|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.
This religion is the master of its members, in an almost perfect way! The way a good rider is master of his horse. Reins not too loose, but not too tight; no spurs, but gentle pressure of the heels - sometimes more, sometimes less, whatever the situation requires. Result? The "horse" always has the feeling of being free, and yet is still being directed! Add to that the "keeping busy" therapy that all sects practice so perfectly, so that one has little or no time for one's own thoughts. And the "intellectual touch," which gives one the feeling of being able to justify everything by using one's own intelligence!
Not very long ago, my wife was out for the evening, and I was tucking my little ones into bed. I told them both that if they wanted to say a prayer, they could say one in their heart, or just think about all the good things they did that day. My oldest child is a very sensitive boy. He asked me if I ever prayed. I told him that I did not believe in prayer, but I often would sit and think about the things I did that day, or the things I had to do tomorrow. Then this seven-year old boy asked me why I did not go to church. I told him that I did not believe in the things that were taught at church, and that it was always important to keep an open mind. The poor child burst into tears and said: "Daddy, how will you ever learn how to be nice?"
This truly broke my heart, as many of you can imagine. I started to tear up a bit myself. I collected myself though, and asked him if he thought I was a mean dad. He said no. I asked him to tell me what it was that I had done that showed him that I was not nice. He couldn't think of anything. I gave him a big hug, and told him that I loved him, and that being nice really had nothing to do with going to church. I think we bonded at that moment.
When I left the room, several childhood memories came flooding back to me. I remember excluding kids from games at recess because they were not Mormon. My parents not wanting me to hang out with kids who were not LDS, especially dating girls who were not. I truly had a holier-than-thou attitude, and for the first time I could see so clearly where it had come from. I vow that my kids will never feel that way. I hope I can teach them enough to allow them to question, question, question.
It IS funny how we looked at people, deadly serious, and explained those stories as if they were REAL! But the part of the story that sticks in my craw is when it turned deadly PERSONAL. As in, "You don't have a testimony? Then you must be sinning somehow." Or, "Whadya expect? A MIRACLE or something?" Or, "Your Dad's still not a member? You must not be truly living the gospel as you should be. You've got to try harder." Bam! You're dead! Killed on the long road to spirituality. So much useless trash in God's eternal plan of salvation and maybe if you fast and pray long enough this week, he'll let you back into his good graces. I finally realized no Mormon has a chance in hell of feeling loved for long by his/her Mormon god. And all that stringent living for nothing! I should have gone out and sinned BIG TIME for all the grief I went through over relative trivia like feeling guilty over not wanting to be Young Women's President.
Second, let me apologize for not having written this earlier; if the truth be known I was kind of hoping someone else would do it so I wouldn't have to even think about it. I also apologize for any overwhelming emotion I put into the story - I haven't sat down to put it into words in almost three years.
Blood Atonement was taught very extensively by Brigham Young. It is a doctrine that preaches the belief that some of man's sins can only be forgiven by the shedding of his own blood and are not covered by the crucifixion of Jesus. Is this still being taught? Not out in the open or in the public meetings, but in quiet places where the die-hards get together to plan (god only knows what!), it is still being taught. How can I say this with pure conviction of heart? My children and I are one of the results of this teaching. Let me explain.
Rodger and I became members of the Mormon church in 1992. We were very quick learners and moved up fast in the ranks. By my second year I had been called to teach the Gospel Doctrine class. Rodger was in the Navy and had a six month cruise to do. At this time, unknown to me, he was writing to some of the people in the ward discussing doctrine at length. When Rodger got back, things were not the same - he was mean and vindictive. It was impossible to be the wife he needed or wanted. I went to the bishop and got the same ole "if he needs help he will come to us" and a pat on the head. After a while he started accusing me of cheating on him. He even called in the bishop to see if he could feel if I was being unfaithful. This went on for a year and a half. The military pulled him out of the house and put the children and me under protective order when he got violent, giving him counseling and then sending him home because I begged and begged them to.
