The Mormon Church claims to be family focused. But I argue that the focus is on the men in the priesthood and how these men can advance their importance within the church hierarchy. Women and children are just the "window dressing" of this advancement to male perfection. Children have no voice in the church and suffer greatly. I was born into the Mormon faith and I hope my story of survival will help young people facing similar situations.
It is important to mention that my parents were never really meant for each other. My mother was raised an only child in a VERY small community of Catholics in of all places Salt Lake City, Utah. My father was one of five in a Mormon family from Provo, Utah. I am the fourth of five children, (which is considered a small family in Utah) and we lived in Cedar City, Utah during my early childhood.
My father came from a long line of Mormons. His mother was a devout Mormon who died when he was only 15. He told me several times that it was grandma's deathbed wish that my father continue to be a member in the Mormon church... so it was major guilt that drove him to become the perfect Mormon. But he was far from it. Like his father he drank heavily all through medical school (yes... he was a doctor) and like his father he physically abused my mother and my older siblings. When he graduated medical school things began to look up for him. He quit drinking, became more involved in the church and a new son was born (me). He was pretty happy about me being a boy since his wife gave him only one son and two daughters. Having another boy balanced things out and re-established his sense of "manhood".
My mother was brought up Catholic. Her father abandoned her when she was 3 and her mother made up for this by sheltering her against the harsh Mormon neighbors. My mother tells a heart wrenching story about how she broke her arm while playing in the neighborhood (in front of Mormon parents) and was forced to walk home instead of any of them helping her. One actually told her she was a "dirty" little catholic girl. She was six years old. All of this rejection in her life created her need to be accepted. That is why she conformed to my father's wishes and converted to Mormonism so they could get married. She was a nursing student and he was a pre-med student when they met. She eventually gave up her career as a nurse and became the stereotypical depressed, overweight Mormon housewife.
As too many of us former Mormons know the churches' "cure" for problems is to become a better Mormon instead of offering genuine advice or family counseling. One instance that sticks out in my mind is the time when my older sister, age 8, was solicited by a young man from a car while she was walking home from school. Fortunately she was able to run away from the situation and tell my mom and dad about it. The police eventually caught the pervert in the act of soliciting other children. It was discovered he was a Mormon about to leave on his mission. Because the Mormon Church in Utah has substantial political power the pervert was set free and allowed to go on his mission. As in typical fashion, the elders of the church ordered my father to keep the problem within the church and not have the pervert prosecuted. I still hold my father and the church responsible.
While we lived in Utah my father's religious fanaticism grew to the point that he refused to pay taxes to the IRS for 3 years. Instead he gave all of his tax money to the church. In one year he gave the church $30,000 dollars instead of paying his taxes. This plays an important role in my family's lives since later on we were forced to move several times in order to avoid state income taxes and attempt to pay past federal taxes. Two states and three cities later we ended up in Tennessee (no state income tax in Tennessee).
My father considered himself invincible since he had visited a Mormon temple and received the "sacred" garments to protect him against evil. During medical school he frequently volunteered to be x-rayed whenever a medical student needed to "practice" reading x-rays. He was wearing the sacred garments given to him by GOD! How could anything harm him? He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1977. There is no history of the disease in my family and it is rare for older people to be afflicted with the disease.
I don't blame the church for my father's own stupidity. My purpose is to share his experience with others to let them know how fanatical people can become with Mormonism.
My mother eventually reached a breaking point after 19 years of marriage. She returned to the Catholic Church. When my father discovered her conversion they divorced. The church was not interested in offering help to me, my brothers and sisters or my parents. Instead they wanted to hold a church trial and bring my mother before their petty little court to find her guilty of breaking up the family. How would this help anyone? This was a critical point in my life... I lost my faith in the Mormon Church.
My father remarried immediately to a Mormon convert but the marriage lasted only 2 years. A year after his second divorce he became very sick from his leukemia and died in 1985. Like my father, I too lost a parent at age 15.
