Tag Archive: ex-mormon


(reposted from: http://notjustonereason.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/those-with-nothing-to-hide-hide-nothing/)

Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing

23 Jul 2013

The LDS church has recently (July 13, 2013) unveiled a new search engine powered by Google and censored by LDS inc.

The Church has revamped the search function and features to include Google’s powerful search technology, harnessing its signature ability to find relevant information.

Relevant information? What does that mean?

That means: Official, Safe Content

Official? Safe?

The new search provides a more safe and Church-specific search experience than Google, said Brother Ward. When you search from Google’s website, the results you get back may or may not be official content, he explained. Some results might be links to members’ personal blogs or even anti-Church sites.

The LDS.org search, however, only returns links to official Church-approved content that is currently available on LDS.org and other Church websites. And even though Google’s technology is used, no user information is provided back to Google. “It provides a safe, private, shock-free environment to search for approved gospel resources,” said Brother Ward.

So you can search only church approved sources and get only church approved answers to all your gospel questions.

Why is that needed? Because people (good, faithful LDS people) are searching Google for help with their lesson plans for Young Women’s, Priesthood, Seminary…. and getting back “shocking” information about the church. Shocking because it’s information they’ve never heard before that it true- and the more and more they search the more and more they learn about this information- and then they leave the LDS church because they feel lied to and betrayed. So how does the Church deal with this problem? Not by being more open and honest and teaching this information themselves- no- they deal with it by trying to bury it further.

For example- let’s search polyandry. Now we know that polyandry is when a man marries a woman that is already married. Joseph Smith did this 11 times before he died. Let’s see what the search on LDS.org turns up. (You can use Ctrl + to zoom in)

The first result is D&C 132:51. Not bad considering that the entire section is about plural marriage. Let’s see which verse specifically it found.

51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to aprove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

Hmm. Nothing explaining polyandry, mentioning Joseph and polyandry- instead it’s a verse threatening Emma that if she were to engage in polyandry herself (with William Law specifically) then she would be disobeying God. But you’d only know that’s what this verse was referring to if you’d read lots of other church history. But it shows that the search function knows what you’re talking about.

What about the other search results? Do they go into more depth? Explain polyandry with a definition? Mention any one of the 11 women who sacrificed and married Joseph in polyandry?

No. You get an I’m a Mormon profile with no mention, two Seminary lessons with no mention and that aren’t relevant to the search, and then a list of feel good church magazine articles that aren’t at all relevant.

So how did Google do? (Once again Ctrl + to zoom in)Google polyandry1Google polyandry

Google leads with MormonThink.com to a page specifically about polygamy, polyandry and a helpful infographic of the wives of Joseph Smith.

The next link is to FAIR- a site considered to be friendly to tough LDS questions. They define polyandry, discuss how it relates to Joseph’s marriages and then give links to other questions you may have about polyandry in general.

Following that is a link to a FAIR conference talk by Brian Hales who is known for his research into polygamy and polyandry and has released a couple of books exploring the topics. While I disagree with his conclusions (and so do most notable historians) it’s still relevant information if you want a well rounded picture about polyandry.

Then there is a youtube video, an article from Dialogue, and a blog post by Times and Seasons.

Eighth on the list is LDS.org.

So maybe there is a search result on LDS.org that the search function before didn’t find! So I clicked on it. This is what came back.

The exact same search I’d already done on LDS.org.

There is some text in the Google search under that result that says this:

LDS Mormons do not currently practice polygamy, polygyny, nor polyandry. The principles of this biblical practice were revealed to Joseph Smith Jr. from 1831.

So if you want to know what polyandry is- or why it’s relevant to the history of the church lds.org won’t tell you anything. It doesn’t even say it was practiced by Joseph Smith- just that the principles were revealed to him.

What you will find is:

The Church has revamped the search function and features to include Google’s powerful search technology, harnessing its signature ability to find relevant information.

So relevant information? What does that mean?

It means that the church is still hiding information the best they can. It means that knowledge is power- and the church- LDS Inc. is trying to take that power away from you.

When are they going to stop trying to hide the truth and just come clean? When are they going to start being ‘honest with their fellowmen’?

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Letting Go

It’s been nearly 4 years since I resigned my membership in the LDS church. Life is so much simpler. As I’ve let go of so much, I’ve found myself coming to know myself better. This has involved, at times, being painfully honest with myself. It has also involved some discomfort as I’ve looked at my life without the idealistic glasses of culture and religion. As a result, I’m casting off the old illusion of self and truly growing to know myself. I’m becoming more in tune with what I need and want to be happy. I’ve learned to listen to myself, to understand myself, and to accept and allow myself to be me, including my imperfections. I am me, and the me I’m coming to know is far more beautiful without being seen through the lens of religion and dysfunctional social pressures. I love me. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have something genuine to offer myself and others: the real me, a me that is whole and secure.

My feelings about “God” have also changed. As a product of religion and culture, I’ve always viewed God as an outsider, a being separate and distant from myself. Interestingly, as I’ve let go of these influences and become more in-tune with myself, I’ve felt more one with God. Now, I feel that God is less of an individual and more an energy that is a part of all things. This new epiphany has given me an alternate insight into Christ’s words when he referred to his oneness with the Father. I’ve come to see the divine differently. I feel one with the divine and see it as being at the center of my intuition and knowing. This new wholeness of self has helped me to continue to “let go”. I’m seeing myself let go of unhealthy relationships, expectations on myself and others, and the physical world, in other words, stuff in general. I find myself caring a lot less about the external: home, car, finances, the future and the past. Rather, I am finding that I am more present in the moment, and more appreciative of the now. Life is good.

2012 General Conference Statistical Predictions and Analysis

by Eric Davis on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 3:37pm ·

With one week to go until another annual Generic CONference of the Mormon Church, it is once again time for me to reveal my church statistical projections. The numbers I am projecting are for the year ending, 2011, as they will be officially reported in the Saturday afternoon session, on March 31, 2012.

 

Methodology: This is now the third consecutive year that I am publishing my projections, and I am continually refining my process for the way I predict the numbers. In the past I created my own mathematical formula for determining my projections for the next year. This calculated changes from one year to the next and gave greater weight to more recent years versus years in the more distant past. Last year, my formula resulted in a prediction of 14,142,817 total members. The actual number reported was 14,131,467 (a difference of 11,350, or 0.08%). For the year ending, 2009, my prediction was 14,824,420, and the actual reported number was 14,824,854 (a difference of 434, or 0.0031%).

This year I am doing something a little different. I am still using my original formula, but am also including an additional statistical method. This new addition is a forecast model (common to business spreadsheets) which projects future growth based on recent trends. Then I have taken an average of the results of the two separate formulae to create my projections for this year.

 

Projections for Year Ending, 2011: Items are listed in the order they will be reported in conference (numbers for the previous year, 2010, are in parenthesis). Note that I do not include a few of the statistical categories in my projections, such as Stakes and Temples.

Total Wards and Branches: 28,978 (28,660)

Total Church Membership: 14,435,592 (14,131,467)

New Children of Record: 119,126 (120,528)

Convert Baptisms: 264,987 (272,814)

Full-time Missionaries: 52,536 (52,225)

For your information, total church membership would reflect a net growth of 304,125 from the previous year, which means that the church lost 79,987 members due to death, name removal, etc.

 

Analysis (what does it all mean?): Overall church growth over the past 15 years has seen a slow but steady decline. The number of convert baptisms has virtually flat-lined in the past decade (e.g.: convert baptisms in 2000, 2006, and 2010 were separated by only around 1,000, with each year hovering around 273,000). During the same period, new children of record numbers have risen modestly, while member loss has increased dramatically.

I’m not entirely confident in my member loss number of 79,987, for this year. The reason is because the past two years both showed numbers well above 80,000, and that number has risen for the last 4 consecutive years. However, my forecast model produced an oddly low number, in the neighborhood of 66,000, which in turn lowered my average considerably. I believe the actual number (not reported in conference, but determined from the other member growth numbers) will probably be somewhere between 85,000 and 90,000.

The church is now growing at just above 2%, annually. If recent trends continue, growth will be less than 2% by 2013, and doing nothing more than keeping pace with the world-wide birthrate. In fact, the church is actually LOSING ground with the rest of the planet. If world-wide population growth was only 1% annually, that would mean that, in 2011, there would be 70 million more people on earth than last year, but less than one-third of one million new Mormons. So, every year there are more non-Mormons on earth than there were the previous year. And with the shrinking numbers of full-time proselytizing missionaries in the past decade, coupled with the increasing secularization of the developed world, it’s unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time in the near future.

We know that the church is struggling to keep pace with the rest of the world, but how is the church doing at keeping pace with itself, regarding growth for this year? That is where my projections come into play. If actual reported statistics reflect something close to the numbers in my projections, then the church is remaining steady with recent trends. For Mormons, that may not be a good thing, based on the direction of these trends. However, if actual reported numbers are significantly higher or lower than projections, that may reflect that the church is either exceeding or possibly falling behind the trends.

But all this talk of overall growth doesn’t really tell the story of how the church is succeeding or failing. The Mormon Church is shaped by its active members – the people who are actually attending Sunday meetings, and identify themselves as “Latter-day Saints”.

 

What can the church statistical report tell us about church activity rates? I’m not sure how much the church hierarchy is aware of this fact, but quite a bit of information can easily be gleaned based on the small handful of details they report, each year.

For starters: According to Nation Master, the worldwide birthrate in 2011 is 20.2 births per 1000 population (see: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_bir_rat-people-birth-rate) The Mormon Church, in 2010, added 120,528 new children of record (this is the number of babies born, in Mormon families, whose names were added to the records of the church, and NOT baptisms of 8 year-old children). That year the church also reported 14,131,467 total members, which gives us a birthrate of 8.53 per 1000 population (this is 42.2% of worldwide birthrate).

