Thursday, October 29, 2009


There are many Mormons who are not concerned with the actions of the church. There are others though who are torn, people I know and people who have written about the fact that they feel a great deal of internal conflict about their well-loved church asking for donations and publicly calling for members to vote in a particular way on the rights of people who are not even members of their sect. Their beliefs and understanding of the teachings of Christ tell them one thing, the instructions of the church tell them another. The difficulty is that they are also told to obey leaders regardless of personal concerns:

The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are “found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray....” ( Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 9:289)

“...learn to do as you are told. ...if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it, none of your business whether it is right or wrong.” (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 6:32)

“If you do things according to counsel and they are wrong, the consequences will fall on the heads of those who counseled you, so don’t be troubled.” (William Clayton’s Journal, p. 334)

“God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me to be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 363/History of the Church, 6:319-20)

“I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95)

“Recently, at the Church-wide fireside meeting held for the women of the Church, Young Women President Elaine Cannon made the following statement: “When the Prophet speaks,....the debate is over.” (Ensign, November 1978, p. 108). I was impressed by that simple statement, which carries such deep spiritual meaning for all of us. Wherever I go, my message to the people is: follow the prophet"
The message that the Lord will never allow the prophet to lead the people astray is repeated again and again. So, seemingly, all faithful Mormons should ignore any concerns they might have and simply follow the teachings of the prophet.


Except that the church also teaches that 'man shall be punished for his own sins,' which means that they will be held responsible for their actions, and the excuse of simply following the prophet becomes less tenable. Perhaps it would be wise to take a closer look at the claim of prophetic infallibility. Is it really true that a prophet has never misled the Mormon people? And even if, as in the Adam-God theory taught by Brigham Young (declared in General Conference in 1852 and published as doctrine in the Journal of Discourses - remember it is Brigham Young who declared that everything he preached as a sermon and released to the members was Scripture; this theory is now disavowed by the church) some teachings are later declared to be non-doctrinal by the authorities, have any of these early 'inspired' teachings caused the loss of either spiritual or civil rights, or have they caused distress or harm to anyone?

Joseph Smith, while originally upholding slavery and slave laws in the interest of public order, later declared himself an abolitionist* and, in fact, bestowed the priesthood on a black member. For non-members - Mormons teach that an essential part of the restoration of the true gospel (the foundation of the LDS church) was the return of the priesthood to the earth. There are two orders of priesthood, the Aaronic which is the lower level and is usually held by boys aged 12 - 18 (although adult convert men will also hold the Aaronic priesthood first). The Aaronic grants "the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." When proven worthy, and if you're old enough (although the early church didn't have hard and fast rules about age and very young men were often given the higher priesthood), you are ordained into the Melchizedek priesthood which, among other things, gives the recipient the power to give blessings of healing, comfort and counsel to others and to preside over the family. The priesthood is a fundamental part of Mormon beliefs, and many ordinances are dependent upon holding it.

After Joseph Smith was killed the policy of the church changed and righteous black members were not only excluded from the priesthood, they had their temple ordinances revoked because of their 'negro blood.' Keep in mind that in the Mormon idea of heaven, temple ordinances are essential in order to achieve the highest degree of glory. The justification for the revocation of ordinances was that black skin was the outward sign of a curse of God - in the case of blacks, the curse of Cain. This idea is found throughout Mormon scripture with the Lamanites (native Americans) having dark skin as a result of a curse, and scripture in the Pearl of Great Price reading, "For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people." (Moses 7:8).

At Joseph Smith's death, after a certain amount of jostling for position, Brigham Young was declared the next appointed prophet and a fundamental change in church policy began. On February 13, 1849 Brigham Young responded to the question, "What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?" by saying, "the Lord has cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the priesthood." Black members could no longer bless their children if they were ill, or act as priesthood leaders in their own families. Non-Mormons will not realize how significant, how seminal this is but members will recognize just what this ban was doing to faithful black Mormons.

