My name is Cora. I'm a woman, 43 years old and an ex-Mormon. I had my first bona fide, life altering, spiritual experience at 26. It came quietly during a Fast and Testimony Meeting and changed me in a single moment. I believe my epiphany was the result of all that came before it.
I was raised mainly in Phoenix as a strict Mormon with all the usual; Utah pioneer stock through my mother, no Coke, coffee, tea, liquor, or tobacco. Family prayers in the mornings and evenings, family home evening, endless meetings, service activities and church jobs and full-coverage modesty to prepare scrawny me for temple marriage.
As any active or ex-Mormon knows, there is unrelenting pressure in Mormonism to study more, pray more, repent more, forgive more, feel the Holy Ghost more, pay more and work more. When I got to wherever "more" was in my mind, it never felt like enough. There aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I was supposed to have done and alongside this pressure was a real fear that my many daily failures were surpassing any meaningful accomplishments.
Even Mormon children know this pressure. There was supposedly the "still small voice" of the Holy Ghost whispering to me since my baptism at age 8, trying to guide my path. I was wide open to the Spirit but I could never hear him or sense his presence for certain. I truly needed the guidance and thanks to the doctrinal lessons that began in earnest when I was 3 years old, I had absolute faith that if I was worthy enough I could walk on water as Jesus did, (many hours were spent falling in Maryvale Pool testing this particular faith). I had faith I could have a vision as Joseph Smith did or at the very least, would receive the protection and the comfort I needed. I knew the trick was getting enough faith and making myself worthy.
We may have appeared to be the classic Mormon family to non-members; clean, wholesome and obedient. But our secret (which I’ll readily admit has no relevance to the truthfulness of LDS doctrine) was that our mother was a sadistic and manic woman. Rather than protect us, our dad had always let her do whatever she wanted to us kids to spare himself. The ward members said nothing although we knew they were aware.
Among many other examples, my little brother would play "shirts and skins" basketball in the cultural hall after Mutual every Wednesday night. The black and blue welts across his back and chest were hard to miss. We attended many church functions bruised and wounded through the years. When I was 16, (my mother was 38th Ward’s Relief Society President then), my brother and I turned to Child Protective Services for help. They eventually arranged through LDS Church Social Services of Phoenix to move me in temporarily with our current bishop’s family and then permanently with a prior bishop's family. These were both kind families and I was taken care of until I was 18. My poor brother was left with my mother (I have deep regrets for this because it was due in part to my own failure to advocate more on his behalf).
My parents and brother moved to Salt Lake City soon after I moved out. When he was 14, she brutalized him for the last time. My brother snapped, retrieved a gun my dad had given him and, as she rested from the enthusiastic beating she‘d just given, he shot her in her forehead. Somehow, she survived with just a pitted scar and possibly a souvenir embedded in her brain.
My brother spent many years afterwards surviving various Utah institutions and halfway houses and a penitentiary. If you asked him to choose which was worse, his childhood home, the Utah State Hospital in Provo or federal prison, he’d be hard pressed to say.
Our childhood misery was complicated by the fact that, like a lot of Mormons, my mother claimed to have heard spiritual promptings from the Holy Ghost, been given signs from God and received answers to her prayers. While us kids, on the other hand, couldn't get Heavenly Father to hear our desperate pleas to be protected from her cruelty. Why would God favor her prayers and turn a deaf ear to ours? Her prayers to get to church on time were miraculously answered with a succession of green traffic lights. Our prayers for protection from her were answered with silence. This raised a lot of questions as I grew up.
What are you trying to say?
In my many, many church lessons I struggled to make the required leaps of logic in Book of Mormon, Church History and other doctrinal lessons. The answers to my questions about these points were typically obscure or they raised yet more questions.
With hindsight, I now understand the church’s resistance to probing questions. The teachers who know the answers also know such answers aren’t "faith promoting," and they pussyfoot around the questions. The teachers who don‘t know the other side of Mormonism rely on rote "lesson manual answers" which are deeply unsatisfying. There’s a lot of in-between here, full of partial knowledge, freewheeling speculation and a vast, beloved Mormon mythology.
