August 17, 2006

About me...

Fair warning: this is extremely long. I need an editor. You may want to go pop yourself some popcorn and go to the bathroom first, since it may take a while to read.

OK, I felt the need to create this blog and get to know others who are going through the same disillusionment over the LDS church that I've been going through. I'm still very new to my feelings so they may seem like rambling and I may write too much, but so what. It's how my thoughts work. I'm giving way too many details in an effort to show you some of what I've thought and done in the LDS faith, so you can maybe understand better why the shock feels so brutal to us when we find out the real truth.

I was born and raised LDS. I'm the second oldest of parents who were also born and raised LDS in Utah. They dated 3 years in high school and married at age 19, had 8 kids together. Of all of us, only my dad, a sister, and I still attend church. My sister and I are both married to non-mo men, and we both have children (only one other sibling has kids). My sister and I have both tried very hard to continue activity in the church and be good moms although we have both felt throughout it all that we didn't measure up and that we were somehow judged and found lacking by being married to non-members. Neither one of us has ever felt we fit in at church. It is very hard to go to church every Sunday alone with kids. But you persevere and hope that someday your man will convert and you can gain an eternal family. It's especially brutal to be asked by your kids as they begin to learn things....."But we aren't sealed as a family. Does this mean we won't be together in heaven?" Ouch. Neither my sister nor I have attended the temple to take out our endowment. 5 years ago I took the temple prep class and I actually made it so far as to interview with my bishop, who wanted my husband there too. I was so excited to be going to the temple, at least as excited as I could be considering how bittersweet it'd be without my husband there...

The bishop told us a little about why the temple is important to us and why we wear garments and that they're sacred and are worn at all times. And a bit about the symbolism in the temple and the ordinances we perform there etc. I was blindsided when he asked my husband if he'd give a written permission/consent for me to attend the temple. I had never heard of this or expected it at all. My hubby was highly irritated by this ~ he said a grown person shouldn't need permission from their spouse if they want to do something! ~ but my bishop said it was required or I wasn't going. So my husband said, "Fine, then I'm not giving it. If you want my honest opinion, I think it's crap she needs permission so I'm not giving it." Of course he didn't notice that by not giving me "permission," he was essentially doing the same thing that the church was...not letting a grown woman make her own choices.

I cried and cried (how humiliating! I'm still pissed I cried like that) and still he wouldn't budge, and his stubborn nature is such that I knew then that I'd never get his permission. He said that he'd "think about it" but if I hounded him about it then it'd be a NO forever. I was truly heartbroken, because I knew then that I was never going. I knew him too well. I waited and waited and finally I asked him about it about a year later, and he said he hadn't thought about it. I was so pissed. Bear in mind what we know of eternity and what we think we need to do in order to gain salvation. I felt like I was being tormented and left dangling by my husband while thoughts of how I'd never make it to the temple unless I divorced my husband went through my mind. I'd sit through RS and Sac Mtg talks about the Proclamation to the Family and the whole celestial marriage and all the temple talks and cry inside. I knew I was never going there unless my husband died or I divorced him. The thought repelled me but what other option did I have? In order to gain salvation we are supposed to attend the temple, get our endowment, and be sealed for eternity to someone, right? Or at least I could be faithful on my own and hope that in the afterlife I'd find a man to seal myself to. Not a thought I relished. Especially after a MAN was the reason I wasn't getting into the temple in the first place!

This stuff makes me ill to write. I am ashamed I ever felt this way. I knew that some people lose their families or loved ones in order to join the church, and I wondered if this was my test of righteousness or faith. Was I supposed to give up my husband in the name of righteousness?? Of course it helped that he's so stubborn and gave little regard to my deepest wishes and desires, right? I mean, he's obviously not supporting me so maybe I'm justified in my feelings about this. But I grew up with a real dysfunctional family and I can't remember how many times we discussed with Mom why she should divorce dad...which they finally did when I was 19 or so. However, I'm not real keen on divorce or threats of divorce (saw too many of those growing up). So I stuck it out and about a half a year after asking him the first time if he'd thought it over, I asked again. He said, "Haven't thought about it" and walked away. Each time this happened I would be seething mad for days. After about 3 times of this I finally had it and sat down with my husband and said, "I just don't see us going in the same direction. You don't respect me enough to honor my wishes, and you seem to enjoy leaving me dangling, and I'm afraid we are growing apart and it just isn't worth it anymore. I want out." He said nothing besides he'd try to do better ~ he's never been one to console me if I'm crying. He just watches me and says nothing. Not sure if that means anything or not... Anyway, that night I had a signed letter of permission on my pillow. That was in 2004 I think, and I felt so disgusted that I had to threaten divorce to get what I wanted that I just couldn't bring myself to go to the temple. The other reason I didn't go to the temple was because I'd actually convinced myself that the permission thing was inspired and I didn't want to go knowing that I coerced getting my husband's permission. Sick, I know.

