Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Anti-Mormon Propaganda

Blogging isn't easy for me. I am a shy, introverted girl who hates confrontation. Sometimes I go months without blogging because I don't feel like I have anything new to bring to the table; or because I am a full time worker, full time mother, full time college student, as well as a wife.

It wasn't easy for me to realize I had become someone that I would have hated, for no good reason, as a youth. Coming out as as atheist, first to myself, then to my husband, wasn't easy. Nothing about realizing so many dear to your heart beliefs are lies is easy. And it's not something you can back track on. Once you realized that Santa wasn't real as a child, there was no forcing yourself to believe. Anything past that point of realization would have been fake belief; empty belief.

I never would have imagined when I was a young member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that I would be sitting here, on my day off, a week before Fall 2015 classes start, writing what my mother would refer to as Anti-Mormon Propaganda. Which was anything that spoke poorly about the church, specific members, or the beliefs. She would always tell me that someone who didn't know the truth about the gospel must have written it. I know now that isn't always true.

Sure, some things you come across on a quick Google search are written by people who were never members. It's easy to shrug off the things they say because 'they don't know' how wonderful the gospel is. I am coming from a different place. I have felt the holy ghost, I have been to the temple and felt the special feelings and I have prayed on my knees for guidance and help more times than I can remember. But none of the feelings I have felt throughout my life have been mystical or spiritual or the holy ghost, like I was told. Granted, it may still be easy to shrug off the things I write about because it's easy to push me into a different category because I am no longer a member. But the beauty of Mormonism is something that I experienced first hand. So don't tell me that writing my truth is an easy way out.

I lost my friends, and my immediate family because of this. I lost family traditions because of this. I felt like I lost an entire part of my identity because of this. This small little fact that crept up on me when I was least expecting it. That I was atheist.

It started off with a little research outside of church approved Mormon Propaganda. (Thanks Terrell!) That Joseph Smith was a confidence man. That he had been arrested for using a hat and seer stones to try to find treasure on people's property, the same type of hat and seer stones he used in the translation of gold plates. The same gold plates that would have been way too heavy for one man to carry from the hill to his residence, regardless of how thin they were pounded. That Joseph Smith was a Freemason, and that many of the Masonic Rituals that had been a part of that fraternity for hundreds of years were suddenly plagiarized and stolen to then become super secret temple rituals. The fact that the cryptic writing that Joseph did show as evidence, has been proven time and time again by scholars to be gibberish.

The fact that DNA tests have shown that the peoples that would have been the Nephites and Lamanites haven't a single hint of the Jewish or Middle Eastern DNA that they should have if the Book of Mormon were indeed true. That the Book of Mormon mentions horses, but there weren't horses there at the time. And no, tapirs are not the same as horses.

Just going off of history, anthropology, archaeology, and genetics we can see that there is no truth in the Book of Mormon. At least we can trace the Bible, we know it is a complied mishmash of stories from bronze age sheep herders that contradicts itself more times than it doesn't.

Every time I came across a different fact I would try to deny it. I would say things in my head about how it was gods way of testing his children, or that religion doesn't need evidence to back it's claims because it isn't of this world. And one day, my 'reasoning' in my head didn't convince me as much as it used to. Then slowly over time the excuses I had given myself about how it's true because I believe it, or because I feel it in my heart, were no longer enough to go on believing.

And it wasn't easy.

I identified as a Mormon first, before I identified as anything else. I was the girl at school that carried extra Books of Mormon with me, with my hand written testimony in the front cover, so that I could help save my friends. My husband still has the one I gave to him our senior year of high school, testimony and all. Mormonism was important to me, the most important thing. I had all the movies and watched them all the time. I still think I have Saturday's Warrior memorized. I can sing all the songs from the "I'm a Mormon" cassette tape. I think I still have a few pieces of sheet music in my basement. I would play "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and "I Heard Him Come" so many times my mother asked me to play a different song just so she could sing something else in her head.

It's not easy worrying everyday if your boss were to find out you are atheist if it would put your job in jeopardy. It's not easy sharing my story with complete strangers nor is it comfortable. But I remember when I was shedding myself of the religion of my youth and I searched and searched for people I could relate to. I wanted to read everything and know everything about how others coped and dealt with the transition from fairy tales to real life.