Assuming that all active Mormons, or those who self-identify as members of the church, will be inclined to place their newborn children on the records of the church, and that those who do not identify as Mormons are not likely to add their children to church records, this number (120,528) reflects the total children born to active Mormon parents, during 2010. Next, taking into account that the Mormon church has a younger median age than the general population (29.4 years, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008), and that Mormons generally have larger families, and more children than the general population (Mormon household size 4.2, versus 3.7 US national average, ARIS 2008), active Mormons are actually experiencing a birthrate significantly higher than national averages, across the developed world, and similar birthrates to nations in the developing world. This means that the church’s activity rate could be NO HIGHER than 42.2%, and in reality, is probably significantly LOWER than that – possibly as much as 5 – 8 percentage points.

We can also see similar results when we examine the annual number of member loss, which includes deaths, and compare that to worldwide death rates. What we find is that average death rates are roughly double the annual member loss the church reports in conference (that’s not even taking into consideration how many members the church loses due to excommunication or name removal). This means that not only are more than half of the names on LDS records inactive, but the church also doesn’t even know whether many of these people are alive or dead!

Next: We can estimate the activity rate of the church over an extended period of time based on a comparison of overall membership growth, versus unit (wards and branches) growth. In the decade, from 2000 to 2010, the church grew from 11,068,861 to 14,131,467 total members – a difference of 3,062,606, or 27.67% growth from 2000. During the same period, the church went from 25,915 to 28,660 total units – a difference of 2,745, or 10.59%. If units grew only 10.59%, compared to 27.67% for total membership, then units only grew 38.27% as fast as membership did, during the last decade. Assuming that the church will only add new wards and branches, based on having enough active members to justify creation of new units, we can estimate that the church’s activity rate from 2000 to 2010 averaged around 38.27%.

This brings us to another question: How many active members are there in wards and branches? This next portion involves some speculation and guesswork on my part, because I don’t know what the exact numbers are. But I am making educated guesses based on my own life experience, from living in a variety of different regions of North America, from my mission experiences, and from discussions with other members and former members of the church.

In my experience, the Mormon Church generally does not prefer to have wards with a large number of active members who do NOT have callings. So long as there are callings available, the church will attempt to fill all of them with the available people in each ward or branch. If the ward’s membership grows to the point where there are significantly more people than callings that need to be filled, church leadership will be inclined to divide the wards within the stake, so that the extra membership can fill new available callings. Therefore, the average number of active members per ward will largely be determined by the number of callings that need to be filled.

I have estimated that in a large, fully staffed ward, there are about 120 available callings. This includes everything from the bishopric and relief society to the primary pianist and nursery leader, including several callings for youth in quorum or class presidencies. In addition to those 120 adult and youth callings, I estimated a handful of adults that might not have a calling at any given time, plus another handful of adults who are given callings at the Stake or Mission level, and a number of youth and primary children, who are not assigned regular callings. My total estimate for the active membership in an average, fully staffed ward is 236.

Then, I determined that there are also many wards which are under-staffed, in which several members have more than one calling (I personally experienced this in 3 different wards I attended). Under-staffed wards may also include YSA and College Student wards, which do not have members or callings in several areas, including primary and youth groups. I estimated the average active membership in those wards to be two-thirds that of fully staffed wards, or 158 active members. I also estimated averages for large and small branches – 78 and 36 members, respectively. I assigned those numbers arbitrarily, based on my own experience as a member of, and a missionary serving in, multiple branches.

Based on LDS membership statistics by nation (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_membership_statistics) from year end, 2008, wards accounted for 72.2% of total units, and branches 27.8%. I estimated that of 28,660 units at year end, 2010, about half are “fully staffed” wards (14,330 units of 236 active members each, for a total of 3,381,880 active members in those wards). That would leave the remaining 22.2% wards, as ones that I call “under-staffed” (6,363 units, 158 active each, 1,005,278 total active). Among the 27.8% branches I decided to arbitrarily split up the large and small ones 14% and 13.8%, respectively (large branches: 4,012 units, 78 active each, 312,967 total active; small branches: 3,955 units, 36 active each, 142,383 total active). Using these estimates, in 2010, there were a combined total of 4,842,508 active members, among a total worldwide membership of 14,131,467, or 34.27% activity.

Finally – One last piece of evidence for your consideration. The Mormon Church claims just fewer than 1.9 million members in Utah, and is home to 13 temples, with 2 more presently under construction. That will be one temple for roughly every 126,000 members. Even if Utah Mormons were as high as 80% active, temple attendees, it would mean that only 100,000 Mormons were sharing each temple. By contrast, the church reports nearly 600,000 members in Chile, but the nation has only one LDS temple (Santiago). So, how many Chileans do they honestly expect us to believe are active Mormons?

 

Bottom Line: All of the estimates I have done for Mormon membership appear to corroborate each other. The percentage of active members worldwide in the church is most likely in the mid to upper 30’s (likely being somewhat higher than that in Utah and the western US, but significantly lower throughout much of the developing world). Mormons claim to have over 14 million people among their ranks, but it is clear that these reports are gross exaggerations. It’s a virtual certainty that the church would not even be able to find 10 million people who call themselves Latter-day Saints, and very likely that many names on the records of the church don’t even represent real living persons.

In my opinion, it’s time for the church to stop lying to the world, and to itself. No one outside the faith is any more impressed that they report 14 million members, than they would be if 6 or 7 million was the actual count. Mormon leaders are only kidding themselves, and fooling some of their own membership, if they think it is a faith-promoting tool to artificially inflate their numbers so as to claim they are “growing” or fulfilling a prophecy of “filling the earth.”

It’s time for the church to clean up their books – to become more transparent with their business practices. “Lying for the Lord” doesn’t work as well in the information age. The rest of the world is wising up to their game, and we’re not buying it any longer.

 

Eric N. Davis – March 24, 2012

Posted 08/13/2005

In 1985, three years after moving to Mesa, Arizona, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a popular church in the area. I had joined lots of churches over the years. Rather lightheartedly, I agreed to be baptized before my hospital shift. Little did I know, I just threw away the next 20 years of my life and sentenced myself to a world of hard work, sacrifice and self-abnegation.

This church kept me very, very busy. There was so much to do and so much to learn. I was the only convert in my family who lived far away. The ward became my family. Six months into it, the ward split. I got settled, then it split six months later, then the whole stake split. This church was always changing. Being an agreeable person, and friendly, I was able to adapt. I always accepted whatever callings they gave me. Pretty soon, my husband joined. Before we knew it, we were swept into a rush to get us into the temple and get our patriarchal blessings, and then babies.

I was serious about doing all my new religion asked. Callings, babies, meetings, ward activities, family history work, temple work, family home evenings, prayer and scripture reading [both individual and family, both morning and night], fasting, tithing, fast offerings, relief society work, visiting teaching, kept me pretty occupied.

Food became a huge all-consuming deal. Mormon women are supposed to keep everyone fed in a big way. Buying huge white containers of food, constructing food storage rooms, cooking and baking the food from scratch, then storing, freezing or re-using the food was a big task. It wasn’t just for your family either. Clipboards went around relief society every Sunday requiring me to sign up to feed the missionaries or other families. I took classes on how to do this food storage, but I never felt I was able to become confident at it. Food became like a large, looming mountain I could never overcome. It was constantly overwhelming and defeating me.

I was completely dedicated to the point of giving firesides [church talks] when asked. It was common to give three firesides a month. Firesides are like viruses. I’d give a talk in one ward, and the next week, a family member would call and ask me to do the same talk in their ward. Mormons have huge families. I did firesides for 15 years. I finally had to stop doing them when my second son got so sick.

I was still working as a nurse, a career I dearly loved and had worked and studied hard for. Eight years into being a mormon, I was beginning to get a little tired. In 1993 I quit my beloved nursing career due to obeying the prophet who commanded women to leave careers and become full-time homemakers. I cried for two years. The talk I gave about that experience they called, “Seeking the Will of God, Bit by Bit” and was published in Hearts Knit Together, 1995, Deseret Books. They liked it so much, they published it again in The Best of Women’s Conference, 2000 and then again in Sunshine for the Courageous Latter Day Saint Soul in 2001. That’s why I entitled this myself, “Losing My Mind, Bit by Bit”, because that’s exactly what happened. I always wondered why they kept publishing the same old talk. Didn’t they want to know how I was doing since then? I would love to have filled them in on how exhausted and depressed I was. I thought if I kept working hard, I’d earn God’s peace. I was so focused on having eternal perspective that I lost perspective; the perspective that this life was worth living. I was living just to get to die soon, and get admitted to the celestial kingdom where all those hardy, enduring souls got to go.

I lost my identity. I lost all sense of who I was as an individual with a right to sleep, pleasure, fun, joy. Being a mormon, de-humanized me. I was just a worker-bee, like in that beehive thing they use as their symbol. Rather than rest, I plodded on, just like a good pioneer woman. I worked hard, read lots of church history, like my patriarchal blessing advised. I was obedient to every rule, every commandment: no alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco, be chaste, wear garments day and night no matter how hot it was in Arizona.

I’d sign up to do extra work on those clipboards that went around the room in Relief Society: feed the missionaries, work in the cannery, take a meal into the three sick sisters, put up the temple lights, take down the temple lights, clean the church building, sew something for the humanitarian project, donate used items for the Deseret Industries, etc. Of course, there was always some meal to prepare for the Elder’s Quorum function because Men are so busy acting for God they can’t cook. Temple attendance was encouraged once a month, at least, twice a month was even better. Those who were celestial material attended once a week. Yes, that’s right, I went every week for years. That took up most of my Thursdays. I dreaded Thursdays. I’d spend the whole day just getting one distant relative cleared for celestial glory.

Fridays were devoted to searching for my ancestors at Mesa’s Family History Center. I had filled volumes of my father’s mother’s people, then his father’s people. I worked hard to gather in my mother’s father’s people and then her mother’s, mother’s people. I saved money to send in to courthouses for birth records, marriage records and death records. Family after family, I began to see that you are born, you get married, and then you die. I worked on my husband’s families also.

We were converts so there were thousands and thousands of ancestors who never got taught this busy, busy gospel, and whose only hope of getting out of their spirit prison was me. I agonized every week that all I had to give them was one Friday a week. But faithfully, every Friday I worked down at the Family History Center from 9am until my kids came home from school at 3pm.

