Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ushering In The New Year: A Look Back at 2012

          Every once in a while, it is wise to stop and take note of where you have been and where you are headed.  I rang in 2012 in a pretty dark place; 2011 had been a year of crumbling apart, of watching as my dreams slipped away from me.  In late 2010, I was in an auto-pedestrian accident; the resulting anxiety forced me to quit grad school.  I began to spiral downward in a maelstrom of anger, depression, anxiety, and grief.  I grew angry; angry at the past, angry about the accident, angry about being forced to give up on a dream that was once precious to me.
          Mormonism is not an easy religion to either live or leave.  But I left and I worked hard to overcome my childhood and create the life that I wanted.  I had faith that work would lead to a better future, a faith that I was able to sustain by denying the past.  I dealt with my issues by stuffing them into a little box and burying the box with a big heap of denial.
          Then, on the verge of arriving at a settled place in life, I was hit by a car while walking across the street, in the type of freak accident that people hear about on the news but never imagine will happen to them.  I always believed that hard work would yield results.  But sometimes something will come along and smash your life into a million little pieces.  In my case, literally.  My life slid downwards in a spiral of anger, anxiety, and depression as I questioned why this had happened.  I lost my faith that hard work would yield a better life. 
          There was sufficient cause to be angry, both from the accident and from life.  But anger is only healthy in small doses; in large doses, anger quickly becomes dangerous.  A hearth-fire warms the house; a raging inferno threatens to burn down everything in its path. 
          And so 2012 was a year about picking up the pieces and putting them back together.  I was lost and confused for a very long time; without a clearly defined goal in front of me, I lost my bearings and my ambition.  But slowly, in fits, starts, and bursts of writing, I began to regain a sense of self.  Writing provided clarity of mind and gave me the courage to start focusing on what I wanted out of life.
          This blog, which developed as an offshoot of my writing ventures, has helped me find my footing again.  I am grateful, in a thousand ways both big and small, for all of the comments, e-mails, and goodwill I have received since going public with my story.  I look forward to writing – and reading – many more stories. 
          At the verge of 2013, I am scheduled to start school again.  I have re-applied to graduate school for the fall semester.  Maybe the path I have mapped out for myself will come to fruition.  Perhaps it won’t; perhaps something else will come along.  Either way, I am at a point where I feel hope for the future.  I have faith that I am strong enough to handle whatever life throws at me.  And so, I will welcome 2013 with the optimism that I have the strength and resourcefulness to meet whatever challenges may come my way.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book Review: The 19th Wife

         The "19th Wife", by David Ebershoff, is a novel that alternates between the narrative of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and Jordan Scott, a “lost boy” that was born to a 19th wife in a modern-day polygamous community. 
          Ann Eliza Young was famous for divorcing Brigham Young and then going on to crusade against polygamy. During her crusade, she wrote an autobiography of her life, titled "Wife No 19". In re-writing Ann Eliza Young’s story as a work of fiction, Ebershoff goes one step further by providing the narratives of others, including her family members and Brigham Young. Some of the narratives didn’t come across as authentic – they felt too clean, too self-aware for the rough-hewn pioneer characters they portrayed. Nevertheless, by including these alternative voices, the author created a more nuanced portrayal of 19th-century polygamy.
          The other part of the novel is comprised of the story of Jordan Scott, a lost boy who was kicked out of his polygamous community at the age of fourteen. After fleeing Utah, he returns home when his mother is arrested for his father’s murder. Believing his mother to be innocent, Jordan sets out to uncover the truth. The story that unfolds is a complex narrative of modern-day polygamy, with ties to the original Mormon faith that fostered the practice. The story alternated between the two time periods with relative ease; this was a book that I started reading and couldn’t put down.
          The author did an excellent job at untangling some of the complex emotions that happen when one man is married to multiple women, as well as portraying the religious significance of polygamy in early Mormon history. Overall, this was a very engaging work of historical fiction.

This book has been out a while – I picked up my copy at a used book-store. For history buffs, Ann Eliza Young’s book "Wife No. 19" is also available as an e-bookon Amazon for a reasonable price.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Mother-In-Law, the Drug Dealer

          The last time my mother-in-law (Amma) visited, I gave her a bottle of melatonin pills to take back to India with her. The pills helped her recover from her jet lag, and, now that she has settled back into her daily rhythm, help her deal with her chronic insomnia. For the first time in years, Amma can sleep through the night.
          Always a selfless woman, Amma has decided to share her melatonin supply with the other women in her apartment complex. Now, late at night, Amma will sometimes hear a soft knock. When she opens the door, she finds one of the neighborhood ladies standing there, asking for one of Amma’s “magic pills”. She then hands out a couple pills, wrapped up in a twist of wax paper, saying “Here. This will help you sleep better.”
          My husband and I are under strict orders to bring a large supply of melatonin with us the next time we go to India. After all, there are a lot of sleepless women in India depending on Amma’s magic pills.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Woman Who Wore Pants To Church

          This Sunday, December 16th, a group of Mormon women are planning a peaceful demonstration called “Wear Pants To Church Sunday”. This demonstration is only significant within the context of Mormon culture, which has very strong expectations for women to wear skirts to church. Pants aren’t forbidden; if a woman chooses to wear pants to Sunday service, no formal disciplinary action will be taken. From the outside, there seems to be no issue surrounding women wearing pants to church.
          As the organizers of the “Wear Pants To Church Sunday” event are discovering, there is a deep antagonism within Mormonism against the idea of women wearing pants to church. Some of the comments from the event’s Facebook page include:

“I cannot support an event that seeks to question divinely inspired doctrine about the roles of men and women. We are not meant to be the same. I can't believe how many women are listening to the Worldly view and Instead of celebrating their divine attributes and differences they want to change who God created them to be so they can be like their male counterparts.”

“ In 1993 president packer said one of the greatest threats to the church is feminism within the church itself, looks like that revelation is starting to come to pass right before our eyes, way to bring more negative attention to the church ladies”

“While you're at it why not shave your head, have your breasts removed and get your tubes tied? that'll show em”

          One of the women in my childhood congregation wore pantsuits to church every Sunday. She was the only woman brave enough to wear pants; members dismissed her actions by saying – “Oh, that’s just Carla*, she does whatever she wants.” Carla’s husband had served as bishop and came from a respectable Mormon family; no one dared to suggest that her pantsuits were a sign of apostasy.

