It Gets Better--Eleven Years Later :)
elevenyears Mar. 2014
Eleven Years “Out”—How I Know You and Your Family WILL Be Okay
I am writing this with the hope that it will help anyone who is in the same “place” that I was eleven years ago.
I usually don’t come to this board anymore. One of my TBM family members has been posting about the Ordain Women movement on Facebook, which led me here, and reminded me how I used to feel.
I’ve been lurking here for a few days (I hope that’s okay.) It brings back so many memories and feelings. It makes me want to reach out a hand of comfort, lend a shoulder, so to speak. DH and I finally had our names (and our children’s names) officially removed this year. Yes, after eleven years of inactivity, it took THAT long for us to be completely comfortable having them removed without a second thought. So, I get it. I get the angst. But I want to share, if it’s okay, our journey, and the outcome, with hope that it will help give hope and comfort. (It’s very long—I apologize in advance)
I was born to a family with pioneer ancestors that go back all the way back to the time of Joseph Smith. They travelled from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. So did DH’s ancestors. We were as TBM as TBM could be. I was the girl who wanted to convert her whole high school. Dh didn’t serve a mission at 19, because he was too busy taking care of his father who was dying of cancer. When I met him at BYU, it was love at first sight. No one wanted us to be together, because he was not an RM. That was my first “jolt” of “wtf”. He was the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful guy. Hard working and intelligent. Much better than any of the douchebag RM’s I was dating at the time. But he was off-limits according to my parents and friends. I really did struggle with whether it was “Okay” to engage myself to him (something I am ashamed of to this day).
Also, in my patriarchal blessing, it said I would serve a mission and that if I didn’t, many would NEVER receive the gospel. And that I would become a teacher, like my Mother. So, I was afraid to marry him without waiting till I went on my mission at 21. I didn’t want to consign those poor souls to outer darkness, etc. just because I couldn’t wait to get it on with my boyfriend. Additionally, I pushed myself to take a secondary education minor that I hated every minute of. I was terrible at it. I really wanted to do something else. But NO, that was not what my patriarchal blessing said, so I kept at it.
Luckily, I had a very wise Bishop (to this day, I am pretty sure he was a NOM.) I went to him, literally sobbing. I laid it all out. He told me that I was being ridiculous. He said, “if you’re in love with this guy, and he’s a good guy, get married. If you hate teaching, why are you trying to be a teacher? That’s not fair to your future students?” “But, but…my blessing says?” Somehow, having “permission” from my Bishop to ignore my blessing seemed to make it all okay in my mind, and was the first “cognitive dissonance” I experienced.
I went ahead and got married, and changed my major to pure English.
In my English major, I had some incredible professors. I took classes in religious literature (not religion classes, but world religious literature). We did things like study Native American religion and Buddhism, etc. I applied for an English Department semester-long scholarship that would have allowed me to earn money studying a specific topic of my choice. My choice that I was so excited about? “Amazing parallels between Native American Religious Texts and the Book of Mormon!”
I was shocked when I wasn’t chosen. My female professor (can’t remember her name, but again, sure she was a NOM), just laughed and said, “Oh yeah, I could have told you they wouldn’t choose that one.”
Again with the cognitive dissonance.
I spent a lot of time doing things like attending lectures by feminist female professors, visiting lecturers like Terry Tempest Williams, writing for the Student Review (underground newspaper). Just generally opening my mind up little by little.
I was still pretty TBM, though. After I graduated, the internet was just starting to be a “thing.” I used to go online on message boards and “argue” with anti-Mormons. I would really “feel the spirit” when I got into long involved discussions and defended the church. I remember one especially long thread when someone I was arguing with was accusing Joseph Smith of being a polygamist. I really showed her! Wow. I was so naïve.
Time passed, and I got pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy. I had emergency surgery, and of course, lost the baby. I was told all kinds of uncomfortable and ridiculous things by women in the ward about how bad things that happen are “meant to be.”
I had a baby girl a year later, and all was good.
My husband and I were lucky financially, and were able to buy a townhome. Apparently, doing well financially in a mostly student ward meant that he was “meant to be” elder’s quorum president. The Bishop and his counselors came to visit us one Sunday afternoon, out of the blue, stayed for an hour, and after that called my husband in and told him they felt inspired to call him to that position. I loved my husband a lot, but he certainly wasn’t the most “spiritual” of the men in the ward. He was also much younger and more inexperienced than many of the family men in that ward. It was an awkward position for him to hold, and caused a lot of anxiety for him, and caused many of the older men to be pretty mean to him while he held it, actually.
Over the next two years, I had two stillborn babies. They were the worst two years of my life. Both times there was no “reason” found. I was told everything under the sun by ward members. I had visiting teachers say things like “God needed your son to be a missionary in the spirit world.” I have never come so close to choking/punching another human being in my life. When she left, I literally curled up in a ball on the floor and sobbed for an hour. I stopped attending for a while, because I was often hemorrhaging blood too much to sit in a room without having to leave and change a pad. (Gross, sorry, but it was true). When the Bishop came to our house to tell me I needed to be at church, I didn’t want to explain that to him, but I was angry at him for implying that I was not “okay” with God.
At this time, I had been receiving massage therapy, and my therapist was a lesbian who was getting married. She invited my husband and I and my daughter to her wedding. I was happy to accept, because I knew her future wife and they were an adorable couple. After we attended the wedding, word got out in the ward, and we were chastised. I mentioned that I had felt the spirit strongly at their wedding (which I had), and that’s when all hell broke loose.
