THE MORMON CURTAIN
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Ex-Mormon News, Stories And Recovery
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EX-MORMONISM SECTION 11
A very large selection of posts made by those in recovery from Mormonism. Culled from throughout the Ex-Mormon Communities.
| I was recently diagnosed with Diabetes and looking back and analyzing the past year or so and how it affected me, I realized the negative impact that it unknowingly had on me and my mental and physical health.
ILLNESS: I was in denial for so long about what I had been going through over the past year. I had never realized that depression was a symptom of Diabetes. I did not even realize that I was battling depression until a few months ago. I was in complete denial. Andy had suggested that I go see someone on numerous occasions, but no, I didn't have a problem. I was miserable and I couldn't even see it. It had grown so gradually that I never saw it coming. But yes, I was depressed. I wasn't enjoying life, wasn't enjoying my kids, was restless, constantly frustrated, was not able to handle stress, and wanted change in my life, etc. All the signs were there and I was too blind to see it.
CHURCH: I was in denial for years about the problems that the church was causing me. It caused me anxiety and depression. I never felt like I was good enough. I could not truly embrace who I really am. I was playing a role that was not a good fit for me, personally. It caused unnecessary strain and stress in my life and in my marriage. I was restless, discontent, resented going to church, didn't enjoy my time there, felt alienated from other people in the church and like I did not "fit". These feelings crept in slowly, over time and I didn't realize exactly how bad I felt about my life, the church, and the control that it had over me. I was blind to the problems.
ILLNESS: It's amazing how you don't realize how terrible you feel until you feel good again. I never saw someone except my MD- never even mentioned that I'd been depressed. I never went through the classic "grieving cycle" that I was warned newly diagnosed diabetics go through. I never dwelled on "why me?" I just took steps to get it under control. And it does appear to be under control. It helps that I have a very supportive spouse who has made healthier alterations to his diet right along with me and encourages me to take care of myself.
I feel so much better and it's only been 3 weeks since I was diagnosed. I no longer feel depressed, restless, discontent, exhausted, or have chronic headaches(caused by blood sugar fluctuations). I have energy again. I can keep up with my kids and play with them, I can keep on top of the housework, I can garden, I can live again. I am happy to be where I am. I'm falling in love with my children all over again and my role as a SAHM. Things are so much better. I'm me again and it's good to be me.
CHURCH: It's amazing how you don't realize how terrible you feel until you feel good again. It's amazing how you don't realize that you've been controlled and trapped in a prison until you break loose and can enjoy the sweet smell of freedom. I took steps to take back my life, make it my own: not allow anyone to control me. It helped that I had a supportive spouse who reveled in my awakening and took me by the hand, leading me to embrace life and enjoy the things that I had been missing.
I can enjoy a cup of coffee, some good Green Tea, a glass of chardonnay, an intelligent conversation with no censorship of topics or mental gymnastics, good sex without inhibition, sleeping in on Sundays, enjoying family time ALL weekend, and so much more. I am free to embrace the person that I truly am. I no longer feel I have to play the role that is expected of me. It's been an awakening! I am finding out who I really am and it's good to be me.
| I am so angry this morning. I bring this on myself. I have been working on a series of essays for 1 1/2 years and I do a lot of research on LDS.org.
I seethe, fume, snarl, and want to get into my car occasionally and head to downtown (at the U of U) and demand that these men be accountable for the garbage they utter.
Sometimes - coming here does not help at all. I read about fanatic spouses, families, friends, missionaries, leaders, and I just want to smack someone upside the head.
I turn 50 in October. I left the church when I was 31. My father came over on Sunday and lectured me once again about "church" stuff.
I don't like to be mean or rude to him and feel like I have been at times. In the end - I don't want to feel justified that I behaved badly because he ignores my boundaries - but to realize that I responded with respect and kindness - but I have to admit I was stern. "Dad, I am 50! I will make my own decisions and I will not answer to you for those decisions." (said firmly - not with anger)
As he left I felt discouraged. I don't want him in my life or the life of my children. Once my sister (active TBM) told him, "please don't push TOL out of our family." He has pushed my children out. They avoid him, will not answer the phone if he calls, will not answer the door if he comes over, and will not visit him.
I then called my daughter (TBM - RM) and asked her if there is anything I need to be aware of so that we can continue (I think we have a great relationship) to love and respect each other. WHAT A SET-UP for me!
She would prefer I not swear. I don't, she pointed out, swear around my sisters or father - why won't I extend that courtesy to her. I told her that I love that she is more open and accepting than they are, that I revel in the fact that I can be myself with her. But since I asked for feedback - I would consider it. Conversation to be continued.
I want to send her examples of how the church changes, doctors, amends, perverts, and obscures history to make Mormon leaders look like good, righteous, and inspired people.
I want to send her reports that refute all the information they dish out without any reference to studies, data, documents, research, and expertise.
I want her to not ever be 31 and wonder "what on earth have I done?"
She won't. Mainly - I think (brag) because she has me and I have a good relationship with her. She is a very thoughtful young woman - who makes good educational, financial (other than tithing), and relationship decisions.
Still - the Morg takes it toll. She questions the validity of anything that is not "Mormon" approved. She does not even realize how mediocre the music, talks, lessons, and activities of the church are or how completely devoid of any inspiration or insight.
And you know what brought this on - this stupid quote:
"In this day of juvenile delinquency, we are greatly heartened by the fact that of the 256,000 teen-age boys in our Church, 70 percent are actively associated with the Church, and of the 238,000 girls of comparable age, 73 percent are actively associated with the Church. Think of this. Can you match this anywhere? Think of it. A half million teen-age boys and girls devoted to a church which prohibits liquor, tobacco, and premarital sex. Try, if you can, to duplicate that anywhere."
Even I can figure out that 70% of 1/2 million is not 1/2 million. They constantly lie, misstate, misrepresent, and misconstrue.
Oh - well I must work - but I am so angry
| No, except for the quote in the subject line, I didn't plagiarize Jim Morrison. I wrote this song about some of the feelings I experienced after rejecting Mormonism and religion altogether. I'm proud of myself for this one, because the chorus has an irregular rhyme scheme. Usually, I do either a basic stanza, or a couplet, but this is completely original. It flows well musically, but I hope the message isn't lost in the lyrics. Here goes... |
Faith- Another word for fear
It's a strange coincidence that I finished this song last night and just now in the cafe at the college I ran into another kooky jesus freak in a power chair. Am I attracted to these people? I happened to be drawing a picture for an art class I'm taking and she approached me asking what it was I was doing. I showed her, and also a few sketches I already had in my book. One was of Joseph Smith smoking a joint, titled "Joseph Smith's First Trip". Another was a picture of a man wearing garments floating around in limbo with other wacky simples of Mormonism and Masonry. She was glad to see that I was exmo, but had to argue with me about why I'm not Christian. I should have told her that after I left Mormonism, I had a personal bullshit meter installed in my brain, and that I had to apologize for it going off on red alert. This time, however, I had mercy. This young lady has a hard life. She has CP and her Mom died three years ago. I know this because she told me her whole Goddam life story. Her faith is probably the only thing that has kept her alive, and I wasn't about the take that from her. It doesn't really matter to me what others believe, and at the very least she convinced me that her faith is what has brought her a happy life. I just wish she wouldn't harass me about my own beliefs. Especially since she approached ME in the first place.
Afraid to face the truth
that we don't know quite why we're here
Doubt- A blessing in disguise
Protects us from the faithful ones
that attack us by surprise
Their nonsense talk I've heard before
They'll let any answer be
For there is no time to analyze
all that they hear and see
Look at me, who am I
but a twinkle in the sky?
just a simple speck of dust
And should the search for God
which troubles you so much
come up dry...
Do not be discouraged
There is much still here in store
Life is just as beautiful as it ever was before
Hope- a message from a dream
but the world you see around you
is only what it seems
Love- a pleasant thought I'd say
but those who say they love the most
have delt me the most pain
On and on, I hear them preach
of glory great, unfurled.
How could a God with perfect love
create this awful world?
Look at me, who am I
But a twinkle in the sky
just a simple speck of dust
and should the search for God
which troubles you so much
come up dry...
Do not be discouraged
there is much still here in store
Life is just as beautiful as it ever was before
| I was reflecting today on the things that I was not able to enjoy as a Mormon and I realized that there were so many things that permeated my every day life. There were so many daily activities and choices that were dictated by the church. Now that we have true freedom to choice of our lives, we also have to live with the repercussions of our decisions.
One of the biggest joys of being an ExMo has got to be wearing underwear of our own choosing in any style and color we want, or heaven forbid, not wearing any.
This choice of underwear can often be overwhelming. You can tell who is a new Exmo by the confusion and overwhelmed look on their face as they search through racks of underwear. They will often duck out of sight and act as if they are not looking at sinful underwear if a TBM that they know happens to walk by.
There are so many choices. What do you choose? When you are used to uncomfortable garments, you may go on a quest to find "the one true underwear", the ones that will fit like a second skin, the ones that will offer everything that garments did not; such as comfort, sexual appeal, and flattery. This quest can be quite costly as you try out different kinds of underwear. I have an entire drawer filled with every kind of panty, thong, boy-leg, and other style that I think has ever been invented, but still have yet to find my "one true underwear" and it's been two years. I honestly don't think anyone else in the world is as proud of their choices and selection of underwear as ExMormons are. Believe me, your non-exmo friends do not want you to show off all your different kinds of underwear to them. They don't understand.
We were instructed as Mormons that the sacred garments were also to be slept in. That made for very limited choices in pajamas and lingerie. Why not ditch the pajamas along with the garments? There is nothing more comfortable or liberating as sleeping in the nude. But beware, if sleeping with a spouse or partner, this sleeping arrangement may cause you be awakened in the middle of the night and lose a bit of sleep, so going to bed earlier might be a good idea ;)
Now that we are free from the regulation underwear, we have a whole world of clothing options as well. Sleeveless shirts and dresses, shorter shorts and skirts, low-cut tops, so much to choose from. We can wear whatever we want, whatever we're comfortable in. But a warning to the women: when wearing low-cut tops, beware the snack of crackers that crumble when in public. Fishing cracker bits out of ones bra can not be done discreetly.
| I sometimes find myself coming back to this site -- then breaking away again (but not back to the morg). Usually something Mormon "happens" and I swing by and check up on my sanity.
