Mormonism, my experiences and my exit
Born in the Covenant
I was born on 7th November 1983 to two loving parents, who had wanted me very badly - so badly in fact that my mother stayed in hospital for 7 months to ensure I was carried to term and safely delivered. My parents were Mormons and had been sealed in the temple and this meant that I was "Born in the Covenant". I was blessed (a welcoming ritual for a new baby in the church) a few weeks after my birth and was brought up to have a strong faith in the church. I went to primary and sang all the songs, I knew the bible stories that we were told, I had the videos and books for children detailing such things, I bore my testimony and I had been to see the temple. I was a model mormon child.
I always felt when I was little that I had to further the cause of my church. I know when I was five I defended God against an attack from a classmate of mine. She asked why we had to pray because noone was there to listen. I told her that God listens to everyone, it's just that sometimes the answer is "no". I also rememeber inviting various classmates and friends along to church, something a few even took me up on.
Funnily enough, despite my devotion to my faith, I have no memories of ever paying attention in Sacrament meeting. This is a one and a half hour contribution to a three hour block of church on Sunday mornings for Mormons and I always found it rather boring. Singing the songs I never felt "the spirit", and I never felt it when I was taking the sacrament either. I prayed and I did my scripture work and never felt anything. I conformed to the Word of Wisdom, a set of rules by which Mormons are supposed to lead their lives, still nothing. Looking back I would say I was "going through the motions". I believed in it, but I never really felt it.
The first stumbling blocks
The first major stumbling block came for me when I was six or seven years old and molested by an older boy in the church. He never did anything penitrative, but what happened still scarred me for many years. He used to hold me very tightly and rub himself against me. He admitted to the act when confronted (after I had told my parents who told his parents), but I don't know what happened to him. He still went to church and was accepted by everyone as a fine boy. I carried the consequences for a long time after that.
Another problem I started to have with the church was the role that women were allowed to play within it. It was clear to me from when I was very small that women had a bum deal and this was something my mother enforced. She didn't believe it was fair for only men to hold the priesthood and therefore the important roles in the church and this is something she taught me too. The subjugation of Women within the church is still something that bothers me very much. I do not believe that childbirth makes women equal to men who hold the preisthood (the answer I am given whenever I ask why this state of affairs exists). I do not believe that men should be the only ones who can heal people because they are the only one with this power. But I digress. The role of women made me uncomfortable from a very early age. This was to prove another problem for me in my growing struggle to continue to believe in the church.
Baptism and after
I was Baptised into the church when I was eight years old (according to Mormon rules and custom) by my Father on the 9th November 1991. I was confirmed the same night after I had changed out of my white dress that was soaked after my baptism by full immersion. I can rememeber sitting on a chair in the Primary room infront of an audience who had come to see me go through this rite of passage and having the hands of the circle of men who would confirm me placed upon my head. I can rememeber thinking "this is when I recieve the Gift of the Holy Ghost, this is very spiritual and special". I can also rememeber feeling nothing like I was told I would feel. I could only feel the hands of the men on my head. I rememeber thinking they were very heavy and hoped it would finish soon. I was relieved when it did. Only six weeks after this event my Father died.
The death of my father proved to be a seminal event for me and changed my life in ways I could not have possibly imagined on Christmas Morning 1991 when I was told of the event.
From boxing day until after the funeral which was held 14 days later (due to Christmas and New Year making it difficult to get anything done quickly) the house was full of people, mostly mormons, who wanted to console my family (and some who were perhaps just curious). The house was so busy that some days we did not have time to cook and eat food, and certainly did not have time to deal with the death. After this influx we thought that the church would help support us after the death of "the head of the family" and a very important person to us. We were wrong.
After the funeral the visitors to our house quickly dried up and my mother became very depressed, verging on what I think now was a nervous breakdown. During this time we continued to go to church immaculately turned out on Sundays but during the rest of the week things were beginning to become unstuck. We saw practically noone from the church, especially not our Visiting Teacher who claimed to be coming every night to help put my four year old brother to bed and looking after my mother.
