These are excerpts from messages posted to an internet mailing list whose members share their experiences of having been members of the Mormon church (LDS Church). Although the names of the writers have not been included here, they are on file. Only minor editing has been done to clarify abbreviations, or correct grammar or spelling. All these items were written during 1998.

Terms which may be unfamiliar:

TBM: devout Mormon
Ward: local parish unit of the LDS church
Bishop: lay pastor of a ward
BYU: Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah; the largest of the Mormon church's chain of colleges
D&C: The "Doctrine and Covenants," one of the books Mormons accept as scripture, of equal validity as the Bible
Relief Society:
(also "RS")
the Mormon women's auxiliary organization
Primary: a Mormon organization for children under 12 which meets once a week; not the same as "Sunday school"

References to "this site" and to "Eric" are to the internet web site Recovery From Mormonism, and its subscriber mailing list, operated by former Mormon missionary Eric Kettunen.

I had such an interesting conversation with my brother today. He is on "probation" with the Church, for something that the bishop tried to cover up, and my brother took the fall. You know, he still defends the church, and quotes the same sh*t over and over. He really thinks that if he defends his beliefs to the end, he will somehow be saved. My son was listening, and he said that he is starting to believe the brainwashing theory. The Church trashed my brother, but he is still waiting to pray, take the sacrament, and serve again, as soon as he is worthy (to be determined by God, I'm sure).

I cannot believe the abuse good Mormon people put up with, in the name of God. I asked my brother to check out the Recovery from Mormonism site, and then he can show me the lies, and deception that satan's workers are producing. This should be interesting!!! He wanted to know where they get their facts! I told him to do some research....and he followed it up by saying these sites are made by people who have left the church because of a grudge. (or have sinned).

[A young exmormon woman, commenting on the attempts by college authorities at Brigham Young University to 'reform' homosexual students by electric shock aversion therapy:]

What horror. When I think about it I sometimes have a hard time believing I once thought this was the most perfect organization. Blech!

... I don't know what it's like to be homosexual, so how could I posssibly presume to say why someone is? I live and let live, and I love people, no matter what color they are, no matter what their sexuality, no matter what their religion, etc. I have no right to knock someone down because they are different than me.

Also wife beating was ignored. I was in ward and stake Relief Society, and Primary, and reported numerous cases. I was always told "Sister, the Priesthood is taking care of it." When they did not, I went back, was told there was a possibility of being disfellowshipped to be followed by excommuniation for "challenging" first the Bishop, the mouthpiece of the President, and ultimately "challenging" God. That was the last straw. After spending most of my adult life active in the church after being forced into it through my father and convert stepmother, I thank God I am OUT. I was sexually abused by my Bishop Father - there was no one even to tell in the 40's, much less anyone who would believe me.
[A non-Mormon father, commenting on his Mormon daughter's temple wedding:]

She actually seemed to take some pleasure in our desperation and pain at being excluded from her "eternal celestial wedding". She felt it was our retribution for the "pain" we had put her through over the years while trying to keep her out of the church. Who are these men that can do that to a family "in the name of Jesus Christ"?

[An exmormon mother, commenting on her son's Mormon wedding, which she could not attend because she is no longer Mormon:]

Talking to myself and feeling blue....

I am back from my trip to Bountiful. Temple that is. My son's wedding. I was going to wait out in the parking lot, but it was cold and drizzly and so I went into the temple waiting room wearing my beautiful electric blue pant suit. I reveled in the stares I got. I kept my head high. I did not cry. I had done my crying in the rain......surreal my calm composure there....

I had some great family members there with me----but I could not light. I walked.

Very soon, the wedding party came out---the witnesses dressed in street clothes and coming to tell me the moving events of my firstborn's wedding----I did not want to hear it then... I just wanted to put my arms around my boy and his beautiful bride and be a mother. What had I done that was so bad that people who had never met my son could witness his wedding but I, who had brought him forth and raised him in all his wonder, was barred from simply standing there by his side? What sacred truths would I defile? What mormon esoterica would I violate? I bled so ....Was I unclean?

My sister, who has a temple recommend, a ticket to heaven, stood as proxy for me in my place beside my son. She felt my joy, my pain, my memories of his childhood melding into this new manhood.....

I would accept her telling of it.

I did not cry.

Till later.

My husband put his arms around me for a moment and I began to express my feeling of being marginalized because of lies I could not pray away...