I came back a couple of weeks ago because of another incident and this time could not leave off. Someone on the site recently posted a question as to whether or not we "forget" and "get past" our Mormon upbringing as time goes on.
I am a fifth generation Mormon on my father's side and my mother was a convert. I left the church 25 years ago, about 18 months after my mission (feeling old with that statement).
Can we "forget"? *Not* being able to forget is what brings me back, as it always does. I have in the past broken contact with exmormon.org ... to avoid being a reaction -- to avoid living as a sort of inverted Mormon. I crave a life where Joseph Smith is not even a question anymore.
I couldn't possibly get further away. Could I? I live in Sendai, Japan. And in fact I have lived abroad for a total of 18 years (not all in Japan). It was only at about year five that I realized that I "enjoy" living abroad in large part for the insulation from conflicts which are "beneath me" or just plain futile -- like watching faces blanch when I don't follow my outsider role, like talking about what I know in a matter of fact way within a feel-good Mormon context. Or, when someone asks an innocent question, and where any sign of integrity damages the relationship -- a sort of hostage situation, where an honest word kills a relationship, ironically, within the doctrine of "love". What to us is cognitive dissonance is to them, "Why are you hurting me; aren't we supposed to love each other?"
There was an instructive exmormon story I read a while back where a rider beats his horse because it will not go through a gate, only to learn later that the horse could not see well enough to distinguish the gate from the rest of the fence and so was more afraid of going forward than of getting the whip. It would be a point of integrity *not* to push the horse further, i.e., not to shock those incapable of enduring or taking responsibility for the facts. I have really wrestled with this issue, Family? Integrity? Cruelty? I try to put family first (perhaps further evidence of my inheritance). I feel it is unnatural either way, though, to stay silent while being invited to a Mormon ceremony or to be blunt about my true feelings to someone whose relationship I value. It frustrates me when Mormon culture pits integrity against family, and it happens a lot.
In my earlier years of "dissatisfaction" -- to say the least -- I was angry and was tearing away from the morg toward a more self-reliant life-style. In the process, I punched hard. I debunked. When speaking up, I was asked why I didn't just go my own way? Why didn't I just leave the church alone?
Well after 25 years the answer is: because the church will not let me. Because in every attempt I made at returning to my old friends and family, I suddenly became a church project again -- i.e., the home teachers would knock on the door, I would be invited by a family member to attend a blessing or baptism, and there are a few other cases that are too sensitive to mention -- but all amount to the family relationship being held hostage, where their innocence is injured by my desire for honest expression. Integrity can be cruel and it should be used wisely, with caution and only where it will make a difference ... but this is often more frustrating to uphold that formulate. The more open, non-combative, and neutral I tried to be, the greater the invitation, it must seem to them, to bring me back.
So here I am in the middle of Japan, often running across Mormons while walking downtown -- for the most part avoiding any discussion longer than "howdy" -- since I'm walking about five miles an hour, looking very busy -- and this avoidance was something both requested of me by active mormons and something I request of myself, as a matter of personal dignity.
What happened. About a month ago I decided to get away from the city -- spontaneously. I never do this sort of thing. I guess I had been feeling some sort of unidentified discontent to begin with, and must confess that from the outset. Anyway, it was my day off and I had no plan but jumped on a train and went to a small town some of my students had mentioned -- Tagajo. When I used this town in some class discussions, it got a laugh. It is like cow-town, USA -- fishing actually -- and so talking about a "vacation to Tagajo" was reliable fun. Good comic effect. Middle-of-nowhere. I got out of the train and saw that it had a beautiful river flowing just outside the station. The sun was setting. The evening was warm, and pleasant. As I approached the river, I saw on the other side of the street (the river ran alongside a street) the unmistakable white shirt, tie, bike, and helmet. Next, I caught the black name tags on the shirt pocket. (Don't we all 'home in' on that pocket for confirmation?) I paused and turnedleft, as if that were the direction I meant to travel all along -- even though the other direction looked less populated and had a more natural setting, which was what I was really after. My back was to them and I was walking along a sidewalk, parallel to the river. Cursing under my breath ... I'm here on the other side of the world, for a country walk along a river, with this beautiful sunset, in Tagajo, Japan! Even many Japanese don't know where this is! I can hear them riding up behind, and hear them begin to brake. My heart sinks. I'm really tired of this conflict. Funny that Mormons had requested *me* to leave *them* alone! But I'm really just too tired of this cycle of futility to appreciate the irony.
When I think of my worst fears in this situation, it is not a scowling, self-righteous elder or a pig-headed one -- not the confident salesman with those spit-polished shoes ... I wish. That would have been easy, perhaps gratifying, and maybe even "worth it." No, this was a worst case scenario, bambi in a white shirt looking as innocent as a boy raised all his life in Utah -- which I'm willing to bet he was. I further resolved myself not to push any issues, not to ask any questions, but not avoid answering his questions. He spoke in English, asking me where I was from, my answer was to point to my shirt -- written in three inch high letters across my shirt -- FRESNO -- I didn't try to do this with a blank stare but really just didn't know what to do with the obvious. (and OK, OK, from Fresno to Tagajo -- or, "journey around the world from nowhere to nowhere"). His companion was Japanese and I could tell right away that he wasn't catching our conversation, which was a good thing I felt. He started off with theopener that I had become so familiar with as a missionary myself -- Had I heard anything about the church? I had read quite a bit about the church, I told him. Although I was determined not to offer information, not to "trespass" over his presumptions (that's how injured presumptions always feel), I listed off the standard works in spite of myself. He was a bit surprised. He probed further and we descend very quickly after two questions to a final question, "So do you think that Joseph Smith just wrote the Book the Mormon?" It was almost a reflex, but I informed him that on the title page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon he could find that Joseph Smith listed himself as the author and that only in subsequent editions was Joseph listed as translator, and so by Smith's own words he was the author. Funny thing is that I didn't answer his question, Joseph Smith did. But
I still felt cruel. It wasn't a slam-dunk finish to the discussion by any means. If he had wanted to he could have come back with something, but I could tell he was hurt and starting to sink under his responsibility. I was a missionary once myself. I know the feeling, and the duty. With that he stood up on his pedal, and as polite as ever -- (this self-control in most genuine Mormons is one point I really love about Mormon culture) -- said good bye, having been instructed as we all were to leave the "spirit of contention" behind. I looked at his Japanese companion -- he was still in that blissful state of having met yet another potential convert, not having understood a word -- one bambi loses his mother, the other saved by what he hasn't learned yet and may never learn.
What really bothers me is that this appeared to be a very well-intentioned, well-behaved young man (I cannot know for certain with this brief contact). I think his parents would and should be proud. And like the rest of us at his age, he is only following the "right way" in the best way he can with the limited information given to him. We both ended feeling quite miserable with ourselves, like I'd just killed bambi's mother.
What's really bothering me. I've spent a lot of time as an amateur enthusiast of animal behavior, contemplating dominance behavior and I feel a lot of what is claimed to be done for the sake of Truth and Light is really only just a platform to look down on others -- i.e., self-righteous -- and a lot of the time it is just revenge for having been looked down upon. I've been trying to avoid "debunking" for that reason, but then Mormonism is just something that just keeps falling out of the sky and onto you in the middle of Tagajo, Japan and you have to keep throwing it off.
At least, in this case, I didn't whip the horse. The horse walked on its own accord into an electric fence it could not see. But I still feel a little sorry about that. I could have pretended to be an idiot and let him bless me with the word of God then he might have left as self-satisfied as an Elder having just blessed a comatose member in a hospital. (An experience I had -- and no, I wasn't the comatose one.)
I am only now beginning to understand how much putting myself in a position not to be affected by Mormon culture has affected me. Here I am 18 years an expatriate and I really have no desire whatsoever to put myself in closer contact with a conflict that is so far beneath me that I just don't feel its worth the time even to resist, and then find myself on the other side of the world stepping in another Mormon cow pie. I live abroad in large part to live independently of Mormon culture .... and it is not working. If it had been Soka Gakkai (nearest Japanese equivalent to Morg, aka, SGI), I would have shrugged it off and enjoyed the rest of my walk -- since I haven't inherited the behavioral apparatus to respond to it. But Mormon contact triggers too much from inside me, more than I can shake off. Maybe BECAUSE I avoid contact I become too sensitive too it ... like walking barefoot on the first day of summer. We were polite and cordial to each other, but I was left humming with tension for about three days, asif I had been a tuning fork struck against a brick wall.
Sometimes I swing by RFM to regain equilibrium, sometimes to lose it -- i.e., when the abnormal begins to settle down as if it were normal after all: I'd rather be honestly uncomfortable than comfortably deluded, when that becomes an exclusive choice. For an exmormon, comfortable only *feels* normal. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for pursuing spiritual contentment, but only as long as it is distinguishable from a contented cow in a pasture.
That is the "normal" thing about all of this, that once one unwinds one's inherited faith it is anything but normal and this uneasiness, not being the warm and fuzzy "holy ghost", too easily sends us back to the equation, "comfort equals normal." Of course, epiphany is exhilarating and resolving a contradiction relaxes tension but it had been an error on my part, during my journey out, to think that after I had fully debunked "Mormonism," that everything would be comfortable, happy, and sweet smelling. For me, ex-mormon life has been a series of experiments with an ongoing socio-behavioral problem and never a "repaired idea." To wake up in a nuthouse and feel normal ... *that* would be insane.
So, being that there is no escape, no real comfortable mental position, ever, I thought I might look into the Exmormon Foundation. I've received enough information to classify myself as an exmormon foundation investigator. Louis Wagner was very open and helpful. I have not been admitted, since I haven't learned the handshakes yet ... oh, and for the fact that I only recently sent in my check. I laughed when I saw that it was only $20! But I don't think I will contribute more until I learn more. Once burned ... I'm also a little worried that my expectations are too high, and they are high -- which I know is unfair -- but that's where I am right now, hoping to find some sort of ballast for this exmo high wire act.
| In March of 1978 I sat for the first time in my life in a two-seat, reciprocating engine helicopter and watched as the instructor pilot started the engine and gently lifted us into the air to a 3-foot hover.
I thought I was going to EXPLODE with excitement!
This was just another magical moment in my life that I was thanking god for and drinking it in like a sweet wine and getting drunk on the experience.
