I was born in Jersey in the Channel Islands where my parents were converted to the church by friends when I was 9 or 10, so I guess you could say I was raised as a Mormon. My Mum's friend was the one who introduced them to the missionaries, though her husband himself had not converted. So while my parents went to church her hubby would take us to the pub where he would have a pint or two and us kids would play pinball and space invaders … yep, good times, good times.
Anyway, eventually my parents converted and life for a while was fun. I got to go to primary and dress up like pioneers for reasons I can't remember. We sang fun songs, and the missionaries hung out at our place all the time playing the coolest games with us. I didn't have my first uncomfortable experience with the church until I was much older, almost 11 in fact when my parents found out I had 'allowed' someone to 'interfere' with me. I wasn't allowed to take the sacrament for a while. I remember feeling all hot and flushed when the sacrament was passed over me and I thought everyone can see I've done something bad ... but that in itself is a story I will tell more of one day.
Fast forward a few years and my parents immigrated to Australia. Life was good. I went to the best ward in the state. The youth program was awesome. I had come from a tiny island with only one ward to a massive island with loads of wards and lots of activities. We went on ward camps where we got up to all sorts of fun. There were dances all the time. Volleyball and watermelon busts at the beach. Our youth group was tight, really tight. Once I started seminary it got even better. Our seminary teacher was a hoot, he must have been about 260 years old, but he was hip and hey, he gave us copious amounts of chocolates every day so that was awesome. And then there was scripture chasing, we were epic, unbeaten in my time that's for sure … yep, good times, good times.
I was probably about 15 when I first started questioning my young women's leaders about sexism in the church, though words like sexism and feminism hadn't reached my vocabulary at that stage. But I wanted to know why boys were so special, why they had the priesthood etc. It was pretty much a downhill slide from there. Around that same time a black member in our ward bore his testimony and mentioned how wonderful it was now that he had the priesthood. I was completely shocked, so were my parents actually, but they were happy with the answer we were given about the mark of Cain … I wasn't, I had too many Pacific Island friends, and my bestie was indigenous, and though I was reassured these people were not black, my response was, so what?
By my mid to late teens a lot of my member friends were getting up to all sorts of mischief, but still rocking up to take or pass the sacrament. For me there was never even the slightest desire to drink or smoke or do dope, but I discovered I was rather partial to a bit of nooky. By 17 I was disfellowshipped and given the Miracle of Forgiveness, you know, to help me find my way back … lol, talk about a nail in the proverbial coffin, and epic backfire for the bishop indeed! Reading that my virtue was of greater value than my life was a defining moment. I remember looking at my dad through different eyes. I remember thinking, really? Is this true? Are you so upset with me you wish I was dead? What about my brother, he's done some serious shit, I don't see anyone wishing he was dead … I remember making a pact with myself that if I ever had a daughter I would tell her to live, that her life was more important to me than anything.
This was the time when my eyes just opened up. All around me I saw power tripping men, sitting there all self-important next to women with sad tired eyes. I saw my Dad who everyone revered at church but who swore like a trooper at home, treated my mum like crap, and then whipped out a bottle of oil to bless someone with his poobah friends as if he held some sort of special power … oh hang on, he did, the priesthood lol.
I think I was 20 when I was excommunicated. I was living with my boyfriend at the time, quite openly. I never hid the fact that I was challenged by church doctrine and in fact welcomed being excommunicated. At my church court I was given a date by which I should marry my boyfriend, it was within a month. I said no and as a result I was exed. My boyfriend was a mess. It was a seriously trying time. He was a Pacific Islander and my father was absolutely against our relationship. I was banned from the family home, stopped from seeing my sister, harassed day and night on the phone. It was bad enough that I was banging someone, but this guy was of a different race, and as Brigham Young has said, mixing our seed would result in death "this will always be so" (Journal of Discourses). After a while it all got too much and my boyfriend said, let's just do it and get married to get them all off our backs. So we called the Bishop, who I still say is a lovely lovely man. He was happy to marry us, but then the Stake President intervened and said he wasn't to marry us. He and my dad were tight lol. So we said fine, and went to a civil celebrant. But then I backed out an hour before the ceremony. Our Bishop came around to our house and told us the Stake President had no right to stop us from getting married and that he would marry us on that very weekend. It was Thursday, by Saturday I was 21 plus 1 day old, and married. The next day I was puking my guts up as it all smacked me in the face and I realised what had just gone down.
