This is my story. My great grandmother on my mother's side was an immigrant from Denmark. She and her family came to America first to Wisconsin. She was married and had 3 children. One day some missionaries came to the door and left pamphlets with her. She read them secretly and kept them from my great grandfather. After becoming convinced that the new American religion was correct she announced to my G-Grandfather that she would be joining. Of course he blew up and they fought. He tried everything to convince her it was a cult and that he would not stand for it. She did it anyway and they divorced. My G-grandmother and her children moved to Utah and that's how my family became Mormon. My Grandmother (G-G-ma's daughter) lost her husband in an accident when my mother was 2. Apparently they had had a wicked fight that morning before he left to work. G-Grandma and G-ma built a house together outside of SLC and raised my mother and her siblings there. My Mother has suffered all her life with Daddy issues and claims her Mother had been jealous of her husband's affection for my Mom when he was alive. I came to later term this ongoing problem in the generations of my family "the snow white syndrome". There is actually a book called this and describes it perfectly. My Father was also from Mormon parentage and his Father left the church which also caused a divorce. Grandfather became estranged to my Father and his siblings and the pattern nearly mirrored what had happened on my Mother's side. That set of Grandparents also fought all the time, mainly about Grandpa's need to be free from religion. My parents chose to remain together even though their marriage has been less than happy. I grew up very active in the church. I think my parents were trying to force happiness by proving that living rigidly by every law of the church that they could over come their sordid past. They seemed to have a serious disdain for therapy or psychological counseling even though my Dad graduated U of U with a Psychology degree, irony. Father was a military officer so we moved about the country frequently. Even though I had quite a few relatives in Utah, we only lived there once for a year and we visited in the summers and holidays sometimes. My father went to Vietnam and did several over-seas tours without us. I didn't ever really know him and he suffered from PTSD. In other words, he wasn't much of a Father except to step in occasionally for discipline and make sure we were provided for, there were 6 of us. When he was home he seemed caught up in work, church callings and refereeing basketball or getting his masters degree. He never attended my gymnastics meets, horse shows or things that were important to me.
We grew up in "the mission field" and were often the only kids in school that were Mormon. I was suffering from lack of men in my life, no real Dad around, no grandfathers and no uncles or caring other men. The one uncle who did affect us the most was of course a child molester, besides targeting us when my dad was away, he once tied my mother to her bed and raped her at gunpoint while my father was over seas for a year. He told her that he would kill her and the children if she ever told. He was a temple recommend holding Mormon. That was the year we lived in Utah. The church made my father a branch president once and my mother was often the relief society president or counselor. They grew bitter over the years when they weren't called to Stake positions or my Dad to being a mission President. They have remained staunch members though. As a little child, the church seemed fun to me. There were lots of activities and the small wards and branches were often close like family in the "mission field". I don't remember much about my baptism except that it was at my Bishop's house in his swimming pool with his daughter whom I shared a birthday with. He later became a Congressman. I thought our family was too large and it seemed my mother was always having babies and neglecting them, but the members in that particular ward had families with 14 or more children. I think she felt she needed to keep up to be truly righteous. The Sunday classes were crowded with cousins and I started noticing about that time that Mormons could be cliquish and mean. I felt sorry for our teachers who were sometimes brought to tears from the terrible and disruptive behavior from the packs of kids. My own family had foster children to make things worse and seemed to want to adopt military single Mormons to boot. Our household was not without its dysfunction and the others seemed only to make things worse for me. I had to share my room with Native American teenagers from the "save the Indians" program the church created and kids from the South whom had been raised in a house full of chinchillas and drugs. My parents gave all their money to the church so we had homemade clothes and hand me down toys and things. I often found alone time by playing in the bathroom. I could never get any peace and quiet and my Mom was always screaming, slapping one of us, on the phone and stressed "doing" for others and taking care of unruly children. I never saw her just sit and relax or have a fun conversation with one of us. I was the second child and keeping to myself and hiding was my solace. I read and wrote, played the piano, and rode the base stables horses with my babysitting money. I wasn't interested in family prayer or reading scriptures, it sounded about as fun as stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp object so I slept in and stayed out playing late. Getting in trouble and being labeled the black sheep was better than the torture of family time or family fight night. The idea of forever family just sounded like hell to me. I couldn't wait to grow up and leave and never come back.
I fiend my way through the teen years, going to church and minding my p's and q's. I didn't swear, drink, smoke or party. I did however find that fooling around with boys and feeling "in love" fulfilled something inside of me that was missing. Confessing to bishops about petting was just excruciating and humiliating and today I find it so repulsive that I feel it should be illegal for children to discuss such things with perfectly strange men behind closed doors. My high school boyfriend and I had all the intentions to get married after he served a mission but he wised up after a semester at Rick's college and ditched the church. He was a convert and his family was Christian so they were thrilled. We broke up after I graduated and part of me was confused while part of me envied that leaving the religion was an option for him and actually supported by his family.
Although I held positions like class president I always felt like a phony. I also held secrets about our dysfunctional family like the fact that my mother abused prescriptions drugs and had affairs when my Dad was gone. I couldn't make sense of my feelings at the time but I started to really know that something was rotten in Denmark ;) .I became a nanny for an LDS family when I graduated and found that the husband was sleeping with the last nanny who became a friend of mine. All my personal knowledge of mormons seemed slanted to dysfunction, hypocricy and flat out rotten mean people. They treated me like a slave and paid me almost nothing. I couldn't afford to go to college so I married the first return missionary that showed interest in me. My attachment to the church on any sincere level started to unravel. The day I was walking into the temple to take out the endowment a loud screaming voice in my head said "STOP! Don't go in there!!" I didn't admit it to myself at the time but I had no real testimony of that church and I had only known the man I was about to marry for about 3 months total. Little did I know at the time that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I read the scriptures, prayed, went to church regularly and the temple but no amount of dedication to church service or rules could convince me that this church full of money loving rude and unattached people could be the only institution in the world that God condoned. I finally concluded that if men were children of God than God was a mean asshole.
