Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Tale Of Two Seminaries (Part Two)


Note: This post is part of a two-part series.  Part One can be found here

         After the schism, I was sent to the seminary class held at the ward building. I was pretty torn up about the matter – I had known the bishop’s family for years, which made the exclusion all the more painful. I felt, more than ever, like the apostate leper. But attending a different seminary class – without all of the attendant baggage – helped me to resolve my feelings about my apostasy. Bit by bit, I made my peace with my lack of beliefs. Full activity – seminary, Mutual, Sunday School, Young Women’s – helped me realize that my atheism was not due to a flaw in my moral character. The longer I attended, the more I understood that I just didn’t believe.
          The following summer the stake president became aware of the situation regarding the separate seminary classes and intervened, making the decision to send me back to the class taught by the bishop’s wife. This was a pretty intimidating situation; I was being told to return to a class that had made it clear my presence was not welcome. I was angry and confused about the situation, which was exacerbated by the fact that my psyche was beginning to crack under the burden of living a double life. I was in a very dark place at the time and the complication of the seminary situation only made the issue worse.
          The school year started and I began attending seminary class at the bishop’s home. The situation made me very tense and edgy; my mood was going downhill rapidly. Then, one day, I read a touching story in Newsweek; the story of a couple that had adopted a disabled child from Russia. The story had a happy ending – the child was smiling and laughing. I figured the fact that the parents were gay would probably be a side-note, a slight complexity that still didn’t take away from the fact that the child was happy and in a stable home, as opposed to living life in an orphanage. I was scheduled to give the spiritual thought in seminary the next day – I figured this story was as spiritual as it could get.
          Naïve, I know. But this was a story that helped me believe in humanity at a time when I was in desperate need of that faith. I had been through hell the past few years, as I navigated the roller coaster of emotions that come after losing your faith. During the last few years, as I went back and forth, back and forth on my state of disbelief, I had watched my sense of self-worth slowly erode. Being a closeted apostate among Mormons is the loneliest feeling in the world; the events of the past year had taught me that I couldn’t trust the people I grew up with.
          The next morning, I went to seminary class. When the bishop’s wife asked me to give the spiritual thought I opened my copy of Newsweek and began reading. About a third of the way into the article, the fact of the parents’ sexual orientation was introduced; that was when a very deep silence entered the classroom. I became acutely aware of the thinness of my voice and the slight wobble of my words. I pushed on with the story, determined to finish. I could feel my hands shaking and my heart pounding in my chest but I refused to stop. I did not want my voice to be silenced, not this time. And so, I pushed on.
          When I finished reading, I looked up from the magazine to meet the eyes of my teacher. I have never, in all of my days, seen such a look in anyone’s eyes. Perhaps it was hate, perhaps it was fury, or perhaps it was anger. Either way, I felt a chill that sunk down to the bottom of my toes.
          The bishop’s wife flicked her hand at me in a dismissive gesture and said “Well! That child will certainly grow up to be open-minded!” I almost laughed but caught myself. The teacher was right. Her comment, although it didn’t ease the tension in the room, helped me see clearly again.
          I never went back to church or seminary after that; I was tired of living a double life. I was tired of feeling ashamed of who I was and dishonest about my beliefs. The time had finally come to stop living a lie and start with the business of living my life.  

13 comments:

  1. Wow. I can't even have imagined doing that in seminary. I wish I would have though.

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    1. Thanks Becca - it was worth it, even in spite of the fallout.

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  2. Given you age, I'm sure that you've seen hatred and anger in others faces and would recognise it looking back.

    My bet is the look you saw was loathing

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    1. That sounds like a pretty valid point, although hate and loathing seem to be pretty intertwined.

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    2. Yeah, but it also contains fear and disgust

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    3. True - I hadn't thought of it that way.

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  3. Hi, this is the author of the article you read. I'm sorry my story got you the stink-eye, in class, but I am very touched by the beauty of your spirit. You sound like you find goodness in all the human experience, and my life has taught me that is the best way to live. Great luck to you in your travels.

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    1. Thank you for writing the article and taking the time to comment - I have thought often of that moment in class.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this PM Girl and it's awesome that the author read and enjoyed your post. I have had many moments at church when I naively thought that my liberal ideas would be well received--only to be put down by someone like that bishop's wife. It's a very demeaning experience. That being said, it's those experiences that help us see the light. :) Another terrific post!

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  5. Your two posts drive home to me the extraordinary social disapproval and isolation you faced in leaving Mormonism. I can only imagine the courage it took to face that!

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  6. I pray every day that my kids will come to the same conclusions you did.

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    1. If they do, they will be lucky to have you.

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