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 late 1998 and early 1999.
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 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.
My mom suffered severe depression for most of my childhood. Basically she got numerous blessings and was told to pray more, read scriptures, etc. For years, this went on and on, good days and bad days, intense arguments between my parents because of it.
After about 10 years, she was finally refered (not by the Brethren) to a doctor who specializes in the area, and was given the proper medication.
I remember many teachers and others who claimed that if you lived the gospel, you wouldn't have such problems. Yeah, that's the solution.
I was in 11th grade or so when the Church decided to clamp down on members seeking professional help outside of LDS Social Services. Luckily, my mom was medicated by then, and conviently decided they must be talking about only some therapists. That was one of my first glimpses of the falseness of the church. They couldn't help my mother, but they demanded that she not seek treatment elsewhere. They wanted to play doctor, but clearly they had no idea what they were doing. I took Advanced Placement psychology that year, too. Slowly, it started to unravel. They have such an intense need to be the only authority, the only sense of inspiration in your life.
I was really good at hiding my depression for a long time---I would go to some church event---having used my talents impressively (trying to win love and approval no doubt) ---only to go home and literally slump on the floor and cry. I had to try to maintain that outward appearance of the good latter-day saint.
Finally, I cracked. I told my good friend, who was also the new young relief society president, about the horror of a marriage I was trapped in--about my deep depression- --and how I had no way out--and could hardly bear to go on. She revealed to me that many of the sisters were in depressions and that she herself struggled with it. All that perfectionism expected---and the little authenticity realized----just does drive us mad. Anyone who has half a brain not sedated by the Morg(ue) that is. I went for the first half of my marriage never telling a soul what a vacuum it was----no normalcy to it at all---so it was a huge step for me to actually admit I needed help. She tried to get help for all of us that she knew were suffering alone. A special on Mormon women and depression had just been done by KSL I believe and she got a copy of it and asked if she could show it to the sisters. Well, you all know the answer to that one! How could LDS women who have the fullness of the gospel get depressed? So we were denied. We could pray, sing, study scriptures---but being acknowledged as real people with real problems could not be acceptable in God's Kingdom, LDS faction.
I suffered alone for years. I finally did go get medical help and counseling---and that could only treat some symptoms though---not the situational catalyst that dangerously deepened it. Living in a shadow world of pretense would drive Bobby McFerrin himself to despair. "Don't worry. Be happy." He wrote the Mormon theme song.
I finally got the courage to go with my husband to talk to the bishop----and I finally poured out my guts about the way my husband treated me---I was so sick I went out to the parking lot feeling like I would throw up. I felt I had betrayed my husband---a very esteemed Mormon on the fast track--by my disclosure of the way he had annihilated me. My husband came out very shortly afterward ---all smiles. The bishop asked if he loved me. " Yes!" he said. Alrighty then. All is well. The Bishop said, " I am inspired to tell you that I think you will be our next Bishop." This is how the counseling interview went.
I had thought I was esteemed too----I killed myself doing things constantly at church---and yet---when it all came down to reality----I was only some crying woman married to a god-in-training.....didn't matter if I was a nothing-in- training....he would have other wives if he wanted later, right? I was just nothing.
That night changed me deeply inside. I called the Bishop and told him off ----and he did apologize---but the damage was done. Maybe it was the best night of my former TBM life----a part of me turned away from that self-esteem mauling mill forever.
I cannot be false. I have to be the real me. Everyone deserves that. The cognitive and emotional dissonance of living a lie---is a killer--and it does lead to or deepen depression. Once I studied my way out from under the testimonkey's back----I noticed my bouts of depression became fewer and that they were not as black as before. I no longer believed the perfection myth. I still had my cycles that I accept as my payment for my creative gifts----but I don't have that anvil of hopeless despair on my head anymore.
The greatest thing you can be robbed of is your SELF. Your authentic self. Any church that asks a personality tithe of 100% is not any friend to anyone. It is the worst kind of life-blood sucker. I will never let their lips anywhere near me again.