Latter Day Saints have the correct intuition that there’s a category of doctrinal questions whose answers will open a spiritual Pandora’s Box. Once certain truths of the Church are set free in their world, nothing will be the same again. Such questions get persistently "shelved."
A typical example of this willingness to turn a blind eye to the gritty details of doctrine and history happened during seminary class one day when I was a sophomore. I remember it so well because of the event that followed.
I loved my seminary teacher and I showed up in class each day due to his dynamic teaching. Nevertheless, some of his church history lessons aggravated my struggle for a testimony. This particular lesson’s topic was the Mountain Meadows Massacre (but since I’ve learned the rest of the history, I am having a hard time thinking this was actually part of the approved curriculum).
I pestered my teacher to clear up some confusion about his lesson. I could sense that Brother C knew more about the topic than he was revealing so I asked increasingly more specific questions. Brother C wouldn’t give a whole answer.
A classmate suddenly turned on me and indignantly demanded, "Cora! Just what are you trying to SAY?" I was bewildered. I wasn’t trying to SAY anything. I just wanted a straight answer and I said so. I looked around at my seminary classmates for a defender. But it was clear from the looks on their faces that this girl spoke their thoughts too.
Didn't we all want to understand? The Church was true, of course, but how can this bit of doctrine or that event in history also be Divine? It was becoming apparent to me that maybe my confusion wasn’t due to my failure to grasp elusive concepts. Maybe Mormons just don't want to know. I understand now that questioning the words of the prophets and other doctrine is the same as challenging the validity of the church. In doing this, you reveal yourself as someone whose testimony is weak, someone who has allowed Satan into his or her life, someone whose eternal salvation is in peril.
Thus frustrated this day, I went back to the school library and looked up the word 'Mormon' in the encyclopedia at school. I read my first simple, non-religious account of Mormonism. I was shocked reading those plain words about Joseph Smith and his visions and gold plates. It was the first time I’d read them without the soft-focus of LDS lesson manuals and the Church‘s romantic spin on it’s own history.
As I recall, there was nothing about that entry that was biased or negative. Nonetheless, my temper flared; how dare these so-called historians not include all the other details that could have prevented this naked accounting of facts from appearing so bizarre. Every word I read was surely "anti-Mormon literature" and I was sinning by reading the encyclopedia!
I could never forget what I'd read but I continued to strive for a testimony. I obeyed every single gospel principal except chastity.
Interestingly, if I had stolen or lied, tasted coffee or tried a cigarette, I’d have been in an agony of conscience. The chastity lessons never "took" for obvious reasons: these were object lessons where, for example, the advisors would take a small wedding cake, "accidentally" drop it on the floor, scrape it back onto little plates and serve the dirty food to the youth. Of course no one would touch it.
It was explained that the spoiled cake represented how desirable a Daughter of Zion would be as a wife if she had sexual experience before marriage. I’ve heard of this same object lesson done with roses, chewing gum and stained wedding dresses.
Did this give Mormon boys an aversion to sexual activity? Did it create a desire in the girls to be chaste? More interestingly to me, what effect did such lessons have on youth who’d already had sexual experience? Any of us could see that nothing would make our portion of wedding cake palatable again. All the forgiveness in the world couldn’t unscramble such eggs. Sure, maybe God could grant his forgiveness and the sinner could forgive himself or herself for breaking the law of chastity. Your ward and your stake, on the other hand, don’t have anything to forgive and they rarely forget.
I was one of the students who’d had a little sexual experience. Fortunately, I rejected the message of those chastity lessons. I already had a mother who spit-screamed in my face how worthless and repulsive I was and I refused to accept that same message from my church leaders as well.
Born and bred to wed and breed
By the time I was 18 I was more than ready for marriage (or so I thought) and I wanted to go through the temple soon. I’d gone through the repentance process for impure thoughts and deeds but ended up feeling less worthy because I wasn’t sufficiently remorseful for my supposed "uncleanness." The little guilt I felt was nothing like the devastating descriptions I’d read in The Miracle of Forgiveness. I became, in my heart, a spiritual fraud for eventually accepting my temple recommend. On the other hand, I couldn’t refuse it without walking off the only path to eternal salvation. A genuine dilemma.
