Saturday, December 30, 2006

keyword analysis

Now and then I save the search terms that people used to link to my blog. I find it entertaining.

These are some from the last while:

backslider drink alcohol
how to have a wedding if I’m not Mormon and my family is
Mormon lies
symbol of adulthood

backslider testimonies restored
scared to leave Mormon church
emerging from the ashes
women manipulated

right of passage symbol
marriage regrets
Mormonism native Americans motive

can I be Christian while doubting Jesus
lds married regret
ex mormons speak out
pioneer trek songs

what does excommunicated from the church mean?
temple garment
prom symbol of adulthood
lds ex mormon stories garments

why we shouldn't sing battle hymn
temple garment thighs
sexy garment symbolism
mormon underground

mountain meadow massacre
damu and mormons
lost patriarchal blessing, received new bless
wedding regrets

grief as blessing
lds stories of atonement
what does mormon mean
south park creators excommunicated mormon

embarrassed by my past
exiting the church
mormon, alcohol, coffee
spouse manipulated into thinking angry

atheist ex-mormons

Friday, December 29, 2006

holiday travels

Sorry this post is much later than I usually get my posts out. I've been on the road, and I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up my post-a-day pace while out of town. I'll try.

BTW, I'm in the Salt Lake area. If anyone wants to meet up, do email me.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

a sleep-induced conversation with a Mormon, or dreaming about blogging

I had a dream the other night. I was sitting at work in a cafeteria-type room, trying to work on a project. A co-worker came up and sat across from me, obviously wanting to talk to me, like she knew who I was, she had heard of me. To me, she was vaguely familiar, only enough to recognize her as a colleague, but I didn’t know her name. She was blonde and very happy, friendly. The thought occurred to me that she must be Mormon, and from Utah. I was sure of it. Wasn't there a newly hired employee from Utah? I wanted her to leave me alone so I could work, but I wasn’t going to be rude and say so. I certainly wasn't going to bring up anything that would highlight our common backgrounds.

She opened up a conversation, out of the blue, saying, “So, you’re a Christian, white woman—“ as if that was a prelude to a question, but I cut her off.

“I’m not a Christian,” I interrupted. She was surprised. “I consider myself an ex-Christian,” I continued. I knew this would be a strange idea to her, but I didn’t care to elaborate further.

“Really?” Then she asked her question anyway, something about the robes priests wear.

“Robes?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know, like Catholic priests…” she expanded.

“Oh, yeah,” I answered, and, deciding to rile her up a bit and test if my Mormon theory was right, continued, “kind of like the temple apron and all that.” I wanted to list more of the temple clothes, but couldn’t think of their names in my dream.

She stared at me, shocked.

“I’m from Utah,” I explained. “I’m not just an ex-Christian, I'm ex-Mormon too.”

She stared at me, speechless, for a good thirty seconds.

I smiled back at her, as if I had just told her I got an A on an exam, and hoped she’d stop staring at me.

“Don’t you know Mormon?” (That’s what she said in my dream, but I suppose she meant, “Aren’t you familiar with Moroni’s challenge from Moroni 10:4-5?”)

“Mormon, the compiler of the Book of Mormon? Of course I know of him. I’ve read the Book of Mormon over a dozen times.”

She was flabbergasted. I’m not sure if the shock was from the fact that I’d read the book that many times, or from the fact that I read it that many times but still left. She thought that if it wasn’t because of a lack of understanding the Book or Mormon that caused my unbelief, it must be something else.

“Well, it must be that you haven’t been to the temple,” she tried.

“No, I’ve been to the temple. I was married in the temple, and went many times since then,” I countered.

Then she asked me something about abuse—-I must have been abused, or I abused my kid. That must have been the reason for my leaving, right?

“I’ve never hit, and I’ve never been hit,” I answered. I decided it would be best to end this inane line of questioning and just explain to her why I left.

“Listen, let me explain why. I won’t say anything to shake you up. Too much. First, I don’t believe. I don’t believe Joseph Smith’s claims, the Book of Mormon, etc.”


“And second, I don’t think it’s good for me and my family.”

“You and your family,” she repeated.

“Yes, for us. I think everyone can weigh the good and the bad for themselves, and if the good outweighs the bad, then…” I said, shrugging my shoulders to imply the conclusion.

“Yeah,” she said, “that’s how it is for me,” like she recognized there were some bad points with the church, but not enough to make her leave.

Somehow the conversation ended there, she was interrupted by friends or something and left the table. I thought it would be a good idea to jot down some notes from the conversation. As I scribbled on a notepad, she walked back over and noticed me writing our conversation.

“What are you doing? Are you writing down what I said?” she asked, a little freaked out.

I explained to her that I keep a journal, and like to write this kind of stuff down in it. I knew in my dream that this was a slight fib—-really, my “journal” would be my blog, online and public.

Just then, lots of people were suddenly coming into the room, including my sister and brother. I introduced my sister to the woman I’d been having the conversation with, thinking she’d be glad to meet someone else from Utah.

“This is my sister, Janet, and this is…?” I realized this whole time I didn’t know the woman’s name.

“Christine,” she said.

“Christine,” I continued the introduction. “Janet is from Utah.”

Christine looked like that bit of information didn’t phase her. So I turned to talk to my sister, who, oddly enough, in my dream, had just gotten out of two months in jail.

I woke up just after the dream finished, and I realized I hadn’t actually written it down. That part had just been in my dream. So I grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down notes. I rarely write down dreams, and rarely remember them with any clarity. But I thought it so strange that I had written it down in my dream, and that as I did so, I had thought, “This will be good for my blog.”

I’m dream-blogging. Or blog-dreaming. I’m dreaming about blogging. And I'll admit this wasn't the first time, either.

As I wrote in my dream, I thought to myself how experiences of ex-Mormons and questioning Mormons should be documented and talked about, not shushed up and ignored.

So what does the dream mean? I’m sure my mind is dealing with my anxieties about visiting faithful Mormon friends and family over the holidays, and playing out a possible scenario. One in which I was bold enough to speak up, and the Mormon was civil and accepting, even if she didn’t agree. That would be nice. We'll see how it actually goes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

more on "truth"

In response to Zarathustra's explanation of "truth," I wrote (with minor edits):

"I still don't think that Mormonism boils down to pragmatism or taste, though.That is ultimately why I stopped going, but it is not why I stopped believing. Perhaps my reasoning for stopping to believe is faulty, but I think there are some of Joseph's claims that can be put to the test of correspondence.For example, the Book of Abraham translation: we have the papyrus that he "translated" from. We have evidence that shows that he used the very papyrus that was recovered, and it doesn't match up to what he wrote.

Or if we can't go that far, then some of his claims can be reasonably argued against with what "data" we have that make his claims overly suspicious. The happenings of the first vision cannot be known, for example, but his several stories of them, matched up to what was going on when he told or wrote them, make them look suspicious. Perhaps this is something like being in a "he said--she said" court trial, where the lawyers "prove" a case through circumstantial evidence and casting doubt on the witness's reputation and credibility.

I'm not pulling this to the extent that would say, "Since Joe committed adultery numerous times, he has no credibility as a translator of ancient texts." But because he thought the Kinderhoek plates were authentic, and correspondence evidence shows he didn't translate the Book of Abraham or Book of Mormon in any way that can be reasonably called translation, I doubt his credibility as a translator."

These, among other things, led me to believe that Joseph Smith had no special conduit to God. Now, does that mean everything he ever said (or wrote into scripture) should be thrown out the window? No. Why? Because correspondence truth is not the best conception of truth by which to discuss theology. The church's teachings should be measured on, as I've said before, a different yard stick. Which is why, I suppose, for me, "realizing" the "untruth" of
Mormonism didn't, in itself, make me leave. First it was a matter of "true or not," then a matter of "good or not." And I decided, given many things, (the top three of which are the church's approach to women, homosexuals, and blacks, but the list doesn't end there) the church wasn't good.

Given Zarathustra's argument, I want to revise that last sentence to read "the church wasn't good for me," but I still hesitate. Because it's not good for a lot of people. For example, of the top three gripes I have with the "goodness" of the church, I only fit into one of the categories.
And, I suspect, that there are people in the church who gush about how great it is for them, while it is hurting them at the same time (women who internalize their supposed inherent inferiority, for example).

I'll have to chew on these ideas some more.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Continuing from my previous post, chocolate and vanilla, regarding my interesting, enlightening, but sometimes frustrating, conversations with a fellow ex-Mormon...

I asked him to explain to me different philosophical conceptions of "truth." And upon reading his explanation, I understood another reason we were talking past each other. We were operating on different ideas of "truth," and I had even been hopping back and forth within different conceptions of truth without realizing that they all been distinguished from each other and given different names by various philosophers. I'll try to summarize, relying heavily on his explanation.

Among the different theories on "truth," my friend, who comments here as Zarathustra, named four: correspondence, coherence, pragmatism, and perspectivism.

