I am a former Mormon. Many of you know this. I wondered today how much of the Mo I still have in me. I like to think that I am completely over being Mo. No more anger, no more hallucinations…that sort of thing.
But I don’t think I am.
I have a very dear friend who is re-thinking Mormonism. She has discovered some things that have made her feel very dubious about it’s origins, it’s truthfulness, and frankly, it’s validity from the get-go. I mean, what DO 14 year old boys do alone in the woods, but go to “see God”…?
She called me in a panic. She has a dear friend going into surgery next week, and her logical mind is telling her the truth, but another part of her mind is whispering to her that maybe things will not turn out alright because she is leaving the Church. Because SHE is leaving the Church. This is not her fault. I know that intellectually she knows that God won’t smite down her friend to punish her for leaving. She KNOWS this. But the thought is there. The intellectual mind is wonderful at telling us that what we are thinking, saying or doing is ridiculous. Yet, we still drink the little cup of water. This is my blood. Eat the stale bread. This is my body. Put on the shiny green apron. You are Eve; you are ashamed of your nakedness. Bow your heads and say ‘yes’. Obey.
Yet we still worry that our imperfections, our actions will cause bad things to happen.
I wondered today how much of that thinking is still ‘in’ me? I had it vocalized the other day (week) by my well-meaning brother. He said “Juls, do you ever think that maybe your life needs the structure of the Church, and that is why things are falling apart for you? That maybe if you were to come back, your life would fall back into place?” Back into place.
My brain intellectually knows that my life has never been ‘in place’. Growing up, I had periods of total belief and devotion to the Church. I got sexually assaulted anyway, despite my prayers, despite the fact that Jesus in his fair-skinned, red-haired glory stared down at me while I was attacked.
My parents attended church every Sunday, had callings; my dad sang in the Tabernacle Choir…and they fought like dogs–Sundays were the worst. And I would hide and wish that my dad would just die.
I married in the temple after marrying civilly–for this life and this life only–and it didn’t change the fact that my first husband was emotionally, mentally and finally, physically abusive. I was Mormon and still had depression so badly that I wanted to end my life. And I was a good Mormon. I tried so very hard to fit in that mold, that way of life. I wanted to believe it was that simple.
And then…I didn’t. I left. I left because the stuff I believed and the stuff I didn’t believe had a huge chasm between them. But one thing was true: I was never a perfect Mormon. Had I been perfect, maybe I would have not been attacked? Perhaps mom and dad would have gotten along? My intellect is yelling at the top of its lungs right now–one moment,, please, dear reader: “Relax, I am being rhetorical here. I KNOW you KNOW that my lack of perfection was not the cause of any of this”. Okay, sorry.
See, there’s an old joke I like to tell. What’s the difference between LSD and LDS? Well, with LSD you eventually stop hallucinating. But how accurate is that?
Have I literally created my life’s circumstances because deep down in the part of my unconscious brain, I feel I deserve misery because I left the Church? Somewhere, deep down, do I wonder if I deserve nothing because I “fell”?
I can’t see…the myriad of influences crowd me. I feel a sense of confusion–the devil? clouding my senses. So many people leave Mormonism because of the history, the inconsistencies…but I left because of the mind job I knew–I KNEW–I was getting. Things like the delusion that my perfection or imperfection would make or break my happiness–and everyone around me. Delusions that if I were just better, more faithful, I would be happy. Faithful members of the Church didn’t have lustful feelings for the same sex. Faithful, good members didn’t have mental illnesses and learning disabilities like I did. Good Mormons didn’t get divorced, didn’t make mistakes, because God’s spirit was with them every second and guided them to the “right” choice. And the “right” choice led to the easy life, happiness, no more struggle–unless you were given….A Trial.
I expect, to this day, perfection from myself. My criteria may have changed, but the expectations are still the same. And the ultimate outcome for being perfect is to have whatever one feels they lack–in my case, happiness, peace, joy. Now, I don’t kick myself for not reading my scriptures; I kick myself for not going to the gym for a whole week. I don’t reprimand myself for not attending church, but I really feel awful if I don’t do something productive to earn money, further my career somehow. I don’t feel badly that I don’t visit-teach, but if I don’t come when my friends call, I feel like a failure.
So which came first? My need for perfection or the Church’s need for me to be perfect? They don’t even teach any of this in Sunday School, you know. So where did I get it? Where did my friend get it?
I suspect we get it from those austere, above-reproach distinguished men at the pulpit who talk about faith, love, peace, hope, eternity…and I felt so warm and fuzzy after those talks and conferences. They spoke of how The Gospel brings all of it into your life, and they give you the road map on how to get there, don’t they? Do this, this, this, ad infinitum, and it will all be yours. I did this, this, this, and it wasn’t mine. My natural assumption was that I didn’t do the ‘thises’ well enough, right enough…enough. Therefore, NO blessings, peace, joy for me. And I resented God. I resented that He didn’t know how hard I was trying. But more than that, a deep-seated self-loathing hovered under the surface, telling me “You know you aren’t doing everything, everything you’re supposed to do…you know…” and I did know. I had judged Sister Smith for her snide remark; I had used profanity while driving; I was too damn tired to read my scriptures at night, I declined to do a calling. So I strove for perfection on the outside. I went to craft night and made bean bag dolls because THAT was doable. I prayed and asked for help in being all I could be. I read just a few versus before I collapsed into bed. I sang hymns, I attended church. I watched General Conference. I bought a god damned glue gun. I made cookies. I tried, I tried, I tried…and I did not find joy. No peace.
Maybe, as one family member said to me, maybe I never really had a testimony; because if I had, I would have never been able to leave. I would have found the joy.
Maybe, just maybe, he was right.
Or maybe it was the devil.
Repost from Ravings of a Mad Woman blog