The funeral for my father was a hellish nightmare. Since my father had been an unofficial church doctor and donated so much money to the church (he funded one boy's entire mission) the members were more interested in what he left to the church in his will. NOT ONE SINGLE CHURCH MEMBER OFFERED THEIR CONDOLENCES AT THE FUNERAL. Several members approached me at the funeral outside the church to ask me to protect the items my father left to the church... from my mother. They were afraid she would harm the physical items left to the church in my father's will.
I knew I would be leaving the church after my father died. I had attended church to satisfy him because I knew he was dying and I didn't want to complicate our relationship. I knew that if I left the church before he died he would disown me. So that is my reason for continuing in the church even though I had lost faith 4 years earlier. But the appalling actions from the church members at his funeral were enough to make me thoroughly disgusted with the church and its beliefs. The Mormon Church sucked my family dry and then they wanted more.
Today I am 27 and in a peaceful place in my life. I've learned from my experiences and I'm not ashamed for having to go through such agony. My view on religion is basic. I feel that organized religion is nothing more than a business. Too much pain has come from the cause of religion. Spirituality is another issue. My relationship with God is my business and not that of others. I've learned to accept all people regardless of their beliefs... including Mormons. In the past 3 years I've had the wonderful opportunity to become friends with a practicing Mormon. We respect each other's views and are good friends. I am a free thinker and thank God everyday that my mother had the strength to leave the oppression of the Mormon Church. I do not hate the Mormon Church but I am thankful for my mother's bravery. Without it I would not be the person I am today... free!
The author of the above story can be reached at:
I was a solid believer until I was in grade school. As I got older, I began to realize that I was not the same Mormon as the other girls in my ward. I had a very skeptical nature and questioned the teachings at every turn. I found that this annoyed the Mormon leaders immensely. I looked for other ways to annoy them.
As a teenager, I forged headlong into any kind of trouble I could find. I was known in the ward as a "bad influence." I snuck into stake dances without paying; and assisted my non-Mormon friends in doing the same; I (and three other "wavering" Mormon kids) got caught smoking cloves and drinking stolen whiskey in the parking lot outside the Scripture Chase; I "ditched" the Youth Conference (with other wavering Mormons), drove around San Diego all night in my mom's station wagon, enlisted a homeless man to buy beer, slept in a park, and "cleaned up" in an IHOP bathroom before going to the Sunday morning service. I was the epitome of the Bad Mormon. This behavior caused two of my Mormon girlfriends to get "sent to live with cousins in Utah," where they would be around more positive reinforcements.
When I was 17, my father ordered me to get a part-time job. Knowing that his work ethic was much stronger than his church ethic, I requested that my employer at the fast-food restaurant schedule me to work on Sunday mornings. That was the end of my church experience.
When deciding on colleges, my parents offered to pay my way and buy me a car if I went to BYU. Enticed by the promised of wheels, I looked into BYU, but when I found out about the "honor code" I quickly set my sights on a state university as far away from home as I could get. My parents paid for one semester, the rest I financed on my own. Needless to say, a used mountain bike was my sole method of transportation in college. After school I moved back to the area I grew up in and worked as a newspaper editor. I have since completed a Master's Degree, and now have a job in state politics. Of course, I have always been a failure by Mormon standards-unmarried at 29!
Though my mother has given up on me, I have a 13-year old sister who is a shining example of the Perfect Mormon Daughter. I guess they are pinning all their hopes on her. Recently, however, I became engaged, and through planning my wedding have realized what a bizarre custom Mormon marriages must be. My mother is trying to help but lacks any concept of what goes on at secular weddings. She offered to bring a cake from Costco and make a casserole. I explained to her that the reason we were hiring a caterer is so that the guests don't have to work at the wedding. She offered to hold an "open house" at the ward building (500 miles away from where I currently live) so that we wouldn't have to rent a reception site. I had to inform her that it was too far for my friends to travel (her point exactly?) and that I didn't think the bishop would allow a hosted bar right there on the basketball court. She then offered my little sister to sing, and I again had to refuse-on the basis that songs from Saturday's Warrior would not go over well.
