Tag Archive: family


This podcast was recorded by John Dehlin in 2006. At that time he was a very active LDS member. Upon my exit of the church, I found his many podcasts, covering many controversial LDS subjects, to be enlightening and helpful on my journey. John is still a member of the church, but now considers himself an “Open Mormon”. To check out more of his podcasts, go to: http://mormonstories.org/

 

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


True Happiness

True happiness comes from within. Its origins cannot be found in others. Try as we might, lasting happiness will never be found in anything outside ourselves. Fleeting happiness may be found in external sources, but can be nothing more than a temporary fix, a metaphorical band-aid on our soul. I have discovered so much about myself since I left the LDS church three years ago, and the greatest gem I’ve uncovered is my path to true and lasting happiness. Of all the searching for truth that I’ve done, the one universal truth that I stand by unequivocally is that true happiness only comes when:

  1. we genuinely know ourselves
  2. we are true to ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)
  3. we let go of any hope of an outside force (person, place or thing) providing happiness/peace for us

It may sound simple, but the more my eyes are opened to the world and the people in it, the more I see just how elusive this truth can be. I can only speak from my own experience, so I will share how my journey has brought me to this knowledge. Every one’s journey is different, but I believe that all journeys to true and lasting happiness will end in similar wisdom.

1- Genuinely Knowing Ourselves

My journey to know myself, like all humans, began at birth. And like all humans, I was immediately effected by the culture and society into which I was born. Most of the societal influences were harmless upon my emerging self and did little to hamper my growth. But, over time, certain pressures, teachings and influences (many of which came from my parents and the LDS church) came to distance me from my own self. For example, I was taught the extreme importance of unquestioning obedience by both the church and my parents. I was taught that adherence to a rigid code of conduct and checklist of works were necessary to win God’s love and eternal salvation. To some personalities, these influences might not be so rough, but for me, a questioner, a thinker, and a highly intelligent being, they were stifling. As I tried to shut down my own personality in order to comply with the expectations of my family and church, I became increasingly estranged from my own self. As an adult, this felt like a vague sense of dissatisfaction in my life, underlying frustration and a noticeable split between my private self and my public self. I found myself giving more and more energy to word choice and self-censoring.

A disassociation with oneself begins with a misfit between one’s true self and the expectations from others whom we see as meaningful in our lives. For some it may stem from a feeling of not living up to career expectations from parents or issues with being born homosexual into a family who is less than understanding.

Three years ago, I did not fully understand my dissatisfaction with life. The key to beginning the path to knowing oneself is to recognize the symptoms of living a life that is out of harmony with our innate selves. The symptoms can be depression, anxiety, dread, or anger. In extreme cases, symptoms can also look like acting-out behavior such as drug abuse, self-harm, and other risky behavior. Sometimes this disassociation can manifest as lying, bragging, or exaggerating.

Once we recognize the symptoms within, we can begin to take steps toward being true to ourselves. Even if we feel blind in the beginning, with every step of throwing off the chains which bind us, we will come closer to knowing ourselves. With this knowledge, we can cultivate a loyalty to ourselves that will result in true and lasting happiness.

2. Being True to Ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)

The first step in my journey involved throwing off one chain that had kept me in bondage for decades. That chain was a belief taught to me by the LDS church and strongly reinforced by my LDS family and friends. It was the belief that questioning church doctrine was evil.

I’d always been taught that God would not allow our prophets or other church leaders to lead us astray.  I was taught that Joseph Smith, and all the church leaders which came after him, were God’s mouthpieces. In other words, even the desire to question doctrine, could only derive from one source: the devil. This belief caused me guilt and agnst when I felt doubts about Joseph Smith, the book of Mormon, and other issues with the church surface. I’d prayed, studied, and even faked my way along for many years. I just didn’t feel that burning in my bosom that so many Mormons in my life talked about. I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly declare a testimony of these things. As my activity in the church became more active and broad in scope, I found myself increasingly dancing around certain doctrinal points, many of which were central to the church.

