Date: August 23, 2017 07:33AM
I originally wrote this for a UU facebook page, but I just went through and editted to be more fitting, and to explain myself better. It's a lot.
This is going to be long-winded, but I do like to be thorough when explaining things. Being thorough will help for others to understand the situation best. I also believe it will help me move on from past grudges or negativity. I often revisit these memories, both longingly and angrily. Sometimes it still makes no sense to me. I do not mean for this to be an attack on any religion, but this has been my personal experience. I also would like to think that my experiences could help someone else who finds themselves in a situation much like mine was, as I do wish that there had been someone there for me.
I always found religions interesting, which made me a really weird kid in school. Well, in life in general. When I was very young, my mother would take me and my brother to church. Being a kid, it was very boring for me and I didn't want to be a part of it. Of course, my mother also had her own qualms with churches, such as how monetary offerings were expected or how some of the congregation had assigned seating. That's all she ever told me, but I also believe that she didn't feel right in the congregation. But we officially stopped going when my brother and I refused to go one day. She was furious, but it also seemed that she found it as a good reason not to go as well.
My mother and I are the most spiritual ones in our family. When my mother became pregnant with my youngest brother, she wanted to get back into religion after seven or so years of not attending a church. She wanted my brother to be baptized. So we decided to try the church that all of my other brother's (middle child) friends were going to. Our attendance there was on and off there. My mother found the same problems as she had before. Neither one of us were happy there as we did not have friends there.
My friends were siblings from a Mormon family. I was very attached to the middle daughter. I'll call her Pam. How we originally met is pretty ironic: I actually bullied her in middle school. But she was very forgiving. During that time, I was going through that teenage angst phase. There was a new baby in the house, and my mom was going through some really aggressive Postpartum. My dad, who also did not want another baby to begin with and made it known the entire time, shut himself in his office most of the time, and had a volatile temper. They were very flawed, and it played a role in how they raised me. As a teen, I needed their guidance, but they were unavailable. I had rather dark thoughts during the time. Yet Pam had this feeling of light around her (I'm not quite sure how I feel about auras), and she seemed to realize I was having a lot of trouble adjusting to teenage-hood and high school, so we stuck together.
Now Pam was a bit of a perfectionist about being a Mormon. I have always been a people pleaser. Eventually she and I were getting along well together that I got interested in her religion. It was where she got that light feeling about her, so I wanted to have it myself. She bought me my first copy of the Book of Mormon, and I found it very uplifting like her presence was. At this time, my mother was very against and other churches that were not plain old Christian. My father has always been anti-religion, and I think that's because his mother had made him go to Catholic school. He was silent the entire time, though. So I smuggled the Book between home and school, hiding it under my pillow at night. I eventually got caught because I had gone to witness a baptism at the church, and I left a postcard from it on my bed for my mother to find. She wouldn't speak to me two days after that.
Pam also had an older brother, who I will call Scott. He was a huge nerd like me. How convenient that the person whom I loved so much has a brother, right? We spent a lot of time together in tenth grade because we had lunch and study period together. I think we both liked each other quite a bit. I didn't realize it until my mother pointed it out. It was one of those situations where you knew the two kids were going to become a couple eventually. We even ended up going to prom together as friends. One and a half times.
I was not quite perfect with living up to the expectations, though. To start with, I knew I was bisexual all along. But instead of telling them so the church could “fix” me (though I always felt all along that there was no problem), I just thought I could “switch off the gay” and there would be no problem. My education on sexualities back then was very inadequate. I also had other slip-ups such as accidental swearing or not being properly modest, and other such things like that. Pam and Scott, who I desperately sought the approval of, showed much disapproval to this. Even if I spent time with other friends who were not as “pure” as they were, Pam showed how much she disapproved.
In retrospect, I believe that I was more of a pet project to Pam. I was certainly never one of her best friends. Only members of her church could be so. Of course, she helped me when I went to church functions with her or was studying on my own. I became very close with her whole family. Her father often wanted to talk with me, as he was a convert to the religion as well. He even went to the length of considering me to be another daughter of his. At the time, I wholly accepted this notion. Especially as my parents were currently showing their darker sides, making me even less willing to be at home.
