True inquiry

Feminism. Patriarchy. LGBT.

These are topics that tear into the hearts of LDS members and cause many of them to leave the church. For me though, it wasn’t until I had already left the that these subjects really came up for me. I thought that feminism was an issue … but I have since learned that the “feminist” problems I had were minuscule compared to those that so many women rally around in sites like Daughters of Mormonism and Feminist Mormon Housewives. Except for the odd post here and there from FMH, my leaving the church journey was a sole journey without support or encouragement from others doubting the LDS church.  The topics that led me to question, and ultimately leave, the church?

Identity — of myself, of God. Revelation. Gender roles. Nature. True inquiry. The temple. Polygamy.

No, that list is all out of order. Let’s get these ducks in a row.

First, Polygamy. Who doesn’t recoil at the thought? As with many other women, my entire being shied away from it as if from a coiled viper. There are excuses, reasons, explanations for its existence. We all know them all; different ones sufficed at different points in my life. At risk of criminal simplification, I decided my distrust of polygamy was legitimate because of one thing. I am of God, we are connected; but my entire being (the deeper portion, which is of god) repelled the practice, the thought of polygamy. For years I made myself trust the church more than I trusted myself. I … I … I …

[Stepping back] Once again, my blog catechism: I will not rant about the church. I will not rant about the church. I…. I will not rant that the church created a war within myself, turning me against my better self, progressively dismantling me of the ability to believe god instead of the prophet.

For years I’d pretty much ignore-avoid the topic, except for spurts of pain and questioning. That same that most LDS women go through; nothing out of the ordinary there.

In December of 2008, I went to the temple. Endowments and all that. It was absolutely terrible. Horrible. Friends who know of my feminist side think it was the depiction of Eve –  as a lesser individual who could only covenant indirectly to god through her husband – as the reason for my acute discord. There are certainly specific things I could talk about, but those specific things would not matter but for one key component: I felt further away from god in the temple than in any other place. And not just during one instance, but repeatedly. I would sit there, in those plush theater seats surrounding by people melting into beautiful spiritual orgasms, and it was never god there waiting to take me in his arms, but his counterpart. I would sit there, clutching my armrests and willing the entire process to end. The only word to really describe it is panic-attack. Over and over. I hated that place; I felt dark. Yes, dark. That is a word you understand, yes? It was what Joseph Smith used to describe what he felt before the first vision. And so, though I was a good little Mormon girl who had no secrets from bishop, friends, or family, I now had one: I hated the temple.

This raised…questions. Many questions. Every time there was testimony about the temple. Scriptures. Lessons. Comments in class. It raised many questions that I did not want to acknowledge. That I refused to acknowledge for a long time.

The next thing on my list was Gender Roles. Oh…. I have sang/sung this tune many times to my long-suffering husband! And now I have a sore throat. So I’m skipping it.

And nature. and revelation. and identity.

And I don’t feel bad about leaving those (dead-ended) teasers because you got more than I had bargained on saying anyway. The post wasn’t supposed to be about my old issues at all! It was supposed to be about my new ones. Again:

Feminism. Patriarchy. LGBT.

After I left the church, I delved headlong looking for people like me. And I found them — they’re all over the web. Some are pretty dang crazy. Too crazy for me. The Exponent falls in that category. But I found Mormon Stories — videos and podcasts of people telling stories remarkably similar to mine. While I feel that the host/interviewer/creator has a less benign agenda than he puts out, I love to hear from the various people he interviews! It was so beautiful to hear that I was not alone.

We’ve all been told that people leave the church because they “fall away” or get offended (puh-lease. Who the hell’d let petty words overrule god’s?) or read anti-mormon lit or sin themselves into spiritual exile. But, some communities online were filled with people who actually traveled a path that god lead them down. just. like me. It validated my own experiences and I loved listening to their journeys. Some — many, actually — had been troubled about things that had never crossed my mind. Whether I agreed with them or not was not an issue, and it should never be a factor in choosing whether to listen or not to listen. I just want to understand people. Where they came from, where there are going.

Oooh, and it is so beautiful and good and right to hear people question the church. Isn’t that a clue? — it’s not natural that everyone has faith and everyone believes and everyone supports. But we speak in church as if it is. As if doubts are something to be ashamed of. But, it is natural to question, to fall back and tentatively move forward when new faith is gained.

And so, I say it is beautiful, good, right, and refreshing to listen to mormon people being honest (to themselves and to others (which is the more difficult, I wonder?)) about their questions. To truly, honestly inquire. And not be ashamed of the mental and spiritual place that they are in. It’s all part of the journey. All valid. All good. It’s not evil to hear people doubting, and to understand their reasons for doubting. Evil? no. Dangerous? yes. But in the very best way, by god! Because it creates questions, which lead to introspection, which leads to faith. Whether that faith leads you toward the church or away from it, I couldn’t care less. Your spiritual journey is your own, and I have no agenda to harm the church.