          Carla was an outspoken matriarch, a woman that many people feared, myself included. My first memory of Carla was as a five-year old girl returning to the chapel from the bathroom. I walked into the chapel and sat down next to my mother. Or at least, I sat next to the woman that looked like my mother from the back. I slipped into the church-pew and snuggled up to the woman I thought was my mother, only to look up at the face of Carla. I started crying – loud,anxious tears that scandalized my mother. Seeing my confusion, Carla put her arms around me and told me that I was welcome to sit next to her. I shook my head and ran back to my mother, who was sitting a couple pews behind. 
          Most of the people in our ward feared Carla. She was the organist and in charge of all of the musical activities. She possessed an efficiency and take-charge attitude that, as a child, I feared, and as an adult, I envy. Carla was the real deal, a woman who raised eight children on a professor’s salary, ran the church music service, and still had the guts to speak her mind. Over the years, Carla, with her usual blunt manner, has asked me if I was anorexic (all ballet dancers are anorexic!), why I dyed my hair red (people spend lots of money to get the blonde hair you already have!),and trotted me around her daughter’s bridal shower with the triumphant news that I had finished my first year of college with straight-A’s. Straight-A’s! she said. That’s something to be proud of! I had been doubting my achievements; Carla's praise made me proud again. 
          Carla was outspoken, which made many of the members uncomfortable, as there is an unwritten rule against dissent. Carla was also honest. She served as the Relief Society president when I was in high school; those were the years that my mother enjoyed Relief Society. After church, my mother recounted tales of Carla presiding over lessons – listing virtues, preaching values – only for Carla to end the lesson by saying – “Well, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually met anyone that can fulfill these criteria.” Carla was a rare flash of honesty in the sea of the Prozac-fueled “happy, happy, happy” denial that is Mormon culture. My mother was too quiet to wear pantsuits or to speak her dissenting opinions; Carla was the woman that gave voice to my mother’s unease. 
          My father didn’t like Carla much; he complained that she was too bossy, too opinionated, too controlling. Carla was in charge of directing the music and my father was a musician; the two of them had many battles concerning the musical numbers. Carla was the rare woman with the courage to contradict my father. 
          Carla also wore pantsuits every Sunday, an act of independence that no one dared to speak about. I am not sure why she chose to wear pantsuits; I don’t think she wore them to make a statement or to create controversy. I never questioned Carla’s pantsuits; I also never questioned the fact that no other women wore pants. I too dismissed Carla’s pantsuits as just an eccentricity. 
          I never really understood Carla. As a Mormon, I thought she was too outspoken. As an ex-Mormon,I didn’t understand why she stayed within Mormonism. Now that I have a deeper understanding of the courage required to defy Mormon conventions, I realize that I dismissed her too easily. There isn’t a lot of room within Mormon culture for women like Carla; there are strong expectations for women to be soft-spoken and submissive. Carla was none of these; the fact that she was able to be herself in a culture that was stacked against her is a testament to her strength of will. Carla was a path-breaker, the type of woman that walked to the beat of her own drum. 
          Carla was the woman that wore pants to church. 

*Name has been changed

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Is Not Progress: Mormons, Gays, And Feminists

          There have been a few changes within Mormonism this past year.  First, the General Authorities announced a change in missionary policy, lowering the age for both men and women.  Men are allowed to serve at the age of eighteen, women at the age of nineteen.  Previously, men went out at nineteen; women were allowed to serve at twenty-one, if they were still unmarried.  The service time remains the same – two years for men, eighteen months for women.  When asked why the change in policy didn’t erase the differences between men and women completely, Thomas S. Monson’s reply was “one miracle at a time”.
          Women can now serve missions at nineteen.  This sounds like progress – except that women are still not granted any authority in church matters.  Within the mission field, only the male missionaries will be allowed to fulfill leadership positions.  Any investigator that a sister missionary teaches will be baptized by a male missionary, who will receive the credit for conversion.  I view this change in the policy regarding sister missionaries as a minor concession granted, with no real change in sight.  Authority – and the ability to effect change – remains firmly in the hands of an all-male leadership. 
          Every position within the Mormon Church that is filled by a woman is ultimately presided over by men.  Mormon authorities point to the Relief Society – an all-female organization – as proof that women are equal.  What they don’t mention is that any decision made by the Relief Society leaders can be over-ruled at any time by the male authorities.  As a teenager, I attended a church girls’ camp in the summer.  Our leaders were responsible, capable women.  This was not enough; church policy required that each ward provide a male chaperone, usually the bishop or one of his counselors.  I left Mormonism while I was still in high school; had I stayed, this dynamic would have followed me through my entire life, as all-female gatherings within Mormonism are subject to male authorities attending.  All of the pretty talk about respecting women is pointless when church culture is based on the assumption that women are not capable or trustworthy. 
          The second big change has been in the form of a website titled “Mormons and Gays” that is being touted as a new era in Mormon-gay relations.  The Church’s official stance on homosexuality is at the top of the page and reads:

“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

          In other words – it’s okay to be gay, it’s just not okay to be gay. 
          This is not progress.  I define progress as moving towards a new future.  What I see is a church that is being dragged into the future kicking and screaming.  Granting token gestures towards marginalized groups, in a manner that suggests the underlying attitudes are still intact, is not progress.  There is now a website that says Mormons should love gays, with the acknowledgment that being gay might be inherent.  Accompanying this gesture is a huge asterisk, in the form of a statement: “There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right.”  In other words, there has been lip service paid to the idea of change, without any significant revision of the underlying attitudes. 
          What about this can be labeled progress? 
           The Mormon Church has a long history of being forced into tolerance by the surrounding society.  There is now a satire website called “Mormons and Negroes”, which draws on quotes from former leaders of the Mormon Church.  As this website illustrates, the Mormon Church also has a very unsavory history with race relations.  Black men weren't allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978.  Receiving the priesthood is a rite of passage granted to twelve-year boys and is necessary for a full life as a Mormon male.  Lifting the priesthood ban was heralded as a monumental step forward.  However, the reversal of the priesthood ban was prompted more by the threat of legal sanctions rather than genuine tolerance.  Perhaps this would be okay; no matter the reason, the ban was lifted.  However, the Mormon authorities have never retracted their previous teachings or apologized for the ban.  As a result, attitudes regarding race have changed in a slow and uneven manner, with a significant number of members repeating the older teachings as truth.  After all, the men that made these statements are considered prophets of God – what argument can be made that these teachings are in error?  The only answer is to forget or deny the past.  As a teenager in the late 90s/early 00s, I learned that black people were descendants of Cain, cursed with dark skin for Cain’s murder of Abel.  I also learned that Native Americans had been cursed with dark skin for similar reasons.  Even in the post-civil rights era of my teenage years, these archaic and damaging teachings were far from dead. 
          Earlier this year, Randy Bott, a very popular BYU professor, re-hashed some of the attitudes surrounding Mormon race relations in a Washington Post interview.  After public outcry, the Mormon Newsroom released the following statement. 

