Thursday, June 11, 2015

My ex-boyfriend, Mormonism

A metaphor that perfectly describes my relationships with the church:

So, for me, the church is like an old boyfriend that I just couldn't quit. We had a long and wonderful relationship, and we really, really loved each other. This boyfriend is a huge part of who I am. But at a certain point, I realized that we just weren't right for each other, so we broke up. But I missed him terribly. My heart was still tied to him. So I went back and forth, trying to make it work, always realizing that I had changed too much and we just weren't a good fit anymore. When I saw my friends posting pictures of their kids' baptisms or their hangouts at the General Women's meeting, I felt kind of like how you feel when you see your old boyfriend with a new girl, and she looks so happy with him. It made me wonder if I had made a mistake or given up too soon. Maybe he was great and I just didn't realize it? It made me want to give it another try.

But last summer, when I had the emotional break I've described here, it was like I finally quit him. I finally, really severed my heart from his. Now, when I see him with other girls, I just see him for the jerk he is (sorry). I don't want him. I've found a new guy (agnosticism), and he treats me with respect, like his intellectual equal. I feel much more comfortable with this new guy in my kids' life.

The tricky part is that my old boyfriend is kind of always in my face because all my friends and family are Mormon. So they're always talking about it and posting about it, and it's like I finally got over this guy, we're both happy with new people...but he lives on my street! So I see him every day! I just won't ever get away from him, and that's okay.

For my husband, the church is also like an old girlfriend but a totally different kind. She was the girl who really, really liked him, everybody thought they should be together, but he wasn't really into her. But she was super persistent, and it was kinda convenient (because their friends were all dating each other), so he just kind of went along with the relationship. She was basically just a convenient make-out, and dating her made it easier to be with his friends.

But when he moved away, he finally felt like he could break up with her. And he never looks back, he doesn't even think about her, because he never really cared about her in the first place. She was a relationship of convenience.

So, for him, he just doesn't want anything to do with the church at all. And I'm just way, way over it, too. No more Mormonism for me. And I'm just so much happier this way.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Long Overdue Post--Take Two

Last week I wrote a post that was basically just word vomit brought on by my strong emotional reaction to a friend's story of growing up gay in the closet and then finding a "solution" in forcing himself to marry a woman and so he could have a family and remain "righteous". I can't think about it too much or I'll go back to that emotionally charged place--and clearly I can't think straight there. Suffice it to say, that post was incoherent and rambly and didn't really accomplish what I was going for in my "long overdue" post, which was to articulate some sort of closure regarding my relationship with the church.

So let's try this again.

I left the church almost nine years ago.  It was a slow process of realizing that I just didn't believe the basic tenets of LDS faith anymore and having an increasingly difficult time participating in meetings when everything I heard and sang and read seemed to conflict with my actual beliefs. So eventually, I did just admit to myself that I couldn't do this thing anymore.

In the years that followed, I had random periods of wanting to try again (usually once or twice a year). And then I discovered my "hope testimony" strategy a few years ago. It was definitely good enough to get me through the meetings. It wasn't enough to ever get me to commit to full activity in the church, though, and when I finally acknowledged the toll it was taking on my family, it wasn't enough to keep me even trying anymore. But I still had conflicts. Because somewhere inside of me, I still wanted to make Mormonism work for me and my family. My friends posted pictures of their babies' blessing days or their kids' baptism days (or elaborate baptism invitations) and I found myself wishing that I could have made it all work. I wished that I had never left the church and could just be a happy, normal Mormon.

Last summer, during and in the wake of Kate Kelly's excommunication and all the brouhaha over Ordain Women, something changed inside me. I was engaged in a lot of online and offline conversation about every aspect of it. Nothing new there. But after the dust of debate settled, things were different. I didn't feel any inner conflict about not going to church on Sunday. I didn't feel any pangs of envy when I saw my friends' family pictures at baptisms. I felt totally--and happily--separate from it all.

I haven't really understood what it was exactly that changed, until recently. The other day, I finally realized that when I initially left the church, that was because I broke with it spiritually and intellectually. It didn't resonate with me anymore, I didn't believe it, and I never felt any conflict over that. I never felt any twinges of my old belief, and I never really wanted to. Even when I was trying to be active with my hope testimony, I was totally content with long-term hope and no actual belief. That was because I was so completely comfortable with not believing.

So I broke with the church spiritually nine years ago, and I've never looked back...spiritually. But I never broke with the church emotionally. Until last summer. Prior to that, I was very caught up in my love of the institution and the community and the way I was raised. I hated the idea of not passing those things on to my kids. I was proud of my affiliation with Mormonism, because I viewed it as so good. If I'm being totally honest, maybe I subconsciously viewed it as an institution that was perhaps even superior to the average church, just one that I couldn't get fully on board with. That's why I was trying so damn hard to hope.

But last summer, when I saw this other, nasty side of Mormonism, it destroyed my romanticized vision of the community. That's not to say that Mormons aren't great people. I still love them. So much. But they aren't a community I want to be a part of any more than any other community, which used to be the case.

The Ordain Women materials played a specific role as well. Reading through the 1st Conversation, particularly Patriarchy Bingo, was kind of traumatic for me. A tiny excerpt:

"The leaders whose names you memorized and whose words you read were men"

"More money and time was spent on boys in your ward than girls (Boy Scouts, Young Men's activities)"

"You were taught that young women must help control male thoughts by removing temptations through modesty."

"If you looked for spiritual guidance, it was usually from a man."

In the eight years since I had left the church, I was very comfortable being critical of Mormon dogma as well as the institution. And yet, they had done such a good job of conditioning me that I was still largely okay with women's roles. (WTF, right?) When people questioned me about it, I responded with things like, "Well, no, women don't hold the priesthood, but they're very honored and respected. The leaders always speak very highly of them."

