Sex in the Mormon culture and religion is a very taboo subject. It is so uncomfortable for most LDS to discuss or even joke about that they’ll go to great gyrations, denial, and outright legal limitations to keep the members from discussing or openly engaging in fairly normal human experiences. Plenty of sex goes on with the LDS members and some very scandalous parts of the LDS history, especially surrounding Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s dark histories has tainted the puritanical façade of LDS leadership.
Rape, coercion, incest, child brides, teen pregnancy, pedophilia, porn addiction, and other problems are as common in the LDS culture as they are in any other group. The big difference is that the culture does not allow the members to discuss or work through these challenges in healthy, honest, clear ways. Sexual dysfunction, rigid frigid cold loveless sexless marriages abound. Unfulfilled women, frustrated men, and un-informed children are the rule rather than the exception in the LDS culture. I was one of those unfulfilled women while I was married to XXX.
It wasn’t for lack of libido or enthusiasm. XXX and I were fairly incompatible from the beginning of our marriage and we were both naïve, both inexperienced and conditioned to believe we were not supposed to really explore our sexual natures in normal ways. I had absolutely no useful information on birth control or how to work through various sexual situations with a spouse and XXX seemed to be even less emotionally equipped for exploring my needs.
It led to some very frustrating and empty experiences and by the second or third year of marriage it had completely lost it’s sparkle, at least for me. I also brought a lot of our personal problems into the bedroom and that eroded any smatterings of love I might have held for XXX. Beyond occasional driving need or curious playful exploration we stopped having genuinely fun sex early on. I found myself extremely frustrated and anxious. Fortunately that only lasted for eighteen years.
I lost forty pounds and was in the best shape I’d been in for almost eight years. Most of that weight had been dropped because I was walking every day, sometimes four to five miles in a frothy fitfull attempt to exorcize the demons of anger I had during the ugly divorce. I’d walk vigorously, swinging my arms, cursing into the crisp country air, yelling at the world and XXX and the lawyers and judges and anything in the big space that might hear me. I must have looked like a complete lunatic but it had a fantastic effect of helping me expel some of the anger and lose weight, all of which were very important in my healing process.
Shortly after I was legally divorced from XXX I found the magical bizarre world of internet dating. Imagine every stereotype you have ever heard and multiply it times ten and you have the world of internet dating. Hideous, dangerous, ugly, slovenly, nasty, greasy, disgusting, troglodytes abound. Then now and again a tiny light of someone that seems nice appears and a connection is made, only to reveal that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, still married, or worse, a serial dater who just loves to use women and pretend every kind of instant connection to lure her into his intricate web of lies. I was as naïve and inexperienced as they come and I fell for one of these charlatans soon after my divorce. He must have seen me coming a mile away and played me like a fiddle and I still reel with shame at my ignorance and naivety.
After eighteen years of pent up anxiety, of repressed sexual need, of tightly contained rigid obedience I was ready to breathe free, to try something new, to test the boundaries and taste a little bit of the world I thought I’d missed. This seemingly hansome man came along and answered every one of my questions with exactly the answer I hoped for, wanted everything I thought I wanted, liked everything I thought I liked, and was what I was just sure was a dream package. He was tall, attractive, active, independently wealthy (or so it seemed) and of course the most romantic suave guy a gal could dream about. I was over the moon and willing to do the most foolish dangerous things to just bask in his amazing studliness.
He drove across three states to come see me and I was sure it was true love. A gal will do anything for true love. I pawned my youngest daughter off on a neighbor for a couple of days and arranged a place for this man to stay. Of course we hit it off instantly and the stars aligned, the earths gravitational pull drew us together and in an instant I was throwing off all my previous convictions and beliefs and lost in the throes of what I thought was pure love. His skills were quite remarkable and I found out things I’d never known about myself. I’m pretty sure the earth spun faster and new colors in the universe were invented that day. We spent three days in what I was sure was pure heavenly bliss.
Then he had to go out of town for something and then something else, and then he started making some fairly wild excuses about his work and pretty soon I was caught up in a web of lies and games and my mind was in a froth over how to reconcile what I thought was true love with the realities of just being another little notch on his well notched belt of conquests. He’d come back after a week or so and we’d be lost in the moment again, but each time my trust was eroded a little more and a little more. My self esteem hit a new low and I saw that I’d put my kids through so much, my integrity, my reputation and now my standing in the LDS church was being threatened.
