Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I got an email from my understanding sister about the indoctrination incident. She had known my son was watching the movie, and on the spot decided that we wouldn't mind him watching it. Why? Because she's seen our philosophy on raising him is to expose him to all sorts of ideas. That I was mad about him being exposed in this way led her to think I'm more anti-Mormon than I claim to be, and even anti-Christian. That I dwell too much on the negative aspects of those traditions that I can't see any positive in them. She said she and others feel like I think they're stupid for being Mormon, that they are blind followers.

The letter upset me greatly. It needs a reply, but I haven't gotten into the frame of mind to write it. I toyed with the idea of just being brutally honest and sending her my blog posts (telling her it's my journal). I just read through them again, though, and, well, I do sound like I think Mormons are stupid, don't I?

I was mulling this all over while giving my son a bath.

"Mom," he said, "why aren't you doing anything? Why aren't you talking?"

I didn't reply.

Moo-oommm," he repeated, "why aren't you talking?"

"I'm sad," I answered simply.

"Why?" he asked innocently.

"Because I'm different," I replied, thinking of how my family will never understand me again.

"That's no reason to be sad!" he retorted. I am always telling him it's okay to be different.

"Well," I explained, "they think that what makes me different makes me bad."

"You're not bad. That's not a reason to be sad, Mom!"

"I know, honey, I know."

Monday, July 30, 2007

coffee, cigarettes, and cognitive dissonance

Chilling with my never-Mormon sister-in-law (finally, someone I can really be myself around!), I decided a afternoon iced coffee was in order. So on the way to our kids' swimming lessons, we stopped by a shop and ordered a iced latte for me, an iced green tea for her, and an ice water for the kids. After the lessons, she dropped me off at our mutual mother-in-law's place. This was the first MIL had seen of me and my son since the big family reunion in June, so she came out to the car to greet us.

I couldn't help but notice where her eyes drifted: right to the cup holders where three Starbucks cups sat, empty. As she talked to us and the kids, her eyes went from one cup to the next, to the next, and back to the first. She must have looked four times at each one. Her face showed mild confusion.

I smiled, because I recognized that look. I've made it myself. It was the look I had on my face when I saw cigarette butts in Jack-Mormon brother- and never-Mormon sister-in-law's flower bed in front of their house. I looked and looked at those cigarette butts, trying to figure out how they could possibly have gotten there. That my brother-in-law smoked couldn't be the explanation. Could they be from his non-Mormon friends? He was too good, too Mormon (never mind that he hadn't attended since high school), too father-of-two. My brain wouldn't really let me have the thought that the cigarettes were his, though it should have been the most obvious. They were, of course, his.

Just as the coffee cup was, of course, mine. Perhaps it had never occurred to my mother-in-law, just as it had never occurred to me, that people who leave the church probably don't follow the silliest of the rules.

Friday, July 27, 2007


from the ashes
emerging from the ashes

ex mormon blog
mormon aftermath

post mormon depression

ex mormons
aaronic priests coping old testament

visiting mormon service
what does 8 meg mean?

lds stance on homosexuality
notary public utah for leaving lds church

do mormon's help with funerals

what does mormon mean?

from ashes of atheism
why does my son a morman invite me his mother a non morman on family trips

ex mormon blog ashes
wry catcher

if you chance to meet a frown
resurrection of jesus preschool song

mormon missing persons utah
disaffected mormon

mormons origins ethnicity
exiting emerging in family values

further light and knowledge anonymous
ex-mormon to non-believer

christian supernaturalists
lds therapist blog

lightening therapy
ex mormon jews

jonathan blake tithing
lds wedding quotes

shunned mormons
describe mormon funeral

drinking at byu
don't pray about mormonism billboard

Thursday, July 26, 2007

past dealings

I'm now in California, staying at my in-laws place. They are not here yet, so we have the house to ourselves. Besides unpacking and settling in, then, I'm steeling myself against the inevitable Mormon/ex-Mormon clashes. Like my family, my husband's family has been pretty good. As far as the siblings go, his has been far, far better, in fact.

I have nothing to base my trepidations on other than past behavior of my mother-in-law. And since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior...

Incident 1: When I was still quite devout, Jack Mormon brother-in-law and his never-Mormon now-wife had a baby. Mother-in-law approached me from my opinion: Should she ask if father-in-law could bless the baby in church? Did I think that's appropriate? Being what I was when I was devout, I saw nothing wrong with that, and, in fact, that it would be a good thing to expose both child and mother to The Truth. (I'm so embarrassed now.) Baby was never blessed, thank goodness.