What makes the policy even more pernicious is the teachings that became common in the church to justify the position. Remember that, according to Article of Faith #2 "we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgressions," so why were blacks being banned from the priesthood for a sin that was not theirs? The answer was, according to then Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, "according to the doctrine of the church, the negro because of some condition of unfaithfulness in the spirit — or pre-existence, was not valiant and hence was not denied the mortal probation, but was denied the blessing of the priesthood." Smith made it clear that this was his own opinion, but the concept was popularly taught throughout the church until well into the 1970's. I remember asking about the ban and being given this response.

In 1942 an official statement was released that said:

The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."
The same statement goes on to say that the conditions people are born into are predicated by their pre-mortal behavior - again, a teaching I personally received (we commonly prayed giving thanks that we had been born as Americans for example, and were subtly encouraged to feel superior to other nations because we had been so valiant as to be born into the 'greatest' nation).

The ban went beyond priesthood however, it also kept black members from the highest ordinances of the temple - temple endowments and temple marriages, effectively barring black members from the highest degree of glory. These ordinances could, of course, be performed after the member had died and the ban had been lifted, but during their own lifetime these members could not enter the most sacred areas of the temple.

Why does that matter? The temple, Mormons believe, is the place on earth where no evil can enter. It is the place where a member can truly feel the spirit of the Lord, receive personal revelation unsullied by outside influences, and have the deepest spiritual experiences. Mormons attend the temple regularly after having gone through on their own behalf to receive their own endowments, performing work for the dead but also garnering "the blessings of the temple" which most faithful members will regularly testify to. Black members, however, were not allowed these blessings.

Further, the teachings, both official and unofficial, and the policies of the church provided an atmosphere of fear and bias. It justified many members in racial beliefs and actions and built a barrier, one formed of not only misunderstanding but of an institutionally created bias, between white members and blacks. In the late 1960's an alleged prophecy by John Taylor began to spread among Mormons, a prophecy that the U.S. Constitution was going to hang by a thread (a common theme in early Mormon prophecies) and the streets would run with blood. Blacks would invade the temples and rape and murder the members. The belief in this "prophecy" was so strong that all bishops were instructed to read a statement that debunked it. However, it was church policy and culture that made the radical and ridiculous belief possible.

So how long was the ban meant to last?

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree." [prophecy that slavery will not end until blacks somehow are no longer 'cursed' with a dark skin]

"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity. He deprived his brother of the privilege of pursuing his journey through life, and of extending his kingdom by multiplying upon the earth; and because he did this, he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God".

"How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed"

So church policy was to bar black members from some of the most essential rights and blessings of the church and to implicitly (and at times explicitly) encourage their white members to view them as 'less valiant' and inferior. This policy was, according to more than one prophet, to last until everyone else on earth, every other human being both living and dead, had been taught the gospel and given the opportunity to accept baptism and the other ordinances.

Until, of course, 1978 when President Spencer W. Kimball announced a revelation that black could now enjoy full membership in the church (note - they'd tried to get the ban lifted in 1969 but were blocked by then apostle Harold B. Lee).

So, church policy can indeed be reversed and the beliefs of prophets, publicly stated, aren't always actual true revelation from God. In fact, many statements of past Prophets, statements that they themselves clearly and sincerely believed to be of God, are now said by church officials to be times when those prophets were "speaking as men." The problem is, apparently the prophets themselves can't tell the difference, and in the mean time the members of the church believe and act on those statements.

Many faithful Mormons, particularly between the 1950's and the revelation of 1978, chose to disbelieve the teachings that blacks were somehow different and inferior. They chose to treat all people with compassion and empathy. They chose to follow the second commandment of Christ to, "love your neighbor as yourself." While the church chose to remain silent on Civil Rights and, according to the NAACP, made "no effort to conteract the widespread discriminatory practices in education, in housing, in employment, and other areas of life," there were members actively promoting equality, marching for civil rights and demonstrating and protesting.