On one of our encounters he had borrowed my car keys to go get something from the trunk and had left the keys on a hotel ice machine. We couldn’t find them so I used my spare key to drive home and when I got home there was a message on my answering machine from the Hotel telling me that someone had found my keys and they’d mail them to me. My children had gotten the message and of course it made a straight line for Pat, who wasted no time telling the bishop that I’d been to a hotel. That fact alone led to the very true assumption that I was engaging in adult activities with a man I was not married to, an excommunicable offense in the LDS church. I received a summons to come to a meeting with the bishop.
Perhaps this is not a universal experience among those that leave the church but I think most folks have one moment, one pivotal experience that helps them draw that line and finally say, NO MORE! I WILL NOT SUBMIT! My silly paltry pathetic church court was that moment for me.
Some part of my mind had not completely wrapped itself around the gravity of what I was facing. I was still under the illusion that I had earned the respect of my neighbors, of church leaders, of my friends and family. I’d served dutifully and given my time, talents, money, even my children to the church for thirty seven years. Prior to my sexual indiscretion I’d never committed any act worthy of major reprimand. I hadn’t stopped going to church and still had a calling teaching in Primary, and I was still paying tithing, still helping my kids with their church activities, still supportive of my family, still a member in mind and spirit, except for having had amazing sex with someone I was not married to.
In my naïve optimism I went to the meeting assuming it was an occasion to discuss my perspective, my experiences, the complexities of my life and what might have led me to experiment so wildly with another adult after my legal divorce. I could not have been more wrong. I was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and t-shirt and some little slip on shoes that I’d tossed on quickly after working hard in my yard all day. All I knew was that the bishop wanted to have a talk with me. I walked into the Bishops office and suddenly there were seven sets of eyes, all male, and all on me. In a way I was flattered that a mere woman such as myself warranted such a gathering of “Worthy” priesthood holders. It was a weeknight, just past dinner time and surely they had better things to do with their time than sit in on a meeting with a bishop as he offered his milk-toasty counsel to a wayward daughter of God.
I didn’t sit down. He offered me a seat but in an instant I knew what I was facing. I’d heard about these meetings, about the “Courts of Love” that the Priesthood leaders held when they were reprimanding a member of the church. I’d never considered that I would be a participant one day. He started off with a prayer. I didn’t close my eyes or fold my arms but stood there incredulously as these seven men, few who had ever had more than a passing hello exchange with me were sitting there in judgment of me and my life.
He then told me why they were having this “Disciplinary Court”, the overheard message of keys left at a hotel, the witnesses that I’d been seen dating and riding bikes with a man I was not married to, the strange car in front of my home that did not leave until the next day. I was aware that XXX had others keeping tabs on my whereabouts but I’d not really considered that the bishop would give credence to his tattling since I was legally divorced and had a right to my own life and privacy. Not so. He asked me if it was true that I’d had relations with another man. I looked at the seven men in front of me and suddenly realized why they had taken time from their precious families to come to this sensational meeting. I was thirty seven, in my sexual prime and had finally gone out and experienced what few of them dared imagine. They were there for a really hot story. I’m a pretty good story teller but I was not about to give them the satisfaction of knowing the details of my personal life. I stood for a full minute, trying to work up how I should respond.
Finally I took off my little shoe and placed it on the table and said, “If any man here is willing to walk the half block from this church to my home in MY SHOES, then I will gladly open my heart and tell you what you want to know. Till then, you can all go to Hell.”. Their heads fell forward and none of them could meet my gaze, even the bishop. Finally he stammered a bit and tried to clarify his position and I stopped him short and said, “Never- mind, I’m done with you.” And I took my shoe and walked out.
Three days later I received a letter stating that I’d been formally disfellowshipped from the church and that in a years time if I were to renounce my wicked ways, pay a full tithing, obey my leaders and fully repent of my sins that I would be welcome back into the church. In the meantime I was to remain active but I could not hold a calling, partake of the sacrament, offer a prayer, or lead in any sort of activity.
I burned the letter and with it my desire to ever be part of the LDS church again. In a way, they did me a huge favor. Like the moment the judge announced that I was legally and lawfully divorced from XXX, I was free. The sheep had morphed into a goat and now all I needed to do was find my goaty little dancing legs.