Dear Mr. Church

I’m leaving you.

I know this may be a shocking statement, especially considering the relationship we’ve had all these years. But I’ll say it again, to make certain you hear me: I’m leaving you.

All this time, you’ve sworn to me that you value me, that I’m a woman of worth, that my life, my contributions, and my sacrifices really mean something to you. And I heard your words, wanting to believe them, while at the same time I tried to make my reality fit your words. There’s a big discrepancy between how you made me feel by your actions and how you told me to feel by your words.

If I’m so special, so valued, so filled with worth, why did you treat me as if I had no worth? It’s apparent all I ever was to you was a workhorse, a maid, someone to get things done. I made you look good in your position of status. No power was ever granted to me in our relationship. It was well understood who held the power. I made sure you had order, organization, peace, contentment, and ease in your world, while you sat back and accepted this from me with an air of entitlement and expectation. I worked so hard! And what did you say? You told me that it was my duty, my privilege to be doing those things for you that were expected of me. And often, you told me that my efforts might not be quite good enough. I was made to feel guilty each time I did something for me, because it’s not about me. No, never. It’s all about you ~ how to make you look better, and how to give service to you and yours, how to build you up.

If I ever felt weary or discouraged about how I was being treated, you were always quick to assure me that I was wrong to feel that way. You made me apologize and repent for what you said were my unrighteous feelings. You told me to appreciate all the opportunities for service and giving that were there to enrich my life, help me grow, and bring me happiness. You made me feel selfish and low for wanting to have something, anything, different than the life you created for me with your high expectations and unwillingness to let me have some say in who I wanted to become.

And what carrot did you dangle to keep me with you all these years? You told me that if I stayed by your side, unquestioningly doing all you told me to do, I could one day be a goddess! I could earn eternal glory! You told me that you needed me, and who doesn’t love to feel needed? But then you told me that without you, I am nothing. You assured me that if I ever left you, I’d have no family near, no home to call my own. I’d have no support. I’d be worthless, cast out, alone. To think I actually believed you when you told me you valued me! I actually thought you loved me! But when I stopped working and listening to your criticism long enough to actually look at our relationship with open eyes, it was devastating! Absolutely devastating. Because it was all too clear.

All along, your actions told me exactly how much worth you really felt I had. I had no ability to make the final decision in anything. I had to run everything by you for approval first. If I ever did something that fell outside the guidelines you set for me, I had to tell you about it, and face consequences that you created and that you enforced. You told me how much money I could spend, and on what. You insisted I pay you 10% of all my personal earnings, in order to be allowed entrance into the temple, another thing required in order to obtain your dangling carrot. You gave me specific jobs to do, without letting me choose for myself what I preferred doing, exerting extreme pressure on me to always do what I was told to do without question. You made sure I knew and understood that I would never have any real authority in our relationship, because this is the way you said it’s supposed to be. You made me report back to you in all that I did, and you kept tabs on my life constantly. When I said I resent that I have to tell you everything and answer to you in all things, you said, “This is the way it is. This is the way it’s supposed to be – the way it’s always been. Embrace it. This is where you will find your true destiny and ultimate strength. All trials have been gifted to you to make you stronger, to help you become your best self.”

All this time, I wanted to believe that you valued me. But you didn’t. You didn’t. How could you? I mean, who values the mat you step on to get inside the door?? It’s rare to even notice the mat, let alone dwell on its worth to you.

Until it’s suddenly gone on a rainy day.

9 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Church

  1. SML: Love, love, love your writing and this is yet another example of why I love your writing. You manage to capture so many concepts within Mormonism–theological, philosophical, and cultural–with such eloquent and elegant simplicity, it always takes my breath away! Excellent post, my friend. Excellent!

  2. I’m going to second Pompous’s thoughts on your post here – beautifully written piece.

    When freeing yourself from the chains of dogma, you find that your world has a greater chance of becoming a place of peace and light.

    Go on, carry on marching to the beat of your own drum!

  3. I love the analogy of the unfaithful lover. He needs to be dumped if for nothing else for reasons of self-preservation.

  4. I’ve been having a similar conversation on my blog:

    I want to say that the relationship between the church and its members is unhealthy: it’s helpful, comforting, familiar, limiting, controlling, abusive. It makes sense to imagine the LDS church as an abusive lover and the members as codependent enablers.

    There are good things about the relationship. The good times keep you going. You make excuses for the bad times. Sometimes the abuser tells you how much they love you. Sometimes they tell you how worthless you are. You hide all the signs that something might be wrong. You turn a blind eye to the ways that the abuser hurts you. You try to maintain a public front of perfection. You can’t imagine leaving the relationship. You’re sure that your life will be empty without the abuser. No one else will love you.

    The analogy isn’t perfect, but the similarities are striking.

  5. Bravo!!!!

    You have conveyed the unhealthy, abusive relationship the church has with all of its victims . . . ahem, I mean members.

  6. SML, this is absolutely brilliant. You’ve really put it in perspective here. Though I think that the analogy is especially appropriate for women in the church, who have it much worse than men, it holds true for all of us. You’ve really nailed the way I felt in the church for a long time, being promised the universe, but abused and trampled on in the process.

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