I would hope that Mormons today would view those members, the members who were willing to look beyond the cultural conditioning and institutional bias of the church, as true followers of Christ. I would hope that they would imagine that some day, a revelation could be made that found that homosexuality has a biological foundation and that gay members do not choose their sexual orientation but are created with it by a loving God, a revelation that all those who are faithful and wish to form loving, permanent, eternal families are to be granted that privilege and that previous biased actions and statements were merely well-meaning leaders "speaking as men." I would hope that they could think now about how they would want to have acted, whether they would, knowing that, have preferred to extend rights to their brothers and sisters that they themselves hold dear, knowing that the exercise of those rights in no way changes or diminishes their own families and relationships.

I would hope that they would act with love.

*In fact anti-slavery statements by church leaders in Missouri were among the things that caused friction between Mormons and gentiles (the Mormon word for non-members). In 1833 W.W. Phelps published the statement, "in connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the blacks, in Africa," causing outrage in the community and forcing Phelps to publicly recant his statement. After this, Joseph Smith and others published statements outlining a far more racist (and thus acceptable) stance, outlining the Curse of Cain theory and providing the foundation for the later actions of the church.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's hard to say exactly when polygamy started in Mormonism. There is no official record for what is generally felt to be the first plural marriage (by non-Mormon historians and Mormon historians alike. Please note that of course there are dissenters who do not accept this marriage). According to journals and notes however, Joseph Smith married Fanny Alger, aged 16, in Kirtland, Ohio some time in 1833. The next marriage has no official documentation either, to Lucinda Harris in 1838 in Far West, Missouri (already married to faithful saint, George Harris). Official church records list the first plural marriage to Prescindia Lathrop Huntington Buell on December 11, 1841, a woman already married to faithful saint Norman Buell.

1833 or 1841, those early polygamous marriages established Mormons as a minority community, a community that would be shunned, reviled, harassed and even threatened because of their family structure and sexual practices.* Rumors ran wild in the surrounding community, stories about how depraved the Mormons were, how they would break up families and destroy lives. Joseph Smith, aware of how polygamy was viewed not only by non members but by many of his own flock, practiced in secret (the formal announcement of what was known as the 'everlasting covenant' [see Doctrine & Covenants section 132] was not made until 1852) which meant that the women he and a small number of high church officials had married were unable to be recognized as family members, unable even to talk about the difficulties they faced. The thought of what those women, faithful women, went through in the years before they could be acknowledged is heartbreaking.

Still, there were many who stayed true (not all, but hey, it's a blog post and contrary to all evidence I don't want to write a novel!). It was a choice they had after all, a choice to accept this commandment. When an angel with a flaming sword told Joseph Smith that he had to marry multiple women to establish the principle of celestial marriage those women could have refused. But, caught between what society felt they should do and what they knew to be right, they chose polygamy.

Polygamy is more than a footnote in Mormon history. Joseph Smith spent considerable time and energy countering the rumors but Mormons, many of whom didn't know that polygamy was, in fact, being practiced by a few elders, continued to suffer from the fear-filled reactions of the surrounding community. Joseph Smith himself was arrested after he ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper that was going to publish information on the practice of polygamy (again, long story, historically accurate, available from acceptable Mormon sources). Following his arrest he ended up in a small jail, a house really, in Carthage, Illinois. A mob stormed the jail and Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed - a martyr to the church, a martyr arguably to polygamy. Brigham Young was anointed the next prophet and president of the church and, under his leadership, polygamous marriages were continued and the practice was expanded. There were threats, discussions and multiple laws passed on the national level all to try to abolish the practice of polygamy - again, a practice that was not only accepted by the Mormons but was the law of God, the true nature of family, the celestial and holy order of things. Eventually, after unbelievable (and unconstitutional) pressure the church announced that they were abandoning the active practice of polygamy.

