The Ex-Mormon Community Online and Women and Mormonism

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 I was a kind of convert-lifer member of the church. My mother joined when I was 6yo. Due to health problems, she wasn't able to attend Sacrament meetings, but she always sent me. It was very difficult to feel a part of the community when I was the only family member attending, but I did attend fairly regularly. My mother was a TBM (True Believing Mormon), but my father never joined. Mother joined mainly as a comfort after my brother died in childhood. She wanted to know that she would be with him again someday. Eventually my aunt also joined the church. My aunt has influenced me a lot over the years, and I do admire her very much.

My mother died suddenly when I was a child. My life drastically changed. My father was an alcoholic, and gradually his life began to spin out of control. He also traveled a lot with his work, so I went to live with my aunt eventually. After mother's death, I had little contact with the church, and in fact no longer believed in it and was attending another church. As often happens, I began to question that other faith when I was about 19yo. It seemed a natural progression to investigate the Mormon church again. I had all the discussions, read the tracts and the BoM, met some members where I was attending school in Nashville, TN, and began attending again.

Of course, the thing to do was to transfer to BYU, and so I did. I arrived in April, 1974. At first I loved it. I was surrounded by Mormondom.....all the things I'd only read about in Indiana. Temples, Mormons ("my" people) everywhere, mountains, and of course, returned missionaries....:) While I had an active social life while I was at BYU, I gradually felt "different" from the other students. I was very active in the church for the first couple of years, took a full class load, and worked part-time at the University Mall in Orem. I didn't have a lot of time to spend cultivating close friendships, so my viewpoint might be a little "off," but most of the people whom I was acquainted with were, IMO, rather hollow. I don't exactly know how to describe it, but it was like the Velveteen Rabbit before he became "real." They were nice people, but didn't have much depth to them. I was starving for meaningful human contact. I suffered a serious bout of depression while at the Y.

By the time I was a senior I noticed something else, too. I noticed oppression. I had never really experienced oppression before so it took me awhile to realize what I was seeing. There was no freedom to disagree. Even in classes (where the professors were the authority figures), I heard little disagreement with what was being taught. There was no free exchange of ideas......whether it was because everyone was afraid to speak up with a dissenting voice, or because everyone actually did believe the same, or because no one had a thought to share....I don't know. I did think it strange though. I even, at times felt as if I was being watched......I doubt that ever actually happened, but the feeling persisted. I was glad to graduate and leave BYU.

I do remember one class that I particularly enjoyed though. It was Women's Studies. It was at the height of the ERA and the International Year of the Woman. It was an exciting time to learn about feminism and what being a woman meant. Fortunately, the professor that I had was a tremendous example of letting her students think for themselves. It started me on a lifelong journey of exploring my own potential and appreciating the fact that I was female. As a motherless daughter, that was very important to me.

After graduation, I returned to Indiana. By this time I was fairly disillusioned with the church and LDS culture. I took a job working about 55 hours a week, and didn't attend meetings very often. But I still believed. My family were active TBMs----my aunt and her daughters. Soon after I got back to Indiana, I met the man who was to become my husband. He was not a member, but was quite a bit older than me and had actually lived a "gentile" life. He was a 'real' person with a 'real' life......and 'real' problems as I was later to discover. I learned that "real" wasn't always a good thing. He never has joined the church. Over the 13 years or so that we were married, I had several cycles of activity/inactivity in the church. When I was active, I was very active for a year or two. Then I would fade away. At the time, I wasn't sure why I didn't want to attend, and it bothered me a lot, so eventually I'd try again. I believed that the problem was me. Everything was very vague to me then. I always believed in the gospel, but did struggle with other things.

I struggled with the church's attitude toward women. It wasn't so much the fact that the priesthood wasn't available for women, as that I felt that women weren't encouraged to fulfill their individual, unique potentials. Everything was pushed aside for marriage, motherhood, and church. There was no time or energy for personal growth. The words were there, but I never felt the church really appreciated the value of women as diverse individuals.

It always bothered me that I didn't particularly admire Joseph Smith. I thought he was charismatic, but when I was able to separate the man from the public prophet, I wasn't sure that I would have liked him much. (Reading "No Man Knows My History" helped me with that particular issue.) And I knew that I wouldn't have liked Brigham Young....:) Even beyond that, I could not respect Gordon B. Hinkley. Years ago when he was, in essense, running the church, I saw things that led me to personally believe that he was a very controlling and manipulative individual. After researching the Hoffman incident, I knew that I could not follow such a man. I did not believe that he was trustworthy. To date, I still have seen nothing to change my opinion.