When the kids were too little for school, and they would nap, I’d spread family group sheets and pedigree sheets over their little beds as they slept. These sheets would spill over even to the floor space of their rooms. At night I’d use a flashlight and keep working. I got every new computer program the church recommended and entered these deceased families into my Personal Ancestral File. Over and over, year after year, I worked on my ancestors until I knew every one, every life. I was busy with the dead, the dying and the living. Each hour I turned the crank on the film machine, I agonized over all the work at home that wasn’t getting done. I resented Fridays.

On Saturdays I’d cut my husband’s and sons’ hair, lay out all those white shirts, ties, black pants, sox and shoes. I’d get all those zipped-up scriptures out for everyone, snacks, and bags. I raced through all the laundry, groceries, cooking and cleaning for the week. I spent time teaching my boys all the chores because we were taught in Relief Society over and over how important it was to teach our children everything. I spent time on Saturdays putting the finishing touches on the lessons my husband and I would teach the next day. I always planned my lessons a whole week in advance, just like the manual said, so I’d really have the spirit. My husband was too busy to do his own lesson, so I always worked on his as well.

I was always sure to be a good woman behind the men. In fact in one of our family portraits, I made sure I was actually standing behind all three of them, to illustrate that very point. I always got the feeling though, that I was dragging all three, like mules up a hill. It was exhausting to do all this work, but honor the men, as the real spiritual leaders. Saturdays were a lot of work.

Then there were Sundays. Oh, my god, the Sundays. Depending on what time my ward got assigned the building; I was up either at 5am or 7am. Forget sleeping late on Sundays, there’s just too much to do. There are meetings before and after the normal 3-hour stretch of mandated meetings of Sacrament, Sunday school and Relief Society, Primary or Young Women’s. Depending what callings I had, there were the meetings to plan what to do in the next meeting. I would have such a splitting headache on Sundays.

Usually I was fasting for my youngest son, Zack, who had quit breathing as a newborn 5 times and was Severely Learning Delayed-Developmentally Delayed- Bipolar, and, well, just never fit in. I had advocated for him successfully in school where he finally got Special Education, but there is no Special Education in the Primary or Scouts or Sunday School or the Aaronic Priesthood, so he never mastered the art of sitting still, and was always being abused by some priesthood holder, so there were those meetings as well. I thought if I just kept fasting and praying for Zack, God would intervene for him. Every Sunday would end by everyone yelling at each other, followed by Kevin giving Zack a blessing, and we’d close in a prayer. I hated Sundays.

On Mondays, I’d start preparing the evening’s important Family Home Evening. I’d re-clean the house so as not to offend the Holy Spirit. I’d cook an elaborate meal, so as to appease my masters. [I used to tell people I was working for my “Masters”, all 3 of them: Kevin, Mike and Zack!] After awhile that joke wasn’t even funny. I’d take special time to fix the dessert, because that was the one hope that all 3 males would sit through this “prayer-song-lesson-song-prayer-dessert-The End” of this holy family event. I dreaded Mondays.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays were the only days I had to work on doing my Visiting Teaching for the month, doing a member-missionary project, taking notes at my Institute class, and on helping my oldest son, Mike, progress toward getting his Eagle Scout Award. Every day of the week belongs to the church since it steals your individuality.

Scouting is very important if you happen to have male children in the church. Only Eagle Scouts get the first pick of future marriage partners and good jobs. I was a very dedicated Eagle mother. I was mentored by an Eagle father, in another ward, who guaranteed any boy the Eagle Scout award by age 14. There were certain badges to get at particular times. We had to work every week, without fail, very hard. I was warned if my son did not get this award by age 14, to just abandon all hope for it. After age 14, boys don’t follow through, these days, due to other interests.

In the old days, scouting was all there was. The church doesn’t keep up well with modern times. Mormon boys are to get this award whether they have interest in it or not. Mike was a joy to work with. He always had a big smile on his face and a willing spirit. He’d do whatever ridiculous thing I had planned. Some weeks we were cleaning yards together. Sometimes we’d grab some scouts and play cards with old ladies at the nearest rest home. Sure enough, by following the rigid formula for three years, Mike and I got our Eagle Scout award! I’m suspicious the Scouting program is some kind of crazy, leftover Nazi bullshit. The leaders, with all their goofy feathers, songs, and chants, really need to get a life.

I loved Mike. I wanted him to have every advantage in this very competitive LDS community. It wasn’t Mike’s fault he had old convert parents. Kevin and I were from Illinois. See, we had the misfortune of being cursed and didn’t know it then. We had gotten married too late, at 28. Then, we were having such a good time with our careers, and each other, we had completely forgotten to even have children! If we hadn’t moved to Mesa, and met the missionaries, we would never have come to our senses! Mike wasn’t born until I was an old hag at 35. I had his brother Zack at 37. I’ve always thought Mike got off on the wrong bus in the pre-existence. He was supposed to go to some huge LDS Utah family that goes back six generations. I’ve always thought he was disappointed at our small, defective, convert family. No matter how hard I tried to please him, to please them, I fell flat on my face, and was always behind, trying hard to catch up.

Bit, by bit, I began to lose my sanity. The bipolar illness I had all my life began to get worse. My conscientious and persistent visits to our LDS family psychologist [doesn’t every family have one?] and my psychiatrist didn’t seem to help much. I tried many different medicines. I had my lab work drawn. I was enduring to the end. I was hoping the end was soon because this pace was killing me. Literally. I thought about suicide and tried a few times. I was no longer able to keep up with this marching band of christian soldiers. I hated the song, “Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel”.

Zack was also very suicidal. I caught him with ropes around his neck. He started fires. He jumped out of moving cars and off our roof. Once I grabbed him at the last moment as he tried to jump off the top floor of the mall. He wanted to fly over the treetops below, he said. He didn’t sleep through the night for eleven years. He was taking stimulants and anti-depressants, which only years later, we discovered made him worse. Zack was failing in school, in church, in scouts, in our family. There was never one single family function we enjoyed.

Zack dreaded going to Scouts on Wednesday nights. There would be a fight to get him there and then a fight once he got home. Zack couldn’t learn the scout oaths, codes or anything. His leaders couldn’t learn to just love him. I gave five workshops to the ward. No one cared or followed through. I read the Ensign faithfully every month. The General Authorities reminded mothers to get their sons to the Aaronic Priesthood activities, which was scouting, every Wednesday night. We battled. One night I was on my knees cleaning up dog pee in the carpet. I received a distinct feeling that Jesus Christ did not care one bit about those merit badges. A light went on for me at that moment. I decided to disobey. I stopped making Zack go to scouts.

The very next week, I unraveled some more. It was April 2003. I was taking notes in General Conference. There was a talk on “Raising the Bar”. It devastated me. The gist of the message was that the expectations were being raised for missionaries. The Stake and Bishopric leaders reinforced the “we’re raising the bar” message every other week or so. It grew to encompass the mothers. I was already stretched to the max trying to meet an unbelievably impossible high standard. The church leaders had now raised the bar so high I’d never be able to reach it, let alone get Zack up there. It was impossible.

I remember the exact moment I snapped. Just like a rubber band that gets stretched, especially when it’s old and stiff, maybe one that’s been weathered a little. I was listening to the Bishop, as I sat in the middle pew. He was talking again about this higher standard. I was alone. Kevin was out of town again. In my mind’s eye, I could see them all taking off, leaving Zack and I behind to fend for ourselves. Like in that movie, Open Water, where two scuba divers are left behind by their group. They bob around in the water for days until they give up, and are eaten by sharks. I began to think about all those pioneer mothers who died, under a bush, on the plains, with a dying child, so the dad and older, stronger son, could make it to the Salt Lake Valley. That week, an LDS family moved off our street, a few streets away in order to be in a different ward. Their boys were my boys’ best friends. We were being left alone.

The summer of 2003 I began to feel something big was around the corner but I didn’t know what it was. I began making all kinds of preparations as if I were going somewhere, somewhere for a very long time, somewhere I wasn’t coming back from. I felt real urgency to get my affairs in order. I called the Relief Society President and asked her to take care of my Visiting Teaching Sisters and other duties because I couldn’t do it anymore. I made all the preparations and appointments so that Zack got his Patriarchal blessing. I made sure Mike actually got handed that Eagle Scout Award and also his Deacon’s Duty to God Award.

I worked hard completing the group of ancestors I had been working on and got their names ready. The church encourages families to find their own deceased family names and have their own living family get the temple work done. baptisms for the dead, by the youth, are really encouraged. Mike had already been doing baptisms for the dead for two years now, as he was 14. Zack just turned 12, the exact age required to enter the temple baptistery. I made extraordinary efforts to get all four of us our temple recommends. I was determined to get our little family to the temple, and have one of those lovely family temple experiences I’d read about in the Ensign. The experience was a nightmare because Zack was being weaned off his psychiatric medications. He was irreverent in the temple and the men in white reprimanded us all. Mike was embarrassed one more time. I made a silent vow never to go through that again.

The next Sunday, Mike was doing his priesthood duties in the bread room when Zack barged in and ate the bread. Mike was mortified when a lady overheard the commotion and blamed Mike for his brother’s terrible behavior. I promised Mike he would never again have to be embarrassed because of his mentally ill brother. I promised to keep his brother home until he could obey.

I used to stay home from church sometimes, with Zack, so that Kevin and Mike could enjoy Church without the agony of trying to get Zack to fit in. Our bishop told me once, “Just keep Zack home. You can teach him the gospel at home.” I wrote to the church’s Special Curriculum Department and got materials and did just that. Over time, though, I got lonely. I guess I had gotten selfish, in thinking Zack could fit in just this one Sunday.

Zack was unstable all of September. His liver enzymes had spiked, making it necessary to wean him off his Tegretol medicine. I had just made sure his new school year would be a good one. He had a great IEP and teaching team in place. I had such high hopes. With this new instability, his school year unraveled within a few weeks. Teachers were threatening me not to keep him.