It's only the active, for now practice that's abandoned. Mormons still believe in the doctrine of polygamy in the next life. Dalin H. Oaks (for one) is sealed to his first wife and to his living wife and will, in the celestial kingdom, be with both women for all eternity. Bruce R. McConkie , in a non-scriptural book wrote: “the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming and the ushering in of the millennium.” Doctrine & Covenants 132 remains scripture, meaning that doctrinally the Mormon church still puts themselves in a minority group, a group that has an unusual definition of family, a group that believes, at least on some level, in a marriage that is not one man and one woman.

If anyone could have empathy for the situation gay Americans find themselves I would think it would be the Mormons.

*Note: while modern Mormons often argue that Joseph Smith's many marriages were spiritual in nature the earlier church actually fought bitterly to prove that his plural wives were his physical as well as spiritual partners. Testimony was gathered by the church to counter claims by the splinter Reform LDS church founded by Emma Smith, Joseph's original wife, who contended that he had never practiced polygamy and any partnerships he formed were not consummated. There are numerous journal entries and testimonies that document that Joseph was indeed a fully practicing polygamist, testimonies that support his own contention that polygamy was a sacred doctrine introduced to 'build up the kingdom' - in other words to produce children.

Uncensored II

So what outed me?

Proposition 8.

I know.

Me and how many others? But it's important, because in some ways the fact that the church got involved in an election in California over the civil rights of a minority, the rights to pledge a commitment to each other, to publicly pronounce that they were a family hits a pretty tender nerve.

Some of you might not have been following this whole drama (maybe? How far was this covered in Europe?) so a bit of back story.

California, the state that has San Francisco in it - you know, THAT San Francisco - had seen a bit of judicial history happen when the supreme court ruled that same-sex couples should not be descriminated against but should be allowed the same civic standing as heterosexual couples. That ruling happened in May, 2008. In June, 2008 a request for a re-hearing was denied. Apparently the legal types, the ones who really study constitutional law, had decided that constitutionally there's nothing to bar same-sex couples from marrying.



So a measure was put on the ballot for November, 2008 to change the constitution of California - to actually re-write the bit of the law that says who gets to do what to whom and what just ain't right, thanks. What they wanted to write into law was a bit that said, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." And all hell broke loose.

It wasn't just the Mormons. I want to make it clear that the Mormons were not the only people who rallied the troops and fund-raised and made advertisements and spread information (please note my restraint. I did not put a 'dis' in front there). In fact, the Mormons found themselves in company with a bunch of people who had, historically, spent a lot of their energy being contra-Mormon. But I was Mormon. As I have been reminded many, many times, Mormonism is part of my heritage, and so the Mormon involvement in this particular bit of political history, hit pretty close to home.

The first presidency actually issued a letter which urged people to, "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." Keep in mind that the prophet (the first presidency consists of the prophet and his two councilors) speaks for God - I mean really, truly, he has a direct, one-on-one, seriously hearing the Voice, link to God - so, to Mormons, God was telling everyone to get involved in this political battle. In fact, about 45% of all the non-California contributions to the pro-Prop 8 group, came from Utah. According to Wikipedia (don't say it, I know all about using Wikipedia as a source) about 80 to 90% of the door-to-door volunteers in the fight to pass Prop 8 were Mormon. The church itself disclosed, after a bit of palaver, that it had donated nearly $190,000. There are some reports that put contribution by Mormons in general at over $7.5 million. I can't verify the figures. Honestly, I hope they're wrong. I really, really hope that $7.5 million was not donated to STOP other people from having civil rights.

The church, way back in the 90's some time, issued what is called The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The very first paragraph states, "We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

A man and A woman.


As in one.

One man. One woman.

Anyone want to say it?


Yes, this is the church founded by a man who married at least 30 women. Those women include several teenagers, including Fanny Alger(16) and Helen Mar Kimball (14). Of those women, 11 were already married (according to my quick and possibly dodgy research).

