November 4, 2009
Sometimes I really miss being Mormon. It was so simple. I knew what was right, what wasn’t right, who I should be friends with, who I should date, what I should wear, and how I should eat. I had a ready made community. I didn’t drink coffee or alcohol so my entertainment expenses were lower. I know my friends and I used to talk about how people didn’t want to be part of the church because it was so “hard”. Really, it wasn’t hard. It was just rules. And while sometimes rules can feel restrictive, they can prevent a lot of extra worry about things. I know when I left the church, I felt so adrift. I didn’t know what would get me in trouble anymore. And that didn’t feel freeing, it felt terrifying.
With the overwhelming amount of “processing” my partner and I have been doing , the idea of a series of specific rules feels like a gift. I am trying to keep the part that gave me joy, the certainty that things would work out for the best. That there are no challenges I would face that I don’t have the strength to meet well. To remember to pause and be grateful for the many gifts and joys in my life. I don’t need the church for these things. It did help, though, to have a community of people remind me of these important realities.
September 10, 2009
I don’t really miss the church. It was right for me when I was there and when it no longer fit, I was really angry and hurt. I couldn’t understand how god could reveal the one true religion in our time and it not be quite big enough to include me. When I first left, it was like an amputation of my heart … I knew the people that I loved who were still mormon pitied me at best, judged me at worst. Maybe it was compassion– hindsight gives a different kind of clarity. Maybe underneath the emotions that tore at me, there was an understanding that leaving anything so all encompassing is a journey of pain and discovery.
Sometimes I miss the feeling of community I found there. I found again with the lesbians. It’s a tribal connection that speaks to our herd animal selves. Based on a shared life experience or value system, it is a whole-life investment that only breaks when you discover yourself unable to meet the minimum requirement. What was funny was I didn’t leave because I believed the gospel was untrue. I just came to know that god loved me for who and what I was. And while I have sinned in my life, falling in love with a woman and building a relationship with her is not among those sins. And god would never deny his daughter a place to rest and heal in the midst of that kind of painful emotional growth.
So maybe I was angry for awhile. And it didn’t matter. I kept what I loved from the church — the importance of family and community, a love for the simple things in life, a value for hard work and discipline– it’s not a short list. And when I am full of joy — after a late night of dancing at the lesbian club or a sex party with close friends — I often burst into song, singing the hymns I once sang with my closest friends at Brigham Young University as a student. People get confused, or they laugh, thinking I am mocking the church or myself. But really, those songs will always be about joy and family for me and they will always be on the tip of my heart. Nothing can take that from me or diminish the sacred experience that it is.
May 2, 2009
I wonder what I was trying to fill in myself when I joined the LDS church. I was paradoxically highly devout and not very good at following some of the rules. I craved people in my life, family and community. As a teenager I attended church alone, every week, without fail. My mother never joined me. I sat alone in the pews, surrounded by large families with two parents and a loads of kids. I heard stories of people who adopted youth attendees like myself, giving them a surrogate family. And I hoped I might someday be chosen to join one of those bustling homes. When I was included in one family, I spent my time avoiding unwanted sexual advances from their son who was my age. So maybe I should be grateful it was a one-time thing, as far as I can remember.
There were signs of my hunger. I would often gather with other kids in the church halls during sacrament or other meetings. I loved going to church, but I don’t think I realized then how much of what I craved was human connection. And one thing the mormons do better than anyone else is build community. I craved a family and community more than I craved a religion. I was so jealous of those rows of happy groups I sat behind, beside, and around, but not within. Not even when I was married did I ever have that golden standard of a family unit.
The closest I came in the mormon church was my freshman year of college. We were all lonely and we bonded in groups trying to live the ideals of the church as we believed them to be. We took care of each other, laughed, created, bought each other groceries, and ignored the things that kept us from believing, all the way, that we could have this dream we had been taught was real. It was a heavenly experience in many ways.
I might still be looking for someone to choose me to be part of their family. Even grown as I am, partnered and parenting, I yearn for a larger family to keep me safe from the loneliness in my heart.
April 29, 2009
My mother’s yearning for spirituality in her life was equalled only by her fear of it. Astrology was probably the most regularly embraced mysticism in the home I grew up in. There is a part of me that can really jive with the idea that our bodies are somehow influenced by the magnetism of other planets. And there is a part of me that considers it to be complete baloney. My mom tried to pretend she thought it was baloney, but justified her neurosis too often for that to be completely genuine. “What can you expect when a Pisces and a Virgo live together?” was not an uncommon response to our differences. Her inability to embrace reality and my constant exasperation with her because of it might have been a more authentic accounting of our non-simpatico encounters than my piscean nature.
But, whatever. The point is aside from books on personality matrixes and other planets, there wasn’t a lot of spiritual grounding in my upbringing. Sunday mornings were housecleaning day. God rested, we worked. And I craved spiritual input like a thirsty daughter in the desert. As an 8 year old visiting my uncle’s baptist church I almost raced to the front when they called us in for salvation. I begged friends and family to take me to their churches– catholic, protestant, jehovah’s witness– my early exposure was all over the christian map. It doesn’t really surprise me that when I finally had the chance to be part of a religious community, I bought in 100%.
My feelings about life were so big they often felt like they would push my skin off my bones. God was about the only thing I could imagine that would release that pressure. And the problems of the world seemed unsolvable. Fear. Greed. Hate. Wars. I read the paper as a young teen and I felt so overwhelmed by all the horror. It seemed like we needed a god to get things fixed up. I want to judge myself– lazy– but I really can’t because I remember how much I wanted the world to be better than it was. And I didn’t believe in my power to change anything.
April 28, 2009
I joined the mormon church when I was 13, kind of. My parents were mormon when I was born. My dad had been raised in the church, kind of. I think his stories about sitting in the car at different country bars in other towns so grandpa could drink without anyone in town knowing, points to a less-than-stellar devotion to the church. Anyhow, my mom joined the church when they were dating or married because some of his friends told her about it. And then, being my mom, she expected him to show her the way. I think what she really wanted was a top, not a husband.
So, she threw herself into a patriarchal church to satisfy her needs for domination and then demanded that my father fulfill his role as head of household. His post-vietnam-hippie attitude didn’t combine well with spiritual mormon patriarch. He tried. He failed. One week they couldn’t watch tv because it broke the sabbath, next weekend they’d be out drinking beer with their friends. My mom blamed the church for their divorce. I blame them and their clearly incompatible personalities.
She left when I was two, relocated to the East where her family lived and continued to take me to church until I was 6. From 6-13, I was mormon when I visited dad and hippie agnostic the rest of the year. My sister was extremely concerned I would end up in hell (outerdarkness in mormon terms) but I wasn’t really concerned. Until I skipped church in an act of defiance and had my purse stolen. Never mind the weird logic that god would have someone break a commandment to get me to do the right thing, it seemed clear in my 13 year old mind. I signed up, almost immediately, and began an 11 year journey as one of the faithful.