Still in Recovery
June 2010. Like many here, I feel that the LDS church has stolen my youth, my family, my sexuality, my personality, and my sanity. I sporadically post under my real name, but for this post I want to be anonymous and have altered a few non-essential details.
My parents converted when I was about 5, so I basically differ from a BIC Mormon in that I was present when my parents were married in the temple. My mother had been raised in an agnostic family - the parents had no interest in religion at all - and I believe this made the children somewhat vulnerable to cults. Most of my mother's siblings ended up as JWs or in similar non-traditional religions.
My father is a wonderful man, I believe he converted and remains LDS only out of loyalty to my very manipulative mother. The image he has of her is drastically different to the image her children have, and she conceals many issues from him. After all, it is him who will admit her to the celestial kingdom (!) and he is a soft-touch compared to Jesus.
Once converted, my mother became ultra TBM. We were going to get to the CK as a family and every effort was made to ensure myself and eventual nine siblings were spiritually and morally perfect. Perfection consisted of total blind obedience to the priesthood and to our mother. The absolute worst sin we could commit was 'willful disobedience'. So to an outsider, punishment would have appeared horribly arbitrary. A minor infraction of parental/church rules was a very serious issue, whereas more serious errors at school or elsewhere were not punished as harshly. If Dad was present we would be scolded (and maybe beaten up later). If Dad was not around we were beaten. This isn't just a phrase; we were hit with sticks, belts, jug cords, and if you were unlucky enough to fall over, you were kicked till you got up. As the oldest, I was the 'example' and got the worst of it. I was frequently covered in bruises - these could not always be concealed and my mother declared me anemic - claiming I bruised at the slightest bump. Mostly I was required to keep well covered up - in the interests of 'modesty' of course.
After one beating with the jug cord, I was left striped with bruising and welts. The next day at school we had a swimming lesson. In the changing shed, the other girls noticed and crowded around me agog at the sight. I was mortified, trying to explain that I had fallen off the top bunk on to some sticks. When I came out in my swimsuit, the teacher took one look at me and ordered me back into the shed to get changed - no swimming for me. He had such a look of disgust on his face that it was clear (to me) that he knew I must have been really evil to deserve such a beating. Thereafter, I only went swimming if I was presentable. Looking back, I am amazed that no adults took any action. My mother has made comments since about how the school seemed to be 'anti' my father - it seems that they assumed my father was responsible for my frequent bruising (in fact he never hit me at all).
On another occasion I was hit around the head until I briefly blanked out and fell over - and came round to an awful kicking. I was in considerable pain for sometime. As a young adult I had a chest X-ray that indicated quite clearly that I had three (healed) broken ribs. I knew as soon as the technician told and showed me, when I had sustained that damage.
Obviously the church was not responsible for the excessive punishment my mother meted out. But before conversion we were occasionally spanked, but certainly not beaten. But the stakes were raised considerably after conversion, there was so much riding on our perfect obedience. My mother's world had closed in - the only real function she now had was to produce perfect children. The punishment was also accompanied by claims that it was only done out of love and we would be expected afterward to pray for forgiveness. Eventually my mother refined the whole concept - abandoning other implements in favor of Dad's white temple belt. For most of my younger siblings, that was the only tool used on them. On the merest hint of disobedience, the sinner would be sent to collect 'the temple belt' - at least it was not as harsh as the jug cord or kicking, and did not risk brain damage.
When I was about 13 I told, or at least started to try telling, my bishop that my mother was hitting me - he cut me short and gave me a lecture on loyalty and obedience to one's parents. On another occasion about the same time, I made a comment to a sister who was teaching some class - this was reported back to my mother and I was in big trouble for that. Thereafter I kept my mouth shut.
Close behind ensuring complete obedience, my mother's next goal was to protect our 'virtue'. Both SWK and BKP featured large in the inspiration for this. Luckily, as a girl, I was not part of the group of stunned young boys who had been removed from Sunday school to have a special presentation for 'Young Men Only'. However, the girls got a special lesson instead about how it was better to die rather than lose one's virtue (I was about 11 then).
