Why I Left the Mormon Faith & LDS Church After 36 Years
Excerpt from my Diary – April 12, 2015: My “Exit Letter”
The truth is, I am a complicated person, despite all appearances. My brain is always busy, always analyzing, always spooling ahead a long list of things that have yet to be done. A constant stream of narration plays from morning until night, chronicling everything I experience for some imaginary reader. I remember doing this as a small child, even, bored on the school bus: narrating everything around me in my own mind, just to keep myself occupied. The habit seems to have stuck – so ingrained I barely notice it anymore. And, I reason, if I’m narrating anyway, I might as well write the story down somewhere, even if no one ever reads it. At some point, my entire life will be the tiniest blip, one barely-worth-mentioning event, and then forgotten all together.
I kept a journal a long time ago, for years, and 80% of it was complete farce. Cliché’s that I wrote in an effort to be viewed by some future posterity as a faithful, devout woman, worthy of admiration. How many times was I told at church to keep a journal to inspire my imaginary descendants? Try being brutally honest while constantly imagining what my great-great-great-granddaughter would think. How many times did I hear quotations from such ancestral journals read from the pulpit, harrowing tales of pioneer treks, dead babies left in frozen fields, their shallow graves ravaged by wolves… all these sacrifices that my ancestors made on my behalf so I would have the “truth” at some unknown, future time. Hearing these journal entries as a child, all I could think was, “What a waste. The Mormon pioneers left their families, possessions, their homes, their children, all to follow a nonsensical religious philosophy invented by a narcissist, intent on creating a religion that would support his desire to sleep with any woman (or teenage girl) he wanted.” What a WASTE.
I firmly believe that no prophet, no God, no entity worth worshipping would ask me to sacrifice my children for “truth.” I always found the Old Testament story of Abraham being told by an angel to spear the heart of his own son harrowing. If God ever gave me a similar test of devotion, I would lie at his feet and tell him to go ahead and smite me.
These were the facts I previously omitted from my diary. But the sweet stories detailing my adoration of my daughter Lydia were real. My grief and pain, sometimes expressed but often glossed-over, was real. The rest was mostly bullshit. I am endeavoring to be journalistically honest this time – even if it’s only with myself.
Why the lack of authenticity over the last 38 years of my life? The list is so long: (1) Growing up Mormon. (2) Perfectionistic tendencies. (3) Parents with unrealistically high expectations, bent on appearances (4) My husband’s expectations, and the “eternal” vows I made to him as a stupid teenager. (5) Oldest child syndrome. (6) The hunger to fit in to my family and Mormon culture, which required constant dishonesty on my part.
One by one, I have been shedding these lies, ridding them from my psyche and my life. But now, as a business owner, I am confronted with an entirely different reason to continue the farce – my school, my reputation, the public image I so carefully created, which is necessary for my security. I draw people to me with my false attractiveness, my friendliness, my glitter and makeup and shiny, clean life. Little girls want to grow up to be me, and their mothers pay me to be that ideal, because they want their little girls to become that ideal. And so, the farce continues. Different causes, same result.
I wonder if there will ever exist in this world a person who really knows me. So far, I don’t think so. This might be the only avenue to make that true. Maybe one of my kids will want to read this at some point, to try to understand the complicated mess that was their mother. Or maybe they really won’t care to bother. Maybe I wouldn’t want them to see the real me, anyway – their distorted version might be so much better. My friends know bits and pieces. Jared knows a lot, though his perception is always clouded by – well, by his incapacity to grasp my depth.
Once, I read somewhere that every person’s greatest need is to be seen. Just seen and appreciated for who they are. For the people we love, our role is to serve as a witness to their life. Without this, we have no proof that we actually exist. I don’t think anyone has ever really been able to see me. Or, perhaps I am incapable of allowing myself to be seen, incapable of real transparency, afraid of what others would find.
I am not as good a person as I pretend. I am often self-indulgent, self-righteous, and selfish. I usually mean well, but I don’t always do well. In most respects, I think I am utterly average on the morality scale. Maybe a little more intelligent than most. Or maybe I just possess an over-inflated opinion of my own IQ.
It does seem to me, however, that my mind churns more than is common. My patriarchal blessing stated that I have a “brilliant and alert mind.” Of course, my rational mind does not believe in patriarchs anymore. But I wish I could believe it. I used to find some comfort in my blessing. Now, it reminds me of a low-rent horoscope. Except I place more faith in my horoscope. I read my horoscope almost every day. I find some sort of twisted joy in the irony.
Ironic, because the one thing I have come to believe is true is this: no one on earth possesses the truth. Those who tell me they hold the path to my salvation negate their own argument with their smug, blind self-assurance. I don’t trust absolutes, or those that spout them. I hate their pride, their judgmental, oblivious narrow-mindedness. It’s insulting, the audacity of truly believing they are somehow smarter or more enlightened than I (and the rest of the non-Christian world), that I am the one who has fallen victim to worldly folly. For a long time, I believed it. I found out the hard way that they were wrong.
Somehow, though hard-won experience and sheer desperation, the Mormon smokescreen across my mind slowly, slowly dissipated. My busy brain turned over and over, puzzling over each leap in logic my religion required. Eventually, my own reasoning won – these theories make no sense! But so many millions of intelligent people, like my parents, have been bought it all, over and over, every day. Entire lives dedicated to a system of beliefs that are an odd conglomeration of rewritten history, mysticism, tangential tidbits of biblical theory, and hundreds of years of inbreeding.
I am not the one who is blind. I am not the one who is crazy. But when you live every day with nice, well-meaning, blind, crazy people – well, you become the odd one out. What a conundrum – be crazy and fit in? Or be right and alone? Either option is painful. And I hate pain.
I think my pain tolerance is lower than most people’s, in almost every way. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty, or work my ass off. That might be my most redeeming quality. But many, many other things scare me, and pain is one of them.
I seem to feel it more intensely than other people I know. I fear pain, and that is my greatest weakness. I frequently allow my fear, or my pain, or my fear of pain, to dictate my decisions. Or keep me from making the hard ones.
Hands down, my greatest fear of all is failing my children. Failing them as a mother, failing to provide them with what they need, failure to give them the gift I want to give most – a happy childhood. The grief I would feel at failing that mission would bring more pain than I could ever bear. Fighting, separating, divorcing – even when I should, even when it’s obvious to everyone – I can’t do it. I know that it would mean looking into my children’s eyes and seeing grief – and that would undo me. And watching that grief continue to grow, day after day – watching the effect it would have on their self-worth, their relationships, their future marriages and their relationships with their own children – I am willing to do anything to prevent that, because it would be the worst pain of all, causing my children pain.