We headed northeast from Hanchi Army Airfield to a small staging field where I was going to get my first chance to fly the Hughes trainer. A string of thirty orange helicopters spread out in front and behind us all destined for staging fields to have my fellow newbies try their hands at chopper flying.
In those days, helicopter pilots wear SPH-4 helmets that kept the majority of the deafening noises down to an almost-deafening level, so my instructor pilot couldn't hear me laughing and having a good time. Maybe he'd seen enough of us newbies to know that we were all screaming and having a good time...or maybe he was just intent on getting us to the staging area. Today I'm convinced he was thinking, "Yuk it up, kid. In less than thirty minutes you're going to wish you'd never signed up for flight school."
I was what you'd call "an experienced pilot". Actually, that's what *I'd* call myself, you'd probably call me arrogant and dangerous...which is how the army treated all of us. When I was 18 I got my pilot license and could fly single-engine, land aircraft -- or "fixed-wing" aircraft. Helicopters were called "rotary-wing" aircraft by the "fixed-wing" pilots. We called them "fling-wing" aircraft -- because we thought we were cool. We *never* called them "choppers" because that wasn't dignified or professional (like "fling-wing" was, of course) and we were professionals -- thirty-minutes into the flight.
As we approached the airfield where I was going to train, my instructor pilot talked me through, and executed, a beautiful approach again to a three-foot hover and then gently guided the helicopter over to an imaginary corner of the field. The airfield was surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland planted mostly in soybeans.
The corner was "imaginary" because he would outline some boundaries (the edge of the runway, the big tree 300 feet to the north, etc.) and tell me, "Keep it within that area.
The area he was talking about was about the size of two football fields positioned side-by-side.
Then he looked over at me and said, "Put your hands on the controls," which I did, and then he said, "You have the controls," and he let go.
What happens next can only be described to people who've never flown a helicopter by giving them an example that they might be able to conceptualize.
Imagine that you have a 200 foot pole that is two inches in diameter and is balanced on the ground. Now imagine that for the first time in your life, you are standing on top of that pole on one foot and that there is a strong wind blowing.
That mental picture is scaring the HELL out of me right now...and it's nothing like flying a helicopter. In fact, there IS nothing like flying a helicopter so why am I wasting your time giving you examples of poles, etc.?
Anway, as soon as the instructor pilot took his hands off the controls, I began riding a bronco that was headed in whatever direction it wanted. I could not keep it within the two football fields or under 40 feet from the ground. When it DID look like we were heading for a crash, he would reach out his hand and put his index finger on the joystick (a.k.a cyclic) and the helicopter would immediately stop its crazy antics and come to a gentle, three foot hover.
I looked out at the other ten or so helicopters also flailing about their own imaginary football fields and the same thing was happening there. Just before the pilots inside were destined to die...the helicopters would suddenly act all normal and do what helicopters were supposed to do -- in the hands of *real* pilots.
Anway, the moral of this story is, don't fly helicopters.
Actually, at the time I was an active member of the church, had a wife, one kid and two more in the oven. My wife was living in a trailer in Deer Run Estates (trailer Estates, I guess) outside the Fort Rucker, AL. We were dirt poor. I was putting my life on the line (not for my country...for myself) and would have left her and three kids destitute if I had died.
She had 3/4 of a college education in Child Development and Family Relations from BYU and couldn't have supported herself with a degree in that. My insurance would have covered about a year of living expenses if I would have died.
Almost NO decisions were being made with planning and foresight that would have been good for my family. She had no intentions of working -- or getting prepared to work. We had our first child before we were married a year. Everything was built on faith.
I would not have taken those crazy risks if I hadn't been in the cult...not with four dependent lives, that's for sure.
| We've had several posts about people whose wards, kids, or neighbors participated in staged "handcart treks" to mimic the pioneer experience.
How many of you did (or saw others do) dumb things, because "the pioneers did it?"
Like, BUY a whole bunch of produce, and then can it, because THE PIONEERS CANNED FOOD---even though you could have bought cans of corn, etc., at the grocery store for much, much less...
Or, like a woman in my university ward: BUY a ton of lard and lye, to make homemade soap, because THE PIONEERS MADE SOAP--even though it didn't work as well as store-bought soap, it smelled funny--and, again, it cost WAY more than store-bought soap!
Anyone who ever wore a calico dress or jumper past the time in the 80s when 'prairie skirts' were popular...
I used to bake bread--but it really WAS better and cheaper than the store stuff. I had a terrific sourdough starter, and made some wonderful sourdough bread, every Saturday--but I did it, to a great extent, because it was "what the pioneers did."
The whole "fifty ways to eat cooked wheat" thing.
The whole "Families Raised on Sunshine" and "Families Raised on Rainbows" things. (Anyone else have those books? I got them as gifts...they were chock-full of things to do 'because the pioneers did them...')
| I Hope They Call Me On A Mission: Catchy Roy Roger's type ditty (Klonk a klonk a, klonk a klonka....). I can see Trigger and Roy slowly trotting down the prairie....Or maybe Clint Eastwood; "Make my day, call me on a mission....PUNK!"
"A Child's Prayer"...very beautiful song. I like it and probably always will, but I don't play it because again, I'm not so sure I even believe in God after being a Mormon, but pretty is pretty to me.
"There is Sunshine In My Soul Today"...liked it, festive and made me feel peppy for a closing hymn to go home and shake the lengthy Sunday off and simply rest or eat some dinner....but I don't know if we sang that for Fasting and Testimony...We should have for a second wind nearing starvation by the end of services.
"I Know That My Redeemer Lives"...now, I like that song but I THINK the tune and words came from NON MOs in the 1700s but not sure on that, however, not surprised.
I like some of Peter Breinholt's stuff. If music is enjoyable or pretty, I like it, a wide range of it. I didn't throw his music away. I don't normally like country music but I liked his "A Call I Hear" song...it's a really nice ditty...but it's kind of preachy about Missionary work, if that bothers one. I ignore that part because the tune is so enjoyable, to me at least. I haven't heard it for a while but again, I wouldn't mind if I heard it.
"O God, the Eternal Father"...somewhat dramatic, but the very beginning often woke people up. Can you hear the very beginning of that song on the organ in your brain???? The intro is almost like something that would work in Phantom of the Opera. I forget but was that a Sacriment hymn, one we sang trying to keep up our strength from starvation?
"Nearer, My God, to Thee"...You can also sing this one if you practice unsafe sex or drive too fast.
One that even the tired MEN would get into was "Leaning On The Everlasting Arm"...(I think that's what it was.) You'd hear alternate parts for the "brotheren" to sing while us "sisters" sang our parts.
**Remember that annoying person, USUALLY a 'sister', who would sing SO LOUD you couldn't even hear yourself two pews away from her? God forbid she's sitting Next to, behind or just in front of you...annoying...a Tabernacki wanna be or former one. OH, and Lard help us if she felt she was trained in opera.***
"Called to Serve"..oh, a VERY peppy song. I liked it but we didn't sing it all that often. It was one of the more fun ones with a catchy everything. Whenever I would hear it, in my mind I see two Elders on their bikes so proud to be peddling and spreading that gospel from "Called to Serve". I think that was a PR short film.
"Because I Have Been Given Much"...I always loved this song, I thought it was a good message that many in the church didn't really live by. I think this was meant for HQ people who had overly excessive EXPENSIVE catered meals that they could take back to their homes aftwards...heaven forbid they take it to near by church members with large families on assistance.
Many, if one still believes in God after what they've been put through, can still enjoy some of the LDS used songs because not all are specifically for LDS world. I also know that some people still have strong Christian views and want to after leaving the church or keep something they feel may still be good for their children to listen to.
Some I can't listen too because they are so full of it, too programming, LDS defined, or just impractical. Many Primary songs are just saaaaaaaaad because of the message it promotes from the get-go, like the way they make the little ones drag out FT meetings by bearing their testimonies even though the kids are not supposed to like they once used to, "I know this church is true, I love my mom and dad" (as the parent is telling them right there what to say so the kid can play with the mircophone, because that's all it is to a kid, playing with a microphone.)...if the kid was really lucky and wants to impress, the parent/s have trained the kid at home on what to say, practiced it over and over at home so they look really awesome on a Sunday....Brownie points and all for the parents.
Now, I don't know if I believe in God, but not sure (possibly Agnostic) however, if something makes me feel good and doesn't bring back bad memories or makes me think it's full of crap, I will listen to it. Some things are comforting, some are not. I just don't think one should feel they have to go cold turkey away from it all, especially if the whole family left. Take what you want from it and leave what you didn't appreciate. Now some may hate ALL of it, understandably.
| Every so often I have a tendency to see where I have been and where I am headed. All my friends tell me that I tend to over analyze everything. I am sure they’re right, but what can you do!?
I have been reviewing my emotional experience from Mormonism so far. It begins as a devout LDS man with a few questions and doubts put on the shelf. I believed it all. I had taught the First Vision so much that I had actually dreamt about it as I had the Garden of Gethsemane scene. For me, these desire-inspired dreams were heavenly manifestations. I believed I had actually witnessed these events as a spectator. Not too many years ago, after coming home from the temple, I really decided to work on my calling and election. I wanted the reassurance that my life had been accepted of the Savior.
I had two major issues in my life at that point. The first was that I was burned out at church. For several years I felt nothing at all there except the pressure of work and callings. In law school I had served as the Elder’s Quorum president, followed by YM President, Ward Mission Leader, High Priest Group Assistant, Temple worker, 2nd counselor in a bishopric, HP Group Leader and finally 1st counselor in a bishopric. I was 38 years old and exhausted, but I believed.
The second issue was more difficult. I loved my wife dearly but felt no real intimacy in the marriage. It seemed as though we were both going through the motions of being husband and wife without really being committed to each other.
As I analyzed the problem I began to see that the root of both issues was the church and its teachings. I had some specific issues which the bishop could not answer, except with a make more room on the shelf type of comments. I couldn’t do that anymore. So I researched and within a few days I had read it all, everything about the church and Smith.
I was at first stunned and in a way titillated about what I was reading. It seemed fascinating to me. There was a universe of information which was previously unknown to me. How could that be? I read everything. I tried for months to reconcile my new information with my old testimony. There had to be a way to make it all fit. Fascination quickly turned to fear that the new information wouldn’t fit into my old wine jar- the jar began to break apart.
I next viewed myself as a New Order Mormon who knew the truth about Smith but could stay in the Church and be of service to others. I would sacrifice my own sanity for the sake of my wife, children, parents and ward members. I became a very devout Christian. Christ would be my escape, my passage to happiness.