This woman was a very sick herself, but not in the way everyone thought. She was well respected in our Ward and claimed to be suffering from terminal breast cancer. She had been to pick out a coffin for herself with some sisters from the ward and had a medical intravenous access point in the back of her hand. The truth came out eventually that she was not dying from cancer, but was suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome. It was only after this that people chose to believe my mother when she said that we had not seen hide nor hair of her, and that she had not helped us at all.
At this same time many months later, my mother, still suffering from severe depression went to see the Bishop. He listened to her and then told her to stop suffering from "poor little old me syndrome". At this time mum could hardly cope and so I was dealing with many things that eight year olds should not have to deal with. I started to grow up.
The final straws
Time passed and my family gradually became more and more inactive, though I still identified myself as a Mormon and lived the Word of Wisdom. During this time I graduated from Primary (having skipped a number of meetings to go out walking around the local area with my friends) and became a "Young Woman". I attended their meetings on a Thursday but declined to start Seminary when the rest of my peers did. With hindsight I would say that this was highly indicative of my gradual change of heart regarding the Mormon church, but it was not this that finally broke my connection to it. This event happened when I was 15 years old.
As I have previously mentioned, my family had had little or no contact with priesthood holders after my father's death. In my opinion this is because as my family now had no priesthood holder we were less, rather than more important to them. One Sunday my mother was in the Foyer of the Chapel talking to one of her friends about the lack of support that we had recieved when an elderly matriarch overheard. She told my mother, in a voice so loud that everyone could hear, that she shouldn't disrespect the priesthood in such a way and then called her the emissary of Satan. This finally broke my mother. After seven or eight years of struggling in the church she left the building and has never been back. My brother and I did the same.
The decision to leave
This situation left me at 15 without a church and unsure what to believe. I wanted to break all ties with the Mormon church but couldn't because I was scared that I would lose my father, the man who had baptised me and who I was sealed to for time and all eternity. I continued in this highly confused state for many years, trying to reconcile what I knew about the world with Mormonism and what I knew about my life and the way things had panned out with Mormon teachings. I found out all sorts of things about the Church, its history and its teachings. Eventually I came to the conclusion that Mormonism was a huge hoax, but I was still too scared to leave. I pondered this for another two years feeling more and more confused.
In my first year at University the decision finally made itself. I woke up one morning and found that finally, I was not confused any more. I just knew. I had to leave.
That day I wrote my exit letter which is below. A good example of one is here.
I then called my bishop who asked to meet with me to discuss my "concerns". I agreed and we met at a neutral location where I went though my reasons for leaving as outlined in my exit letter. He told me that they weren't valid concerns and that the people did not believe all homosexuals were evil. He also asked me if I had lived the laws of chastity as I would still have a place in the church even if I was in "trouble" - that these things had happened before I could be helped. I was quite angry by this point and told him I had been living both the word of wisdom and the laws of chastity. Finally the meeting finished and he had my letter which was then passed on.
I heard nothing more.
After a year when I still hadn't heard anything I called the records part of the church in Salt Lake City. The man I spoke to told me that it had been processed and I was no longer a member.
So now I'm free, but as I discovered then that is just the beginning of a long road of recovery, and I am only at the start. I have a long way to go and a lot of baggage to shed.
At least now I'm moving forward.
My Exit Letter
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter to request that my name is removed from the church records. I have not considered myself a member for some time now but I feel ready now to make a formal request to leave officially. I ask that my wishes be carried out within 30 days and that I recieve conformation of this within that time period.
I have been told I don't have to give reasons, but I feel that I should offer some sort of explanation.
A number of my feelings result from my experiences within the church following the death of my father leaving my family without a priesthood holder and by and large abandoned by the rest of the ward. These feelings obviously cause bitterness but they are not the only reason I am leaving.
I feel uncomfortable in the environment of the Church. It is not one that I feel is welcoming for me at all. I don't agree with the position of Homosexuality or the way that women are subjugted within church matters especially as the diminutive role of the woman in religious affairs sends a signal that this is the correct way to treat women in everyday life. I don't agree with the ideas of hevean that are generally ascribed to as if there is a God and He is a loving God as we are told then he would not cast someone out of His sight or out of hevean if they were a good person just because they went to the "wrong" church or worshipped Him in the "wrong" way whilst alive.