One morning Rodger went to work and after a doctor's visit with our youngest son I got a phone call. It was Rodger, asking me how the appointment went. We talked for awhile and he told me he knew I wasn't cheating on him and that he loved me. He told me he loved our children and was the happiest man on the earth because we were going to be together forever. I told him I knew this, because God would not separate us as long as we are faithful. Rodger's response was that he understood what God wanted of him, and was prepared to do whatever it took to be with us forever. I told him to go back to work before he got in trouble. Rodger replied he was already in trouble.
And then there was a noise, and My Rodger was gone. I ended up calling his command when he didn't answer me. They sent out emergency forces to were he was. Rodger had killed himself. The devastation was complete for my children and me: we had no idea why.
A lot of priesthood holders told us that he wouldn't go to hell because he hadn't known right from wrong when it happened. It wasn't until later when I was going through his personal effects from his room on base that I found the letters and the writings on the blood atonement. I also learned the night of the body viewing that he was seeing a young lady from his work and she was pregnant. I couldn't have children any more (a decision we had made before joining the church). That bothered him afterwards. I guess she was his solution to no more children, and the killing was to save our family a place in the Celestial Kingdom.
Welcome to my nightmare. Please forgive me if I don't finish this letter in a proper manner, but I'm not feeling very proper at the moment. And I don't feel very proper when I hold my children and they cry for the father who left them with no understanding. My current fiance is wonderful - he has helped us through a lot, but he knows that this is a pain that will never go away because the hate will never go away.
There are times like now when I would give anything to stand tall on a mountain and yell for all to hear me: Run! Run! Please dear god run, or those around you will die! Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well! Please run, or you will be like me... nothing left... nothing but memories that you can't touch and a heart you can't trust.
[Valerie asked to have her name and her husband's name included here]
I was where Valerie's husband was in allowing the church to destroy my self-esteem to the point of self destruction. And it was well intentioned people who taught as doctrine things that were no more than word of mouth opinion that placed me and others I know in jeopardy of our lives. My brother at 22 was taken up Provo Canyon and had his head caved in by overzealous Mormons who thought they were protecting the church from an apostate. His real crime was mental illness. It is the hate we feel that causes most of the problems we experience in life. I have very bad days when I read about the calloused loss of human life over religious beliefs.
My bishop did request a meeting with me and because I had been a member 28 years and, because I became a Christian when I left, I did have the meeting with him so I could witness to him.
We met for about one and a half hours and he said two interesting things to me:
1. If I decided to stay in the Mormon church (which of course he wanted me to do) he would have to ask me to not mention any of the things I had found out about the church (even though he did acknowledge that some of it was true). If I did talk to anyone about it, I would run the risk of being excommunicated.
2. When I mentioned that I felt the Mormon church did not pay enough attention to Jesus, he responded by saying that one can pay too much attention to Jesus and then other important things fall by the wayside.
I left and never looked back.
Yes, we were lied to. And yes, Mormonism was completely misrepresented to us. We also sacrificed SO much. Many of us lost our non-mormon families because of the lie. They didn't get to come to our weddings, and some of them never were able to forgive us, just as many of your Mormon relatives haven't forgiven you for leaving the fold. We lost much and sacrificed much. And just because we had a choice, does not mean we were not taken in and fooled by the church, just as if taken in by any huckster. And the church stole much much more from us than just our money.
I was a 100% TBM: returned missionary, temple marriage, Elders' quorum instructor, etc. In Fall 1996 I found Eric's website from a search on "Mormon" at yahoo.com. I read things that I could not ignore and did as much research, studying and praying as I could.
I just received my letter from the Bishop stating that my name has been removed from the records of the LDS church as per my request.
The exodus was very painful, and it cost me my marriage. Once I knew, I couldn't un-know, and I feel that my life is richer and more open to truth.
To answer my own question: I would never go back for any reason. Aside from the fact that at the present time I feel no need to worship any god in any setting (this could change over time, who knows?), I feel the LDS church is founded on lies, has grown through lies, and continues to lie about major points of doctrine. This is something that no amount of doctoring can fix. No matter what good comes from the church, it's rotten from the inside out. It's based on something that never happened, period. Why would I want to be a part of that?