I was panic-stricken; I called his doctor, emailed her, and sent her the teacher’s pleas. I was in his psychiatrist’s office four times that month getting different medicines for him. His mania was scaring me. His doctor laughed at it though and said, “you’re going to have to learn to live with it.” I knew that was impossible. I called four hospitals to get him help. One hospital said we were on the wrong side of the county line. One hospital wouldn’t take him because he was under the age of 13. One hospital wouldn’t take him because he wasn’t also a substance abuser. The last hospital said they didn’t take children. I slid the white insurance book across the kitchen counter to my husband and begged him to get Zack another doctor. He said he wanted to keep the current doctor. I sank into a deep despair. I had failed. I was utterly exhausted. There was no way out. Our situation was hopeless.

The week leading up to Sunday, September 28, 2003, was especially taxing. We had gotten a frightening letter in the mail over some property we owned. I was very alarmed and wanted my husband’s support and kindness but he said it was nothing and he wasn’t concerned about it, and left on an errand. That month, I learned from another specialist that Zack was even more developmentally delayed than originally believed. He was going to need extensive orthodontic work to bring his jaw up to normal. In the doctor’s office, the assistant asked Zack which of all the knots in their nautical display he preferred. Zack said, “the noose. I’d like to hang myself.” I was used to this, but she wasn’t, she jumped up and got the doctor right away. He lectured Zack for quite awhile in how important it was that he continued his bipolar medications.

I felt like I was treading water in the deep end of a pool with Zack on my back. I had treaded water as long as I physically could, and we both began to drown. Zack was getting bigger and stronger and heavier, but I was weakening and couldn’t support us. I just couldn’t continue. It was too much for too long. Looking back now, I was going through menopause but so busy with Kevin’s needs, Mike’s needs, Zack’s needs, the church’s needs, the needs of the household, I lost sight of my needs. There’s a saying in Relief Society, “Don’t forget to fill your bucket”. I had lost my bucket years ago and had no idea where it was. I had a feeling if I were to ever find it, it would be full of holes and rust and be no good anyway.

The week of the 28th, I had gone to the temple that Thursday, as usual, and the Family History Center on Friday. That Saturday was the usual frantic blur of a race to get things done for Sunday. I think by Sunday my body and brain were already way passed the breaking point. There had been so little time over the years, for myself, I had forgotten that I was even there at all. I had died somewhere, along the mormon trail, with all the other weary, pioneer women, first in their family lines to join the gospel.

Looking back to that last Sunday, I got up early as usual, nothing out of the ordinary, except that I wore no makeup, and just let my hair fall in gray threads. I wore a black blouse, long black skirt, black stockings and black shoes. No color at all. Zack and I came home right after Sacrament, keeping my promise to Mike. We were changing into more comfortable clothes. Zack, very manic and animated, stepped out of my bathroom toward me. I was bending over slowly taking off my black stockings. “Mom, let’s kill ourselves!” He was smiling, asking, begging. I’ve never seen Zack so happy. He smiled from ear to ear. It was like he was going to Disneyland. We were like two weak ice skaters holding on to each other for support. When one falls he pulls the other with him. It never occurred to me to call anyone for help. Looking back, I think we de-stabilized simultaneously. I think he was in a manic state and I was in a depressed state.

There is no logical or reasonable explanation for what happened next. I felt like I was falling backward down a hole. The room got dark, somehow, even though it wasn’t quite 10:30 in the morning. Maybe it was a cloud covering the sun, I don’t know. My vision was going. I couldn’t focus. Everything was blurry. I was very slowed down and uncoordinated. The walls began to close in. I felt I was dying already. Talking was difficult, “ok” was all I could get out. It felt like some heavy weight was on my chest and I was smothering. I couldn’t breathe well, short of breath.

I felt it was my duty as a mother, since I had failed every which way here on earth to help Zack, to go with him to the other side. Neither Zack nor I would ever get better. If Zack was finally going to kill himself, I must somehow get over there, too. A few years earlier, my brother’s son, Charlie, had killed himself with a gun. I always felt so badly that he died alone. His death was something our family still hadn’t come to grips with. I didn’t want to kill Zack, or myself, but I wanted Zack to feel relief. I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination and thinking ability to effectively see my way to accomplish it. I didn’t have the ability, at the time, to get us to the other side. Maybe we could just sleep. I told him we could take our meds. We could take a little extra.

In the past, I had followed the advice of a therapist who told me when I was having a bad day, take my meds early, take extra, and take a nap. That had worked for me. I’d wake up the next day and feel ‘re-charged’, ready to go again. Her theory was a person didn’t really want to die, just black out. It had worked for me. About every three months I’d have a really bad day. I’d tell Kevin to take the boys and I would check out for the evening and the night. In the morning, I was myself again. I had never tried to help anyone else do this.

Zack was used to taking his medications four times a day. I didn’t have to help him. I wasn’t able to help him. At one point I remember him getting bread. I know he wanted to die. I was just exhausted. I was concentrating on swallowing as much Tegretol as I could. If Zack was going to the spirit world, I needed to be there for him. It was like I’d hold his hand as he crossed a busy street. I didn’t want him to be alone. I had stopped him so many times over the years from taking his life. This time, I was going with him, so he wouldn’t be alone. From the temple covenants I heard, “It’s time to sacrifice your own life if necessary.” From the New Testament I heard, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend.”

Because I was fasting, the meds worked quickly. I was getting sleepy as we wrote our love notes to Kevin and Mike in case we made it to the other side. I always wrote notes to say goodbye in case I never came back. When I did come back, I would just tear up the notes and throw them away. Kevin and Mike would be better off without us. Their whole lives revolved around our mental illness. Without us, they could live normal lives. Zack wrote a note and put it on the door saying we’re just taking a nap. We both pushed a heavy dresser in front of the bedroom door and locked it. We didn’t know if we were going to have enough time to get to the other side. We took a picture of Jesus off the wall and laid it between us and lay down on the bed and held hands. It was the picture of Jesus holding a little boy as he is helping an older girl up out of the river. We slept. I lost consciousness.

When I first tried to open my eyes, all I could see was white. Then I made out a metal U-track. In spite of the fog, I recognized the metal curtain track common to all I.C.U’s. “Shit”. I never got passed the ceiling. I couldn’t use my left hand. It was tied to the bed. I was so sick. The next three days I was in and out of consciousness. I remember Kevin’s strained face, telling me Zack was ok and would be fine. I remember Mike’s face. A nurse saying, “Let’s clean you up.” There was a guy sitting by my bed all the time. I’d see him through the rails. He’d just sit there. He said he was a sitter. I had no privacy. I slept constantly but was still so tired. Occasionally people would come to the bedrail and ask questions. I’d answer as best I could, doctors, social workers, a chaplain, nurses, and policemen reading me my rights. I remember a visit from a friend, Jeni. She’s very tall. One groggy day, her long arms were suddenly on either side of me. Her face was an inch from mine, and she growled, “Why didn’t you call me”. She was like one of those large silver back gorillas in the forest, warning off predators.

Actually I had called her. I told her many times Zack killed an animal, set fires, kicked in a door, threatened to kill us. Zack was not sleeping. Zack was suicidal. Zack cut himself with knives just to see the blood. Zack did not fit in at church. I told Kevin and his friends. I told church leaders and friends. I told the doctors. I told the ladies who drew blood. I told the secretaries and receptionists. I told the specialists. I had called family over the years. I never hid the fact that Zack and I were bipolar and unstable. Every day was a fight for sanity. Looking back now, I should never have continued with Zack’s psychiatrist so long. I should never have worked so hard for the church. I felt so badly for my husband. He looked warn and tired and sad.

One night Kevin came to my room and told me Zack and I would be transferred to the same psychiatric hospital. I was strapped to a gurney with just a hospital gown on, barefoot. I was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s’ Behavioral Health Hospital. I was terrified. I had never gone to a psychiatric hospital before. I was so cold. I was alone. I had no sox, no shoes, no hairbrush, no make up, no clothes, no money, no family, and no friends. I sat in the lobby of the hospital for many hours before I was admitted. It was dark outside and I didn’t know where I was in downtown Phoenix or I would have run out of there. I overheard the staff laughing about other patients and funny ways they had tried to kill themselves. This frightened me and I called Kevin to come get me but he never answered the phone. I was increasingly nervous and anxious. I had been on psychiatric medications for twelve years. Now it was several days without them, having been totally purged of them in the ICU. My teeth were chattering, my skin was crawling, I was paranoid.

Early in the morning, I was admitted to an adult locked psychiatric ward. I was petrified as I was shown my room where another, very large patient was sleeping. There were crickets jumping, the bathroom fixtures all dripped, dripped, dripped all night long. There was a red light over my bed that never shut off. The mattress was only an inch of light plastic, as was the pillow. I got to where I dreaded the nights. My medicines were never right and I never slept. It was like a Chinese torture chamber, never being able to rest or sleep, being manic, without meds, the red light, the dripping, the crickets, the miserable plastic. I tried to believe I was in a rain forest, but it didn’t work.

I was absolutely frantic about Zack. He was in the same horrible place somewhere on a children’s unit. Was he sleeping? Was he eating? Was he drinking? Was he as scared and lonely as I was? I was hysterical to get to Zack until one of his therapists came to me and told me Zack was doing well. He was eating and sleeping and had friends. He was sleeping? Zack had had night terrors for years. He had never slept well. He had friends? That was new. Come to find out, the first thing the hospital psychiatrist did was take Zack off all the antidepressants and tranquilizers he had been on that made him so awful all those twelve long years! Kevin would visit me after seeing Zack. Kevin was amazed how much better Zack was. Zack was on a new medicine called Geodon, an antipsychotic. Oh, and his liver enzymes were fine, after all, so he got his Tegretol back! Something inside me let go a little, but I still obsessed about him and prayed for him incessantly. [oh, by the way, we decided to keep this new smarter psychiatrist and dump the old stupid one. Zack hasn’t been suicidal once in two years and he’s been stable now for two solid years. Ahhhhhhhh. The wrong meds are dangerous, like gasoline on a fire. The right medications are absolutely life changing.]