Even though, as young LDS girls and teens, we’d sat though countless hours of lessons that prepared us for marriage and motherhood by focusing on the relevant temple ordinances, the particulars of the endowment rites and marriage ceremony were never discussed, only alluded to. All questions were answered with some variation of, "We can’t discuss it. It’s too sacred."
So when I fell in love with the man who was to become my husband and went to the temple to marry him, I was completely in the dark about the rituals. Throughout my endowment I was anxious about my inability to feel the Spirit. I felt mostly embarrassed during the anointing (and have since puzzled over how my endowment was valid since it was performed by a non-ordained woman using the powers of the priesthood).
I remember the stress that bordered on panic while trying to make sense of the ritual while also memorizing it. Further, I was seriously frightened at the blood oaths. (I briefly wondered; who are the "Saints" that do the throat slitting and disemboweling? Or will I be required to do this to myself if I reveal the secrets? Is this even legal? Why haven’t we read about this in the papers)? But I was getting married! I stifled my skepticism and focused on the wedding ceremony.
Mormon Temple weddings are fast. In the Bride's Room, it was awkward getting ready because there was no privacy for dressing and I had to elbow for mirror-space against a few other (worthy) brides and their mothers. As I was dressing myself, a temple worker walked in and handed me paper square with a #12 written on it and pearly straight pin attached. What was I was supposed to do with my #12? Pin it to my wedding gown? My temple clothes? Surely not. I was too embarrassed to ask one of the other women because I was so conspicuously motherless. So I just shoved it up my sleeve.
My fiancé and I were shown into a small sealing room and our marriage ceremony was over and done with in about 20 minutes. Although I have to say here, I was so happy to be getting married, I was grinning from ear to ear as I knelt across the altar from my new husband. I had to restrain myself from laughing for joy! I was supposed to be the virtuous young temple bride basking in the Spirit of Christ. But I felt so giddy and jubilant! Again, what was wrong with me?! (These days I think "jubilance" is a very good thing to feel on your wedding day.) My only regret that day was that I was so old; two weeks from my twentieth birthday.
Married life was good. After wrestling with all the sexual "no's" throughout our courtship, it was great to finally flip the Master Switch to "Yes!" I got pregnant on or shortly after our honeymoon but lost the baby before I even knew for sure. A few months later I was pregnant again. From the moment I got a "positive" pregnancy test I was already a Mother in my mind and my eternal family was begun. (Even without the Church I would have aspired to marriage and motherhood. But being raised LDS certainly trained me to leap headlong into it all without much common sense. So much of my preceding life was spent preparing for ‘time and all eternity’ at the expense of preparing for autonomy and competency in the here and now).
We soon found out I was with twins. Sadly, at about the fourth month I miscarried them. I'd been in labor for over 24 hours when I finally lost the second baby. Much later, when I asked the nurse about them, she said their tiny bodies had been "disposed of." I was already grieving for the lost futures of a son and a daughter and this news was deeply troubling.
A few days later when I was out of the hospital, an in-law scolded me about this, implying that failing to bury them properly could have dire repercussions for our babies (and thus myself) in the resurrection. Somehow, I’d not kept some little known protocol in this miscarriage by not arranging church burials. (Between contractions, perhaps?) How was I going to repent of that?
Before the end of our first year I was pregnant for the third time and a beautiful daughter was born to us. A year later a second precious daughter was welcomed into our arms. Those were the days! Two babies thirteen months apart is "twins the hard way." But I’d never known such joy and I loved being a mother. We were madly in love with our beautiful baby girls. We were living in Provo during this time and my husband was attending BYU’s J. R. Clark Law School.
As a married woman I tried to live a worthy life but I couldn’t "Honor thy Father and thy Mother" which led to the sin of failing to forgive, which led to the sin of "judge not," which led to the sin of "pride." Otherwise, I obeyed the principles of the gospel and kept the commandments. My faithless doubts weren't enough to stop me from saying 'yes' to every single ward calling and every mindless assignment I'd ever been given, regardless of my ability to succeed.