I recently posted about my dilemma with leaving the church and being expected to go to BYU. I've spent quite a lot of time thinking lately, trying to figure out what the best course of action would be for me now. Discovering the truth has been bittersweet -- it is incredible to finally see things as they really are, to be able to view the world as I see it, not having to alter my thinking to fit that of the church. My whole life I have been living a lie -- not who I am, but who the church wanted to make me. Now that I am finally discovering who I really am, it is aggravating not be able to actually be that person. It's like being stuck in a cave your whole life, finally seeing the door to the real world, but not being able to go through it. Anyway, obviously I'd prefer to just get away from the church altogether, but that's not really an option right now.
There is no value in life except as we find value within ourselves. WE place value, grow it, feel it, know it within ourselves. Someday I will die and my body will turn to dust, and later this planet will become superheated and life here will end. So what? I love this amazingly beautiful world as it is, as it is right now. I love the rain falling on the desert outside my window. I love the knowledge I have of science and history. I love being able to walk and see and smell and hear (music is so powerful for me at times). Yes, I too have been depressed a bit, but there are so any chances for doing good (and such a great need for it) that - even though all the people I manage to touch in any way will someday be dead and forgotten - I just joy in doing - doing whatever I do. (Yeah, I get so exuberant that some bullshit creeps in; heck no, I don't really enjoy every moment of every day).
I have discovered something amazing about myself--I can think! I have a brain and can use it! I am competant in decision making, and happy, and talented, all on my own! Don't have to blame god anymore for the bad stuff or give him/her/it credit for the good - I am finding that I love my life, now that it really is my own!
Fast forward ten years till I was is so much pain I couldn't leave the house. One sunday morning, not having been able to attend church for three months, I suddenly felt this feeling I'd never before experienced. For the first time in my life, my mind unclouded by mormonism, I felt the swell of self identity and I began to formulate opinions. I was able to admit to and combine all the aspects of the church that had never set well with me. Sitting there in the livingroom with my husband in West Jordan, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that 'the church' WAS NOT TRUE. And as I realized I wasn't sitting in church that day because I was too ill, but rather because I knew it wasn't true, I felt my seven year back pain begin to melt away.....pain that even morphine couldn't relieve. In the space of about 3 1/2 hours my pain drained almost completely away! I have never looked back. Our names are off church records and I've never been so healthy and happy. We've gone on to 'live' life and try our best to heal the deep wounds inflicted upon our family by the church.
For me personally, mormonism was easy. I never had any desire to smoke, drink, or have sex with anyone other than my husband. I love being a stay at home mom. I'm too lazy to publish a paper. I 'fit' nicely.
I eventually opened my eyes to the harm that could be done to those that don't 'fit'. The mormon god requires obedience to "proper authority". Only through this obedience can one be reunited with loved ones in the next life. Talk about force through coercion and fear! It worked for Joseph Smith -- teenage girls and other men's wives slept with him to secure salvation for their families. It works today. Gay mormons deny their essence; mormon scholars abandon publication; mormon women eschew natural leadership tendencies -- in obedience to proper authority. Grown men and women parade around the temple in green aprons and silly hats repetitiously watching the same dull movie over and over and over -- in obedience to proper authority. Mormons in California will donate large sums of money to prohibit committed marriages between same sex persons -- in obedience to proper authority. To be with loved ones.
I find any extremely authoritarian system dangerous, whether or not it is "true". I don't believe the mormon god exists. If I did believed he existed, I would not submit to his tyranny. I would fight for a better world -- a world of love and acceptance for all. If I found out tomorrow the mormon god existed I would fight him with every fiber of my being, just as I would fight Adolf Hitler if he were here today. Just because a god is all powerful would not make him worthy of worship. The mormon god is a small-minded bureaucratic tyrant. Damn him.
It invades every fibre of a persons being, it takes the mind and thoughts of a person, moulds them to its own agenda. Mormonism dictates ones every waking thought, feeling and emotion. It tells one what to think and not to think, feel and not to feel. It dictates how ones sexuality should grow, develop and along what lines it should be channeled.
It is totally, totally manipulative. As this is based on lies, untruths and manipulations and twistings of facts, doctrines and histories this can be summed up in one word: ABUSE!
This is why folks need a recovery process and also a place such as the exmormon.org site and lists such as this.
Trying our best to 'follow the church's teachings' led both myself and my husband to 'unhealthy' behaviors toward one another that we weren't even aware were taking place, until after the damage was done. It seems as though the harder a person tries to "be" mormon, the more difficult that person is to get along with, and that doesn't do a whole lot for a relationship.
