Stories of two women raised as Mormons and who left Mormonism at young ages.

Story 1

I have known for quite a while that I needed to write my story down, but actually forcing myself to do it has been very difficult. It requires facing my past, which isn't always an easy thing to do. After seeing the courage of those who have written their stories for Eric's site, and the exMormon e-mail list, I have decided that it is time.

Today I am the 35-year-old mother of two young girls, a stay-at-home mom who does the books and secretarial work for my husband's business, an electrical contracting company. It is somewhat ironic that I stay at home with my children, because anger at the way women are treated in the LDS church was one of the bigger catalysts for me to leave. But despite the fact that I choose to be at home with my children, I remain a staunch advocate of women's rights and the ability of a woman to choose her path in life.

One of the first things about the church that really sticks out in my mind was a Sunday school class where I asked the teacher about the infinite nature of God. Now, mind you I was only 8 or 9-years-old, so obviously I didn't phrase it this way, but the teacher became very frustrated with my questions and became quite angry. Rather than research or try to come up with a better answer, he proceeded to tell my dad, tattle, who became very angry with me.

Rule No. 1: Accept the priesthood authority. Don't ask questions. You are the inferior one.

The next doubt issue came when my favorite aunt left the church, joining the Jehovah's Witnesses. According to my dad, she did this because she couldn't accept the priesthood authority and wanted to be in charge. I remember thinking, well what's wrong with that? I didn't necessarily want to be in charge, but why should my eternity be placed in the hands of a man? How come I wasn't to be responsible for my OWN salvation (she no longer is a JW, but is still a very self-assured, extremely confident woman).

Now, don't get me wrong. I love men. I always have and always will. I just have a problem placing my trust in a gender that is so easily lead astray by the temptations of the flesh. I want to be responsible for my own destiny. If I am responsible for my own actions, then I should be responsible for where I end up.

The polygamy teachings have always been a sore spot for me, particular when I began to realize that not only could a man have many wives, but they would all remain sealed to him. Women, of course, were not afforded that luxury. Just like women were not HOME teachers, but VISITING teachers. After all, that is what we women do, visit, right?

Also, I was told the temple was not a secret, but a sacred place. But NOBODY would tell me what when on there. I told my mother early on that unless I knew what was happening, I wasn't going to go there. She laughed it off. I am glad now that I had enough sense back then to NEVER go through the temple.

My father was a selfish and hot-tempered male, who regularly showed his priesthood authority to me with the back of his hand. To this day, my family disagrees with me that we, and especially I, were victims of child abuse. Back then, that is just how it was done. But I remember him becoming so angry with me that he knocked me against a wall and then I blacked out. There were many other episodes where I would get him so angry that he would physically lash out at me. My sister told me once she remembered him chasing her down the hall, slapping at her butt while she tried to cover it with her hands. She didn't consider this abuse, although she was 16 or 17 at the time.

I also remember that as I got older he would often tell me to pack my bags and get out if I didn't want to live my life his way. So I would pack and then he would get pissed off when I would head out the door. My aunt is fond of saying that I came out with my fist raised in the air stating "this is the way it is." I believe that I only want the truth, and if you tell me something, I want to know why. If you have a good answer, then I will listen. If you don't, then I won't. This philosophy got me in lots of trouble as a child.

Needless to say, I didn't have a good self-esteem growing up. My only brother, who would receive the "glorious priesthood" was treated like a demi- God. We shared his chores. He did not share our "women's" chores. Today he is a lazy slob, who cannot provide for his wife or child. But he went on a mission and married in the temple, unlike me. But in high school he was wild. Drinking, partying and playing around. They never questioned him. They always questioned me. It doesn't always pay to be honest.

My father was disfellowshipped when I was 15 years old, as a result of a relationship with a girl he was teaching who was a year older than me. This was not a sexual relationship, he says, but also was not a proper relationship for a teacher, and so the church disciplined my father. I don't know how much was involved, he says mostly hugging, but that was many years ago. I have never asked about it again, and have never forgotten. I think I have forgiven, but sometimes I am not sure. Now, up to this time he did NOT regularly attend the Mormon church. In fact, my mother would dress up the five of us (four girls and one boy) and struggle with us all through church, all alone. I was always glad to go to church just to get away from my dad and his moods and anger.