Incident 2: Mother-in-law had an never-Mormon tenant in the guest room. The tenant liked coffee. Naturally, the tenant placed her own coffee maker in the kitchen, as her hosts didn't have one and that's where coffee makers go. Mother-in-law explained to me that she told the tenant that if she was going to drink coffee, it would have to be in the privacy of her own room. Coffee maker must remain in the bedroom. Didn't I think that was perfectly reasonable and appropriate? At the time, yes, I did. Now, no. Live your own rules, fine, but don't extend your sense of "morality" onto others.

Incident 3: I had made my break from the church, but no one knew that yet. We were at a family reunion, and mother-in-law hoped that this would be the perfect chance to ask Jack-Mo BIL and his wife to come to church with everyone else. Go as a family, you know. Like there would be only positive pressure to come when the other two dozen people were going, too. She tried to recruit us to help ask them to come. We flat-out told her that we already arranged with them to do something fun on Sunday while everyone else would be at church. That was her first big clue that we had changed. She didn't say anything about it for six months.

Incident 4: Christmas time. She wanted more than anything to ask all of us evil apostate children to join her at church on Christmas day. Just like she had on Incidents 1 & 2, she sought confirmation from a devout member if this would be appropriate. Only this time, I wasn't the devout one, so she asked her daughter, the one we stayed with in Utah. Didn't she think it good to ask everyone to come to church? Was it too much to ask for everyone to be at church together on Christmas Sunday? Is that too big a request? Bless her heart, sister-in-law clearly stated that yes, that would be too much to ask. We didn't go. (I only just realized that I hurt my mother-in-law further by being perfectly willing to go to the non-denominational church with my never-Mormon sister-in-law. But that was on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. All the other churches were smart enough to have their services on Christmas Eve.)

Incident 5: Six months after Incident 3. A few days after Incident 4. Mother-in-law decides it's time for The Talk. It was terrible timing, considering we had just left a party because my husband had a migraine. But she wanted us alone, and that was the only time we were. She told us "this" would be hard, but it would be harder for us, since she had The Truth already, and we were just searching. To borrow from SML, Niiiice.

Incident 6: Over the phone, she half-jokingly asks my husband if we were going to church again. "No," he answered simply. She explained that she wanted to be able to joke about it, talk about it. I interpreted that to mean, "I want to be able to joke about your apostasy. But if you joke about my church, I'll kill you." Am I too cynical?

So, yeah, we're a little nervous about what to expect.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

unclear boundaries, and leaving Utah

Apparently, the Boundaries are still a bit unclear, especially with my mom. Since I had a talk with her, I've heard her say a deceased baby "is in heaven now" and "the Lord" helped my nephew remember where he hid the computer mouse. Groan. I can't tell you how many times I have held my tongue, or adjusted my language, or just left the room since I've been in Utah. I practically put on a different personality when I step into my parents' house; can't she at least refrain from stating her religious opinions when my son is around? (Her answer would be, No, because they aren't opinions. It's just Truth.)

My sister-in-law, though, actually turned off the TV on Sunday when her sons put on Veggie Tales, because my son was feeling left out when I asked him to come away from the TV room. I was touched. (And the kids had more fun and fresh air playing together outside anyway.)

I suppose my boundaries talk with my mom wasn't clear enough. But we're leaving Utah today and won't be around her for another year or so.

Now we're heading to California for a visit. Aaahhh, for the chance to walk around town in a tank top and not feel like people think I'm a slut.

Monday, July 23, 2007

10 weird things, ex-mo style

I've been tagged by Julieann to describe 1o weird or different experiences I've had. Since she specifically told me she tagged me, I can't pretend I didn't see it.

Well, I guess I could. But I'm not.

But I'm ignoring the part about tagging others, because I don't know who would satisfy all three of my criteria (one, reads my blog; two, does this sort of thing; and three, hasn't already been tagged on this one). So if you feel so inclined, feel free to continue. I'll deal with the bad luck of not actually tagging you.

1) My husband managed "the roommate switch," successfully asking me out after dating my BYU roommate--without offending either of us.

2) I was born into a Mormon family. I mean, come on, what are the odds? Mormons make up like 0.0001%* of all the humans in history!

3) My parents wanted me to dress in a funky white and green outfit and make a funny handshake while getting married.

4) I dressed in a funky white and green outfit and made a funny handshake while I got married.

5) Once, when I was about 6, my mom lost her checkbook. I prayed, and felt I should check under her bed. I found it there. (I still have the sneaking suspicion that I was the one that put it there in the first place.)

6) I was once chased by elephants. Three of them.

7) (Oh, did I mention that elephant thing already?)

8) I already know what happens to Harry. I read all 7 books, 4125 pages, within 5 months. Adding up the repeat reads, I read 10155 pages of Potter. In 7 years.

9) I read the Book of Mormon 14 times. 7434 pages. It took 13 years.

10) Once I swore I could feel sound waves, none stronger than regular human voices, hitting against my head, then passing across to the other side.

*or something

Friday, July 20, 2007

the Boundaries Talk

Disclaimer: No one's memory is perfect. Mine certainly isn't. But I wanted to present this in dialogue form. Understand that it is paraphrased, but I think I got the gist of it, along with the tone.

After three days of avoiding the house where, currently, both my parents and my brother and sister-in-law live, I knew I had to muster up the courage to finally talk to my SIL and my mom about the Boundaries of what is and is not allowed around my son. I won't be in Utah that much longer, and I didn't want to spend the rest of the trip hiding in my host's house, keeping my son away from his cousins for fear of him being Mormon-ized again. So I strapped my son into the car and drove out there.

When I walked in, already nervous and dreading what was coming, I overheard my mom and sister, who was visiting, talking about Jesus. I sent my son in a direction away from their conversation. My heart sank. Here I am, ready to tell them that I cannot tolerate my son watching movies about Jesus, and they're going off about him being the One True Shepherd, the Light, the Life, and the Truth. Instead of walk into their conversation and say hello, I turned the other direction, and loudly stomped across the room toward my son, letting them know someone was in the house. Their conversation stopped, and they greeted me warmly. I put off the Boundaries Talk.

Later, my sister-in-law and I found ourselves alone (miraculously, given that there were six kids and five adults in the house right then), and I knew I had to talk to her about the movie she showed my son. It was time for The Boundaries talk I so far had avoided. I couldn't leave the house without talking to her. I just couldn't be my usual non-confrontational self and let it slide. As I examined my feet, trying to get up the guts, I was surprised to hear her start the conversation:

Sister-in-law: apologetically FTA? Did that make you uncomfortable when my son asked you about going to church? Would you rather not talk about that stuff?
FTA: Oh, no, it was fine. Actually, I don't mind talking about it at all. It's just that I hadn't prepared myself to answer a 7-year-old.
SIL: Oh, yeah, that makes sense.
FTA: It just surprised me.
SIL: Uh-huh. I think, just because it was Sunday, he was thinking about it...
FTA: Sure.

Pause. She didn't mention the movie. Damn. Now I have to.

FTA: mustering up strength Um, actually, I wanted to talk to you. About Little FTA watching The Testaments.:I really don't want him watching Mormon movies.
SIL: sincerely Oh, yeah, that was really weird. I didn't know what to do. It was Sunday, and my kids picked that movie. I didn't want to have them watch Shrek on Sunday, but I also didn't know what to do about Little FTA. I didn't want to make him leave the room or anything!
FTA: Yeah, I'm sure that was weird. And you didn't know. I know you weren't, like, trying to do it or anything.
SIL: No, not at all.
FTA: I just don't want that again, you know? And any religion talk or questions that come up, I'd rather you just defer Little FTA to me. And I'll do the same for your kids, if something comes up.
SIL: Sure.
FTA: You know, you want to raise your kids your way, and I want to raise mine my way. And it's probably best that we just defer to each other. We believe different things, and I don't want us fighting about that. The relationship is the most important thing, and I don't want our different beliefs getting in the way.
SIL: Yes! Totally, we love you guys. And it seems like you've done a really good job with things so far.
FTA: Good. Thanks.

Heartened by how the conversation was going well so far, I continued.

FTA: And, well, with that movie, Little FTA didn't get a great message out of it. When we talked to him about it afterwards, he said the bad guy got killed by a wall falling on him, and he was bad because he said he didn't believe in God.
SIL: explaining, rather than arguing I think the point of that was more that he was bad because he was trying to get others to come to his side.
FTA: suppressing a comment about how Mormons do that all the time Okay, I could see that they movie was trying to do that. But coming to a little kid like Little FTA, it came out differently. And, well, he knows that we don't believe there is a God, so it's not a good situation to have your kid watch a movie that tells him his parents are bad guys. You know?
SIL: Oh, I can see that's not good. in a Little FTA voice Mommy, is a wall going to fall on you?
FTA: Yes, exactly. Not good.
SIL: No, I understand.
FTA: So, yeah, let's just try to defer questions. If religion comes up with your kids while Little FTA is around, just try to keep it simple, like, "This is what we believe, but others believe differently," and just send him to me. And I'll do the same for your kids.
SIL: Sure, yeah, of course.