"For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding."

          There was no attempt by Mormon authorities to address the past.  There was no attempt to clarify that the earlier teachings – which Bott had repeated in a national interview – were not of God.  Instead, the Mormon PR machine tried to sweep the whole issue under a rug.  
          This is not progress.  These are the actions of a church that is unwilling or unable to change. 
          Change is only effective if done willingly and with a full heart.  I see evidence of change among the members; Prop 8 was a source of heartache to many faithful Mormons.  Most members have also moved past the racist teachings of the previous leaders.  These are the people that give me hope for a better future.  What I don’t see is any hint of change among the authorities or even an avenue for change to occur. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When Mormons Leave

          When I came home from my first semester of college, my sister-in-law asked me about college and if I liked the people at church. I looked at her, puzzled, until I realized she didn’t know. “I haven’t attended church in over a year.” I told her.
          My sister-in-law looked shocked and then, looking around her, lowered her voice – “Don’t tell my children about this.” I have honored my sister-in-law’s request – I do not discuss my reasons for leaving in front of her children. I do not want to be the trouble-maker.
          When Mormons leave, an odd thing happens. Mormons refuse to talk about the issue, creating a cocoon of denial around a person’s decision to leave. There is an almost universal desire among Mormons to ignore the fact of apostasy. I was never asked about my reasons for leaving, although there were a lot of people who tried to convince me to go back to church. Apostates are branded as angry, sinful, or deluded. The Mormons that love you don’t want to believe that you have joined the ranks of apostate – so they don’t ask, preferring to think that you are simply confused. The Mormons that don’t know you also refuse to ask, assuming that your apostasy was for the stereotypical reasons. A member’s inactivity is viewed as a temporary lapse of sanity, one that can be gently corrected by the faithful.
          Ex-Mormons don’t talk about leaving because doing so will be a spark of anger in an already tense situation. If we talk about the issues within Mormonism that caused us to leave, then we are branded as the stereotypical angry apostate. Faithful members fear that we will corrupt their children or shake their belief in Mormonism. My family does not want to hear why I left and I do not want to force my opinions on an un-willing audience. There is a communication chasm between Mormon and ex-Mormon that cannot be breached.
          An unfortunate effect of this impasse is that ex-Mormons have a difficult time finding each other. We cannot speak about our doubts in public and few Mormons will acknowledge our apostasy, creating a shroud of secrecy around the existence of ex-Mormons.
          A couple months ago, I discovered that one of my brothers is inactive. His church attendance has been wavering for a long time, with periods of activity followed by inactivity. I am ashamed to admit that I did not know this, in spite of the fact that this has been going on for years. My brother is thirteen years elder to me; he moved to Utah when I was four. Other than a couple of years spent living near my parents when I was eight, my brother has spent the majority of his life living in the Utah/Idaho region. This was happening in my own family – and I never knew. No one told me and I didn’t think to ask. The cocoon of silence surrounding ex-Mormons runs deep, even within families.
          The reason I heard about my brother’s inactivity is because my family is making a concerted effort to get him to go back to church. A couple months ago, when I was talking to my brother on the phone, he had to hang up because the bishop had arrived.
          “The bishop’s here - he’s going to try and convince me to come back to church.” my brother said, sounding gloomy about the prospect.
          Wait, he’s not going to church? I thought. I knew that my brother is responsible for driving his children to seminary and that his eldest son is preparing to leave for a mission – this is the gossip I have heard within the family circles. The fact that my brother was no longer attending was not part of the family narrative.
          “Oh, I’ve been there before.” I said. I wanted to talk more but my brother had to hang up. I sent him an e-mail, letting him know that if he ever wanted to talk, I was happy to listen. He has not replied. I am silent because I do not want to cause a rift in my brother’s family or be labeled as the corrupting apostate influence. I assume my brother is quiet for similar reasons; I am the baby, the little sister he doesn’t know well enough to trust. Even within my own family, we are doomed to isolation because we fear the retaliation that results from speaking against Mormonism.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


          When I first left Mormonism, I called myself an atheist.  I walked around saying “I know there is no God.”  Faced with the difficulties of transitioning out of Mormonism – the fights, the sorrow, the preaching – a hardline approach was necessary.  I needed to present a strong face to the world, to counteract the rigid beliefs I grew up with.  If a pendulum swings far to one side, then it must return to the other side in equal measure. 
          When I began to settle into my identity as a former Mormon, I realized that I am not an extreme person.  In church, I was taught to say “I know there is a God.”  Then I said “I know there is no God.”  Neither of these identities worked for me.  I do not know the truth and I do not want to lie – either to myself or others - about the fact of knowing.  As people, we have a tendency to whitewash our reality, to project an image to the world.  We all want to be seen as ideal versions of ourselves.  The more we act the part, the further from reality we find ourselves.  Saying “I know” about the existence of God is a deny our limitations as humans.  There is no substantive evidence that either proves or disproves the presence of a higher power.  
          As an agnostic, I have been accused of being wish-washy.  I disagree.  Part of growing up is accepting your limitations.  For me, the path to maturity involved accepting my limitations.  I will never be a social butterfly – I am far too introverted for that to be a reality.  I could wallow in self-pity about the matter – or I could grow up and accept myself for who I am.  Within the acceptance of limitations is strength.  Until there is substantive evidence concerning the existence of God, I will not claim to know the truth.  
          As human beings, we have our collective limitations.  As much as I love watching X-Men, humans will probably never develop super-powers.  I also don’t think we ever know the truth of what happens after death, as much as popular books and pop-science try to convince us otherwise.  We can either wallow in denial and self-pity or we can accept the limitations of our beliefs.  There is no shame in admitting we don't know the answers.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Photo-Shopping Life