After my father was disciplined from the church, he began attending regularly. I remember my mother sobbing through the entire service as the sacrament was passed, and my father had to refuse it. Why he put himself through that, why my mother put herself through that, I don't know, except this was a turning point for him and he did begin to change. Maybe the good man underneath the selfish man felt guilty and realized that things needed to be different. At any rate, my mother and father have always felt that this is what turned me against the church.

Perhaps the public humiliation of my family was a big turning point for me, I don't know, but I remember thinking that God was a mean and spiteful person, and I just didn't want anything more to do with this God. All the neighbors, all the ward members were talking, and we knew it. At this same time, after he lost his teaching job, he decided he wanted to be a chiropractor, so he rented out our family home, packed us up and moved us to Houston, Texas. What a trauma, leaving everything I had ever known and moving to another state. Especially as a "weird" Mormon, which I had never been comfortable with.

I think we stayed two weeks. At the time, I was so glad when we packed it up and headed back home. Back to my friends and my life. Away from the cockroaches that scuttled across the plates every time you opened the cupboard, and back to Utah. My mother was angry. I understand that now. We had distant relatives in Dallas, my mother had made their acquaintance through genealogy, and although they weren't Mormon they welcomed us into their home to stay. My mother wanted my Dad to try and find a job there, I really think she wanted to try and start over. But my Dad wasn't budging, and we headed back home, kicked out the family that had rented our house and moved back in. At the time I was so relieved to be back in the comfort of my situation, but now I realize that was my low self-esteem talking.

I wasn't mad at the church, but at my father. In some ways I still am. But my mother chose to forgive him and so the story went on. From the time he was placed back in good standing with the church until this very day, he has remained a good and faithful member, and I guess I must give the church some credit for the man he is today.

But I stopped believing. I wanted answers, and no one could give them to me. I remember the day I graduated from High School and I also graduated from Seminary, and my parents were so proud. Little did they know that I had rarely attended, and made up my absences by pretending to read some Mormon book or another. I am ashamed today that I didn't have the guts to stand up to my parents back then.

When I turned 18 I left the church. In order to do this, I was forced to move from my parent's home. So I did. I also left behind a base by which I had focused on my entire life. I spent some time at the University of Utah and researched the Mormon Church through Campus Crusade for Christ, but because I wasn't entirely sure there was a God, I didn't stay a Christian.

Finally facing the fact that Mormonism was a big fat lie was a horrible jolt. I became wild, partying and lost my virginity. I fell into a relationship with a man who was not a good person, but was unable to get away from him and so I married him at 21. Anyone who has spent any time at all in an abusive marriage knows this routine. I spent my entire marriage supporting him and his habits, as he couldn't hold a job. He was a verbally, physically and mentally abusive person, and the total opposite of what I had always been told to look for in a husband. Whenever I would try to leave him, he would cry and promise to change and beg me to come back. Then he would turn the tables and make the whole thing my problem - I didn't love him enough, I was too selfish. And the abuse would begin again.

To my own credit, I did eventually find the strength to leave this abusive relationship, but only after he lied and cheated on me once again. Throughout this I endured the loss of an adopted baby, endless beatings and bruisings and a constant assault on my self-esteem. With five years of my life gone, I felt truly lost, and I began to research religion again. I took Catechism classes, and almost became a Catholic, but couldn't reconcile some of their beliefs with my own, so I did not join.

I'm not sure when I realized that the foundation of my problems was Mormonism, but I started researching the church and it just started falling into place. The whole belief system I had been raised with was false. Everyone I knew who was involved had been duped. Most of them to this day continue to be fooled, and it didn't seem to matter what I said or say, or what I did, they wouldn't listen to me. I was being prompted by Satan, I guess, in their eyes. But I found Eric's site, and suddenly it all made sense.

I had rebelled against these false teachings in the only way I knew how -- by being bad. I had been such an innocent throughout my high school days. I truly lived the church, even though I wasn't sure of it's truth. And when I realized that I had been made a fool of, I headed over to the other side of the street and joined in with the evil folk.

One day I realized that I was only hurting myself, not the church, or my parents or anyone else. Just me. And so I set about building a belief system for myself. I met my current husband, and we married and now have two children. We sometimes attend First Assembly of God, and our children attend a private Christian school. I myself am still building my belief system. I don't always know what I believe, but I do know that I am a good person.