Hand in hand with the cultural norm of infallibility of church leaders, was the strict admonition to avoid any non-church sanctioned publication or source for information. Yes, it is taught and widely accepted in the church that it is only appropriate to seek information regarding church doctrine and history from the church, itself.

One day, I threw off this chain and began my process of questioning church doctrine. It began with buying a book (which was NOT a church sanctioned publication), and quickly exploded into a full-on investigation involving many books and internet sources. My journey brought my  doubts into the light. Since that time, I have learned not to stifle my doubts. I enjoy operating on all cylinders, so to speak. I no longer conform to any cultural norm which requires me to curtail my thinking or put on any type of mask (be fake, in other words).

I have faced opposition in the form of scorn and judgement from LDS family and friends. I have paid a price, but it is one I’d gladly pay again and again for the deep and gratifying peace that has come from being true to myself. There is much to be said, too, for learning to limit ones vulnerability to attempts to inflict pain, guilt or manipulation by those who disagree with our chosen path to peace. I’m still in the process of mastering this area of my life.

3- Letting Go of Any Hope of an Outside Force (person, place or thing) Providing Happiness/Peace

The only person I can control is me. Efforts to control another only end in frustration and in destruction of healthy relations. No matter how deep a love, peace and happiness can only come from within. When we know ourselves and are true to ourselves, then we are in a position of being ready for a healthy relationship with another. Only then, can our happiness stand on it’s own, independent of any outside influence. When we are true to ourselves, we will naturally gravitate to healthy relationships.

Happiness has to come from within to be of any real or lasting value. Listen to yourself. Know yourself and be true to yourself. When you do this, letting go of outside influences on your happiness will come naturally.

A common belief among Mormons is that good comes to those who are righteous, and bad ultimately comes to those who are wicked. This belief applies as much to this life as to the life to come. It is one of those subjective ‘truths’ that a devout Mormon uses to reinforce their own good standing in God’s eyes and their beliefs regarding the plight of those who sin against God. It is a belief system in which I, myself, was indoctrinated as a Mormon youth. Never mind all those bad things that happen to good people. Such events are often over-looked or brushed away as trials sent by God to strengthen one’s faith and character. But, when bad things happen to one who is a known sinner, well… that’s testament of God’s wrath raining down what one deserves.

As you might guess, bad things are happening in the life of this particular ex-Mormon, and, yes, all of the devout Mormons in my life are quick to point out that I’m ‘just getting what I had coming’. With the perspective of nearly 3 years out of the church, I can plainly see where this line of thinking is coming from and it simultaneously saddens and amuses me. The source of amusement, I would think, to any outsider, would be obvious. The sadness stems from the fact that this type of piety really gets in the way of compassion, mainly compassion from those who mean the most to me.

The fact is that bad and good things just happen. They happen to everyone, regardless of religion, politics, race or gender. Sometimes our choices bring on good or bad; sometimes they don’t.

Another fact is that I am better equipped now to handle anything life throws me than at any other time in my life, especially when I was a Mormon. You see, as a Mormon, I was constantly in a state of interpreting life events as reflecting my own worthiness in the sight of God. I continually asked myself, “Is this a sign from God? Am I being punished? Does this mean I’m on the right track?”. Now, I realize, crap just happens. How we deal with it is what matters. How we deal with it defines our path in life and the character with which we define ourselves.

Regardless of events that transpire in my own life outside of my control, I believe that God loves me unconditionally. He loves me the same as my Mormon counterparts, and the same as all other living beings upon this planet. He shows no favoritism. Likewise, I have learned to love myself without limits, without conditions. I have been freed from my previous pious beliefs and can now love others without favoritism and without conditions. How better prepared could I be to encounter the obstacles of mortality? Despite the hardships that I am facing at this time, I know greater peace than at any other time in my life. Sure, I feel sad at times. I cry. I am human. But when the dust settles, I am secure in the love that engulfs me from the inside out. Nothing can touch that.

Nothing is more beautiful than unconditional love. Nothing is more beautiful than compassion. Conversely, nothing is more ugly than piety.

If I had my rathers I would prefer not to have to give this talk today.

