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.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Root Beer laced with Vanilla Vodka

I rarely see our letter carrier. But I happened to be outside, tending to my garden when she came by with our mail. She handed the two letters directly to me, and I thanked her. The letter on top was junk mail. But the one on the bottom was from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

My stomach fluttered. I figured it was my release letter, but a piece of me wondered if they were excommunicating me, or if it was another plea to come back to 'the flock'.

I started opening it as I walked around to the backyard, looking for my husband. I slowly pulled out the letter and read aloud the words, "This letter is to notify you that, in accordance with your request, your name has been removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

A feeling of comfort came over me. I was seriously starting to prepare myself to be able to deal with never getting it. But here it was, in my hand, and it was the greatest gift the Mormon church ever gave me.

I got a big hug from my husband, and he made me some celebratory drinks. An alcoholic Root Beer Float. Nothing beats Root Beer, Vanilla Vodka and some milk. Nom Nom Nom...

Now I can no longer be counted as a member of their church. When they use their numbers to seem believable to potential converts, or to help members stave off their cognitive dissonance, I am no longer a tool in their armory of deceit. And it feels really, really good.

Picture: My two daughters on Halloween 2008, dancing to the carousel music at Knott's Berry Farm... that's how I feel now...

Friday, May 14, 2010

My husband got his letter...

Where the hell is mine??

I was born into a Mormon family. My husband was baptized in 2004 out of pressure from my Mormon family. He didn't have a set religion before and figured that Mormonism was just another Christian religion. To find out why it's not please visit SmithBusters.

Did they let him out sooner because of his lack of 'tenure'?

I started sharing my doubts with him over the course of our marriage and in November 2008, I told him I was done. He had no problem walking away with me. A little over a year later, in January 2010, I wrote our formal letters and mailed them together. We both got a little 'guilt' packet, pleading with us to give the church one more try. It came with a mild threat of church members showing up on our front door step.

Well, no one ever came and we didn't get a letter releasing us, so I set out to write another letter.

The letter formally releasing my husband from the church showed up a few weeks ago. I figured mine would be close behind. It's been two weeks since my husband received his letter, and I am still standing here empty handed.

I can't help but wonder if my 29 year 'membership' vs. his 5 year 'membership' has something to do with it.

I feel the need to point out what they are doing is actually all their own drama. Legally, the second they received my letter, I was no longer a member. It's only my own desire to actually hold the letter, that is forcing me to continue to write letters requesting to receive my freedom in written form. (I checked the Mormon No More website and it is no longer up. You can get the original information by going here.)

Even if I never receive a tangible letter to frame or scrapbook, I know that I haven't been Mormon for a long time. I haven't had a testimony since I was 17. I haven't fully believed since I was 21. I haven't gone to church every Sunday since I was 20. I haven't prayed willingly on my own since I was 26. I haven't wanted a temple marriage since I was 27. At 28, I stopped referring to myself as Mormon. It's been a slow process, but it's been steady.

I will celebrate liberally the day I receive my letter. Though I know that if I never get a letter releasing me from their records, I will be okay. By using my own logic and reason, I have saved my children from years of guilt, years of not feeling worthy of life or love and a lifetime of cognitive dissonance. The Mormon Church has stolen so much happiness and self worth from me that I could not, in good conscience, let the same thing happen to my daughters.

But honestly, I celebrate a little every day that I wake up. It's one more day as a mother, a wife, and an atheist on this wonderful rock, spinning through space.

Picture: Sea stars at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Fransisco.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A letter from a stranger

The following took place through facebook messages. I don't know this lady, but she felt comfortable enough to email me. (I changed her name a little.)

Carrie Lutz Grant January 13 at 1:34am Report

Why did you leave the church? Why are you denying your children the chance to grow up with the gospel? It can only bring good into your life.

Leilani (Me) January 13 at 11:34am

Sister Grant,

It's always odd getting an email from a stranger asking me questions that are, quite frankly, none of their business.

I understand your concern for me, a lady whom you've never met, as I have been on your side of the story. I appreciate you keeping your email so short. I, unfortunately, won't be able to keep it as 'to the point'.

It was a very difficult decision to leave the LDS church. I was born and raised in it. And I can't say one decision led me to leave. It was years and years of pain and truth that one day, I could no longer bear, nor deny.

My mother lied to my biological father. After she had me, behind his back,s he told him she was only 16 when they made me, and that she would press charges if he didn't sign custody over. He only got to hold me once. She denied him his daughter his whole life. He died in April of 1998, 3 months before my mom told me that she, my dad (step dad), and EVERY other Mormon family member intentionally lied to me for 18 years. They denied me my birth father, my two older brothers and a little sister.