I think I believe in a God that created every living creature, and would NEVER allow his children to destroy something he made. I believe that homosexuals are the way they are because God created them that way. I believe that you can attend every meeting, pray 80 times a day, pay your tithing and if you are not a good person, none of that matters. It won't help.

At this point I would like to include a few of the doctrines of the Mormon Church that convinced me it simply isn't what it claims to be.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, president of the LDS Church in the early 1970s, made this statement: "Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted and his doctrines shown to be false . . ." My great thanks to Rauni Higley for enlightening me with this verse, for it has really defined what I believe about Mormonism.

Christians try to argue the Bible with Mormons, but there is no point, for they have a built-in escape. The article of faith which states "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." So I argue with Joseph Smith. With the very beginnings of the church. With the three or four different versions of the first vision that were NEVER published until 20 years after it supposedly happened. I argue with Joseph Smith joining another church three years after whoever or whomever appeared to him telling him they were ALL an abomination.

I argue that it isn't true, that Joseph Smith is NOT a prophet of God, but a man of his time who eventually became persuaded of his own divinity. A man who didn't live the word of wisdom, who married other men's wives and who died not as a martyr, but a man who killed two men before his own demise.

And most of all, I take back my life. I am in charge. And it feels good. Thanks Eric and all my friends on ex-Mormon for helping me to have the courage to write this.

Story 2

Monday, June 08, 1998

First of all, I want to thank you for being brave and putting up a web site for recovering human beings. Separation from mental and emotional programming is NOT an easy (nor fast) thing! I have a story, somewhat similar, but if you can forgive my spelling and grammar errors, I'll cut the "fat" from the story and keep to the "meat" of it!

O.k., let's begin, eh? I am a 23 year old married female. I was born into and raised with the church. My separation from the church was shortly after I came home from college (Rick's in Rexburg, ID). Up to that point I had done all the things that "good little Mormon girls" were supposed to do. I went to mutual, church camp, went to the dances, and out on the "group dates."

After my return from college ( I only went there for a part year), I ended up living about 20 minutes away from my parents. I was on my own and, I believe, living life according to what I wanted (e.g. no mother or mother figure to check on you, to tell you lights out, etc.). I, at that time, went to church and to the meetings throughout the week, as a "good Mormon" should. Then, something happened. It was gradual, it didn't happen overnight, but I started to notice that I didn't like the way I felt when I was at church. Sure, there was a lot of professing to having the Holy Ghost with you, but I can honestly say that, to me, people seemed really.....false. Almost fraudulent. The supposed love that we (as Mormons) were suppose to feel from god, as his children, and having more of the gospel truth at this time - I just didn't see it. Or feel it.

Perhaps if you're a currently active Mormon you can relate with seeing mothers looking upset when their little ones make a disturbance in sacrament meeting, or with the fathers that come dressed to church in their "slightly cleaned" garden pants. But for the things that I was noticing, it was the way people were relating to each other. It wasn't long before I felt I was in a room of upset, angry, depressed mothers and greased up, frozen-smiled car salesmen!

The disappointment I felt at church carried over into my "friendships" with young ladies my own age. All of us were perfect Mormon girls, wanting to do the "right" thing and get married before we were of that OLD age - 22! We did everything expected of us, and never questioned why. It was a constant pressure for us to find the spiritually suitable Return Missionary and marry him. It had nothing to do with friendship, love, or attraction.

Dating Mormon men is something equivalent to watching paint dry. Or at least mine were. Now granted, I'm not a famous supermodel, but I'm nothing to shake a stick at either!! These points were the highlights of my dating experiences with Mormons:

* On a date, you usually went with a large group. Lots of total strangers.
* Activities on the date involved church related activities - Joseph Smith, the Temple, etc.
* There were no displays of interest or affection. No signs to know if the person you were with was interested in you more then just making a public statement of "See, I'm trying to find a wife!!!".
* No kissing

It had been told repeatedly to me throughout my childhood and teenage years that people who weren't Mormon were the equivalent of "lost souls". There was a strong pressure of not having any kind of serious association with non-members. But the public that I met in my job seemed to me to have real life problems, issues, dilemmas, etc. I related to people who had shown their emotions. Basically, I was disagreeing with the church. Something I was NOT supposed to do!