That didn’t work either. The sick feeling of deception would not leave. Night after night I prayed to understand and vomited after hours of celestial silence. If there was a god, he was not listening to me, or at least not answering me. Month after month of church assignments, talks, lessons, interviews and blessings left me feeling more and more angry. I love the people in my ward, they deserved better than I could give them. The bishop deserved a counselor who believed. Then came the moment I could no longer bear a testimony when it was my month. For a year I had structured my remarks to focus on families, people, service, not Smith and then not even Christ. Then came one Sunday at which I couldn’t do it. I missed church. Then all the rumors started.
Soon I was on the stand having to listen to a dear friend teach the congregation that Joseph Smith was prophet and we shouldn’t judge him by legal standards and burdens of proof. I felt that cold feeling of disappointment, despair, and as I left the church after sacrament meeting, the exciting feeling of freedom. I knew at that moment my membership was over. Although I attended one more time on Easter, I was through.
Those initial feelings of intrigue, fascination quickly ripened to disbelief, sadness confusion, which in turn developed into anger, despair, frustration, to be followed by relief, anticipation, anxiety and now, finally, peace.
I went from being an extremely devout Latter-day Saint, to a New Order Mormon (if there really is such a creature) to a Christian, and now probably atheist, although agnostic has a better texture to it. I have gone to believing Joseph Smith’s concept of Deity to now only believing in science.
But yet I am the same. I would like to say I am a better husband and father today, and a much better friend. I am an improved neighbor and citizen. I have taken great delight in meeting neighbors without having any agenda, except to make a new friend.
In retrospect I have concluded “Life is good!”
| A Chinese Shoe
In one of the Marischal Museum’s collections there is a shoe. Actually many shoes, but there is one in particular that is of interest:
The shoe contains a Chinese lady’s foot. The shoe is a real shoe, but the foot is a plaster of Paris model. Above the shoe is a silk bandage.
The exhibit contains the description:
Model of the foot of a Chinese female, in plaster of Paris, with silk bandage and shoe. Michie (1887) 'Models of the compressed feet of a Chinese Lady.' Reid (1912): 'Foot of Chinese female, left, distorted.'
It seems that for a certain episode in Chinese history, it was thought the Lady must have a tiny foot. A normal foot was considered vulgar, masculine, or unpleasant. The foot had to be tiny.
In order for the foot to be tiny, virtually from the moment when the girl was born [correction: from the age of 4 to 7 years. (Thanks, Starkitty)], her foot would be bandaged tightly to prevent normal growth. In time, the foot would become deformed, more like a stump than a foot. It was tiny, of course, and this meant it that the female was indeed a delicate and feminine lady.
“On the scale of sick things that have been done to women in the name of social custom--well, I guess clitoridectomy has to be at the top of the list. But foot binding is surely number two. (Those wasp-waisted Victorian corsets that distorted the rib cage are a good candidate for number three.) It was perpetuated by one of the world's great civilizations for a thousand years, during which time hundreds of millions of women were crippled for life, in most cases by their own mothers. The tiny feet that resulted were to Western eyes not beautiful but grotesque.”
So there I was, in the Marischal Museum, thinking about the foot binding, the shoe, the deformed feet, and the poor women who surely suffered extreme pain at the hands of their mothers, and perpetuated the suffering on their own daughters.
The Deformation Process – Explain It
If you ask me to explain in minute detail the deformation of a baby girl’s foot when subjected to the binding and compression process, I would find it difficult. I am not well versed in human biology, nor am I a specialist in the field of bone and tissue growth.
But, I don’t need to be an expert, do I? With limited knowledge in the required discipline, all I can say is that I know it is a cruel and damaging thing to put a girl through. Common sense tells me that there will be a lifetime of pain, suffering, and the crippled infant will never reach her full physical potential. She will never be able to run or to dance, and she will never enjoy all of the pleasures of a normal human female life.
Mormonism is like a Chinese Shoe
I think it would take somebody better equipped than I, to analyse, extract, document and catalogue the ways in which Mormonism damages the human soul.
There are probably members of the RfM who are trained professionals in relevant fields who could conduct and present the research in a well-documented and academic way. Perhaps this has been done. Maybe it has yet to be done.
But I do know that Mormonism, in all its glory, binds the human soul. It compresses and suppresses the natural physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual development of any boy or girl, and it can cause lifelong, severe damage.
Whatever God intended for his children is something that Mormonism keeps its victims from experiencing.
Why is it that:
1. The highest cause of death among young males in Utah is suicide?
2. Utah Women are the highest takers of Prozac and anti-depressants in the World?
3. Utah has the highest rate of bankruptcy in the USA?
4. You will never find a single member of the cult who believes they are going to attain the highest degree in the celestial kingdom. The gospel of Joseph Smith is one of complete and utter hopelessness.
Note: Incidentally, the three degrees of glory doctrine was lifted from the occultist / mystic and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg, by Joseph Smith).
In the early stages, I could not relate to the world “recovery” when emerging from the fog of Mormonism. I just figured that I had discovered the actual history and truth about Mormonism, and was delighted to be free. Over the last year or so, I have come to realise that the Mormon church is a cult, and that like all cults, it does indeed do significant damage to it members.
Mothers and fathers, who have been victims, go on to subject their own children to the same damaging processes that they have damaged by. The beautiful and natural instincts of the children are suppressed and repressed and moulded to fit the cult model. Most children give up the will to blossom and develop in the way that God would wish, and they conform. The life and free spirit of the child is snuffed out.
Gordon B. Hinckley once said that unemployment “is the crucifixion of the soul.”
He was wrong. Mormonism, itself, is the crucifixion of the soul. The individuality of a person is crucified by the cult. I wonder if there is ever a full recovery. Does anyone know?
Even as a devoted member of the church, I used to be a little bewildered by UK cult leaders who would seek to ape the Salt Lake City clones. I never understood it. I still don’t, other than I now see these people as damaged victims. Yes.
At college, I wrote a poem about a child. I had no idea then - absolutely no idea - that I was unconsciously writing about the effects of Mormonism upon myself.
I don’t have the poem anymore, but it went something like this:
An Innocent Child
An innocent child of tender years
Not yet programmed with a grown up’s fears
May approach whom he will
Spirit gentle and still
Examples and environment have won
With conditioning, the intimacy has gone
From this innocent soul
Now less complete, farther from whole
For years, after I wrote that, I wanted to write a third verse. One with a happy ending. But I never could. Maybe I need to try again.
Mormonism is like a Chinese Shoe.
| It was always drummed into us from being small at chuch that darkness =evil, darkness = devil, darkness = spooooooky. Darkness is the devil's domain - don't stray off the path of light.
But now, I like the dark! There is nothing scary about it. It helps you to sleep, and sleeping in the dark is even reputed to have anti-cancer benefits.
I used to hate rainbows because they reminded me of that 'I'll build you a rainbow' manipulative song, and that GA story that God will stop sending rainbows before the second coming. I like them now.
I used to hate looking at the moon in case it looked red. I like the moon too.
From being tiny I have been taught by church to be scared of so many beautiful natural things. I hid my own body in oversized clothes because to show any curves would be immodest or prideful. I was aware that god hated proud women and would punish them with baldness and sores etc. I feel upset writing this, because it's stirring up a lot of memories from my youth that I'd rather forget.
Now I can wear what I want, look at the moon without fear, appreciate rainbows and enjoy the dark. I feel free.
The phrase 'outer darkness' doesn't inspire fear anymore either. I feel more peaceful, and I haven't turned into an evil person since I stopped going to church.
| Do you now talk and sound like an adult with an adult voice now?
I like to say that when I left Mormonism, I found my "voice" which is a different connotation.
I am referring to a specific kind/type of "voice" that is distinctly Mormon female, particularly Utah Mormon female. Know what I mean? It is soft, sweet, has that "nice-nice" tone.
I mention this because one of the things that used to make my skin crawl is the number of adult women who talked
in that "voice"! Most of them used it to some degree.
You all know it: high pitched, slighter louder than a whisper, so syrupy sweet it drips that sounds like a scared little girl.
The men adopt the GA Drone Voice but the women have their own.
I never did have a mousy, quiet voice! Nope. As a convert, I came with a full bodied well developed voice from childhood!
But I found myself adopting a different "voice" for church talks,meetings etc. that was slightly softer, sweeter etc.
Not all women used that "voice" but many did, especially when teaching. They often sounded like they were talking down to five year olds when they were teaching adults in RS also.
Is this what that female "voice" is all about: tradition result of "position"--serving under the priesthood, (pun intended!)--the voice of a person conveying the attitude of; I will acquiesce quietly and lovingly and sweetly and never offend, rock the boat - in a passive aggressive manner when I need to" ... Is that it?
| It's been just over a year and a half since I became aware of the big LIE. Before I became aware of it, it was inconceivable to me that the church wasn't true. There wasn’t a place in my brain for this thought to even exist.
I had had too many spiritual experiences, too many things I had lived through for which there was no other explanation than that the church was true.
Still, things didn't fit; they just weren't right. The world didn't make sense. Something was wrong. I couldn't explain it, but something didn’t add up.
I loved reading about history, biology, physics. I wanted nothing more than to understand reality. Ironically, for some reason, I shied away from Mormon history. There was an underlying foreboding that I couldn't explain. I was afraid of what I might find. I felt a visceral fog that I feared if I ventured into, I might not return. I was pretty sure that God wouldn't give me the answers to the deep questions I had in this life. I saw numerous inconsistencies with the church and its doctrine. But whatever they may have been, I knew that the church was true.
How did I feel? I was trapped. I didn't know how to get out. I needed answers to my questions, but there weren't answers. There would never be any answers. I had to live without them. God wanted me to show faith. I loved God. I would show faith. I was a worthy, loyal, dependable follower of the truth. I would go where He wanted me to go, do what He wanted me to do, regardless of the cost.
There was not a shadow of a doubt that I would have willingly given my life for God’s church. If necessary, I would have killed for God’s true church. I loved God. I served him. My life was His to use as He saw fit.
But…, something wasn’t right. The pieces just didn’t quite fit.
My mind was warring against itself.