I did grant her one request, however. Invitations were sent to all of her "church friends." Sadly, I think she wants to gain acceptance among them as her prodigal daughter finally ends her spinsterhood. We are working under the assumption, however, that none of these people will actually come. It was strange to write the names of individuals who played such a large role in my childhood, and in shaping the person that I would become, yet who all considered me to be such a terrible person. Of their many sons and daughters, with whom I was childhood friends, most are married. Many are divorced or on second or third marriages. One gave up a child born out of wedlock to another family in the ward, and upon reconciling with the child's father, was unable to regain custody. Some are gay or lesbian, in the closet for fear of excommunication. Another was beaten to death by her husband while her three small children watched. None of the women finished college, opting instead to marry and make babies at 18 or 19. Thinking about them depresses me, so I usually don't.
I have never gone to the effort to have my name removed from the records; to do so would indicate that I think it really matters. Occasionally, in conversation, I will admit to having grown up Mormon. People are always surprised, and find me a good source for explanation or Mormon ritual rumors. Anyway, I am not religious at all now; although I do fall prey to fortune cookies on occasion...
My mother was raised a member of the church in a small town in Southern Utah. She came from pioneer stock and was related to Joseph Smith. She stopped attending church in her early twenties and later married my father, a nonmember.
Even though she never went back to the church, she always considered herself a Mormon. She was a heavy smoker and an alcoholic, but liked to think of herself as a "Jack Mormon." She didn't really know what the church taught but held on to the belief that "it was the only true church." In spite of her alleged beliefs, my sister and I never attended church. Our only association with Mormons was our yearly trip to Utah to see our relatives.
When I was eight the missionaries came to our home and taught my older sister and me the lessons and we were baptized. However, my parents still didn't send us to church so we never went. Despite not receiving any religious training, I was always a religious child. I often pondered God and would pray to him. I always tried to live by His commandments and would sometimes accompany my friends to their different churches.
By the time I reached the ninth grade I really wanted to regularly attend a church so I went back to the Mormon church. My mother encouraged me in this and my father drove me. However, my newfound activity was short lived. After about eight months I quit going because the other kids were so mean to me. They would snub me at both school and church because my parents didn't attend. And my Sunday school teachers would make comments about Satan possessing my parents because they smoked and drank.
I remained inactive until my senior year in high school. I was still looking for a church to attend and decided to give it another try. By this time I was older and more mature and could deal with the rejection by the other teen members. I attended seminary and loved my teacher. We studied the Book of Mormon that year and although I never got the promised "burning in my bosom", I felt it was true.
All the adults at church were very kind to me and made me feel welcome. I met a lot of wonderful people and loved attending meetings. Many of the kids my own age were still snobby and cliquish, but I didn't let it bother me. I loved the church because it was true and I wasn't going to let people drive me away again.
It was during this time that I also decided to go on a mission as soon as I turned twenty one. When I shared this with my bishop he discouraged me. He said that my calling was to stay home, get married and have children. He also said that I was too attractive and would cause problems in the mission field.(this was in the late 1960's)
I went to BYU and initially majored in pre-med. I had wanted to be a doctor since Junior High school. However, my BYU academic advisor dissuaded me from this pursuit. He said that I couldn't fulfill my calling as a wife and mother and also have such a challenging career. I ended up agreeing with him and switched my major. (Of course some of those pre-med science classes also helped in my decision)
I continued my dream of going on a mission and worked part time for $1.00 an hour as an outdoor carhop to save money to go. I also saved my money from summer jobs for my missionary fund. I still strongly believed in the Mormon Church and was very spiritual. I prayed often and really tried to live by the teaching of Christ.
The summer before my twenty-first birthday I scheduled a meeting with my home Bishop in order to begin the mission process. He once again discouraged me from going but ended up completing the forms. My parents were not happy about my decision and were upset that I was dropping out of college after my junior year. Yet, since they knew I had given it much thought, they ended up being somewhat supportive.