We were then interrupted then, but I felt the conversation went as far as it needed to. I'd made it over one hurtle.

But I also knew I needed to talk to my mom about it. That Boundaries talk should have happened long ago, and now that I finally had something to precipitate it, I forced myself to bring it up.

FTA: Listen, Mom? SIL and I already talked about this, but I wanted to discuss it with you.
Mom: looks up expectantly
FTA: So, um, about Little FTA and religion. Well, if religion or religious questions come up when Little FTA is around, I'd prefer that you defer him to me. I said the same to SIL, that we'd just defer each other's kids to one another.
Mom: Well--
FTA: I just wanted to talk about it, rather than not talk about it, you know? And not leave people wondering.
Mom: Sure. Has something happened?
FTA: Well, Little FTA watched The Testaments.
Mom: apologetically I didn't know. I had been upstairs, and I came down just as it was finishing.
FTA: No, I understand, and it's not like SIL--well, it was awkward for her too.
Mom: I'm sure.
FTA: It's just that Little FTA didn't come away from it with a good message.
Mom: sympathetically Oooh.
FTA: Yeah, so, like I talked to SIL, I'd just rather leave it to the parents and try to avoid religion with the kids.
Mom: Have I done anything?
FTA: No, it's been fine. Really. We haven't felt--just the movie.
Mom: slightly annoyed I'm not trying to shove anything down his throat or anything.
FTA: No, no, I haven't felt like you have. It's just that, you know, like how I've handled it with Nephew when he had a question. I said, "Well, we believe this and you believe differently, and that's okay." You know, that's how I would want it handled.
Mom: Well, is VeggieTales okay?
FTA: Um, that'd be something I'd rather be asked about before. I'd probably have to watch it with him, to know what he's being exposed to.
Mom: looking worried that the VeggieTale veto might mean I don't believe in the Judeo-Christian God
Little FTA: interrupting I love VeggieTales!
FTA: to Little FTA I know, honey, we used to watch those a lot, huh? to Mom So, yeah.
Mom: Okay.

And that was that. We had the conversation. I'm not naive enough to think it will be the last Boundaries conversation, but at least I got it started.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

in addition to the incident

Another minor incident occurred along with the Mormon movie incident. Since it plays a part in how I ended up talking to my sister-in-law about it, I report that incident here.

On Sunday, when I was just beginning to suspect my son had just watched The Testaments, but I wasn't sure, my not-quite-baptized nephew asked, "Why don't you go to church?" I looked at the DVD in his hands. It was The Testaments.

"What?" I asked, not sure I had heard him right. Or perhaps I was simply wishing I hadn't heard him right. Something was stirring in me. Shock, swiftly becoming anger, that my son had seen that movie.

"Why don't you go to church?" Was it just me, or was I detecting something other than innocent questioning? Had they been discussing us? Does he already have it in his head that people that don't go to church are somehow bad?

I wasn't prepared to answer this question from a child. With an adult, I could go into things, but a child?

"Well." I paused. "Husband and I think it's not the best place for us to be right now."

"Why?" he pressed.

Dammit. "Um," I stalled as I tried to think of something safe for a child, his mother, and all the other children in the room. Something about it making some people happy, but we're happier without the church.

His mom let me off the hook with, "Everyone gets to make their own choice. That was their choice." She said it very kindly. I'm sure she meant it. But behind it, I saw the Mormon teaching that, sure, we made that choice, but it was The Wrong One.

Between that, and the fact that my son had just been shown that awful movie was sinking into me, I wasn't in the mood to talk anymore, and we left quickly afterward.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

more on the indoctrination incident

I don’t need ALL religious talk avoided. We talk with my other sister- and brother-in-law about Mormonism quite often (too often?) in front of our son. Hell, we’ve even argued heatedly about whether or not Joseph was a pimp-daddy, my son sitting quietly on my lap. It think it’s unavoidable, and not necessary to avoid, saying things like, “Church starts at eleven,” or “Dad has church meetings tonight,” or even, “My church teaches me that I shouldn’t drink coffee.” But with my family, it goes beyond that. We’ve got nephews telling my husband it’s bad to smoke when he showed up with an empty pipe for a costume party. We’ve got our son coming home and saying things like, “Sunday is a break day. We shouldn’t swim on Sunday.” We’ve got his cousin telling him coffee is bad. And now Sunday morning screenings of Mormon propaganda. And that’s just what I noticed.

