My Long Journey Away from Mormonism
I am a 58 year old woman who finally left the Mormon Church about 6 years ago. My parents joined the Mormon Church when I was 10 months old so I was raised in the church. When I was growing up, I was definitely a "True Believing Mormon" (TBM), accepting everything about the LDS Church and believing that it was the “only true Church on the face of the earth.” In all Mormon circles, I'm sure I was very definitely considered to be a “Molly Mormon.” My parents were very active members of the Mormon Church, and as I got older, I realized that what my father was actually so dogmatic and pious about the Church and its doctrine that it was not healthy. When I was growing up, we lived next door to a family that was Jehovah Witnesses – and across the street from them was another family of Jehovah Witnesses. My father would get into arguments with these people constantly, and would stand out by our front yard fence debating religious topics. I would become so upset that I would run in the house and tell my mother to please make him stop it, that he was embarrassing me. But she would simply laugh and respond that she couldn’t make it stop because she had no control over him. Most of the time, I kept my mouth shut, but I do remember asking him one time (when I was a teenager) what he thought he was accomplishing by arguing with them like that, and he said, "Well, they need to know the truth, don't they?" And, of course, since I knew it would do no good to god any further, I just walked away and never talked to him again about his outlandish methods of supposedly informing them.
Over my growing up years, I learned a lot about the gospel from my father. When I asked him questions, I would accept his answers as the "gospel truth," right down the line. My mother was a very faithful Mormon woman who passed away suddenly in 1977 when I was 25. She was Relief Society President when I was a teenager, and held various other callings including Ward Choir Director and Stake Librarian (which is the calling she held at the time of her death). She was a very strong, self-sufficient, career-minded woman (an RN who worked in hospitals and surgical centers over the years). But as Mormon as she was, I never thought of her as dogmatic and pious about it. In looking back, I think that she believed in the church more for its family-oriented aspect than for its doctrine. I really wish that she had lived longer and that I could have had an actual adult relationship with her because I would like to get her reaction to what I have uncovered and the fact that I have left the Mormon Church. Sadly, I have felt robbed of a relationship with her ever since her death.
I attended Seminary all 4 years, went to YW all the way through (Beehives, Mia Maids and Laurels), went to BYU for 2 years, got married to a TBM RM in the Oakland Temple in Northern California, and never questioned anything. I will say that I did somewhat question the temple because of its strange rituals and the temple clothing (including garments). What really struck me immediately about the temple was that the temple is completely symbolic as opposed to the day-to-day Mormon Church which I saw as very forthright and not symbolic in the slightest (except for the Sacrament). But regardless of the fact that I did not understand the Temple, garments and all that, I never let my questioning derail me from believing in Mormonism, lock, stock and barrel. I always believed what my father told me -- that "we can't understand everything here on the earth, but when we shed this mortal coil, it will all be revealed to us and we will understand it all then... so we must accept it all with faith and the hope that we will be blessed with eternal salvation because then we will know for certainty that it was all worth it."
It wasn't until I had been married for a few months and discovered that my first husband was a porn addict who cared little about me but only about his own perverted sexual needs, and started trying to deal with all that entailed, that I began to question the Church. My view of the Church at that point was not so much with a critical eye of its doctrine as it was strained disillusionment at the way in which every Bishop with whom I discussed these problems dealt with what I was going through. No Bishop to whom I talked while I was married to my first husband ever gave me answers that were either consistent with each other or that were logical from a religious (or sexual) standpoint. In fact, one Bishop told me that I was spending too much time concerned about sexual things when I should be looking at all things spiritually. Allrightee then...