I can confidently say I never once refused an assignment no matter how aversive it was to me or how unqualified I was to fulfill it. I said yes because I believed as I was taught; that I was indirectly called of God in each instance. At 17 I taught the 9 year old girls in Primary, even though I only felt about 9 myself. At barely 18 years old, I worked in night Relief Society teaching mature wives and mothers Homemaking. The church will say such callings were for my personal growth and not entirely for the benefit of the members, but to me, it felt like I was parading my inadequacies. I taught the 3 years olds in Sunday School and held for 3 years a calling created for me; ward artist. I made the posters, flyers and program covers. I sang in the choir and I attended my meetings.
I taught Gospel Doctrine in my BYU young married's ward (I was a disaster). My husband and I conducted weekly church services in a Provo retirement home and I worked in the nursery in 2 wards. My husband was graduated and we returned to Phoenix where I worked in Cub Scouts (two tiny daughters and a husband accruing billable hours at a rate of 70+ a week and God decided via the brethren that I should be a Den Mother to 8 rowdy Scouts). I also tried (and mostly failed) to be a good missionary.
This brings up an issue that nagged my consciousness as a member but I couldn’t articulate until after I’d been out of the church for many years. Why are women, while denied the authority and powers of the priesthood nonetheless expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the work in a ward? The auxiliaries of Relief Society, Young Women’s, Primary, Nursery, Scouts under 12 and many of the extraneous efforts; food storage, genealogy, special programs, choir, Service and Activities, feeding the missionaries and virtually all other charitable endeavors that don’t require heavy lifting are typically done by the sisters.
Both sexes teach classes but even there I’ve seen a distinctive difference in the lessons. Women typically put hours of thought and toil into their lessons, preparing handouts and visual aids and trying creative approaches to the same old information. Men are far more likely to rely on their own knowledge base with maybe some visuals from the ward library and they don’t seem to prepare as assiduously. The men take over the camping and hiking years of Scouting after the women have successfully managed the demanding work of the early years. Men handle the jobs that have the real church authority and do a lot of delegating of the actual work. They glorify the powers of the male-only priesthood and then tell the women that it’s just a God-granted compensation for not being able to birth babies.
Of all my church efforts, none gave me any assurances of the truthfulness of the Gospel. I would search my soul and assess my prayers to identify any spiritual communication but it always required an unnatural effort. Any feelings of spiritual "rightness" I felt were the same ones I enjoyed in a wide variety of positive experiences and not necessarily religious ones.
By this time, I was overeager for some sign of the Holy Ghost‘s guidance in my life. Like my mother, I was starting to see it where it wasn’t. When our girls were almost two and three years old I wanted another baby. My husband thought this was a bad idea and couldn‘t agree to it. I had a recurring dream about this time. In the dream, I stood at my vanity in the middle of the night with a paper hole punch in hand. I took condoms one by one from the ginger jar where we kept them and I punched a perfect little hole in the center of each packet. I almost convinced myself this dream was a sign that Heavenly Father wanted us to have another baby. My husband didn’t buy it though!
Six years into our marriage, I was 26 years old and my one and only "witness" of the Gospel finally occurred. I had resolved a short time prior to this that, to combat the frustration and boredom of church meetings, I would show up at meetings willing and ready to learn some small nugget of truth. I wouldn’t waste any more time being bored.
One Sunday I was sitting in Fast and Testimony Meeting with my husband and our two little girls. A man was bearing his testimony of the First Vision. As I sat in the pew listening to his testimony and considering his words, an unmistakable feeling of clarity struck me. All my years of questioning and trying to puzzle together Mormon doctrine and history coalesced into that single moment and I knew: This Brother's testimony was based on an elaborate fiction! Nothing here makes sense because the church is not true. Finally, suddenly, I could testify to something beyond a shadow of a doubt; The Church is not true. I believe this happened because I was spiritually or mentally ready to accept it.
