Story from England

Dear Eric,

I hope I am sending this to the right place. I’m new to the internet and it’s taking me a while to find my way around..

I have only just discovered this site and have been unable to stop reading other ex Mormon stories. Thanks for making them available and thanks also to all that wrote. It has certainly been an eye opener for me. The more I read, the more I know I was right to leave. I knew I wasn’t crazy and it is good to know there are so many people out there who have come to the same conclusions as me about the truthfulness of the church.

I noticed that you didn’t have any stories from England and wondered if you might be interested to hear from someone over the pond. Compared with most of the stories mine is not one of great hardship or soul searching. Maybe because I was not brought up in the church I found it easier to leave. I did however lose all my Mormon friends except one and I hardly ever see her. It’s sad that friendship is treated in such a cheap way. I think now that I never mattered to any of the people who professed to love me within the church and that makes me feel pretty stupid at my own gullibility. I’m rambling… Sorry the story is so long but here goes…..

At the beginning of 1988 I was 37 years old and had been divorced for seven years. I had just come through the very painful break up of a relationship with an American guy who I adored and I felt badly in need of some comfort. I had been brought up in the Church of England but had never felt that they were very concerned about parishioners once the church services were over. My ‘ex’ was an inactive Mormon and we had spoken about the Church. Although he was inactive he had never criticised it directly; he merely said that he had some doubts about certain basic principles. (He didn’t say which and I didn’t know enough then to question him.) What I had learnt was that it was a church which concerned itself with the welfare of its members. At that point in my life it seemed to be just what I was seeking.

I must have been a missionary’s dream. Not knowing how to contact the Church, I went to the visitors centre in London and looked for them. A sister missionary showed me round. She was very sweet. She gave me a Book of Mormon and asked if I would like to learn more. I eagerly agreed and she told me she would arrange for a missionary in my area to contact me. I waited anxiously and eventually about a week later received a phone call from a young American who asked if he and his companion could come and teach me.

When they spoke to me about God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit I really felt as if I had come home. This was what I had always believed and here was a church that not only thought as I did, but was also deeply involved with its members. It almost seemed too good to be true but at that stage I was not looking for obstacles; I just wanted to be a part of it all.

The following Sunday I had arranged to attend Church and ‘my’ missionaries said that they would meet me in the foyer. I was nervous but went inside to look for them. They hadn’t arrived yet but a young man who welcomed me and introduced me to his mother approached me. She took me under her wing and guided me through the various meetings. I sat with her and her family during Sacrament, went with her to Relief Society and, when I got to the investigators class, discovered that it was taught by her husband. At the end of Sacrament she invited me to have lunch with her family. I could hardly believe it. I had been in the Church of England, on and off, for all of my life and not once in 37 years had I been invited to lunch!

I went back to Sis. H’s house and stayed the entire afternoon, talking to her and her husband about the Church. I was delighted that everything they told me seemed to coincide exactly with my beliefs. I realised later that they had allowed me to convince myself that our beliefs were identical. No mention was made of anything that might have frightened me off. So far as I knew, this was an organisation that gloried in the love of God and its members derived great joy from their faith and the opportunity to serve God and their fellow men.

Within three weeks of my first meeting with the missionaries, I was baptised. At my baptism this same sister gave a talk. One part that I clearly remember was when she looked towards my family (all non-members, but very supportive of me) and said that although she hadn’t known me for very long she loved me very much. From the moment I wrote, five years later, asking for my name to be removed from church records, I have not heard a single word from this sister who professed to care so deeply.

I dived headfirst into church life. Within weeks I had been called as a teacher in Relief Society. I subsequently had callings in Young Women’s, Seminary, as Relief Soc. counsellor etc. I worked in the Family History Library and joined in all the social activities, enjoying them all except the Single Adults. I was too old to be included with the young single adults but most of the others were much older than I and the sisters seemed to be competing with each other to see who could provide and consume the most food during the Monday meetings. I think they were hoping to impress a prospective partner. I invited everyone to my house one Monday evening but no one seemed very happy with the juice and biscuits (cookies) I provided so I didn’t do it again.

I had been told that worthy Mormons went to the Temple to perform certain ordinances but that I had to be a member for at least a year before I could go. In the meantime I had to ensure that I was worthy by attending all my meetings, paying my tithing etc. I decided I would go to the temple one year to the day after my baptism.

One evening whilst working in the family history library I was talking to a young sister who came from outside the area but was attending the local university. We had become friends, in spite of the difference in our ages. Indeed she had told me once that I was her role model – a single Mormon sister who also had her own house and a successful career! I was flattered but I know she had not said this to flatter me. She, having been a member for much longer than I, understood that ‘successful career’ and ‘faithful Mormon sister’ were not concepts that were usually allowed to co-exist. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned my intention to go to the Temple. She had not attended either but did know a little more than I and let slip something about garments. I was stunned. No one had told me either before or after my baptism that in order to progress towards eternal salvation I would have to meekly allow the church to decide upon the style of my underwear. I began to wonder what else I hadn’t been told.