Correspondence presupposes that in order for some proposition to be true it must correspond to the way things are in the world. For example, there either is or isn't a Christmas tree in my living room; it's being there or not is verifiable with evidence. Most people, myself included, think about truth primarily within this paradigm. Mormons (and others, I'm sure) use correspondence the think about religion: There is or is not a God, and evidence for His existence can be found, such as in scripture, the existence of the universe, answered prayers, etc. But philosophers and many others would not place theology in this category of "verifiable" or "empirical."

Zarathustra wrote, The trouble with correspondence is that it quickly breaks down in cases where no correspondence can be determined....We can't easily test [if] fact correspond to the way things are in the world....Truth itself is not necessarily a matter of empiricism; it can be, but it need not be.Theology and moral philosophy do not lend themselves to empirical observation."

This way of thinking about truth is so familiar that we take it for granted; we often think that this is the only way to think about truth. But no so...

There is also the coherence theory of truth. "Coherence theorists do not look to anchor their claims to the truth in the way the world happens to be. Instead, their hope is to construct a view of the world that (a) has the greatest degree of explanatory power, and (b) is able to cohere with itself." They seek to "describe the world's phenomena in an efficient and comprehensive manner" while avoiding "internal contradiction and inconsistency." Think scientific disciplines.

Then there's pragmatism, which "tries to evaluate our claims to truth by their ability to promote some recognized good." Truth becomes a "matter of utility." If it promotes good, it is "true" in a pragmatic way. I know some Mormons that keep up relations with Mormonism in this way; it works for them, it helps them be happy. The actual "truth" of, say, the Book of Mormon story about Lamanites being descended from Hebrews and DNA evidence that shows Native Americans are descended from Asians, isn't important. Whether or not the church is "true" is a matter of it being "good" for them.

Finally, there is perspectivism, argued by Nietzsche, which says that truth depends on your point of view, which in turn can depend on heredity, race, nationality, taste, trends, etc., etc. (but Nietzsche would resist such a list, wouldn't he?).

Upon reading Zarathustra's explanation, I realized one reason why our conversations sometimes go the way they do. There's Zarathustra arguing about chocolate and vanilla (pragmatism and perspectivism), and there's me, making definitive statements like "When I realized the church isn't true..." from within a correspondence paradigm. I feel I weighed the evidence of Joseph's claims and found the evidence against his claims stronger than the ones for them; in this way, I say, "The church isn't true." Zarathustra generally discusses the church from outside the correspondence paradigm, as a matter of goodness or of taste, and thinks that debating the (correspondence) evidence for it is beside the point, and perhaps, useless.

He wrote, "If we insist on correspondence, then Mormons and anti-Mormons are in for a very long fight.(I'm using anti-Mormon in a very loose sense.)But, if we adopt some other conceptualization of truth, Mormonism--as a humanly important truth--may turn out to be true and false, or rather, as I'd like to say, delicious and disgusting, all at once. It will depend on perspective."

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on this...

have a happy holiday

happy holiday

merry christmas

happy yule

That's all I'll post today, because I'm busy enjoying the day with my precious little family. And I hope you are too.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

a religious holiday

Okay, so after all my talk about celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday, I felt the pull toward attending a church service this weekend. I don't know why--socialization, habit--but it felt like the holiday would be more complete if I attended a service.

I felt the same way on Easter, but didn't end up attending because my husband didn't want to go, and I couldn't bring myself to attend alone. Since then, I've come to grips with the fact that my husband will never attend, and that's okay with me. So I decided to attend the congregational church where our good friends attend, because their kids were to perform in the pageant, and I knew the (female! WOOT!) pastor is quite liberal about religion.

I wanted to bring our son with me, but my husband doesn't care to send our son to church when I do get the whim to go. I argued that it was to see his friends; he's only little and won't get what's going on anyway beyond the fact that his friends are up front in silly costumes; and he's going to hear the Jesus story somewhere, probably from his Mormon relatives, so it's better to expose him to the story on our terms, where we can talk about it after. Kind of like parents discussing sex with and introducing alcohol to their kids before their teenage friends introduce them in less-than-safe circumstances.

Yes, I did just compare Jesus to sex and alcohol.

I ended up taking our son, and he cried and screamed and pulled me back down the street toward the car, demanding we go home. Our friend met us on the sidewalk and told my son that there would be a goat and a dog in the church for the pageant, and that got him to calm down a little. It took some more coaxing at the back of the church before I could get him to sit down without screaming, but he did sit through the service. Bored as hell. He liked the goat and the dog, and he liked that he got to stand up and sing. But since he didn't know any of the words, he faked it and sang nonsense, or better yet, naughty, words. By the time the pastor got to the sermon, he was asking, too loudly, to leave. But he survived his first church service in well over a year, and he really liked the treats and the running up and down the aisles at the end.

And I had a nice time, too. It was the first time since leaving that I sang songs about Jesus without cringing. I guess it's just the Christmas spirit.

Have a happy holiday.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Some days I don't even think about it. On those days, I keep up posts by post-dating drafts I wrote before. On those days, I wonder if I can keep up the pace of daily posting. On those days, I wonder if I can even keep up the blog. I wonder if I have said enough. That just by telling my story I've had the therapy I sought after in creating this blog. On those days, I sit at the computer to type, if I've ran out of drafts, but my fingers just gently drum away, not spelling anything. I speak aloud to my husband, "Give me a topic," and he teases me, "You've run out of things to say?"

This isn't one of those days.

Some days it grips me. It grips me like a vice around my chest, heavy and tight. Squeezing me, threatening to squeeze tears out of my eyes. I breath deep, but it doesn't help. It remains, heavy and tight, there, deep in my chest. I take my bike to work to get fresh air and exercise, but it doesn't help clear the sadness out of my mind. I clock in at work, but I can't work. The thoughts push into my head. Not even thoughts, really, more like a mess of dark emotions that doesn't let me do any thinking because the cloud is too thick.

I don't want to feel it. But it is there. I can't shake it. Part of me wants to fight it. To hide quietly in another room and silently scream into a pillow, then get a hold of myself and walk out, act like everything is perfectly normal. Part of me wants to embrace it, let it come until I am just a heap of sobbing on the bed, curled up behind my husband. Let the sobs and wails escape uncontrollably from my normally stoic form, lashing out with sadness and pain in every heaving breath.

And I wonder, which is better?

Note: I wrote this days ago, and the mood passed. It always passes. If it didn't, I'd be seeking professional help.

Friday, December 22, 2006

chocolate and vanilla

I have an on-going in-real-life discussion with a friend about our different reasons for leaving the church and our different recoveries from leaving. Whenever we get together, the talk always seems to move toward Mormonism. Our respective spouses are a bit bored with it, I think. They just want to move on, but our conversations and debates go on into the wee hours of the night.

One recurring point in our debate has revolved around me saying stuff like, "After I decided the church isn't true...," and him countering with, "What is 'true'? You can say the church isn't true for you." Then he'll tell about how he explains his leaving to faithful, believing Mormons with something like, "Church is an aesthetic experience for me. And the Mormon church is ugly." or "It's a matter of taste. You like vanilla; I like chocolate. It's pointless to try to debate or prove whose opinion on ice cream is truer. Your beliefs suit you; mine suit me. You can't argue with that."

To which I might answer, "Trying to get a TBM to compare religions as as matter of taste is pointless. They don't see it as a matter of taste; it's a matter of True and Not True. Even if I like chocolate better, I'm wrong. I'm supposed to like vanilla; they say that vanilla is the Only True Ice Cream and that I can never be happy without accepting vanilla."

or, if I'm feeling feisty and angry,

"But it's not a comparison between chocolate and vanilla. Chocolate and vanilla is Methodist or Episcopalian. With Mormonism and another religion, you are comparing vanilla and shit. And the Mormons are trying their hardest to convince you that you like shit."

Sometimes I think that our fundamentally different views are because he was a convert and I was a born-in. This reflects in our different analogies of leaving. For him, his leaving was like getting off a bus--one that he voluntarily got on. The church served him well for a time, took him someplace, but then it was time to get off again. My leaving was like coming out of a building--a permanent structure that was not going anywhere, and was decrepit, dark, and confining. It makes sense, then, that I'm angrier, and he has a more positive view of the church, one that he even defends against ranting, hyperbolic posts made by ex-mos like me. (Even while he'll say the church is ugly.) I've told him so, basically saying, "You just don't get me because you're a convert." That's not to say that he has nothing valuable to contribute or that converts don't have equally as valid viewpoints as born-ins, but just that it is different. Very different. He escaped the majority of the indoctrination; and even what he did buy into, he did so as an adult, knowing there were other buses he could get on. He had a choice. I was indoctrinated since I was one. Each experience comes with its own baggage.

