Life as a Mormon
Excerpts of Ex-Mormon newsgroup Part 1

A series of short topics from our discussion groups on Mormon life.

  1. Egocentric Thinking
  2. Letter to Lindsey who returned to Mormonism
  3. 2nd Letter to Lindsey
  4. Temple Marriage and exclusion of non-Mormon family members
  5. Being set apart for a "calling"

Egocentric Thinking

Mormons (speaking in a general way) are masters at egocentric thinking. EVERYTHING in the history of mankind was preparatory to the restoration of the "True Gospel". I have heard this taught many a time. All the inventions of our latter times, from basically the printing press on, were inspired (indirectly) from Heavenly Father who is a master at the game plan . It is formal Mormon doctrine that even the establishment of these United States was to ensure a climate of religious tolerance where the Restored Gospel could come forth. Hey, man, didn't you know Nephi had a vision of Columbus discovering America? Egocentrism I just mentioned, and Mormonism also encourages assimilation - where you make the facts and the world fit your preconceived ideas (doesn't this perfectly sum up every Mormon apologist you've ever known??) instead of the more complex skill of accommodation, where you "take the challenge" and change yourself in response to the facts. Mormonism (thank you big brother) also does a bang-up job keeping people at the stage where they make decisions based on what an authority figure has told them to do, rather than helping them grow beyond that to the stage where decisions are based on moral autonomy, not governed by "rewards and punishments".

Mormonism actively teaches its people to believe in their own Personal Fable (i.e., the adolescent idea that everything in their life has Cosmic Significance)... hence the evolution of the aforementioned idea: Mormons Are the Center of the Universe. (hey, that sounds like a title for a missionary lesson, doesn't it?)

 Someone mentioned earlier that sometimes people get stuck in immature psychological schemes... yes, I agree totally, but what I think is really sad here, is that Mormonism seems to be designed to keep people at that stage forever.

That's one of the pitfalls of believing that you've got an inside track on the secrets of the universe. Mormons are, in their eyes, a "peculiar people" who have been "chosen" to be "in the world but not of the world" so as to bring to pass "a marvelous work and a wonder." They're members of the spiritual elite. So when faced with inexplicable evil or just plain bad luck, they are naturally tempted to interpret in terms of their own eliteness. How many times as I was growing up did I hear -- always in the context of starving children in Asian or African dictatorships -- how lucky I was to be living as a Mormon in America, endowed with the truth and able to reside in God's own country?

Letter to Lindsey who returned to Mormonism

Well this post makes my heart sad.. but I know you have to make your own choices in this life.. we can't make them for you.. I wish you the best... and will pray for your happiness..

 But... I will also save you a seat in here in case you come back... and I want you to know that there will never be any "I told you so's".. and that this is a safe place to return to if and when you need to... You will be loved here...

When I first left the church I KNEW that it was a cult and I knew that I wanted out.. but once I got out I didn't have anything to hold on to... I turned to relationships, alcohol and many things that could have destroyed my life...

At more than one point I considered going back to the church... I can remember saying to friends that I knew the church was not the TRUE church and that I didn't think there was ONE true church (still don't) but I missed and longed for the way of life that I had gotten so accustomed to...

I missed the people who had grown to be my family through the years.. I missed the hugs and the feeling that I was someone "special"... someone set apart for God's work...

I missed having my life FULL of activities and events that kept me feeling useful and content..

I missed being around people that "looked" so spiritual. I missed the Proud feeling that I got when I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and knew that we were in this together.. I liked the general "feeling" of being in the chapel... listening to the talks and crying when friends came home from their missions..

I liked the social events, the young adult conventions, working with the missionaries and having them over for dinner...

There were so many good things about the church that I missed and longed for that I didn't find initially anywhere else when I left the church, that I almost went back..


I would never tell you not to go back Lindsey.. You need to do what you need to do to find happiness... I have a great friend who always says "it takes what it takes"...... and I don't know but I remember your posts and you used to see some things as unacceptable that you now seem to accept for some reason.... I know you said you did not want to discuss this and I I'm not asking you to do that.... I thought it took a lot of courage to write your letter... I have wondered what happened to you... I'm glad you let us know your choice...