It’s about a topic which makes me feel uncomfortable and will probably shock you, as it did me.

Even as we discussed this issue as a bishopric this week my counsellors and I were very emotional.

The General Authorities have told us for years to prepare for trying times ahead. I have been asked as your bishop to prepare you for these trials.

How strong is your testimony?

On what is it based?

“And now as I said concerning faith- faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Alma 32:21

“Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Would your testimony stand up to indisputable evidence to the contrary?

We have been warned that in the last days many of the elect will leave the church.

The General Authorities have warned the Bishops, through the Stake Presidents, to “Prepare for a mass exodus from the church, even from the leadership.”

Many faithful, devoted, and dedicated members are leaving the church they once loved due to “unintentional consequences of their search for truth”.

These were people who were fully committed temple going, tithe-paying members.

In 2009 it is estimated that over 83,000 members left the church.

Many members, including leaders, are resigning their membership, NOT DUE TO SIN OR WEAKNESS, but due to reading or listening to something which changes their PERCEPTION OF TRUTH.

Can our relationship with those who leave the church withstand these changes in THEIR BELIEF?

It’s only natural to feel awkward about the situation. To not know what to say.

The relationship with my own brother and sister-in-law, David and Louise, has suffered as a consequence of their decision to leave the church.

I have found it very difficult, as have my parents and the rest of the family.

We believe that, because of their actions and disbelief, they we will no longer be a part of our eternal family. THAT REALLY HURTS!!

Its a very emotionally charged subject.

But it’s becoming a common problem. Most of you here have loved ones, including friends and family, who have trodden this path. Or we know of someone.

It’s far too easy to be judgemental, or even to fear those who leave.

I have certainly found this to be the case for me. I rarely associated with my brother, his wife and children, or spoke with them. I found it too difficult to discuss things openly and be candid for fear of getting into an argument.

Sometimes we fear they will adversely affect the testimonies of our children.

My relationship with them has been made even more difficult because I am also their bishop and have a role to play to protect the church.

But it’s often even harder for them. Have you ever thought how it might feel to be THEM?

I have recently talked with some who have left the fold, and have read accounts from others. The common feeling is one of “loneliness” and “of not being understood” by people whom they once called brothers and sisters.

Imagine for a moment what it must be like. “The best way to understand someone is to try to put yourself in their position”.

Imagine that “Everything that you had thought about yourself, others, and the world was built on a lie! All the time you were growing up you felt different and did not know why. The way you looked at life was based on who you thought you were and on what you believed to be true.” Your world would just crumble around you! You would not know what to trust, let alone who to trust! You would have to re-learn almost everything; the way you interacted with others, your values and more.

What if every major decision you made was based on what you thought was truth? There would be so much fallout your head would be spinning! You would most likely experience ‘rage’, ‘despair’, ‘grief’, ‘sorrow’, ‘anguish’, ‘more anger, mistrust, confusion’, and run through a ‘whole gamut of emotions’. The longer you were members of the Church and the more you genuinely believed it to be true, the more severe the trauma coming out. Someone who had been LDS all his or her life will experience greater hardship than someone who had been a convert of only a year or two. But even those who leave after just a couple years experience a great sense of loss when they leave. Leaving Mormonism is not as simple as waking up one morning and deciding to rip up one’s temple recommend. It doesn’t come after hearing or reading a couple negative things about the Church; if it were just a few contradictions you could easily readjust your thinking or put them on a “back burner” to deal with later. For an active, believing Mormon to conclude that Mormonism is not true takes a long and painful time of intensive study, prayer, deliberation and soul searching. Many risk losing family, including their spouse, children, and extended family, as well as their best, maybe only, friends.

Some who leave say it feels like a death in the family, or a divorce.