Over time blogging has helped me heal. It has helped me be at peace with myself. And even though my mother would consider my blog to be Anti-Mormon Propaganda, I know it's not. I am not attacking Mormonism because I hate it. I am shedding light on almost 200 years of lies because extraordinary beliefs require extraordinary evidence. And Mormonism doesn't have it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Our Visit to the Indianapolis Temple

 Our temple booties.

The Decision

I decided to take my children to the opening of the Indianapolis Temple.

It's not the type of thing I ever thought I would want to do ever again.

I have been to the Los Angeles Temple, and have performed 'sacred' rituals there; baptism for the dead as well as confirmations.

I went to the open house of the San Diego Temple when I was 13 years old. Then to the open house for the Redlands Temple when I was 23, and the Newport Temple when I was 25. I attended these open houses as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

This open house was different. This is the first time I went to an open house as a non-member.

When I first heard that the LDS church was planning on building a temple close to where I live, I was a little upset. One of the wonderful things about the place we live is that there aren't many Mormons. It was a selling point when we were looking to move out of California. I didn't protest or write letters, as I understand why a temple nearby would be important to some of my fellow Midwesterners. But I can honestly say that I was a bit saddened by the idea of having a temple in my new safe haven.

As the time grew closer to the LDS temple hosting its traditional open house, I debated about whether I wanted to visit on my own, make it a family outing, or avoid it altogether. It was an odd debate that I wrestled with for a few months. I wanted to show my children something that they may never get to see again, something from my past that was a painful part of my existence on this earth. But at the same time, I wasn't certain that I wanted to go back to anything Mormon, like, ever.

I didn't know if it would be painful, if I would have flashbacks of guilt, if I would panic or suffer from an anxiety attack. I was curious to see what kind of emotions I would feel visiting a 'sacred' place, a place that I was brainwashed to believe was the 'holiest of holies', but this time without the power of cult mentality.

As the time drew closer, I decided to make a reservation. That way if I decided to go, I would have the tickets I needed to attend. I was somewhat surprised to see how quickly time slots had already started filling up. I selected the first Wednesday night that had openings after work and made a reservation for four. I was worried that my name would be on some kind of 'blacklist' and that my ticket request would be denied. Which I know sounds slightly paranoid, but with how Mormons keep records I wouldn't have been surprised. I received the confirmation email and printed the tickets before they could change their mind.

When the day rolled around my husband asked me, as we loaded up the car, if I was sure that I was ready for this. I was somewhat shocked that I wasn't worried, or panicked. I was amazed at how it felt like the whole thing was a non-issue. I started to think that I would start freaking out the closer we got to our destination.

As we drove along the country roads and state highways, I found myself thinking about the other times I had visited temples. How every time I visited a temple, I always imagined getting married there one day. How I paid special attention to the sealing rooms and the landscaping outside. (Sealing rooms are where they perform temple marriages which are viewed as more permanent and long lasting than the marriages performed in other worship houses of different faiths.) I kept wondering how it was going to feel as I haven't been back to a Mormon church since we moved from California over 6 years ago.

We finally arrived in the big city of Indianapolis and headed toward the city of Carmel, where the temple was built. As we got closer, I spotted the Angel Moroni, even through the cranes, tall buildings and sunshine I couldn't miss it. I felt nothing extraordinary. I smiled a little with the realization that I may be healed more from my past than I thought I was.

We drove through the round-a-bouts and pulled onto the street next to the temple. Outside the temple grounds there was a pop up canopy with tables and ex-Mormons with pamphlets. I wanted to stop and talk with them, but it was pretty late in the day and I wanted to get into the Stake Center so that we could start our tour. I figured we could hit them up on the way out.

The Temple

We parked and headed into the new Stake Center for the tour video. (A Stake Center is a LDS chapel, which holds normal church services, but is also the hub for Stake wide activities. A Ward is a grouping of Mormons, and a Stake is a grouping of Wards.) We were sat with other people waiting for the tour in a classroom that is used for classes on Sundays. We were given a short spiel by a sister missionary and she played us an introduction video.

It was an average Mormon video, in which they explain what a temple is for and do their best to not look unbalanced and loopy. What grabbed my attention was the amount of diversity they had represented in the video. I haven't been to a Mormon church meeting in years, but in my 28 years of being Mormon it was always very white. But that is a different topic for a different blog entry.

After the video, we lined up to walk across the parking lot to enter into the temple. We got the little booties put on our feet, which is to protect the new and expensive carpet, and we were led into the side door of the Indianapolis Temple.