Another thing that really bothered me was the lack of spirituality that I felt in the church. At first I didn't understand exactly what was missing, but I knew that something was just not there for me. Due to my failing marriage, I started attending a 12-Step group for codependents in 1989 (similar to Alcoholics Anonymous---aka CODA). After attending CODA for a few months, I began to understand what was missing. I learned that God loved people who weren't LDS. I had believed that Mormons were the chosen people, and God loved us best....:) I learned skills in CODA that helped me to personally grow and specific things that I could do beyond scripture study and fasting to improve my daily life. I also learned the difference between spirituality and religion. And I grew to cautiously trust a God that really made a difference in people's lives. To summarize, I learned that God was bigger than I had ever been taught in church. Those lessons only served to make me see what was missing in my own church. I began to believe that the gospel was the best kept secret in the church. I stayed stuck in this spot for several years. During this time, I also did a lot of twisted thinking trying to justify my growing fear that something was very wrong with the church. My son was nearing baptismal age, and I felt desperate to know what to do. I didn't want to cause him the same agony that I was going through. I spent several entire nights praying and begging Heavenly Father to help me know what to do. I studied the scriptures looking for answers. I prayed for a strong enough testimony to fight off those growing fears. I never once got any kind of feeling that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, or that the BoM was true, or that God led the priesthood. Eventually I reached the saturation point. It became extremely painful for me to sit through Sacrament meeting. My Soul was crying in pain, and I started listening to it. I told Heavenly Father that I couldn't attend the Mormon church any longer without His assurance that it was the right place for me to be. When I finally realized that He was giving me an answer with His silence, I stopped attending church. I was done trying to force myself into a mold that did not fit me. That was approximately 1991.

But I still couldn't let go of the church. I couldn't understand it. I had no idea whether or not the church was true--and didn't care, but I did know that I had not reached a peaceful place with my experience with the church. Then I got a computer....then I went online....:) I looked on AOL for anything linked to the church.....and didn't find much because I didn't know where to look. I joined a LDS mailing list. I found that was not a particularly healthy place for me, so I left it after a couple of months. Then I did a Yahoo search for "Mormon" and saw the Recovery from Mormonism web site for the first time. I couldn't click on the link fast enough...:) The web site wasn't very old then, and the exmormon mailing list was only 3 weeks old when I joined it. I lurked for several months. I was very afraid. One post mentioned a chat on AOL for recovering Mormons. I attended that chat, got acquainted with several people, eventually posted my story to the AOL Interfaith Board, and slowly started posting to the mailing lists. In the exmo community, I found the healing that I had been seeking. I learned of the historical contradictions, twisted doctrinal thinking, and most important, I found people who felt like I did. I found the support to give myself permission to let go of a religion that did not work for me. I have been fortunate to meet in person quite a few wonderful people in the exmormon community. I treasure those relationships.

Why did I join, or rather rejoin, in the first place? For the approval of my family. I wanted to belong somewhere, and the church gave me that opportunity. Another reason was that I liked the mysteries of the church. I liked thinking of all of the possibilities that the eternities afforded. And I liked the dream of that ideal Mormon family.

Now? I don't know as much as I once thought I did. I investigated several world faiths before I found the exmormon web site. None of them really seemed to fit me, but I came away with a greater appreciation for others' beliefs. I call myself a theist. I believe in some kind of Power that I call the Universe. I don't understand It at all, but I believe I've seen that Power in my life enough to believe it exists for me. I find my spiritual growth in nature these days. I learn about life by watching the life and universe all around me. I'm learning to enjoy my life, too. As a Mormon, I postponed any joy until the next life because this one was a trial, and I didn't think I was supposed to enjoy it. I still am learning, growing, and exploring life. It's a scary and exhilarating journey. I am responsible for my own happiness and choices. If the Universe wants me to learn a new lesson, It is perfectly capable of getting my attention eventually.....:) Where I will end up, I don't know, and I don't worry about it anymore. I am much happier now.


E-Mail to this author: Nades

Nades has a web site on women's issues in leaving Mormonism. Be sure to visit: Women and Mormonism 

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