Or maybe our differences are because he is a man and I am a woman. Like the other night, we were talking about purpose and direction in life. (Note that he'd had several beers by this point and he doesn't even remember this conversation, so this is entirely my interpretation of what I remember from the conversation.) Mormonism gave him a very strong sense of purpose in life. Proclaiming the Gospel; redeeming the dead; perfecting the saints. Achieving eternal life. That's direction. The church was powerful and compelling enough that it convinced him to give up sex, drugs, and alcohol and go on a mission. It had enough purpose and direction to bring people across the great plains to settle in the desert. He was saying "purpose," I was thinking "manipulation." I just couldn't relate.

The church gave strong enough direction, he said--becoming a god, ruling over your own worlds--that it could get him to do anything to achieve that. And now that's gone for him; if he doesn't get to become a god, where is his direction going to come from? And that's where my aha! moment came in that conversation. The version of eternity Mormonism gave him, as a man, had involved being a king and priest, Ruler of Worlds, holding power and dominion over (according to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and D&C 132 as it stands to this day) wives and countless children. The version the church gave me? Not so powerful: I would get to be a queen and priestess unto my husband, one of many wives, popping out countless spirit babies. [sarcasm] Yeah, I was going to try really hard to achieve that. [/sarcasm] Sorry, that failed to give me purpose and direction. So maybe my sense of loss of direction isn't quite as piercing.

Then, for another reason, I asked him to explain to me different philosophical conceptions of "truth." And then I understood another reason we were talking past each other. But that'll come in another post...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

winter solstice and ritual

I grew up thinking that pagans were the epitome of evil. Worse than Catholics or Muslims, because at least they believed in God. My exposure to pagans and paganism was extremely limited, of course. My only exposure, I think, was from the movie Dragnet with Dan Aykroyd. Those pagans partied, did drugs, stole police cars, dressed in animal skins, and sacrificed virgins. And wasn't there something about playboy bunnies? They were bad. Okay, so I still think sacrificing virgins or anyone else is definitely not a good idea, but my thoughts on paganism have changed.

Not that I've studied about it. A few pokes around internet sites like Beliefnet. The idea of something pre-Christian appeals to me, though. I like the idea of appreciating and caring for the earth and nature, marking the seasons, even to the point of worship, finding peace and fulfillment in it.

And I kind of like the idea of running half naked around a campfire at midnight. (I saw some more-than-cool Irish folks doing that in National Geographic. Jealous!)

Anybody in? Maybe that could accompany a sEXMObile party (thanks Gluby and Degenerate Elite)?

So for this holiday season, I decided to look up some winter solstice activities. I found some ideas at Circle Sanctuary and thought they looked interesting. Trouble is, I think it would feel so forced and artificial if we just started adopting random rituals. Kind of like how lighting the Hanukkah candles felt.

Christmas rituals have so much history with me; there are so many memories tied up into them. The building anticipation, sneaking around the house looking for presents, having a giant sleepover with my siblings, pretending to sleep while really listening for the sound of my parents bringing out the gifts. Cooking Christmas treats, opening one present on Christmas Eve, having a little Christmas program with relatives. Thrashing through the wrapping paper, making a huge mess. Spending all of Christmas day in pajamas, eating junk and snacks, playing with our new toys. Breaking the most popular ones by the end of the day, because we played with them so hard.

These are the reasons I want to keep up the holiday with my son. The secular, Santa side is a great holiday in itself. It managed to be more appealing to me as a kid than the Jesus story. The nativity story factored in only because my parents forced it in; we had to listen to them read Luke 2 before we could go downstairs to see the presents. Their little effort to keep the "true meaning of Christmas" in our minds. Yeah, yeah, let us get to the presents!

I suppose my son is young enough that if we did start some new rituals, they would feel like heritage and tradition to him. So why not? Bring on the Yule wreath, and celebrate with awe how the sun (S-U-N) brings us life.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

holidays, this year

I've moved further away from Christianity and Jesus since last Christmas. I finally understand why and am appreciative when people say, "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Our town is quite diverse, and while most are probably Christian or of Christian heritage, there are plenty who are Jewish, Muslim, African-American celebrators of Kwanzaa, pagans, secularists, etc.

Not that I've abandoned Christmas. It has a highly-developed secular side. We've put up a Christmas tree because it's part of our heritage, happy childhood memories, and because Christmas can be celebrated quite well as a secular holiday. So many of the symbols of Christmas time are really pagan symbols anyway--the Yule log, the wreath, mistletoe, candles.

I've even put up that nativity set that has sentimental value; I just haven't bothered to keep it in order. We use the camel to hold open the entertainment center door. Whatever. My son doesn't have any interest in it. And that's fine with me. I thought of taking him to a Sunday Christmas church service at a local liberal Protestant church, because his friends will be in the program. My husband would rather not, though, because growing up in America, he'll get plenty of exposure to Jesus and Christianity; it's not like we need to go seek it out. Jesus can be a little in-your-face in the US.

I still cringe a little when Jesus-oriented Christmas songs come on the radio. And I don't really care for secular Christmas songs either. In general, they are overdone and overly cheesy. And yet I found myself humming O Holy Night, and singing Silent Night to my son at bedtime. Because it's just a pretty song to him. He's not going to ask what the hell "round yon virgin mother" means.

The main difference about this year is we're staying home. Mostly that had to do with flights being too expensive. But I'm glad. This is the first year we'll have Christmas with just us, our family of three. It's validating, like we're finally our own family. And it's a bit of a relief: we can avoid Jesus, and do it our own way. It also made Christmas more festive, since we actually put up a tree and decorated it. We'd never done that with our son. The ornaments have memories attached to them; the lights twinkle in a comforting way; the smell of the pine hits when I walk in the door and it makes me smile.

We've also incorporated a little Hanukkah this year. Last year we talked about it, but didn't do anything. This year, our son has several Jewish friends and learned about the different December holidays in preschool. One day, he announced, "We have Christmas; David has Hanukkah. But we are still friends." So we set out a makeshift menorah and have been lighting candles every night. Since we don't know the appropriate Hebrew song to accompany the lighting of the candles, I made up a new ritual. With each candle we light, we say the name of a person we love. It gets us thinking about family and connections, and I like that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Last December was my first holiday season as both an ex-Mormon and an ex-Christian. (A lot of Christians would say I never was a Christian, but I'll get into that debate another time. I believed in the divinity of Jesus. Then I didn't. For today, I'll consider that ex-Christian, though there are plenty of Christians who don't believe in his divinity. Anyway...) I was rather torn about celebrating Christmas, since to me the holiday meant "Jesus' birthday" as much as it did "gift-giving, family, Santa," etc.

I felt something of a loss, and wondered if Christmas could still be Christmas without belief in Jesus. I fidgeted about my nativity sets. I got a knot in my stomach when I heard Jesus-oriented Christmas songs on the radio. It just all felt so weird.

That December, I wrote

This is the first Christmas we have not believed in the divinity of Jesus--or even think of him as the best example of how to live our lives. So pulling out the decorations and finding not just one, but three nativity sets, was a bit conflicted. My son immediately recognized Baby Jesus. (How does he remember, anyway?)

For those of you who are not believing Christians anymore, how is the transition from Christmas as the Son of God's birthday to Christmas as a secular holiday?

So far, I'm appreciating it. Family, gift giving, parties, friends, break from school/work. But what do I do with Jesus? Excise him? Keep the nativity set and just teach my son the birth story as a story like the Three Bears? Be sure to attend a Hare Krishna festival when that comes around or read some Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books to balance it all out? Teach that we remember Jesus as a nice guy?

I ended up putting out one nativity set, because it has sentimental value, and I still appreciated the Jesus story as having heritage-value. My husband expressed his feelings about it by switching the nativity figures around, putting Jesus in the back one day, or having Joseph and Mary crouching over a donkey or a sheep instead of the manger. (Blasphemy, I know!) It annoyed me. I guess I still had a place in my heart for baby Jesus.

We celebrated it as a secular holiday in our hearts, but we were with extended, Mormon family, who celebrated by inviting ward members over and singing Christmas songs from the Mormon hymn book and reading the Luke 2 story. It made me kind of sick, especially since probably a third of those in attendance weren't believing Mormons (I didn't know their thoughts on Jesus).

It felt like the believers were demanding belief. And it was their house, so, fine, do what you want in your house. But what about being respectful to guests, accommodating them? It turned out the little program was right during my son's bedtime, and he wasn't feeling good, so I took the opportunity to be a good mother and take him in the other room for the duration. I returned once they were past the religious part and started just hanging out and appreciating the presence of family and friends. Which is the best part of holidays anyway.

Monday, December 18, 2006

This I Believe

When I first discovered NPR’s This I Believe, I had just gone through a distressing process of realizing what I didn’t believe. Since then, it’s been easier to pinpoint what I don’t believe than what I do. But listening to the segment helps me realize I don’t want to define myself by my unbelief; I want to define myself according to what I do believe. In asking myself what I believe, I’ve come to see that the very exploration of belief is the important thing.