My church attendance was failing at this time. I started to question, not the religion, but the people of that religion. What I saw was this, that Mormons, for whatever reason, were using the gospel as a way to be superior. I witnessed many examples of self-righteousness, bible bashing, etc. Because we were Mormon, it made us better than everyone else. To me, that was/is wrong.

The deciding moment came for me, personally, when I was a unwilling partner in a crime. It was through a very naive and a excessively trusting nature that a "guest" took advantage of me and ...I'm sorry, I can't say. It still hurts. But, after the fact, the first person I called was my relief society president for my area. Words of comfort and any action was not (nor ever) forthcoming. She did, in turn, call my president, who called me that next day, but there was no comfort or true support. I heard the generic answers of "if there's anything I can do for you, call anytime!" and so on. But when you're in a crisis, you're not exactly thinking coherently. No one came out to my house, no one did anything to show they cared.

My life was greatly disturbed, but I come from a stubborn stock and I overcame the sting of it all. My choice , my decision to leave the church, came not from a major sin that I HAD COMMITTED, but from deciding to cut out false people in my life. The combination of the pressure to get married before age 25 and of being reminded to have as many kids as you can just didn't feel right. One thing I promised myself VERY early in life was that if I couldn't be honest with myself, then how could I be honest with other people or life?

Looking back now, I have to admit what I did next was really brave of myself. I was the typical wallflower with a excessive amount of naiveté about things. I was at that point in my life where I was looking for someone special, but outside of the church.

As it turned out, I placed an ad in a personal column in the local newspaper. I told generic things about myself and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of responses. Eventually I met a man (via telephone) and one conversation led to another and soon we were dating. We have been together now for over a year and were married in a beautiful, small, civil wedding not too long ago.

My separation from the pressure and, more importantly, the mental/emotional programming that I've had to break down have enabled me to break free of the chain of thought that suffocates individuality. I can bear testimony that I believe that God loves me no matter what church I attend. Jesus Christ is my savior, not Joseph Smith.

The relations with my family have been very strained during the last couple of years. My mother is over-possessive and a 2nd generation Mormon (that I'm aware of). The relationship that her and I have has had some hard adjusting to do. The church and her family are two things she's interdependent on for her social needs. I remember various times growing up when I would have a bad day, tell my mother about it, then later at church have near total strangers come up to me and ask me about personal and private things. Worse, I would catch her at various times telling them on the phone!

But even as embarrassing as those events were, the one hurtful event that really sticks out is the time when I had just gotten engaged. My fiance' and I decided to share our wonderful moment with my family. We placed the call and instead of the wonderful reactions that we were hoping for, I am saddened to tell you that my family (namely my mother) expressed shock, horror (at marrying a non-member), and disappointment.

What is even more disappointing was that the people who I had been calling friends, called me up and told me I was making a mistake, would never be happy, etc. Needless to say, I never cried so hard in my life.

Dating a non-member is a act looked down upon. When I brought my then dating boyfriend to church, I was never so ashamed to be there. Just short of harassment, the loving human being with me was "pounced upon" by missionaries and instead of wondering why I was dating a non-member, I was asked if whether or not I had a Book of Mormon to give him! In all the interviews with church officials, not one asked me if I was happy.

It is not my intention to do intentional damage to the church. It is my purpose here to tell a story in the hopes that some other suffering person can KNOW that they are not alone and to help with the closure in my life. I still believe many things taught by the church. I pray regularly. I keep the word of wisdom. I respect my elders. I'm not a horrible person who has committed a terrible crime. I am greatly loved and adored by my husband. I have high morals and values. I'm even biting the bullet and finishing my education!

In conclusion, I would like to say this. I was taught to think, act, talk, etc. in church approved ways. This intense emotional/mental "programming" left me inadequately prepared to deal with real life. The church, basically, ruled me and my life. What it said to do - I did. Without question, without complaint. My life was the church and I was cultured to be helpless without it. But the promise I made to myself while I was young (of "If I can't be honest with myself, than how could I be honest with other people"?) made me examine the future. I may not visit the building, but my spirit still worships my creator. I think my own thoughts now, and make my own decisions. My life, is my own.

Thank you for reading my story.

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