I had rejected the Church’s main premise, "truth," as faulty. In doing so, the curtain parted and I had the clear-eyed view of Mormonism I had always sought. This moment is one of the most defining experiences of my life. I couldn‘t keep this to myself and told my husband within the week.
I think I did a poor job of conveying to him the nature of the change in me because he asked me if I could go to church anyway. My Mormon identity, nearly my whole identity really, had vanished and yet it was unthinkable to attempt to recover it and try "going to church anyway." I was sure he’d want a divorce. (He didn’t). I told him I was done trying to mentally bridge all the gaps in Mormon doctrine.
Without having done any historical research outside the faith promoting materials found in the ward library or Deseret Bookstore, my "shelf" containing all my unanswered questions and questionable answers had just collapsed. I told him I was baffled and disgusted that so many men and women, who were easily more intelligent than I, appeared to have no problems with it. He gently reminded me that I was classing him in with those people because he too had no problems with Mormonism. Overall, he was far more understanding than I suppose most Mormon men would have been.
My bishop heard about my apostasy from my husband (I had made such a clean break from Mormondom in the week after that meeting that I didn’t even bother telling the Bishop that I was done with the church -- who was he to me now?) The Bishop asked to speak to me in person about my decision and I agreed. During our conversation he insisted I read ‘Mere Christianity’ and then we’d meet again to discuss my decision to leave. I sensed I was being set up for a battle of dogmas and told him ’no thanks.’ I was done with fruitless debates and unanswerable questions.
My husband continued attending church without me and he took our girls with him.
Interestingly, it wasn't until after my epiphany in Sacrament that I felt free to explore the real soul of the Church. I started with Ex-Mormons for Jesus but was instantly put off by their missionary zeal. There was no way I was going to hand over my newfound ability to think freely to yet another organization. Besides, I wasn’t so crazy about Jesus at the time either. They did get me started on the Tanner’s book, however, and that led to other historical sources.
I learned about the improbabilities and impossibilities in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price and the lack of integrity of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and others. I was stunned (and am still stunned) at the mountain of history of the Church that was never openly addressed in 26 years of meetings, lessons, lectures, seminary, church talks and conferences! The second big change in my world view happened to my simple notion of "truth." I realized that it’s not an entirely attractive idea by nature. Truth can be ugly too.
Life as an apostate
The prophets and apostles have always looked like spiritual and kindly men to me. But since learning about how key events in the course the church’s history have been handled by them, I regard them differently. It’s difficult to ignore the overall absence of any powers of discernment in these "prophets, seers and revelators" regarding everything from the Kinderhook plates to the "Book of Abraham" papyri to the Hoffman documents and many other important issues in between. Despite this lack of discernment they seem quite shrewd in earthly matters. Unfortunately, all that I intuited to be false and disturbing about the Church was more than validated in my research.
My reaction at being so thoroughly duped, at surrendering so much of my identity and my life’s decisions was a righteous fury. It lived in a strange coexistence for many years with the sense of having been miraculously cut free from the chains of the church. Today I try not to give the anger any power but after 17 years, I still savor the freedom.
A Mormon will glibly say my apostasy is the result of the influence of Satan. But Satan’s another guy I no longer believe in so that idea doesn’t frighten me. Even though I submitted to the authority of the Church and struggled to gain a testimony and followed the commandments and the Plan of Salvation, the darkest parts of my life were also my most religiously obedient.
In contrast, there were a lot of wonderful surprises in becoming an apostate. No cloud of darkness hovers over me, in fact, I’m far more optimistic about my self and my future. My joys aren’t tainted by any attached feelings of guilt for not doing "more and better" in so many other parts of my life. I also enjoy a certain serenity with who I am and the problems I (still) have and how I‘m living my life. And there’s no longer the fear that I’m paying for (or will eventually pay for) a trail of inadvertent sins left in my wake. This is not a lifelong, arbitrary "test of faith." Over time, I also lost an arrogant view of the world that I wasn’t aware I had.