When my visiting teachers arrived the next time I asked them about garments and was told it was something I didn’t need to know about until the time came for me to go to the temple. I asked how I could make decisions about the way I wanted to progress if I hadn’t been given the facts. It was obvious that I was not meant to question anything at all as I could see that the sisters were uncomfortable about giving me any answers. I was basically told that it was a matter of faith and obedience. I revised my ideas about going to the temple and decided not to rush but to think more about it before making a commitment.

Time went by and I accepted more and more callings, spending nearly all of my free time on church activities. To the amazement of my fellow Mormons I still saw friends that I knew from my pre-Mormon days. I had been told that I would drift away from them, as they didn’t have the same values as I. I didn’t like that attitude. I had some good friends who were decent, kind people and I had no intention of dumping them simply because they were not Mormons. At around this time I began to see that all was not well in the paradise world of Mormonism either.

The first sister I had met and who had befriended me was married to an overbearing bully of a man, who told her what she should say, think and feel. She happily accepted his bullying with very little complaint. Her husband was at least 20 years older than she was and she cheerfully made plans for what she would do when he was dead. I was much more uneasy about the way she was being treated now. I could see that her husband’s attitude was rubbing off onto their 8 year old son, whom I had often seen hitting his mother when he couldn’t have his own way over something. So much for good Mormon family values!

It also worried me that she looked forward so eagerly to ‘being with Father in the Celestial Kingdom’. My attitude was ‘all in good time’. After all, the good Lord has provided us with such a beautiful world and so many chances to improve the lives of both ourselves and others. Impatience to be somewhere else sounds very like ingratitude for what we have already been given.

About 3 years after I became a member I lost my job. Far from being concerned about my welfare my church friends saw this as an opportunity for me to spend more time doing good works for others. I got another job, working from home, which unfortunately lasted for only 6 months before the company folded. Because it was known that I worked from home I was constantly being called to take members without transport to various church functions. I was given a list of sisters to visit teach who were spread miles apart because ‘I had the time to see them’.

When I lost the second job in 6 months, money began to be very tight. I went to see the bishop to ask for help. Whenever I went to church I always dressed well and was always clean and tidy. When I asked for help the bishop looked me up and down, laughed and said, ‘You don’t need help. You’ve got money.’ He sent me away with nothing. A few weeks later I noticed a new face in relief society and was told that the missionaries had found this woman and that they were hoping she would be baptised. Because she was poor they had put her on the welfare programme. So much for the church looking after it’s own!

Although I didn’t have any problems with my belief in God I was beginning to have serious doubts about the church and the more I thought about the attitudes of the members the more I came to realise what a bunch of smug hypocrites they were. Whenever any of them came to visit me I felt I was always found wanting in my answers to their questions. Whatever I had done was never enough; I hadn’t studied the scriptures enough, hadn’t prayed enough, hadn’t paid enough tithing. I was getting more and more miserable. Life wasn’t fun any more, it was just one long round of drudgery and being made to feel unworthy. I spoke to my home teacher who, at that time, was Bro. H. He seemed to think that I deserved to be so miserable, after all I was such a sinner that I couldn’t possibly expect to be happy, could I? His visit made me feel even worse.

It soon became clear that I would lose my house, as I could no longer keep up the payments on the mortgage. At that time one of the sisters was about to marry. Her fiancÚ was also from my ward; in fact I had got to know him quite well through working together on a committee. When they were married they intended to live in her apartment and rent out his house. It was suggested to me that I might like to sell my house and rent his. It was a huge wrench for me to lose my home but I put it up for sale and moved to this other house.

From the start nothing was right. I had ‘inherited’ a lodger, a young man who was working but was also receiving welfare to help him cope. He was rude and intrusive and thought nothing of going into my bedroom when I was not there to ‘borrow’ things. I later discovered that he was also disruptive in all the youth activities he attended and was thoroughly disliked by most of the young women.

The fact that the bishop didn’t seem to mind us sharing a house always puzzled me. When I had my own house I had a friend stay for a while when his marriage broke up. He was not a member and I got lots of hassle from various people in the ward about the ‘wisdom’ of having a man in my house. I realise now that their concern was only because he was a non-member. Confronted with the possibility that a member might lose his home because I was renting the house where he lived, they soon decided it was all right for us to share the same house!

My rent included the exclusive use of a living room and bedroom and shared use of all other facilities. In spite of this I never had a private living room - the lodger used it as if it belonged to him, and, although I was by now receiving unemployment benefits from the state, was never offered a rent reduction. At this time my benefits, after payment of rent, were the equivalent of US$33 per week. From this huge sum I bought food for myself and my 2 puppies and paid for the electric and gas used by this nasty young man and me. This amount also had to cover clothes, telephone and my car, without which I was unable to attend church. When he couldn’t be bothered to take public transport to work or into town my lodger would demand that I take him in my car. The way he phrased it sounded like he thought I should be honoured to serve him in this way.