I've wondered in the back of my mind if I had been clever enough to have been born a man, would I have had to get permission? I doubt it. That makes me puke. I'm afraid to actually ask someone who knows...I don't want to find out what I suspect is true.

Back to my history. My stepdaugher was 7 when we married, (she lived with us and went to her mom's every other weekend) and I had a 9 month old son (from a previous relationship) when we married. This was from my first venturing into "sin territory" while at BYU - and of course when Sister Mary Lisa sins, the biggest possible publicly-obvious consequence is sure to follow. Why do you think I've been so prude my whole life?! But I will tell you this: If I had it to do over and knew the consequence would be my son, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I have been so blessed having him in my life! An awesome kid to be sure! Now he's 13 and some days I have to be reminded what a blessing he is! J/K. We were a mini Brady Bunch, and we had a daughter together who is now 8. Both my kids were blessed and baptized and attend church with me now. All my kids are awesome, and I'm a lucky lucky mom.

A while back I again felt compelled to attend the temple, so I asked my sister if she'd consider getting herself to the temple with me. It's a lot easier if you have someone to go thru with, I thought. She stopped her coffee habit and started paying tithing, and we set up a temple prep class in my ward and got permission (there's that P-word again!) to have her attend the class in my ward. We have so far been to one class, and we've cancelled for one reason or another at least 5 times now for the second class. It's been months. We both work full time - she works more like 60 hours a week, so it's been hard nailing down "free time." I saw the teacher the other day at a restaurant and he said, "Maybe we'll finish the class in this Millenium." Very funny. Maybe NOT.

So how did I start doubting the church??

I recently got a MySpace page to keep up with my siblings and stepdaughter. I had read a blog by one of my younger friends who I had been counselor to in Beehives in my old ward, she is now 17. She wrote something about having never been so close to God and never been so happy since leaving her faith and finding another church to go to. I e-mailed her and said, what's up? What happened? and she replied in an honest explanation about how she had been so depressed since the ward boundaries had changed, that there were very few friends in her new YW, and how she was so depressed she actually started cutting herself. I was shocked to read this, and then she explained that she discovered that she was only cutting herself on Wednesdays and Sundays, and that was when she quit going to church. (Is this why every Sunday for years I've gotten a major headache?!) One day a favorite teacher at her high school invited her to Faith Chapel which is a Four-Square religious institution (I say this as if I know what that is, but I don't) and it's huge. Lots of people go there. Anyway, she said she's never felt closer to God and never felt such self worth and love for all people as she has since going there.

So I told her how much I loved her and supported her and was happy for her. She is such an honest and sincere person, with an amazing personality and I wanted to know more about her happiness. Especially since I rarely feel happiness at church either. I immediately googled the question "Why do people leave the LDS church?"

The first article I came across was from a bishop from Australia who had a career in plant science who had seen the article/research done in South America that found DNA traced back to Asia and not to Israel, and immediately he knew that the Book of Mormon could not be true. I found the website exmormon.com and read some of the personal stories on there and found out that there were inconsistencies within the BoM that I never knew of like references to barley and animals that couldn't have been in the Americas at that time, etc. And the millions who died on Hill Cumorah. In New York. No armor or swords or breasplates found. Hmmmm.

Then I found references about Joseph Smith and his many many many wives, whom I never knew of at all. I was shocked. This above all disgusted and appalled me. Maybe because my biggest sin I've repented for to date was sexually related, I don't know. Maybe because I was always told and I always defended polygamy using the reason that there were so many women on the prairie who were alone after losing husbands during the pioneer trek...I was disgusted that he publicly denied having other wives even after he really did. I was disgusted that he'd use the line on these women and men that he was TOLD to do the whole polygamy thing by God. I was disgusted that he'd do this with the wives of his faithful missionaries abroad. I was most disgusted that he would offer "eternal salvation to your entire family" if she'd give in and accept him. Can that be more deceitful? Helen Mar Kimball was in essence given to the prophet at age 14 by her parents. Ick! To gain their salvation. I don't think so. I was disgusted by the many men who jumped on board (pun intended!) and practiced polygamy as well. I was disgusted that we are taught so much about J.S. and all the amazing and wonderful things he did, and how perfect he was. How many times I defended J.S. and his story when my husband said, "I think he made it all up." My biggest defense was always NO WAY could a 14 year old boy make up a story of an angel visitation and a God and Jesus visitation then make up the entire Book of Mormon himself. I also read online many journal entries/references from people who knew J.S. at the time of his first angelic visit by the plates etc. These journals didn't conflict with each other, but were totally different than what we were taught. And his use of a hat and peepstone, and his getting money from people and demanding they serve missions while leaving huge families and wives home alone. Not huge wives.... :)

Then on to Brigham Young. He was an ass from start to finish. Give me a break! I am not impressed. I knew that the black people couldn't receive the Priesthood until 1978 and this always bugged me. I remember my mom reading aloud to us the book "A Soul So Rebellious" written by a black woman about her conversion to the church's way of thinking as it pertained to the priesthood and black people. But why then did J.S. give the priesthood to the black man Elijah Abel if it was God's will that they not get it?! Makes no sense. Unless of course J.S. really did make it all up, and consequently the prophets after him did too.

