That's about all I heard of his explanation - all I needed to hear, I knew the rest. I became intensely aware of the cappuccino I was drinking, that I drank every day, and thought how foul he must think it that I do this. I understood him now. I understood his demeanor. Gods! He really did think he was superior to the rest of us, and I knew why. His reaction to my document became completely clear to me - everything I had ever seen him do made sense to me. It was strange because at that moment I knew him better than anyone in the department. I knew how he had spent his youth, what he did on Sundays and Monday evenings, what kinds of songs he knew - Hell, I even knew what kind of underwear he would wear. I understood him in all his arrogance.
But he didn't know me. Sometimes he would say very basic things about his religion and I would say, "Oh really? How interesting!" I could not - would not - tell him that I had been a Mormon for all of my youth, but had decided that the church wasn't true. Better to be an outsider than a "Jack Mormon" I thought. For some reason, I was ashamed. In 10 years I had never looked back, not once, and here, sitting across from me, was a young return missionary who didn't have a clue, and I was ashamed!
My mother was a convert when I was very young, but she didn't get babtized until much later because she smoked and couldn't quit. My father was a skeptic. Eventually the missionaries gave up on him because he would contend every small point. The issue that he was particularly hung up on was the location of the Garden of Eden. The missionaries insisted that it was located in the United States, but my dad would point out that in the Bible, it specifically said that it was located where the Tigris and the Euphrates crossed and that was definitely NOT in the U.S. They gave him some long contrived explanation, but my dad never budged. So, my dad didn't join and my mom, though a staunch believer, didn't participate because she smoked. Never the less, they (well, my mom anyway) made sure that we were baptized, and my mom would drive us to all our church events - primary, Sunday school, sacrament meeting, MIA. I believed that the church was true, and as an adolescent, I would cry because I believed that I wouldn't see my parents after this life. I always felt inferior to the other girls my age in the church, because my family wasn't perfect and theirs sure seemed to be.
When I was a teenager, my mother had a very long bout with depression and spent a lot of time in bed. She didn't even get up to cook, let alone drive us to meetings. When I was 14 I had sex for the first time. I thought it was the end. I had read the Law of Chastity and knew that what I had done was an abomination in the eyes of "Heavenly Father." I didn't attend church anymore, but I still believed that it was true.
At 19 I took a renewed interest in the church. A long romantic relationship had ended painfully and I sought comfort in the church. I studied and read and attended church and I finally decided that it was time for me to repent. So, I went to the Bishop and told him about my past. I had had 6 lovers by the time I was 19. He told me what I needed to do. I wasn't allowed to say prayer at meetings and I couldn't partake of the sacrament (Damn! That was my favorite part of the meeting!) He also said that if I committed this sin again, I would be excommunicated.
Then came the fateful day that I was with my ex-boyfriend, with whom I was in love. I had explained to him why we couldn't sleep together, but that day human nature was stronger than my resolution. That was it! I never went back to the church I was so ashamed. I still believed that the church was true, but that I was incapable of living up to it. I had utterly failed.
Let me divert here for just a moment. I have to say that, despite what many on this website claim, Mormonism is a sect of Christianity. If Christianity is defined as those who accepted or do accept Jesus as the promised messiah, then Mormonism falls into that category. This point is crucial to my story. I believed that if Christianity were true, then Mormonism was the one and only true church. My belief in Mormonism rested on the veracity of Christianity.
I was 21 when my mind was finally set free. I was enrolled in a philosophy class on comparative religions. I listened intently to the lectures; I could not believe what my professor was saying! There were religions far older than Christianity, and with just as many followers! This was truly a novel concept to me! I learned about the life of the Buddha, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, the Koran, the Bagavad Gita, the Torah - what an incredibly diverse world we live in!
It quickly occurred to me that adherents to those religions believed that they were true, and that their texts were divine just as much as any Christian believed in the Bible, or any Mormon believed in the Bible and the Book of Mormon! What is it that makes the Bible true, but not the Bagavad Gita? What is it that makes the life of Jesus divine, but not the life of Siddhartha Gautama? --- nothing NOTHING! It is all a matter of socialization!
I have always been a very spiritual person. At this point, I realized that Truth transcended religion. Christianity did and does not have an exclusive link to truth. Was God going to punish those who grew up in different cultures because they were not followers of Jesus? I think not!
I started to see the various sacred texts of the world as filters through which divinity had been revealed, and I realized that they all contained truth, but that none of them had an exclusive line to it. I realized that if we look at these texts, including the Bible, metaphorically rather than literally, we would see them as guides to ourselves and to human nature. The kingdom of heaven is indeed within.
So if all religions were equally true, that meant that any who claimed that they alone were true, had to be false! This included many sects of Christianity that I am aware of and it includes, especially MORMONISM. What a revelation!
Shortly thereafter I moved to Berkeley, CA (From Nevada) and got a degree in comparative religion with an emphasis on early Christianity and Gnosticism.
So, ten years later I finally had the opportunity for closure. I knew that the Mormon church wasn't true, but across from me sat an arrogant young return missionary on his way to the temple to be sealed for time and eternity, and I was ashamed! This was the first time I had the opportunity to examine my stance, the church, and the people from the outside. In Nevada, there are many Mormons, but since moving to Berkeley, I hadn't run into any that I was aware of - until then. After 10 years did I still feel guilt? I quickly made a list of all the reasons I knew the church wasn't true.
1. Because that would mean that all other religions and sacred texts were
false, and I couldn't buy that.
2. Because a loving God would never pre-ordain genocide i.e. the Lamenites
or the American Indians who were slaughtered by the Europeans.
3. Because women are not inferior.
4. Because if we are not punished for Adams transgressions, then why would Cain's descendants be punished for his.
5. Because the Tigris and the Euphrates are not in the United States.
The list goes on.
If I knew the church wasn't true, why did I feel ashamed and inferior? It took me a while to resolve this one. I would think about this young man's life frequently. Three years later I came upon Eric's website while doing some research for my own (http://www.angelfire.com/ca/MnemosynesChild/) and finally I understood. While I knew that the religion wasn't true, all this time I believed that the Mormon people were superior to other people in spite of the falsity of the religion. I believed that Mormon families never experienced sexual for physical abuse, that Mormon spouses were always chaste, that Mormon leaders were honest and good, that young people who went to the temple for marriage were virgins, that the church always took care of its poor and many other things. Thanks to this website and all the stories contained therein, I now realize that Mormons are as human as the rest of us - and are not in any way superior.
Today, 13 years after my philosophy class, I am very spiritual, and I love religions on an intellectual level. I am human and it's such a relief to me to know that I am one human among humanity and that we are all interdependent. Today I can think clearly, I can search for my own truth with open eyes rather than blindly relying on spoon-fed dogma. Today I see sexuality as a normal and beautiful part of humanity. But most importantly, today I am free.
Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to visit my website as well, and I would appreciate feedback from any who do.