As a Mormon, I’d disregarded almost all non-Mormons as misguided people. Even if they looked like loving people who were engaged in meaningful lives, I knew their happiness was counterfeit. Non-Mormons didn’t know real happiness because they didn’t have The One True Church. They didn’t love their husbands and children as I did because they didn’t understand Forever Families. My marriage was eternal, theirs was only a little better than shacking up. My feelings were real, their feelings were delusions. I regret how I needlessly limited my "outside" friendships and considered non-Mormons as Heavenly Father‘s less favored people.
Very little else has changed about me. Coffee found me quickly! I have no real taste for alcohol. I have no desire to lie, cheat, smoke, gossip, fool around, evade taxes, etc. Moreover, my goal to live a principled life, do good and insure that our earth doesn’t suffer for my presence here still guides me. I no longer believe I’m currying favor with God for any good I might do.
About a year or two after I left I heard a statistic about the Church’s fantastic growth and membership. I realized they were including me in that number. It bothered me because it seemed to be a little white lie. "The LDS Church has grown to "X" million saints worldwide." Including me and how many other "inactives?" I wrote and asked that they not include me as a saint in their future tallies and my name was eventually removed.
Seventeen years later, my husband is still mostly active and takes our third child, a son, to Primary each Sunday. My husband doesn't try to persuade me to return to the Church and we don’t debate doctrine. I know I’m not the valiant wife he may have thought he’d married but we've been married 23 years regardless.
Our "baby girls" are now grown and off to college and have stories of their own about growing up in a part-member family. Our Rachel got baptized at 16 but doesn’t attend church. Our Anna has refused it 'lock, stock and barrel' from the beginning. Our son was eligible for baptism last year. But like his sisters, until he’s able to choose that course with maturity, I can’t support it. It hasn't been easy for any of us. Because my spouse is LDS and I‘m not, none of us could have quite what we wanted in a family.
Meanwhile, I’ve hardly spoken to my active Mormon parents. If they ever gave me a thought, they'd declare I was wallowing in darkness and I’ll guess they like that image just fine. They certainly wouldn’t want to believe that I’m happy.
I’ve never gotten a call or letter from either parent humbly asking for my forgiveness and attempting to make restitution for 16 years of a childhood that, at the age of 43, still gives me serious, heart-stopping nightmares. (I was diagnosed with ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ as a result of this and my brothers suffer the same symptoms). And yet my Dad was called to the High Council in his stake in SLC last summer by inspiration from brethren who‘ll readily agree that his ex-Mormon daughter is being deceived by Satan.
My Dad and the other brethren grant themselves the authority to sit in judgment on other LDS men and women. With his doubtful spirituality and zero credentials my father decides if the lives of other church members are in spiritual jeopardy. This is truly incredible. How many times is this scenario repeated throughout the church?
My seeds are better than your seeds
Mormons don’t dare explore the idea that ex-Mormons who have left for philosophical reasons have important truths to share about the LDS Church. What’s never taught and thus never learned in church is so compelling that it would require less than 6 simple, honest "discussions" to rock their world. But out of respect for their beliefs and feelings I keep what I know to myself. In 17 years, no member has asked me to share this.
There are plenty of Mormons, on the other hand, who feel righteously justified in slipping mini-testimonies, answered prayers and divine inspirations into everyday conversations with me. They think they’re "planting the seeds of the gospel" but it’s glaringly obvious to me when I‘m being worked on. While they scheme to convert me (or my children) back to Mormonism I’m thinking "this is dishonest and it‘s disrespectful."
When I was a Mormon, missionary efforts were a personal struggle because I always felt like a trespasser. As a nonmember, I indeed feel trespassed against and yet at the same time I sympathize. I understand they’ve been commanded to be missionaries. I wish I could tell these members who try to "bring me the light" how offensive it feels to be on the receiving end of fellowshipping tactics. Fellowshipping me, an ex-Mormon, deliberately ignores the fact that I’ve thoughtfully rejected Mormonism at no small sacrifice to me and my family and am pursuing my own path. Furthermore, their assuming the role of "Missionary" amputates every possibility of a meaningful relationship (or even a conversation) between us. But the brethren have directed, "Every member a missionary" and they must obey.