At this time, I really started investigating the church. I can’t remember exactly what kicked it off. We had just moved to a new neighborhood, a new ward (thank goodness), and I was just in a different place mentally. I had access to the internet, and it was just really easy. Every time I logged into something like exmormon.org, though, I felt frightened, shaky, and a little sick.
I still attended our new ward. DH was worried about me. He wasn’t against me investigating, but he didn’t want me to leave the church, necessarily, either. I stopped wearing garments. He liked that, lol. Our sex life improved immensely. I felt like I had taken back my body, and I found myself losing weight easily. I found myself improving the kinds of clothes I wore, and caring more about my appearance in general.
The more I researched, the less I believed. It just sort of crumbled like a rotten wall. And eventually, DH followed. I won’t get into the specifics, because if you’re here, you understand already. Most of the people in my ward noticed that I had stopped coming, but surprisingly, they still treated me as a friend. I don’t know if it was because they hoped to reactivate me, or because they were just cool. Some of the guys were douches to my dh, though.
A year later, we moved to North Carolina (from Provo). I had finally been able to have a second child (yay!). Our daughter had just turned four. I was so grateful to move her away from Utah. Though we had left the church, her secular preschool was still teaching her songs about going to the temple someday, etc.
We have been away from/out of the church all of this time (almost 11 years now!). We had Mormon neighbors for about six years, and when I got pregnant with a surprise third baby, my Mormon neighbor kept trying to get me to let her throw me a Relief Society shower. She was very offended when I told her politely no. When my MIL came to help with the kids when I was in labor, she came over and had my MIL give her the kids to watch. I was so mad. I had not let her watch my kids ever, and she knew that. But my MIL didn’t know that. My MIL is a bit old, and she was tired, and she thought, okay, that’s awfully nice of this lady from the neighborhood to offer to help with the kids. Argh!
And the other Mormon neighbor lady, who I never even speak to, brought over a gift bag with an outfit for my daughter after she was born??
This year, we had Missionaries come by for about the sixth time to “check up on us and see if there was anything they could do to help?” I talked to them and said “You know, we’ve asked for no contact several times. I’m curious why that isn’t happening? “They seemed surprised. So that is what finally tipped us over to have our names officially removed.
Anyway. One of my biggest fears in leaving is how would our kids turn out without the church? Would our daughter be promiscuous and do drugs? Lie, steal, etc.? Would our son just be a lazy turd, in general? Without religion what would our family be like?
Let me tell you about our family…
Our daughter will be 16 in a week. She is a straight A Honor’s student. She speaks three languages, two fluently. She doesn’t date yet, and hasn’t kissed a boy at all. She is interested in possibly going on a group date with one boy in particular, but is too shy at the moment to pursue it. Lol. She knows a couple of bad words, but doesn’t use them around her parents. She is interested in attending CalTech or MIT. She thinks drugs are stupid, knows a girl in one of her classes who had a baby this year, and feels sorry for her, and would never want to go through that at her age. She can’t believe I got such a thing as a blessing with the word “patriarch” in it…seriously, Mom…”patriarchy?”???
My son just turned 12. He speaks three languages, two fluently. He is a Boy Scout (not the Mormon kind, he has actually been on over 40 campouts already), has had a crossover ceremony from Cub Scouts, and is progressing rapidly through Boy Scouts. He speaks respectfully and lovingly to his Mother, and believes girls are just as smart and capable as boys. As far as I know he has no intention of “partying” “sexting” etc. when he gets older.
My youngest…is too young for me to tell yet ;)
We spend Sundays hanging out as a family, hiking, grilling, going out to eat, watching Doctor Who, going to the Farmer’s Market, doing yard work, playing board games, driving up to the mountains on impromptu trips, and just generally being together relaxing. It keeps us close. We don’t need a “family home evening” because most nights are “family at home” and we eat dinner together every night that we possibly can.
Our kids tell us things because they know that we will advise them rather than “judge” them. That is the difference between how I was raised, and how they are being raised. It feels very different to me, and I just feel very close to them, and they say they feel very close to us.
People comment often on how good our kids are, and how amazed they are at our family. They are incredibly “moral” kids. Which, having not been raised with religion, is cool, I think. They make good, well-reasoned, ethical decisions.
I know this is very, very long. I apologize for that. But I know in your shoes, eleven years ago, I was scared to death, sick at heart, and worried about the future. But now that I am “in” the future, I am here to tell you that it gets better. It gets amazing, even! You will be okay. Just spend lots of quality family time. Make good choices. Do the right thing and be a good example to your kids. They are watching.
Re: It Gets Better--Eleven Years Later :)
This is a beautiful story...and I am SO HAPPY for all of you...
I am glad you wrote this for us...it has made my day wonderful.
People need to hear stories like yours.
We've also been out for many years. We have not missed the influence of the church in our kids' life. :-)
Actually, we wish it had even LESS influence, as we still live in Utah.
Re: It Gets Better--Eleven Years Later :)
Re: It Gets Better--Eleven Years Later :)
Thanks for a fabulous, inspiring post!
Re: It Gets Better--Eleven Years Later :)
Thank you. I needed that today.
"Recovery from Mormonism - www.exmormon.org"