He looked at me with his convinced Mormon eyes---"Well, you could have got a recommend and come to the wedding..."


No way to transfer what is in my heart to his.

So, as usual, I am [first name]....

Talking to this unseen but deeply felt community of open hearts....

My soliloquy.

Love to you all who hear an echo when you crave a heart's reply.

[on a well-known Mormon apostate B. who announced that he was returning to the LDS church:]

... we've all read time and time again, that membership in the church is less an intellectual decision and more an emotional one. I see it in people all the time-- they don't want to hear anything negative about the church, it's all lies; because they've "felt" that the church is true. Intellect and logic have little to do with it.

As B. said in his memo, he can't deny what he felt. I can't deny what he felt either; but it's all in the interpretation of the feeling. When I was in the church, I had "feelings", but the more experience I gained, the more I recognized that these feelings were little different than the feelings I had when I thought about my father, or watched the Jazz play, or listened to Beethoven's ninth symphony, or saw a movie (even those the church told me not to see). Does that mean that the Jazz are inspired of God? (maybe; we'll see how they do against Chicago ;-) Does that mean that God wanted me to see that movie? That Ludwig Van was inspired of God? To my mind, no. To others, perhaps yes.

B. has been in a really precarious state lately. His long-time lover left him. He has changed his job, changed his hair, changed his glasses, changed his look. He has been evaluating his writing, his life, his goals. He's reunited with a former TBM flame, who has been applying pressure. He's probably suffering from testosterone poisoning. Is this going to mess with his intellect? Damn straight it is. Does it leave him wide open to major emotional turmoil? Guess.

Mormonism is based on the warm and fuzzy feelings I get while listening to carbon copy testimonies whispered in childrens' ears by their parents every fourth Sunday, all the while my brain knows about the Kinderhook Plates, Fanny Alger, the Egyptian funeral papyri, Joseph Smith's Masonry degree, the LDS Church's attempted cover up of the Salamander Letters, and an entire litany of other evidences that shout to the world that Mormonsim is not what it claims to be. Regardless how the LDS T.V. commercials/propaganda bring a tear to my eye and chill down my spine, I know in my brain that Mormonism is not true. Our hearts are not spiritual truth detectors. Our brains, though, imperfect as they are, are much, much better detectors of truth than emotions.

[In response to a Mormon who suggested that exmormons are too critical of the church:]

Our discoveries are based on your own standard works and doctrines, the D&C and speeches of the prophets. The membership numbers also show less than 40% of those have temple recommends. Most are inactive, many of those counted aren't even members any more. It's another fraud.

Tell the bishop you want to start a grievance committee to review abuses of power within the church. See how far you get. Try telling them you really like the church but won't be paying your tithing any more. See how long they want you around, see who "loves" you after that. Try a little equality, like arguing for letting women into the priesthood. What a joke!

What other "church" keeps worshippers out of its temples if they don't pay up? What other "church" keeps non-member parents from being with their children in the marriage ceremony? What other "church" advises families to divorce if one of the parents questions the church? The list goes on and on.

Does anyone remember the Primary song, "I'm So Glad when Daddy Gets Home?" My brother and I made up parody lyrics to that one when we were 9 and 10 years old. My TBM step-father was an angry, intolerant man who physically and verbally abused all three of my mother's children. The two he fathered were treated quite differently, however, but that's a whole other story. Anyway, all through my childhood I wanted so badly to have a "normal" mormon family and felt sure that there was something very wrong with me that my family didn't measure up to my mormon friends' seemingly perfect lives. So with that - here are OUR lyrics to that song:

I'm so mad when daddy gets home,
Mad as I can be.
Clench my hands, and throw my toys,
And hit him in the knee...

Wrap my hands around his neck,
Squeeze it tight like this.
Slap his cheeks and give him what?
A great, big KICK!!

Thanks, everyone for your interesting insights into our shared past. I've been recovering from Mormonism for over ten years now (since I left home at 18) but I had no idea there were so many others out there like me. Just another small item the church has successfully kept hidden, I guess.

I am just blown away when I hear someone comment about the "immorality" of homosexuality, not even knowing one iota about the character of the homosexual person they are referring to.

My own experience with this: My son gathered up all the courage he had to tell his [Mormon] father and stepmother he is gay, only to be told that there is no room in the eyes of their god for tolerance of his lifestyle. They, his father and stepmother, did not take into account the stunning character of this young man, and that he had spent the first 18 years of his life being kind to everyone and everything he came in contact with. They, instead, felt they were being righteous in their stance against him and his "kind."