It is scary to change. But it is far scarier to see your jubilant self be turned into mud.
Although I already knew these attitudes existed, they irk me to no end. As a person who lives each day with bipolar affective disorder, I wish those people who make these comments could experience being in my mind for one day, just one day and they would never make a comment like that again!!!
As far as the implication that 'living the gospel' will make you never suffer from mental illness, I found mine was worse when I was in the church because I expoected so much more of myself and could beat myslef up even more because I wasn't being perfect. It is just another example of how the Mormon church threatens the life of people. I spent a month in a mental hospital because I believed I had not done what I needed to as a mother and that I might as well be dead, so I tried to arrange that death. When you are in the depths of that hell, no amount of praying, blessings, scripture reading or anything the church is gonna offer is gonna bring you out. Only proper medical help and medication brought me out of that hell and brought me to where I am today---living a half way normal life and dealing with each day and each mood swing as it comes.
I taught Relief Society also, for three years--Spiritual Living, ha, ha! I refused to stick to the manual, like I was commanded, and managed to give lessons that were greatly appreciated. I know they were, because women would come up to me, and tell me that I touched their lives, discussing real issues.
I think the majority of LDS women suffer from depression. My get-real lessons certainly brought this out, as many were able to get- real with me, and the class. Even my own mother told me of a sister of a prominent family in the ward during the 60's, who got up in RS and asked if any of the women were as unhappy in their marriages as she, because she couldn't believe she was the only one. She sincerely wanted to know. She said the room got deathly quiet, and then women started to acknowledge their particular problems. It ended as quickly as it started however, and was never discussed again.
Overcoming depression remains a big challenge with me. I shudder to think that we were all once advised to pray harder, love more, serve more, give more, and all would be well in our lives. Oh yeah, Don't forget, though, that we were also taught that if we had hardships and suffered depression, then it was because we were soooo special that Satan was trying to discourage us, and keep us from doing the Lord's work. And also, if the Lord was getting ready to really bless us, then that is when we would likely be tested the most by the Adversary. Then again, perhaps we weren't living the gospel as well as we should, so we were suffering the consequences, and getting in Satan's grasp. Good grief--what alot of mixed messages. I am so relieved to be out of that mind trap, but I must say that the effects of such indoctrination are hard to shake. My self confidence frequently lags, and my sense of self esteem to be good enough just as I am, suffers even now from a life time of being told otherwise.
I was on staff at Primary Children's Hospital [owned and operated by the LDS church] when the Psychiatric Unit opened. There were professionals surprised that there could be a need for a Pediatric Psychiatric Unit.
To believing, practicing Mormons there is much stigma associated with psychiatric diagnosis.
Not often openly discussed is the always underlying belief that if a person seeks or needs psychiatric treatment it is defined in relationship to the Gospel. The rationale being the only time a person needs psychiatric treatment/counselling is because the Gospel is not being adhered to. I saw professionals struggle with their knowing the need for psychiatric care but to prescribe it was in conflict with their Mormon beliefs. Active Mormons obeying all the commandments would not need psychiatric care or medication. I detest the belief/teaching that if one is living the Gospel they won't be depressed.
Interesting that there are acceptable illness and unacceptable illnesses in the Mormon Church and many of the Christian churches. Acceptable illness is seen as a life lesson, lesson for the one ill, or a lesson for the family, yada, yada, yada. But depression, other psychiatric illnesses, are seen as the person deserved it, it's from Satan, or as a punishment to the person with the diagnosis or the person's family.
My TBM friend has been depressed as long as I've known her. Years ago, when I was still active, I was encouraging her to seek counselling and she said that her husband wouldn't approve. "We don't do that." Eventually she made an appointment with a professional counsellor, and yes he was also a counsellor in her Bishopric. But she only went a few times because her husband did not want her in counselling. They were stalwarts in their ward, it wouldn't look good. The moral of the story....she has been on Valium for over twenty years.