Because I couldn’t sleep at night I was tired during the day. There’s a big difference between being tired and being sleepy. Normal people don’t know that. I was extremely tired, but wired, jumpy, exhausted. I dreaded the nights. I stayed up writing all night. I was so worried I’d lose my mind without sleep about the 6th night without it. Someone told me that no one had ever died without sleep, and then someone said you could die without sleep. I wasn’t concerned about dying. During the day I went to all the groups, and read the reading material and learned I had become enmeshed with Zack and that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Bipolar 1 Disorder with panic and anxiety. I was encouraged to focus on myself and stop obsessing about Kevin, Mike, Zack and the Church’s standards. I learned I had compulsive religiosity.

I learned that all the hard working helpfulness I did was really controlling compulsiveness. I learned I had no boundaries with Zack. He had felt suicidal that day, not me. I was exhausted and yet acted with him to carry out his wish. My medications were changed every day. None of the medicine they tried me on for sleep worked. There was nothing strong enough. The last day there I was placed on Depakote1000mg twice a day with Restoril 45mg and Tegretol 600mg at night and Seroquel 300mg. I had an image of what had happened. I was a deep, ceramic bowl; a hard working bowl, holding several beautiful glass balls, among whom were Kevin, Mike and Zack. On 9-28-03 the bowl fell crashing to the ground, never to be repaired, the balls were ok, they just rolled across the floor. The bowl was in a hundred different shattered pieces and I had no idea how to fix myself.

After two weeks I was discharged into the custody of two police officers. I was arrested and handcuffed and taken to jail. I was charged with a 2nd degree Felony for Child Abuse which carried a mandatory 15 year prison sentence followed by 10 years of parole without seeing the children and faced a fine of $150,000 and many years of community service. Because my husband is a Lieutenant for Mesa Police Department, and a Commander of its Bomb Squad the Assistant Chief was concerned about liability. They prosecuted me fully so they could say there was no special treatment.

I did get special treatment though, because normally this case would have just disappeared. The original cop who investigated my case was taken off the case because she didn’t agree with prosecuting it. Two cops got reprimanded because they disagreed with the illegal search and seizure of our home. The arresting officer was having an affair with the unit’s doctor , who lied about facts to make the case stronger. Zack was awake and alert in the ambulance to the hospital. They sedated him in the ER in order to work with him. They interviewed Zack when he was still sedated and restrained in the ICU. Later, the toxicology report came back saying Zack had only taken four pills. I was arraigned before a judge. He let me stay at home, for now, but stipulated Zack and I could not be alone together. I had never had such a bleak future.

My head was spinning as Kevin took me home. I immediately tried to get back to normal, no matter how abnormal it was, and no matter how I was feeling inside. I went to work cleaning the messy house. It was obvious the unpaid domestic servant had been gone for two weeks. That day, Kevin sternly sat me down and told me I was going to have to get a job to pay for the expenses of this mess, maybe live somewhere else, and that he could never go though this again. He could never go through this again?

Those first days home, I was still reeling inside from everything. The Depakote sedated me and made me sick and made my hands shake. I wanted to please Kevin, the boys, and the Law. I felt lower than low for what I had done and the mess I had caused. The lawyer kept telling me I’d probably go to prison for years. I didn’t know how I could please Kevin; resume my nursing career, just yet, with this criminal problem, shaky hands, and sedation. The reality of mental illness is discrimination and blame. It’s the only illness we blame people for having. It doesn’t happen with a heart attack, just a brain attack.

I felt like I was in limbo. Shamed. I was a social reject, an outcast. Embarrassed, defeated. My life was beyond my control. My body was so sick on the heavy doses of depakote, tegretol, and seroquel. The fear and anxiety crushed me. I don’t think the police and courts understand how much worse they make life for the mentally ill. For the next year and a half, I went back and forth to the courts as a defendant. To help myself, I joined The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill [NAMI]. I took trainings and classes in mental illness. When I told the president of NAMI about my felony charge and indictment, he kindly said, “Eventually, everyone with mental illness ends up getting charged with something.” Associating with these very accepting people helped my feel there was hope for me.

The LDS psychiatrist, I had for twelve years, retired just when I got out of the hospital. It’s a good thing, because I got busy finding myself better psychiatric care. I mean, it’s pretty obvious I needed someone who would do a better job. I navigated the maze of Value Options and became a patient to continue some out- patient therapy. I got a new psychiatrist there and my own case manager. I took classes there as well. I was told to focus on myself. I had never done that before. I was so busy helping others. My confidence began to grow but my religious life began to fail.

For a year and a half I struggled to get back to normal. I cleaned, cooked and did laundry. I went to church. I obeyed all the rules. I took care of the boys and Kevin. But something was flat. Something was off. I hated church talks on sacrifice and service. When I went to the temple and heard, “sacrifice your own life if necessary” I never went back. Daily Scripture reading and prayer wasn’t fulfilling. The Relief Society president grabbed me twice, without even asking how I was, but asked me to resume Visiting Teaching and Family History work! I just looked at her in disbelief! It all seemed very strange. I called for two appointments with the Bishop who offered no advice other than “Go forward in faith.” He had no idea what to do. He acted nervous and afraid.

Something was wrong. The church and its people did not know what to do. The Bishop and the Stake President interviewed me for my temple recommend within a few months of my discharge and arrest. I was able to answer every question honestly and easily renewed it. Neither of them knew what to do for me. Here I was keeping all the commandments and was still uneasy and felt something was wrong.. Then I remembered that I was keeping all the commandments when I overdosed with my son!

The funny thing about that Sunday was no one had any revelation. The day came and went without revelation. Funny, huh? The whole time Zack and I were “napping” in the back bedroom, priesthood holders came and went. My priesthood holding husband and older son watched TV, made cookies, and worked on motorcycles, without checking on us in the back bedroom. The bishop even came by delivering an IEP the old bishop had in his desk and left without any revelation we had overdosed. September 28 was the last Sunday of the month so our home teachers came by that evening and gave the home teaching lesson. Here Zack and I were gorked out of our minds in the back bedroom during their visit and NONE of these men had a revelation that something was wrong? They all left after their pleasant visits! That’s odd.

If the church were true, where had been my revelation that day? I was wearing my garments. I had said my prayers. I had read my scriptures. I had gone to church. I had gone to the temple. I had gone to the family history library. We had paid our tithing and fast offerings and more. We read the Book of Mormon as a family. We held our family home evenings. And on and on and on! I had kept all the commandments, and yet look at the plight I was in. What had happened to me was way outside the ability of the church, that’s why they didn’t know what to say or do. Elder Morrison calls mental illness “a tsunami of suffering.” It’s just too much for the church to deal with.

January 2005, I zipped up my scriptures for the last time. I put them up on a shelf. I went through all my mormon books and threw them away. I stopped wearing those long hot garments, put them in a big bag on a high closet shelf. I bought regular underwear for the first time in twenty years. I bought myself a box of tea. I used to love hot tea and iced tea. I began talking to my husband and sons about what I wanted.

I began reading books: Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck

Breaking Point: Why Women Fall Apart and How They Can Re-Create Their Lives also by Martha Beck

Revolution From Within by Gloria Steinem

The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden

The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston

The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt

Women and Madness by Chesler

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

The Joy Diet by Martha Beck

America’s Women by Gail Collins

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

The Woman’s Book of Courage by Sue Patton Thoele

Comfort Secrets for Busy Women by Jennifer Louden

No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie

Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck

With each encouraging word from these new female friends of mine, I began to piece together a happy life. I became selfish for the first time in my life. I collected bits of turquoise glass. It spoke to my soul. I got rid of the old heavy antique furniture in my bedroom that Kevin loved and replaced them with modern. I did the exercises in the books to discover what meant something to me.

I wanted to work with the mentally ill. I got a fabulous job as a Rehabilitative Associate for Triple R. Behavioral Health’s East Valley Clubhouse in Mesa, doing just that! I have two sweet women bosses who adore me. Within six months I got a raise! All those years of not working were not good for me. The hours are great. They know about my felony indictment. I was completely honest. I love my work. My co-workers are great. The atmosphere is very nurturing and feminine. Everyone is immersed in compassion, acceptance, kindness, going at your own pace, no competition. Religion is not allowed because so many mentally ill people have been harmed by religions. Yet, privately, most of my co-workers see their work as their ministry, an outcropping of their many and varied religious denominations. I know if Jesus came to Mesa, he’d definitely stop in the East Valley Clubhouse. He’d feel at home there.

Because my husband refused the expense of a trial, I pled guilty to child abuse. I’m serving ten years of probation now. It’s hard. I try to keep my head above the waters of the low self-esteem. I hate sitting on the dirty plastic chairs with the other criminals. I feel so badly for all of us in that disgusting room. I feel small, insignificant, and inhuman. I try to do things that help me feel better. I got my own banking account. I went shopping for clothes. I bought exercise equipment and use it every day. I stretch out in the sun, nude. I got my hair cut and professionally colored and highlighted. I stopped cooking all those meals! I’ve lost twenty pounds! I stopped doing all the laundry. I put a laundry basket by each male’s bed. They do their own now. I declared my freedom from the need to cook, clean and sew, laundry and iron their clothes. I am a freed slave!

It’s amazing how much time is available by just not going to church anymore and doing all that work! I still meet often with our family psychologist who has encouraged my leaving the church. I’ve kept my husband and sons posted on my new life and why I must take each step. I love having a female psychiatrist and female case manager. Even my probation officer is a female. It feels so good to be free of male domination. I’ve decided being under a male, authoritarian, patriarchal church was oppressive and depressing. It kept me from growing and expressing myself. Yesterday I mailed my resignation letter to the Bishop. It felt good. Mormonism was an interesting period of my life. I’m glad my service is over and I can move on with my new life.

The issue for me is not whether the mormon church is true or not. I don’t care one way or the other. It’s just too hard on me to live it. It’s just too exhausting. All that work and sacrifice and dedication is unhealthy for me. For me, the issue is living a healthy life. For the first time in many years I want to live! I’m happy waking up in the morning and having a job to go to. I’m not lonely anymore. I have a place to go, people to see, things to do. I have a paycheck again. There is something so satisfying about doing a job well and having people appreciate it enough to pay for it.

