophet who has nothing more to tell us than the number of earrings we should wear.
| Which Layer Of Mormons Do You Consider "Sheeple" And Which Level Of Leaders Do You Hold Responsible? |
Tuesday, May 23, 2006, at 07:28 AM
Original Author(s): Alex71va
Topic: EX-MORMONISM SECTION 8 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| In 2006 its no longer realistically possible for Stake Presidents and Mission Presidents to no longer be ill-informed about what the most difficult issues from the critics are. Too many members are coming forward with concerns about BoM historicity, BoA, etc. for these matters to be completely overlooked. However these men are experts at compartmentalization and putting issues "on the shelf". They are very heavily invested in the dogma and feel the burden on their shoulders that thousands of people are heavily counting on them to set an example and lead them to the promised blessings of the Celestial Kingdom.
A former Mission President who used to post here regularly and had many interviews with Apostles seeking to get him back into the fold once told me, "Alex I don't think any of the Apostles have ever given any of the issues of the critics any serious thought". They view these issues like they do pornography. Sure they know what the naked privates of a woman look like, but they never look at Hustler or Playboy. Same goes for the difficult issues of the critics. They know the buzzwords but don't know the substance nor do they ever look at them with any real intent of getting to the bottom of it all. IMHO the top GA(s) are just as TBM and clueless as most active participants in your local Relief Society are. Some might really know and understand how screwed up the church is but they'd be so deeply into it that they'd never find their way out.
The best thing any of us can do IMHO is to hold the church PR people, Brethren (when interviewed) and church websites accountable to tell the full truth and nothing but the truth to the media. Whenever they fail to do this they should be corrected. In addition, I hold my local LDS leaders accountable to get me the truth and because they don't I've let them know that they haven't dealt with me responsibly and that they should be ashamed of themselves.
| Ex-Mormon bashing is a favorite church pastime. Mormons ask why apostates can't leave the church alone. I ask, why can't they leave us alone?
"People who lose their testimonies and renounce the Church or drop out of it, if they are convinced of their position, should be totally indifferent to the folly of their deluded one-time brethren and sisters: if they want to make fools of themselves, that is up to them, but we are intellectually and socially above all that. Well and good, that is how it is in other churches; but here it does not work that way."
Apostates are Servants of Sin
"Apostates usually become sometimes feverishly active, determined to prove to the world and themselves that it is a fraud after all. What is that to them? Apparently it is everything--it will not let them alone. At the other end of the scale are those who hold no rancor and even retain a sentimental affection for the Church--they just don't believe the gospel. I know quite a few of them. But how many of them can leave it alone? It haunts them all the days of their life. No one who has ever had a testimony ever forgets or denies that he once did have it--that it was something that really happened to him. Even for such people who do not have it anymore, a testimony cannot be reduced to an illusion." - Hugh Nibley, "Approaching Zion", page 155
"An inspired Joseph Smith further explained: 'Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.' (DandC 121:16-17.) Why is it, then, that the apostates will not leave the Church alone? Because they are the servants of sin and have another master whose bidding they now do." - Church News, January 4 1997.
The church doesn't exactly express love or understanding to those who have left. And how can they, if we are servants of sin?
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