Sunday, May 23, 2010

Guilt Sandwiches


In the Mormon church, all girls from ages 12-18 attend Young Women classes on Sundays. They also go to Mutual on Wednesday nights. The Beehives are the girls who are 12-13 (Jr. High), Mia Maids are 14-15 (Freshmen/Sophmores) and Laurels are 16-17, sometimes 18 (Jrs and Srs.). My mother was called to lead the group of girls one age group older than me when I first entered Young Womens.

We sometimes had a class together on Sundays, so instead of separating into our age groups, we would all gather together to hear one of the Young Women Leaders give an all encompassing lesson.

One random Sunday it was my mothers turn to give the lesson. It was on chastity. She had placed a beautiful long stem red rose in one of my grandma's vases from home, in the middle of the table in the front of the classroom.

She started her lesson, talking about how we were all so precious. We were all loved by our Heavenly Father and how we were all princesses. She spoke of how we would all marry a worthy priesthood holder in the temple one day and how we would be able to stay on the path of righteousness and one day have our own planet, a flock of sisterwives and the love of many spirit children.

She spoke of how we were beautiful, just like the rose in the vase on the table. She then took a step towards the rose and plucked a petal from it. She held the petal in her hand and said that it takes away from us, if we make-out with a boy. She plucked another petal and said it takes away from our worth (to a potential worthy priesthood holder) if we allow a boy we are dating to touch our breasts.

She continued pulling irreplaceable petals from this poor rose until the last one, which she 'labled' having sex before marriage.

A few girls who had gone kinda far with their boyfriends had tears streaming down their faces. A few who were rumored to have gone all the way were stoic. I was dumbstruck. I couldn't believe that my mom ripped apart a rose from my grandmothers garden, just to guilt us into staying chaste.

The room fell silent. My mom made the point that our Heavenly Father loves us, he doesn't want this for us... (a barren rose with it's sexual organs displayed for all to see, sticking straight out of my grandmothers vase.) I felt so sad. There should have been a way for repentance. But there was no coming back from that.

We ended that lesson with a song and a prayer and went home. I hate to think that my mother's point was that without our virginity we were worthless, but I think that may have been the moral the church wanted our teachers to put forth to us.

It didn't stop a lot of the girls that went through Young Women's before me and after me. It didn't stop me. All it really did was give a weight of guilt. A feeling of never being able to be whole again. Every Mormon boy I dated after that, I felt unworthy for, even if he had 'given' himself to someone else before meeting me.

I know most religions teach repentance, but the guilt they put on the children, even before the sin can ever be committed, lingers. I struggle with my self worth even to this day because of what I learned in church. What I learned at home from my mother. Even with regards to what beauty is.

Instead of educating us on safe sex, or the horrors of unprotected sex, we got guilt. No actual education of any kind, no real facts or knowledge... just guilt, served up Mormon style; sweet words of praise first, guilt in the middle, then sweet words of warning, like a guilt sandwich. Looking back, that is really all I ever truly learned. How to handle guilt, how to work my way through it and how to not pile it onto my children. Which is a much better lesson to take away, in my opinion, than the actual lesson given.

1 comment:

karla ramirez said...

I'm reading all your blog and I have to tell you, I have only admiration for you. I'm an atheist too, coming from a lukewarm catholic childhood and a born-again pentecoastal mother in my teens. I never really believed, but it was still hard for me to leave all the religious baggage behind. For you to come out of such a deep pool of indoctrination only speaks of your integrity and quality as a human being. Keep writing, you do it really well.