Jim Whitefield, A sixty year old member from Norfolk, who had served in many leadership positions in the church, left the church just a few years ago says this:

“If ever members could comprehend that in reality for someone of my age (sixty in February 2006) -retired and with no one to talk to except my wife, you actually end up with nothing. It is an excruciating decision to make and not one of choice. I would far rather try to believe, it is so much less painful. To keep your family and friends, you just sit on the back row for once and say you have had a nervous breakdown or something and can’t cope with callings; you would get away with it and still have a life. But for me, it would have been a lie. It takes courage to admit the truth to yourself and then to others and to be willing to accept the consequences of that decision and your subsequent action upon it. In reality, you lose most of your family and all of your friends as they have no time for you because you no longer move in Church circles, which means that as you are not there with them, they don’t bother with you; even the ones who say they mean to, as subsequently they are kept so busy in the Church that they never have or make any time for you. There is also fear, as you are of course considered apostate. I have moved from being known on first name terms by well over a thousand members who personally knew and respected me, to a number of true friends that I can barely count on one hand. Staying close to the Church, making no real friends outside since I was fourteen years old didn’t even leave old school friends available to me, having lost contact decades ago. My decision leaves me with “no life, few family and friends who care about me and a very difficult future. Members have said that it is my own fault. I actually had some very critical and somewhat unkind phone calls and abusive letters from local leaders and so called friends in the Church who should have known better. I was almost suicidal after my first wife’s death and this was another equally distressing moment in my life, leaving me feeling that way again. I destroyed those letters in a flood of tears.”

As I said before, their perception of truth has changed!

He goes on to say:
“When someone joins the Church, if they are ostracised by family and friends due to their new found ‘faith’, they at least have a new ‘family’ to welcome them, within the Church. When you leave, there is no one there for you. You are alone.”

I found that shocking. But he actually vocalises the feelings of many who leave the church.

It also made me feel guilty for the way I have treated others including my own family. My own brother who I love!

David said to me recently. “You know what is hardest, it is that even family will not listen”. He says “I don’t want you to believe me, what I want is for you to listen and try to understand me.”

“If I say that sheet of paper is black, and you say it’s white, at least you’ve listened. You may not agree with me, but at least you now understand my beliefs.”

How can we cope with this dilemma? We believe in UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, but find it hard to accept those who choose to follow a new path.

Jesus said “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13: 34

Luke 6: 27-34 The Saviour said in the beatitudes, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”

What is compassion for others?

The origins of the word ‘compassion’ come from the Greek patheia, meaning to “bear/suffer” and cum meaning “with”. It means to suffer with, or to empathise. To feel the sorrow or pity for the pain of another.

You can feel compassion, and show compassion.

There is a true story of how Russians showed compassion to the German soldiers after they had captured them during the 2nd World War.

“Stalin ordered 20,000 German soldiers to be paraded through the streets. The onlookers gazed with hatred at their enemies; they were clenching their fists. But then all at once something happened to them. They saw German soldiers – thin, unshaven, wearing dirty blood-stained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades, and walking with their heads down. Suddenly an elderly woman in broken down boots pushed herself forward. She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a coloured handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of a soldier. Then from every side, women came running towards the soldiers pushing into their hands bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. The soldiers were no longer enemies. They were people.”

A beautiful quote from Sogyal Rinpoche about the power of compassion:

“Evoking the power of compassion in us is not always easy. I find myself that the simplest ways are the best and most direct. Every day, life gives us innumerable chances to open our hearts, if we can only take them. An old woman passes you with a sad and lonely face and two heavy plastic bags full of shopping she can hardly carry. Switch on a television, and there on the news is a mother in Beirut kneeling above the body of her murdered son, or an old grandmother in Moscow pointing to the thin soup that is her only food……Any one of these sights could open the eyes of your heart to the fact of vast suffering in the world. Let it. Don’t waste the love and grief it arouses. In the moment you feel compassion welling up in you, don’t brush it aside, don’t shrug it off and try quickly to return to “normal”, don’t be afraid of your feeling or be embarrassed by it, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted from it. Be vulnerable: Use that quick, bright uprush of compassion – focus on it, go deeper into your heart and meditate on it, develop it, enhance it, and deepen it. By doing this you will realise how blind you have been to suffering. All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion.”

Life sometimes can be difficult. That doesn’t mean we can’t find peace and joy.

Jesus Christ said. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Paul reminds us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”

Isaiah 55:12 “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Proverbs 12:20 “Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy”.

