Date: May 01, 2021 03:46AM
Back in my LDS daze while in graduate school (circa 1994), a group of unmarried young (and a few not so young) single adults engaged in a little exercise in which we each described one another with one word or a short phrase. The most perceptive and favorite label directed at me was “serendipity”. Little did I know that but two years later I would discover the rather small, but growing, online community at exmormon.org and, fondly remembered that descriptive label – serendipity – as I transitioned from a devout (yet vastly misinformed) believer in the fraudulent religion of Mormonism into a happy exmormon apostate.
At the suggestion of my father, just prior to my metamorphosis from cult to freedom, I returned home after graduate school (the capital city of Texas) – a city of serendipity, at least for me. I was eligible for a very advantageous loan on a piece of property that generated enough rental income to repay twice the amount of the monthly amount due on the note. That particular property had not been advertised for sale, but, was known by a banker who happened to be a tax client of my father. My parents had me join them on a deed using the special rate available to me as a recent graduate from professional school (law). While working out of that location, I researched my way out of Mormonism while the cabins, cottages, trailers, and houses rental income paid the note.
I eventually prepared a quitclaim deed ceding my interests to my mother; I never filed it, but, left it in the desk in the office – which I left behind for my parents when I transitioned to a career in public administration. Since that time, the property increased more than three times its acquisition value and has always provided my parents consistent cash flow and has been very helpful in maintaining and growing their other rental property interests (in central Texas as well as central Utah). However, maintaining a large portfolio of rental properties, most of which are low-income rentals, is difficult for octogenarians; so, I was relieved when my mother told me they were going to sell that one particular serendipitous slice of realty.
I think my parents destroyed the quitclaim deed. My father called me a little less than a year ago. For some reason he felt he needed to sell me on the idea of parting with the property, suggesting that one-third of the proceeds could be made available to my young daughter (middle schooler). I indicated that’d be great, but, suggested that he and my mom use the money to move from the old homestead to a safer, more accessible home because the redevelopment of roads has made entering and exiting their old homestead neighborhood very dangerous for any driver.
I later confided in my mother that, other than contributing my name on a deed, I had not done anything to really merit a one-third claim in the property or sale proceeds; I added that I had actually prepared a quitclaim in her favor many years ago, although I never filed it and that she should do with the proceeds what she felt best. I pointed out that I recently retired, have a lifetime annuity and that my wife will have her own retirement annuity in about eight years. Also, I am the seventh of eight siblings; two of my older siblings do a lot for my aging parents, and I suggested that those siblings are just as deserving (and might also have a greater need); It turns out, my mother is a great listener and made some changes that my wife probably does not like – but, I am good with my mother’s allocation.
Today, I met with my folks and a closing agent to sign the paperwork. It went fairly smoothly and quickly. Eventually, the closing agent left and then I had a few questions about calculating, reporting, and paying capital gains. At about that point, my father began working Mormonism into the conversation, even commenting about how I had been to the temple; he then talked about how he was asked to give a former bishop a blessing (specifically to allow the former bishop to die and join his wife) and mentioned how I had received many blessings and how they all came true.
I could not refrain from interrupting him with, “you know I don’t believe what you believe. I have told you many times that, to me, Joseph Smith is merely a 19th century version of David Koresh or Jim Jones – he is not what he claimed to be. Please try and respect my disbelief and I’ll try and respect your perspective.”
I added, “when you told me via email about my nephew being called for a mission in England, I was sad and disappointed. I have told you several times I regret having been a Mormon missionary; it was a waste of two years that would have been better spent finishing my undergraduate degree – or, even serving in the Peace Corp. But missions today are different than they were in the 1970’s’ and 1980’s – maybe he’ll have more a chance to provide real, utilitarian service – unlike what I did.” This would be the only grandchild of my parents’ many grandchildren who elected to go on a mission… he also happens to be my namesake.
His only response was, “you’re going to make your mother cry.”
That might not sound serendipitous to some. But, two deserving siblings will receive generous financial gifts from the sale. I was/am still included in a portion of the proceeds, too (although a couple of hundred grand less than if I had let them give me the full one-third interest).
When I first left Mormonism, my father commented, “it would have been better if you had died on your mission” not realizing how poignant those words were to me. The “Elder” who was my first companion did not survive his mission; he (and his companion at the time) was killed by an express train with only about three months remaining before he would have gone home. I wondered what that boy’s deceased parents would think about a statement like that, but shuddered at the reality that they would probably agree.
Although my parents were deeply saddened by my LDS exodus, they never shunned me or treated me poorly (other than a few heated discussions between my father and me). The brethren’s view is similar to the jihadist view – better to die (or even kill as) a miserable missionary than to die as a happy apostate. I’m sad that my dad was raised to believe such irrational nonsense.
My father will be 85 this summer, mother 82 (married 66 years in November); he knows his time is short. He is convinced in his belief system and believes his “keys of the Melchizedek priesthood” and his temple covenants can persuade a prodigal son to return to the family religion. He is wrong in that hope just as he is wrong in his belief system and his lifetime of Mormon leaders in whom he has misplaced his trust.
My serendipity – is knowing that both my father and mother love each one of their children, including me, and their multitude of grand children and great grandchildren; they have always been an example of integrity and hard work. My dad is the epitome of the dutiful, loving, provider. The only mother I know equal to or better than my mom was her own mother. They keep reminding me, and my siblings, that their time is short and that they have a nice estate that want to share with us. I would rather they have greater health and longer years than divide up their financial estate. No amount of money would ever buy me back into the fold/cult. I have always been proud of my father’s work ethic and his desire to share all he has with his children.
My primary sadness is that my parents (like their parents, and like their parents, etc.) were hoodwinked to their dying days by the cult of Joseph Smith. Mormonism has robbed too many parents of the ability to unconditionally love their own kids. However, fortunately for me, my serendipity is knowing that, although my folks will probably never understand why I left Mormonism, they have always been proud of their progeny – including me (and my other siblings would probably say especially me).
It’s bittersweet. But, it is what it is.
PS – my wife, a nevermo and from a former communist country, still wishes I would have just kept my mouth shut and taken the one-third. My preteen daughter never had to suffer through the childhood and youth indoctrination like I did; but, just to give her a glimpse into the Mormon myths and its peculiar origins, we’ll be reading “No Man Knows My History” together soon.