I believe in equal rights. The Mormon church does not. Blah, blah, blah about how the LDS church doesn't hate gays. I am not accusing hate. Separation of church and state is very important. The church's stance on marriage equality sickens me. No matter what one's spiritual beliefs are, our country is separate. Marriage equality has not ruined any marriages or children in the other countries it's already legal in. It will only strengthen families. I couldn't be a hypocrite believing one thing and belonging to an organization that believes another.

As I have done research, I have found that Joseph Smith's claims were not true. I am not going to detail it out. I am not looking to offend you or rip you apart. I have had a testimony. I have been to the temple to do baptisms for the dead.

I have found that there are no gods. All we have is the wonder of science and knowledge. The only time we have is now. And it's a beautiful wonderful thing. I was lied to my whole life. When I told my
mom about my pain, she told me that I was just being melodramatic (something she has always called me, so that she never had to take me seriously.)

I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday. I hope you raise your c
hildren in the real love your Christ taught. I still have LDS friends who are active, who ask the same questions of me. But your statement that it can only bring good into my life is untrue in my case. Because of the LDS religion, I was lied to by my entire family for no good reason, I lost my identity at 18 and was never consoled by my mother, or my father, I was only comforted by my Aunt who wasn't Mormon. Everyone else felt so uncomfortable with me knowing, they didn't offer me as much as a hug.

I am not denying my children anything important. They have unconditional love (something I didn't have), science, wonder, mystery, truth, adventure, a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. You and I both know that come the end of days, they will not be punished for my decision if the LDS church is true.

Sorry I have rambled for so long. If you've gotten to this point, I am amazed. :o) A lot more than this led to my leaving the church. I just don't know you and don't want to waste anymore of your time. You have at least two beautiful children to spend your time with.

Thank you again for your concern. I am sure you found me through the ex-Mormon facebook page and I wonder if you have emailed more people. There is always the possibility you are a friend of my mothers, if that is the case, you have no idea how much pain she has caused me, up to wishing my first child was born with a birth defect. And when my first child was born with a cleft, she told me it was because I wasn't going to church often enough. Then she would make it 'sing' or 'talk' by opening and closing it. Mocking my child's facial deformity...



Carrie Lutz Grant January 12 at 6:55pm Report

I was up late one night and found the ex-Mormon site. I don't know your mother. I saw that you wrote you left the church and took your kids out of it. It made me cry. I know I have never met you.

I cannot believe what you have been through in your lifetime. I am sorry your mother treated you so poorly. I am sorry you did not get to meet your father. You must be a very strong person to have endured what you have.

You really need to be able to separate bad people from the gospel. Heavenly Father did not do any of that stuff to you. Nothing bad comes from him. Jesus has been through everything we have been through that is why we need a Savior. This life is hard and it comes with so many trials. We need God in our lives. My friend just lost her second child in a freak accident. She needs Heavenly Father and is feeling so much peace right now from his love.

That is why we are here on the earth to overcome hardships.

I really want to thank you for sharing your life with me. I am not judging you. I just want you to be happy. There are so many good LDS people out there and there are also LDS people that are not living the way they should. It does not mean the church is not true it means people make mistakes and your case you have seen people make huge mistakes and really hurt you.

Leilani (Me) January 14 at 12:31am

I appreciate your sincerity. But it's not just the pain. I touched briefly on how I found major dissonance with what Joseph Smith claimed as well as Brigham Young. I can speak freely of my pain, because I doubted it would offend you. But I cannot bring myself to rip someones belief system apart, just to explain why I left.

I have overcome what life has dealt me. And I can't tell you how wonderful it is having settled my cognitive dissonace. I know I cannot shake your faith, and no one can 'give' me back mine. Once you stop believing in Santa, it would be impossible to believe in him again. That's how I see god now. (Not trying to offend, just explain.)

But if you ever have a question for your 'Friendly neighborhood Atheist', feel free to email me again. I have nothing but love for my fellow human beings.

I felt like sharing this letter. I respond the same way to most of the letters I have received from nibby nose Mormon mothers who 'ache' for my children, 'cry' for my children, and 'get sick to their stomachs' because I chose to take my children out of the church. I guess that is what I get for joining Ex-Mormon facebook pages. This wasn't the first email, and it probably won't be the last.

I proved to her that the gospel doesn't only bring good into your life. Because of the gospel, my mother felt she needed to find a 'more worthy' man to be my father. Because of the gospel, my mom felt comfortable piling on guilt for years, and "knew in her heart" that god punished me for only attending church when the bouts of morning sickness subsided long enough to leave the house.

I could have ripped into her about how she believes the members of an organization don't reflect the organization. Because they do. I could have gone into the blood lineage of the Nephites or pointed out all the mistakes in the Book of Mormon, but she would have been prepared to claim that a human translated it and humans are flawed. I have found that you can't argue with crazy.

You can't reason with someone who's beliefs aren't based on reason.