I believe that asking questions can be more important than having the answers.

Until I was in my mid-20’s, I believed very strongly in the version of God I had been raised to believe in. This God was one that had already provided all the answers to life’s great questions; how could one resist believing in such a God? When I reevaluated my belief system, I realized I simply could not be a part of something so religiously chauvinistic and so omniscient.

Leaving my belief system, letting go of that God and all his answers, was frightening and enlightening at the same time. When my world view came crashing down around me, everything I had ever believed, and everything I had thought I knew, came into question. Beyond all the dust and rubble of my old life, I saw a new life. It was as if light touched my skin for the first time, and there was a whole new world before me to discover. I began asking questions like I never had before in order to explore my new world and my new self.

I realized that I had never asked some of the most important questions in life, because they had been answered for me before I even knew what the questions were. Is there a God? What is the purpose of life? What is my role to play in life? Is there consciousness after death? The questions are simple, complex, and universal. I know they’ve been asked before, probably billions of times. But this time, they are my questions. I may be asking these same questions my entire life, and I’m okay with that. I have found more peace and exhilaration in asking my questions than I had in having "all the answers."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

am I betraying them?

I couldn't care less about the church and the Strengthening the Members Committee and church discipline if they were to care about my blog. Not that they will. I don't care that I'm open about my feelings about the church, that I call into question the origins and doctrines, that I talk openly about garments and temples. Whether my tone is angry, contemplative, sorrowful, happy, or indifferent, I'll say what I need to about the church and the church consequences be damned. As my husband teased me, "Now you're officially an anti-Mormon because of the blog." I could officially be ex'ed. And I'm fine with that. That's just one more count against the church, ex'ing someone for freedom of expression and difference of opinion.

But why is it that with this blog, I feel like I'm betraying my family? They would be shocked if they found this, and absolutely devastated if they found out I wrote it. They know I'm "inactive," that I've "strayed from the straight and narrow," "let go of the iron rod." But I'm horrified at the thought of any one of them finding my online persona.

So why do I write what I do? Why don't I keep the swearing down, the insults out, and talk on a more respectful publishable-in-Sunstone-let's-agree-to-disagree kind of posts? Ones that, while they would disagree with me, I wouldn't be ashamed of if they did find them?

I wish I could say that I truly think that Mormonism is just one of many belief systems, all on par with each other, but different to suit different people's needs. But I can't say that in total honesty. I actually do believe Mormonism has some good aspects, and for a certain kind of person, it works well enough. But I do think it's lesser, and I do think it has a lot of destructive aspects. While I see religions as presenting many valid paths, I see the Mormon path as a largely negative one.

While I can say to my family, "We've just chosen different paths, let's respect each other's space," I still harbor a hope that they will reevaluate their beliefs and give up Mormon literalism. I still think that anyone is better off if they really take the chance to ask the big questions in life, outside of Mormon epistemology of "if it feels good, it's true."

Is that two-faced of me? Part of me feels like it is. But part of me knows that they are thinking the same about me. That they say, "Okay, do your thing, we'll respect your changing beliefs," to my face, but really they believe that I'll come back to the fold. Really, they don't see my atheism as one valid path of many.

Maybe someday I'll get to that post-Mormon place where I can respect Mormonism as a religion again. Respect, but disagree. Just like I do with Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism. Maybe someday, I'll be able to make a long list of good things Mormonism did for me.

But until then, I'll post critically if I need to.

Perhaps happiness is the key. If I am happy on my path, my family should respect that. And I am happy. If they are happy within Mormonism, I should respect that. As long as they are happy. Are they happy? And if they are, are they happy because of Mormonism or despite Mormonism?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

social lubricant

Since I'm on a word of wisdom-busting kick, might as well continue.

One great thing about alcohol, for me, is its value as a social lubricant. Sure, it's fun to cook with, a glass of wine with dinner makes it more satisfying, and I finally feel like a grown-up. But the fact that alcohol loosens me up, drops that awkward shyness I have around people I don't know well, and lets me just talk and have fun--that is magic.

I can't count the number of dinner parties I suffered through, having declined any wine as good Mormon girls do. But with that wine glass in hand, that faint rush to my brain that subtly asks, "Who gives a damn?" I can converse, debate, joke, and chill with the rest of them. At the very least, we can talk about the wine and at what point I realized I, or they, had a little too much. Because by then, it's just funny. And even if I recognize how stupid I'm being, I just can't care.

Take last night, for example. Our good friends invited us to go out to a club. We've known this couple for years, and always have fun with them. And they also invited several people from their respective jobs, people I didn't know at all. The group ended up being eight, which caused me a little trepidation. But I heartily sipped two shots of black cherry vodka (liquid candy with a kick), gulped a shot of Canadian whiskey to loosen up. And that was before we left for the club. By the time we got there, I was chatting away with my friends' friends like we'd known each other since high school. I had one more drink, enjoyed the buzz for hours, danced, and had a great time. Didn't get in until 2:30am. And for a woman with a 4-year old, that's something.

Friday, December 15, 2006

first coffee

After we moved out of Utah, I got my office job. The first thing that struck me when I walked into that office to sign all the hiring paperwork (the interview had been elsewhere) was the smell of coffee. A slightly burnt caramel-ish coffee. I didn't like the smell. It was way too strong, permeating every corner of the office, and represented heathenism to me. The office manager offered to get me some coffee or tea, and I quickly declined. Thank goodness I didn't blurt out, "No, I'm Mormon." I've done that before, and I've regretted every time.

I still was a very believing, practicing Mormon at the time, and I'd never even considered wanting coffee. Not only did God disapprove, but I couldn't stand the smell. Or the flavor, based on accidentally mistaking coffee Jelly Bellys for chocolate or root beer or whatever. We avoided coffee flavored candy and ice cream like the plague--what if they had real coffee in them, and, by eating a piece of candy, I was breaking the Word of Wisdom?

The smell was strongest at my desk, since it was closest to the kitchen, where the coffee brewed in two pots, regular for the office, and decaf for the boss. Don't touch the boss's decaf.

After working there for a few months, and seeing everyone going in and out of the kitchen with their insulated, disposable cups of coffee multiple times a day, I started to feel a little stupid. Like it was somehow out of place of me to work in the office and not drink the coffee. Instead of giving in to the coffee, though, since I was still Mormon and still didn't like the smell, I started drinking the hot chocolate I found in the cupboard. It was just powdered swiss miss packets, but I felt a little more "one of us" now that I had a cup at my desk. I'm sure they could tell it was just hot chocolate from the smell, but no one ever commented on it. I felt a little childish, like hot chocolate is the kid's version of coffee. But I liked it.

Sometime after I stopped believing (was it within a week? a month?), I made the leap to the coffee. Was it the regular or the decaf? Was I too scared to touch the boss's decaf? Or did I try it anyway because I wanted the try the flavor, not the caffeine? I honestly can't remember. I do remember I didn't like it, even after I poured sugar and half-and-half into it. I think I put in two packets of sugar, and still didn't like it. But three packets was too much, too sweet. Did I finished it anyway? Or did I let the last of it get cold, sitting next to my computer? The memory eludes me.

I didn't tell my husband. It was my little secret rebellion for a couple weeks, until I found him with a cup from the local coffee shop in his hand. He'd been so weirded out by the whole purchase that he didn't even put sugar or milk in it, not sure how this all worked. Neither of us liked that cup, black and strong.

For a while, I mixed my cups of office coffee with hot chocolate, made my own little mocha. Eventually, I've come to appreciate the flavors (yes, flavors! who knew?) of coffee, and I can even take it black now, if I'm in the mood. One of my favorite late afternoon snacks this summer was black coffee and sugar dates from the Middle East. Sweet and bitter.

It took us until a couple months ago to get the guts up to buy a coffee maker. How can you decide with all those models and features? We just picked one that looks good, and it's served us well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

first sip of wine

One day, right at the time we had stopped attending the Mormon church, I brought up alcohol with my husband. Now that we believed the Word of Wisdom was nothing but Joe Smith's way to please his wife (couldn't he just have tried being faithful, don't you think that would've worked better than "Thus saith the Lord"?), we could reevaluate the taboo against coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco (no, thanks) for ourselves.

So I asked my husband if he thought he'd try alcohol. --I don't know, probably not. I've gone this long without it...

Yeah, I said. Why start? It's not like it's good for you. It's calories and loosing control, and I have relatives who are alcoholics. Might as well not mess with it.

Two weeks later, we had our neighbors over for dinner. They didn't know we were once Mormon, and, since they're not from the US or Europe, they probably didn't know what Mormons were or did anyway. They brought wine. Perfectly sensible, appropriate, polite thing to do. But it threw me into a little internal crisis.