One month after the wedding of my landlord, his marriage fell apart and he moved back into the house. So now I had even less of the facilities I had paid for and one more person using the utilities. One evening I answered the door to a group of church members who said they had come to talk to my landlord and to pray and comfort him in his time of trouble. They walked into the room which was supposed to be my living room, turned off my television and told me to go out so that they could talk to him in private. It was the middle of winter, freezing cold and I had to put my 2 little dogs into my car and drive around town for hours using up petrol I could hardly afford. It was also one of the roughest parts of town and certainly no place for a lone woman to be at night. Not only did their attitude make me furious, it also told me that the troubles of male members were important to church officials; the problems encountered by woman just didn’t matter.

Around this time I had enrolled for an evening class in drama. The class met once a week and we all had a really good time. After it finished everyone would stop at the pub for a drink before going home. At first I didn’t drink, then I decided I might as well join them. I had also started smoking some time ago. Cigarettes killed my appetite for food and since I was living on such a tiny amount of money were cheaper than eating properly. The people in the drama group were so nice and so un-judgmental it was really good to spend time with them. I began to feel like a normal human being again.

My attendance at church dropped off. I preferred to stay away and only mix with people who didn’t continually judge me. When I finally left altogether it was said that other members had upset me and that I shouldn’t let that affect my belief. Yes, I was angry at the way I had been treated. I hated their smug arrogance and the way they believed they were better than others in spite of what I would call some very questionable behaviour. What made me most angry was the hypocrisy that was rife in the ward. They were all so busy poking their noses into other peoples’ business that they forgot about their own behaviour.

But that was only part of the reason I no longer wanted to be a member. I had many unanswered questions about the church itself. Why, for instance, had I not been told before I was baptised that God lived on another planet? Why did no one say that God was only one of many Gods? Why was I not told about polygamy in the celestial kingdom or that the church did not believe in evolution? Why was I not told that I would never get to the celestial kingdom anyway unless I wore my bra over a T-shirt and knickers down to my knees? The list goes on and on….. The attitude of certain members and the bishop more specifically was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Life in the rented house was almost unbearable and since my own house had not sold I packed up my things and moved back into it. The peace that I felt being home again was wonderful. My family was so pleased for me. They had hated the idea of me living in such squalid conditions and having been treated so badly by a group of people who constantly droned on about loving everyone. They had long thought that the church was full of hypocrites but had not wanted to upset me by saying so.

To cut a very long story short…... About 7 months after I started my drama classes I began dating one of my classmates. He told me that he didn’t believe in God as such. He thought that God was the goodness within a person and nothing more. He was and is a good person. He has never judged me. When I had no money for food he bought it for me. He fed my dogs, he bought me clothes, he took me out and never once asked for anything in return. I was really happy and told two of the sisters who were my special friends about this wonderful man.

Within a week I received a letter from the Relief Society President. In the letter she said that I must write and ask for my name to be removed from church records as ‘because of your relationship with this man, you are no longer worthy to be a member’. She went on to say that I could never reach the celestial kingdom if I remained a member and yet still had a sexual relationship with this man. I was furious. I had never told anyone the nature of our relationship, she had just assumed that because he was not a member we must have been having sex. I wrote back and said that I could hardly believe her attitude and that if the celestial kingdom was filled with people with such narrow-minded, self-righteous views then it was the last place I wanted to be. I asked her who gave her the right to make such dirty-minded suggestions about someone she didn’t know and had never met and then told her that, unlike the members and bishopric of her precious church, he had actually gone out of his way to help me. I asked her to pass my request to the bishop to have my name removed from church records. I told her it was not because I feared for my eternal salvation but because I could no longer stand being a member of such a smug sanctimonious organisation as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It was my best decision ever. Immediately a weight lifted from my shoulders and I felt a peace I had not known in years. I still believe in God and in Jesus Christ but I see them as kind and caring not spiteful and vindictive. I am sure that the good Lord must feel very sad to have been so misrepresented. However I believe that He is a forgiving God and I’m sure that if we all try to live good lives and not hurt anyone, both my inadequacies and the arrogance of Mormons who believe they are so superior, will be equally forgiven. It is such a comfort to know that in spite of not being perfect God still loves me. Wasn’t that why Christ died? If the Mormon view is true then He gave his life for nothing and what loving Father would allow that to happen?

All this happened over 5 years ago. My relationship with my kind, gentle non-Mormon continued and 2 years ago we decided to live together. We have a good life. I love his family, he loves mine, even my dogs and his cat live in near harmony! I now have the very strongest of testimonies of the church – it is not now nor has it ever been the true church, and I say this, most sincerely, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Sue Econicoff, Andover, Hampshire, England.