There were a lot of scare tactics used in this campaign, ugly, nasty scare tactics. Mormons, it was said, would have to open their temples to the unworthy and be forced to perform gay marriages. Please, if you were concerned about this or any of the other fear-based claims made, check out this rebuttal here. (pdf)

I'm not gay. I have never faced the particular prejudices that my gay friends have faced. I have never, as one friend did, had to see a beloved partner of 12 years go into hospital with a possibly life-threatening condition and hope desperately that her family would allow me to be at her side before surgery. So I've been asked why I feel strongly about this, why the narrow, judgmental, poisonous behavior of the church has stirred me so much. After all, I'm not gay.

But I am human.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Uncensored I

I've been rolling this post-I-wasn't-going-to-post around in my head for the last few days and it's funny how once I took off the various restraints of offensensitivity it ballooned up and grew out of all sensible proportion. I had to spend an hour or two hacking off the more egregious branches just to get it down to size, and even now I know it's a two-post post. So, here's the back story.

I was raised Mormon: well, nearly, and practically totally raised Mormon. My mother comes from a genuine, old-school polygamist ancestor while my father was the son of an Episcopalian priest. By the time they met and married my mother was, as she puts it, a heathen and my father, according to her, was practically a beatnik with a pipe and a weakness for black t-shirts (I didn't know what a beatnik was for years but that didn't stop me telling the story). For the first six years of my life we were not a religious household.

Until, that is, a nice set of Mormon missionaries knocked on our door in England and were met with my father who rubbed his hands together and said, 'right! Now, about the Journal of Discourses...' which as a lot of Mormons could tell you is practically announcing yourself as a Joseph Smith hating, Salt Lake City bashing ANTI [the Journal of Discourses is 22 volumes of writings - mostly sermons - from early Mormon history including stuff from Brigham Young. Many of these sermons are now a bit... distant from what is taught in the Mormon church, including the Adam-God theory (Brigham Young taught that Adam was God), a whole lot of polygamist rhetoric and some pretty egregious racial statements among other things]. According to family lore, as far as I remember it, the missionaries recruited a particularly bright young woman to deal with my irritating father and, somewhere along the line, she gave him the traditional Mormon challenge:

"10:3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down unto the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

My father accepted this challenge, to his own surprise he felt he received a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, within a few months, he was baptized.

My mother, as far as I can remember, was furious. She even gave him a dire warning that those darn Mormons would make him a bishop. (Mormons have, mostly, a lay ministry and a bishop is like a parish priest) She was quite right, they did, and kept him there for seven years. It took her another year or so to come around but she became, and is to this day, a deeply faithful and very happy Mormon.



Not so much.

The trouble is, and it's something that non-Mormons don't really understand, Mormons teach that their church is absolutely true, the last and final truth that had been withheld from the earth for generations until it was restored, in perfect form, by Joseph Smith. There is a lot of reference to 'the fullness of the gospel' and in every meeting, at every gathering, you will hear the reiterated testimony of the members that 1) the church is true, 2) Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and 3) the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I was taught that there are bits of truth to be found in other religions, but no other church has everything - that all of it is True. It's not quite complete yet, mind you, there was a section of the Golden Plates (the ones that Joseph Smith translated to create the Book of Mormon) that was sealed off until 'the last days,' but what is known, what is here now is undeniably, and most importantly FOR EVERYONE, true.

We learned about it in Primary - the children's meeting - about how the true and everlasting gospel was restored to this earth in latter days and, here's the kicker, how everyone, every last person is promised a personal witness of the truthfulness of these things - the one prayer that will be answered no matter what is Moroni's promise.

We sang about it, we talked about it, we knew the correct answers to all the questions. How does the spirit speak to you? The Still Small Voice, the Warm Feeling. What does Heavenly Father want us to do? Pray and be good... but always, always we knew that we, little grubby souls that we were, would receive an answer to prayer.