[Comment on a story posted on www.exmormon.org]:

What an incredible story... I myself grew up Catholic and was always [filled] with guilt... Thank God I have a different understanding now of why Christ came here and what I should believe.. Weeks ago, I almost became a Mormon because I wanted to marry a gentleman who is a very good person and whole- heartedly believes in "his heart of hearts....." I discovered this website and I changed my mind.. Needless to say, this fella wants nothing and I mean nothing to do with me...Oh well, life is one big learning curve.. God Bless..

So, what pulls someone into this type of thing? What is the lure to believe that someone is a prophet, talking to God, the Holy Ghost, etc. What convinces people every year to join the Mormon Church based on faith, on a feeling? This question is not meant disrespectfully to anyone, I just don't get it.

[A non-Mormon husband has said that his newly converted Mormon wife has been called for an interview with her bishop because she has not been attending church regularly, and the husband wonders what to expect. One exmormon comments:]

My prediction will be this, The bishop will try to blame her absence on you and inform her in a round about way that the church will support her in a divorce as you are not a memeber. One thing that you must understand about Mormonism is that the "Exaltation" of an LDS woman is very very dependent upon her husband calling her out of the grave using the name that she was given when she was sealed to him in the temple. Then and only then can she be exalted and rule with him for eternity. You don't fit the bill, and sooner or later they will push her to either divorce you or convert you. Your choice will be conform or divorce. I have seen this happen many times, too many times.

Over the last 2 or 3 years I tried to teach my kids more about God, Jesus, and real morality (NOT "righteousness"). Every Sunday I was disappointed about what was happening at the mormon church. No talk about God, no stories of Jesus. Lots of OBEY, OBEY, OBEY; white-washed history; missionary farewells and homecomings; admonitions to stick to the manual and not bring in additional material to the lessons; rushing from place to place without time for fellowship. I realized this was not the nearest "Christian" church - in the sense that I was seeking - on Easter Sunday last year. The subject matter discussed was church history. As my 9 year old girl reportedly said to her Sunday School teacher "Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith --- is that all we ever talk about?" I never went back.

I can honestly say I have not missed mormonism for 5 seconds. What I missed was "christianity" when I was a mormon. I missed "community" as a mormon. It's all so fake in mormonism. It looks like community, but it isn't. It looks like instant friends, but it isn't. Not real friends. I thought something was wrong with me. I know now it wasn't me. I have more real friends, of all different ages, that I've made during the last year as a "christian" than I have in the last 10 years as a "mormon".

For the last few years of my stay in mormonism I was constantly reminded of one scripture. It popped into my head in response to almost every lesson given. I didn't understand why, but now I do. Its Matt 23:27 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." My gut was trying to get through to my brain what mormonism was. It took me a long time to listen, but I finally did. I never think about that scripture anymore, except if I am reminiscing about mormonism.

Since 1978, black Mormons (LDS) have been allowed to hold priesthood authority. This change in policy was not accompanied by any apology or retraction of white supremacist doctrine. In other words, blacks can now hold a position of authority in an organization which teaches that their appearance is a curse from God. Even more discomforting is the fact that many of them do so in ignorance. How much LDS white supremacy doctrine has been translated into African languages, I wonder? Even African Americans who join the Church today likely do so in ignorance [of the white supremacy doctrine], setting them up for psychological trauma if and when they one day discover the truth.

As a former member who served a mission for the Mormon Church, I can attest to members' general ignorance regarding this topic; I myself did not know the depth of the LDS Church's racist history until more than ten years after I had served my mission.

I think that the Church through its unrealistic expectations paves the way for feeling personal failure, our "missing the mark." Impossible demands on its members make self-esteem impossible. We were not encouraged to have our own hopes and dreams, feelings and thoughts, unless they conformed to the dictates of the Brethren. It has been liberating, exciting, and exhilarating to realize I don't have to comply, comply, comply. Life is much better as I view it and live it without Mormon attitudes. I had to erase a lot of dogma, unjustified guilt, and irrational fear, going from black-and-white to Technicolor.

To me, the search for knowledge is all about learning about "what is?", rather than "what do I wish were so?", or even "what might be?". Anything else is just mental masturbation.

[Response to one who wrote: "I do not wish to inhere to an environment governed by the principles of reason and rational."]