Perhaps the DSM-IV could add a diagnosis code for Ignorance.
Some very close friends of ours, who used to be TBM's like I was, have a teenage daughter with mental/emotional problems. At first, the church brought meals and acted sympathetic, but didn't want the long haul, and pretty much ignored them, treated their daughter like she was a leper, etc. Very ignorant of them to do that. Now our close friends aren't involved in church anymore. I wonder why?
Another close couple suffered a tragedy when the wife had a stroke and has been in and out of a coma for years. At first it was dinners and cookies, but now they pretty much ignore them. If you aren't rich and/or healthy, the church doesn't want you. Unless you can be cured with cookies, of course.
[a former Mormon describes her recovery from an emotionally traumatic crisis in her marriage:]
Without boring you with all the details of that whole thing, I went to the Bishop and tried to find some kind of comfort and support...There was none....he didn't even know what questions to ask let alone how to counsel me. He wasn't interested in reading anything to educate himself about the issue. He didn't think I should go get any therapy for my deepening depression, but instead read the scriptrues more and pray more....so I quit talking to him and sought out a non-mormon therapist. I had to quit my job because I was close to getting fired--some days I couldn't even get myself out of bed. That therepist saved my life, in my opinion. Without her guidence and knowing what questions to ask me, I think I would have slipped deeper into that depression and may never have made it back out. It was a horrendous time for me and for the children. Once again the ward "family" (a very dysfunctional one) treated me as if I was contagious. There weren't even cookies! Seriously, I felt totally alone, abandoned and shunned. That is when it suddenly and forcefully occurred to me that all those people I had associated with for 12 years were only Sunday friends....it was all superficial.
[a woman who was sexually abused by a local Mormon official comments on a news story about the conviction of a Mormon bishop for the same crime; the news story had reported: "On cross examination, the bishop was asked if the girl often lied. 'Definitely,' he said, adding that it was the girl's way of coping with her life":]
I was eight years old and never told anyone because I knew they would blame me. All I wanted to do was die, to go to sleep and never wake up because death was better than my own life. They would have done that to me, and they did it to her. That is why I never told. I hate all of them.
Our current bishop is about 37, has been bishop five years, is climbing the corporate ladder, very conservative. His wife is a few years older, more fun-loving and liberal, has a master's degree. But she has little tolerance for children. But she has four, and one on the way. She sleeps with Prince Valium. Always spaced out. The only way she can cope with her dreary existence. She likes Pepsi, and when out with friends, sneaks one, but not at home -- no, no -- a sin.
How do you feel about "worthy" high profile members living on Valium to cope? I'm not talking about short-term use of Prozac for depression to make you feel close to normal when you're emotionally disturbed. I'm talking about being drugged all the time?
Some people can't be reached by telephone. Mormons can't be reached by facts.
I was in a ward where a bishopric member had a midlife crisis and walked out on his wife and children in order to "find himself". I remember being surprised when his wife was immediately called to be Primary President. Here was this woman who suddenly had to find a job after 20 years of being a stay-at-home mom, provide guidance and grief counselling for the 7 kids still in her care, make ends meet, endure her own pain and abandonment, and somehow keep up appearances.
She never, ever complained. She really was a peach, thanking the Lord every Fast Sunday for this "fiery furnace", and for her calling as Primary President which was "saving her life." It probably saved her marriage, at that, because it kept her too busy to become her own person. When the wayward fellow came back two years later, he breezed right in as if he was just coming home from a business trip. The ward rejoiced.
Young and indoctrinated as I was, I still remember how angry I felt that he could just waltz away, quit his job, get a girlfriend...while she was expected to hold down the fort, raise the kids, and never dare admit to any feelings of betrayal, fear, anger, animosity; and of course she was strictly policed lest she entertain any thoughts or actions which might be considered unchaste, such as going to movies or restaurants alone where, heaven forbid, she might come in contact with MEN, or speaking to brethren at church if their wives weren't standing right beside them.