I have a habit of browsing through food blogs.  The photos are tempting – bright, colorful, and immaculate.  Sometimes I replicate these recipes – a couple weeks ago, faced with a deluge of oranges from the tree in my backyard, I made sweet orange marmalade, based off a recipe I found online.  Last month, when I was craving pumpkin spice lattes, I made my own pumpkin mixture to add to my morning coffee.  I found the recipe online, my attention caught by the gorgeous photos
When I made these recipes, the results looked flat in comparison to the glossy photos found online.  Don’t get me wrong – the results tasted delicious.  But my kitchen counters are worn, the lighting is funky, and my utensils are chipped.  My life lacks the filters and editing of modern photography.  
I live a pretty ordinary life.  My house is a 1920s’-era bungalow that is slowly being into turned into a home.  The furniture is sparse, the bathrooms are old, and the garden is an on-going mess.  I still don’t own a proper bed or matching sheets.  I eat good food – sometimes.  My husband and I are happy together – most of the time.  When guests come for dinner, I scramble to put my house in order and to make sure that I have enough matching plates.  My efforts at entertaining are a comedy in errors. 
We live in a world of photo-editing, where any photo can be turned into a surreal work of art.  When I look at magazine photos and Instagrams, I see an alternate reality.  Photoshop “accidents” are memorable; people lose limbs and gain curves in unexpected places.  Less notable is the effect that photo-editing has on the way we look at life.  Surrounded by photos of immaculate kitchens and beautiful examples of perfect lives, I feel inadequate. 
Behind every two-dimensional photo is a three-dimensional reality.  Photos capture a sliver of life, a bare millisecond of the world we live in.  In math class we put one over infinity, resulting in a number that forever slopes towards zero.  With photos, we take an infinitesimal fraction of reality and subject it to further manipulations.  The result is glossy, lightened, and devoid of the visceral heft of the real world. 
We all edit our lives; when I talk to people, I don’t go into every detail of my life.  I pick and choose what I want to share.  When I write, I pick and choose my stories, in order to create a specific narrative.  Editing is a necessary process of life.
Where do we draw the line?  When does editing stop being necessary and start becoming dishonest?  There are many different ways in which I can re-arrange my life.  I can cut and paste my experiences to create very different stories.  Each version presents a slightly different reality.  Which narrative is true to who I am?  Which snapshot presents my reality? 

Monday, November 19, 2012


                Segregation (n): The action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart

          I was summoned for jury duty today.  The jury duty itself was anti-climatic - four hours of waiting around only to be dismissed before jury selection began.  What struck me, however, was the assortment of people around me.  Jury duty, along with voting and identification, is the great equalizer. People are summoned regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status.  The result is a mixture of people that would never be thrown together otherwise.  
          I go through life surrounded by people that are similar to me.  Most of the people that I know I met through school, work, or leisure activities.  As diverse as my interests are, there is a limit to how many people I meet or the type of people I meet.  The people I associate with on a regular basis share a common bond with me. 
          People segregate according to shared values, culture, and social status.  We do this because identifying with people like ourselves is easy.  Friendship is an organic process that develops out of a shared bond; by that standard, most of our friends will be an echo of who we are.  I live in a city that echoes this trait on a larger scale – if you tell me your ethnicity and socioeconomic status, then I can make a pretty good guess as to which neighborhood you live in. 
Standing in the line at the courthouse, I struck up a conversation with a guy holding a Bible.  He was a youth pastor; I asked him about the training a minister is expected to go through.  This is not my usual conversation; I felt ill-at-ease, as though I had a big red “A” for agnostic tattooed on my forehead.  I am guessing that this youth minister probably felt the same way talking to a woman that seemed clueless about the basics of church leadership. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


          I met an old friend this weekend.  This girl is my Mormon counterpart, the “what-if” version of a life spent inside Mormonism, rather than outside.  Our parents are long-time friends; we grew up in the same ward and attended the same school.  We were the minority Mormons in school, a fact that threw us together on a regular basis.  We were both blonde, straight-A students who went on to study biology in college.  Between early-morning seminary, our shared honors classes, and youth activities, she was the person that saw me the most.  And so, when my belief in Mormonism began to fall apart, she was the first person to pick up on the tension.
          I wish that I had a story of a friendship that transcended religious belief – but I don’t.  The fall-out was messy, involving a seminary schism and the involvement of her uncle the bishop.  I guess we both had our anxieties surrounding the Mormon faith - we were just on different sides of the spectrum.  I was angry with her for a long time; now I find my anger is slipping away.  And so, when I made the arrangements to visit my parents, I contacted her to see if she wanted to get together.  She said yes and we agreed to meet at a bakery downtown.
          We are now a little older, a little fatter, and more aware of life’s realities.  Neither of us have the life we dreamed of in high school.  I am OK with that; I like my life, even if it is not the life I expected.  We have both had our struggles; a traumatic accident for me, an autistic child for her.  She joked about her son, saying that he was the clone of Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.  I joked about my accident, saying that my thick skull came in handy.  I have learned that life cannot be controlled; I suspect she has learned that too.
         I have been running from my past for my entire adult life.  I have avoided my high school classmates and most of my college-friends; they are a reminder of an angry, painful period in my life.  I have kept quiet with my family, afraid to spark controversy or tackle the harder issues.  I am not good at confrontation; I do not know the art of constructive argument.  Avoidance is easy - but does not solve the issue.
        I needed the space to sort out my thoughts, to figure out who I was and what I believed, to arrive at acceptance.  Now that I have grown into my identity as a post-mormon agnostic girl, the time has come for reunions, for confronting the past, and for moving on to a future that includes all the facets of who I am. 
        Past, present, and future.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Doomsday Predictions

I for one am neither surprised nor the slightest bit dismayed by my political antithesis's re-election. We know what leads to the final 'passing of the torch' and this just hastens the day and solidifies the resolve and preparation of those who are already well entrenched.

It is completely disenchanting to hear so many people of the same faith in me post such hateful, extremist, end of the world, life, liberty and happiness comments. If you are a true follower of Christ and of the LDS faith you should have hope in your own life-knowing that YOU determine your own happiness. Civility and compromise are qualities that we should all exemplify.

These quotes showed up in my Facebook feed this morning – both of the authors are Mormons that I grew up with. Post-election day is always a let-down; people win and people lose. Some people are happy, some people are sad, some people get angry. This particular election was historic; Mitt Romney was the first Mormon presidential candidate of a major political party. Romney’s candidacy sparked an interest in Mormonism that I have never seen before; this election season has been a roller coaster of emotions, as I have watched the media cover the issues that had such a profound impact on my life.