Well, then you are left to a world of charlatans, frauds, gurus and hucksters who prey on the easily believing. You know: people like Joseph Smith. The cosmos never seemed so bright, the world so beautiful, as when I gave up needing to believe that they could only exist because God created them. I'm not saying I know how it all came to be, I'm just not willing to accept supernatural explanations because we don't yet (fully) have a natural (read rational) explanation.

[In response to a comment about the "four gay men" in the exmormon mailing list group on the internet:]

I'm not sure who are the four gay men in this group, but I am one. I was never subjected to aversion therapy as [one gay exmormon in the group who has described his electroshock therapy administered at Brigham Young University] was. But I spent my church life being told I was beneath contempt, that my nature, created by God, was perverse. Not directly, of course, because I never came out until I had already bought into the mormon vision of family and marriage. But indirectly, through the messages of The Miracle of Forgiveness, endless talks in church, in conference, in priesthood meeting. Listening to men make their jokes about gays and lesbians, expressing their disdain. The whispered comments about the "brother who fell."

Escaping the asylum of Mormondom helped [with low self-esteem] though I wonder if I have progressed as much as I should. I was on anti-depressants for my last three years as a TBM.

When I left the church I had no need to storm to the pulpit and rant out how deeply I had been injured---in fact, I am sure I seemed quite calm to anyone viewing me from cheap seats. (As if any seats are cheap at Mo enterprises) I was a boiling caldron inside, though outwardly, it seemed that I simply shook the dust from my feet --and went my way. The rest is denouement--the aftermath of the climax. The hot part over, we build again in the cool of the day.

It started me thinking about how I left the church. I left in shock. My emotions were quite subdued for a long time .... I remember a point in time where I had a clear recognition that I had been living in a false world, but it was my whole life and I didn't quite know what to do but leave. So, I just opened up them chapel doors and left with a dazed look on my face, and a blank feeling in my soul.

The freedom of finding my own belief system leaves the responsibility of discerning the truths completely up to me. This was often more painful than having all my decisions made for me on what to think and believe. But the rewards of this freedom far outweigh the controls and guilt of Mormonism....

[My Mormon family] had challanged me to bring them information I had found [on the Internet], so they could debate it with me. Well, I never had that debate. I simply gave them a few of the stories from the Recovery from Mormonism [web]site (at their request). They promised to find the answers to the discrepancies discussed in the letters. My mother was so sad after reading them. I told her she didn't need to find the answers to the questions posed in these stories. Just throw them away. I don't need to destroy their belief system so late in life. Some of the information I gave them, they had never heard, and could not answer with the standard reply of "just pray about it." The subject has not been raised again. Sometimes things are best left alone. I never want to see that sad, lost look again after reading this kind of information.

As for me, I had a rather nasty missionary experience late in 1991. You could describe its effect on me to be like a bucket of icy cold water dumped on someone unexpectedly in mid-summer. It jolted me wide awake!!! Basically, I sat up and said, "What AM I doing here? I don't believe this crap!" I dumped all my church stuff and I never went back.

About a month later, the bishop and one of his counsellors came to my place to see what "my" problem was. I think that they missed the tithing dollars. They told me that I could speak "freely" and say what I really thought. I started going down through all the false doctrine, the failed prophecies, etc. However, when it came time for me to "sum" everything up and I told them that the church was false and a cult, they totally freaked out on me.

Among other things, they told me that all my friends in the church were my "friends" only because I was in the church and that I would lose them if I left. (Friends like that weren't and aren't worth having.) And I did lose all of them EXCEPT for one.

The Mormon intellectuals' lies create the illusion that something must be true. "If such a smart and respectable person (scholar even) believes it and defends it, then it must be true. I don't have to study it myself to find out."

We don't need a child molesting, devil worshipping, human blood- bath conspiracy to show that the church is guilty of atrocities. Its association with, and support of, the right-wing faction of the US government, along with its manipulation of the minds of its followers, is more than enough for me -- not to mention its robbery in the forms of tithes and offerings when it does so little good with them and so much bad.

[I left the Mormon church] 18 years ago, and in those years AMBS (After Mormon BullShit), I found myself being tugged at, drawn back in, and having my convictions waver. This usually occurred when I was weakest - my parents are still champions of "working on me" to "get me back." Whenever I was having trouble, or feeling low, or recovering from a marital breakup, or other normal less-than-perfect life occurrences, they would use that as an opportunity to work on me. Sometimes it almost worked. THEN I found [the Recovery from Mormonism Web] page, and all you wonderful people. My convictions against the horrible brainwashing lie that masquerades as a religion are solid and firm now. No more will I feel a tug at my heartstrings whenever difficulties arise in my life. I know now that I can take care of myself, thank you very much, and don't need a group of easily led automatons to support me or give me comfort. Which, by the way, they never really did.

[One] cause of low self-esteem is the round of interviews and appraisals which members are subjected to. Young people under 18 get a twice yearly interview with the bishop or a counsellor; older members (if they wish a temple recommend) have an annual interview with the bishop or a counsellor and with the Stake President or one of his counsellors. These interviews are quite specifically intended to enquire into moral worthiness as defined by the church.

A lot of people see the standards set as being impossibly high. They aren't, as perfection isn't actually demanded, but people do feel that way. I think it is especially stressful on the youth of the church. They receive a great deal of advice, but the theme is always to live a sin-free life so as to be worthy of the twin goals of mission and marriage. Unfortunately we are dealing with people who have not yet gained enough maturity to put their own shortcomings into context as an older person might and they genuinely do measure themselves against their perception of "perfection". In some cases this leads to a feeling of worthlessness with which they struggle; in others to eventual rejection of the church and its value system.

Enormous pressure is put on single LDS members to marry. And marry within the church. This is an important source of low self-worth amongst both sexes, but I think it is worse for the women. A woman is effectively defined in LDS thought as a wife to someone: even those women who do not marry in this life are reassured that they will marry (presumably polygamously) in the next. In other words, there is no future that doesn't involve marriage at some point.

Given that belief it is not surprising that for many single women, finding a husband is their absolute priority. Many neglect their educations and career planning because they do not see those things as important.

The problem is that this is putting those single people in a position where they say to themselves "I will be fulfilled when...," leaving them with the feeling that they are incomplete now and somehow indefinably of less worth than they will be once a partner has been found. Of course, for some people "when" never happens, and they drift into a limbo where there are few marriage opportunities yet few others with whom they have much in common. The church doesn't quite know how to deal with these people who do not conform to the blueprint for a Mormon life.

My view is that the problem isn't so much with perceptions, but with the intrinsic doctrine of the church. If you are married, you can become a god. If you aren't, you can't. No amount of spin-doctoring can hide that basic point. For men, the position is worse, in fact, than for women: women are given the assurance of a safety-net in the form of a marriage in the afterlife; men are told quite bluntly that they need to get on with it in the here and now. Within the church, calling as a bishop is explicitly restricted to married men; callings above that level are in practice also so restricted.

So long as that basic doctrinal point is there, people who fail to meet the condition will feel just that - failures.

Leaving was so easy for me, in spite of the fact that I'd been going forever and still live in an area that probably has 80%+ attendance rates, and is at least 80% mormon in the community. ...

I'm not sure at this point how deep I was really in. I never put pictures of prophets or temples on my walls. I read the Bible, not the Book of Mormon, if I ever read scriptures. I wasn't married in the temple. Then again, I graduated from BYU and had all sorts of "callings".

When it became unavoidable that my kids were being strongly brainwashed, and that it would only get worse, it was easy to leave. ...

I'm frustrated by the strongly mormon culture of this area [in Utah]. It affects everything, from politics to fashion. You can't live where I live and not deal with mormonism. I have not regretted getting out once. I have not once thought that perhaps I've made a mistake.

The idea of leaving was rather quick --- duh! why didn't I think of this before? But the strings that attached me to mormonism had probably been breaking one by one over many years before I actually left. It was not only painless but joyful when it finally occurred to me to just leave.

Joining the church was a natural extention of my sense that I was doomed to failure--there is NO WAY one can measure up, can be "therefore perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect"...there is also no way to successfully combat the Pedestal. Mormon women are continually pitted against each other to be the Best with the Most, whether we're talking Mia Maids getting their "really super" Patriarchal blessings, or Laurels doing the most baptisms for the dead, or Young Adults dating the handsomest-AND-spiritual returned missionaries, or newlyweds racing to get pregnant, or grownups feeling smug about their exalted callings (or their husband's), or how many Bishop's- storehouse tomatoes were canned by them, or how all twelve of their children bear testimony on Fast Sunday, or how they make all their daughters' dresses by hand, or how their kids get Perfect Attendance in Primary every year, or or...well, the list, it never ends. ...