I think it's a little unusual that a woman in her ambiguous situation was made president of an auxilliary. There are probably two reasons for it--one, they wanted to keep her tightly reined, and two, their family had been highly placed in the ward configuration, otherwise she would have been swept under the rug like any other sister in her predicament, an object of pity, surely, but a negative example, nevertheless.
I was even angrier when he came back. It was as though he'd never been gone...resuming his high position in the ward, still as handsome, suave, and self-centered as I remembered, a smooth salesman and a very popular guy. But I guess what made me angriest was her "admission" to the relief society sisters that his desertion was her fault because she had somehow failed to provide him with the adventures he was missing out on. She has since become a guest speaker in other wards, talking about the necessity of becoming a better wife if you want to avoid ruining your family like she almost did....
[from a non-Mormon mother:] My son joined the Mormon church last summer. I am not Mormon. At the time I thought it was good for him to find himself within a religion. At 17 and in these times life is very confusing. But I have come to believe he is being indoctrinated to oppose me, to change the life decisions he had made before he joined the church and has distanced himself from me. I cannot understand why the church feels it is necessary to be so controlling. If it is such a good church, why doesn't it welcome questions openly? I am an educated woman who has traveled around the world. I believe, very liberally, that it doesn't matter what God you pray to, in what language you pray, or how you pray that is important....the importance is only what is in your heart. This is not part of LDS....they have twisted my son into believing I cannot see him marry, hear from him very often while he missions, or be part of his eternal life, What kind of religion does this?
[a response to a question about whether members of the church who are in law enforcement ever use their professional contacts to locate inactive members:]
While it is NOT official policy, ward and stake leaders know who has talent and skills in their wards and stakes, and they call upon these people to use their talents to help "build up the kingdom." In virtually every ward and stake I have been in for 28 years, there has been at least one FBI agent. In many cases, we also had state police officers and local police detectives. They all worked together to find less active members who wanted to disappear -- and they were very, very effective. They also used their "power" in veiled ways to threaten those who would "get out of line." Bishops and other leaders loved this cooperation, and counted on it. Still do. My most recent home teacher is an FBI agent here in my city.
Investigators see a different church than what it really is: The investigator's church is advertised well and sports a polished image. But the food it delivers on the inside is remarkably unsatisfying, bland, and lacking in nutrition - lacking in the very things necessary for it to rightly be called food in the first place. The members fooled by the commercials are the ones who keep on going to the counter to get more heat-lamp conditioned grease in search of the wholesome food that will make them happy, laughing, popular, and satisfied - that will make them feel the way the people on the commercials feel. Their church is the McChurch.
I loved the church. I served with all my heart and I made many sacrifices to try to be true to what I believed. It was a huge crisis in my life too when I discovered that it was not what it promised. Also, like you, I had some experiences that caused my soul to moan -- but that was not what caused me to leave it behind. It wasn't misadventure, or hurt feelings or wanting to sin red and hot that made me have to go -- it was what I found at its root and present propaganda that caused me to turn away. I was well loved at church. I was a valiant, shining, gleaming Mormon. It hurt a lot of people to see me go. They could not hear WHY I had to go, or WHAT I had learned -- that was way too threatening. So they did not ask. Still, I have not lost any of my Mormon friends because I loved them all so much, and they knew it. I always have worn my love on my sleeve.
Weren't we all told how wicked apostates are? The biggest threat in the Mormon God's Kingdom. But we have found it otherwise. We are apostates, and I have never been around a more humane, kind, and comical group of searchers in my life.
When I became engaged to my ex-husband, a Mormon from a long line of Mormons, dating back to Brigham's reign, I figured that good Mormons are perfect "saints", and he (my ex) is a good Christian, from a God-fearing family, he will be a good husband and father.