The temple itself was gorgeous. They spared no expense to make sure that it felt luxurious. From the marble, to the wood, to the stained glass, it was exquisite. The Indiana state flower was highlighted through the entire building and they had a few commissioned art pieces displayed in the hallways. As a member, I never gave it a second thought. Of course they wanted lavishness, they believed that it was a literal house of their lord. A place for him to literally visit as a spirit. But having been removed from it all since 2008, I kept thinking about all the starving people the money could have fed, the people it could have helped out of modern day slavery, and the grandiosity didn't feel so spiritual after all.

The first room we were led into was the baptism room. My daughters had the opportunity to see the big baptismal font that is on the backs of the twelve oxen. My eldest was quick to point out that it would make an awesome hot tub. A three dimensional art piece of Jesus being baptized by John the baptist, which was on the wall above the doorway, intrigued them. They heard about the ritual baptisms for the dead and how the baptismal font was used. They kept asking me questions about whether or not I had done that when I was a Mormon.

We got to see the entry way where the members show their temple recommends in order to get into the temple. We were taken through the women's dressing room and they spoke about how members change from their 'outside' clothes into temple clothes. When we walked through the bridal room, where a bride would sit getting ready to be sealed; that was the first time I felt a small twinge inside me. The thought washed over me about how I grew up knowing that it was expected of me to sit there, as a virgin bride, to get ready to be sealed to a return missionary. How I even expected that of myself, and how different my life is because that didn't happen.

We then went into the chapel where members wait for sessions to start and sat down in church pews. A sister member spoke to us about what the temple meant to her. She told us about the importance of temple work and how ancestry is vital in being able to do temple work. As a member I had been preached the importance of genealogy for years. The time spent with her reminded me of that.

We were then led into the room where temple sessions start. They spoke about the temple sessions and what they mean to the members, but they didn't go into any of the stolen Masonic rituals that they perform.

I was taken aback at how many of the church members asked me if I was a member through the course of our tour. I wasn't trying to hide my Ex-Mo status, but I wasn't trying to pass as a member either. I was even in a dress with spaghetti straps, which I would have imagined would have marked me as a non-member. I was asked by four different tour guides if I was a member. I politely said no, but so desperately wanted to ask why they thought I might be.

As the tour continued on and I saw my children's reactions to the things they were seeing, I started to feel happy that I decided to attend. They were being exposed to a different religion, and they were able to see a part of me that I don't often show them. Granted, the temple is the Mormon's holy place and they didn't show us everything, but I was still glad that my daughters got to experience it and ask me questions.

As a Mormon, I never questioned about the rooms we skipped. But as a non-member, I took notice. We didn't get to see the room behind the curtain of the last session room and I smiled thinking about the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain. How the curtain covers up the secrets they don't want to share. I thought about how many people leave thinking that they were shown everything, not realizing how much of the absurdity we didn't hear about.

The next to last room we visited has always been my favorite, and this visit to this temple was no different. The Celestial Room, which was quickly nicknamed the 'Milk Room' by my 8 year old daughter, was bright and white. It was illuminated from the setting sun through stained glass windows and crystal chandeliers. It was truly the color of milk and everything seemed to be either white, gold, or clear. It wasn't quite as grand as the San Diego Temple's Celestial Room, but it was definitely a close second.

The last room we visited on our tour was the one that I was most anxious about - the sealing room. Every time I had visited the temple, I had always imagined myself with someone getting sealed. This time was a little different, as I had someone (the same someone I had imagined when I was 25), but I no longer have dreams of being sealed. As I sat in the sealing room glancing back and forth between my two children and my husband, I had a wonderful sense of peace. I realized that I had no feelings of anxiety or guilt, I had no feelings of regret or shame. I realized that I was at peace with myself and that the church no longer had control of me.

As we were walking to the car we saw the ex-Mormons were packing up, but I no longer felt the need to speak with them. I experienced what I needed from our temple visit. We piled into the car and the girls asked some questions. They still didn't fully understand why the Christus had holes in his hands, as I have never told them the gruesome crucifixion story. I told them I would explain it more later, as I saw no need to give them nightmares.

We pulled out of the parking lot my husband turned to me, smiled and asked, "So, you thinking about joining?"

Always the smart ass.

Wondering why he has holes.