Yes... see, that's the kicker. Moroni's promise has a small out to it - you have to pray 'with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.' So, let's say you're a small child who does indeed pray diligently - or as diligently as you can with a seven-year-old attention span - and... nothing happens. No still small voice, no warm feeling, nothing. But, as you've been told over and over again by people who love you and trust you, there WILL be an answer - IF you are faithful and good enough.

Because, you see, God can't talk to you if you're bad. And we all know that the church is true, and we all know that the promise of individual answer to prayer is a sincere one which means...

And the funny thing is, I never did get an answer - not once. I tried, oh my WORD how I tried. I fasted, I prayed, I read my scriptures, I agonized over every sin, real or imagined. I repented with tears and self-loathing. I attended meetings and paid my tithing and sang hymns. And God still didn't talk to me.

Which made it clear, so far as I could tell, that I was a pretty horrendously flawed person. I mean, how bad do you have to be for God not to talk to you? It worked for everyone else - every month we had fast and testimony meeting and seven or eight people would cry and cry as they talked about the way God had spoken to them 'in the stillness of their hearts.' But not me. I was caught in an unbreakable problem: The Church is True; God has promised to tell you of its truth (as told in the Church's own scriptures); all those who pray with a sincere heart and real intent will know this truth; I did not receive this answer; See Item 1. The church had to be true, which meant God had to fulfill his promise which meant I must be Unworthy. I figured that out at the ripe old age of seven and sat, mutely miserable through my baptism interview (aged 8) waiting for the bishop to tell me I was Unworthy (he didn't. I was baptized and all my sins washed away. Which gave me great comfort until three hours later when I realized I was being Prideful and Puffed up over being spiritually washed and therefore perfect - which was likely a sin and... dang.)

By the time I married Kirk I was an anorexic and suffered from a crippling perfectionism. I also was deeply and thoroughly convinced of my own unworthiness, and, frankly, miserable whenever I thought of God, church, religion etc (which I did All The Time).

It took another five years, five years of struggle and emerging self-knowledge, five years of discussion and work and misery before, with a gasp, I decided that I would just stop. Stop going to church - just for a little while, just long enough to catch my breath and figure things out. I had had bouts of inactivity before - never more than a few weeks at a time and always, always with crippling guilt accompanying them - but this was deliberate and thoughtful and, to a certain extent, desperate - and to my great surprise I found happiness. I mean real, genuine, soul-saving happiness! Without religion I was suddenly peaceful and content and calm: I could believe in myself as a reasonable, moral person who was flawed, yes, but always trying to do the right thing. All those things I had heard about coming from faithfulness in the church - calmness, happiness, certainty, personal growth etc etc etc, all of those I was finding once I left.

Now mind you, I still believed the church must be true for everyone else because that was what I was taught. I had no idea why it didn't work for me, no idea why I was better outside of it, I just knew what I knew with, to use a Mormon phrase, a sure and certain knowledge: Mormonism was wrong for me. It's taken me quite some time to realize that I'm not the only person in this situation!

Now, why on earth would I have censored this?

Well, first (and non-Mormons will not get this) because The Church is True, and true for everyone, it is impossible for most Mormons to understand or accept that the Church isn't right for someone. Really, fundamentally, that opposes what they know to be true. So lapsed Mormons, or post-Mormons, or ex-Mormons or recovering Mormons or whatever you want to call us are judged, even by the most loving, wonderful people, judged to be wrong. They are lazy, they have been offended, they 'want to sin,' they have been deluded by Satan (or their own false pride in their intellect). These are the only reasons that people could possibly leave - no matter what they themselves say. I know this, I've heard it over and over again from people I love dearly. I don't want to hear it again from strangers who stumble over this - and I promise you I will whether in emails or comments.

Second, once you call yourself a post-Mormon (or whatever) you are immediately placed in the 'them' category - that's as in 'us against them.' Post-Mormons are believed to be anti-Mormons, whether that's said outright or not, and everything I say is going to be judged as being anti. I will never be seen as being unbiased, and there are dear people, loving people, delightful people who will stop reading (have possibly already stopped reading) because by reading this, by knowing me, they would be 'supporting, affiliating with, or agreeing with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' (re-worded from one of the questions asked in order to ascertain temple worthiness in a member).

