Warning: the following post has lots of swears because I am. In. A. Mood.
We all have a few demons. But, damn, some are more pernicious than others.
I left the Mormon Church well over four years now. That transition sucked. I was depressed for a while. My new-found atheism and disdain for the church brought new challenges for my marriage. My husband tried to understand my qualms the best he could, and remains a faithful Latter-Day Saint to this day. He hasn’t left me for jumping ship, so he deserves props for giving me space to leave the church despite the wrench that throws into the covenanted eternal marriage thing.
I was letting it go, trying to let people worship how, where, and what they may. I felt like I had processed everything. I had deconstructed my faith and the religion of my upbringing ad nauseam. Then, reconstituted my values into something I was comfortable with. I had let go of most of my angst held against the church, being careful not to burn bridges with the people I love who still believe. I admit to being too confrontation at times, but I try really hard to control that anger. Relationships should come before ideology.
So here I am, atheist me with Mormon spouse making it work. I try to focus on the good things in the church, for the sake of my sanity and our relationship. I have come to terms with my daughters being brought up in the church. We’ve talked through a lot of topics, and although we may not agree on a lot of things, we can at least empathize with each other’s point of view.
We had settled into a rhythm, with our focus turned to love and raising tenacious, beautiful daughters. Things were going great.
I was taking a joy ride down the boulevard of life, just taking it all in stride. Hit a few bumps, but nothing my beach cruiser tires couldn’t ride out. The Mormon Church wasn’t for me, but if that’s your thing, you do it. That’s where I’ve been for a while.
But, holy cow. This last couple of weeks has been rough. Like some asshole shoved a broom through the spokes of my tire, sending me tumbling through the air and into a rubbery metal carnage on the asphalt. I want to barf. I want to cry. I want to check out at an intensive care unit for a while.
I think this reemergence of anger and frustration at the church really started when I decided to get serious about writing my book. It’s a dystopic heroine’s journey, a huge metaphor for my faith transition. So I’ve had to dive right back into that head-space. And it shocks me how much of an impact it still has on me.
Second, there’s been a #MormonMeToo movement emerging. I’ve been following it for some time now. It’s no shocker that abuse happens within the church. Abuse happens everywhere, unfortunately. But the extent to which the church protects sexual predators is disgusting. The failure of the church to respond appropriately, and the denial from members to even recognize this as a pervasive problem is……maddening beyond words.
This isn’t anything new. There has been a long history of covering up sexual abuse in the church. Take the time to read these links. Let this information sink in. Then try and tell me the church isn’t a safe haven for sexual predators, and that they have a bad habit of turning a blind eye to the abused.
I’m not the first person to compile a list like this. Mormon Stories has a much longer list of reports of sexual abuse to hit the news.
And of course, Sam Young, a current member and former bishop himself, has organized a grassroots movement to Protect LDS Children from situations that would make them easy targets for sexual predators. Protect LDS Children also speaks out against spiritual and emotional trauma. There are so many harrowing stories. This “stories” link is the most important one in this post. They highlight just how pervasive and damaging the mentality about abuse/sexuality/authority/gender is. These issues are all connected.
So how does the church respond to abuse within it’s organization?
Before the Joseph Bishop case blew up in March, the church claimed to be the “gold standard” when it comes to addressing abuse.
and “While clergy-abuse cases continue to grab headlines, the Church has had almost no child abuse problems with its clergy.”
Really? Almost no child abuse problems? Ignoring victims and pretending that there is no abuse does not mean that there is no abuse!!! Your clergy doesn’t even have to pass a back-ground check!!!! ALMOST EVERY OTHER ORGANIZATION WHO WORKS WITH CHILDREN DOES A BETTER JOB AT PREVENT ABUSE!
How am I supposed to reconcile with the church when it keeps doing infuriating shit?
Bishops, are advised to call a helpline. To connect victims to counseling that specializes in trauma? To give them information about pressing charges or legal advice? TO CALL THE POLICE? No, the helpline connects bishops to the church’s private law firm so the church can lawyer up and arrange a non-disclosure settlement before word gets out.
In response to all this bad publicity, the church did change one policy– to allow a second person in the worthiness interview.
Church owned Deseret News states “The LDS Church’s First Presidency announced significant policy changes Monday, providing direction on how bishops and stake presidencies may conduct interviews with women and children and how they counsel victims of abuse and sexual abuse.” So now parents have permission to sit with their kids while the bishop asks them if they are sexually pure, and now they are supposed to believe reports of abuse.
Then, to top it off, an apostle of the church publicly referred to sexual wrongdoing as “non-consensual immorality“.
Elder Quentin L. Cook said April 1st, 2018, “It is commendable that non-consensual immorality has been exposed and denounced. Such non-consensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society. However, those who understand God’s plan must also oppose consensual immorality, which is also a sin.”
Thanks, Elder Cook, for reminding victims that although their assault was non-consensual, it is still considered immoral.
It’s not called non-consensual immorality. It’s called assault. It’s called rape. Let me restate his words: It is commendable that sexual assault has been exposed and denounced. Such acts are against the laws of God and of society. However, those who understand God’s plan must also oppose consensual sex outside of marriage, which is also a sin.
Uh…so sexual violence is on the same level as consensual sex outside of marriage. Whaa??? Clearly the hang-up here is not the violent, violating acts done to others. It’s the sex.
Is the pain of retrenching myself back into the Mormon mind-cuss worth it? Like do I really want to dive back into that head-space of my faith transition? I was through that tunnel, ready to move on.
I listen to this podcast called Horrible Writing by Paul Sating. I like his candor and he inspires me to channel my dark thoughts and depression into my writing.
In Episode 8 he says, “If you are like me, you are inside your head far too often.”
Why, yes. I sure am.
“We explore a lot of dark stuff in our head.”
A lot lately. And I’m not even writing horror.
“I say don’t envy it. Because the closet where I keep that inspiration, that creative energy, also contains all the demons that push me to write.”
Mr. Sating, that is just the perspective that may keep my head from exploding right now.
My blog is about finding nuance. We can’t put dogma over relationships. For me, that means I can’t put my disdain for the Mormon church before my husband’s beliefs or my family’s. As an atheist, I don’t hold people’s belief in God against them. Not at all.
But for me, the Church only superficially stands for the good things it claims to. Scratch below the surface of handshakes and smiles, beyond the promises of redemption and exaltation, it stands for exclusion. It stands for homophobia. It stands for benevolent prejudice. It stands for intellectual opacity, subjective truth and conformity. It stands for everything I want to change in the world. And it does it all with a smile and an air of pretentiousness that makes me want to barf.
There is beauty within Mormonism, but the ugliness in it is what hurts people.
Sometimes I don’t want to find “nuance”. Sometimes I just want people to wake the fuck up.
Writers can use their dark places for inspiration. If I can channel my ExMormon rage into my dystopia without passing the event horizon of becoming that bitter apostate who goes full anti, that disgruntled ExMormon that has been kept at bay for the sake of my relationships, social status, and emotional well-being-then….I’ll be super proud of myself.
I wonder if the pain of this dance will ever go away.