I was sent to the Spanish American mission in Texas.(after four years of Latin and some French-- go figure?) I took out my endowments in the Salt Lake City temple. My maternal grandmother went through the temple with me. I found it to be a very disappointing and perplexing experience. I had been a Job's daughter in high school and was shocked to see the similarities between the temple ordinance and the Job's Daughter's rituals. However, I felt that as I became worthier I would understand and appreciate the sacredness of the temple.
I stayed at the Language Training Mission in Provo for three months. While there I worked very hard and really enjoyed the other sisters.
When I arrived in the mission field I was very gung ho and a hard worker. I would sometimes get frustrated with my companions because they wouldn't want to work as hard as I did. I taught the lessons in both English and Spanish and was one of the top baptizers. I followed all the mission rules and did everything by the book. I still had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.
Then one day, toward the end of my mission, I suddenly no longer believed in the church. To this day, I still can't explain what happened. It was as if the spirit left me. Try as I might, I just didn't believe anymore what I was teaching investigators in the lesson plans. Of course this feeling was so contemptible I could never tell my companion. Instead, I just worked harder, prayed harder, and fasted frequently.
When I saw my mission president I talked to him. He told me that my problem was that I was "too deep a thinker" and that my doubts were coming from the devil. He told me to continue serving my mission and pray about the Book of Mormon and I would get an answer.
I stayed in the mission field and tried to lie to myself about my feelings. At this time I didn't know any of the intellectual reasons why people leave the church. All I did know was that I felt as if God had abandoned me because He had taken away my belief in His church. I made it a point to not bear my testimony, but in all other respects I continued my work as usual.
To further complicate things, I had been writing to my current husband during my mission and we had a serious relationship. Since he was a very devout Mormon, I knew my loss of faith would impact my future with him. I had every reason to want to stay in the church, to want to believe, to want to suppress my lingering doubts.
When I returned from my mission we resumed dating and returned to BYU together to finish school. I still hadn't regained my testimony but continued attending church, living the commandments and praying. In fact I would fast and pray for days at a time crying and begging God to give me back the feeling I once had. I still felt that He had abandoned me. I continued to study the Book of Mormon and do all the things the church had taught me to do.
We became engaged and planned a temple marriage that summer. However, I had enormous guilt because I never told my fiance that I no longer believed in the church. I knew this was terribly wrong yet at the same time I felt he would call off the wedding if he knew. After all, earlier in my life, I would have done the same thing. I also felt guilty about marrying in the temple when I didn't believe in the church. When I discussed this with a church leader, I was told that the church was true and I should continue following all the principles and my testimony would be restored.
A semester before my wedding I graduated from the Y and joined the airlines and moved to New York City. I continued to attend church, wear my garments, and abide by the church's teachings. And most of all, I fasted, prayed, cried, begged, and pleaded with God to give me back my testimony. I still felt so guilty and couldn't help but believe I was betraying my future husband. I also couldn't understand what was wrong with me. The church was true. Why couldn't I believe? Why did I feel so alone? What had I done to cause this? What was wrong with me?
We were married in the temple with all my husband's family present. His dad was a Stake President. After our wedding my husband joined me in New York and he signed up to serve in the Coast Guard a day before he was to be inducted into the army. I continued to fly for the airlines overseas and he was based on Governor's Island. We attended church regularly and I kept my deep dark secret to myself.