There were four of us. The wife we invited over was pregnant, so she wouldn't partake. And we didn't drink, which would leave only the husband, the man who brought the wine to be polite, to drink. I thought, this is silly, I can't decline wine and risk insult when my only reason for declining would be what? I used to be Mormon? And I didn't want to get into our history. (I still haven't brought it up with them; they don't know they introduced us to alcohol.)

I leaned into my husband and said, "I will if you will."

Yep, my first alcohol was because of peer pressure. And I applied the peer pressure to my husband (he probably wanted to anyway, I don't know). We didn't even have wine glasses. We drank it out of plastic tumblers with colorful stripes around them. I only had a couple ounces. Took it slow, since I had no idea what alcohol would do to me. I didn't even drink enough to feel anything, not even a warmth in my stomach.

It didn't taste very good. It was a semi-dry white. I couldn't tell you what varietal. (Why don't they just say variety? Varietal shouldn't be a noun.)

The next night, I pulled out the bottle and had a bigger glass. Let myself feel what it did to my body. I liked it. Not a buzz, but a warmth. It took me a couple months before I actually got drunk, in the company of my husband, a Jack Mormon, a never-Mormon, and some practicing Mormons (all of whom had their share of getting drunk in the past). My goal had been to get drunk, downing drinks way faster than I ever have since. I knew I was drunk when, on the way to the bathroom, I tripped over nothing, and lay there laughing while sober people looked at me thinking I was an idiot. But I didn't care; I was drunk, and I was happy as hell.

The hangover lasted until 3pm the next day.

Now, the first time I got drunk in Utah--that was a great experience. Salt Lake City, in a bar, listening to great music, with friends. It was a hooka bar and everyone was smoking from the hooka, but I just couldn't do it. Even though everyone was saying, "Oh, come on, it barely has any tobacco in it. It's fine." Which was probably true. The tobacco taboo is just way too strong for me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

why the obsession with coffee and alcohol?

Why is it that I feel the need to talk about alcohol and coffee and my consumption of them? Why is it an issue at all? Why don't I just partake and not feel the need to justify it? Why don't I just shut up about it? I must've mentioned it five times already on this blog, and I certainly talk about it with my ex-mo friends in person (usually while we're drinking it). Of all the subjects I could be posting about, why does alcohol take such precedence?

Partly, I suppose, it's just that there's this whole world of alcohol and coffee I never knew much about, and there's a fascination with discovering it all. All the varietals of wine, the years, the vineyards, the aromas, and I don't even know what else. The endless questions about which wine goes well with which food and which weather. Just the other night I discovered that the extra sharp cheddar from my fridge went really well with the red I had. And that I like pinot noir. At least I liked the bottle we had over a game of Texas hold 'em. Yeah, I know red wine and poker don't normally go together, but it worked, because it got me a nice buzz, and I'm happy when I'm a bit drunk. I can always claim ignorance: but I was raised Mormon! There was never a bottle of wine in my house! Or beer, for that matter, so how am I supposed to know which goes with which?

And beer. Turns out there are more taste combinations with beer than there are for wine. Who knew? Between the hops, the malt, the different grains, the extra flavors, the barrels it's aged in, and who knows what else, you can get all sorts of flavors. Forget Miller and Bud and Coors, all those beers I saw advertised when I was a kid, the ones we joked were really made from bear piss. (Except we didn't say piss; that as a swear word in my house.) I'll go with Sam Adams summer white or oktoberfest. How about Rasputin Imperial, with flavors of malt, caramel, and coffee? Or Ephermere cranberry, or a Tusker from Kenya. Try them all. Tonight, we had brats boiled in Stella, butter, and onions, then grilled. (Sorry, Zarathustra, to use Stella that way, but it's the only beer we had.)

And don't get me started on liquor. I'll just say a shot of tequila goes a long way to ease a social situation.

But why does it even matter to me? Why can't I just be normal and drink it, commenting now and then on how nice a wine is, or how I found a great deal on a sauvignon blanc. 'Cause normal people (people not raised Mormon) talk about it, but only in the way they would talk about any food. "Oh, these almonds really accent the salad well; good choice of white; we're switching to red for the main course; that dessert looks luscious."

Mostly, I suppose, it's that I was raised to think that alcohol and coffee are evil. Forbidden in a way that never had an appeal to me. Never mind that I had relatives who drank; we just pretended they didn't, or talked about how it ruined their lives, or, more importantly, their eternal souls. Getting drunk was just wild and crazy and stupid; who needed to get drunk to have fun? We have plenty of fun playing Taboo and Scattergories and watching PG movies! See how much fun we're having? (Yeah, you don't need to get drunk to have fun, but a buzz certainly helps.)

So is it some residual guilt that drives me to talk about it, justify it? Or is it that it so symbolically, so visibly, so easily marks my passage out? It's the most obvious marker of an apostate, and therefore, somehow the most horrid, too. "She went off the deep end. And started drinking and everything!"

Of all the things that are different about my life on the outside, alcohol is the least important change. So why does it get so much of my attention? Because I didn't get my drunk-every-weekend college years? Because I don't have the stories where I woke up, not knowing where I was and how I got there? (I've never been that drunk, and I don't want to be. I'm a mother; that ship has sailed.) I don't think that's it. I missed out, but all that comes with a lot of hangovers. I've had two, and that's plenty.

Hey, I haven't even told the stories about my first alcohol and coffee. Those small but significant acts of rebellion against my old world view; those rites of passage into...normalcy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

it's not a big deal

I met a fellow former Mormon friend for lunch the other day, and afterwards, we headed to a local coffee shop for an afternoon pick-me-up.

"You know," she said, "of the Mormon 'forbidden fruits,' I like coffee the best. It helps me get through a long day, and just a quarter of a cup will wake me up when I need it to finish work."

"Coffee doesn't affect me so much as that," I said. "I like it, but I have to drink a couple cups to notice any affect. But if I drink too much in one morning, I'll have a buzz so bad I can't concentrate. My brain gets too wired. But I sure do like the social effects of alcohol."

"Oh, yeah, I like alcohol. I really enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. But I can't just drink. All it does is make me tired, so it kills the possibility of helping in an awkward social situation."

Alcohol, I've found, makes me more relaxed and talkative. It really helps in a dinner party, because I'm a little shy, especially around people I don't know well.

The point is we've both picked up coffee and alcohol since leaving Mormonism, yes, but we've also been able to be rational, reasonable decision-makers about it. We cautiously eased our ways in, and have observed how it affects us personally. We know our limits. We can say yes, we can say no. It's just not a big deal.

Monday, December 11, 2006

how they blame my husband, and how I hate that

The attitude in our families seem to be that Husband somehow led me out of the church; manipulated or influenced me to turn my back on the church. Multiple people have made this comment to us directly; I know the attitude has been expressed to others within the family.

I want to make it very clear that this is simply not true. My decisions are mine. They happen to correlate with Husband’s, and our decisions happen to follow the same time frame, but there was no amount of influencing, pressure, manipulating, guilt-tripping, or brainwashing—on either side.

What is more, I find the attitude to be incredibly insulting to both Husband and to me. It insults Husband because it makes him an evil, manipulative jerk. It is insulting to me because it presupposes that I am an idiot who can’t think for myself.

If you think about what you know about my personality and about Husband’s, you will know that the Husband-corrupted-Wife model doesn’t fit either of us. As for me, I am smart, analytical, and stubborn; won’t do anything just because somebody else wants me to; always sought out (and found) an equal relationship with my spouse; and grew up with and cherished my very strong testimony of the church. Husband is also smart, analytical, and stubborn; never one to push his opinions or beliefs onto others; has always seen us as absolute equals in our relationship; was not “bad” or “rebellious”; respects others, and also had a strong testimony. He wanted the temple marriage just as much as I did; he was just as “worthy” as I was. None of that has changed, expect for the testimony part.

Why is that no one ever has supposed that it was me who “led” Husband out? Perhaps it’s because I was so faithful growing up (but so was Husband). Perhaps it’s because Husband is the man and an elder, and thus seen as the head, the leader, the one more responsible for our salvation, and so more responsible for our leaving.

Perhaps people think that I saw Husband leaving and looked at my options (according to Mormonism):

-If I stayed faithful, I could set a good enough example to bring him back. (I thought that crossed my mind, but I entertained for only about two seconds.)
-I could divorce him and marry a faithful man. (Never considered it.)
-I could stay faithful and still make it to the celestial kingdom and be married off (as a plural wife, probably) to a man who had stayed faithful. (An abhorrent idea, one that has ruined many “for time” in/out relationships that could have otherwise been great.)

What really were my thoughts when Husband and I finally talked about our changing beliefs:

-I have to figure this out for myself.
-Husband is a wonderful husband, father, and a great man.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

split identity

I have two blogs. One, my family and some old friends read. Some of them know about my exit from the Mormon church, some of them don't. That blog is not the place I want anyone to find out. So I keep it superficial. Little updates on my life here and there, some pictures, but mostly it's a show-the-kid-off fest. My family gets a little glimpse into our lives and feel like they're keeping up somewhat.