Sunday was the worst day of the week. I had to spend an entire day repeating ideas that I knew cold - that I had heard a million times and could recite flawlessly by memory. This was the way of truth. It was beautifully simple and simply beautiful (NAM). We didn’t need more or less. As weak human beings, we needed to hear the simple truths constantly. This was God’s way. I had read the BofM at least 20-30 times. I had memorized multiple chapters on my mission. At BYU, I had even memorized all of the chapter headings of the BofM. There was a certain comfort in making God’s word a part of myself – it brought me closer to God.
I was aware of many problems and logical inconsistencies. How could you not notice them? I wanted to understand why. But I was taught that to go any deeper was to look beyond the mark and was a sign of weakness, a lack of faith, the gateway to sin.
So many Sundays I lay in bed in a deep depression. Just waiting for the day to pass.
I was literally Neo.
Morpheus: Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Something happened to me. Something that shook me to the core of my being. It wasn’t religious, but something else. My world was shattered. I was knocked out of my rut. I finally decided to face my fear. I was terrified and afraid, but I had to do it. I did what I had wanted to do all of my life, but for some reason could never get over the hurdle. I opened up a few ‘anti-Mormon’ books and started looking for answers in forbidden places. The fear was real – I literally felt nauseous taking this huge step. But once started, as I had subconsciously known, my life would never be the same.
It took reading several books and incontrovertible evidence to break the walls that had been constructed in my mind. When they finally came crashing down, they came down all at once. Like the Teton dam, the flood washed away everything in its path (we had family that lost everything but their lives to this flood. I had seen the devastation first hand as a kid. It’s something I’ve never forgotten). A river of water washed through my mind, wiping out everything in its path.
Suddenly, without warning and in a manner that was complete, my mind had been cleansed of fables, nonsense, and irrational fears. Not that it was clean or organized. It was devastated. Wreckage, scrap heaps, and chaos reigned throughout the landscape of my psyche.
But, as for the church, it was gone. Uprooted and carried away with the topsoil. The beliefs, knowledge, and infrastructure that had been programmed into my mind since birth were erased. I was disoriented, abandoned, alone. I didn't know where I was or where I was going to go. The beautiful tapestry of hope - my future life as a God with all those I loved, my belief that I would someday create worlds without end, my confidence that I was an eternal being - these lovely wonderful imaginations were suddenly dashed, never to be reassembled - a shattered vase of delusions - replaced by? Humpty Dumpty had fallen. What a mess.
What was left?
I was free.
I cried. I laughed. I was in shock. There are no words to describe the epiphany.
But above all, I was free.
It's been a couple of years, but for the first time in my life..., I've tasted what it's like to be ... ME. I didn't fall apart into an amoral, loathsome state. I've taken the good and rejected the bad. The irrational nightmares of my childhood have ended.
I've finally, for the first time, had a chance to find my authentic self.
| Shakespeare penned these words for Julius Caesar -
"Cowards die many times before their deaths."
I was the first in my family to doubt the veracity of the One True Church. Make no mistake - I didn't want to doubt. I desperately wanted to believe. Learning that everything I ever believed to be true was in fact, a lie, grieved me beyond words. Allowing myself to realize that Joseph Smith was a desperate man, who started a religion based on lies and who continued to lie until his last breath, brought my world crashing down around me.
There was, I thought, no way I could share my doubt with my family. I suffered silently, painfully, alone. My husband would leave me if he knew the extent of my unbelief. My mother wouldn't love me anymore. I would ruin my children's lives. So I was a coward. For weeks and months I kept my mouth shut as my children read aloud from the Book of Mormon before bed. And I died a little. My mouth remained shut as my children sat through Primary and sang "Follow the Prophet". And I died a little. My mouth remained shut as I knelt alongside my husband while he gave thanks to God for The One True Church. And I died a little.
Cowards die many times before their deaths. There came a point when I couldn't remain a coward any longer. My cowardice was not only killing me, it was killing my children. The "Church" is a fraud. It is based on lies and ran by liars who's lives are dedicated to keeping the fraudulent cult of Mormonism alive at all costs. In the end, Mormonism doesn't care about it's members at all. It doesn't exist to serve - it exists to be served. And the institution doesn't care what sacrifices are made in it's service. Members are literally expected to give their very lives for the cause.
How could I keep my mouth shut any longer and allow my daughters to be taught that they're only good for cooking, cleaning and having babies and their eternity would be spent populating their polygamous husband's planetary domain? How could I continue to allow my husband to wear himself out working and serving the church every spare moment of his life? I couldn't. Being a coward was no longer an option.
I revealed my disbelief to my husband. He ordered me not to tell my children, but I couldn't be obedient to him. I had an obligation to something greater - the truth. And my girls. So I told the the two old enough to understand what I had discovered about the church that I had so carefully trained them to love and obey and serve. It was all completely instinctual, in a way. Nothing mattered as much as saving my babies - not even my marriage. Not my financial security - not even my girl's own feelings. None of those things was as important as saving them from the grasp of Joseph Smith's cult.
For me, things worked out as well as could be expected, but not before months of hell. My marriage nearly dissolved. My oldest daughter went though a year of tears and pain and questioning. Her parents didn't know everything after all, and that left her feeling uncertain. Many of my extended family members still distrust me. But none of that matters. My children are free. I'm free. My husband is free. Ultimately, my mother left the cult, also.
My family is still working through the difficulties created by leaving a cult. But I would never want to go back. I'm thankful every minute that I discovered the truth about the "True Church" and that my girls will have the opportunity to reach their full potential away from the patriarchal confines of Mormonism.
Those of us who know the truth have an obligation to at least attempt to free our families. Remaining silent to appease a spouse, or parents or children just isn't an option. We don't have the luxury of being cowards. There's too much at stake - and it's too painful to die over and over and over again.
| While planning my time this morning, I mulled over the fact that I have a pretty large workload and an approaching deadline that I can’t miss. A lot is riding on the next 48 hours, actually. After a while, a brief wave a panic overcame me and I found myself with a strange longing I haven’t felt in a long time. I felt like praying. WTF??
Since leaving the church and rebuilding my beliefs on what I consider to be a more solid epistemology, I’ve given up on the concept of prayer and supplication. Instead, I prefer to look at my problems and trials as my own to deal with, and I tend to view myself as the master of my destiny. This has generally removed any longings I feel for prayer.
So I began wondering this morning, amid this brief spell of panic, why did I feel a longing for prayer? In my TBM days, I would say that this was a sign that mankind has an inherent desire for communion with God, or something like that. But after careful analysis, I realized that I just wanted someone to take away my burden and make everything better. I then wondered if one of the attractions of prayer was escapism or dependency.
If prayer’s main function is to serve as a temporary “safe harbor” where you can check-in your burdens and pretend that they belong to someone else, I can easily see its therapeutic value. Whether there’s really a god on the other end of the prayer probably doesn’t matter much, because the one doing the praying still goes through the process of laying their mental burden on someone else, and any real alleviation would only reinforce this behavior.
Dependency as a definition for prayer makes sense to me, and it also serves to explain the “over dependency” we’ve all seen in some religionists, like those who try to invoke the Spirit to help them decide which groceries to buy, those who would rather pray than take antibiotics, or those who base the most important decisions of their lives (like college, marriage, a career, friendships, where to raise a family) on their subjective emotional states during prayer. Why endure the stress of such decisions when you can let someone else decide for you? If it turns out that the choice was bad, you don’t have to assume full responsibility because it’s either what God wanted or you (understandably) got your wires crossed along the way (but at least you tried). And if the choice turns out to be good, you can take all the credit you want.
Prayer also seems to embolden some people with a sense of authority about their actions, thus removing any responsibility for any coherent justification in their beliefs or behavior. Once you've assured yourself that the decisions you made during prayer are what God intended, what need is there for further critical examination of your beliefs and choices? A release from reality and personal responsibility may not be the intention of prayer, but it certainly seems to be a result.
Believing that prayer amounts to a conversation with oneself, I view it as a brief meditative escape that some people use as a means of also escaping responsibility and reality. I’m happy to be out of that game. That said, I’ve got some work to do now.
| When Truth Matters More Than Being Right.
This statement best sums up my mind set when I decided to look behind the curtain of Mormonism and explore all aspects and issues of my former faith. I was tired of trying to convince myself that the other “issues” did not matter. I was tired of telling myself that apologist and priesthood leader solutions made more sense than the truth. In the end, being right was a very tiring way of life.
The attitude of always being right extended into all other facets and concerns of my life. Politics, art, culture, music, social issues and a myriad of other concerns passed through my narrow lens of rightness. After all, I was right about Mormonism, so my other insights and opinions must be right as well. My wife and family “knew” that when I was right, I WAS RIGHT! At times this aspect of my personality caused distance and pain with others, but what did that matter, I was right.
About two years ago, I recall teaching about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and feeling sick inside about the things I knew about him. I recall telling my class, “I don’t have a testimony about church history, but I do have a testimony of the church.” I was clinging to my faith at that time, trying to make myself right in spite of the information I knew. I simply could not allow myself to be wrong. Mormonism was true and acknowledging the opposite would spell disaster for my testimony but more important, my ego.
Then my little son was born. I looked at his sweet little face and I knew that these “issues” had to be settled. I wanted to know the truth, more than I wanted to be right. Funny how it took the fifth child to come along, before I decided to look at things with new eyes and with a renewed perspective and purpose.
TRUTH mattered more than being right. There was nothing that I desired more than truth. My ego, my relationships with family and friends, all became secondary to this desire.
Now I have the truth, but only a portion. I do not have to be right. I no longer have to sacrifice my mind and soul to the ceaseless battle of Mormon mental correction. I choose to learn, to grow, to be free to change my mind and correct my course, gathering new bits of truth along my way.
I was never really free to do so as a Mormon, I was always too occupied with being right.
| Looking back at my testimony-building attempts I can see how "thinking positive" and baiting myself with the "dangers of negative thoughts" worked against me. It never occurred to me that optimism could be a harness. Or that there would be times when courage and honesty would demand that I acknowledge a negative stage in my journey.
I couldn't stop traveling in circles until I admitted that I was lost. But admitting that I was lost was admitting that I had negative thoughts about the church, which meant that I had no testimony, which meant that I needed to think more positively about the church, which meant everything it seems except that I was traveling in circles.