But... I just hope you are not basing this choice on a "feeling" you have inside.. A "feeling" is the wrong reason to leave the church and a wrong reason to go back... Feelings really can influence you to do, say, act and think things that you never would have otherwise if you had been basing your life on the reality of the situation, facts, logic and genuine faith.

Well.. I just wanted to tell you that you will be missed but also wanted you to know that your Lindsey chair is here... and I will keep it warm.

I have been out of the church 13 years... and you know, I have screwed up so many times since then.. making ridiculous choices and waffling on what I really believed and wanted from life... but I am finally getting to the point of finding some genuine personal happiness and inner peace... I believe the Mormon church can do such damage to a person that sometimes it takes years to unravel all the lies and heal the scars left by all the deception..

And I know it would have been easier just to have gone back..

Thank GOD I didn't.

I will pray for your happiness Lindsey.


2nd Letter to Lindsey

I've been mulling over Lindsey's post since I first read it this afternoon. It's been turning around in the corners of my mind even as I didn't realize I was pondering it, as I exercised to a sweat, moving to Sam Phillips, the ex fundamentalist who put so many of my unspoken exMormons angst to song. How should I react to this, I wondered.... how should I feel for Lindsey?

 Now I'm putting the "shoulds" to bed, and going to turn out the light on them, Lindsey, and anyone else on the edge of returning to Mormonism, and just tell you my honest feelings. They may not be politically correct, but they come from my heart, out of concern for someone to whom I felt a connection.

I'm glad that you were honest with us, that you took the hard road, risking the flames as you left. I'm particularly glad that you have not demonized us in leaving, and that you are still grateful to Eric for providing this forum of support for us, even if it was transitionary for you.

I'm also afraid for you - afraid of the mental road you may have taken to get to this point, and afraid of the emotional trials that may await you.

The mental road... it's hard for me to understand how people can continue to have faith in the Mormon gospel after reading all that is available on Mormon history here on the net. I know what I had to do in the short time I remained an active Mormon after discovering basic issues of fraud such as the various versions of the first vision, the deception surrounding the oftimes morally repugnant practice of polygamy, and the current patronizing attitude of leaders who would hide these issues from the flock, to say nothing of the complete lack of any physical evidence supporting the basic premise of the Book of Mormon, the cornerstone of this religion.

I had to perform what I now call "mental gymnastics". That means that I turned somersaults and handstands in my mind trying to rationalize it all. For instance, I'd say, "well, maybe the different versions of the first vision are just due to Joseph understanding the same experience in a different way at various stages of his life." FLIP - (I had to flip because I knew, deep down, that changing interpretation of an event will NOT change the basic event itself - for example, who appeared and what they said.) Or, I'd say "well, the church doesn't pretend that prophets are perfect, maybe Joseph and Brigham were wrong on this one issue of polygamy, and it was due to the weakness of men that it was mishandled, not the weakness of the revelatory process"... FLOP - (I flopped because I knew that Brigham and the other early prophets often said that polygamy was the crowning glory of the gospel, and that early members would be as shocked by a church without polygamy as current members would be as shocked by a church without the temple) I'd say "well, the leaders are just giving us milk before meat, to protect us from learning that which we are not prepared to handle". SOMERSAULT - (I had to turn every which way because I knew in my heart, although I had not yet learned this lovely phrase to capture it, that Truth Should Be Able to Withstand Scrutiny).

The mental gymnastics were taxing, indeed... emotionally as well as physically and intellectually. When an individual has to work very hard to KEEP from thinking certain "verboten" thoughts, that individual expends a tremendous amount of psychic energy doing so, energy that is drained from otherwise dealing with and enjoying life fully. We need ALL our energy and wits to deal with REALITY, we can't afford to expend any in keeping the mental wolves at bay, not without great cost, at least.