Writing it down like that makes it seem so trivial. But it’s the attitude behind it. The attitude that their way is The Way, and that we’re just doing it wrong. The attitude that let’s them say, “Coffee is bad” instead of “I don’t drink coffee, because I believe God doesn’t want me to. But other people think it’s okay. Scientists say it's okay for your body.” The attitude that lets them say, “That’s how Heavenly Father made things,” instead of “Isn’t nature beautiful?” The attitude that colors everything they say with “This is how it is,” instead of “This is how I do it.”

So I never bothered to talked to them about it, and it ended in this movie. Instead, I selectively choose babysitters. My sister is a good choice, because I’ve had many conversations with her about things, and she doesn’t just assume things about me. For example, she asked me, “So how do you want me to handle it when I say prayers with my son and your son is around?” It meant so much to me that she was aware enough to ask. No one else has. I explained to her that we’ve told our son that he needs to be quiet while other people pray, but that he doesn’t have to close his eyes, bow his head, or fold his arms—even if someone asks him to. No one has, though. Which makes me think they are at least somewhat aware. Which lulled me into a false sense of security, I suppose, and I never had The Boundaries discussion with anyone.

So it’s time to discuss with her, and with others. What to what point? How? Do I lay it all down, give them my exit story (edited, likely), tell them I resigned? Say it plainly and clearly that I’m an atheist and that I’ll be raising my son secularly, thank you very much. I hate having to bring it up, because I know it hurts them. I hate bringing it up, because it shows them how much further “gone” I am than they let themselves think. It’s never easy to start up such a conversation. I fear I am incapable of doing it without getting emotional, without raging and ranting, without making them think I’m a bitter ex-Mormon. My family, in general, avoids talking about anything that brings up unhappy feelings. Contention is of the Devil, you know. And confusion, fear, negativity, anger, jealousy, cognitive dissonance, making waves...

How do I word it? How do I say it? Do I talk in person? Do I email? Do I keep it to a minimum, or go all out? I want to do it without making my SIL feel like I’m blaming her. I know I need to talk to them, but my tact so far has been Avoid the House. And that's just lame.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the indoctrination incident

On Sunday morning, when I went to pick up my son after an overnight baby sit, I saw that he and his cousins had just finished watching The Testaments. The Testaments. Mormon propaganda-missionary tool that tells a story about Jesus coming to America and killing all the non-believers.

And you know what my young son gleaned from the movie? He couldn’t tell me what it was about, but he did retain that the Bad Guy was killed by a wall falling on him. And what made him bad? "He said there was no God." He was an evil atheist worthy of death because of his beliefs. You don’t show that movie to a child of atheist parents. Can I put that in all caps? Because I sure want to.


It wasn’t my understanding sister that showed it to him; it was my sister-in-law. I was mad. So mad I could barely eat. So mad I was practically shaking. I find I can’t be that mad at my sister-in-law, though, because, in all fairness, I’ve never told her anything about my beliefs more than “My path is away from the Mormon church right now.” She had no idea we’re atheists. She has no idea that her showing that movie to my son is the equivalent to me showing her kids the Godmakers.

I’m mad at myself for never setting the boundaries.

I’m mad at Mormonism for influencing her to think the way she must: that exposing my son to Mormon ideas can only be a good thing. It’s pompous; it’s ignorant; it’s conceited. But for her, it’s totally normal. I doubt it occurred to her to at least call us first and ask if it’s okay (the answer would have been no). I seriously doubt she consciously thought that she needed to go behind my back to teach my son the Truth. She wasn’t being devious or manipulative about it. Her world view told her it was fine and right, that it was hardly worth thinking about it. I should assume that it was just outside her thought process at the time to think maybe it wasn’t okay.

But I can’t assume that. Because I remember how I thought about my nephews who are not being raised Mormon. I remember how I thought it would be great to expose them to the church. I remember how I went with my Christian sister-in-law and her son to see Legacy years ago, hoping it would soften her heart and get her son curious about the church. (Talk about karma coming back to bite me--but at least my nephew's parents we with him!) I remember what’s it’s like to hope, deep in my heart, that they’d convert someday. I remember what it’s like to truly believe my way was the best way, the Only True Way.

And I know that it never occurred to me that that was pompous, conceited, and ignorant.

to be continued...

Monday, July 16, 2007

the problem with babysitters

Since we’ve been in Utah, we’ve gotten family members to baby sit. Since all of our family in Utah are faithful, devout Mormons, we’ve been very choosey about who to have baby sit out son. The sister-in-law we’re staying with is great; the sister-who-actual talks to me is fine; I even asked the sister-whose-husband-left-the-church. I’ve never asked the most natural choice, my mom. She’s grown suspicious about why that might be and thinks I must hate her (that’s her low self-esteem and depression talking, unfortunately). Everyone is a capable babysitter, surely, all being parents themselves.

But there’s this little problem of them being Molly Mormons and Peter Priesthoods. Of being so engrained in the Mormon social life and culture, that they don’t even realize they are talking, acting, thinking Mormon when they are. For this reason, my husband suggested we lay down some boundaries with potential babysitters about what we consider crossing the line. I knew this was a good idea, but it also made me extremely uncomfortable. You see, to talk to them about it would mean we needed to talk to them about it. That they are ignorant enough, uncaring enough, unaware enough, that we’d have to point things out to them.

I felt like having to sit down and tell them, “Listen, don’t bring up religion around my son; don’t tell him how Heavenly Father is God and Jesus is alive, don’t tell him that Joseph Smith is second only to Jesus” would be the equivalent of them telling me, “Listen, you can only baby sit our kids if you promise not to tell them there is no God and that Joseph Smith was a liar.” That would just be insulting and misguided, because I would never say that to their kids. I don’t even say that to my own kid. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt; I wanted to be hopeful that saying those things would be unnecessary. That we’d all be aware and nice enough to respect each other’s religious choices and how we want to raise our own kids.

Also, I felt that asking them to avoid religion talk would be like asking them to chop off their own arm. They just couldn’t do it. It’s not just church—it’s daily life, daily conversation, their way of understanding and negotiating the world. I honestly feel that if I asked my mom to avoid religious talk around my son, she’d say, “How I am supposed to do that?”

to be continued...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

living arrangements

We were invited and chose to live with my husband's sister and her husband during our stay in Utah. This decision came in large part because this sister and her husband have been able to be quite open with us when it comes to discussing our disaffection. I've never put down my argument for why I think Joseph Smith was faking it, but we talk about atheism versus believing, drinking beer, how it strains relationships, etc. She'll be my designated driver, even. It's comforting and refreshing. It's the only place where I can really be myself.

After a week or so of staying here, though, we noticed a definite strain in my sister-in-law from the conversations. After one such discussion, we went to bed. As we lay there, we could hear my sister-in-law crying to her husband. We couldn't make out the words, nor did we want to, but we knew she was obviously upset. Whether or not it had to do with us, it still concerned us, especially my husband.

"Listen," he said to me in the dark. "I think we should just avoid all Mormon talk with her from now on. I think it's too much for her."

"Yeah, okay," I responded.

But inside, I had just died. I had just lost my ally, my safe haven. The one place I could talk about it with believing family members. Gone. I wanted to cry.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

seeing grandpa again

My grandpa died a few years ago, when I was still a devout, believing Mormon. He'd had a rough life, what with being a Mormon alcoholic. Sometimes, I didn't see him for years at a time. There were even times I didn't know if he was still alive. But he'd always show up again, bringing gifts. I loved him; everyone loved him. We all just wished he'd stop drinking. Sometimes now I wonder how much of an alcoholic he really was. I could see my mom defining "alcoholic" as someone who got drunk sometimes. But thinking back, realizing he couldn't keep a job, got DUIs in the middle of the day, and called from jail now and then, I believe he really had a problem.

I now wonder how badly his problem was exacerbated by Mormonism. Not that Mormonism worsened his alcoholism, but that it made the guilt horrendous, and it strained his relations with his devout children even more. They saw his alcoholism not only as a physical challenge, but a spiritual one, too. For him, I imagine, managing to drink only one was an accomplishment. To my family, it was a failure. He could never please them.

The last few years of his life he settled in a town not too far away, so we got to see him more often. To everyone's happy astonishment, he "cleaned up" long enough to get a temple recommend again and visit the temple. Within months, he had died, alone in his bed.

I had seen him two months before he died, but his death was traumatic for me. He was my first grandparent to die, and he was my favorite, too. It took at least a couple days before the landlord realized he was dead, and a few more days before the death was not ruled a suicide. The autopsy showed he died slowly, in pain. It was not an open casket funeral, so I felt cheated of that last visit. As weird and disturbing as viewings can be, I believe they help with mourning.

I wanted so bad to see him again. I'd heard of a relative who reports she sees the spirits of the deceased at their funerals, every time. Everyone talked about it as her spiritual gift. At the funeral, I hoped that might work for me. I had faith that I could. I let myself think that maybe that thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was him, contacting us from the spiritual world. But really, I knew it was just the light, streaming in through the stained glass. I saw nothing, and was disappointed in my own lack of faith.