Any moment of recognition was disheartening and not knowing where to go next, left me vulnerable to self-condemning thoughts: "having a negative attitude" or "becoming a pessimist". "I can't do this." I stepped back, shut the door, ... sometimes locking it. I threw away my first Joseph Smith biography without getting a quarter of the way through it. I was 19 and only a few weeks away from my mission. It was a crisis point and I did what I was trained to do with the negative spirit, even though it was the negative spirit of Joseph Smith's life, the man who saw and spoke to God. I traveled in "optimistic" circles for 4 more years. "I can do this."
In fear of a negative identity, I twisted the most obvious of conclusions, and baked up a few logic-pretzels, "I think I can find yet another way for it not to be as impossible as the evidence proves it to be. ... But then, if it weren't impossible, how else could it be faith?" And with this "optimism," the Mormon harness tightened ... the depression deepened ... the depression of my "optimism."
The struggle to remain optimistic while trying to build a Mormon testimony was nearly fatal for me, in part because the transition to authenticity is easily confused with being a "quitter". Depression and muddled thinking increased in proportion to my "strengthening testimony," and my refusal to "give up" increased the absurdity of my conclusions, which increased the suspicion that I was a phoney.
Here, I relish the opportunity to take apart a pretzel: No successful testimony can compensate for failure in the religion. This thought, as pessimistic as it is, is not as twisted as it is that the untwisting of the lie reveals all of the kinks in the illogic. It is a pessimistic moment, as is the discovery of all lies, but it is also the unseen and unfelt beginning of a happier outlook. I traveled in circles, for years, until I accepted the great negative. The "Everlasting No."
I have to ask myself, what is optimism? It should never be a belief than I am infallible. My religion even demands that I admit to my mistakes. But this moment between the statement, "I was wrong" and "this might be the next direction" is necessarily pessimistic. If I refuse to ask, "What next?" because it admits that presently I do not have a positive direction, my journey in life has stopped. I'm back on the guided tour, substituting personal discovery with a glossy brochure where everyone is smiling but the reader.
And when the mistake in question is my entire outlook for life, it is only natural that I would say to my former world, "That is all wrong." At this point why should I concern myself with this or that sign on the door. Even if the door says "You are a pessimist," if it is the way of a carefully applied honesty, I will take it. My experience has been that whether my decisions were correct or incorrect, just so long as I did not lie to myself in the process, I came back through the same door years later and noticed that the signs had changed: "An optimist passes through here." The education through the adventure taught me an optimist's answer to the pessimist's question, "What next?"
Many presumptions I had about how my post-mormon life would play out ended up being incorrect, and I had many bouts with pessimism that I now consider very positive times in my life. We say that hindsight is twenty-twenty. Why don't we also say then that optimistic foresight can be a little blurry at times? I look back and find that my "pessimistic admission" that Joseph Smith was a fraud, that my whole cosmic view was a sham, that my confidence in my community was misplaced, and that the loss of my "leaders" was actually a tremendously *positive* first move. And this is exactly what *honest* pessimism is, a first move toward a more optimistic course. The mind in good faith is a dial pointing out a half-dozen new possibilities, pivoting on a single "not this."
Part of the problem is that we imprison ourselves within the concepts handed to us -- like, "stay optimistic" -- and not that our reversals from concept to concept are as necessary to our progress as is letting the left foot fall behind as the right foot steps forward, ... and as if the right foot is not itself going to recede again as we "reverse" ourselves forward.
Where I am now, I find a value in pessimism and cynicism right up there alongside the value I place upon optimism and cheerfulness. And it doesn't bother me in the least if a fellow traveler rejects a concept or two from my pantheon of metaphors. It is all a part of the journey. I can learn by comparing notes with any honest traveler. Be an optimist. Be a pessimist. Be confused even. The important point is to let go of one concept and grab onto another when honest inquiry demands it. The mind will organize itself. We are built that way.
| How does one even begin to approach the abuse in Mormonism? There are so many options, so many paths to follow. If you are a missionary, you get more than the average soldier in boot camp, and if you are a woman, you are just a few steps ahead of the harem and the bhurka. Can you imagine Mormonism in its own environment, free of government restraint?
It was an abusive system to grow up in. I had Provo around me, so it was made worse. The local government and the church were in it together. BYU Security was deputized, and all of it came under the influence of "the brethren." Pity the Provo mayor who thought for himself.
The abuses that I recall most angrily are:
Women were taught their "divine role" in the scheme of things. Polygamy awaited them, being part of a harem awaited them. The world to come would bring back the wonders of the Mormon caliphate. Those lucky women were just short of the grave, and their eternal glory as "handmaidens" to God, their husbands, and anyone else with a church issued penis.
Kids were taught a huge variety of twisted doctrines, beliefs, and superstitions. Sunday School was not enough. There was Primary, MIA, and, of course, Seminary--the final court of appeals for all kids in need of guilt, depression, and altered thinking. Seminary was vital. After all, Cain stalked the earth as Bigfoot, people lived under the North Pole, blood atonement and animal sacrifice would return, blacks were inferior (though some were "good singers"), and "every young man should serve a mission." You needed to learn all of this. And you did--from the time you were big enough to crawl.
You waited for years to go to the temple. Such anticipation. You would get all the answers when you went! Finally, the day came. You went in, not knowing what to expect, and you got a lot more than you expected. I went in the throat slitting days. It frightened me. This was not love. This was a CULT. It reeked of CULT. It was weird, scary, and strange. I was not raised to fall into something like this. This was not religion, this was scary. Normal people do not put on clothes like that, and promise to die over handshakes and surprise covenants. A revelation occurred--Mormonism is frightening.
Then, I went on a mission. I quickly learned how abuse could be centralized and used to keep us in line. Every spare second had to be accounted for. Everyone had to get up in the testimony meetings. We went where we were told, and had companions assigned to us. We could not sit when we wanted, or sleep enough. If we were ill, we went out anyway, and if the illness was serious, the Mission President called, and demanded we get out of the hospital. It was one hell of a way to spend two years--the "best" two years of our lives!
When you returned, you went to BYU. It is "The Lord's University." While there, we learned more eye-opening things. Cleon Skousen and Reid Bankhead were on the religion faculty. We had a "Style of Our Own," and we followed the Honor Code, the Dress Code, and the whims of the administrators.
Music was regulated, concerts were regulated, art was regulated, reading was regulated, speech was regulated--but you could think whatever you wanted. Imagine that! They could not control your thoughts! Wow, we had all the advantages of any police state.
When you married, it was in the temple. Your less than worthy family members were excluded from the ceremony. They, after all, could not enter "The House of the Lord." The ceremony itself was ugly-- made uglier by the ludicrous clothes, and the idiotic atmosphere. Would you ever want your picture taken wearing those clothes?
But the ceremony ended, you were formally given your genitals, and commanded to have kids. Why kids? Because they could be put in the same system you had grown up in. They, too, could be abused into "happiness."
| Think of all the punishment you absorbed. It was pretty damned remarkable. Mormons really take it.
Fear--fear of the doctrine, of failing to reach Celestial glory, fear of the "last days," fear of the day of judgment, fear of confessing, fear of interviews, fear of social pressure, fear of the temple ceremony, and the downright scary things you promised and enacted.
Poverty--they took a hell of a lot of money. You gave a lot--far far more than most people in more mainstream religions give.
Suffering--if you went on a mission, you suffered. You went 12 hours a day, knocking on doors, being ridiculed, being belittled (by the other Mormons around you), being tired, being sick, being lonely, but unable to be alone. You went out in all kinds of weather. Basting heat, freezing cold. I recall when it was zero, winds blew down from Manchuria, and we went door to door. My God, how did I do it?
Enduring the dumbest doctrines on the planet--polygamy (how transparent and stupid can something be?), three degrees of glory, divine revelation (with no credible evidence it existed), people under the North Pole, racist idiocy, strict dietary rules, "blood atonement," various versions of the founding of the church, a seer stone in a hat, a poorly written novel which was supposed to contain truth, history, doctrine, and guidance. Think about it. You were asked to believe a hell of a lot.
Lost freedom--missions, BYU, BYU Honor Code, BYU Dress Code, BYU snitching, BYU censorship, BYU meetings, BYU wards, BYU social pressure, BYU "leaders," BYU priorities. But getting out did not change anything. You still had your time taken, your money taken, your freedom to choose taken, your freedom to think taken, your freedom to rest on the weekends taken, your joy taken.
Family stress--lots of family stress. Forced family activities, people gone all the time, restricted concepts of "fun," ward activities which were more like a prison camp. Fear of failing as a family, but having all your chances to succeed taken from you.
Enduring the added fluff and nonsense was hard. Think of it--Mormon movies, "My Turn on Earth," "The Forgotten Carols," "Saturday's Warrior,"
"The Work and the Glory," "Legacy," ward dinners, ward "parties," the works of Cleon Skousen, the pontifications of gasbags in the ward, and other "scriptorians." General Conference, Stake Conference, meetings, meetings, meetings. Meetings just to have meetings. Crying kids, lousy hymns, boring speakers, dull programs, and miserable Christmas "fun."
Yup, you put up with a lot. Not many would do it all. Not very many.
| Religions are not innocuous clubs that people attend and that is that. They are not even just places where people go to learn how to live. They are institutions that teach dogma, claim divine knowledge, exert influence outside of their walls, and there are many examples of religions becoming the source of hate filled actions.
I do not think that just because an organization is a religion that it should not be held to account for what it is teaching, saying, and instigating.
I think we should question and demand that religions become more accountable and less powerful. I think it is fine to point to the good that religions do and seek to build on that good. But good does not make evil OK. You can not purchase the right to do damage because you are also doing something worthy.
I think we sacrifice our own personal power on the alter of wishful thinking. We sell our birthright for promises of control and divine intervention. We are often like an out of control gambler, giving our last nickel for the hope that this time the magic will work; we will have protection from our enemies, food on our tables, and a glorious after life.
There are times when I think religion teaches the exact opposite of how one should live.
I think we should live for today. We should eat, drink, and be merry. We should love the natural man and woman, we should not seek forgiveness but forgive quickly and easily, we should honor our limitations, embrace imperfection, laugh loudly, speak evil of those who think they are the Lord's anointed and have some right to tell others how they should live, we should find ourselves by finding ourselves, we should only be meek when that is appropriate, we should question, we should not trust easily, we should not love the lord our god with all our heart, might, mind, and soul - we should love ourselves with that passion, we should spare the rod, we should not honor parents that don't deserve honor, we should covet all we want and then realize that we have it pretty great and go home and kiss our companions, tell our children and friends we love them, and accept our impending death.