So by eleventh grade, I thought I had my life figured out. Scott's and mine both, really. He graduated school two years before I did, then did a year at a community college before going off on his mission for two years. His mother wrote a blog every time she got news of him, and I kept up with it. I also studied a lot. By the end of tenth grade, I thought I definitely wanted to be a Mormon. I told Pam's mother that I would wait to be twenty-one before deciding whether I wanted to be baptized, as I felt I was too young to be making the decision (and how right I was!). Any doubts or contradictions I just shoved under the carpet and stomped on it. I thought that after Scott's mission, he and I would finish our college education, and then get married. I was in high school, so I was still living in fairy tale dreams. I was trying very hard to be good enough for Scott and Pam. Scott was always laid back and occasional slip-ups were fine. They had me trained well at that point.
On Columbus Day 2011, Pam and I, as well as her sisters and parents and some church leaders, went up to Palmyra, New York. We lived in Colesville at the time; Mormon history was local history. It was pretty neat to have that while studying the religion. There is now a museum there, as well as a Mormon temple. The Church had also bought the nearby forest where the plates had been found (and possibly reburied; I don't remember the story anymore). The forest is called the Sacred Grove. Not being a member at the time, I could not enter the temple with everyone else. I accepted that and Pam's mother went walking with me through the Sacred Grove. She told me that many people would travel to Palmyra from all over so that they could pray in the forest like their prophet did before them. I wanted to do the same, to ask God if this was where I needed to be in life. I thought so at the time. Eventually there was a strong urge in my mind to stop and pray, but I did not want to be rude to my company and tell her to go away. I'd like to believe it was God there urging me to pray, but the above evidence suggests otherwise. Although after we returned to the car, I received a massive headache that lasted for the rest of the trip. Still, I liked to believe that God was close with me during those days.
I wrote often to Scott while he was away during that time. Missionary work kept him busy, so I rarely got a letter back. However, as I entered twelfth grade, I began to spend more time with other friends who were atheist as Pam was busy preparing to go across the country to BYU. My ambition began to dwindle. It was then that I started to have conflicts with the church. I have never liked their stance on LGBT ideas, no matter how much they may try to soften their message. I also refused to believe that black people were black because their ancestors had once gone against God's wishes and therefore had the shame of their ancestors to bear. I began to hear about how they would do gay conversion therapy for gay members that was too horrific to be spoken of. I was getting into the gritty details of the religion and the church, and it was becoming discouraging.
Of course, I had put a lot of time and effort into it all. I expressed my feelings to my atheist friend, who simply replied “then don't become a Mormon”. An obvious answer I had never realized was an option. So I stopped going to church and practicing so much, telling Pam that I was tired or family matters came up. I decided that I would follow the Book of Mormon, but abstain from the church. Pam became more distant, but I didn't realize this until she had already left for college. I then learned the harsh lesson that I wasn't a close friend of hers.
I also went to college and became more open about my sexuality because it was safe. I even forgot about Scott for awhile. I knew he was always going to be a part of the church, and since I disagreed with the church, I knew nothing was going to work out. It's very easy to not think about someone when they are not in town.
Pam returned for the summer, and I was back to being a teacher's pet. She began dating this one guy, and I did not think much of it. I was more excited that Scott was returning from his mission. It turned out I wasn't over him or the church, and gave it one final try. Though I knew I was going to fail as I didn't feel right and it was quickly dropped.
Scott's welcome home party became Pam's engagement party. I could not attend because of work, and I am rather thankful for it now. I had never gotten angry at Pam before, because I rather feared of getting her angry with me. But I couldn't accept her engagement to someone she had only met two months beforehand. I remember crying a lot that night, and then struggling to not cry at work the next day. There was that small voice of reason in the back of my head that thought that perhaps I had had feelings for Pam all along. I quickly dashed that notion as it wasn't what Pam would approve of.