Romans 15:13 “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

If you look around this room and see who’s here, then imagine some of us may not be here in a week, or a month, a year or two. I want you to know that whatever happens I will love you. I will have compassion for you.

I thank you for all your support and love for me over the years.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Family Relations

One of the common challenges that seem to plague Mormons exiting the church is that of family. Fortunately, I’m married to a spouse who has never been a Mormon and has remained pleasantly neutral throughout not only my membership in the church, but in my questioning and exit processes as well. My children have been amazingly open-minded through the process as well and have all exited the church in my footsteps. On the contrary, my parents and one sibling have had a very difficult time with my journey.

Over the last 2 years, my parents seem to have come around to a place of  acceptance with where I am. Although they clearly disagree with me, they’ve had the tact not to show much hostility toward me or my family. I feel like we’ve come to a place of agreeing to disagree. We get together but never discuss religion. On the whole, I’m pleased with how things have evolved with my parents. I hope things continue on this positive path.

My sibling, however, is an entirely different story. She has hardly spoken to me in the last 2 years. She refuses to come to my home and shows obvious discomfort in my presence. Although expressing (through my father) that she is “done” with me forever, I hold onto a glimmer of hope that things will also improve with time with her.

Although pained in the beginning by her animosity toward me, I’ve come to a place of peace and understanding. With the objectivity of 2 years out of the church, I can more clearly see that my sister (and parents to a lesser degree) are simply products of Mormon culture. Their reaction to my questioning and leaving the church has only reinforced my understanding of some of the destructive elements of Mormon doctrine and culture. Among these destructive elements are:

1-     a paranoia of anything which is “anti-Mormon”
2-      the belief that apostates (those who leave the church) are to be shunned
3-     the belief that leaving the church (apostasy) is the worst of all sins and is unpardonable
4-     the belief that family bonds are of ultimate value, can only be preserved through temple sealing, and are surely shattered when a member leaves the church.
5-      the belief that we are saved through our performance and adherence to commandments/rules (such as the word of wisdom, temple rituals, obeying the sabbath, etc)
6-     the belief that men (us mere mortals) can be ordained by God to sit in judgment on one another
7-      the belief that God loves us conditionally (Mormons in turn love themselves and others conditionally)
8-      the belief that the LDS church is the only true church and that all other denominations are “an abomination in the sight of God” (words of Joseph Smith).
9-      the belief that the best angle to investigate the church is from the church, itself (to me, this is akin to asking a homeowner to do his/her own home inspection for a home buyer – no one in their right mind would do this due to obvious bias)
10-  the belief that drinking a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine are indicators by which you judge character.

There are many others, but these are the ones that come to mind now. The list above is ample excuse for the TBM (True Believing Mormon) to sit in judgment on a former member of the church and shun them. The church not only emboldens members to avoid ex-Mormons, it expects them to (refer to temple worthiness interview questions). These beliefs give the member ample reason to resent, fear, avoid, withhold love, and judge not only those who leave the church, but also those who do not strictly adhere to the Mormon party line.

Does this sound like a church of God? I don’t think so.

The more I learn about Mormonism as a whole and the deeper symbolism of temples and what goes on in temples, the more I question just what is at the root of it all.

Members of the LDS church all have the ultimate goal of receiving their temple endowment. What does this entail? Basically it involves watching movies which depict the Earth’s creation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, followed by taking sacred oaths including blood oaths. During the sacred oath and blood oath process, the individual dons an elaborate costume. When I went through the temple to receive my endowment, we pantomimed our death by horrific means (throat slitting, disembowelment, etc) as a penalty for disobedience. We also learned the “true order of prayer”. This involved raising our hands over our heads and lowering them as we chanted, “Pay Lay Ale”. (these elements were removed from the temple ceremony in 1990.) Recently, I discovered that these words, very similar to the Hebrew words, Pele Heylel, mean “wonderful Lucifer” (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew dictionary, items # 6382 and 1966) Is it any wonder that Lucifer answers this prayer of Adam in the temple film?