But I hide so much. That's not me they're reading. It's a watered-down version. I like to talk about a lot of different subjects, religion, politics, history, books, international affairs that I just don't mention there. It's not the place; it would just make them uncomfortable. And most of that stuff just wouldn't interest them.

I also don't want to mention certain things that they would interpret with the TBM/apostate distortion lens. You know the one, where everything I do and think is recast with "She's a bitter apostate" or "She's lost, confused, and can't remember where to find the truth." And everything that happens to me is interpreted as either from the devil (because I'm an apostate and hence don't enjoy the protection of the Spirit) or from God (with the purpose of humbling me back into the church).

So instead of saying, "Hey, I'm having a hard time getting my son to obey me," I just pretend everything's hunky-dory. Can't have them thinking I'm struggling, can I? Instead of telling them the truth and asking for advise, I just tell the good stuff. Like it's my job to prove that ex-Mormons can be happy, too.

I've fallen right into the keeping-up-appearances Mormons are so good at. It's just good that life is pretty good right now, or else my two-facedness would be killing me.

My other blog is, of course, this one. Here, I'm open as I want to be about religion. All that stuff I can't and never will say to my family, I can say here. I'm free in that realm, and it feels good.

But there's plenty I don't write here, too. For the sake of anonymity, I don't write about some of the most pressing, personal aspects of family relations. What if they read it and recognize themselves? I don't write about work or what interests me in my career, because I feel it's too identifying. My interests and hobbies relate so much to my career that I can't talk about those either.

And it kind of leaves me split. I've got my superficial self, and I've got my ex-Mormon self. But what about me? I feel like there's not place for me to just be me.

I think this is more than just about blogging. It's about this recovering ex-Mormon doppelgaenger, split between two worlds, trying to figure out who I was and who I am. It's about finding a place where I am comfortable enough to just be myself. A time when I'm not always putting on this or that mask to fit the circumstances.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

ain't no fool

Agnostic Mom alerted readers to this video about brilliant, famous, and influential atheists. Check it out.

I'm interested in what you think about it.

(Sorry, I'm busy.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

a new wedding?

We’ve played with the idea of renewing our vows, maybe on our 10th anniversary. Plan things how we want it, where we want it. Write our own vows, invite who we want. The idea is appealing. Reassert our own authority over our own marriage. I doubt we’d have any sort of religious leader-figure there.

At the same time, it wouldn’t mean much to our families. While we would see it as a great opportunity to renew and revitalize, to express our love and commitment, our families would see it as empty, pointless. A mere shadow of what “real” marriage ceremonies are all about. When I was a judgmental TBM (and I was embarrassingly judgmental), I attended the most beautiful wedding in a gorgeous garden where the bride and groom spoke their own vows. And I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “Oh, yeah, this is nice, but it’s too bad they aren’t getting married in the temple. Hopefully someday they will.” (Gag.)

So what if my family thinks that about me? Do I care? Well, yeah, I do. Because, for me, weddings are about family. Marriages are about two people; weddings are about bringing families together. About the families, the community, and the society acknowledging the new union as a new family unit.

But I already did the whole wedding thing. Renewing vows would be about marriage. So we can do whatever we want. And not invite family. Just invite friends, ones who would understand. Am I being too harsh on my family? Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt, and allow myself to think that maybe they would understand vow renewal. Maybe it would be good for them to see that even ex-mos can be in love and committed. Yes, it’s true: ex-Mormons can be happy. Truly happy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

love bomb

Since our awakening and subsequent non-attendance of Mormon church functions, we've been left pretty well alone. Within the first month of leaving, the bishop tried to schedule appointments twice; the RS president (a friend) asked why we weren't showing up to church anymore and tried to get us to talk to an budding apologist; I was given saccharine smiles and several "It's so nice to see you here" when I was stupid enough to attend an women's enrichment night activity; and we were asked if we still wanted home and visiting teachers (no, thanks).

After that little flurry of interest in our eternal welfares, we haven't been contacted except in mass emailings about baby showers, group fasts, temple trips, and help-our-neighbor-move-it-might-help-convert-him! requests, because we've been too lazy to just ask to be removed from the email lists. (I just got around to that.)

The silence from the church has been fine by us. I especially like that the primary hasn't tried to recruit our son into sunbeams. Such a tiny little act would probably be that last straw for me.

So I was a little befuddled when the doorbell rang last night. I went to the front door, and looking through the window saw two young, smartly dressed men I didn't recognize. I thought, "No way, they sent the missionaries!?! I'm totally not letting them in." But as I thought that, I looked at one of their chest pockets and didn't see the tell-tale missionary name tag. Then I thought, "Oh, it must be the stupid doorbells again." Sometimes when people ring our upstairs neighbors, our doorbell goes off by mistake and I open the door to some very confused-looking dinner guests.

As I opened the door to the two guys last night, I was about to say, "Oh, don't worry about it, the doorbells got crossed," and let them in to head up the stairs to the flat above. But the looks on their faces told me that I was exactly the person they were looking for. Then it finally dawned on me (all this took about 4 seconds): Home Teachers.

They were here to wish us a Merry Christmas (not the "happy holidays" one so frequently hears in our culturally diverse city) and drop off a present. They got in a few smiles and how-are-yous and please-come-to-this-or-that-activity, and thankfully never asked to actually come in.

They were ready to say goodbye when I reminded them that I didn't actually know their names, since I've never seen them before. (They, of course, know exactly who we are: one of three or four inactive families on their home teaching list.) They introduced themselves and left.

And that's the story of our first love bomb. I was kind of amused by the whole thing, really. I can't be mad at the men; they had the best intentions in their minds.

But the ward Christmas party they invited us to?

I'll pass, thanks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

metaphors for changing views of the church

I connected the dots.

The walls fell down.

The pieces of the puzzle came together. (magic cicero's idea)

The walls of the compartments in my brain melted and all the knowledge could mesh together.

Truman left the building (from the Truman Show).

The light bulbs went on.

The ground shifted (Sister Mary Lisa's idea)

The world was in black and white, and now in color (Sister Mary Lisa's idea)

I came out of my eggshell. (a new eric's idea)

I stepped off the bus. (Zarathustra's idea)

I took the red pill (from the Matrix).

Any more?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

learning how to deal with emotions

I promised to go through my exit emotions one by one. I've got a couple of the posts out, but I haven't been able to move on with the rest. It's too much of a jumble, it's too hard to separate them out, too hard to explain. It's hard to remember and confront those emotions. It's hard to know what emotions I'm feeling when I feel them.

I never learned to feel emotion. Really feel it. I had been taught and taught myself to feel the Spirit and nothing else. I was okay, I was doing the right thing, I was winning God's and family's approval if I was feeling the Spirit. Anything else was unacceptable.

I have to learn to let myself feel.

Let myself feel.

How have I missed out on learning how to understand and deal with negative emotions?

There is a trend now to consciously teach children to recognize, accept, and work through negative emotions. There are books like My Many Colored Days, Yesterday I Had the Blues, When You're Angry and You Know It, and Blue Day Book for Kids. These books are refreshing. They are simple, written as they for children. I love them because they teach not just my son, but also me, about emotions. That emotions are so much more complicated than "of God" and "of the devil."

And it's taking some time to figure them out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

exiting emotions: sadness

When I realized the church isn’t The One True Church, I felt sad.

I was sad because I’d given so much of my self and my life to the church, and for what? I was sad because I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was sad because my family and friends hadn’t seen what I’d seen regarding the church, and most of them probably never will. I was sad because so many people had given their lives to the church, and for what? I was sad because I lost everything I knew, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I was sad because so much time, money, and effort goes into the church—a portion of it from me—and for what? I was sad for all the hours of temple work. For all the dollars in tithing. For all the Sundays, for all the Monday nights, for all the mutual nights, for what? I felt sad because it was just lies.

I was sad because I'd lost so much of myself. I lost the only world I ever knew. I feel sad because my family will never understand me. I am sad because I shut off a part of myself when I'm with them. I feel sad because we have to accommodate each other, tip toe around each other, instead of just loving each other and enjoying each other's company.

"Sadness soaks into my heart like days of rain soak into the earth." A north Vietnamese woman, a doctor in the Vietnam war, wrote that in her journal many years ago. She was killed long ago, but her journal just came out to the public. I heard the translation on a podcast, and it resonated with me. I knew what she meant. Some days, still, this long after leaving, my heart is saturated with sadness. It pulls me down until I am too heavy to move.

It's not every day; it's not all the time. But it is heavy and painful.

An example of how I was taught to deal with sadness: the Mormon children's song "If you chance to meet a frown."

"If you chance to meet a frown

Do not let it stay.

Quickly turn it upside down

And smile that frown away."