My point is that Mormons are undeniably elitist and, at least in my experience, it involves every aspect of a person's life besides belonging to the Right Church--income, neighborhood, car, clothing, church callings, physical beauty--all are subject to approval or derision as they reflect on the body of the church and by extension, the Lord. It's probably the world's biggest clique. ...

It seems a uniquely American, capitalist, Horatio Alger kind of church. I don't see how I ever thought it came "from God".

A couple weeks ago while reading through a sunday school lesson I realized what crap this all was. It was like I had been suddenly slapped in the face and woke up to reality. Let me tell you, it was a slap that I needed badly. I have basically lost 5 years of my life to the so-called "true church of Jesus Christ".

[from a young woman who has to remain in the church because she lives with her Mormon parents in spite of her secret belief that the church is not true:]

My friend told me just last night, on the way to that stupid fireside [meeting], that Joseph Smith only had one wife at a time. ONE AT A TIME and that what I had been reading was just anti-Mormon literature to poison the minds of the faithful. I just said, "'kay, Sarah," and thought, man she is too stupid to be anything but a Mormon. In fact during the meeting, as I looked around at us young adults, I really came to believe that it takes a special kind of stupid to say you know the church is true. A very special kind of stupid that would not survive any place else, but in the church.

If bad things happen to me, and I'm "being good" -- Satan's out to get me.
If bad things happen to me, and I'm "being bad" -- God's out to get me.
If good things happen to me, and I'm "being good" -- I'm being rewarded.
If good things happen to me, and I'm "being bad" -- Satan's tempting me.

It took me a VERY long time to learn that good things and bad things happen to everyone, regardless of their "thoughts, words, or deeds." Life isn't a grand pyramid-scheme reward system.

Whenever I would talk to a priesthood leader about my depression, he would always recommend more service, more scriptures, more prayer. When I returned from my mission and became more depressed, I realized that even doing all the stuff I was supposed to be doing only made the depression worse because I thought I was just flawed. When I moved out here to Utah, hoping it would help, I was finally able to open my heart to new information about the church.

Basically, I just finally woke up. I quit trusting the church and it was painful to learn it wasn't true. But the depression lifted, a fact for which I will be forever grateful. ... I really could have seen my life turning into hers. I was 24 (well, still am) and feeling like an old maid and trying to hold out for the "one." I knew I would have to compromise my dreams and stay home with children (not that there's anything wrong with that--it's just not me), but I thought I would be blessed. I thought it would be enough, but always haunting me was the possibility of that moment of getting up from the kitchen table silently some day 20 years from now and ending my life. That other me was always there, warning me in terrifying dreams of what might come.

Now, I feel just like Truman did in the movie. I've touched the wall of reality and even though I was angry, ultimately I feel like he did--glad to finally KNOW. I learned a lot from my experiences as a Mormon. I found a lot to hold onto, but it's hard not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I want to forget it all, but I can't because the best parts of being Mormon were the best parts of me. That's the magic that continually unfolds for me now. I created the spiritual, the beautiful moments of good. ME.

I hope I can always realize that the bad will heal if I let it and the beautiful changes and the answers-- they come from within me. I just have to remember my favorite one line sermon that applies whether one believes in God or has their own moral code, "The Kingdom of God is within you." Now I'm beginning to understand.

I've had nightmares off and on that entire time I was in the church, and almost every night of my mission. They were variations on a theme of escaping this evil presence. The dreams seemed to last forever, and even when I couldn't remember the specific dream, I would wake up terrified and exhausted every day.

They're mercifully gone now, other than my first conference away from the church and when someone from church came to "discuss my concerns." Which is mish code for destroy your concerns. Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone has had similar dreams. I really feel now that my mind was trying to warn me and take care of me, but when I would ask people, I got the party line--that I was valiant so Satan wanted me on his side (I guess he got his wish ; ). At the time, it seemed like evidence since I was on a mission, but even then I wondered from my psychology training and good sense if it wasn't just my unconscious survival mechanism working out an escape until I could really do it.

The happy ending, though, came the night I decided for sure to leave the church. I dreamed I was coming out of a dark tunnel, about to step into a river raft waiting below. Normally in a dream like this, there would be sharks or alligators or worse waiting to devour me. But this time there were only smiling friends, one of whom reached out to take my hand and help me into the boat. I stepped in and we took off down the river with no fanfare.