As a child, I sat through many lessons about the Second Coming of Christ. One teacher taught us that two missionaries would be shot in Jerusalem and that their bodies would lie in the streets for the period of three days. Another teacher told me that the Saints would gather in Missouri and that there would be a period of intense natural disasters. Families were commanded to store a year’s supply of food, in preparation for hard times and famine. After the Second Coming, after all of the chaos and terror, we were taught that Christ would usher in the Millennium, which would be a thousand-year period of peace and prosperity, when Mormonism would spread throughout the world. The Second Coming of Christ is a strong belief within Mormonism; a video that went viral last week indicates that even Romney believes in the predictions surrounding the Second Coming.  The leaders never made predictions as to when the Second Coming would take place but we were warned to always be ready, as it could happen at any moment.

Growing up, my father would say that “one day the Constitution will be hanging by a thread and the leaders of this country will look to the Mormon leaders to save it.” This statement, purportedly made by the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, is commonly referred to as the White Horse Prophecy. I am not sure how many Mormons still ascribe to this prophecy. After Romney’s loss, a quick glance through the ex-mormon discussion boards indicates that more Mormons believe this prophecy than I realized. Many ex-mormons have reported the doomsday predictions of their Mormon relatives. Glenn Beck appears to believe in the White Horse prophecy, although I have always considered Glenn Beck to be a more extreme example of Mormonism. Nevertheless, there is a doomsday attitude that goes deeper than just the sorrow and fear associated with a candidate’s loss; I find myself wondering how many Mormons view this as a sign of the Second Coming.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Election Day 2008: Politics, Religion, & Family

          The night of Election Day, 2008, I found myself in the library writing a paper.  Genetics lab – and the fly report – is infamous at Cornell, the bane of many aspiring biologists.  As it turned out, this report was due the day after Election Day.  The morning of Election Day, I woke up early, rode the bus to the local town hall, entered the red-curtained booth, pulled the lever for my choice in candidates, and then headed back to the library to write my report.  I worked late into the night; I could hear the cheers outside the window as I alternated between writing about fly genetics and checking CNN every half hour for election updates.  I finished my fly report a few hours after the race was called and then crashed on the couch at lab for a few hours of shut-eye.  I was both thrilled with the Obama victory and exhausted from the demands of a heavy course-load.  I fell asleep dreaming of a better tomorrow.   
          The next day, as I headed to class wearing the rumpled clothing from the previous day, I started hearing murmurs about a Proposition 8 that had been passed in California.  I was confused about what Prop 8 was – something to do with gay marriage.  Since it was a California initiative, I assumed the proposition was in support of gay marriage.  I had been so focused on the presidential election that I did not stop to think about what else was going on in the rest of the country.  But, as I later found out, Proposition 8 was not in support of gay marriage; it was a ban against gay marriage.
          A little while later, I began hearing about the Mormons and the role they played in getting Prop 8 passed.  There are no words to describe my devastation when I found out that the religion I was raised in – and that my family actively supports – had invested so much time and energy into stripping human beings of their right to marry.   Before Election Day 2008, Mormonism had been a part of my past, an identity that infused my up-bringing and had been responsible for shaping my character.  I had complicated feelings about the culture and the authorities but Mormonism was simply a quirky part of my up-bringing.  My identity as an agnostic humanist is owed, in part, to the rigor associated with leaving Mormonism.     
          After Election Day 2008, my relationship with Mormonism became much more complicated.  There is no way to sugar-coat this issue - I became ashamed of my up-bringing, of my family's association with a religion that had actively campaigned to remove the rights of both friends and acquaintances.   With that initial flush of shame set in an even deeper shame; how could I be ashamed of the religion that my family loves so much?  Pre-Prop-8, I had made a tenuous peace with Mormonism.  Post-Prop-8, I found myself battling hurt and anger all over again.   
There is a long history of homophobia within the Mormon Church; Boyd K. Packer, one of the most out-spoken authorities on homosexuality, is next in line to become the President of the Mormon Church.  In 2010, Boyd K. Packer, in a telecast watched by Mormons the world over, said "Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”* Should the current leader, Thomas S. Monson, die, Boyd K. Packer will assume leadership of the Mormon Church and be seen as a modern-day prophet, with the power to commune with God and receive revelation for the Mormon Church at large.  Last month, in another world-wide televised broadcast, the General Authority Dallin H. Oaks gave a speech titled “Protect the Children”, the topic of which was the danger of single-parent homes.  Following his descriptions of the dangers associated with children growing up without married parents, he proceeded to state “We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender.”  
The Mormon Church’s stance on homosexuality – along with their actions to actively suppress the rights of gays and lesbians – is heart-breaking.  At this point in time, gay Mormons only have a limited set of options - mixed-orientation heterosexual marriage, celibacy, or leaving the faith they were raised to believe in.  All of these are heart-breaking options. 
The truth is, I struggle to balance the love I have for my family with my concerns about the teachings of Mormonism. I am uncomfortable with prevalent insularity of Mormon culture, the active hostility towards members who leave, and the swift punishment that is meted out to members who express views that are not in alignment with the teachings of authorities.  As a former Mormon with a devout Mormon family, I find myself in a tenuous position.  How do I balance my two worlds?  How do I reconcile the love I have for my family – for whom Mormonism is both an identity and a way of life - with my deep unease over the intolerant actions of Mormon authorities?  With every piece of writing, every conversation, I find myself walking a fine line, one that carries the constant risk of falling.  How do I balance my own personal convictions with the convictions of my family? 
I love my Mormon family but according to Mormon theology, I have thrown away my chances of being with them for eternity.  To my family, the most hurtful part of my apostasy must be the simple fact that I will no longer be with them for eternity.  The obligations of Mormonism that consume their lives are no longer part of my world-view; I am no longer on the path to an eternity spent with my family, in spite of the fact that I was raised with a full knowledge of the obligations that the Mormon Heavenly Father expects of me.  I am unable to grasp the concept of a loving God who requires rituals and a belief in a specific theology as a requirement to enter Heaven.  
Heartbreak is found on both sides of the divide between Mormons and former Mormons.  
Another Election Day is approaching, historic for the fact that the Republican nominee is a devout Mormon.  Once again, I find myself wondering what impact the future will have on my relationship with my family and my up-bringing.  I have been watching this Mormon moment, wondering what impact politics and religion will have on the relationships between faithful members and former members.  The MormonThink controversy has reminded me of the omniscience of the Mormon authorities and their willingness to suppress any truths that threaten the church’s image.  I wonder what will happen when the eyes of the media are diverted from the actions of the Mormon Church.  Will the actions of the Mormon Church cause a further rift between faithful Mormons and non-believer family members  or will the Mormon authorities work to create long-lasting changes for a more tolerant future?  

