It took me a long time to write this post. Honestly, even while I’m writing it now, I’m trying to think of reasons not to. It’s really easy to think of reasons not to do something you’re scared of.
It struck me as self-indulgent, talking about why I left the church of my childhood. Perhaps even a little mean spirited. And, worst of all, I wonder if anyone is really going to care about this. I wonder if it’s just wasting time, mine and yours. This is a blog, sure, but it isn’t a personal blog. I’m not on here blogging about the dream I had last night or the wonderful time I had at the Science Center last week. (We did go to the Science Center. It was a great time.)
Did I want to talk about leaving the church? Of course, I did. If something hurts me, makes me happy, makes me feel any emotion at all, my first instinct is to get that feeling into words and share it. That’s not always an instinct I need to listen to.
I’d almost decided to just not do it. Then, while I was scrolling through Instagram, I found a comic by a wonderful artist who writes a comic called Ah, Mince. Here’s a link to her site, please check her out. She wrote a whole series about growing up in the Mormon church, and what drove her to leave. It’s called GUM. (Growing up Mormon.)
This is not her normal bag. She normally writes funny material. That’s why I started following her. But this series, it really hit me between the eyes.
Because, even though she was talking about her own experience, and it was wildly different from mine, it didn’t feel that different. It felt like she understood what I had gone through.
And that meant a lot to me. Leaving a religion you grew up in is an isolating experience. So, finding someone else who knows what that feels like, is like finding a light in a dark tunnel. And I decided that if I could be that for someone else, even one person, that was worth a post.
Now, I’m not writing any of this to encourage any Morman to leave the church. I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church. I would say except Scientologists, but that’s not really a religion. I only want to share with you what made me leave, and how it’s changed how I see the world.
I was a third generation Mormon. Or, as I was taught, I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My grandmother joined the church when she was a young mother. She was raised Catholic. Her brother and his whole family are still Catholic. So if anyone knows what I went through after leaving the church, it’s her.
Not sure why I’ve never talked to her about that. Maybe it’s because I’ve never talked to her about leaving the church.
I don’t really know the details of why Grandma left the Catholic church. Even if I did, that’s not my story to tell. It should suffice to say that she had good reasons for joining the Mormon church. And, they did wonderful things for her.
The church gave her a home and a family when she needed one. They helped her quit some bad habits she would rather I didn’t talk about here. I have never said, and will never say, that the church didn’t do great things for my grandma. I’m happy about that. She’s still a devout member of the church, and happy about that, too.
She raised all six of her kids in the church. They all consider themselves Mormon still, I think. It has a pretty high success rate.
As a kid, my mom didn’t take me to church. I’m pretty sure she had good reasons not to. She was working, or she’d worked the night before and was now justifiably exhausted. Maybe she just didn’t want to. Whatever the reason, I always attended church with my grandma.
When I was little, it wasn’t all that bad. I have vivid memories of coloring with wind up crayons that I wasn’t allowed to use any other time. Grandma taught me to fold a handkerchief so that it became two babies in a hammock. After Sacrament meeting, I would go to Primary and she would go to Relief Society. Then, we’d go home and she’d make us lunch. Those Sundays at her house are some of the strongest memories I have of my childhood. We didn’t watch tv on Sundays, so I would either play with my toys or read Calvin and Hobbs until my mom came to pick me up.
Even as I got older, and I was no longer allowed to color during Sacrament, it still wasn’t that bad. It was boring, but the classes after were fun. I had friends, and they were all in my class. Then one day, without a lot of warning, I was moved to a different class from my friends. You see, all of my friends were boys, and I was now in the girl’s class. That was my first sigh, looking back, that I might have a little bit of a problem.
As a teenager, I really wanted to be a good Mormon. I’ve seen Saturday’s Warriors literally over 100 times. There are three different Mormon magazines, I got them all. I read them, too. I subscribed to Ensign right up until the day I left the church. I was the secretary of my young women’s group. I went to the Young Women’s Summer camp and all of the youth group events. I was baptized in the church and received a Patriarchal Blessing. I’ve been inside the Temple in DC many times. I still consider it one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen in real life. (If you’re wondering, Mormons have churches called Wards that everyone is welcome to. They also have Temples, that you have to be a member and have a temple recommend to go to.)
The problem was, I just kept running into things I didn’t agree with about the Church. Like, some pretty major disagreements.
If you’re a man, and a Mormon, you are considered a member of the Priesthood. Members of the Priesthood are able to do things within the Church that other’s can’t. One that came up time and time again was a Priesthood holder’s ability to give a blessing.
Now, let me explain something about blessings in the Mormon faith. They were part of a regular Mormon’s kid’s life. A blessing is a prayer said on your behalf by a member of the Priesthood. If you were sick, or had a big test coming up, or just feeling kind of shitty, you asked your dad for a blessing. Your dad, or your big brother, or your uncle. Because women can’t hold the Priesthood. You can see how that put me at a disadvantage as a child of a single mom. All my uncles lived out of state. If I needed a blessing, I had to ask one of my friend’s dads. That was awkward.
This is getting a little long. I’m going to cut off here and pick it up on Friday. See you then.