So even though I experience little nightmare flare-ups now and then, I can see the triggers (attempts at guilt or reconciliation from the church.) That river dream signalled the end of my long dark night. It's not easy, but it is right. A friend told me "Remember in the dark what God has told you in the light." You can supply another word in that quote: higher power or your mind, whatever--but the light returns and it's nice not to be afraid. Sometimes we can reclaim our "shadow" or "other" in that darkness and reclaim it shamelessly as a rightful piece of ourselves. There are smiling faces, even if we only see them as :-) on the internet. I didn't recognize the faces in my dream, but now I think I have found some of them.

When I was a bishop I was interested in helping people alleviate guilt/shame resulting from sexual sin. I also wanted to help individuals integrate their shadow feelings and develop healthy attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality. I could do this without any lengthy recitals of sexual behaviors. I was also very uncomfortable with the whole confession process due to my emurging feelings regarding the church in general, and its sickness regarding sexuality in specific. Some might be surprised to learn the truth of what the bishops' handbook says in directing when individuals should confess their sins to the bishop. As an example please participate in the following test:

I have had sex with my girlfriend. We are not married. Do I need to confess this sin to my bishop to be forgiven?? Yes or No?

The handbook has no directive that this sin must be confessed!! So why are bishops probing into the sex lives of people?? Where does the precedent that any sexual behavior must be confessed to the bishop come from?? It is not mandated by scripture or in the bishop's directives. Have you all noticed that it is usually sexual behavior that we think we need to confess?? As a bishop I can't remember anyone coming to me with anything other than sexual matters to confess. Where does this come from then??? I think from our collective shadow of shame regarding sexuality!!.....

An insurance saleswoman came to my home some time ago to fill out some forms. When she learned that I was a seminary teacher she almost became pale. After many inquiries I was able to learn that a faithful seminary teacher had attempted to rape her some years previous. This teacher is a well respected colleague, and currently a bishop. Few would know of this story as she did not report it. As a therapist that specializes in the treatment of sexual disorders, I see much of it and will testify that in mormon culture it is common.

Mormonism will continue to breed feelings of shame regarding sexuality until it can honestly face its own past. Mormons will continue to feel shame regarding sexuality, and often act out in such hurtful ways, until they can individually face and integrate sexual feelings, and consequently develop healthy ways to deal with such feelings.

I have had two bad experiences with Mormon bishops trying to rid me of "evil spirits". The first one was with a BYU bishop who insisted I repent in his tiny office by giving full and explicit details of every sexual encounter in my life. (virgin at the time) After a few weeks of this I decided something was wrong with the guy. After every visit he had me on my knees praying in front of him for my forgiveness. He also had a habit of showing up in my dorm room while I was undressed and forgetting to turn away. (such a righteous guy) He particularly enjoyed asking questions like "have you ever had sex with animals?". This came as a particular surprise because I had no idea such practices even went on.

The second experience, was with another BYU Bishop who had heard through my roommate I was messing around with my boyfriend. (gasp) He was sure I was possessed of evil spirits and that I had also brought them into our apartment. My roommates mother even came to our place to feel the "evil influence" I had brought upon them. My bishop gathered my roommates in our living room for a prayer circle to cast those pesky spirits away. I can joke about it now but at the time I was not only humiliated I also was beginning to wonder if there really was something wrong with me. You'd be surprised how really rotten those necking demons can be! Or should I say Mormon clergy?

I am not, nor have I ever been a mormon. But, my daughter was "fellowshipped" away from us when she was only eight, by a mormon family that we trusted. We were pretty stupid, and thought it was just another church. By the time we figured out it was a mind-numbing cult, it was too late to turn our daughter from it. She is now a 28 year-old Nazi-TBM, just married a bright priesthood-holder from a 7-generation LDS family, and is being sucked deeper into the black hole (or should I say, white and delightsome hole).

One year after the wedding (another long story) she has given birth to a beautiful (he looks like me) boy. So, everything she had planned for as a career, seven years of college (at my expense), is now down the drain as she begins life as "molly mormon". Oh, I'm happy I was able to give her a college education and three degrees, and I will love and cherish my grandson forever, BUT I hate the LDS leaders and their time-life- money-control methods. They have sucked the joy of life and independent spirit from her.

For more comments from former Mormons: Voices 1,   Voices 3,   Voices 4

Comments: packham@teleport.com

©  1998 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included