Regardless, it became my great awakening. I began to realize that as a woman, I would be expected to live up to traditional roles of women: stay home and have children, and be obedient to my husband and the church leaders I so disagreed with. After having some freedom in college, I realized that this wasn't exactly for me. I wasn't about to spend four years in school, working towards a degree for a good job, only to quit it and stay home. Even if Scott was much more laid back than his sister, I began to realize that he himself had similar expectations like this, and I realized that I would not be allowed to live as I wanted.
I went to the wedding as I thought it would be closure for me. It was going to be the last time I would see Pam. I surprised myself by no longer crying about it and took it as a good sign. I had not yet made a hatchet out of it. There were only three non-Mormons there, and I spent most of the night with them. I no longer felt in place with other Mormons. Even speaking to the missionaries felt like an effort.
After that, I didn't want to deal with the Mormons anymore. Though I did go see a movie with Scott, who was fresh from his mission at the time. When an inappropriate joke was said, I laughed, which he greatly disproved of. That horrified me. I eventually agreed to go to an art exhibit with Scott as well (class assignment that I didn't want to go alone on). Though we both enjoyed our time, I realized that I needed to move on or else I would be trapped into something I did not want to be in (though he also disapproved of the wedding, and I will forever hold that small victory!). So that was the last time I saw him or anyone from the family, or even spoke to them.
For the year following that, I would get an occasional facebook message from Scott. I never read them or replied. They happened every couple of months. I couldn't bring myself to reply as I was too scared of the consequences, and bitter from the past. It was wrong for me to take my frustrations from Pam out on Scott, but if I talked to Scott, soon it would be the whole family. And I did not want to deal with that. It became hard to be on Facebook, as I would see their activity and just feel bitter and annoyed by them. They were never doing anything wrong. Eventually I realized something had to give. Since I had unfriended most people from high school, I realized that they were no different. I knew it would do better for my mental health if I did not see them again. The messages stopped, and there has been no efforts to reach out to me again.
After this, I still felt a lot of bitterness and regret for lost time and connections with my own flesh-and-blood family. Things have gotten a lot better since high school, and my mom and I rely solely on each other sometimes. But I had (and still have) a lot of these negative feelings and no one to talk to about them. I tried looking up “I am an Ex-Mormon” videos, made after the Church published their “I am a Mormon” videos. While many stated the same problems I had that led to their leaving the church, it didn't help me to talk through my feelings.
Many times, when I'm lonely or anxious, I think about reaching out to Scott. But I can't have just one; soon it's the whole family. They are all controlling. The men just make it look good. I think about all of the good times between me and Scott. I really do think he had plans to date me; we had even discussed how long we would wait until marriage (much longer than two months; he was appalled that I would wait a few years). It was great when we were kids. But as soon as we were adults, we were expected to marry and breed. I wasn't ready to be an adult – I'm still not. I have also made plans to not be a parent. Maybe through adoption years from now, but I do not intend to breed. I sure as hell am not going to put a child through such a closed environment as Mormonism.
I'm so tired of being angry over it. My parents have learned how angry the experience has made me, even though they made peace with the religion long ago, and gave me their blessing to be baptized. I don't wish that I had been saved from the experience, because it's shaped me as I am. At the time, I needed those good family and community values that I wasn't getting at home. I do wish it hadn't ended the way it did. Sometimes I wish it had been a peaceful disagreement, others I wish it had been a fight. At times, I still think of reaching out to Scott and hashing it out, explaining what happened and how I feel. Then I remember that it probably doesn't matter to them. If I open a conversation, they get in and try to control again; and though I think highly of myself, I know I would be trapped.
As you can see, I still struggle with this three-four years after the fact. Some days I can go without thinking about it, others I seem to accept it, and even others I loath it. I usually go to a friend whenever I'm having a bad day with it, but she's heard the story so many times. I really shouldn't put so much on her. So I thought to find a forum for these days. I think it will help to actually interact with people with the same hurt feelings.