My husband is stepping in and being a parent. Imagine that. My boys are doing their own laundry and cleaning their own rooms. They cook for themselves or buy pizza. They are becoming more independent It’s good for them to see a happy mother. It’s good for them to rely on their father. Our family was out of balance. It’s better now.

We have more money. We laugh more. We like Sundays. We play cards and watch movies. We don’t freak out if someone is relaxing. We spend more time together. We talk about the church some. I make it clear I will not get sucked back into that vortex again. The church is harder on women than on men. I actually think it’s set up for men. They like having the women do all that hard work for them.

We still have family prayer and family home evening. But it’s different. We do an activity Zack and I learned at the psychiatric hospital. Everyone gets to choose a goal for the week and state how he/she feels. We listen and support each family member. The next week we check in with each other and see how the goal went and add the new feeling. We talk more and we respect boundaries.

Whether you are lds or not, I wish you all the very best in your life. Thanks for hanging in there with me and reading my journey.

Love, Pam Kazmaier August 7,2005

August 6. 2005

 

 

Bishop Stephen Thomas
2339 East Enrose
Mesa, Arizona 85213

Re: Resignation from church membership Pamela Ann Kazmaier

Dear Bishop,

This is my formal letter of resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, effective immediately, severing all relationship to the church. I hereby terminate my consent to be treated as a member of said church and I withdraw my consent to submit to the church beliefs and ecclesiastical disciplinary procedures. Please make the confidential changes in the church records, without delay, according to the Church Handbook of Instruction, page 130.

You must now treat me as a former member in all your dealings with me. Please forward this voluntary resignation to the stake president, within the week, as I waive the thirty-day waiting period, having considered this for six months. Due to health reasons, I can no longer sacrifice, and consecrate all my time, talents and everything to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I understand by doing this I cancel forever all hope of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

I am not leaving due to some personal offense or doctrinal issue. I am grateful for all I gained over the course of twenty years of membership. I was able to break the cycle of alcoholism in my family line. I treasure the relationships developed with my husband of twenty-four years and two children. Over the past seven months of inactivity, we’ve gotten even closer. I gained leadership and public speaking skills in all the tasks I was asked to do. Though it got exhausting, I magnified every calling. I poured all my energy into each assignment. This excess use of human energy took a toll.

The sudden crisis and tragedy of September 28, 2003 caused me to wake up. Overdosing with my suicidal son was a wake up call. Stepping out of the LDS mindset has taken a full two years now. This week, August 10, 2005, marks 20 years of church membership. September 28, 2005 marks two years since my breakdown.

Waking up tied to a hospital bed, locked up in a psychiatric ward, and being arrested in handcuffs and taken to jail was quite a shock. I got all the way to age 50 without even a traffic ticket. Being a criminal, charged and indicted on a felony, and now serving the next ten years in probation is almost more than I can endure.

I wish there had been a warning when I joined the church: “This church will require you to meet more than you can humanly do. It is not recommended for those of you who have inherited mental illness, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder. You will work yourself into exhaustion and breakdown.”

All of 2004 I struggled to “get back to normal” in the church. Church talks on striving and dedication sickened me. All the hard work is too exhausting now. By not attending church, I am beginning to relax, and feel peace and happiness. I am beginning to heal. I wish you all the best and thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

Pam Kazmaier

Cc: Members and Statistical Records Division
50 East North Temple Street
SLC, 84150


I resigned my membership in the LDS church just a little over 3 years ago. Although life did not magically change into a worry-free fairyland, it became considerably less complicated, less burdensome, and brighter. Although I have encountered losses along the way, such as several, close, family relationships, I have never known greater personal peace. I truly know and love myself. Life is better than ever!

My name is Cora. I’m a woman, 43 years old and an ex-Mormon. I had my first bona fide, life altering, spiritual experience at 26. It came quietly during a Fast and Testimony Meeting and changed me in a single moment. I believe my epiphany was the result of all that came before it.

I was raised mainly in Phoenix as a strict Mormon with all the usual; Utah pioneer stock through my mother, no Coke, coffee, tea, liquor, or tobacco. Family prayers in the mornings and evenings, family home evening, endless meetings, service activities and church jobs and full-coverage modesty to prepare scrawny me for temple marriage.

As any active or ex-Mormon knows, there is unrelenting pressure in Mormonism to study more, pray more, repent more, forgive more, feel the Holy Ghost more, pay more and work more. When I got to wherever “more” was in my mind, it never felt like enough. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I was supposed to have done and alongside this pressure was a real fear that my many daily failures were surpassing any meaningful accomplishments.

Even Mormon children know this pressure. There was supposedly the “still small voice” of the Holy Ghost whispering to me since my baptism at age 8, trying to guide my path. I was wide open to the Spirit but I could never hear him or sense his presence for certain. I truly needed the guidance and thanks to the doctrinal lessons that began in earnest when I was 3 years old, I had absolute faith that if I was worthy enough I could walk on water as Jesus did, (many hours were spent falling in Maryvale Pool testing this particular faith). I had faith I could have a vision as Joseph Smith did or at the very least, would receive the protection and the comfort I needed. I knew the trick was getting enough faith and making myself worthy.

We may have appeared to be the classic Mormon family to non-members; clean, wholesome and obedient. But our secret (which I’ll readily admit has no relevance to the truthfulness of LDS doctrine) was that our mother was a sadistic and manic woman. Rather than protect us, our dad had always let her do whatever she wanted to us kids to spare himself. The ward members said nothing although we knew they were aware.

Among many other examples, my little brother would play “shirts and skins” basketball in the cultural hall after Mutual every Wednesday night. The black and blue welts across his back and chest were hard to miss. We attended many church functions bruised and wounded through the years. When I was 16, (my mother was 38th Ward’s Relief Society President then), my brother and I turned to Child Protective Services for help. They eventually arranged through LDS Church Social Services of Phoenix to move me in temporarily with our current bishop’s family and then permanently with a prior bishop’s family. These were both kind families and I was taken care of until I was 18. My poor brother was left with my mother (I have deep regrets for this because it was due in part to my own failure to advocate more on his behalf).

My parents and brother moved to Salt Lake City soon after I moved out. When he was 14, she brutalized him for the last time. My brother snapped, retrieved a gun my dad had given him and, as she rested from the enthusiastic beating she‘d just given, he shot her in her forehead. Somehow, she survived with just a pitted scar and possibly a souvenir embedded in her brain.

My brother spent many years afterwards surviving various Utah institutions and halfway houses and a penitentiary. If you asked him to choose which was worse, his childhood home, the Utah State Hospital in Provo or federal prison, he’d be hard pressed to say.

Our childhood misery was complicated by the fact that, like a lot of Mormons, my mother claimed to have heard spiritual promptings from the Holy Ghost, been given signs from God and received answers to her prayers. While us kids, on the other hand, couldn’t get Heavenly Father to hear our desperate pleas to be protected from her cruelty. Why would God favor her prayers and turn a deaf ear to ours? Her prayers to get to church on time were miraculously answered with a succession of green traffic lights. Our prayers for protection from her were answered with silence. This raised a lot of questions as I grew up.

What are you trying to say?

In my many, many church lessons I struggled to make the required leaps of logic in Book of Mormon, Church History and other doctrinal lessons. The answers to my questions about these points were typically obscure or they raised yet more questions.

With hindsight, I now understand the church’s resistance to probing questions. The teachers who know the answers also know such answers aren’t “faith promoting,” and they pussyfoot around the questions. The teachers who don‘t know the other side of Mormonism rely on rote “lesson manual answers” which are deeply unsatisfying. There’s a lot of in-between here, full of partial knowledge, freewheeling speculation and a vast, beloved Mormon mythology.

Latter Day Saints have the correct intuition that there’s a category of doctrinal questions whose answers will open a spiritual Pandora’s Box. Once certain truths of the Church are set free in their world, nothing will be the same again. Such questions get persistently “shelved.”

A typical example of this willingness to turn a blind eye to the gritty details of doctrine and history happened during seminary class one day when I was a sophomore. I remember it so well because of the event that followed.

I loved my seminary teacher and I showed up in class each day due to his dynamic teaching. Nevertheless, some of his church history lessons aggravated my struggle for a testimony. This particular lesson’s topic was the Mountain Meadows Massacre (but since I’ve learned the rest of the history, I am having a hard time thinking this was actually part of the approved curriculum).

I pestered my teacher to clear up some confusion about his lesson. I could sense that Brother C knew more about the topic than he was revealing so I asked increasingly more specific questions. Brother C wouldn’t give a whole answer.

A classmate suddenly turned on me and indignantly demanded, “Cora! Just what are you trying to SAY?” I was bewildered. I wasn’t trying to SAY anything. I just wanted a straight answer and I said so. I looked around at my seminary classmates for a defender. But it was clear from the looks on their faces that this girl spoke their thoughts too.

Didn’t we all want to understand? The Church was true, of course, but how can this bit of doctrine or that event in history also be Divine? It was becoming apparent to me that maybe my confusion wasn’t due to my failure to grasp elusive concepts. Maybe Mormons just don’t want to know. I understand now that questioning the words of the prophets and other doctrine is the same as challenging the validity of the church. In doing this, you reveal yourself as someone whose testimony is weak, someone who has allowed Satan into his or her life, someone whose eternal salvation is in peril.

Thus frustrated this day, I went back to the school library and looked up the word ‘Mormon’ in the encyclopedia at school. I read my first simple, non-religious account of Mormonism. I was shocked reading those plain words about Joseph Smith and his visions and gold plates. It was the first time I’d read them without the soft-focus of LDS lesson manuals and the Church‘s romantic spin on it’s own history.

As I recall, there was nothing about that entry that was biased or negative. Nonetheless, my temper flared; how dare these so-called historians not include all the other details that could have prevented this naked accounting of facts from appearing so bizarre. Every word I read was surely “anti-Mormon literature” and I was sinning by reading the encyclopedia!

I could never forget what I’d read but I continued to strive for a testimony. I obeyed every single gospel principal except chastity.

Interestingly, if I had stolen or lied, tasted coffee or tried a cigarette, I’d have been in an agony of conscience. The chastity lessons never “took” for obvious reasons: these were object lessons where, for example, the advisors would take a small wedding cake, “accidentally” drop it on the floor, scrape it back onto little plates and serve the dirty food to the youth. Of course no one would touch it.