Soon after, I went to the temple. Surely, I thought, I could see him there. I mustered up all my faith, telling myself I knew I could see him. In the chapel, in the endowment room, in the celestial room, I thought about him, willing the heavens to open up and let me catch just a glimpse. Of course, I saw nothing. I lost him all over again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

sweet pleasures

I stopped by BYU campus today, because I needed an in-hard-copy-only article from the library. Driving up the hill, I couldn't help but notice the new Hinckley building, recently dedicated. It's prominently placed on the edge of the hill near the Tanner building, and not too bad looking. Certainly better looking than the buildings built in the 1970s. I wondered if the Hinckley building is the only one to be named after a prominent church leader while he was still alive. (I guess he preferred a worldly building to a mansion laid up in heaven, eh?)

As I walked across a quad toward the library, I noticed the clean-shaven, short-haired men, and the modest women, sometimes in 3 shirts (cute, low-cut or spaghetti strap shirt; a chemise to cover up the garment top; and the garment top). Overly dressed for the 100 degree weather. I'm no fashion guru, to be sure, and I know the layered look is "in" this summer, but a spaghetti strap shirt does not look good with a white T-shirt underneath. It just doesn't. That Mormon version of the fashion came in to style in my high school, years ago. When I saw it, I turned to my friend and said, "Promise me that if I ever even consider thinking about possibly wearing one of those, beat me up until I've had some sense knocked into me. Please." That said, I myself used to take pains to keep my wardrobe garment-friendly, but I did so by simply not buying things that didn't cover my garments. Low-cut, sleeveless, midriffs, etc., were just not a part of my wardrobe. Sorry, but I'm not going to put on 2 extra shirts when it's freaking hot outside, just so I can wear the latest fashion. But that's just me. Sorry to anyone who did or does that. Off my soapbox now. (My favorite shirt is a spaghetti strap. I feel so scandalously not frumpy when I wear it.)

On campus, I smiled at myself that I was walking around as a non-LDS person, but an alumna. My dirty little secret, with no one the wiser. I went into a computer lab to look up the call number of the book I needed, and was happy that BYU, unlike my current university, allows alumni to keep their log-in privileges. While online, I remembered that BYU, unlike my current university, restricts which websites students can access. As a little jab, and out of curiosity, I googled the ex-Mormon discussion board, FLAK, and was pleased to find that BYU didn't restrict it as An Evil Site Spawned by the Devil. Maybe I should have googled "hot chicks" just to see if I would be banned from ever logging in again. Later, I passed by a set of bathrooms on the second floor of the library, and thought fondly of c.l.hanson, and her little way of rebelling as an non-believer at BYU.

Walking back to the car, I smiled nostalgically that while at BYU, I became more liberal, politically and religiously. I then drove to a Barnes & Noble in Orem. I perused a couple atheist books, slightly surprised that the store carried them and didn't even make them hard to find. Then I ordered a coffee at the Starbucks there, and read the article I'd just copied at the library. I noticed the others in the cafe: long-haired, goateed, body pierced, tattooed, coffee drinkers. And, once again, I smiled, and wished I were wearing a sleeveless shirt to let them know I was one of them. But then I remembered I had a cup of coffee in front of me, and that was just as effective at announcing my status.

Ah, the sweet pleasures of life.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I was quite mistrustful of science when I was a kid. Actually, until I left the church. I liked science, I was interested in it, and I did really well in science classes. But I never truly trusted science. Why? It didn't mix well with church teachings. And I gave church teachings precedent. If there was a discrepancy, I generally adjusted science to church teachings, rather than the other way around.

The biggest issues were evolution and the age the earth. By ninth grade biology, I was learning evolution (yes, in Utah), but the focus, as I remember it, was on micro-evolution. You know, Darwin's finches and those moths that micro-evolved from mostly white to mostly black during the Industrial Revolution in England. I was cool with micro-evolution; the evidence was right there and quite clear. But the evidence, you see, only showed changes within species, and not changes from one species into new ones. That way, I could still believe the Bible's "each after its own kind."

Eventually, I came to think of evolution as God's way of creating the earth. Seven days didn't really mean seven days. Seven days could really mean billions of years. Or something. But, really, I didn't trust it. Outwardly, I would talk about the age of the earth, about geological time, about dinosaurs, about human activity that occurred long before 6000 years ago. But inwardly, I was confused about how Adam and Eve fit into that. Was the timing just off? If it was, was it just the timing of the Bible that was off, or the timing of carbon dating? The scientists must think things are much older than they really were.

Also, I didn't like science because it made so many mistakes. It seemed like every twenty years, a new theory came out, and they eventually threw out the old theories. Like ether, the four humors theory of health, how the continents move, breast milk is bad for babies, miasma theory of disease transmission, etc. There were so many mistakes! How great could science be if they just keep changing their minds? They could be soooo sure about something, then be sooo sure about something totally different 50 years later. I thought that was just messed up. I thought that in a 100 years, no one would be talking about evolution anymore, except to say how stupid we were back then. Ultimately, this was just a way for me to still believe in church teachings that contradicted science.