I'm 37 and would give anything to go back to age 19, IF ONLY to relive that much of my life having nothing to do with the mormon church.
But to base one's life upon the dictates of a group of liars and deceivers just doesn't appeal to my sense of what should be. To rob from the poor and the rich individuals to build up a colossal and dominating and all-exclusive organization whose aim first of all is to perpetuate itself and its warped sense of what is real and its lies and deceits is immoral. The church further weakens traditional societies that have already been hammered by centuries of slavery, colonialism, Christian preaching, exploitation, and American-inflicted sense of inferiority. Instead of bringing people together, as it claims, it very often divides families, separates families from neighbors, divides Mormon neighborhoods from those of all other faiths (or absence thereof).
The word cult is too gentle for this organization, for it is much larger and much more powerful than that four-letter word connotes. It sets standards that in many societies are impossible to attain. And they haven't the background to know which of the many standards they need to obey to be acceptable and which they can greatly bend and which they can totally disregard as being too vague or just ideals that humans can never attain. In so doing, it flatly destroys lives--especially in foreign countries.
Last night we were chatting via email and he said that you don't have to be in a gang to be killed in a drive by shooting and that you also don't have to be a mormon to be hurt by mormonism. That really touched me deeply. I had no idea that he had felt so much pain; I just saw him as someone who was trying to get something over me.
Mormons define themselves as always telling the truth or having the truth, and when something enters their brains that is contrary to that notion it is ignored, fought against, or distorted. One of the things I did as I was getting out of the church was to note the contradictions between one thing the church would say and another thing the church would say and then say to myself that since the church contradicted itself, I was free to choose.
Once a person starts deconstructing the church - looking for inherent contradiction - it all unravels. Unfortunately for devout Mormons, since they have based their identity on being church members, unraveling the church story unravels their identity as well. When we are members, the church is a huge part of that self-narrative we call our identity, and contradictions and counter-stories set off profound psychological shocks. I joined the church in large part because I wanted to be part of that larger story - to be written into something meaningful. I expected, however, that it would not be a work of fantasy or science fiction.
Wow... I can't believe it. I'm happy to have it done. I'm proud to say that I was able to identify the falsehoods, stand up to them, and make a stand against them. I will always be a cultural mormon because of my family ties. I, however, am not a mormon. The reason I am not a mormon is because it is not true. I don't wish for it to be true (as I once did.) I do not want that association in my life. I aspire to never allow anyone or any group to shame me like that ever again.
Quiet and at Peace,
I spent the next 20 years running from the church. Every time I moved, the visiting teachers came calling. I hated the church, and hated the hypocrisy of it's members, but until I found the Recovery from Mormonism web site, I never studied the history and doctrinal changes that make up this church. It was such a huge burden lifted off my shoulders to find out that I wasn't running from God's church, but running from mind control and mis- information. I always had questions about the teachings, but as you know, those questions were answered by pray harder, and have faith.
It makes me angry the that church causes such division in families. If you ask me, they have done as much to destroy the family in this day and age as factors usually blamed such as TV, mother's working, technology etc. Of course since the foundation of Mormonism is a lie, it is no surprise they actually believe the lie that Mormonism is Pro-Family.
When I was entrenched in the Mormon lifestyle, I was miserable for a lot of those years, and really hated seeing "This too shall pass!" I wondered why it was necessary to even be suffering or enduring hardship in the first place - after all, where were all those wonderful blessings we were promised for keeping the commandments? Yeah, yeah - we were being tested to see if we would "endure to the end." That was another phrase I learned to HATE! That, and being told what "sweet sisters" we were, repeatedly in every meeting, just so we wouldn't forget it, I suppose.
Well, I began to not feel sweet at all, and began to really resent the expectation that whatever crap we were dealing with at home, in our families, and in our church community, would be fixed if we remained sweet, worked harder and became more prayerful, and above all, kept the tithing coming. The attitude shoveled at us was always, "This will pass, once you have proven your worthiness."
For more detailed stories from former Mormons about their leaving Mormonism, go to the Recovery From Mormonism site.
© 1999 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included