If one looks one can find wisdom in religion. But there is also wisdom where ever one looks. It is not religion that holds the secret, it is the person.
Today, 17 years after leaving the church I am still fascinated by it. I read the talks and shake my head at the control the leaders continue to exert. I really believe that the internet and ready access to information is going to finally reveal the truth. I think that they are grasping harder than ever to stop members from thinking, looking, questioning, but the information is every where.
Michelle (TBM daughter) asked me a question about church history the other day. I said, “Honey, I don’t really know that much about it.” She said, “Mom, no one has more books about the church’s history than you. Every time I come over you have a new book.”
It is true. Though I have left the church, there is nothing that I find more interesting. Not only do I read the history as though I am reading a mystery novel, I study the culture to see if I can understand the relationship between Mormons and their religion.
After all this time talking, readying, studying I can say this about the religion of my youth and about the Mormon culture.
I don’t understand.
| I was not born crazy. I learned to be crazy.
I believed that songs talked to me, that my emotions were to override my common sense, that good decision making was not necessary, that answers were revealed by opening a book randomly and finding the message, that feelings were a spirit inside me talking to me, and that God almost capriciously gave out blessings to those he favored and I needed to earn that favor.
I believed with intense concentration through prayer I could solve almost anything, that through trying to please a deity that for all intents and purposes was not there or at least not interested was how I would earn power and control, that anecdotal information was far superior to actual studies that might contradict, that someone else other than me knew more about what I should do or say than me, that even when I was exhausted, depressed, and angry that I should never turn down a request from my church because God would then bless me, that my actions and thoughts were powerful enough to influence the mental and physical health of others, that if I could get a group of people to fast and pray for me that would bring divine intervention, that special underwear needed to be worn at all times for protection, that family prayer would protect my children, that a young man could look at the cover of Vogue and become a sex addict, that the devil plotted for me and my children, that fear was a sign that I was sinning or around evil, and that questioning could lead to destruction.
My craziness was a strong belief in magic reinforced by my fanatical, fantasy based religion.
I grew up with stories of faith, miracles, and a god so personally involved in one’s life that he directed people constantly and in the most mundane things.
I heard one faith promoting story after another. Many of those stories grew before my eyes. First I would hear how my niece had been bit by a spider and had thought someone was massaging her leg when no one was and then the story evolved into my grandmother coming from the other side and sitting and messaging her leg. My sister had Hodgkin’s and underwent radiation. She was within the statistical occurrences for survival and we were all grateful she was alive and well, but the story became one of divine intervention coupled with her patriarchical blessing that ( now it was apparent) clearly foretold this miracle.
People told stories of being prompted to go to a child and finding the child sick or hurt, feeling inspired to visit someone and finding out that person was just about to commit suicide, of quitting jobs, being led to jobs, finding a future husband or wife in a miraculous way, of struggling with a problem and then reading something, someone calling, or hearing a song that had the perfect message.
There were of course the healings. Some were healed of cancer, Parkinson, or other life threatening diseases. My father had an unexplainable healing from a lung disease clearly attributable to the fasting and prayer of our church. There were women who were told not to have more children, who did anyway being guided and led by the spirit. There were people who were visited by a dead relative, by someone yet to be born, from spirits unknown.
There were strong impressions that were recognized as the Holy Ghost, shivers that signified a spiritual manifestation, and coincidences that were clearly caused through God. The priesthood was powerful. There were men who raised their right arm to the square and commanded devils to depart, that blessed people with strength that they would not have had, the brought people back from the brink of death, that opened the doors to divine demonstrations of the presence of our heavenly father in our lives.
My parents and their friends had one personal story after another and one would have thought that there were constant and consistent interventions. But in fact, I am not aware of a single miracle. Not a real one.
Most of the stories under scrutiny were in fact coincidences and within the realm of possibility and probability. No one actually arose from their coffin, had an amputated leg restored, were cured of juvenile diabetes or had the scars from a burn disappear.
I listened to all the stories and soon became convinced that my world was full of magic, mystical events, unseen powers, and spiritual occurrences. Everything had meaning in my life and I made decisions based on coincidence and wishful thinking that turned into strong emotional responses. My sense of worthlessness compounded my craziness.
But I did not realize this and so I made a constant effort to tap into the power of the Holy Ghost and the Priesthood and made one crazy life decision after another as I lived according to this crazy thinking.
One day I went to the temple. It had been one year since I had gotten married and I was doing proxy work for someone who had died. This woman’s new name was the same as my new name that I had received exactly one year previously. I felt a shiver go down my back as the spirit testified that the church was true.
When Dan and I were trying to decide if we should do Amway, I went to the temple after fasting and praying. My new name that day was Ada and Amway’s corporate headquarters were in Ada, Michigan. Again I had chills and knew that the spirit was telling me that is what we should do.
God was miraculous and amazing and he would provide for us. We just had to trust. Other religions might believe that when god closes a door somewhere he opens a window, but we knew that just because a door appeared closed that if we felt inspired to stand outside that door that is what we would do. We were not going to look for another way. The Lord could test someone for years.
Even after I left the church I held onto my magical thinking. I thought that the radio talked to me. I really did. I remember being in a grocery store and feeling sad about my life. I had gotten a divorce and had dated a man I cared about but things were not working and I was not sure what to do. Just then a song I had never heard came on the radio. Amy Grant’s House of Love. The lyrics talk about a woman who thinks a relationship is over, but that she just needed to have faith he is coming back to her. Later that day this man called me and I knew that the song had been sent to me and that the message was that this was right.
My models for how to live and make decisions had been our leaders and the people I grew up with. I learned how to think through the faith promoting stories I was told, the advice I was given that came directly from prophets, and the supposed examples of the most chosen people. Since I had been told that Mormons had absolute truth and that this truth was to be trusted above all, even if it did not make sense, even if it seemed illogical, I did not question.
I made decisions based on feelings in order to solve problems when I could have easily thought it through and developed a coherent and lucid approach and process.
I made decisions that went against my health and well being because it was what the church told me and I thought that God would send a miracle.
Even when none of the promises and blessings came to fruition, I continued on the path because I believed I was being tested. I resisted change. I was unable to learn and improve because I knew that I was not to reason, but to trust.
I refused to listen to anyone not Mormon or any advice outside of the Mormon rules because I believed that these people were part of the devil’s evil plan to trick me into wrong decision and become his minion.
I believed I was chosen, one of the valiant and I expected the miracles, promptings, and magically interventions promised God’s chosen people.
I believed that our magical way of life was superior to the prosaic, logical, knowledge based way of the people of the world. They were denying the power of God in their lives. I was not.
The fact that my life did not work, that there were no real miracles, that the church consistently lied and misrepresented information, that I was unhappy, that the stories were full of hyperbole and distortion, and many of the leaders were arrogant and supercilious did nothing to make me realize I was living my life based on assumptions that were faulty and dodgy.
Until one day the discrepancies between reality and my religion created overwhelming dissonance in my life.
I realized that I was human, not chosen, and not above the rules or physical nature of this life. I buckled my seat belt, took aspirin when I had a headache, and accepted my humanness. If I took a wrong turn I did not immediately assume the God had just spared me from a deadly accident.
One day not too long ago I was talking to my father. He told me that his family had grown up poor and struggling. His grandparents had come from Europe and migrated to Utah to be with the Saints. The prophet had then sent them to Vernal where they eked out a living in the harsh climate. His father had lost everything in the depression and with eleven children and a small two bedroom home they had lived at a poverty level. His parents never owned a car. As he left Vernal he left behind the poverty and humiliation he experienced growing up. He vowed that he would get an education and get his career underway before he would marry or have children. He did not want to continue the path that his parents had created. He went to dental school, specialized in oral surgery, did not marry until 30 and was able to provide nicely for his large family of seven children.
I felt angry and betrayed by his story. In his constant teachings about doing what the church and the prophets told us to do, he had gone directly against that and made his decisions based on what made sense to him. He was to marry young, not put off a family, not delay for an education and a career and this had been his advice to all of us. Obedience, not common sense. Submission, not planning. Faith, not thinking.
All of my life I had heard the stories of following the commandments and the prophets, of sacrifice, of god finding someone’s keys, of spiritual guidance chosen over one’s personal desires or needs and of people being blessed for their obsequious compliance. I had never heard this story. I had never heard about the process of thinking things through and then making decisions that made good sense. I had only heard that I should strive to be guided by the spirit, that I should not question or think, and that I should do as told.
This was the thinking that I was promised would give me happiness and exaltation. It was craziness and it was what I had been taught from the day I was born. And so I had been crazy until one day I did not want to be anymore.
| On my mother's side, I come from a long line of Mormons. An ancestor on my direct, maternal line was once a guest in Brigham Young's home for a few weeks after arriving in Salt Lake City from England.
Despite my mother's strict Mormon upbringing and her ancestral credentials, however, she married outside the church. My father was not Mormon, but he supported his wife's decisions to participate in the church herself and to raise her children Mormon. I remember how he would attend services with us a few times every year on occasions such as Easter or Fathers Day or when one of his children was doing something on the program. When the local bishop asked my father to be the Cubmaster for the ward-sponsored Pack, he happily agreed. Of course, I also remember skipping church a time or two so that we could attend the annual Elks Lodge picnic with my father, or go skiing as a family. Our family had a nice balance to it, and we were happy.
Dad was the very definition of support and respect for his wife's decisions and her right to her own religious beliefs. At the same time, he did not share those beliefs, and I knew that. I can recall conversations I had with my father when I was very young in which I would ask him about things we had learned at church, and he would tell me which of those things he didn't believe.
My father died in a tragic accident when I was eight years old. For my mother, my siblings and me, life changed in a big way. For one thing, Mom became a lot more religious. I don't blame her. She suddenly found herself widowed with five young children, and the belief system in which she was raised provided all the answers she needed. We did the whole program. All four boys spent time in various quorum presidencies, all four became Eagle Scouts, all four graduated from seminary and three of the four served missions. In the meantime, my sister did all of the young women, uh, oh yeah, "programs."
What is so ironic in retrospect, is how much of this we were doing because of Dad. Well-meaning friends, relatives and church leaders told me so many times over the years how pleased my dad was that I was fulfilling my priesthood duties and how I needed to obey all of the commandments for my dad. Our family needed to get to the temple for Dad. Any time I transgressed, I was disappointing Dad. I needed to live worthily, so that our family could go to the temple and be sealed to Dad. My patriarchal blessing specifically mentioned how my father was influencing me from the other side.