On this note, another thought struck me: Why is it that we listen and obey Satan in the temple film. Several times, Satan tells us to do something, the film stops and we do it. For example, he tells us to put on our fig-leaf apron, the film stops, and we do it. (an apron, interestingly, similar to the one Satan is wearing in the film which he says, himself, is a representation of his power). Kinda freaky, if you think about it. In fact, throughout the film, we see far more of Satan depicted than of Jesus Christ. Why do you think that is? In fact, several times during the film, Satan looks directly into the camera and addresses the congregation. That is something to think about.

Origins of the temple endowment

Why are there blood oaths in the temple ceremony?

20 questions from a true-believing Mormon about what goes on in the temple

One Mormon’s first temple experience and responses from others

The temple endowment ceremony with it’s changes

Occult symbolism of temples

Captain Morgan and Masonic Influence

More on Temples:

Participation in what is called the temple “endowment” ceremony is an important facet of the LDS faith since it is in this ritual where Mormons learn secret “key words,” “signs” and “tokens” that they hope will help them return to God’s presence.
Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second president, claimed,

“Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416).

Without their temples, Mormons are told that exaltation (or Godhood) in the next world is an impossibility. By completely obeying various laws and ordinances, faithful Latter-day Saints hope that they too can achieve the status of “Gods” and “Goddesses.”
Since its founding in 1830, the LDS Church has caused quite a controversy among Bible-believing Christians. While Mormons have every right to believe as they may, many leaders of the LDS Church have made some serious accusations against what millions of Christians hold dear. These statements must be challenged in light of history and the Bible.
Latter-day Saints are told that their temples restore temple worship as discussed in the Bible. Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed the LDS ceremony actually follows the pattern of biblical days when he wrote:

“In Biblical times sacred ordinances were administered in holy edifices for the spiritual salvation of ancient Israel. These buildings thus were not synagogues, nor any other ordinary places of worship… Following the pattern of Biblical days, the Lord again in our day has provided these ordinances for the salvation of all who will believe, and directs that temples be built in which to perform those sacred rites” (Why Mormons Build Temples, p. 2).

To test what Mr. Petersen has said, all one needs to do is examine the temple ceremony as it was practiced during biblical times. If the LDS temple ceremonies had their precedent in the Bible, it would be logical that today’s rites would be similar to what took place in Israel until AD 70 when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. But there are many difference, including:

  • The Mormon Church has more than 100 other temples scattered across the globe; the Jews recognized only the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The primary activity at the Jerusalem temple was the sacrifice of animals as atonement for the sins of the people. Worshipers in ancient Israel went to the temple with an attitude of unworthiness before an all holy God. They approached His temple with humility as they looked to have their sins covered. In stark contrast, Mormons enter their temples with a positive sense of worthiness. A person cannot enter a Mormon temple (after it is dedicated) unless he or she is considered “worthy.”
  • The priests officiating in the Jerusalem temple had to be from the tribe of Levi. This was commanded in Numbers 3:6-10. The Mormon Church ignores such commands and allows its “temple-worthy” members who have no such background to officiate in its temples.
  • Wedding ceremonies never occurred in the Jerusalem temple, yet this is a common practice in LDS temples.
  • Baptism for the dead is the most common activity in Mormon temples. No such practice was ever performed in the Jerusalem temple.
  • While many Mormon families have been “sealed” for time and eternity in LDS temples, the Jerusalem temple provided no such ordinance.
  • There is no evidence that “endowments” of any kind, especially anything resembling Mormon temple ceremonies, occurred in the Jerusalem temple.

Mormons are told that the temple ceremony came by way of revelation to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe, “Joseph Smith received the temple endowment and its ritual, as all else he promulgated, by revelation from God” (Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, p. 249). Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie echoed this same thought when he said the temple ordinances were “given in modern times to the Prophet Joseph Smith by revelation, many things connected with them being translated by the Prophet from the papyrus on which the Book of Abraham was recorded” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 779). This is quite a statement since the Book of Abraham (regarded by Latter-day Saints as sacred scripture) has been shown to be an inaccurate translation of an ancient Egyptian funeral text.

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