Thirdly many Mormons feel that an ex-member writing about their disbelief or their experience leaving the church is an attack on the church - on their own beliefs and this offends or hurts people - people I love.

But there have been some things happening recently, things said, things done, that I feel pretty strongly about, and I think it's important to talk about them, and in order to do that I have to let you know who I am.

Raised Mormon, now post-Mormon.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I've been debating writing this post - both internally (I totally trounced myself on logic but I'm losing to myself with rhetoric) and externally. The thing is, like any other blogger there's a lot I don't write about. The Children, by and large, are not reportable out of respect for their privacy. I also don't talk about a lot of my personal life nor do I lay down all the boring minutiae of day to day stuff (sushi for lunch four days in a row! In a land locked state! I live on the EDGE baby). That's bog standard stuff and I don't consider it censorship - just reasonable editing. However, there are other areas where I have decided not to write something, often something I genuinely wanted to write, out of concern I might offend someone I care about.

But then what do I do when the thing I genuinely want to write is something I feel passionately about? Something where I honestly want to express my own beliefs? Something where I feel a wrong is being done and people should stand up and say so? And what do I do if writing that will possibly hurt or offend people I deeply care for?


But then, someone pointed out that dissent is just dissent, and that it can be done with compassion and care. They said that allowing those you love to know how you feel is in itself an act of love.

And, while I know that I will inevitably be judged for the opinions I express or the things I say, I also trust that the people who really know me and love me will listen even if they disagree.

So I've decided to write.

Monday, October 05, 2009


This weekend is Balloon Fiesta weekend. The city is known for its Balloon Fiesta (well, that and being so very favored by the COPS show for our particular brand of idiot criminals that the mayor had to ban them filming here for a while as they were giving us a bad name). Hundreds of balloony people come here to fly and thousands and thousands swoop in to admire the flying - well, the flying and the novelty hot air balloon in the shape of a beer stein. I, personally, have never been. I don't like crowds even a tiny bit and I loathe and despise traffic snarles and the Balloon Fiesta has both in abundance. Which is why this Sunday saw me barreling happily out of the city, past the few balloons that managed to get off the ground (naturally we had unbelievably high winds on Sunday making the main event, Mass Ascension, totally undoable) and out North to find somewhere green and gold.

Normally we hike in the local mountains as they are quite near and reasonably good fun. However the city is always visible, the trails are dusty and (often) far too hot, and there are a large number of people who find the area equally convenient. I don't actually mind the people as they tend to be hiking-running-biking-dogwalking types who are superior in general but still, it's difficult to feel one is getting away from it all when you have to meet and greet 20 people before you even get to the park entrance. Well, and to be honest there are these Uber Marathon types who have the irritating habit of passing me riiiiight at the very tippy top of the mountain when I'm doing my very best huff-and-puff and going snail's pace: passing me AT A RUN.

Anyway, the point is that after a full summer mewed up in the house due to Excessive Desert Heat, and then a week in even more heat in Texas I announced loudly that the nearby mountains would simply not do at all and we were going to head North by golly.

Which, annoyingly, means a quite long drive, but only some of it is through the boring, dry dusty desert and the rest quickly turns into spectacular red rock formations and a nice canyon floor filled with cottonwood trees and rushes and various other lovely things. Which is good enough reason to go north but what we were trying to do actually is catch this one elusive moment when the high mountains are transformed, just for a week or so, by the aspens.

Aspens are quite possibly the most beautiful trees in the world. I always forget how amazing they are because they're also high-altitude trees and you only get to see them if you really make an effort. They're gorgeous at any time of the year because of their slim white trunks but autumn is, quite simply magical. Triggered by light or temperature or something the leaves all at once turn a brilliant yellow gold while underneath the scrub oak goes from green to scarlet. But the best bit is that aspen leaves are attached with a pinched stem, so the very slightest breath of wind sets them shaking and the entire tree literally sparkles. Then a few leaves let go and you're standing there in a shower of gold.