In other words, "This is how to deal with sadness: pretend you're not sad until it goes away." Fake it until you make it. Nothing about sadness as a legitimate state of being; nothing about reasons one might feel sad; nothing about what sadness feels like; nothing about how to get through it; nothing about how pretending could be more damaging.

Sure, I prefer happy to sad. But that doesn't mean I can ignore sad when it comes. As painful as it is, I have to let myself feel it in order to get through it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"are you Mormon?"

I live outside Utah. Mormonism doesn’t come up in my regular daily interactions with people at work or I the neighborhood. But I’ve got a past that indicates my Mormonism with a great, blinking neon light. And if anyone politely asks me where I’m from, usually just to make light conversation, they are in for a little surprise.

Where are you from? Utah

Where’d you go to school? BYU

Several things can happen at that point.

-The questioner may get a knowing look in her eyes, perhaps a little nervous, perhaps a little amused or even disgusted, and looks away. End of conversation. Some are tactful enough to change the subject. Others can’t force anything out more than a trying-to-be-polite, “Oh,” and make every nonverbal indication that they’d not like to talk anymore. This makes me want to volunteer, “I’m not Mormon.”

-The questioner may say, “Oh, cool, do you know so-and-so?” Okay, that’s only happened once, and it really surprised me.

-The questioner may say, bravely, “Are you Mormon?” To which I answer, “I used to be,” or “I was raised Mormon.”

At this point, there are any of several reactions.

-Some are interested in pursuing the conversation because they have an overblown idea of what it means to be LDS and therefore what it takes to leave. They ask if my dad is a polygamist. They wonder if I still have contact with my family. In their imaginations my bondage and escape were physical and visible.

-Some aren’t interested in the conversation because they just don’t care. Maybe because they know very little about Mormonism, or maybe they care little about religion, being non-religious themselves.

Whatever their reaction, I’m embarrassed about my past. And I hate that I’m embarrassed.

I also hate that when I do get someone who wants to ask about it, the flood gates open and way too much information pours out. And they’re thinking, “I just wanted to make polite conversation…

But I'm getting better at controlling my reaction. I got asked four times in the past week about my past, and I just stated it matter-of-factly without only a tad of internal embarrassment.

(And, no, my dad is not a polygamist.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I had some favorite hymns when I was a believing Mormon. O, My Father; Abide with Me; Lead, Kindly Light; O Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief; I Need Thee Every Hour; The Spirit of God. I liked them fine for church settings, though it wasn't the kind of music I listened to outside of church. Is there a theme to the hymns I liked? Perhaps they point to a personal, emotional relationship with a kind and loving God. (I haven't gone back to look at the lyrics, but that's the impression I have from memory.)

The worst part of the hymns in church was their ethnocentricity. They're Protestant. They come from a European/American tradition. Which is okay for European/American people. To us, those are the types of songs that feel churchy, spiritual, because that's what we've been raised with. But with the expanding world church, what is it like for Japanese and Kenyans and Inuits (are there any Mormon Inuits?) to sing them? Couldn't the hymns and church music (and other aspects of worship) be adapted a little more for local settings? Local instruments, local melodies, local rhythms, local cadences? Wouldn't that resonate more with people than these strange Protestant hymns, often sung in English because the hymnals haven't been translated into Shona and Telugu and Qichee?

When I was young, I preferred any song that was faster, with (for a hymn) a more upbeat pace. Come, Come Ye Saints; Praise to the Man (the tune to that is a drinking song, by the way); Battle Hymn of the Republic. They kept me awake in otherwise boring meetings. (I also doodled on the program, played thumb ways with siblings, counted light fixtures or architectural features, played tick tac toe.)

Later, I began to despise Come, Come Ye Saints because the sesquecentennial celebration of the Mormon pioneer trek got way too much emphasis. I just got sick of pioneers, never mind that some of them were my ancestors. Faith in Every Footstep. Yeah, whatever, keep it to yourself. And once I learned more about Joseph Smith, I just couldn't sing a praise hymn to him.

I also came to despise Battle Hymn of the Republic and other militarized hymns. In the last months of my attending church, I couldn't even bring myself to sing the words. I just sat there, silent, uncomfortable. "Putting on the whole armor of God," "defending truth and righteousness," "the battle of the last days," never resonated with me. I'm not a military, fighting, confrontational person. I didn't like having my religion encourage that, especially since my interpretation of Christianity and God involved peace and love, not war and revenge. (Even though both versions of God can be gleamed from the Bible and Mormon scriptures.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

on not telling the bishop

When I stopped going to church, I didn't tell the bishop. For a while, I was torn about that. On the one hand, he was my ecclesiastical leader, so he felt logistic responsibility over me as a member of his ward, and spiritual responsibility over me as one of his flock. It would be common courtesy to at least inform him that I'd not longer be coming, right?

There were other reasons to not bother. He didn't know me. He always got my name wrong. What was he to me, other than the man assigned to me by other people higher up in the hierarchy? I no longer saw him as my spiritual leader; I felt he had no authority over me any more.

I also figured that if I did agree to an appointment with him (which he tried to schedule twice), he would be of no help. He would tell me I was wrong and try to get me to come back, to reconsider, to read some scriptures. He would have lectured; not listened. He would ask me to tell him my personal business. But why should I have? Tell my personal spirituality to a bare acquaintance?

Would it be of any use to tell him why I was leaving? Would my voice add to and become a force with all those other disaffected voices, all those others who simply can't be a part of the church anymore? Or would it be lost in that office, excused as nothing more than a young, inexperienced, prideful, confused woman's complaints about the wise ways of the Lord that she just can't understand?

I tend to think the latter. So I didn't bother.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"I don't want to talk about it"

Is it always better to talk about it? Or are some things better left unsaid? If a TBM tells me, “I don’t want to talk about religion,” fine, I won’t bring it up. But religion is so important to me and to TBMs, to make religion a non-subject shuts off huge chunks of our selves. Some refer to this as the elephant in the room, or the 800 pound gorilla.

But that evokes something outside ourselves, and I feel like I’m closing off something inside myself. A section that is kept in the dark and will shrivel up and die.

If I can’t present my true self to my family, especially, what does that make me? In the closet? Yeah, they know of my disaffection, but they don’t know my opinions on the church, or why I left. They don’t know what I disagree with, and, more importantly, they don’t know what values, morals, and beliefs I now hold. They don’t want to talk about it.

If I bring it up, will they just see it as me throwing it in their faces? Will they take it as an affront to their beliefs? I’m not talking about saying, “Did you know Joseph Smith has 11 wives who were already married to other men?” or “Did you know Parley Pratt was killed by a man whose wife he had stolen, without her divorcing the first husband?” I'm thinking, “I support gay marriage,” or “I think a couple choosing to have no children is legitimate,” or “I don’t think the principle of obedience to authority should trump personal conscience.” Shouldn’t I be able to present myself and my thoughts to them? Is it always better left unsaid? I can’t think so.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

exiting emotions: betrayal

When I realized the church isn’t The One True Church, I felt betrayed.

I felt betrayed because I’d been lied to. Who had lied to me? I don’t know.


I didn’t feel like my parents lied to me, because I felt like they’d been lied to too. And their parents, and their parents, on back to Joseph Smith, who was lying to himself.

The church promised that if I did and believed A, B, and C, I’d get to heaven. I’d get salvation and eternity and worlds without number, to be my very own goddess. They took my money, my time, my effort, my tears, my heart, my wedding, my childhood, my youth, my college years, my twenty-something years. They took all that and returned nothing. I was betrayed.

And not just me. How about any member who went on a mission? They’d convinced them to try to blindly betray others. And all the members of the church from 1830 on. All of those people, persecuted and driven from their homes. All those people crossed the plains on foot, many of them dying. All those families broken up because one was so sure of the Truth. All of those women manipulated into marrying men as plural wives. All those women manipulated into thinking the only thing they wanted in life was to pop out babies. The ones manipulated into thinking they aren’t as important as their husbands. People messed up, lives ruined, and most of them don’t even realize it. They’ve given it up for a fake eternity, for a lost salvation, a false hope. I felt betrayed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

cultural Mormons and identity

On another label, I disagree with CL Hanson’s definition of cultural Mormon. (See her post. ) She says that every type of Mormon, from active to Jack to convert to apostate to ex-Mormon, is cultural Mormon. I disagree, perhaps because of my definition of culture. I think of culture as shared and transmitted language, behaviors, beliefs, morals, and use of physical objects. (There’s a lot of different definitions of culture, but that’s the one that sits in my mind.)

I wouldn’t call myself a cultural Mormon, because I don’t act like a Mormon (I don’t go to church, the temple, have family home evening, or follow the word of wisdom), believe like a Mormon (I don’t believe in the Godhead, that Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon holds the complete Gospel), I don’t hold the same morals (I don’t think the only true family is mom, dad, and lots of kids; obedience is the first law of heaven; or that fidelity to the church is more important than to family), nor do I have the same physical objects (I don’t have pictures of BoM characters, Jesus, or temples; framed copies of the Proclamation on the Family, scripture totes, family home evening lesson manuals; I don’t eat funeral potatoes).