It was explained that the spoiled cake represented how desirable a Daughter of Zion would be as a wife if she had sexual experience before marriage. I’ve heard of this same object lesson done with roses, chewing gum and stained wedding dresses.

Did this give Mormon boys an aversion to sexual activity? Did it create a desire in the girls to be chaste? More interestingly to me, what effect did such lessons have on youth who’d already had sexual experience? Any of us could see that nothing would make our portion of wedding cake palatable again. All the forgiveness in the world couldn’t unscramble such eggs. Sure, maybe God could grant his forgiveness and the sinner could forgive himself or herself for breaking the law of chastity. Your ward and your stake, on the other hand, don’t have anything to forgive and they rarely forget.

I was one of the students who’d had a little sexual experience. Fortunately, I rejected the message of those chastity lessons. I already had a mother who spit-screamed in my face how worthless and repulsive I was and I refused to accept that same message from my church leaders as well.

Born and bred to wed and breed

By the time I was 18 I was more than ready for marriage (or so I thought) and I wanted to go through the temple soon. I’d gone through the repentance process for impure thoughts and deeds but ended up feeling less worthy because I wasn’t sufficiently remorseful for my supposed “uncleanness.” The little guilt I felt was nothing like the devastating descriptions I’d read in The Miracle of Forgiveness. I became, in my heart, a spiritual fraud for eventually accepting my temple recommend. On the other hand, I couldn’t refuse it without walking off the only path to eternal salvation. A genuine dilemma.

Even though, as young LDS girls and teens, we’d sat though countless hours of lessons that prepared us for marriage and motherhood by focusing on the relevant temple ordinances, the particulars of the endowment rites and marriage ceremony were never discussed, only alluded to. All questions were answered with some variation of, “We can’t discuss it. It’s too sacred.”

So when I fell in love with the man who was to become my husband and went to the temple to marry him, I was completely in the dark about the rituals. Throughout my endowment I was anxious about my inability to feel the Spirit. I felt mostly embarrassed during the anointing (and have since puzzled over how my endowment was valid since it was performed by a non-ordained woman using the powers of the priesthood).

I remember the stress that bordered on panic while trying to make sense of the ritual while also memorizing it. Further, I was seriously frightened at the blood oaths. (I briefly wondered; who are the “Saints” that do the throat slitting and disemboweling? Or will I be required to do this to myself if I reveal the secrets? Is this even legal? Why haven’t we read about this in the papers)? But I was getting married! I stifled my skepticism and focused on the wedding ceremony.

Mormon Temple weddings are fast. In the Bride’s Room, it was awkward getting ready because there was no privacy for dressing and I had to elbow for mirror-space against a few other (worthy) brides and their mothers. As I was dressing myself, a temple worker walked in and handed me paper square with a #12 written on it and pearly straight pin attached. What was I was supposed to do with my #12? Pin it to my wedding gown? My temple clothes? Surely not. I was too embarrassed to ask one of the other women because I was so conspicuously motherless. So I just shoved it up my sleeve.

My fiancé and I were shown into a small sealing room and our marriage ceremony was over and done with in about 20 minutes. Although I have to say here, I was so happy to be getting married, I was grinning from ear to ear as I knelt across the altar from my new husband. I had to restrain myself from laughing for joy! I was supposed to be the virtuous young temple bride basking in the Spirit of Christ. But I felt so giddy and jubilant! Again, what was wrong with me?! (These days I think “jubilance” is a very good thing to feel on your wedding day.) My only regret that day was that I was so old; two weeks from my twentieth birthday.

Married life was good. After wrestling with all the sexual “no’s” throughout our courtship, it was great to finally flip the Master Switch to “Yes!” I got pregnant on or shortly after our honeymoon but lost the baby before I even knew for sure. A few months later I was pregnant again. From the moment I got a “positive” pregnancy test I was already a Mother in my mind and my eternal family was begun. (Even without the Church I would have aspired to marriage and motherhood. But being raised LDS certainly trained me to leap headlong into it all without much common sense. So much of my preceding life was spent preparing for ‘time and all eternity’ at the expense of preparing for autonomy and competency in the here and now).

We soon found out I was with twins. Sadly, at about the fourth month I miscarried them. I’d been in labor for over 24 hours when I finally lost the second baby. Much later, when I asked the nurse about them, she said their tiny bodies had been “disposed of.” I was already grieving for the lost futures of a son and a daughter and this news was deeply troubling.

A few days later when I was out of the hospital, an in-law scolded me about this, implying that failing to bury them properly could have dire repercussions for our babies (and thus myself) in the resurrection. Somehow, I’d not kept some little known protocol in this miscarriage by not arranging church burials. (Between contractions, perhaps?) How was I going to repent of that?

Before the end of our first year I was pregnant for the third time and a beautiful daughter was born to us. A year later a second precious daughter was welcomed into our arms. Those were the days! Two babies thirteen months apart is “twins the hard way.” But I’d never known such joy and I loved being a mother. We were madly in love with our beautiful baby girls. We were living in Provo during this time and my husband was attending BYU’s J. R. Clark Law School.

Callings

As a married woman I tried to live a worthy life but I couldn’t “Honor thy Father and thy Mother” which led to the sin of failing to forgive, which led to the sin of “judge not,” which led to the sin of “pride.” Otherwise, I obeyed the principles of the gospel and kept the commandments. My faithless doubts weren’t enough to stop me from saying ‘yes’ to every single ward calling and every mindless assignment I’d ever been given, regardless of my ability to succeed.

I can confidently say I never once refused an assignment no matter how aversive it was to me or how unqualified I was to fulfill it. I said yes because I believed as I was taught; that I was indirectly called of God in each instance. At 17 I taught the 9 year old girls in Primary, even though I only felt about 9 myself. At barely 18 years old, I worked in night Relief Society teaching mature wives and mothers Homemaking. The church will say such callings were for my personal growth and not entirely for the benefit of the members, but to me, it felt like I was parading my inadequacies. I taught the 3 years olds in Sunday School and held for 3 years a calling created for me; ward artist. I made the posters, flyers and program covers. I sang in the choir and I attended my meetings.

I taught Gospel Doctrine in my BYU young married’s ward (I was a disaster). My husband and I conducted weekly church services in a Provo retirement home and I worked in the nursery in 2 wards. My husband was graduated and we returned to Phoenix where I worked in Cub Scouts (two tiny daughters and a husband accruing billable hours at a rate of 70+ a week and God decided via the brethren that I should be a Den Mother to 8 rowdy Scouts). I also tried (and mostly failed) to be a good missionary.

This brings up an issue that nagged my consciousness as a member but I couldn’t articulate until after I’d been out of the church for many years. Why are women, while denied the authority and powers of the priesthood nonetheless expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the work in a ward? The auxiliaries of Relief Society, Young Women’s, Primary, Nursery, Scouts under 12 and many of the extraneous efforts; food storage, genealogy, special programs, choir, Service and Activities, feeding the missionaries and virtually all other charitable endeavors that don’t require heavy lifting are typically done by the sisters.

Both sexes teach classes but even there I’ve seen a distinctive difference in the lessons. Women typically put hours of thought and toil into their lessons, preparing handouts and visual aids and trying creative approaches to the same old information. Men are far more likely to rely on their own knowledge base with maybe some visuals from the ward library and they don’t seem to prepare as assiduously. The men take over the camping and hiking years of Scouting after the women have successfully managed the demanding work of the early years. Men handle the jobs that have the real church authority and do a lot of delegating of the actual work. They glorify the powers of the male-only priesthood and then tell the women that it’s just a God-granted compensation for not being able to birth babies.

Of all my church efforts, none gave me any assurances of the truthfulness of the Gospel. I would search my soul and assess my prayers to identify any spiritual communication but it always required an unnatural effort. Any feelings of spiritual “rightness” I felt were the same ones I enjoyed in a wide variety of positive experiences and not necessarily religious ones.

By this time, I was overeager for some sign of the Holy Ghost‘s guidance in my life. Like my mother, I was starting to see it where it wasn’t. When our girls were almost two and three years old I wanted another baby. My husband thought this was a bad idea and couldn‘t agree to it. I had a recurring dream about this time. In the dream, I stood at my vanity in the middle of the night with a paper hole punch in hand. I took condoms one by one from the ginger jar where we kept them and I punched a perfect little hole in the center of each packet. I almost convinced myself this dream was a sign that Heavenly Father wanted us to have another baby. My husband didn’t buy it though!

Faulty premise

Six years into our marriage, I was 26 years old and my one and only “witness” of the Gospel finally occurred. I had resolved a short time prior to this that, to combat the frustration and boredom of church meetings, I would show up at meetings willing and ready to learn some small nugget of truth. I wouldn’t waste any more time being bored.

One Sunday I was sitting in Fast and Testimony Meeting with my husband and our two little girls. A man was bearing his testimony of the First Vision. As I sat in the pew listening to his testimony and considering his words, an unmistakable feeling of clarity struck me. All my years of questioning and trying to puzzle together Mormon doctrine and history coalesced into that single moment and I knew: This Brother’s testimony was based on an elaborate fiction! Nothing here makes sense because the church is not true. Finally, suddenly, I could testify to something beyond a shadow of a doubt; The Church is not true. I believe this happened because I was spiritually or mentally ready to accept it.

I had rejected the Church’s main premise, “truth,” as faulty. In doing so, the curtain parted and I had the clear-eyed view of Mormonism I had always sought. This moment is one of the most defining experiences of my life. I couldn‘t keep this to myself and told my husband within the week.

I think I did a poor job of conveying to him the nature of the change in me because he asked me if I could go to church anyway. My Mormon identity, nearly my whole identity really, had vanished and yet it was unthinkable to attempt to recover it and try “going to church anyway.” I was sure he’d want a divorce. (He didn’t). I told him I was done trying to mentally bridge all the gaps in Mormon doctrine.

