This is incredibly difficult for me to write about. It’s a tumor the doctors are still afraid to operate on because its fatty little tentacles wrap around my heart. It’s still cancerous. To make this blog post effective, I have to talk about my personal life.
I wasn’t a Mormon in practice until I was seven years old. I might never have been if my mom hadn’t married Julio.
My mom was a 24-year-old single woman with three kids who made her living by running a daycare in her living room. Julio was an immigrant from South America whose green card was about to expire. Although the signs of emotional abusiveness were visible within the first month of dating, it wasn’t until I took an intro to Psychology class my freshman year of college that we knew that Julio had Antisocial Personality Disorder. This disorder is colloquially known as psychopathy, or the disorder of being a psychopath. Persons with ASPD is characterized by a violation of other’s rights and a disregard for consequences. They are impulsive and controlling, making them successful in such fields as politics and business. The most damming characteristic of ASPD is the systematic charisma of the person. Often they refuse to see a psychologist because they don’t see or feel that there is a problem. When they do see someone, it’s usually because a family member got them to. Like Julio, however, they maintain such a charming and polite appearance that they walk out of offices still undiagnosed. Sometimes, like Julio, they can flip the tables entirely and get the family member that brought them in diagnosed with something.
Although my mom divorced Julio over a year ago (and has been separated from him longer than that), his disorder still stains every day of my life. My family suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse for twelve years and we are still very much dealing with the aftermath.
One of the first things Julio did to establish himself at the head of his ready-made family was forcing us to go to church. A man who didn’t believe in God took all the necessary steps to obtain the Priesthood, the Mormon God’s ultimate power—reserved only for men.
95% of Sundays during those twelve years, he stayed home in bed. Whenever he was disappointed in me or my sisters, though, he insisted on making us sit down so he could put his hands on our heads, a physical display of his dominance, in the name of giving us a Priesthood “blessing.”
When I believed in God, I knew that a man like Julio did not have the right to give blessings. Julio, the man who makes you eat your puke if you get sick, who makes you hold his steel-toed work boots out in front of you for thirty minutes if you come home three minutes late, who shoved my mom around the workplace, who rubbed his teenage stepdaughter’s backs every night to check what they were wearing because they weren’t allowed to wear bras or underwear to bed—
No god would give a man like that power over me.
Not only did the Church give Julio authority by principle over his all-female family, but when my mom moved to divorce him, the Church shit its pants.
It didn’t matter that her husband was an abusive psychopath and my mother’s catchphrase of the time was “I want to die.” My mother was repeatedly told that she had to stay and work it out by men from the Church who came to lecture my family. She was told the same thing by her LDS therapist.
The icing on the cake is that even though my mom and Julio are legally divorced now, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which my mother believes in, she is still eternally married and bound to him in God’s eyes. She is still sealed to Julio past death and into eternity.
The only way for her to get out of that is if she finds a new man to get herself sealed to.
Because God doesn’t let unsealed women into heaven.
The Mormon organization is obsessed with patriarchy, with men being the head and always having the final word, from the top to the bottom, women and children explicitly subordinated. But I’m not tackling the top of the totem pole (although there’s plenty of examples just from taking in the all-male leaders of the Church and the gender-specific “powers” of the Priesthood). I’m pointing out, with my handfuls of shit and pain, how much harm it has the power to wield behind household doors.