The emotional trials that may yet await you frighten me in your behalf. Maintaining belief and allegiance to an organization that teaches you to continually monitor your behavior, to continually measure yourself, to attain perfection by running on an endless gerbil wheel is exhausting. Maintaining a balance between patriarchy and your inborn instinct and desire to be treated with as much respect as a man is exhausting. Maintaining self respect while declaring allegiance to an organization that teaches homosexuals are sinners because of the nature with which they were born, or that minorities may have been fence sitters in the pre-existence, that had to erase the words "white and delightsome" from the book they call sacred scripture, that programs our daughters to choose marriage and motherhood above all else, even their own talents and desires that might lead them away from those events, that makes men feel responsible for the eternal salvation of their entire family, to say nothing of the economic survival of that unit as well, that teaches its young people that simple self-exploration and self-pleasuring is a "sin" that needs to be confessed to prurient older men, that counsels its people to remain married even in abusive situations... maintaining self respect is difficult in the face of these facts which cry out of basic injustice to everyone concerned. Discrimination and patriarchy damages ALL of us, the perpetrators as well as the victims.

I'm not going to pretend that I am happy for you, Lindsey. I'm not. I'm scared for you, and the price you may one day have to pay for your leap of faith.

I dedicate this song of Sam Phillips to Mormonism -

 baby I can't please you I can't please you
oh baby

 every time you start to criticize
I can see the misery in your eyes
you say I make your pain
you're trying to turn the blame all around you

 baby I can't please you

 you take the words I say and make them mean
everything they don't baby you're obscene
you don't listen you don't hear
you're blinded by the fear that surrounds you

 I know you say love when you mean CONTROL
you BUY the TRUTH and your heart is cold
so you live in shadows

 you try to tell the world how it should spin
but you live in terror with the hollow men
who stun you with their lies
with fever in their eyes as they drown you

 baby I can't please you I can't please you

 I have no idea of whether or not a god exists at all, but there is one thing of which I'm sure... if there is a god, he is not the resurrected perfect white man with many wives who watches our every move to see if we are good enough to repeat the magic words and get in the clubhouse and condemns those who do not believe in the right story.... no god could be that small.

As I left Mormonism, my oldest sister, who had read much of the same information that I was reading and who had a similar crisis of faith and told me she would also leave were it not for her family, decided to stay within the church. She worked hard to be able to believe, in spite of everything she knew. She acts now as if she does believe...

she has also struggled with serious depression for all these years as well.

Lindsey, I'm not saying these words to flame or attack you , but just as you felt it would be cowardly to go out silently, so I feel it would be cowardly not to say what I truly feel.

I wish you that which doesn't seem possible for most Mormons that I know or have known - a life full of self respect and peace.

Tracy M

Temple Marriage and exclusion of non-Mormon family members

A question by a non-Mormon," But, I don't understand why, from a parents point of view, the "sealing" ceremony cannot just be ignored as a childish aberration and a real wedding held as in any normal family. Am I missing the boat? The real wedding would have all the real friends and family. The "sealing" ceremony would have those other people and be irrelevant to her real life."

Because if you are involved in the church enough to get a temple recommend, the church IS your real life.

Trying to down play the importance of the sealing is virtually impossible. The General Manual of Instructions (the Bishop's handy how-to guide) discourages ANYTHING that takes away from the sealing. A couple that gets married by their bishop outside the temple is going to have a ceremony that would make a Las Vegas drive through wedding look like the royal wedding of Charles and Diana.

Mormon chapels are incredibly bland, they are the Motel 6 of churches. Attempts to even have what the "world" thinks of as a wedding would be almost impossible.

I have good friends that were married by a catholic priest and a Methodist minister. The two clergy got together and worked out a really nice ceremony to honor the different religious backgrounds of the couple. In fact the groom's dad was the minister, and the brides cousin was the priest so they were especially motivated to cooperate. Whenever Mormon bishops are asked to do something similar they refuse. Their approach has always been the same in every case of which I am aware......"we have the truth, we are right, we shouldn't have anything to do with those that are not right". The idea of any type of ecumenical cooperation is anathema to Mormon clergy. They perceive cooperation or even consideration as a weakness. If you doubt that look at what they do for non-member parents when their kids are getting married.