We weren't sure we would catch it. The cottonwoods in the lower valley were just starting to turn and usually they're a few weeks behind the aspens. A few miles in and we started to see some white trunks, but the leaves were already dead and dull. It looked like we'd missed it. Still. It was a lovely day - crisp and cool with just a little cloud that would soon burn off. We drove further up and further in, nearly to the Valles Grande (an enormous extinct volcano caldera) and found a bone-rattling dirt road that had obviously not been graded since the last rain storm - or the one before that. We had to go at a careful crawl, picking the least holey of the pot holes and playing slalom with the larger boulders, which is why we could stop so quickly for the flock of wild turkeys who ran out in front of us, ruffled and ridiculous looking. Farther on we found kinglets and junkoes, hawking for insects and chirping at each other in a contented way. We were finally defeated by an exceptionally deep trench and deserted the car to hike further in.

Which is where we found them - the aspens, still golden. And scrub oak, and a beautiful, pale ghostly vine. And behind them all the huge ponderosas making a dark green canvas just so the aspens could shine even brighter. We kept walking further and further in, chasing down an half-remembered, elusive trail head (which we never found) and stopping every hundred yards or so to admire the next vignette. Naturally we went too far and naturally we kept meaning to turn around but naturally there was always another bend that needed to be gone around. So we were a little knackered for the steep climb back to the car, but it was a good tired.

On the way back we stopped again at a better known trail and hiked in a little way to find an overlook - maybe 1,000 feet above the canyon floor - steep and terrifying but utterly breathtaking. We saw a hawk start just above the tree-line and climb to hundreds of feet over our heads, riding the thermal for a mile or so in just a matter of minutes. We found a waterfall and chucked a few rocks in the pool simply because that's what you have to do when faced with water. We buried our noses in ponderosas to smell the vanilla of the sap. We tossed nuts out for the family of Stellar Jays who squabbled happily over the pieces and then deserted us for the chance at Cheetoes from the picnic down the way.

We had, it's fair to say, a golden day.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Child 3 had, as I think I've mentioned before, the good taste to be born on its grandfather's birthday. As we were, at that time, living in said grandparent's basement it was the least we could do. Every year they have dinner together or something to celebrate the fact that one single day in history saw the arrival of two such superior people. This year they also celebrate the nifty coincidence that while one has turned 17 the other is now 71. They do things with style, these two.

Child 3 became, rather abruptly, an only child this year. It was apprehensive about this fact in the months leading up to Its siblings's departures since It is, despite provocations of various kinds (mutual I should point out), rather fond of Its family. However It has discovered that there is a certain amount of space around the house now, along with less competition for the Play Station or the computer. Also, the very day Child 1 left Child 3 happily moved into the now vacant bedroom. It has, I think it's safe to say, adjusted.

Fortunately It's also a rather nice sort of being to have around. It's generally good natured, is willing to pick up after Itself when someone mentions that there is an ankle-deep strata of discarded socks and notebooks, and It has an excellent sense of humor. It also has the good sense to like all the right shows and things so we have been able to institute such important things as M*A*S*H Monday (which comes with a bit of a chant) or Top Gear night (no chant, but then it doesn't really need one).

It seems to have discovered somewhere the part of the brain that should have been standard issue at birth, the one that keeps track of homework assignments (or, you know, thinks to write them down), notes important meetings or events and anticipates that if one wants a copy of The Scarlet Letter in time to do the required reading one would do well to warn one's parent ahead of time. Rather startlingly, this year it has not only set its alarm but begun to get up to it which, after three years of ten minute frantic bleeping from the alarm clock with no visible movement in response by Child 1, is simply staggering.

In other words, it seems to be celebrating its final year as a not-yet-adult by growing up - handsomely.