Our first 3 or 4 years were sort of fun - it was nice to belong, and we certainly utilized and appreciated the life style change and parenting skills having both come from very dysfunctional families. Like all good Mormons, we were puffed up with our new found knowledge, eager to convert others and eager to serve. I served as Primary President, Relief Society Pres., Y. W. Counselor, District. Y.W. Counselor, and various teaching positions in the years that followed. As more children arrived, the callings became quite burdensome, but I was a good Mormon, never saying "no", because they were "Inspired" calls. At times, I was totally overwhelmed and would weep and ask to be released, only to be told to "pray more and have more faith". You see, it was my fault. My exhaustion and depression was my lack of faith. I obviously wasn't praying hard enough.
About 6 years into our involvement as the children arrived, we found we couldn't afford to pay tithing. My husband wouldn't allow our one income family to go without, or dress our children shabbily, as many do, so, we lived with constant, nagging guilt. No matter how good you are, how hard you work; you are not temple worthy if you don't pay. The biggest gossip and liar can gain access if they pay. I worked as hard as I could in the church, trying to do it all, as well as trying to motivate my rather lackadaisical husband. Needless to say, around year 8, I grew weary, discouraged, and impatient with his efforts. We began to drift apart. He would skip out as much as possible, and I would talk him back, relaying my fears of losing our family in the eternities.
A turning point for me, was a trip to England in Sept. 1994 to visit my older "inactive" sister. For six weeks she and I traveled - I felt nothing but sweet relief from my church duties and it was wonderful to be anonymous. To walk into a pub for supper and still feel good about myself, I could have a cup of tea when I was wet and cold and no one I knew would see me and judge me. I sat in Cathedrals and listened to Catholic evensongs and felt as much "spirit" as I ever had anywhere and, most importantly, I met the kindest most genuine non-Mormon family who housed and fed us and had no ulterior motives for their kindness. They weren't trying to be "examples" or convert us to anything.
When I returned home, I unknowingly began the process of change. I took up watercolor painting, started saying "no" to calls, and questioned some of their intolerant, close-minded doctrine, skipped out on occasion to spend quality time with my family, and fell back in love with my husband. On Apr. 14, 1996 we cried together, held each other, and mutually agreed to leave the church. I was very, very frightened, but was even more tired of feeling guilty and trying to live up to church expectations. I have come to realize since then, that fear of consequences was my main motivater. I believed the rhetoric about the dangers of leaving the church. Funny thing was, I felt relief right away. I was no longer afraid, because I no longer had expectations. I wrote a letter to the Bishop, confronted my visiting teachers, and called "friends". The hardest task was trying to explain our exit to my mother and sisters. I was very calm and direct with them. We really had nothing to base our decision upon - only how we felt.
Their reaction has been totally unexpected, and I am only just now beginning to deal with it. My mother, (the queen of Jack Mormons) wailed and shrieked and accused me of hating her. Hanging up on me and covering her ears when face to face. I finally resorted to writing her a letter. My sisters were mortified, crying and spouting scriptures accusing us of being selfish and bad uncaring parents. The three of them have banded together in solidarity. For the first six months or so, I took the initiative and called them, but the courtesy was never returned, so I have since resorted to exchange pleasantries when confronted by them, and calling my aging mother once a week. She has now become active, and makes no hesitation in reporting her church activities. Sometimes I am very sad when I think about what I know they think of me. I was always held in very high esteem, holding the highest callings of any of them- always the leader. That I am weak and influenced by something they call Satan. I was very close to my sisters, and I miss them. I remarked in the letter to my mother how" I've tried to re-assure you and the girls for months, but you are all so busy reacting and condemning us that it is secondary that we are actually happier.
No one seemed to care that I was an emotional wreck for 10 years as long as I was going to church and doing what was expected like a good little soldier." I know they are waiting for us to crash and burn. I wish I had listened to my inner voice years ago. I probably would have high tailed it out of the temple the very first visit as I ran my hand across my throat, or during interviews. Alone with men in locked rooms answering irrelevant, personal questions. I shudder at how many times I risked my life driving treacherous roads to go visiting teaching, or kids to seminary and activities and trusting others with my children under the guise of "service."
It's great to be back "down" in the real world. I'd much rather be here than swinging from the spires of the church. I'm now able to pick my own friends with similar interests and my time is mine to learn new and wonderful things. I have unwillingly alienated my younger sisters, but have gained a much greater relationship with my husband. He measures up quite nicely, thank-you very much. My time is mine to love those around me - for love is without conditions, expectations and ulterior motives. A principle absolutely impossible as an arrogant know-it-all Mormon. Time to explore art without guilt.
I've always been interested in visual arts, but with so much time donated to the church, there never was time to pursue it. Now I do. I do not regret having experienced brainwashing. There may always be scars and some anger, but I can better understand the world around me having experienced it. Wars and devastation are fueled by religion. Who is right, who is wrong. So much intolerance. A book that really helped me feel good about our decision is "Women Who Run With the Wolves" Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. Because at the time we left we had no concrete reason to be leaving; this book reassured me that following your intuition is very valid. There is a lot in this book, but I would like to quote a small part on p.232 ... "The impulse to play is an instinct. No play, no creative life. Be good, no creative life. Sit still, no creative life. Speak, think, act only demurely, little creative juice. Any group, society, institution, or organization that encourages women to revile the eccentric; to be suspicious of the new and unusual; to avoid the fervent, the vital, the innovative; to impersonalize the personal, is asking for a culture of dead women".
I truly felt like a dead woman sitting amongst a bunch of dead relief society members. Little cutouts of little cookie women. Thank you all for your wonderful letters. Especially to those who have done historical research. They have helped immensely. There is no doubt in my mind now that we made the right decision. My fears have lessened; I know longer carry the guilt. I wish I could help my family out, but don't know where to begin, without chasing them away totally. Yes, the truth truly does set you free!!!!