I’d more readily identify as ethnic Mormon, because of my Utah heritage. But what about ex/former/post Mormons, etc who don’t have Utah heritage? “Secular Mormon” is one option, in the vein of secular Jews; they acknowledge the heritage, celebrate the holidays, but don’t believe or practice.

While I’m ex-Mormon, I’m also of Mormon heritage. Leaving the church doesn’t erase all Mormon-ness from me, after all. I’ve still got BYU on my resume, my son’s still got Utah on his birth certificate, and almost all my grandparents for generations were Mormon (though I’m sure there were some Jacks in there). It’s still my history. It shaped a large part of who I am today. And while I’m a bit embarrassed about that, I don’t want to be embarrassed about it. If “Mormon” were more like “Jewish,” where it could encompass everyone from atheists to Hasidim, I might like to just say I’m Mormon. But it doesn’t, so I don’t.

So I’m of Mormon heritage, but non-practicing, non-believing. But that’s too unwieldy. Identity is never simple, though, is it? No one can identify with only one word. Everyone has multiple identities.

I am woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt.

I am ex-Mormon, atheist, agnostic, secularist.

I am American, white, Caucasian.

I am student, employee, activist, writer, researcher.

I am black sheep, apostate, blasphemer.

I am explorer, thinker, blogger, journal-writer.

I am deconstructer, renovator, builder of my world views.

I am destroyed.

I am renewed.

I am emerging from the ashes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

more on ex-mo and post-mo

I’m not done talking about the label ex-Mormon. I’m uncomfortable with ex-Mormon, and I’m trying to figure out why. I already said that it defines me by who I’m not rather than who I am. That’s a problem. CL Hanson took issue with my quote comparing labeling oneself as ex-Mormon to labeling oneself ex-girlfriend, and I think she has a good point. Being an ex-Mormon is so much more than an ex-girlfriend. Does ex-wife work better? I don’t know. Only in the sense of it being a transitional identity: If I were an ex-wife, I wouldn’t want to be telling people for the rest of my life that I’m Mr. X’s ex-wife, would I? (Especially if there were bad feelings there.) But even if I didn’t tell people that, would I still think of myself as an ex-wife? Forever?

Or would I want to identify as something that defines me by me, and not in relation to someone else? But then we are never individuals in vacuums, are we? We are people always in relation to others and to things or ideas. But we usually define ourselves by who we are, not by who we once were. I don’t say, “I’m a BYU alum,” or “I’m an ex-resident of Utah,” or “I’m an ex-girl scout.” No, I say what I am now (which I won’t list for privacy sake).

But as far as my relationship to Mormonism goes, I’m an ex-Mormon. I imagine everyone uses it differently, even among those of us who self-identify as such. I’d just as easily say former Mormon. I don’t use post-Mormon, but I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe part of it is that some people who use it use it in opposition to ex-Mormon, and put post-Mormons in a better place than ex-Mormons. Like they are on a continuum, and a post-Mormon is a better-adjusted person. They’ve moved on with their lives. But have I not? Sure, I talk to death my experience with leaving, but only here and with a few fellow former Mormons. The rest of me and my life continues on well, and most people have no idea about my past.

I also feel like some people who claim a post-Mormon state do so a bit self-righteously or judgmentally. “I didn’t go through an angry phase, I didn’t rant and rave, I don’t think the church is a horrible institution. What’s these ex-mos problem?” I wonder if people who adjust easily do so because of their different circumstances, like no mission, no spouse still in, no hard-core TBM childhood, no significant hours put into the church, no strong commitment, no great emotional investment. I could be way off, I don’t know. Certainly there are people who self-identify as postmo who had invested a great deal in the church—but did any of them not go through an angry, emotional place? Is it fair to say that the more you invested the harder it was to recover? This could be any type of investment—money, time, service, emotions, callings, life changes. People who got baptized, came a few weeks, then quit—probably not much recovery time required. People who were born in, went on missions, converted others, etc.—harder recovery time. I think that’s safe to say. If that second person claims to have an easier recovery than the first, he’s deluding himself.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

exiting emotions: grief/loss

When I realized the church isn't The One True Church, I felt loss and grief.

I lost my world. I lost my direction. I lost my culture. My plan of salvation. I lost my moral compass. My afterlife. I lost a connection to my family. I lost my heritage. I lost all those people who had already died, and I thought I'd see again.

Perhaps most painfully, I lost Heavenly Father. He was gone. It was like he, along with some version of me, had died. Recognizing the active part I played in breaking down my faith, I even felt like I killed him. (I’ve never read Nietzsche, but I’ll get to it at least to understand this part of my self.)

When I was a believer, I felt I had a personal relationship with Heavenly Father. The moments that boosted my testimony most were times I felt like Heavenly Father loved me—me personally—and that he knew me personally and knew me well. My patriarchal blessing was especially tender to me because of that connection. Father’s blessings were also very important to my testimony and my felt connection to Heavenly Father. It seemed that in nearly every father’s blessing I received from my dad (at least a couple a year), Heavenly Father told me, though my father, that He loved me and knew me. Those statements always made me cry, and renewed my dedication to the church. (Now I appreciate them as my own father telling me how much he loves me.)

So to lose that, to destroy that relationship, to have Heavenly Father gone or even dead was immeasurably painful. I felt that loss keenly. It left a gaping hole in my life and in my heart. I had to grieve.

With time, I don't feel that so keenly now, but it was certainly very painful in the few months after leaving.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

exiting emotions

I was raised to believe that all negative emotion was, at best, a loss of the Spirit, and at worst, straight from the devil. Conversely, positive emotion came from God and my living worthy enough to enjoy the presence of the Spirit. Any emotion or mood would be categorized into one or the other of the camps: from God or from the devil. If I didn't feel happy, it was because I was doing something unworthy of God's presence. If I was happy, it was because God approved of what I was doing.

Of the devil: wanting to be alone, sadness, nervousness, fear, the blues, Monday-itis, restlessness, confusion, dread, disappointment, anger, defensiveness, wanting revenge, laziness, agitation, angst.

Of God: happiness, joy, peace, calmness, friendliness, sociability, confidence, certainty.

Because of this simplified, messed up view of the range of human emotions, negative emotions have been especially hard for me to confront and understand. As another former Mormon friend of mine put it, "You've had to learn to be angry." I've had to pick them apart, and figure out that, for example, the fear I experienced was not Satan leading me away from The Truth and toward hell, but a natural reaction to realizing I did not, after all, have a clear and easy plan of salvation laid out before me. Avoiding talking to my family was not loss of the Spirit, but an understanding that I would hurt them if they knew.

During and after the process of realizing Mormonism isn't all it claims to be, I felt a fury of emotions. Some were positive, and many were negative. Thankfully, I was in contact with other exit-ers and ex-mos who reassured me that I was anything but alone in those feelings. Knowing that others felt what I felt was helpful to assuage the emotions somewhat, but I still felt them keenly. I'm still working through them, though they are not as painful as they used to be.

Some of these emotions were


I couldn't even begin to recreate in which order these emotions came, so I won't try. I feel like they came together in one big whirlwind, swirling around, making life hell for a while. I'll take a few posts to discuss them.

Friday, November 24, 2006

what does "ex-Mormon" mean, and what does that make me?

Following up from my post about the label "Mormon," I want to discuss the label "ex-Mormon."


Someone who once was, but is not now, Mormon, usually by self-identification.

Someone who has been excommunicated from a Mormon church.

Someone who has resigned from a Mormon church.

I only fit into that first category. I haven't resigned. (Why? I'll save that for another post. But the short answer: Beats me.)

The major problem with the label ex-Mormon is that the person is defined by who she isn't, rather than by who she is. As someone of the old Foyer once said, (and I'm paraphrasing) "I don't think of myself as ex-Mormon any more than I think of myself as so-and-so's ex-girlfriend."

Some consider it a transitional label, somewhere between Mormon and post-Mormon. Post-Mormon being someone who was once Mormon, but is not now, and is okay with having once been Mormon. A well-adjusted, no-longer-angry ex-Mormon. (Or ex-Mormons who aren't angry because they didn't get screwed by the church, or they didn't have a difficult time leaving because they were less invested, or had "less" of a testimony in the first place, and can't really get why anyone would be angry. I'm thinking specifically of the guy who claims the invention of the term post-Mormon.)

I now label myself an ex-Mormon, because a significant portion of my time is spent thinking about leaving the church and the aftermath thereof. I'd like a better label, but for now, it fits. Not that I go around telling people, "I'm an ex-Mormon." No, I say, "I was raised Mormon" or "I used to be Mormon" or "My family is Mormon." The label ex-Mormon doesn't fit my normal day-to-day life. But it does fit this blog.