How foolish I felt when I saw it with new eyes. I realized that when the men were saying things like, "God had to give men the priesthood because he knew we needed it. Women are naturally more righteous and close to God. They don't need the priesthood," it was the same as when I eat a candy bar that I don't want to share with my toddler but I make a disgusted face to make her think it's no good. Then she won't keep asking for it and I can have it all to myself. ALL the ways that men--and women!--talk about gender roles in the church are super patronizing.

Then I started realizing how very few women speak in General Conference or sit on the stand there (HOW did that never scream out at me?). Never have we studied in Priesthood and Relief Society the teachings of Eliza R. Snow or Emma Smith. We simply don't quote women--the men especially don't. The fundamental message the church is sending with all of this is that men's ideas are more important than women's ideas. And guess what? That's not a message I want to send my three daughters--OR my son. And it's a message that is built into the very structure of the church. I can't simply teach against it with my words and then condone it by actively bringing my kids there every single week to have it reinforced.

Reaching a point where I could see that bringing my kids to church was actually harmful to them is what finally helped me break emotionally from the institution and its traditions. Not only am I okay with not passing on some of the things I grew up with, I don't want to. I don't want any of those ideas to be a part of my kids' upbringing.

Another thing that influenced my emotional break was the Uncomfortable God essay by "Cate". It's so filled with badass rhetoric, I don't even know which parts to highlight. I have read it several times, trying to pick out the best parts and I just can't. It's the whole thing. The whole thing resonates with me, and it helped me see the church for what it is. Seeing it for what it is made it a lot easier for me to leave it in my past where it belongs.

So there ya go. My spirit and intellect broke with the church nine years ago, but I was still hopelessly attached to it by my emotions. When that attachment finally broke last summer, all of the blinders came off. So I'm done. I will always love the community that raised me. And I will always claim Mormonism as my heritage (and there are still elements of it that I am very proud of). The church has a lot of good, but all of it can be found elsewhere--without the judgment and shame and sexism and oppression and cruelty toward gays and everyone else who isn't the way they're "supposed" to be.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A long overdue post--Closure

You guys, I'm a bad blogger. And it's not surprising to me, because I'm generally just really bad at consistency and following through on things that aren't essential. Plus, I just have all these kids and I homeschool and I have this house to keep up...and I guess blogging just isn't a priority.

But I've reached some resolutions in the last several months and I feel like I should wrap up some stuff here on the old blog.

As I mentioned in my most recent post (which I though I published back in May, even though I apparently didn't--I was in the fog of mothering a newborn, after all), I decided I was d-u-n least for that time.

Well, now I'm double d-u-n done. Like, forever.

I originally left the church nine years ago. Since then, I have felt perfectly fine with my choice. I certainly haven't ever felt like I was doing anything "wrong" by not attending church, because in all this time, I haven't ever believed in any of the rightness and necessity of church activity. But as you know, I have almost always missed the community and a lot of the culture of Mormonism, because it was good to me. And I've always been kinda proud of my Mormonism, because I've always believed Mormonism to be a good thing...just a good thing that I couldn't reconcile my actual beliefs with.

Well, that has changed.

I still think most Mormons are fabulous people. And there are a lot of things about me that were shaped by Mormonism and are good. And I'll always claim Mormonism as my heritage. I'm a Mormon, dammit.

Now days not only am I at peace with not raising my kids in the church, but I actually don't feel like I could raise them in the church. I now see the church as an atmosphere that is severely damaging to people and relationships.

Most recently there's this show, "My Husband's Not Gay", on TLC. Maybe you've seen the controversy surrounding it. It's about Mormons in mixed-orientation marriages. Well, one of the men on the show is my friend from high school. He is one of the most sincere, wonderful people I've ever known. My initial reaction to the show was pretty supportive, at least of the couples involved. I mean, if someone says they're happy, who am I to say they're not? Plus, knowing and loving this person, I just really, truly hope he IS happy. So I started a discussion about it on Facebook (because that's what I do), saying that I'm happy for those people and we can't really judge their actually happiness, because we're not inside their heads, right? I still stand by that.

But then one of my other friends shared this friend's interview for Voices of Hope (a site all about "same-sex attraction", particularly couples who are involved in mixed-orientation marriages). I sat and watched, for an hour, someone I love talking about a horrific childhood and adolescence. When I knew him, he was suffering shame and loneliness. It was very difficult to watch, knowing that I was there, every day. He went on a mission and bargained with God to take away his feelings if he served faithfully. He was devastated when it didn't work. He never told a single person until well into his twenties. When he told his mom, he says she was just so wonderful about it. How did she react, when her grown son fell on the floor in tears and told her he was gay? What was her angelic reaction? She immediately told him that they were going to find answers and figure it out. He bore his whole self to her for the first time in his life, and she told him she was going to help him fix it. Ick.

As we were watching, my husband observed that Preston's parents were the reason he suffered. Truth. And the reason they were the reason? The church. All of his suffering is because he was raised in this messed up church.  I cried through the whole damn video. I was heart broken.

And then I thought of all the gay Mormon kids who have lived and are living like that--completely alone, not telling anyone, terrified that someone might find out, worried about what it means about the rest of their lives, not sure how they'll ever be happy, wondering if the only way out of their agony is suicide. All because of the teachings of the church. I just can't. I can't be involved with a church like that. Because even if it isn't my kid feeling like that, somebody's kid is. Lots of them are.

So anyway, I was suuuuper done before this, but this is the freshest thing on my mind today. Perhaps I'll write some more about some of the other stuff later.