Anyway, my point is that once I started reading and learning I couldn't stop. I was fascinated and repelled and shocked and couldn't stop if I wanted to. I suddenly saw the truth in all it's awful glory and I was a changed woman. I went home from work (as if I really worked that day after all my internet searching!) and told my husband that I was totally shocked to find out so many things about my church that were horrible. He said, "You didn't really think Joseph Smith was truly a prophet, did you?" I said, yes. He said, "He was a man just like anyone else. Of course the church isn't going to publish all its dirty laundry to the public!" Then he related stories of TV evangelists etc who were caught being naughty and stuff. I said, "but I've been told my whole life that it's true! That prophets are not able to lead people astray." He just shook his head and acted like how could I be shocked when he's known all along that it's not true.

The next day I searched the net all day long again. The more I read, the more disillusioned I was. I went home and told my husband I was more disillusioned than ever. My husband was at first irritated like, "Let it go already! Geez, the church isn't going to air all its dirty laundry openly. Why would they? That would be stupid. No church will ever do that." Then I said I was seriously thinking I didn't want to belong anymore if it was based on lies. He surprised me then by saying, "But you can't just not go!" I think my mouth dropped open, I was that surprised he'd say this. I said, "Why not? You don't." He said, "That's different." I said, "How? You don't go to any church but you think I have to?!" He said, "But you're GOOD. I'm bad. You should go." I said, "Whatever!" (Is there any better response than the word whatever?) He said, "You're the good to my bad." So I can only wonder if he thought he'd have a better chance with God in the next life if he was married to someone who goes to church?! How the hell should I know? More like he probably enjoys having the house to himself on Sunday mornings for 3 hours. It's his alone time.

The only thought that kept running through my head from the first moment forward was, "WHAT IF IT ISN'T TRUE?!"

That nite we were able to discuss more openly some of my biggest concerns, although not in full detail. I told him there was no way he'd ever understand what I was feeling because he didn't grow up with the church and all its aspects of you aren't doing this or that right, repent repent repent, never date a non-member. I had a hard time explaining without getting emotional. I said, "You don't understand all that I've been through at church because I was....." I had to stop because I didn't know how to tactfully explain it, but he guessed. "Because you are married to me?" And I said yes. That underlying feeling of not measuring up to the LDS standard is huge, it is subtle, and it is real. I can't explain it to him well enough because he can't get it, he hasn't been there. But it feels like total betrayal to go through so much pain and suffering thoughts of unworthiness and angst while you're a member, only to finally realize that it's based on deception and dishonesty. It really really hurts.

The good part of the pain was the sudden and immediate feeling I had that I was OK. I didn't make a bad choice marrying my husband, who's been a good man and a good father (besides being stubborn!) and I'd always subconciously wondered if I'd made a wrong choice by marrying him as we are taught in YW and beyond. What also really makes me sick is the thought that maybe over the years I withheld full love and acceptance from my husband because I just might be better than him and more in tune with spirituality than he is. That makes me sick. I feel like now I have shed that awful feeling and I can truly give all I have into my relationship and family. That's so liberating.

I've gone to church twice since I've had my epiphany, and it's so amazing to me to see it clearly with eyes that really see. It reminds me of when I was nine and got my first pair of glasses, I could suddenly see every leaf on every tree, and every blade of grass. I had no idea before glasses that I was missing anything as I looked around.

Now I have looked with eyes that see, and I'm a new woman. I will never be the same.

8 comments:

C.L. Hanson said...

Fantastic story!!!

Have you also posted it on RfM's story board?

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Not yet. Haven't figured that out quite yet. One blog at a time, I guess!

:) Thanks for reading.

rschram said...

That is an amazing story, and a story that shows great conflict. You sound like a soul torn between two worlds, and it sounds to me that your husband is much more spiratually atuned then you have previously given him credit for.

I don't know much about you and your husband than what you have written. It seems to me that your husband has shown faith in you, your marage, and that implies that he has faith in himself. My beliefe is that you must first have faith in yourself before you can have faith in God or others. That kind of faith does not come from any Church whether they priech it or not. It comes from within you.