*Note: The transcript for Boyd K. Packer's speech was later amended following a public outcry.  For that reason, I referred you to the original video of his speech; for a more detailed explanation of the changes made, I refer you to this article written by a gay-rights website.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


          We live in an era that is becoming more and more partisan by the day.  I am still young - perhaps this has always been the case.  All I know is that since I have reached adulthood, I have been watching this country slide into an us-vs-them mentality.  Liberals versus conservatives.  Christian versus non-Christian.  Theists versus non-theists.  Evolution versus creationism.  Citizens versus immigrants.  
          What troubles me the most is that people seem to accept these divisions as inevitable.  I acknowledge that working together in spite of differences is challenging.  I have strong opinions on many issues - in general I am quite liberal.  I support access to contraceptives, health-care reform that allows uninsured people with pre-existing conditions to obtain affordable insurance, increased funding for education, and the continuation of public programs that support people who are in tough circumstances.  At some point in our lives, we all need a helping hand, whether it be in the form of education grants, food stamps, unemployment benefits, social security benefits, or a myriad of other public services.  As valuable as private charities are in providing aid, these services have limitations - limited funding and geographic availability being the two main drawbacks.  
         I don't know what the future will hold but I do know that this election is making me very uncomfortable.  I have watched Mitt Romney change positions with an alarming regularity; his only consistency seems to be that he is inconsistent.  What worries me even more than his inconsistency seems to be the fact that his tactic is working.  What does this say about our society - that it is OK to change positions depending on the audience?  My only wish is that I knew what Mitt Romney believed in.  
          Obama isn't a perfect candidate.  But overall, he has consistently espoused values that I believe in.  He has worked to reform healthcare, to pass laws that provide a path to citizenship for the  undocumented youth in this country.  He has worked to increase funding for research and come out in support of gay marriage.  He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law, which provides women with more options for fighting pay discrimination.  Even more than that, he has shown a willingness to work with the other side.  I am tired of watching ideologies and in-fighting stand in the way of practical solutions for this country.  From what I have seen over the past four years, he is a person who is working to make a better life for everyone in this country.  My vote for Obama - which I cast yesterday - was in support of what he has achieved as president, as well as the values he espouses.  
          I had hoped this election would be about the issues.  Instead, this election has been more about sound-bites and zingers.  In Mitt Romney, I don't see a candidate that understands the issues of low-to-middle income families.  He doesn't seem to understand what it is like to worry about paying for college or the challenges of finding a job without having connections or the challenges of finding affordable health insurance.  He doesn't seem to understand the value of public services that help people in need.  I have a huge respect for the private sector.  However, the private sector is a profit-driven enterprise and with this comes certain limitations.  I do not think disaster relief or educational enterprises (including public programming) are suited to the private sector.  Given the staggering costs of health-care in this country - which is primarily a private-sector enterprise - I no longer think that health-insurance companies should be a profit-driven venture. 
          To quote Jon Huntsman Jr, "When was the last time we sat down as a people and talked about solutions?"  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

          I just wanted to take the time to offer my condolences to those who are dealing with Hurricane Sandy.  I grew up in the Northeast; many of my friends and family are still in the region.  From what I can gather, they are all safe, although there has been quite a bit of flooding and power outages.  I am also grateful to see our politicians laying aside their campaigning to deal with this disaster, as this is an issue that transcends partisanship.  
          If you want to help out with disaster relief - either by donating time, money, or blood - the Red Cross is a good resource.  Anne-Marie, over at the blog "The Menacing Kitten", also offers some excellent tips for donating in the wake of a disaster.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The American Dream And Mormonism

          The American dream – or at least, my interpretation of the American dream – is that if a person works hard enough, then that work will lead them to a better life. And by that standard, Mormonism is intrinsically American. I grew up with the idea that if I worked hard enough, then the blessings of Heaven were available to me. I grew up in a religion that placed an emphasis on good works and deeds. An oft-quoted scripture verse during my childhood, taken out of the Book of Mormon, was the verse 3 Nephi 12:16

          Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven

          Within the Mormon faith, good works have adopted a very standard definition. As a teenager, good works meant following the Word of Wisdom, obeying the morality guidelines, and participating in all of the activities expected of the youth. As a teenager, I worked on projects for the Young Womens’ association, I attended a daily scripture study in the hour before school started, and I attended weekly youth activities. As a girl, my life’s path was drawn out for me – marriage in the temple to a worthy Mormon male, child-rearing, home-making, church callings, and regular worship. All of the lessons in church prepared me for the future I was expected to take up. The men also had parallel lives sketched out for them – college, full-time missionary work, marriage, church callings, career, and the day-to-day demands of Mormonism. When Mormons grow into adulthood, the idea of good works is expanded to include temple marriage, family, church callings, and tithing. When Mormons go through their endowment ceremony – an expected rite of passage – they swear an oath to consecrate everything to the Lord.
          The good works portion of Mormonism is time-consuming, more so than many people realize. Positions within the Mormon Church are staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, all of whom have their day jobs to perform. In addition to their volunteer work, members are expected to tithe 10% of their income, perform regular temple work, raise large families, pray and read their scriptures regularly, and attend a variety of church activities. In return for fulfilling all of these obligations, the leaders have promised many blessings. Growing up, my elders taught me that the only road to true happiness was found within the Mormon Church.
          There is both beauty and virtue in hard work. Hard work has led me to accomplish many things in my life. However, hard work cannot fix everything - hard work cannot change the fundamentals of a person’s personality or undo the random variations of luck. And sometimes, what is considered as broken is not, in fact, anything that needs to be changed. I grew up with the sense that I was flawed, simply because I did not conform to the ideals of Mormon womanhood. I was not gentle or motherly or sympathetic or good with household duties. The thought of a lifetime of homemaking and rearing a huge family filled me a sense of helpless terror. I did not possess any of the traits that were expected of a good virtuous Mormon girl. 
          The fact that I did not conform to the ideals of Mormonism meant that I grew up thinking that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I tried to be faithful, to prepare myself for a future that did not fit who I was but that I was assured was God’s plan for me. I acknowledge that I have many flaws; I am stubborn and oblivious to the social cues that other people navigate with ease. But working to change the fundamentals of my personality – the part of me that sensed that the future sketched out for me by my religious leaders was not the right future for me – is a battle that is both futile and unnecessary.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Great Unknown

                       It is said that –
                       Enlightenment appears dark
                       The progressive way appears retrograde
                       The smooth way appears jagged
                       The highest peak of revelation appears empty 
                         like a valley
                       The cleanest appears to be soiled
                       The greatest abundance appears to be 
                       The most enduring inner strength appears like 