Once, when I was about fifteen or sixteen, the Scoutmaster asked me to step into an empty classroom after church on a Sunday. This particular Scoutmaster had moved into the area a few years earlier and had never even known my father. He wanted to have a solemn, heart-to-heart talk with me about what I needed to do to finish my Eagle Scout requirements. He told me that he had been thinking about it so much lately that he realized that it was a spiritual prompting, and that he had concluded that my father was pushing him from "beyond the veil" to help me earn my Eagle Scout award. At this point in my life, I was a highly-impressionable, seminary-attending young Mormon. From my current perspective, I can see what an insidious mind-fuck this was, but I bought right into it at the time.
Ten years after Dad's death, just as my older brother was leaving for his mission, our family went to the temple to be sealed to my father. I was baptized and confirmed as proxy for my father, then my brother did his temple endowment. For twenty years after that, I looked back on this experience as one of the spiritual highlights of my life.
My paternal grandmother never was very good at hiding her disdain for Mormonism. When my dad married my mom, she expressed reservations, one of which was that his sons would someday want to go on missions. My grandmother never wanted me to go on one. When I was accepted into a prestigious university, my grandmother happily provided me with some financial assistance. I delayed my mission until after my sophomore year so that I could renew my "Grandmother Scholarship" for a second year. When I informed her that I was planning to go on a mission, she was disappointed and she told me as much. It was a lot more fun for her to tell her friends in Sun City about her grandson at a big-name school. She didn't like my decision, but she respected my right to make it.
Two days before I was to enter the Missionary Training Center, my grandmother died. My stake president came over later that day to set me apart for my mission. I didn't know what to do, because entering the MTC on schedule would mean missing my grandmother's funeral. Delaying, however, would set my mission back a month and would complicate my return to college two years later. Ultimately, I opted to go into the MTC as scheduled. As I talked about it with my stake president, I told him that one reason I felt bad was that my grandmother had never wanted me to go on the mission. He said, "Well, you can be sure she wants you to go on that mission now."
I don't think that one was even consistent with Mormon doctrine.
One of the key elements of my recovery has been redefining and reclaiming the legacies of people I've known in my life, especially my father. He was as good a man as I've ever known. He loved his wife and children. He provided for us physically, intellectually and emotionally. In my early childhood, we had everything we needed and we were happy. The suggestion that our home somehow lacked anything important or that my friends at church whose fathers were Mormon priesthood holders somehow had any kind of meaningful advantage over me is simply absurd. And, if the universe is governed by any kind of just or good forces, the suggestion that Dad departed this world lacking any kind of critical qualifications or credentials is downright insulting.
I do take comfort in knowing that Dad had a great sense of humor. If he is somehow aware of my temple baptism in his behalf, I think he would mostly be amused at the gesture.
| After Hinckley’s October Ensign message, the instruction to home teachers section says, “Testify of the blessings of becoming part of this great latter-day miracle.” Any lesson manual or Ensign article containing instructions to teachers inevitable contains admonitions to “Testify of…” As a missionary we were told to end each companion inventory by bearing testimony to our companion. Proper testimony of course contains the words “I know…” rather than believe or hope. The explanation the church gives for this admonition to testify is that testimony invokes confirmation by the spirit.
As a member, I never felt the power of testimony to convert. It always felt insincere and made me feel self-conscious. Now as an ex-Mormon, I’m embarrassed for those who testify. It tells me something about the testifier’s closed mind. Which gets me to the real reason that the Mormon Church is so testimony based. Bearing testimony produces two effects: it promotes conformity, and it shuts down discussion.
If someone testifies to what they believe or feel, a listener with doubts is left to think that she is the only one with doubts, or not happy in Mormonism, etc. Everyone else sees the emperor’s clothes, so I better not admit that I don’t. In a freer culture where doubts can be expressed, members may discover that they really don’t firmly believe many aspects of the church, or that the church doesn’t, in fact, make them feel happy.
It is impossible to have a discussion with someone who is testifying of his position. The world becomes black and white: what I know to be true, versus everything else (including whatever you may have to say). It implies that all evidence has been examined and all discussion concluded and we have arrived at the one and only best answer. I have a family member so accustomed to this mind set that when she becomes convinced of the utility of an alternative medicine, for example, it moves into the realm of testimony, and thus is beyond any disproof regardless of the evidence.
A church member is thus left with no forum to express doubts or bring forward alternative opinions. Maybe I’m the only one who thought the temple was horrifying. Maybe having babies right out of high school before getting an education is the best way. Maybe giving most of my free time and spare income to the church does make me happier. No discussion. Conform. I testify that I know these things are true
| After my mom died all my siblings gathered to go through her possessions. We each took things by which to remember her. I came home with two CTR rings. Choose the Right.
In 2001, my father's high school girlfriend, Elaine saw my mother’s obituary and contacted my dad. They decided to marry. They had not seen each other for 60 years.
All of my siblings and I took the time to make the trip to Southern Utah to attend the wedding. Well, that is not exactly accurate, all my father’s children attended except me. I got up early that morning just like everyone, I put on a nice dress just like my sisters, I drove to the temple with my family, I walked to the doors of the temple and then I stood by as they all went inside and left me alone and on the outside of the temple and their lives.
They were choosing the right and in the Mormon world that is being obedient. It sounds innocent and like a good thing. Mormons think of themselves as family oriented, conservative, good citizens and neighbors.
Choosing the right is choosing honesty, respecting the laws, fidelity in marriage and other lofty values. But what Mormons are constantly taught is that if asked to decide between any of those lofty values and obedience to the prophet, obedience is the first and most important law.
There is no justifiable reason to not obey. When the Prophet’s council is at odds with what the individual’s needs, situation, or feelings, that person is to pray and be healed.
The church’s closed-minded approach has been detrimental to many people and the church has had to back-off on some of their austere and uncompromising demands, in the light of scrutiny. That was not always the case, particularly when the church was a cloistered and tightly controlled society isolated within Utah with little outside impact, input or awareness. Once the church maintained its closed community through physical boundaries, church ownership of all property, intimidation, threats and fear. Today they attempt to create a virtual closed world through indoctrination, misrepresentation of information, intimidation, threats, and fear.
The church coerces obedience through the reward of celestial marriage and the punishment of exclusion. In fact, the list of requirements to have this blessing are long:
Belief in God and the Mormon Church, recognize the current prophet is the only authorized person to exercise all priesthood keys, obey all the General Authorities and local authorities of the Church, live a chase life, treat your family Christ like, not affiliate or have any sympathy for individuals or groups who oppose teachings or practices accepted by the church, attend church, accept callings and obey the rules, commandments, laws, and directions of the church and your leaders, be honest(this of course is a strange commandment, since the church expects dishonesty and punishes honesty. You are not to say you question, or that you do not want a calling, or to be honest about your feelings, dreams, weaknesses, or fears, not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee or smoke, pay alimony or child support if, serious sin to your priesthood authority, declare yourself worthy of the temple, wear your Mormon underwear and keep all your temple covenants (another long list):
law of obedience, law of chastity, law of sacrifice, avoid all lightmindedness, loud laughter, evil speaking of the Lord's anointed, the taking of the name of God in vain, and every other unholy and impure practice. consecrate yourselves, your time, talents and everything to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.
The price of this wonderful gift of eternal families in the here after is everything. The church demands it all.
The stick is exclusion. The consequence for not believing the church is shunning, excommunication, disfellowshipping, being ignored, losing your voice, having no say, and standing on the outside of the temple while your family goes in, literally and metaphorically.
As a young Mormon wife and mother I determined to accept god’s will as told to me by the prophet and hoped that my prayers would bring the promised strength.
I feared polygamy the most because it loomed in the very sealing that meant so much to me. Celestial Marriage is the law of polygamy. No matter what I wanted, felt, needed, or thought, I would be expected to choose the right or the church and God would take my family away from me. If I were a great Mormon I would diligently teach my children to sacrifice their own needs, feelings, thoughts, and desires on the alter of “choosing the right.” I wanted my family and I knew what was required.
Choosing the right became my unattainable obsession.
Because there was so much required that I feared and seemed unable to achieve, I started to bury and deny my feelings. I lost touch with my authentic self. I had no idea who or what I was. What came in the place of authenticity was narcissism. It was an ironic turn of events; self rejection becoming extreme self-centeredness.
The more I denied my feelings and desires the more self absorbed I became, unable to relate to another person’s feelings or desires. I became fanatical in my observation of my religion’s rules. I could take no one into consideration, especially not myself as I ran as fast as I could trying to achieve perfection. Exhausted, defeated, and sad, one day I quit running.
I knew that my family continued in the race for rightness. How could they extend to me the compassion and acceptance that they had to deny themselves? They had to obey or lose everything.
Even when Mormons could include others, the culture prevented such acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. Elaine was sealed to her first husband so she could not be sealed to my father and therefore their marriage did not have to be in the temple. Exclusion was not required, yet chosen.
My father could not see the impact of his decision against the church’s clichéd mantra of “an eternal perspective” and “choose the right.” The church demanded of my father everything, including family in order to gain the promise of family. The irony did not escape me.
In the Ensign, the church’s magazine, the question is asked: What father (non-Mormon or inactive) wouldn’t rather have his daughter eternally happy, than experience 60 seconds of pride as he escorts her down an aisle? This question reveals the Mormon Church.
There is no attempt to identify with the father, to empathize with his experience, or to understand his feelings. He is wrong, the church is right, his daughter is to be obedient, he is to be excluded.
If anyone stopped and thought about it, the answer would be any father would rather have that 60 seconds than the hurtful, accusing exclusion that the church commands children to offer parents who are not members or temple recommend holders.
In the end, Mormons are just people. People who can and should be able to choose but find themselves bound in mental constructs as though there were prison bars that held them and shackles and chains that constrained them. For all the talk about free agency there never was any choice in choosing the right and very little right about it. It was a prison that held my family within and kept me, the world and anything that challenged the authority of the church out.
And so on my father’s wedding day I stood on the outside of the temple and on the outside of my family. I submitted once again to the dictates of a religion that I no longer believed in or respected. There would be one last time I would submit, when my daughter went through the temple. I will never do that again. I have chosen me.
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