It’s just about knowing yourself, trusting yourself. It’s about true inquiry. It takes courage. (A freaking butt load). I don’t know where I found the courage, but I did it. In a swirling pandemonium of my life and learning and faith, I finally trusted god more than the prophet, the church, everything I had known.

Eventually, the cacophony died down. God dropped me off. I circled and saw nothing in my circumference but barren wasteland. I hated god at that moment… but that hate changed, morphed into empowerment. God didn’t put me in a barren wasteland to die or be punished. God put me hear for some serious one-on-one discussion. God turned off the other channels of revelation — prophets, parents, scriptures. Just God. Just me. And, still,  most of the time God leaves me here to listen to myself — that little titanium core that exploded into smithereens when I went through spiritual puberty last summer is slowly being recreated. This time, consciously.

And so, I find myself re-looking at issues that I hadn’t bothered about before. One being LGBT full rights. After all I have learned, I’ll be damned if I ever stand for an organization that discriminates against LGBTs again. I’m outraged that I was taught to listen to my betters instead of to think and to feel. I gave the church 23 years of my life. That’s 23 years of support against LGBTs. Against women who sought and found fulfillment outside of the home. Against issues protecting animals and nature because the church deemed them as non-issues. Against true inquiry – an environment that fosters tolerance, the special unity that results from celebrating disunity, and against self-trust.

So yes. I may occasionally unleash my barbed tongue when the church comes up in conversation. I may retreat into a shell of distrust and dislike and general surliness when I find myself at church with my husband. I may relish a bit too strong the little freedoms afforded me as a reformed mormon.

But, world (wide web), don’t let this rather pathetic exterior fool you. It is simply a weak, defensive compilation of lesser feelings showing up strong to protect this new titanium orb rhythmically beating into life.

That being said… some situations bring up quite the monster! Oh, the stories I could tell…  What about you? What situations turn your Jekyll to Hyde?

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3 responses to “True inquiry

  • llcall

    It was interesting to read this just a day or two after giving my Relief Society lesson last week — a lesson that was about revelation and questioning. Out of all the lessons I have given in this new ward, this one got the most positive feedback from people all over the spectrum. I think true inquiry is good and right and necessary for some people. But the “some people part” is one of the most important things I have learned in my life. Not everyone is built for that; not everyone can do it in the same way. I had people come up to me that have previously told me that they have known the Church was true and that there was a God, etc. since early childhood, but they were happy to listen to my different story. I guess my point is that some people probably do want to squelch true inquiry and discussion because it is difficult or dangerous, but I think many others just don’t think about things in certain ways and they don’t quite know how to understand or engage it. I feel that in this ward, which is predominantly middle-aged and elderly people, I am helping some to consider new things and experiences.

    I have read/followed/listened to most of the web sources that you referred to in here. I like to hear people’s stories too. I am continually struck, though, by how different people’s interpretations of what the church has taught them are. I often think, what in the heck?! Who taught you that?? If someone is raised by their family in the church, the family becomes a mediator for many of the church teachings. In that way, I think I was fortunate to be raised in a family like mine where I felt absolutely assured of love and acceptance and free to question or rail on about issues as I saw fit. My parents are “very orthodox” by most people’s standards, but I think they have always found my discussions amusing and challenging. As orthodox and believing as my mom is, there is no other mantra she repeated more to me than “you have to learn what’s right for you.” She is a very cautious advice-giver and admire that about her.

    I have spent a couple of days really considering what unleashes my Hyde and I can’t think of very much these days. I have mellowed significantly since my younger days of fighting with teachers over inequitable treatment of students and bullying bullies and protesting the Iraq War and the WWII internment of Japanese Americans and racially-motivated sentencing for drug crimes and…that is such a long list, punctuated by many trips to the principal’s office and one teacher throwing a chalkboard eraser at my head. I love that old girl; but I am much happier for my calmer life now.

    • llcall

      I should qualify what I said and acknowledge that Hyde comes out now mostly related to mundane things about daily life — sometimes when Neal forgets to push down the shower drain in just the right way I am overcome with rage. It’s just not dignified to get that upset about the freaking shower drain, so I dry not to admit it 😉

  • Nick Candelaria

    It was a similar experience for me Cam. I felt really dark at Church. One time, I had a dream, and somehow I ended up in the Mormon Temple, and I was thinking the whole time: “I’m not supposed to be here! I’m not supposed to be here! I’m not worthy!” and then when I told someone that I wasn’t supposed to be there, they made me wait in this room. I waited forever and decided to try and venture out myself but there were tons of people there. I didn’t want to be seen. Everyone knew who I was and towards the end, everyone was asking me what I was doing there, but they wouldn’t let me leave.

    It was a crazy nightmare, and sometimes I have that dream about the time I was so sold on Mormonism, and how I struggled with it. And how it actually made me a worse person, and a really unhappy person. But when I decided to quit, I could just look out the window, at the fog or the mountains, and just be happy that I was alive.

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