                       And creativity appears imitative

                                    Excerpt, Verse 41, 
                                    Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

          Sometimes, action requires heading into the great unknown, with no idea of what the outcome is.  I am the type of person that likes to think and research my decisions, making careful plans as to what my next course of action will be.  But there will always come a time when no amount of planning prepares you for what life throws at you.  As a young teenager, I never intended to leave the Mormon Church.  Then my questions started heading down a strange path, one that was both frightening and freeing, all at once.  Now, ten years and one major auto-pedestrian accident later, I am preparing to head down another unknown path, one that involves a career change and graduate school in an alternate subject.  I don’t know where this path will lead me.  But sometimes, when all the research is done, all of the questions answered, the only course of action left is to jump into the unknown, with the hope that everything will turn out all right in the end.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Grieving The Loss Of Community And Trust

                I lost my faith when I was sixteen.  I lived in secret for a full year, afraid of the consequences of leaving.  When I did muster the courage to leave Mormonism, the fall-out was even worse than I feared.  The activities and obligations of Mormonism are all-consuming; between the restrictions that publicly marked me as Mormon and the time-intensive church activities, Mormonism was an identity, a community, and a way of life.  Where I grew up, Mormons were a minority; at school, I was the non-drinking, non-swearing Mormon girl who woke up at 5:30 every morning to attend an early-morning seminary class.
                Then I left and the community I was raised in crumbled around me.  I grew up with Mormons; they were my family friends, my school-mates and comrades.  I saw them on a daily or weekly basis; we shared the common bond of being a minority group.  I knew that leaving would cause a rift but little did I know just how much.  My conversations with people I had known for a lifetime suddenly became missionary-based.  In spite of a lifetime of faithful church attendance – and being respected as a good teenager – the conversations became about assessing my level of knowledge and my worthiness.  The perception is that members only leave because they are sinful, prideful, deluded by Satan, or ignorant of the Gospel.  After leaving, the questions I was asked indicated that members were trying to assess which category I fit into.  I was never asked my reasons for leaving; I was merely asked to come back into the fold.  
                Sometimes I miss being a part of a community.  Mormonism, for all of its flaws, has the benefit of being a strong community.  Members look after each other; if someone is in trouble, people will volunteer their time and effort to help out.  When my brother was building a house, the missionaries and members were there every Saturday, volunteering their time to help out.  I have seen my brothers volunteer their time to help members move.  I have a lot of respect for the hard-work and dedication of Mormons. 
But leaving – and dealing with the associated consequences – has left me with a slew of trust issues.  I never dreamed that I would lose lifelong relationships so quickly after leaving.  I never dreamed that the people who had known me a life-time would make such quick assumptions about my character, simply because I left.  I never dreamed that I would lose the respect of my parents so quickly, in spite of an abundance of evidence that indicated I was a good kid.  Mormonism is an all-consuming identity; you are either all-in or all-out.  Issues are phrased in black and white – you are either pro-Mormon or anti-Mormon.  By crossing that divide, I was forced to abandon Mormonism altogether.  This experience has left me skittish about communities at large.  Perhaps this fear is logical.  Perhaps it isn’t.  Either way, the fear is still there. 
There is a grieving process associated with losing a community.  At first I was angry.  On some level, I still am, as Mormon teachings have an “us versus them” mentality that makes interfaith relationships tricky, if not impossible.  But most of all, I am sad.  I am sad that I no longer have anything in common with the people I grew up with.  I grieve that there is a divide between us that I cannot cross.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Perfect Mormon Girl

          When I was nine years old, I had a friend named Laura.*  Laura was a year older than I was; her parents were friends with mine. Between church and ward activities, Laura and I were thrown together a lot. I worshiped Laura; she was a year older than me, which to a nine-year old meant that she was wiser. She had silky brown hair, clear skin, and was very attentive about her clothing - boys and adults alike seemed to like her. Laura graced me with her friendship and I responded eagerly. We would skip sacrament meeting together and wander the halls to talk. She was a boy-crazy girl; most of our conversations were centered around the boys that she liked and her philosophy on life. 
          In hindsight, I now recognize our friendship to be toxic. Laura was older, yes. She was pretty, yes. But she was also extremely insecure. She needed someone to make her feel good about herself. As a shy, chubby girl with hero-worship shining in her eyes, I fit the ticket. Anything I would do, Laura would claim to have done better. If I was excited about getting an A on a test, then she would tell me about the A+ she had gotten on her latest test. If I swam a lap in sixty seconds, she would say she swam it in thirty. I say ‘claim’ because there was never any evidence that she was telling the truth. At that age, however, I lacked the cynicism to challenge her assertions. 
          Laura moved away the following year. Years later I met Laura again only to find her exactly the same as before. We met up at her parent’s house in Utah. Laura had married at seventeen, to a guy in the Army. She had a young child. She showed me picture after picture of her husband, trying to impress upon me just how wonderful he was. After saying hello to her family, we left to go visit some of her friends. 
          Once we were in the car, Laura said “OK, I have to ask before we do anything. Do you still go to church?”
          "No, I haven't gone in years." I said. 
          “Oh good.” she said. “We can have fun then.”
          “Why did you stop going?” I asked.
          “It was too hard.” she said. “I just couldn’t be the perfect Mormon girl.”
          And for a moment, I understood her completely.

*name has been changed

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Does My State Have A Law Preventing Me From Holding Public Office?