Our marriage was difficult from day one. Now that we were married my husband wanted to go to church. I had never known him as a member, and I wasn't prepared for this to happen. Suddenly he was donning suits on Sunday and wanting to bless our food, and bearing his testimony in tears all the time. So for years I struggled. Sometimes I went to church, sometimes I didn't. My bishop asked me to get baptised again so hubby and I could go to the temple. I really resisted. I said how can I? I haven't repented and I never will because I still don't agree with the church's chastity laws. Bishop felt it didn't matter, after all, I wasn't living in sin any more. After a while I folded, again to just get everyone off my back. My husband joyfully baptised me, but the funny thing was that on the day of my baptism the filter of the font was broken and the water was all cloudy and had little clumps of foam floating around in it. I remember smiling thinking how appropriate it was that I should be getting cleansed of all my sins in dirty water.
Many times I was called to be a primary or young women's teacher but I always said no and stated that I could not teach someone something that I myself did not believe. For a few years I was on the Activities Committee, and that was pretty much it for me as far as callings went. But then after 5 years of marriage I fell pregnant. It's funny how suddenly being responsible for another human being makes you really look at yourself. My inactive girlfriend reactivated the day her child was born, but for me it had the opposite effect. I suddenly wanted to protect my child from the church, not immerse her in it. Fortunately for me, my husband had become a bit of Jack Mormon, he claimed to believe, but he really had better things to do on a Sunday than spend it a church. When our daughter was born he wanted her blessed, but as he wasn't worthy to do it himself he wanted his father to do it, and conveniently his father lived in another country, so it just never happened. We all slipped into blissful inactivity. And I was happy. My husband was not. Every now and then he would have flutters of activity and we would get in fights about doctrine and round and round in circles we would go.
Every time we attended church I felt burdened. I felt heavy, oppressed, negative, disturbed. I rarely felt spiritually uplifted. Things were constantly coming up that just felt wrong and I felt contentious all the time. I couldn't make friends, people just saw me as rebellious, when all I was was open. Fortunately my husband really was a professional Jack Mormon and times of attendance were rare. But by now we would even fight about that. I would challenge him on his inactivity. I would tell him he can't expect to run our home like a Mormon home and teach his daughter Mormon beliefs and values if he wasn't prepared to back it up with some actions.
This story really is getting too long, so I'm going to wrap it up and save all the juicy details for my memoir . So, to cut a long story short. My daughter was given the discussions at age 10. Her dad baptised her, and I was asked to speak at her baptism which was very difficult, though I managed to pull it off without actually stating that I believed in the church. After that we must have attended church for a few months and then my husband stopped, but wanted me to continue for our daughter's sake. What a joke.
Fast forward and hubby and me are now divorced. We never went to the temple. No matter how many times my bishop asked us to I refused to set foot in there, at the time out of respect. It was bad enough that he wanted me to get baptised knowing I didn't believe, but I couldn't understand how he would listen to me state clearly that I suspected Joseph Smith was a con artist, yet still say that because I was living a good life and was a full tithe payer I was worthy. I guess it helped that my hubby wasn't really bothered about going to the temple either, too much effort for him, so no pressure on me there. And by now my parents were also inactive (how dare my Dad go inactive after all he put me through!!!!).
Today I call myself an atheist, though I also feel very new agey spiritual at times. My daughter, I am proud to say, is now 18 and incredibly mature on a spiritual level. She doesn't know if she believes in god or not, and I am happy with that. We talk a lot about 'stuff' and I have always wanted her to make her own mind up about life's big questions. What she does have is an incredible sense of social justice. She loves her fellow man, and like me values the planet on which we live. She doesn't judge people. She is confused at the current discourse over gay equality, she doesn't even get why people are talking about it. I love that she feels that way and hope we are crossing into an era where the thought that two people of the same sex loving each other is wrong will be about as weird as stating that blacks or women shouldn't vote.
So there you go, that's my story. And yes it is the very short version. I came to this site as part of a project. I was invited to undertake a 'supervised project' at uni whereby one of my published lecturers would mentor me through the process of writing a creative nonfiction book. Apparently this is where my talent as a writer lies. The brief was to write about something I had a personal narrative in. I thought I would write about leaving the church. I haven't set foot in a church for 8 years so thought I would get in touch with some ex-members and see if there were common threads in our experiences, which of course there are. I have also talked to my member friends and brother who is the only remaining member in our family. But the exchanges have been extremely distressing and my brother and one other male friend in particular have been quite aggressive towards me. I don't know if this will be the topic of my supervised project or not, but I am so glad I found this forum. It' been a great way to resolve supressed emotions I have had for a long time. So if you got this far in reading my story, thank you, and I look forward to reading yours