Without having done any historical research outside the faith promoting materials found in the ward library or Deseret Bookstore, my “shelf” containing all my unanswered questions and questionable answers had just collapsed. I told him I was baffled and disgusted that so many men and women, who were easily more intelligent than I, appeared to have no problems with it. He gently reminded me that I was classing him in with those people because he too had no problems with Mormonism. Overall, he was far more understanding than I suppose most Mormon men would have been.

My bishop heard about my apostasy from my husband (I had made such a clean break from Mormondom in the week after that meeting that I didn’t even bother telling the Bishop that I was done with the church — who was he to me now?) The Bishop asked to speak to me in person about my decision and I agreed. During our conversation he insisted I read ‘Mere Christianity’ and then we’d meet again to discuss my decision to leave. I sensed I was being set up for a battle of dogmas and told him ’no thanks.’ I was done with fruitless debates and unanswerable questions.

Never again.

My husband continued attending church without me and he took our girls with him.

Anti-Mormon literature

Interestingly, it wasn’t until after my epiphany in Sacrament that I felt free to explore the real soul of the Church. I started with Ex-Mormons for Jesus but was instantly put off by their missionary zeal. There was no way I was going to hand over my newfound ability to think freely to yet another organization. Besides, I wasn’t so crazy about Jesus at the time either. They did get me started on the Tanner’s book, however, and that led to other historical sources.

I learned about the improbabilities and impossibilities in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price and the lack of integrity of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and others. I was stunned (and am still stunned) at the mountain of history of the Church that was never openly addressed in 26 years of meetings, lessons, lectures, seminary, church talks and conferences! The second big change in my world view happened to my simple notion of “truth.” I realized that it’s not an entirely attractive idea by nature. Truth can be ugly too.

Life as an apostate

The prophets and apostles have always looked like spiritual and kindly men to me. But since learning about how key events in the course the church’s history have been handled by them, I regard them differently. It’s difficult to ignore the overall absence of any powers of discernment in these “prophets, seers and revelators” regarding everything from the Kinderhook plates to the “Book of Abraham” papyri to the Hoffman documents and many other important issues in between. Despite this lack of discernment they seem quite shrewd in earthly matters. Unfortunately, all that I intuited to be false and disturbing about the Church was more than validated in my research.

My reaction at being so thoroughly duped, at surrendering so much of my identity and my life’s decisions was a righteous fury. It lived in a strange coexistence for many years with the sense of having been miraculously cut free from the chains of the church. Today I try not to give the anger any power but after 17 years, I still savor the freedom.

A Mormon will glibly say my apostasy is the result of the influence of Satan. But Satan’s another guy I no longer believe in so that idea doesn’t frighten me. Even though I submitted to the authority of the Church and struggled to gain a testimony and followed the commandments and the Plan of Salvation, the darkest parts of my life were also my most religiously obedient.

In contrast, there were a lot of wonderful surprises in becoming an apostate. No cloud of darkness hovers over me, in fact, I’m far more optimistic about my self and my future. My joys aren’t tainted by any attached feelings of guilt for not doing “more and better” in so many other parts of my life. I also enjoy a certain serenity with who I am and the problems I (still) have and how I‘m living my life. And there’s no longer the fear that I’m paying for (or will eventually pay for) a trail of inadvertent sins left in my wake. This is not a lifelong, arbitrary “test of faith.” Over time, I also lost an arrogant view of the world that I wasn’t aware I had.

As a Mormon, I’d disregarded almost all non-Mormons as misguided people. Even if they looked like loving people who were engaged in meaningful lives, I knew their happiness was counterfeit. Non-Mormons didn’t know real happiness because they didn’t have The One True Church. They didn’t love their husbands and children as I did because they didn’t understand Forever Families. My marriage was eternal, theirs was only a little better than shacking up. My feelings were real, their feelings were delusions. I regret how I needlessly limited my “outside” friendships and considered non-Mormons as Heavenly Father‘s less favored people.

Very little else has changed about me. Coffee found me quickly! I have no real taste for alcohol. I have no desire to lie, cheat, smoke, gossip, fool around, evade taxes, etc. Moreover, my goal to live a principled life, do good and insure that our earth doesn’t suffer for my presence here still guides me. I no longer believe I’m currying favor with God for any good I might do.

About a year or two after I left I heard a statistic about the Church’s fantastic growth and membership. I realized they were including me in that number. It bothered me because it seemed to be a little white lie. “The LDS Church has grown to “X” million saints worldwide.” Including me and how many other “inactives?” I wrote and asked that they not include me as a saint in their future tallies and my name was eventually removed.

Seventeen years later, my husband is still mostly active and takes our third child, a son, to Primary each Sunday. My husband doesn’t try to persuade me to return to the Church and we don’t debate doctrine. I know I’m not the valiant wife he may have thought he’d married but we’ve been married 23 years regardless.

Our “baby girls” are now grown and off to college and have stories of their own about growing up in a part-member family. Our Rachel got baptized at 16 but doesn’t attend church. Our Anna has refused it ‘lock, stock and barrel’ from the beginning. Our son was eligible for baptism last year. But like his sisters, until he’s able to choose that course with maturity, I can’t support it. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. Because my spouse is LDS and I‘m not, none of us could have quite what we wanted in a family.

Meanwhile, I’ve hardly spoken to my active Mormon parents. If they ever gave me a thought, they’d declare I was wallowing in darkness and I’ll guess they like that image just fine. They certainly wouldn’t want to believe that I’m happy.

I’ve never gotten a call or letter from either parent humbly asking for my forgiveness and attempting to make restitution for 16 years of a childhood that, at the age of 43, still gives me serious, heart-stopping nightmares. (I was diagnosed with ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ as a result of this and my brothers suffer the same symptoms). And yet my Dad was called to the High Council in his stake in SLC last summer by inspiration from brethren who‘ll readily agree that his ex-Mormon daughter is being deceived by Satan.

My Dad and the other brethren grant themselves the authority to sit in judgment on other LDS men and women. With his doubtful spirituality and zero credentials my father decides if the lives of other church members are in spiritual jeopardy. This is truly incredible. How many times is this scenario repeated throughout the church?

My seeds are better than your seeds

Mormons don’t dare explore the idea that ex-Mormons who have left for philosophical reasons have important truths to share about the LDS Church. What’s never taught and thus never learned in church is so compelling that it would require less than 6 simple, honest “discussions” to rock their world. But out of respect for their beliefs and feelings I keep what I know to myself. In 17 years, no member has asked me to share this.

There are plenty of Mormons, on the other hand, who feel righteously justified in slipping mini-testimonies, answered prayers and divine inspirations into everyday conversations with me. They think they’re “planting the seeds of the gospel” but it’s glaringly obvious to me when I‘m being worked on. While they scheme to convert me (or my children) back to Mormonism I’m thinking “this is dishonest and it‘s disrespectful.”

When I was a Mormon, missionary efforts were a personal struggle because I always felt like a trespasser. As a nonmember, I indeed feel trespassed against and yet at the same time I sympathize. I understand they’ve been commanded to be missionaries. I wish I could tell these members who try to “bring me the light” how offensive it feels to be on the receiving end of fellowshipping tactics. Fellowshipping me, an ex-Mormon, deliberately ignores the fact that I’ve thoughtfully rejected Mormonism at no small sacrifice to me and my family and am pursuing my own path. Furthermore, their assuming the role of “Missionary” amputates every possibility of a meaningful relationship (or even a conversation) between us. But the brethren have directed, “Every member a missionary” and they must obey.

The glory of God is surrendered intelligence?

The Church’s over-over-emphasis on obedience reminds me of a failed attempt at family therapy when I was about 10 years old.

My brothers and sister and I had enough information to put our mother behind bars. We didn’t know anything ourselves about the laws against felony child abuse but she apparently sensed her untenable position during a drive to our first family therapy appointment (court mandated because she left our brother at a state agency while we lived in Hawaii and refused to take him home again).

She threatened us remaining 3 children to never, ever say anything in therapy that we hadn’t said to her at home first. She didn’t have to say anything more than that; she knew we’d never confront her with her ghastly crimes against us because we feared her completely and we obeyed her. We went to that office once a week and sat five feet from the therapist who could have delivered us children from a living nightmare and we said nothing. Not a word. And our mother, through her skilled use of obedience and fear, continued to victimize each one of us children until literally our very last minutes in her house.

I see the Church exploiting the Members in a similar way; they consecrate the Principle of Obedience and follow up with a steady stream of fear. Mormon dogma is liberally spiked with threats against ones eternal salvation. The list of things that a true blue Mormon fears is long.

The overriding ones are; “What if I’m not worthy enough to pass the final judgment?” “What if I‘m not righteous enough to keep my family together eternally?” “What if the feeling I’m calling the Spirit of the Holy Ghost isn‘t?” “What of many things I should be doing better but just can’t seem to?” “What if the eternal salvation of my friend / neighbor / child / mother / sibling / mailman rests in my ability to bring him or her the Gospel?” “Am I under the influence of Satan?” And all the endless “Why…?” and “How…?” and “What if…?” questions that they train themselves to stop asking and put on their “shelf.” There’s no real comfort from the Church leadership when it comes to these fears because they serve such a practical purpose.

The members internalize them and the accompanying guilt. Thus fearful, they blindly obey the very “Principles” that keep the authority and influence of the Brethren intact in the same way that our fear and obedience as children kept our mother in total control of us. I think the saddest result of striving for such perfect compliance, as the faithful Mormons do, is that it prevents more natural and healthy ways of experiencing one’s own thoughts, feelings and life. Because nearly all aspects of their lives are managed by the Church until their last moments on earth, the concept of free agency that LDS doctrine touts is an illusion.

Some ex-Mormons find solace in new religions and I’m certain that because of their journey through Mormonism, they’re unique and valuable assets there. As for me, I can’t imagine committing to any other religion. I’ll never again surrender any part of my ability to think and study freely about a thing and draw my own conclusions. I love to learn and I love not needing to first ask; “What’s the Church’s position on this?” to know what my own thinking will be.

I proudly sign my name to this and then I’m off to follow the dictates of my own conscience . . .

-Cora Judd

(originally posted on Life After Mormonism on 10/5/11)

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