My mother was actually teaching that lesson (there were other adult sisters present for that lesson as well - and it was clear the adults were presenting a united front) IIRC the different age group classes had been combined for the special presentations. I had previously considered the 'better to die' instruction to be one of those phrases that are not actually to be taken literally. But after that discussion it was clear that it was absolutely to be taken seriously. One of the older girls in the class, a recent convert of about 16, was very subdued during the discussion. In front of everybody my mother asked "R___, were you raped?". The poor girl confirmed that she had been, my mother asked how she felt about that(!). In front of the class the girl said that the prophet was right and it was indeed better to die. While my mother does have boundary issues, none of the other sisters seemed to have any problems with what was going on. IIRC R___ was sent in to see the bishop afterward.
After the class, a friend confided in me that she had been engaged in immoral activity as a child - with an adult (i.e. she had been sexually abused as a child). Based on the lesson we had just received she was afraid she had committed a serious sin. We eventually concluded that she was OK because it happened before she was eight years old. She was relieved - she really didn't want to go through what the 16 yo girl had gone through!
There were so many instances of abuse of power, abuse of trust, and mismanagement by our priesthood leaders, that I couldn't get through them all. My mother just got crazier and crazier. After being assured that one's family could absolutely not come to any harm while parents were in the temple, kids were simply dumped at local playgrounds while parents attended (not just our family). In some cases, young children were left in vehicles with toys and food for several hours.
A sister who was molested by the bishop's teenage son (while both sets of parents were in the temple and the kids poorly supervised) was excluded from a young women's camping trip as she was 'impure', while the boy escaped penalty after 'repenting'. Four other siblings were sexually abused as children by (yet another) teenage priesthood holder, who also escaped penalty after repenting. These incidents were dealt with by the bishop, and my parents were told not to involve the police at all.
After the older children 'fell away', the younger ones were home schooled and learned about dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden and how Noah managed to get all those animals on the ark. Actual education was severely lacking and their prospects have been limited as a result.
I believe the church teachings on 'virtue' foster an environment where victim blaming and shaming leads to concealment of abuse, and needless suffering particularly by women, adolescents, and gays. This exacerbates a condition where blind obedience to priesthood authority shields those who do abuse their position. Those holding positions of authority do not have the training to carry out the pastoral duties they have been assigned, and are at risk of causing serious problems for those who turn to them for counseling and advice. An unpaid and untrained clergy puts the flock at risk and is a total nonsense foisted on the members under the pretext of being an advantage. The situation also exposes the fraud of a spirit-led priesthood leadership.
By the time I was 20 I realized that what I had experienced and witnessed was abuse of one form or another. At that time I confronted my mother over her physical abuse and succeeded in stopping the beatings at least for my younger siblings - she was always in control of herself and was able to stop straight away - her actions were based on the belief that she would have been lacking as a faithful parent if she could not gain the required strict obedience and she didn't know any other way to go about it. A few words from the bishop would have certainly been helpful years earlier.
However, the problem was not just some faulty members (like my mother) - it was institutional. And the institution could not be of any sane God. I 'fell away' (escaped) on the evidence of modern church practice. It was little surprise to discover the flagrant abuses and deceptions of church history. However, I had to watch my siblings go through what I went through for the next 20-odd years (my youngest brother was born when I was 22). I have been left so resentful of this monstrous fraud which has irreparably ruined my family. All of my siblings have seen through the fraud and all have now fallen away. Two are gay and went through their own special hell. My mother shunned the first three of us to leave, before Dad put a stop to that after a few years, realizing the extreme adverse effect this had on the security of the kids at home, and that it was only driving us further away.
My mother has 'failed' at the only thing she believes to be important and has descended into severe self delusion that we are all 'on the way' back into the fold. She believes the millennium is about to happen any day now - my parents have made no preparation for retirement and have a huge mortgage. With ten children in 22 years, paying basic expenses and then 10% gross and offerings meant living in permanent debt. There were no funds for tertiary education for any of the children and only two of us will be in any position to assist my parents when they hit retirement age at the end of this year and next year respectively. We are extremely resentful that the church has demanded they produce an over-large family while depriving them of the funds to support them properly.
Sometimes I get so angry at the fraud perpetrated on my parents that it is difficult to focus on what is important in life. As the saying goes, I just can't leave the church alone. That this outrageous hoax is still in operation is so offensive to me.