As it is with many LDS families, my ex's family lived two distinctly different lives, exhibited two different "faces." In the case of my ex-husband, there was the outward face, the one he presented in church, and while in the presence of friends and other folks. The outward face was wonderfully loving, kind, caring, humble, always ready to help everybody in the ward and stake, a good temple-going Mormon etc. etc.. Then there was the inside face, the one which came out after the doors were closed and the curtains were drawn. This inside, real face was ugly in so many ways, it was profane, terribly cruel, abusive, egocentric, narcissistic, arrogant, domineering, dictatorial, tyrannical, even hostile... Then daylight arrived, the curtains were opened, the doors unlocked, and out stepped the "saint."
This happened in my ex family every day, over and over again. All his brothers and sisters and his parents functioned exactly the same way. I fully believe that this behavior is instilled into many members of the Mormon church, because of their unrealistic and irresponsible expectations and teachings. As Mormons we had to be covert humans: everything that was normal and human was curtailed or forbidden. We were expected to be some sort of hybrid, without normal human feelings and failings. No wonder some people act out a severely depraved kind of humanness when they are behind closed doors.
A short while ago my family and I were struggling - and I mean struggling (I just got done paying off a $2200 rent bill). As always, after one visit (last October), my Relief Society visiting teacher asked me if we needed anything. I said yes. My husband and I had discussed it and I felt like crap asking. My husband did not want me to ask unless I felt comfortable because he did not want me to feel obligated to the church for any more than I needed to be. I didn't want to ask because I knew that there may be strings attached, but I asked anyway because I was unable to even put more than bread and milk on the table and that would break us.
I told my visiting teacher that things were really bad here and that we were having serious trouble making ends meet. She said that she would see what she could do. Two days later, I got a call from her. She had spoken to the bishop and he had said that the only way that the church could help me is if I became active in the church again. Otherwise, my family and I were on our own. My husband and I did not want those kind of strings (volunteer work, maybe, but forcing me to go back to church in order to get humanitarian aid?) Needless to say, I said thanks but no thanks. A few days after that, my thoughtful VT brought my family groceries, out of her own pocket. I will always be thankful for her selfless deed. It is people like her that will make me miss the church, although I know many people like her outside of the church.
It may not have been preached, but women's subservience was surely practiced. In my Mormon marriage, I was expected to, and did:
1) Made sure my husband had fresh, clean clothes to wear (I picked them up off the floor where he dropped them nightly, washed, and ironed them, AND laid them out for him on the bed each morning complete with clean socks and underwear, and matching tie for the outfit. This was something he told me he wanted me to do as a new bride in the 60's, so of course I lovingly did it. (Then, it got real old, but I always did it).
2) Made sure there were three meals served each day along with plenty of snacks that he insisted upon, ie: homemade pies, cakes, cookies.
3) Made sure the children were well taken care of--and quiet when he got home, just as he wanted.
4) Made sure I asked him before I spent any money. Of course, I had to ask him for the money before I could spend it.
5) Made sure I asked him before I went out with my sisters or got together with any girlfriends.
6) Made sure I got his permission before I cut my hair, because he only liked it long--and I had to make sure he understood my need for a change.
7) Made sure I didn't complain, because, of course, he didn't like that.
8) Made sure that I didn't disagree with him in front of the children. They needed to know that he was boss.
9) Made sure that he made every major decision because he was priesthood holder, and head of the house.
10) Made sure I never told him no when he wanted sex--didn't want him in a bad mood, you know.
BLECH--writing this list is making me sick! Now you all know how stupid I was! But my experience as a wife coming out of the 60's was the norm, I believe. At least I find that other women of my generation behaved the same, thanks to the good ol mormon girl brainwashing we received.
I will never forget when my ex and I were going to a pair of non-mormon marriage counselors 23 years later in an effort to save our marriage. My ex started off the first session by saying, "She is rebelling against me!" In unison, the counselors both exclaimed, "REBELLING AGAINST YOU?!!"