My now ex-husband and father of my 4 children was a dishonest person. He scared me on our wedding night and I spent most of the marriage avoiding him sexually. I had had sex with my high school boyfriend that seemed perfectly natural and fun so I knew the difference. By the time I had my second baby, I was asking God to please take me home. I wanted to kill myself. I had grown to just tolerate church and I was the annoying member always asking questions that irritated the teacher and offering my insights that members came to me privately and thanked me for later. I had A LOT of spiritual experiences regularly but it didn't take me long to figure out they had nothing to do with being Mormon. It took only a few years into my 20's to realize that I was psychic. I tried to share some of my experiences with a Bishop or two to get clarification about them and they always looked terrified and advised me to keep that stuff to myself. My ex-husband just thought I was prophetic and spiritual. He loved that his wife was wise and deeply insightful, he thought I would be great asset to him as he aspired to be a Bishop and a military chaplain. He not only was never called but was treated with disdain in most wards we lived. He cheated his way through BYU and on his taxes and lied through his teeth as a salesman. I was never in love with him and I had no respect for him. He treated me like a trophy wife and chattel and the children too. My church calling always seemed to be the piano player since I was 11 years old. I guess no one wanted to hear what came out of my mouth except singing since I was a trained opera singer. I was told not to pursue an opera career however, that singing in church should be enough for me. I didn't obey and sang with three regional opera companies and once auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera. I couldn't participate in a prestigious apprentice program I was accepted in once in California because of the bishop and my husband ganging up on me and guilting me into focusing on keeping the sabbath day holy and raising my kids.
My thirties were filled with confusion about my life slipping away without developing my talents or having an education while my husband was taking night classes for his executive MBA. He could literally be working all day, in school all night, get up early and teach seminary and never see the kids. I wasn't almost ever outside of the house when the kids were young except to grocery shop or go to the school. I did all the parenting including attending the kid's events and getting them to doctor or dental appointments. The church is amazing in its hypocrisy. I felt I was going crazy most of the time and thought "did god really make me just to be a baby factory for eternity?" I couldn't understand why i was so good at so many things but not allowed to do them. I loved being a mom but I was frustrated with the boredom of housekeeping and church callings that always just seemed like crap to take up one's precious time. My then husband had a heart attack at 39 and was called as a stake missionary before he was even back to work. I was promptly fired as YW president and told by the Bishop I needed to be home to care for my husband. WHAT?? I flipped out but no one cared what I thought or felt. My X's father had died when he was 17 and he said to me in the hospital that he wanted to die to see his father and Jesus. I said sure go ahead, and I will explain to your kids how those two dead people were more important to you than they are and taking good care of your heath and sticking around for them. He was obese and a recovering alcoholic so his addiction without drink was food. He has since had triple bypass surgery and developed adult onset diabetes and gone back to drinking. Of course he's on his 3rd wife. So much for the work of wisdom. Needless to say my marriage sucked, my kids grew up with no respect for their father and didn't give a whit about the church. The legacy of bad marriages lived on through me and my siblings. Thank God for my kids because they gave me the courage to leave him when the last one was nearly grown and assured me that there was a whole new world and life out there for me. I left him when my daughter left her Mormon husband (he also was suffering from PTSD) who was cheating on her when I was 44. I officially left the church and within a couple of years had my name removed from the records. Of course I was on cloud nine as I went out, went to work, got my own place and made my own life and decisions for the first time in my life. My nightmares at night consisted of going of back to my husband, the church and being yelled at by my counselors when I was the YW president, an incident that actually happened once when I was running a high fever and couldn't perform my "duties". My days were full of a lightness I cannot describe and a freedom that has felt so wonderful I would never trade. I have learned so many wonderful things about the way things really are, about my authentic self, developed much more of myself, and found that non-Mormon men are often far more kind, normal and healthy than any dedicated Mormon men I ever met. I married again a few years later but it didn't last because he was also an alcoholic. I did at last experience true love and passion and for that I will always be grateful. I have learned to really love everyone and myself. I am still growing and figuring things out at 50 but I know that the best approach for me is an open mind and heart and to look forward to life eternal which for me is just life here and now. I have learned to release fear, to live in the moment, to know that there is NO WHERE to get to! I trust myself and insist on my freedom. I am enough and this moment is perfect just the way it is. Only since my departure from the church have I learned of its shabby background. I think some of the things Joseph Smith did were clever and amazing but I don't think a church should be made out of things like that. I don't believe any church is needed to teach us, we all have our own personal guidance system on board. I feel I graduated from the need for institutional learning. Knowledge and understanding of the Universe is available to anyone just for the asking. You find it within. Pushing things on people and gathering them like sheep to teach it just doesn't work. Community is lovely but it should always be an option not a force. No one should be guilted or forced to do or believe anything which is why I am against raising children in religion. Being taught right and wrong is what is needed and listening to one's own guidance system. My personal spiritual journey has led to great joy and overwhelming moments of gratitude. I would love to share that with any of you but I only do it one on one when people ask sincerely.I have also become, along with my day job, a medium of sorts and a guide to many. It is a very private and personal work and I would never dream of joining a religion again. Guidance by someone you trust is great though. Who wouldn't appreciate a kind guide through a wondrous forest? I am here to help anyone I can if I can be of help I would be honored. Thank you for reading my story.