The glory of God is surrendered intelligence?
The Church’s over-over-emphasis on obedience reminds me of a failed attempt at family therapy when I was about 10 years old.
My brothers and sister and I had enough information to put our mother behind bars. We didn’t know anything ourselves about the laws against felony child abuse but she apparently sensed her untenable position during a drive to our first family therapy appointment (court mandated because she left our brother at a state agency while we lived in Hawaii and refused to take him home again).
She threatened us remaining 3 children to never, ever say anything in therapy that we hadn't said to her at home first. She didn’t have to say anything more than that; she knew we’d never confront her with her ghastly crimes against us because we feared her completely and we obeyed her. We went to that office once a week and sat five feet from the therapist who could have delivered us children from a living nightmare and we said nothing. Not a word. And our mother, through her skilled use of obedience and fear, continued to victimize each one of us children until literally our very last minutes in her house.
I see the Church exploiting the Members in a similar way; they consecrate the Principle of Obedience and follow up with a steady stream of fear. Mormon dogma is liberally spiked with threats against ones eternal salvation. The list of things that a true blue Mormon fears is long.
The overriding ones are; "What if I’m not worthy enough to pass the final judgment?" "What if I‘m not righteous enough to keep my family together eternally?" "What if the feeling I’m calling the Spirit of the Holy Ghost isn‘t?" "What of many things I should be doing better but just can’t seem to?" "What if the eternal salvation of my friend / neighbor / child / mother / sibling / mailman rests in my ability to bring him or her the Gospel?" "Am I under the influence of Satan?" And all the endless "Why…?" and "How…?" and "What if…?" questions that they train themselves to stop asking and put on their "shelf." There’s no real comfort from the Church leadership when it comes to these fears because they serve such a practical purpose.
The members internalize them and the accompanying guilt. Thus fearful, they blindly obey the very "Principles" that keep the authority and influence of the Brethren intact in the same way that our fear and obedience as children kept our mother in total control of us. I think the saddest result of striving for such perfect compliance, as the faithful Mormons do, is that it prevents more natural and healthy ways of experiencing one’s own thoughts, feelings and life. Because nearly all aspects of their lives are managed by the Church until their last moments on earth, the concept of free agency that LDS doctrine touts is an illusion.
Some ex-Mormons find solace in new religions and I'm certain that because of their journey through Mormonism, they're unique and valuable assets there. As for me, I can't imagine committing to any other religion. I’ll never again surrender any part of my ability to think and study freely about a thing and draw my own conclusions. I love to learn and I love not needing to first ask; "What's the Church's position on this?" to know what my own thinking will be.
I proudly sign my name to this and then I’m off to follow the dictates of my own conscience . . .
I understand the need for support - as long as we have Mormon family members and in-laws, we can't just wash our hands of it all the way we'd like (love) to.
Probably the most honest 'from the heart' posting I have read here in a long time. Thank you for sharing your pain and your joy - your journey has been (is) incredible and I was almost sorry to see your writing end.
Your remark "Why are women, while denied the authority and powers of the priesthood nonetheless expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the work in a ward?" really hit home, although I have seen many a woman "holding the priesthood" silently in a Ward, guiding her husband who is in a leadership position.
Thanks for this posting - I hope it gets the exposure it deserves to help many who probably can echo much of what has been written here.