The fact that I spent years blaming myself for my first husband's porn addiction (and the obvious outgrowth) was never a reality to any of the Bishops to whom I spoke, which seems unconscionable to me since they were obviously dealing with a young woman who was extremely confused. I resented them then, although I didn't let that deter me from my "chosen path, hopefully leading to eternal salvation," in spite of it all. I held closely to what I heard so many times in the past -- that "the Church is true, but the members aren't perfect." Even after my ex-husband in a "reflective mood" told me that while he was on his mission in Yucatan, Mexico, he "found out" that one of his missionary companions had a porn addiction, too -- so when they discovered that they had this in common, the two of them used to buy porn and go to porn movies together. I remember asking him if they wore their garments while they were having these escapades, and him sheepishly telling me yes. Why I didn't leave him then is also answered by the whole "Temple Marriage" scenario. I really wish I had been more of an independent thinker back then and could have left him before I had my daughter because she ended up being exposed to pornography at a very young age because of her father's obsession/addiction. Of course, I love her with all my heart and would never want to give her up, but I know it has been a struggle for her dealing with what she was exposed to back then. Shortly after I realized, undeniably, that my daughter had been exposed to the pornography, I finally divorced my first husband after 14 years of marriage when my daughter was 5 years old. This was brought about by my becoming aware of the fact that she had, without a doubt, been exposed to pornography on at least one occasion because of her father carelessly taping a porn movie over one of her Muppet movies. That was an incredible shock – to have a 4 year old run crying into my bedroom while I was folding laundry, distraught because the Muppets were gone and there was something else on the TV screen, and then to discover that it was porn. What a nightmare...
I know that the only reason I stayed married to my first husband as long as I did was because we had been married in "The Temple" and like the brain-washed, programmed Stepford Wife that I was back then, I believed that since we had been married in the temple, that meant it was forever, regardless of whether it made me happy in this life or was detrimental to my psychological and emotional well-being. My father even told me back then, in his very dogmatic, obviously non-supportive "pious Mormon" way, that I was basically stuck (not in those words, obviously, but that was the message). In retrospect, I know I should have left my first husband much sooner, but unfortunately that knowledge didn't save me or my daughter from the way in which we both suffered because of his "problem." It's amazing what we will put up with for ourselves that we will never accept for our children.
After my first divorce, I fell away from the church for a while, mainly because of the way in which things were handled by the Church relative to my first husband, his addiction to pornography, and what that did to me and my daughter. About 2 years later, I met and subsequently married a non-Mormon man. In looking back, I know that marrying him was an obvious reaction to what I had been through in my first marriage, especially since I was very reticent to trust another Mormon man after what my first husband had hidden from me prior to our marriage (and also because of what I had dealt with vis-à-vis all the Bishops to whom I had spoken during my first marriage, looking for answers that didn't come). During the first few months of our marriage, my second husband rapidly became very verbally abusive to me. During our first 2-1/2 years of marriage, I went through 5 miscarriages with him, and with each miscarriage, the abuse became worse and finally escalated into physical violence. During this time, I was not only dealing with the verbal and physical abuse but also the fact that my daughter (who was 7 when I married the second time) was exhibiting signs that she had been exposed to much more pornography than I had even suspected, and having her begin weekly therapy in order to deal with that. What made me aware of this was that I went to pick her up one day from a YMCA after-school program, and one of the counselors took me aside to show me a picture that she had drawn that day – she had drawn a very sexually explicit picture at 7 years old. Luckily, when the counselor handed me the picture, after looking at me and being mortified, I folded it and put in my purse – and although she asked for it back so she could give it to her supervisor, I refused to give it back to her but rather told her that I would deal with the situation myself. Otherwise, I’m sure we would have ended up being dragged through a horrible situation with Child Services. When I got home that night, I went through her room, and found additional pictures that she had drawn, hidden in the same places where her father had hidden his pornography, including under her bed, between the mattresses, in books on her bookshelf, etc. The whole situation was a nightmare. Very quickly, I found a therapist to whom she started going, who at first thought that perhaps she had been sexually molested. After several months of seeing him, though, he told me that he thought he had just been exposed to a lot of sexually explicit information. While it was a relief that he didn’t think she had been sexually molested, the aftermath of all of this still haunts my daughter (and me) to this day.