They usually let them sit in a room inside the temple ( it is important to know that it is usually just inside the door and before the patrons have to show their recommends to get into the temple proper). The room is usually pretty plain; a few religious pictures and perhaps a flower arrangement. There will be copies of the BofM and some copies of the church magazines. After a few words of greeting the parents are "allowed" to sit quietly for the next couple of hours. Imagine the feelings of those parents....sitting in a lobby, cut off from the most important day in their child's life. Knowing that others are witnessing the marriage of their kids while they are not only left out but treated as though they should just accept that they are not allowed to witness their own child's marriage. Because they are going to make a big deal out of promises to not reveal things learned in the temple, the parent's questions about what happened will be answered with "I can't tell you"

 Any attempt to ameliorate the pain of the parents will be seen as weakness. After all when you are SO right you have a right to treat people like shit because maybe then they will realize how right you are and want to follow you.

If your daughter is saying she will not get married without you....there is a sad truth you need to examine NOW. If that is her stance she really only has two choices. At some point she will either have to accept that her marriage is not what it is supposed to be , that it is somehow lesser. She will have to accept that her children will NOT be "born in the covenant", that her kids will sit in primary and mutual and know that their mom and dad didn't do what god really wants them to do, which for most Mormons is pretty hard to do. Or she will have to tell you that she is getting married in the temple and that you will not be allowed to be there. She will then tell you that this might be a chance for you to investigate and join so that you can all be a family through out eternity. What will be hard for you to comprehend is that she is repeating almost word for word what her leaders told her when she explained the situation.

All in all that is a really long winded (sorry I know I'm starting to rant) way of saying if she is true to you the church will punish her and her family and if she is true to the church you will suffer. Knowing that that is the only possible outcome before it happens may be a way of getting her to see what she is getting into. GET OUT NOW.

I'm sorry that this is so long winded. It is a sensitive spot. I have finally after leaving begun to recognize how much I hurt my own parents when I listened to the church. The years have passed, that relationship is over, my dad is gone, my mom still hurts. It is so hard to imagine how easy it was to get wrapped up in all the church's reasons for me to behave in ways that I now find reprehensible. I look at my own behavior and wonder who I was. I think I know myself, but I can't imagine doing the things that I did with no thought other than "I am right...this is what god wants". I remember how easy it was to go from "Of course I'll never get married without my family" to thinking that the members of the church WERE my family.


Being set apart for a "calling"

Yeah, I know all about that so called inspiration. About three years ago my name was put before a stake conference for a sustaining vote for a stake calling. As with tradition, several other names were also announced for various callings and some were sustained as new elders and one or two to be ordained high priests. It was further announced that all that were to be ordained or set apart should meet in the high council room after the conference for the blessings.

When the time came for me to be set apart, this responsibility fell to the second councilor in the stake presidency. Up to this point I always believed that this blessing came directly from God and the person speaking was only the mouth to vocalize what God wanted to say to me directly by his servant.

 Much to my surprise, while under this second councilors hands and with a bishop assisting, I was given the Melchizedek priesthood and set apart to the office of an elder. Now I happened to be a high priest. I didn't quite know what to do so I sat there while this priesthood holder proceeded to give me a wonderful blessing, directly from God (?).

When he finished, I turned around to him and looked up and said to him that I already held the priesthood. I was there to be set apart to a stake calling. He was thoroughly embarrassed, as were others in the room. He then mildly chastised me. He said, "why didn't you stop me?" I told him that I really didn't know what to do so I figured I would wait till he was finished.

 He then started over again and set me apart to my calling. My blessing wasn't as good as the first time as I recall, so much for inspiration or revelation. This incident started me seriously thinking about the so called divine inspiration to our church leaders.


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