Take care xx
I have a very similar story with the church. I was not abused as a child, but I remember as a little boy always hearing about the spirit and never feeling it. I always went to church, very reluctantly went on a mission (tried to escape the prison they call the MTC), married in the temple, etc, etc. I don't have any desire to do bad, I just want to be able to think for myself. Finally, I said "enough!" when our bishop found out about a bankruptcy filing we had with a construction business that was taken down by the economy. He came to me and told me that we were no longer worthy of temple blessings because honest people don't file bankruptcy. We have been through hell with this economy and finally, had to file, and mostly because of the dishonesty of two business partners (mind you a high councilor and a bishop to boot) who had sucked the money out of he company and left me to deal with it. I told him to release me from being the YM president, which still has not happened a month later. My wife is still going, and I am urging her to quit. Her faith is shaken, but family tells her the old "it's not the gospel it's the people" excuse. We have a son who just was baptized this year and she thinks it will confuse him, which I agree with a bit. I mostly feel badly for baptizing him into a life mormonism and would do anything to get the family out. I threw my garments in the trash and am dressing like a normal person. My anxieties are less, I am more productive at work, I am happier. The exact opposite of what they tell you will happen. I have found the freedom of not having to go to the meetings, talk about the less-actives (which always bothers me that they openly talk about people in meetings), spend endless days at activities and preparing lessons and worried that I feel like I am lying. I don't worry about satan, because if I don't believe in religion, I don't believe in him/it. I am not big on anti literature because their motive is to get you in their church and I am 100% church-free. Churches give me a rash. They are all musty old buildings with old books and people that want to take your money. No thanks. I do like to read the history that the church forgot about; I really see how they cherry-pick the good parts and put it to emotional music. Pretty good manipulators.
Do you have any advice on how to get my wife to see the truth and quit being duped by the lds "club" and just be happy? I am tired of her calling (primary pres.) making her cranky and feeling like we are living a split life. I told her I am not interested in ever going and am about to send in my letter of resignation. She is worried about what her family will think. I asked her "why care, tell them you are happy to leave". I told my family and they ignore it as if I am in a "phase" and I will be back. Not happening. Ever.
Sorry to rant and ramble, but I need to say it.
Troyboy, I enjoyed reading your story, and thanks for the laugh: "100% church-free. Churches give me a rash."
OMG, Cora, this is fantastic. Sometimes it feels easier to just walk away from it and try to start a new life and ignore the past, but it keeps surfacing its ugly head. I'm glad you were able to put this down into words so well, thank you.
"...but it keeps surfacing its ugly head."
Thank you, and SO true, MamaCthulhu, especially when we have Mormon in-laws and other family members who have only ever seen the world through the burka of Mormonism. The first time I read Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave' I was in HS and it made absolutely no sense. The second time I read it, I had been out of the church a few years and it made beautiful sense!
What an amazing journey you have had, thank you so much for sharing your story! It never gets old to read that there are others out there who take that leap and become happier people because of that choice. I am a mom trying to navigate my family and raise my kids without religion and although at times it can be scary and intimidating I don't think I would prefer it any other way. If you have any advice on raising children without religion I would love to hear it. I am agnostic and my husband is atheist. Thanks for sharing your story :)
Google 'meet-ups' in your area. Most are free and its a good way to be socially connected. Some of us may not feel trusting of any organized religion, but we DO need the social aspect via sports, the arts, volunteering, the outdoors, etc. I think you should still share some of the scripture stories (ie the whale, the flood, David & Goliath, etc) with your kids depending on age. Knowing these stories along with things like mythology will come up in other areas of their lives and they don't need to feel lacking. I've a friend who raised her kids with no religion and when her son went to UCLA he became Mormon. She sees herself as a failure and its been hard trying to tell her its not her fault. With hindsight she believes it might not have happened if they didn't avoid the subject growing up.
Thank you, Ashmunch, for your kind words.
I just bought 'Parenting Beyond Belief' by Dale McGowan but haven't started it yet. It looks very useful: http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Beyond-Belief-Raising-Religion/dp/0...
Regarding teaching values, I was always scrambling with my daughters, who were 5 and 6 when I left. But I had a simple strategy for responding to the declarations they'd bring home from church each Sunday (Dad was Mormon). I would just ask them, "Do you believe that?" to let them know they have a choice. If they said 'yes', they had to explain why. They're in their 20s now and both very articulate atheists!
I think it's lazy (not to mention unethical) to parent religiously. All these biological evolutionists speculate on the origins of religion but any mother can tell you how natural it is to toss out a bogey-man threat to get instant compliance!
It appears my first comment has disappeared. I enjoyed reading your story Cora. I relate to a lot of it, especially the more more more not being enough and trying to feel the spirit in vain.