Texas Longhorns

                I have never considered politics as a serious career option.  I have always held an optimistic view of what public servants can accomplish and given my diverse background, I’ve always thought I could add something to the public sphere.  I am an agnostic with a Mormon family and Hindu in-laws; respecting religious differences is a part of my day-to-day life.  I understand what it means to worry about paying for college and what it means to grow up in a family without money or connections.  Watching my husband – a very remarkable individual – navigate the murky immigration system of this country has given me a deeper sympathy for the realities of immigrant life.  I have a deep respect for education; I believe no individual should be held back from pursuing educational opportunities because of an inability to pay.  I am a wife, a daughter, a neighbor, an intellectual, and a dreamer.  I am, at my core, an American; I believe that people should be given the opportunities to work hard and succeed in life.  However, there is the reality of being elected; I have never considered myself to be a serious candidate for public office. 
Why then, does it hurt so much to find out that the state I live in has a clause in their state constitution that bans a person like me – a nontheist – from holding public office?  Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution states “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” 
So, in theory, if I were to run for public office in Texas and win, I would be required to acknowledge the presence of a Supreme Being.  I am an agnostic; I don’t know if there is a higher power or not.  I do, however, believe that lying is wrong.  I cannot see myself acknowledging something that I do not believe to be true.  In my mind, that is a lie. 
Throughout my life, there have been many obstacles to becoming the person that I am today.  As a girl being raised in the Mormon faith, I was told not to dream of higher education or a career; as a woman, becoming a mother and a housewife was my duty in life.  As someone who decided to leave the Mormon Church, I ran up against the many prejudices against people who make the decision to leave.  As the seventh child in a lower middle class family, I had to fight to make it through college without financial assistance from my parents.  This fight was ultimately successful through a combination of hard work and the generosity of scholarships. 
For every road-block in life, there was a solution available to me.  I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was and what I believed in; when I figured out the answer, I acted in a manner that was true to who I am as a person, in spite of the negative consequences.  But never, in all of my years, have I come up against a law that specifically bans someone of my beliefs from a career choice.  And that is what hurts the most; that the state I have chosen to reside in has taken the official stance that, as a non-theist, I am not capable or worthy of holding public office. 
I may never be in a position where this law becomes an issue.  However, I can verify that there are many other non-theists out there who can contribute to the public sphere in a valuable and lasting manner.  Why is my state banning them from holding public office?  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

When Will The Mormon Church Stop Labeling Historical Fact As "Anti-Mormon"?

          A couple weeks ago, I reported on the pending excommunication of David Twede, managing editor of the website MormonThink. I am happy to say that his excommunication hearing for September 30th was postponed, although authorities reserve the right to re-schedule the hearing for a later date.  

          As with most of these situations, the details that emerged added a further complexity to the story. David was new to his role as managing editor; the previous editor, one of the founders of the site, was forced last month to resign his church membership under threat of pending excommunication. In support of David, this editor has decided to share his story on MormonThink. In his statement, he discloses a letter he wrote to the local stake president, stating his intention to resign rather than face excommunication. In this letter, he makes the following point
          “You said that MT (MormonThink) is “anti-Mormon, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-LDS Leadership”. However, you never said it wasn’t true. The majority of the source material comes from the Church itself, so how can publishing true, historical facts be considered anti-Mormon?”
          The official reasons for David’s excommunication hearing are murky. The letter that was delivered to David cite apostasy as the reason for his pending church court trial. David describes the interrogation by local leaders to be concerning articles he published between the dates of September 11th and 15th. One of these articles was a piece about Romney’s faith. Although Romney was never mentioned in the meeting between David Twede and local ecclesiastical leaders, the leader did state “I’m not a political man…”, indicative of the idea that the unspoken issue is likely connected to David Twede’s commentary on Romney’s faith. The reason cited for David’s excommunication was David’s e-mail to another member in the ward, where he provided links to Mormon history, one concerning the controversial subject of the Book of Abraham. However, although this was cited as a reason for disciplinary action, it should be noted that the link that David provided another member was written by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). The person who identified David Twede and forwarded David's writing to Church headquarters was Scott Gordon, president of FAIR.
          I have been watching this situation unfold, from David’s first post on September 11th detailing his experience at church; to his post labeled “The Hammer of Laban”, where he indicated he was facing an unidentified disciplinary action; to the removal of his personal blog; to the news discussed on ex-Mormon forums of his pending excommunication hearing; to the media coverage of the situation; to the post-ponement of the hearing.
          Last month, I had a conversation with my mother about my reservations concerning the actions of church leaders. When I cited the September Six - and explained who they are – as a reason for my reservations, my mother told me that I couldn’t hold past actions against Church leaders. But here we are, twenty years after the September Six, and once again Mormon authorities seem quick to punish any members whose actions don’t conform to the standard script, provided that this punishment doesn’t lead to bad PR. Once again, the authorities seem loathe to confront the murky history of Mormonism.
          MormonThink is a valuable resource, as the website provides information about Mormonism that is not discussed in church. There are so many aspects to Mormonism that I only learned about after leaving – their link with Freemasonry, the fact of Joseph’s multiple wives, the multiple versions of the First Vision. There are also many aspects of Mormon history that Mormon authorities downplay or ignore – the historical reasons for the priesthood ban on blacks, the teachings on blacks by previous authorities, the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham. MormonThink strives to discuss all of these issues. These are all issues that Mormons need to know; the decision to support a religious institution is one that should be made with full knowledge.
          For now, the David Twede story is closed. The true test will come after the public eye is off the actions of Mormon authorities. When that happens, what will their actions reflect? Will the authorities continue to punish anyone that does not stick to the faith-promoting script? Or will they confront their history – all of it – in a manner that leads to a more tolerant, more human religion?
          When will the Mormon Church stop labeling historical fact as anti-Mormon?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: Mormon Diaries

The Mormon Diaries traces the journey of the author Sophia L. Stone through her life as a Mormon woman to her eventual abandonment of Mormonism for a broader interpretation of Christianity.  Written as a challenge to write daily about the author’s life experiences and expanded into 28 chronological essays, this book explores the reality of being a woman within the confines of Mormonism.  As with all good memoirs, this story is about a journey, a period of time where the author challenges her thoughts and arrives at a new understanding. 
Stone details her life growing up in a Mormon family; the challenges and comforts of growing up in a religion that provides a complete road map to life.  As she writes “Everything important was drawn out for me through living prophets.  All I had to do was use the thick, black marker of my choices to trace the lightly penciled sentences that were written by those with authority, who’d lived longer and knew better about my life’s purpose.” 
Stone details the realities of life as a Mormon woman in a way that is very intimate and real.  She relates her anxiety surrounding her baptism and testimony, the challenges of finding the right husband, as well as the manner in which her identity became wrapped up in being the nurturer, at the cost of her own needs and desires.  There is a list of Mormon “Thou shalts” – starting with “Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day holy” and ending with “Thou shalt not doubt, ever” – that spans a full four pages and serves as a brilliant reminder of what the realities of living a Mormon life is like. 
The author also tackle the thorny issue of leaving the Mormon Church – the dismay and confusion of loved ones, the strain that her journey left on her marriage, the delicate navigation of religion with her children.  There is a deep thoughtfulness in this book, along with a lot of love for family and friends.  Towards the end, the author bears her new and expanded testimony:
“I believe God loves me and that he can save everyone.  I believe there’s light and goodness in all religions, in all traditions, and in all people.”  

Mormon Diaries is available on both Kindleand Nook for $0.99, as well as in paperback form for $8.99