Finally, and most importantly, I am unsure in my belief in God and I don't feel that even if I decide that there is a God I could ever worship Him in a Mormon church again.
I look forward to recieving conformation that my wishes have been carried out,
Terms I have used and their meanings
- Born in the Covenant: "A child born to a couple who have been sealed under the covenant of eternal marriage is said to be born in the covenant. This special designation means the child is eternally sealed to his or her parents and heir to all the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant including eternal life."
- Sealed in the Temple: "A "sealing," as a generic term, means the securing, determining, or establishment of a bond of legitimacy. Among members of the Church sealing refers to the marriage of a husband and wife and to the joining together of children and parents in relationships that are to endure forever."
- Visiting teacher: A woman, or pair of women assigned by the Relief Society President to each family in the ward that has an adult female in residence. These people visit once a month, and bring a spiritual message, and help out with problems.
- Home teacher: A pair of priesthood holders assigned by the Priesthood leaders to each family in the ward. These people visit once a month, and bring a spritual message, and help out with problems
- Bishop: The head and representative of the Ward. He oversees all appointments within it, conducts all interviews and acts a bit like a priest in a normal church.
- Ward: An administrative unit that acts rather as parishes do in the Church of England.
- Inactive: A person who is inactive is still a Mormon on the rolls of the church and his or her ward, but rarely, if ever, goes to church
- Seminary: "Usually starts in the high school years and involves early morning discussions about Scripture and the history of the Mormon Church. It is here that adolescents get their first chance to explore doctrine and become knowledgeable about their faith in an adult way."
- Foyer: The entrance hall and general meeting area in a Mormon Chapel
- Chapel: The Mormon church building
- Temple: The Mormon's most sacred building in which a number of secret ordinances take place including endowments and baptisms for the dead.
- Word of Wisdom: A set of "guidelines" that tell the Mormons what not to eat or drink. The "forbidden" list includes any source of caffiene and tobacco.
- Laws of Chastity: A set of "guidelines" governing the sexual morality of everyone in the church. This includes the suggested dating age as being 16+, no single dating or kissing till you meet someone you will marry, no sex before marriage.
- The Exmormon Website: A website detailing useful information and links about the church for Mormons and non-Mormons.
- The Recovery from Mormonism Bulletin Board: A safe anonymous web-forum in which to discuss points of doctrine, experiences of Mormonism and ways to recover from the church.
- Mormon No More: A website with excellent advice on making the transition from Mormon to Ex-Mormon
- Rethinking Mormonism: A very useful website that puts forward the Mormon belief system thoughtfully and accurately, allowing the reader to learn something about mormonism that isn't on the official site.
- "Speaking in Tongues": A comprehensive glossary of Mormon terms
- "Terror on Flight 789": William Shunn's story of his mission, involvement in a bomb hoax and ejection from Canada. An excellent read.
- Guide to abreviations used on exmormon.org board: Webpage of word meanings and common abreviations among exmormons
- The Latter Day Lampoon: A website that aids leaving and recovery through sharing of experiences good and bad, and allows the reader to laugh over some aspects of the experience.
- Slamtoons: A collection of funny pictures that poke fun at the LDS church.
- Mormon Guide to overcoming the sin of Masterbation: This is a copy of an authentic pamphlet sent out by the Quorum of the 12, to help many a young man deal with their Masterbation "problem". I find suggestion number 19 particularly funny... (also here.)
- "LDS Mormon Masturbation Truth": A moving piece written by an anonymous LDS doctor about the truth of masterbation. A very different outlook than that promoted by the church authorities.
- Feminist Mormon Housewives: A blog kept by a number of Mormon women who are also feminists. An interesting perspective, which shows them trying to reconcile their feminist principals with their mormon beliefs.
- "The Ensign Opened Their Door": A story from the Ensign showing that Mormons will not respect the requests of the inactive or exmembers for no contact. Many thanks to spiritualrape for the scan.
- The Mormon Curtain: "Blogging the Ex-Mormon World - News, Humor, Testimonials and More." An excellent read.
Some places you can get support: