Let’s Talk Suffering.

I was in the living room, my mom around the corner in the kitchen, when I heard her discussing my blog on the phone with her brother. Among comments of how she didn’t know what happened to me, I sat rigidly perched on the couch, no longer reading the book in my hands. Over lunch an hour later, I told her I heard her discussing me on the phone, and I told her it hurt my feelings.

My mom gave me a polite look. “What did I say that hurt your feelings?”

“Well, the whole part where you’re gossiping about me and talking behind my back. Especially when I’m right in the next room.”

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On Sundays, Mormons are pumped full with the prejudice that ex- or inactive Mormons are sinners, projects to be preyed upon, and poor unfortunate souls that got sucked up by the devil for not saying their nightly prayers. When they open their mouths, evil is going to spray forth, so you better bring your umbrella to every encounter. They are people that didn’t try hard enough.

From the pulpit, speakers cry over what a loss to the kingdom of Heaven these lost sheep are.

But people are so focused on themselves being right and everyone else being wrong that they don’t notice that lost sheep stays home on Sundays and cries because they’ve lost the security blanket of religion.

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I recently heard the difference between pain and suffering described like this: Suffering is when you quit and give up all hope of trying.

Do people look at ex-Mormons and think they are suffering? Because they should. People who leave the Church (or any religion, for that matter), especially in the Utah bubble, quit trying on the religion that demanded to be the center of their lives. At home, they lose entire social circles, not just of friends, but of community. They trade open conversations with family for their mother’s tears. Some are cut off and rejected completely by the parents who raised them.

But it’s more than tangible loss. Reader, if you are religious, imagine losing God. If you’re not, imagine losing the sun.

Everything you’ve ever believed in crumbles. You trade daydreams of learning the secrets of the temple with an eternal companion for staying awake for six months straight with the anxiety of dying and losing consciousness forever. You realize that nothing and no one matters, and for a really long time, your outlook is scary as hell because you’re scared of being alive. You don’t get a magical book to read that saves your soul. You don’t get to fall on your knees and talk to someone who has the power to make your life change. You don’t get to drive half a mile to visit God’s house (the temple) and take peace from being so close to your Father.

You give everything you were ever taught to believe in for nothing. And unless you’ve done that, you have no idea how alone and terrible you constantly feel. There’s more than one reason there are more suicides in Utah than any other state.

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I am part of a generation of “heathens” that is suffering enough from the demons in our own minds without the world’s condescension. Instead of looking at us as Satan reincarnate, look at us like artists who have gone blind, runners who lost their legs, birds suddenly too heavy to take flight. We are little boys and girls, coming out of the baptismal font dressed in white, who grew up and opened their eyes.

And opening your eyes is like pulling the trigger on a gun—you can never take the bullet back.

The world needs to realize we didn’t shoot them, though. We shot ourselves. Please, treat us less like murderers and more like someone who needs medical attention.

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A Mug with a Mission!

Specs: This is a mug round enough to demand both hands. The white porcelain is lined with a mossy green and decorated all round with flowers and butterflies in warm, earthy colors (making me reminiscent of a grandma couch), lending a comfortable, homey feel. Inside, it is deep enough to hold a sponge and a bristly dish wand.

Rating: This mug never actually delivering liquid refreshment to a person’s lips, I feel the highest I can rate it, as a coffee mug, is 4/5 stars. I dig it heartily, and it’s a wonderful size.

Summary: I believe this mug was a replacement Mother’s Day gift my four-year-old brother picked out himself a year ago–and I call it a replacement because the first one he got her was promptly dropped and broken. My brother has a simple strategy when it comes to picking out gifts: He walks into the store and picks the first pretty thing he sees. There’s no dissuading this kid.

This mug found its calling in life as the family’s dish-tools holder. I can’t call this a shame–I’m the only hot-beverage drinker in the house, and having a place to put the sponge certainly keeps the lip of the sink cleaner. It also lends the room a sense of charm, which any place piled high with dishes could use.

Let’s Talk Patriarchy.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

A Mug Worth Graduating For.

Specs: This mug is tall and wide, with a big manly handle for all four of my fingers to wriggle around in. It is a plain, shining white porcelain all around. On the front is featured a picture of the sixteenth president of the United States, framed by an alleged quote of his, reading “Whatever You Are.. Be A Good One!!”

Rating: 5/5 stars. This mug has everything–an inspirational message, simplistic design, and it holds a LOT of coffee. I’m also biased.

Summary: I’m biased because I earned this mug. Two years ago I graduated Valedictorian out of a class of 500, and the day before I graduated as I stood in line to get my cap and gown, the librarian handed me this as well.

This quote of Lincoln’s was the theme for the class of 13, and as such, it’s the quote I based my speech on. In between quoting Dumbledore and my wacky physics teacher, I took the graduating message to heart and tried to articulate it as earnestly as an 18-year-old could.

I’m proud of the message I shared with my class of 500 and the 2,000 spectators that day. Even though religion was still a huge area of trepidation for me back then, my heart was in the right place as I told everyone that nothing counts in life but your own happiness and satisfaction.

Two years later I’m walking like I’m talking.

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Let’s Talk Madness.

While out to dinner with a good friend, conversation inexplicably turned to Jonestown (I think because my peach lemonade reminded him of red Kool-Aid?). Between bites of fried pickle, he expressed how curious he was about how one man who claims revelation from God can convince people to kill themselves.

My friend is a bitter atheist who believes that religion has no place whatsoever in the world. Jamestown is one of his many good points.

Suddenly, he steered the conversation much closer to my little Cache Valley: “What if Thomas Monson suddenly had a revelation and told everyone to kill themselves?”

We agreed that the Church was too profitable for the prophet to pull a move like that, at least in the foreseeable future. Still, the thought was scary enough to make us put our forks down. He decided that his family would do it without hesitation. I wondered.

Not to jump on the bandwagon that is Mad Max, but I didn’t realize in time that I paid for my movie ticket with my soul. (Brief sales pitch: Go see it. Especially if you like being uncomfortable.)

With no further introduction/warning than one commercial that came between me and the movie I was trying to watch, I jumped from my theater seat into a world of pure, sandy Hell.

(If many of you are familiar with this version of the apocalypse, I apologize, but I need to recapitulate a bit to make my point)

At the head of a group of barely-survivors rules fat ol’ Immortan Joe. He is worshipped by everyone (not coincidentally, Joe controls the water distribution in his desert community). He cages and breeds with the most beautiful, multiple wives, considers human beings his property, and even raises an army of young boys to become chaotic warriors. Did I mention he hogs the water in the desert apocalypse?

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Joe is worshipped, especially by his brain-washed (and potentially drug-addicted) army of young men. They consider it an outrageous honor to die at his command.

How does an old, fat, dying guy rise to the top of the dung pile and stay there? How does he talk his citizens into giving him all the gorgeous women and keep everyone else impoverished? How does he manipulate his hordes of men?

Ahaha. With religion.

In the end, my friend and I decided that if the prophet of the Latter-Day church were to ask everyone to kill themselves and their families, he would know. If only because they would call him and try to get him to kill himself, too.

When the silver lining fades…

Specs: This decent-sized plain mug makes elegant use of its white porcelain exterior with its ribbed lines. With a slightly funnel-esque body, it’s a stretch to fit one fist in there, but you’ll be surprised to find that it holds all the chair you wanted in the first place. A shred of silver lining still clings to the handle, which is comfortably curved to allow 2-3 fingers.

Rating: 3/5 stars. It does its job of getting me through caffeine headaches (I recently moved back home for the summer) quite well.

Summary: I’ve been relying a lot on this little guy since moving back in with my mother and siblings while my boyfriend is working a couple states away. Suspicious of instant coffee, I’ve been sticking to tea every afternoon after I get my brother off to kindergarten and get a couple hours of peace.

This mug is part of an entire dishware set that was a Christmas present for my mother years and years ago. Not only is it one out of six mugs (~3 of which remain), but it also matches a set of bowls and fancy plates. When brand new, every item had a lining of silver around the rim.

Now–except for the plates, which we rarely use because we’re not that fancy–the silver has been all but rubbed off by the years of grubby fingers and dishwasher soap.

Some things simply aren’t as attractive as they used to be. What’s more, some things fade away that can never come back, even if you tried painting them back on. Sometimes, when things are rubbed down to the bone, you’re left with something simply useful.

Let’s Talk Silence.

In preparation for visiting my grandmother on Mother’s Day, I warned my own mother than I had made Grandma swear on Facebook earlier in the week (by sharing an article titled “My Mormon Mission Made Me an Atheist,” a very poignant read found here: https://broadclarity.com/my-mormon-mission-made-me-an-atheist).

What I had intended to be a soft warning (if I could make sweet ol’ Grandma say “Bull Shit” on the internet, I was a little nervous about what would be said face-to-face) turned into the first time my mom really opened her heart to me since I started my blog. She told me (correctly) that 90% of my friends had rejected me and 99% of my family were deeply hurt by the things I wrote. My mother wasn’t making a point about my decision not to be Mormon anymore. It was about this.

When she asked me if my blog was worth it, I quickly said yes. I told her first about all the people I were helping and giving a sense of community to, and secondly that the Church is doing so much harm in people’s lives and damaging world at large.

Mom said she didn’t understand how I could choose strangers over all the friends and family I was hurting/losing. Now, nearly two weeks later, I have words for the sadness that welled up inside of me at my mom’s confusion.

From left to right: My mother, myself, my grandmother.

From left to right: My mother, myself, my grandmother.

One thing it is not okay to do in this world is to stay silent—especially when you have something to say. There is not much practical difference in this life between the schoolyard bully and a corporate religion suppressing groups of people. In their gut, everyone has to stand up for what they believe is right, even when the fight isn’t theirs and the bully is punching the kid next to them. Only the people who speak out loud can share their ideas and make change.

Speaking up isn’t easy. Especially when you’re stuck in a mud puddle of opposition. But it will never be okay to swallow your tongue and sink in, because this life is yours and it really is what YOU make it. It’s not about the friends you lose, the grandmothers you make swear, or the strangers who are thankful they’re not alone. It has always been about you and being true to your voice.  

It’s the unconditional love and support my mother gave me that made me as brave and unafraid to follow my heart as I am right now. I hope she knows that my blog is me trying to pass that along to others who don’t have such a blessing in their lives.

 

So raise your voice up and pick your kickass boots out of the mud. What you have to say is beautiful every time.