Unbeknown to me, however, my husband had begun having his own doubts about the church. Before that time, he was an exceptionally devout member. He had gone on a mission, was Assistant to the Mission President, and followed the church faithfully. He was pure in heart and spirit. Unlike myself, whose testimony suddenly dissipated for spiritual reasons, my husband's journey towards disbelief was based on intellectual and moral grounds. He began to question the church during the Viet Nam War era. He was strongly opposed to the war and felt that it was immoral for Americans to go to Southeast Asia and kill people. He discussed this with his father and told his father that he was considering going to Canada since he had a low lottery number and would be drafted soon. This was around general conference time, and his dad conferred with Spencer W. Kimball, who was a general authority. Both his father and Kimball told my husband to be that it was his duty to obey the laws of the land and go to Viet Nam. In fact, if he went to Canada he could not remain a member in good standing. However, he was assured that if the war was unjust, and he killed innocent people, their blood would not be on his hands.
My husband didn't care whose hands it was on. He was unwilling to follow the Mormon edict of obeying the laws of the land when those laws were wrong. This started him questioning why the prophets wouldn't seek revelation from God as to whether members should be going to Viet Nam. After all, they prayed about such trivial things as liquor by the drink and opposed its sell in the state of Utah.
Once he started questioning one premise of the church, it led to his questioning others. He eventually came to the conclusion that although he had a great deal of respect for the Mormon church and its teachings, he didn't feel it was the true church. Because of this, he couldn't administer the priesthood or be fully active. He felt that the church required an all or nothing commitment, and in good faith he couldn't make it.
When we moved back to California, my husband told his father of our inactivity and the reasons he could no longer attend.(he did not tell him my reasons) His father was devastated and promised us that if we kept attending church we would come to know it was true. His step-mother (mother deceased) said that terrible things would happen to us if we stayed inactive. His sister blamed me for our departure, stating that it must be because I wanted to wear short skirts. His other brothers and sisters also took it equally bad.
Over the last twenty-five years we have remained inactive. When our children were young, I sent them to primary for a few years. This was because I still felt the church was true and something was wrong with me for not believing in it. I also continued to fast and pray seeking a testimony which never came.
Besides giving up the church, it was difficult to give up my dream of the perfect Mormon family. Since my dad was also an alcoholic I didn't have a happy home life. The church completely idealized its families and I always thought they were better than non LDS families. I have now learned that they are no better or no worse. My father in law who is currently a stake patriarch is a very cold person and a workaholic. Two of my husband's sisters are divorced. One of them ran off with another man, leaving her husband and children behind. However, she was able to get a temple divorce and remarry in the temple. Another one of my husband's siblings is a convicted felon and another suffers from major depression. They are all active in the church and none of them are close to one another.
As for my family, we raised four lovely children. Two have graduated from top universities in the country and the other two are still attending college. None of them drink or smoke and they all have very strong morals. They have no interest in the Mormon church and are actually glad they weren't raised LDS. They look askance at all their cousins who are married by twenty-one and think its stupid. They also have little respect for the active Mormons they attended high school with who slept around, used alcohol and drugs, went to Ricks or BYU and then married in the temple.
I said at the beginning of my story that being Mormon has effected me my entire life although I was only active for a short time. However, it wasn't until I stumbled across this web site that I realized this. I have lived with constant guilt all these years thinking that something was the matter with me and I was less worthy than others. After all, I had never known any Mormons who lost their testimonies. I thought my husband and I were the only ones out there. And that was a pretty lonely feeling. For years, I've asked myself, why me? What's the matter with me? Why can't I believe in the true church? What have I done wrong? Why won't the Holy Ghost give me back my testimony?
Reading the stories of others who have gone through similar situations has made me realize that I'm O.K. I'm not a bad person. I haven't done anything wrong. God never abandoned me. He just didn't give me the answer I was looking for, the one I so desperately wanted, the one the Mormon church promised I would receive.
I haven't had my name removed from the rolls and I don't know if I ever will. Home teachers still come to our house the last day of the month. Rumors still abound that my husband and I are inactive because he had an affair, or we sinned or something. It's hard for the members to accept that two successful attorneys who live the word of wisdom and are active in the community could possibly have left the church unless they committed some great sin or became too worldly.
I hope that my story will help some of you who may be suffering from the guilt and despair associated with losing ones testimony. All in all, I have to say that my life and the lives of my family have turned out well and we have been blessed.