Yeah, right! The church doesn't advocate women's subservience to men. I also learned in relief society how to practice all of the above. If any woman on this list didn't learn to do some of that stuff at church, I'd like to hear from them!
There's a distinct level of dishonesty in Mormonism. I think it relates to several things. Kids learn to tell little lies in bishop interviews. Missionaries learn that manipulative guerrilla salesmanship tactics are okay, in the name of building the kingdom. Members learn to turn a blind eye to the 'other side of the story' where history is concerned. The belief (stated or not) that members who are both rich and faithful are closer to God, makes members more desperate and driven to scratch around to improve their financial lot. And let's face it, any system containing as many rules as Mormonism does, forces you to do some mental gymnastics on a regular basis as you try to rationalize the real world with your belief system. The final result of all these factors is that it's common for Mormons to accept little lies as part of their faith.
I know several people who have been denied temple recommends recently because they admitted to oral sex with their spouses. Some leaders I have talked to have told me that this kind of question is inappropriate, but it happens often enough that there is something wrong. I understand it used to be considered appropriate but is now only asked by the more righteous bishops.
When I talk to my former husband about some of the abuse that church leaders have put me through -- and some of my friends through -- he always shakes his head in wonderment and says -- I have never seen that. He has been in Bishoprics and the High Council -- and talks of the loving nature of the way people are dealt with. I believe he believes this blanket statement --but from his priviledged male standpoint. The frustrating thing is -- when we were married and I confided my pain to him as I went through it -- and recently shared what my friend went through as far as both of us being dismissed as WOMEN in that Church and how deeply it hurt -- and he just cannot see it happening. He watched me go though it -- yet he never "saw" it. He heard me talk (rant ) about it -- but never "listened." He will go on believing the universally sweet lovingkindness of the church -- not even knowing that such a blanket love wrap around an institution -- is cruel to those whose experiences are shut out as that blanket is drawn up.
My brother and sister are the same. Am I talking about THEIR church? They have never seen any of the things I describe. Both have told me at different times that -- they can see why I might have problems with the Church IF all that happened (like I am making it up)! but THEY have NEVER seen such things. The church they belong to is True -- all wise, all loving, all airtight.
So, the problem -- they suspect -- is ME. I am some kind of a fluke, my experiences and those of others I know on this list and elsewhere -- are some strange flukamania that they cannot relate to from what they have experienced -- so it is suspect. THEY have happy marriages, great Bishops, wonderful church experiences.....wow....good for them! My brother said to me yesterday when I was telling about the ecclesiastical abuse that my friend and I endured a few years ago....He said, I don't doubt what you are saying -- but that is NOT the church I KNOW. It left me feeling that he thinks I am somehow projecting my inner demons on the church without considering that it was the church who played a large role in putting those demons there to begin with.
The way that single women or women who divorce are treated by the church is amazing. It is like we are the lepers of the church, especially if we don't talk the talk or walk the walk of what is expected of Mormon women, and I haven't been "submissive" for a long time. I am so sorry that this happens with women in the church, that the condescension and put-downs and discounting of women's worth as individuals takes place so much. It is a trigger and burden I think all women who have been involved in the church and leave it, carry with us for many, many years. It is a constant struggle sometimes to deal with the emotional triggers that can happen.
[from a non-Mormon father whose daughter was converted to Mormonism:]
Friends and family, even after hearing the horrors of our personal experience look at us incredulously. They obviously think it is WE that are crazy.
My brother says he doesn't understand ... "it's ONLY a church, isn't it?"
Our friends say "Oh yeah, we know ALL about the mormons, one of our neighbors is mormon ... nice people." "Are YOU nuts? They would never do anything like that. Their daughters babysit for us."