Your husband wants to see you continue going to Church I think because it's part of who you are. It has nothing to do with you being good and him being bad or him having Sundays to himself. LDS is a path your life has taken. Whether it continues through eternal salvation or not. It makes you who you are. I don't think your husband wants you to change who you are. Thats a beautiful thing.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I'm feeling a lot less torn now and a lot more free, I'll tell you that. If I do leave the LDS church, I know that I'll still have faith and spirituality. That's not going anywhere. I still have standards and an idea of what's right and wrong, but I think my standards of what's right and wrong have always been a bit less formal than LDS church beliefs.

And yes, my husband resists change.

I appreciate your comments.

A soul, finally free. said...

You are amazing. You are going to have such a strong testimony, I think you already have a great start, and I can't wait to see how God works in your life and continues your story. Stay strong in all you do.

Gluby said...

This is a late response (by, oh, months), but you wrote something that hit a nerve. See below. But first:

Soul Finally Free,

You're serious, aren't you? You may want to investigate the entire history of Christianity before you assume the LDS church is the only one subject to those criticisms and jump headfirst into another branch -- SML's husband is right. Their closets are all brimming with old skeletons. Christianity is poisoned at the root. Of course, all religions are, but Christianity deserves [dis]honorable mention, along with Islam and Judaism. All very controlling and xenophobic religions that have caused their adherents and those around them much unnecessary suffering.

SML,

Oh, man, can I relate. My wife and I have been dealing with that whole withholding-of-full-love-and-trust thing for five years, and it has been absolutely poison. The only reason our relationship survived is because (1) we have a wonderful, well-balanced relationship and are truly friends who enjoy each other deeply (yes, this threw it out of whack, but our base relationship was strong enough to withstand the many blows), and (2) I had enough clarity during our engagement to stop her and ask her to make sure she was marrying who I was, not what I was. You know, marrying a priesthood holder, ex-military (that turned her on for some reason), future lawyer (unless I can avoid it), etc. I told her to stop and make sure that she felt that if what I was changed -- I left the church, I didn't turn out to be what she expected 5 or 10 years down the line, etc. -- she would still love the person at the core of my being. And she did stop and consider, and it was a seriously life-changing moment for her because she did reconsider and truly commit to me.

BUT. BUT... still, when 2 years down the line I told her I was having serious doubts, she suddenly felt I was no longer trustworthy. (Though she didn't communicate this, verbally of course -- only through her actions.) She had to be the strong one, the faithful one, the good one. To bring me back. To always counterbalance me (NOT in the healthy, positive way, either). Until then, I was apostate, and didn't have the spirit -- ANYTHING I did or said could be suspect. We didn't realize explicitly what was going on, but, in retrospect, I HATE what this creed did to our marriage.

It is only now, after 7 years of marriage and two children (1.5 and 4.5 years old), that we have recovered and are actively changing all that. Nothing really changed until my wife, in some part of her, finally started to see the church for what it was, and how hurtful her treatment of me had been (her words).

Our lives have gone through a rebirth, and we are both much happier, though there's still massive stress and she hasn't stopped wearing her garments. She's finally accepting after years of denial, but the road isn't over.

Anyway, that part is so hard -- it puts such a strain on the relationship. Someone said that Mormon marriages where both start Mormon and one leaves it down the road have something like an 80% divorce rate. So we're lucky. But I am truly angry at the church for the pain it causes so many people, the wrecked homes and families and relationships.

Anyway, congratulations on getting through that! It's a hard road.

Gluby

Hellmut said...

Great story, Sister Mary Lisa. I love your writing.

Wasn't it great that you could discuss your discoveries with your husband right away? I am kind of jealous.

The best part was when he was pushing back.

CV Rick said...

Bravo. Very well said. It's truly a story of epiphany. My own experience wasn't quite so dramatic. I was always doubtful, but with a tinge of "What if I'm wrong?" thrown in.

But I knew that people are creepy and I knew a lot of creepy Mormons and the whole closed-society of the church really grated on me wrongly. Especially with the father I grew up despising, since he justified all his shortcomings and abuses under the umbrella of doctrine and faith.

Then, I went through my divorce and based on what happened there (which someday I'll blog on), I KNEW there was no revelation, there was no divine guidance, and there was no truth. The false things I was accused of, and that were used to mount a prosecution against me by the church - of infidelity for one - couldn't have been guided by any spirit since they were untrue.

I knew at that point, and the rest fell together nicely.

That's not to say I was a good Mormon before. I wasn't. I just didn't care about being a good Mormon. I wanted to be a good person. I still do.

The church is a hard habit to kick though. It really is. There are some addicting interpersonal dependencies and in many ways it's easier to be a member and not think about it than to leave the church and think for ourselves.

Good luck.