At the time of my epiphany, when I stopped believing the Bible was anything but a collection of old stories, when I stopped believing Joseph Smith had no more connection to the supernatural than I do, science suddenly clicked. All the great barriers that kept my religious sanity collapsed, and I had a great "Ah-hah!" moment.

Evolution? It makes sense.

The development of the stars, planets, solar systems over eons? They make sense. And what is more, it is absolutely, astoundingly amazing and beautiful.

And the scientific method, all those changes in theories? That's a good thing. A great thing, in fact. It means that science recognizes its own fallibility, and makes adjustments to old theories when there is new evidence. That, I now see, is what is beautiful about science. It what makes me trust science more than religion now. Religion says Adam and Eve were the first humans and lived about 6000 years ago; Mormonism says that they lived in Missouri. Religion says this despite the fact there is no evidence to support that, and there is plenty of evidence that contradicts it. Science (and Bible scholarship) says Adam and Eve are a creation myth just like any other. Granted, many liberal religious people have adjusted their thinking about the first humans to scientific evidence, but there are many who still insist that the myth is Truth. And that's scary. Especially since I used to think so, too.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

a little too young for pg-13

Okay, not really a Mormon-related post, but, well, you'll see...

On a last minute whim, we went to see Blades of Glory with my sister- and brother-in-law, and we took our little FTA along. I realized the movie was pg-13 before we went, and we've been quite choosy about what movies little FTA sees. But I figured since it was a comedy, the only moments that made it pg-13 would be some bawdy comments that would go over his head anyway, and he'd laugh at the physical humor.

The film went well enough for him, until we realized there was a bedroom scene coming up. In a panic, my husband and I looked at each other, trying to decide whether or not the scene would be worth me taking our son out to the lobby for a while.

I bent down to little FTA, "Hey, we gotta go out."
"Why?" he asked, his eyes glued to the screen.
"'Cause this is a bad part; you don't need to see it," I explained poorly.
I huge smile crept across his face. "I don't care." He tried, but failed, to suppress the smile.
That little stinker, I thought. He knows. He knows what's coming, and he doesn't want to miss it.
I looked at my husband and shrugged in a way that said, It's not like anything is going to happen on the screen. He whispered, "Just take him out."

I grabbed little FTA, knowing he wouldn't walk willingly, and shuffled to the end of the aisle. He immediately started protesting loudly, and physically. He legs kicked against my thighs, and I struggled to keep him propped up on my hip. BAM! His little fist hit my head. He's hitting me. SLAM! A right jab to the left temple. Everybody in the theater is watching us. FLASH! I saw a rush of light when his hand hit my in the eye. The hilarity of the situation struck me, and I start chuckling. JAB! Another fist hit my forehead. This would make a great blog post. WOMP! He pummeled me in the ear. I can't admit this on my family blog, though. It'll have to be the Ashes blog. I laughed harder at the idea that I think of life as potential blog posts.

By this time, we were in the lobby, and he was still hitting me. I let him slide down my side to the floor, and I broke out in a full laugh. With all the passion he could muster, he yelled, "It's not funny!" I laughed, "Oh, but it is, honey, it is." I bought him a treat to make up for the missed sex scene (great parenting advice: buy your kids treats as punishment for when they pummel you), and returned to the theater door to find another parent out there with his 6-year old daughter. I gave him a knowing smile, relieved that I wasn't the only parent stupid enough to bring a little kid to this movie.

I took him back in, and he almost immediately wanted to go out again. Why?

The bad guy was scary.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In June, I invited my parents and my mother-in-law to a museum with me and their mutual grandson. For a while, we got separated, and I wondered around looking for them. I found them eventually, and thought nothing of it. The other day, I heard second-hand that their little disappearance had a purpose: to talk about my disaffection.

I didn't get much information out of the grapevine, but I did hear this: My parents stay really hands off, because "the relationship is the most important thing." Upon hearing that, I immediately felt a surge of love for my parents. I realized how much they pay attention to what they say, to how they interact with me. It struck me that I am being petty to be bugged that I can't drink coffee in front of them. It made me wonder if I was just being selfish to complain about sleeveless shirts and never having a glass of wine at a family dinner. I reminded myself to worry more about them and their comfort, to worry about keeping our relationship good, than to worry about myself.

(While keeping a balance so I'm not pandering, selling myself out, or hiding my true self.)