Another said "We have an entire court in our development owned by mormons. They built the houses themselves. That good old American family spirit!" (Note: the land was owned by ONE of the families and they sold the lots to the other mormons just to keep non-mormons from being neighbors. All have since divorced and moved away. One was even raided by the local narcs.)
No, they can't believe our story of how our daughter was "fellowshipped" from us, without our permission or knowledge, at age 8 by a "nice" mormon family. We trusted them with our daughter, even let her go to "church" with them for special activities their kids were in. They were indoctrinating her instead. This went on for years before we accepted the facts and realized this "church" had stolen her affection, mind and spirit.
People can't believe how they taught her we were evil and possessed by the adversary. That she should not believe anything we said, for it was satan talking. Her religious war with her non-member parents became her testimony. They accuse us of paranoia, exaggeration and hating all mormons.
The mormons turned a loving and beautiful innocent child into a suspicious, condemning, violently Nazi-TBM that hated us and physically attacked us in the name of "heavenly father". How they kept us from being at her side in the temple wedding, and emotionally stripping us from the rest of her life.
There's no letter we can write, or church membership we can be removed from that can free us from this eternal hell. My only daughter has been torn from us in the name of god. This is NOT a church of god, it is a cult of men!! WHO ARE THESE MEN TO CONDEMN US AND DESTROY OUR FAMILY?? They don't even know us.
It is too late for me. My only crime was not accepting THEIR doctrine, not going to their church, not paying their tithes. Now she has a child of her own. My only child, my only grandchild. I am told we can see him now, but soon won't be allowed to be alone with him. She loudly proclaims "he WILL be raised mormon and there is nothing we can say or do about it. I can only wait and hope he will learn by my example, and find there is a bigger, better world out there.
And occasionally, I see myself in her eyes, with the same spirit and awesome determination she had before the mormons sucked the life from her.
When I finally quit the church after all those years I felt like I'd taken 20 years and flushed them down the toilet. I felt I'd been lied to and cheated and that all those phony church leaders had conspired to deceive me. Now, I've calmed down and am seeing how much I played a witting part in all of that by not listening to my own voice or even searching for my own voice. I always thought the "Voice of the Spirit" was something outside of me that I had to qualify to be worthy for. It was only after I quit Mormonism that I came to understand the The Spirit they talk about so much is really our own inner guidance--our connection with the god in us!
When anyone doubts, it is automatically the person's fault, not the Church's, and it is not a legitimate concern. They never asy "Oh, so and so doesn't believe the Church is true" - they say "So and so is having problems with her/his testimony." In other words, you're going through something that is making you not see clearly, although you know deep down it's true. The very language people use to describe testimonies traps people in a testimony. I have been on the AOL "Mormons in Doubt" chat recently, and the Mormons on there usually assume that I'm going through something that is making me either evil or deluded. It couldn't possibly be the facts or real conviction. The solution is that I need a double dose - a filler-up, so they just repeat over and over "I know that God lives. I know the Book of Mormon is true," thinking some subtle voice will come to me and erase all my petty concerns. The answer is very rarely a real accounting for the facts.
[The following was in response to the previous comment:]
You have to realize the bind you place a believing Mormon in. You cannot be a sincere apostate. That is a logical impossibility. You must be evil or deluded because if you were anything else it would call their own faith into question. It would point to a way out of their hell, but one they might be inclined not take.
As a Mormon, you are always under threat of failure. Life is viewed as an extended final exam and your task is to have as few points taken off as possible. So you pester the proctors about what exactly the professor is looking for, and then set about trying to give it to him because he decides your eternal grade. Instead of a concerned mentor trying to bring out the best in his students, you have a petty tyrant who insists on things being done his way or no way at all. Naturally, you brown-nose as best you can... I think one of the most damaging legacies of my Mormon childhood is a constant and irrational concern that everything I say and do is going on my permanent record. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still worry about how much I can get away with.
For more comments from former Mormons: Voices 1, Voices 2, Voices 3 and Voices 5
© 1999 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included
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