Leaving the church of my childhood, Part Two

If you’re just joining us, this is day two of my explanation of why I left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Standard disclaimer: I have nothing against the Mormon church. I don’t rail against them, nor do I have anything against anyone who is Mormon. This is just why I decided to leave.

I want to thank Plamondon, the author behind Ah, Mince. Your bravery in writing your GUM (growing up Mormon) series is what encouraged me to write this.

And now, for part two.

Women and men have very specific roles in the Mormon church. A man is the head of the household. He is the provider, the voice of the church within the house. He is meant to be the guidance that his children and wife need. A woman is the comfort of the home. Her role is to raise the children, care for the home, and be the spiritual center of the house. My impression of a Mormon mom was always kind of like a Stepford wife. Their homes were always in good order, they cooked homemade dinners every night. There were no playing cards in their homes because Mormon’s don’t believe in them. Mormon moms braided their daughter’s hair every morning, woke them with a song. They volunteered to work with the Young Women’s group, and they baked cookies all the time. Cookies from scratch, not from a packet.

My mom tried so damn hard to be that. Our house was always picture perfect. She cooked almost every night, even if it was microwaved Salisbury steaks. She worked herself half to death to conform to the kind of mother she thought I deserved, as a Mormon kid. But she was trying to keep up with stay at home moms. At most, part-time working moms. That was an unrealistic standard to reach for.

Here’s a really high standard my mom taught me as a child that most of my friend’s moms didn’t have. My mom has always been accepting of homosexuality and anyone on the LGBT spectrum. Love is love, that’s what my mom taught me. She didn’t care who I brought home, so long as that person treated me right.

Fun fact, Mormons don’t believe in gay marriage. I’ve always had a problem with that. But who was I, after all, to question the church?

Finally, there was one thing I lived with my whole time as a Mormon that impacted me more than anything else. Warning, this is totally selfish. I don’t care.

I was consistently pitied for being the daughter of a single mom. You remember I was talking about being too nervous to ask for blessings from my friend’s dads? I didn’t really need to ask, they were offered. Other moms were always making sure that I had a ride to church events, and that I was included in every single thing. Every year a young woman of the church is expected to have a Personal Progress Project. I was constantly offered help with mine. One mom even asked if her husband could take me to the father-daughter event since her own daughter would be out of town.

I’d said not a single word to this man my entire damn life.

I’m sure these women didn’t mean to make me feel pitied. They were trying to help me because they felt that I was missing something. In doing so, they reminded me constantly of what I was missing.

Despite all of this, I still considered myself a good Mormon. At least, I wanted to be. I desperately wanted to be. I was sure, as I assume most children are, that I was the one who was wrong. The Church was right. Then I did something that really drove a wedge in my relationship with the church.

I had a baby.

The church is totally pro-baby. But they’re not pro getting pregnant outside of wedlock at seventeen. I mean, who is really? That’s not a goal for most people, at least it wasn’t for me. I had to go and speak with our Bishop, and a panel of older men in the church. And I have to say, if you’re going to leave the teaching of young girls to the women, maybe you should let them discipline them, too.

There was a discussion about having me excommunicated. Now, I want to make it clear that this doesn’t mean the same thing as with other churches. Being excommunicated, as it was explained to me, meant that I would then be able to be re-baptized.

Again, they were trying to be kind.

But that really was the beginning of the end. That was when I realized something profound.

Maybe, if I don’t agree with some of the basic foundations of the church, it might not be the church for me. Maybe it’s not wrong, and I’m not wrong, but we’re wrong for each other.

It didn’t come down to some dramatic event. I didn’t damn them and storm out of the building. I just stopped going. I didn’t feel like I really owe anyone an explanation, so I didn’t give one.

There are lots of good things about being Mormon. If you’ve ever been around one, or a whole group, you know they’re scary nice people. That’s on purpose. You’re taught as a Mormon that your behavior should always be kind. You are a servant of the lord in everything you do. Mormons are taught to be hard workers, thrifty and diligent. They don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. They don’t smoke. And family always comes first.

That’s all fine, and I can’t find fault with it. But if you don’t fit into a specific mold, you’re going to suffer. I tried for a long time to fit into that mold. But it was just never going to work. And I’m done trying.

Which isn’t to say it was easy. Being a part of a church like that is like being part of a massive community. There’s a language that goes along with it, a way of speaking. I still feel that loss, even though I don’t see myself ever going back. But it’s hard not to feel a bit lost. Unfortunately, there’s not a chapter of my current faith anywhere near here. There are lots of great online communities, though, and I take a lot of comfort in that.

I do also want to say that while I did lose faith in the church, my faith in God never wavered. If anything, that’s gotten stronger through my life. So many people I talk to, their faith and their church are so intertwined that when they lose one, they lose the other. That wasn’t how it was for me.

Thank you for tolerating this rather long, sad story. I hope that, if you’ve ever gone through something like this, that you know you’re not alone. Faith is a very personal experience, and what was the right path for me may not be the right one for you.

I just hope you find your own path.


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