On top of all that my daughter was going through, she was also dealing with a step-father who was very mean to her, treated her as a second-class citizen, and seemed to relish in demeaning her. it was a horrible situation. Finally, not able to put up with any more from my second husband, I threatened to leave him -- and out of the blue, he had a "religious epiphany," deciding to join the Mormon Church. This obvious manipulation only kept us together for one more year, mainly because although he got baptized, he was never really converted but rather was only joining to keep me from leaving him. This was evident in many respects, but included the fact that he refused to give up coffee and still drank alcohol from time to time, even after he was made a Ward missionary and then Second Counselor in the Stake Mission Presidency. But despite the fact that he got baptized, he remained abusive and still exhibited a lot of the behaviors that continued to cause a lot of problems, so I finally left him for good. Shortly after that, he stopped going to Church and then started living with a woman, so whatever questions I had about his "conversion" were answered very quickly.
After leaving my second husband, I stayed very close to the Mormon Church. My daughter was a teenager at that point, and I made sure she went to Seminary every morning during High School and that she went to YW regularly (as well as Sacrament Meeting, of course). During that period, I had various positions in the Church such as Ward Chorister and Ward Choir Director. I also sang in the Southern California Mormon Choir for 3 years. Like I said, I was still very Mormon at that point in my life.
I was single for 4 years after leaving my second husband – and then I met my third husband on the LDS Singles website. He seemed like an answer to my prayers -- a good Mormon man, married to his first wife for 20 years and had 5 children. He and his first wife had gotten married when they were 22 and 20, respectively, and the story he told me was that she had a mid-life crisis when she hit 40 and that's why she left him. Their oldest son had been on a mission, and his second son was on a mission when I met him. I absolutely loved his immediate family, including his mother who is a wonderful woman (and Mormon to the core). All members of his extended family are wonderful, too. He is one of 5 children, all of whom are very active in the Mormon Church except for his oldest brother who left the Church while he was at BYU and became a Greek Orthodox Priest (strange transition). But in spite of that, I was very impressed by how all of his family treated this "black sheep son/brother even though he had left the Church, thinking that there were all very accepting of him in spite of that kink in his armor. Little did I know the reality behind it all.
My third husband's mother is a travel agent who takes people on Mormon Church History tours every summer, having done that for many, many years. So after we got married, my third husband suggested that we go on one with her, particularly since I had never been on such a trip. So in July 2001, we went on a Mormon Church History Tour with his mother and 45 other people, including my daughter. In preparation for that trip, and so I would know more going in and the places we were going to visit would make more sense, I decided to do some reading about Mormon Church History – since I had never really done any of that in my younger years. But what began as my wanting to know more about the history of the LDS Church became an unexpected foray into events in Mormon Church history that I never imagined had taken place. I quickly came to the realization that I had believed in a religious organization for my entire life about which I never knew most of the details of its sordid history or background. And I started to feel so stupid for having blindly accepted it all my entire life. One of the first things that struck me like a lightning bolt was that although I had been taught about polygamy growing up in the church, I did not know the details of what really went on. Because the Church has whitewashed it all and kept so much of it hidden over the years, only those members who decide to do their own research find out about all of that. Most Mormons don't do their own research but rather rely on what they are told in Church, in the Ensign, and during General Conference. What I discovered during my research shook me to the core. The apparent truth was that Joseph Smith lied to and deceived not only his own (first) wife, Emma, but many others. These lies and deceptive actions were done to supposedly bring about God's work and the commandment Joseph Smith allegedly been given, or at least that's the Mormon Party Line.
When I was growing up, I had heard (from various sources, including my father) that Emma did not readily accept polygamy as true doctrine, and was very ambivalent about it. But what I did not know was that Joseph went behind her back on many occasions to "marry" other women. It was during my research that I first came to know the name "Fanny Alger," which was no small feat since the church has gone to great lengths to cover up that aspect of Church history. To me, this is perhaps one of the most shocking examples of Joseph Smith's adulterous ways. He "married" Fanny Alger in 1833 without Emma's knowledge, and from what I have read, there is evidence that Fanny was pregnant with Joseph's child when Emma discovered the "marriage" (or "dirty, filthy affair" as Oliver Cowdery apparently called it) and showed her the door. To me, this whole episode is evidence that plural marriage was invented by Joseph Smith as a way for him to sleep around, to have his way with, and take advantage of, many women. For him to use his position as the Prophet, and use these women's trust as he did, is scandalous to say the least. But what is more shocking to me is that the Church excuses his behavior by saying that he was "human" as well as a Prophet, which is the thesis and theme of the "Rough Stone Rolling" book which the Church has backed and given credence to (even though they do not accept other books on polygamy and/or polyandry as truthful, including "In Sacred Loneliness" by Todd Compton). To me, though, no matter how you paint it, a person cannot be a Prophet and an adulterer. Those terms are mutually exclusive of each other.
And then I came to know the name Helen Mar Kimball -- who Joseph married when she was 14 after telling her and her parents that they would all be given assured eternal salvation if Helen married him. And so she married him. So obvious to me was the fact that Joseph Smith took advantage of a young girl who accepted him as a prophet, not realizing that he would say anything to bed another young girl. That is not only shocking, it is unconscionable. The Partridge sisters episode is another example of the scandalous nature of the history of polygamy -- since Joseph "married" both of them without Emma's knowledge, and then two months later when Joseph apparently convinced Emma to allow him to take other wives, and she finally agreed on the condition that she could select them-- and when Joseph consented to that condition, Emma picked Emily and Eliza Partridge. So the Partirdge sisters were married to Joseph a second time, this time with Emma’s knowledge, consent and attendance. This is unbelievably deceitful. And yet, this deceitful, lying man was supposedly a Prophet of God.
One of the first things that I discovered that began eating away at me was the discovery that Joseph Smith was arrested and placed in Carthage Jail because he and a group of "faithful" Mormons (including his brother, Hyrum Smith) had destroyed the printing press and burnt down the building which housed the Nauvoo Expositor (that had published a story critical of Joseph Smith and discussed his alleged practice of polygamy). In fact, William Law who published the Nauvoo Expositor had been a counselor in the First Presidency but was excommunicated shortly before that for speaking against Joseph Smith and polygamy. So, I discovered, these acts of vandalism and arson were the reason that Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in jail in the first place. To me, that does not make him a martyr, but rather a criminal. So with that discovery, singing the hymn "Praise to the Man" in honor of Joseph Smith's martyrdom became very difficult for me. In fact, on the Church History Tour, my MIL asked me to sing some hymns and to lead the tour participants in several hymns as well. That included singing "Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" at Carthage Jail; and "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" at the Sacred Grove. A very difficult time for me.
Of course, that brings up the questions surrounding the First Vision and the fact that there are differing versions of it. When I was growing up, I had heard little tidbits here and there that there were 2 versions of the First Vision, but since my father chalked it up to the variations of a story when it was told at different times and that it was "no big deal," I accepted that -- until I started doing my own research about it. It was then that I discovered just how different the story was told in several versions (not just 2), first being told in 1832 that it was Jesus Christ who appeared to him -- and then changing that in 1835 to say that two unnamed personages and angels had appeared to him. The "official version" on which the Mormon Church now "hangs its hat" was not even written down until 1838 when things were looking very bleak for the survival of the Church. From what I have read, there is a theory that since membership in the Church had fallen dramatically by 1838, particularly after Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer brothers were excommunicated, apparently losing over 300 members at that time, that Joseph Smith decided to "beef up" the First Vision story to make it more dramatic and awe-inspiring -- and that is when it was declared that "God the Eternal Father and his son, Jesus Christ, two separate and distinct personages" had appeared to him, telling him not to join any Church on the earth at that time, and that he would restore the only "true and living church" to the earth. But not until 1838 did the "official version" now used by the Church come into being.
So between discovering (1) the truth behind Polygamy and what Joseph Smith did in connection with that, including marrying 11 teenage girls; (2) the reality behind Joseph Smith's death and supposed "martyrdom," and that he was not incarcerated because of “religious persecution,” as I had been told, but that he was actually a criminal who had organized a mob to destroy the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor and burn down the building in which it was housed after a story was published about Joseph Smith and polygamy; (3) the differing versions of the First Vision, and the obvious fraud involved in perpetuating the story that Joseph Smith was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as two separate individuals with bodies of flesh and bone; (4) the truth behind Blacks and the Priesthood (which I won't go into here other than to say there were many racial undertones to this “doctrine”); (5) the way in which the church deals with gays and lesbians, including actively fighting against gay marriage; and (6) the way in which the Church attempts (successfully to a large degree) to hide and cover-up its history and foster fear in members to not do their own research, especially on the internet -- I realized then that I belonged to a church that plays very fast and loose with the truth. Not talking about the history of the Mormon Church is bad enough, but actively working to suppress, hide and cover-up the reality behind it all is another thing entirely.
Despite my discoveries, though, I remained active in the Mormon Church for two more years, mostly because of my third husband and his family. Of course, it is significant to this story that in the midst of my research, discoveries, and growing concerns about the Mormon Church, I was also dealing with my third husband who, as it turned out, was the 21st Century version of my first husband. Yes, I married another porn addict -- only now I was dealing with porn via the Internet. And on top of that, he was also a sex addict and an alcoholic. Oh, and he was a Marriage and Family Therapist, too. A very strange and convoluted mixture of things.
Because of what I had been through in the past, I ended up doing a lot of questionable things with my third husband – and the things we did together eventually led to us both having Church Courts and being excommunicated. The conditions surrounding my Church Court (or “Court of Love” as they so like to call it) were very distressful to me as well. Being the only woman in a room full of 17 men (the Stake President and his two counselors, 12 High Councilmen, my Bishop and my then husband) was a humiliating experience, especially since I took it all very seriously and did as I was told, which was to tell all the sordid details of my exploits at the Court. Looking back at it now, I am appalled at myself for falling for their line that in order to show my total submission to the Court, I needed to tell all details of what I had done. In essence, I came to the realization that these were simply “dirty old men” who reveled in hearing the details of my experiences. What I also found distressful about the whole Church Court experience was that I had my Court first, and my then husband’s Court followed mine – and although he went into my Court, when I started to go back into the room for his Court, he told he didn’t want me in there. Of course, I was very surprised but I obeyed and stayed out – but I have always asked myself what he was hiding that he didn’t want me to hear. After all, I had “bared my soul” and had no secrets, but he obvious had some things he hadn’t told me and didn’t want me to find out about. Interesting…
After being excommunicated, I was devastated. After all, I had a member all my life and felt mortified at the current state of affairs. But I hung in there, thinking that after a year or so, if I “toed the line,” I could get re-baptized, and then I would be cleansed of all my sins and begin anew. Yes, Mormon programming took over – and kept me in there for a while longer. During the next few months, I went to many meetings with my Bishop and Stake President, where we discussed how I was doing on my journey back to the fold. But of course, since I had already uncovered a lot of very disturbing facts about the Mormon Church, as time went on, I had a hard time deal with all that as well as my excommunicated state. And after a while, my then husband and I drifted back into the behaviors that had caused the problems in the first place, and we both struggled with trying to rid our lives of those influences. After a year of so, though, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to be Mormon anymore anyway because of all I had uncovered, so I stopped trying to “toe the line” or getting re-baptized.
So when I finally left the Church for good, I had all of the foregoing reasons. But what I have discovered since then could have made me leave the church all on its own (since the evidence against the Church just seems to keep growing) – and what it all has done is cement the fact that my leaving the Church 6 years ago was the right choice. At the time I left the Church, I did not even know about Polyandry. I did not discover that until Thanksgiving Day 2008 when I went to my TBM brother's house for dinner. His wife was gone to Arizona to help one of their daughters after the birth of her third son, so my brother and I were able to spend more time together, just the two of us, than we had in a very long time. My brother is a Assistant Director of a public library in rural Georgia, and he also took over the task of working on our genealogy after our mother's death in 1977. She had gotten back into the 1100's in Sweden and France before she died, and my brother has gone back to Adam on many lines since then, mainly because of the advent of the internet. While I was at his house, my brother started showing me how he has converted the genealogy our mother did to the internet and entered it on www.familysearch.org. In the process, he showed me how to navigate that website, and even showed me Brigham Young's pedigree, showing all of his wives. Of course, since my brother is a TBM, I have not discussed many of my issues with him, and he was unaware that I had left the Church until I moved to Georgia in January 2006 (after my third divorce). At that time, I had told him that I wasn't going to Church anymore, and he responded that it was never too late to go back. Then I told him I had too many issues with it to consider going back, and he told me (obviously paraphrasing the Gordon Hinckley blurb), "Well, it all boils down to Joseph Smith. If you accept him as a Prophet, then you have to accept the Church is true. But if you don't accept him as a Prophet, then the Church is not true." Then my brother proceeded to tell me that he knows that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, and therefore for him the Church is true. I looked at him and said, "Well, that's one of my main problems. I don't think he was a Prophet anymore." He dropped the topic then, and although we have had some superficial discussions about why I haven't gone back to church yet since then, I haven't discussed anything more with him, mainly because my daughter and one of my nieces (who has also left the church, being the only one of his 7 children who isn't a TBM now) have asked me not to because they are afraid of it causing friction between us. Looking back at when I first arrived in Georgia, though, I wish I had known about Polyandry at that point because I would have launched into a discussion of that with him -- but unfortunately, I hadn't discovered that little tidbit yet. I figured that he had somehow rationalized out Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy, or that he didn't know all the details of it. What I really believe, though, is the former because my brother is a very intelligent man, having a Master's Degree in Library Science and very versed on many topics, including the Mormon Church.
After I got home that night, I went back on www.familysearch.org and found Brigham Young's pedigree again. Then I started looking at the names of all of his wives, and for some reason, the name Zina Diantha Huntington drew my attention. When I noticed that I could drill down beneath her name, I did so and saw that she was married to Henry Jacobs on March 7, 1841 -- and then was married to Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841, which was 6-1/2 months later. Puzzled, I drilled down beneath Henry Jacobs name to see if he had died -- but no, he was still alive when his wife married Joseph Smith. Of course, this completely blew my mind, and I started doing more and more research on www.familysearch.org -- going on Joseph Smith's pedigree, looking at the very long list of his wives, seeing how many were already married when he married then, and so forth. And as they say, the rest is history.
All of this has been very eye-opening for me, and it has been sad as well. I find it appalling that I spent 51 years of my life believing in a religious organization founded by an obvious con-man. That realization really shook me, and that was when I started to realize that the Mormon Church may actually be a cult, something I had heard it called as I was growing up and over the years, but something I didn’t believe back then. But when I researched that topic further, I began to believe that it is a cult because it fits every single parameter for that designation including the way in which cults control their members, the brainwashing aspects, the claim of exclusivity, etc.
Of course, my faith has been shaken to the core. What I used to believe is false. That is apparent. But what appalls me the most is that there are so many very intelligent people entrenched in Mormonism to this day – people who buy into whatever it is the Mormon Church tells them and don’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation, that they are being lied to and deceived. During my many years in the Mormon Church, it was said so many times that anything that is built on a shaky foundation cannot stand. But that’s what the Mormon Church is built on. Very shaky. And hopefully, someday, the people who are still trapped there will begin to see the light, and have the courage to get away. I am so glad I did, and I have never been happier in my life. The fact that I am now being true to myself and am able to speak out against it is a milestone that I cherish deeply. I have even written a book entitled, “Finding My Own Voice: A Former Mormon Woman’s Journey to Self-Discovery,” which I am in the process of trying to get published. And now that I have found my “voice,” I refuse to keep quiet anymore about the scam and fraud that is Mormonism.