Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why I Bitch About the Church

I wonder sometimes why I am so compelled to talk about the church and religion, especially as a convert. It's an important question to ask yourself. We all have our reasons. I have more than just the one I'm going to discuss today.

Growing up, I took a lot of accelerated English courses--you know, the dreaded critical thinking stuff I love that one of my Molly friends totally acknowledged she wanted nothing to do with because see what happens?!

I read books like Fahrenheit 451. I read Anne Frank's diary. Animal Farm. Brave New World.

I also, while it didn't seem like it at the time, paid attention in my history classes. Enough, at least, to know a sufficient number of facts regarding things like WWII, the basics of the founding of our country.

I knew enough about censorship and the suppression of ideas (y'all have an idea about how I feel about Banned Books Week), but I didn't make the connection for some reason. I gave up that very fundamental part of me when I joined.

I graduated high school, understanding how important it is to have free speech. How important it is to know at least the very basics of our history. I don't know enough, but I had the idea.

And then I joined the LDS church?!

This is why I talk about it. I talk about it because what the fuck was I thinking?

Why did I allow myself to get involved in a church that suppresses freedom of...well, everything? A church that basically teaches "slavery is freedom"?

Hi, 1984.

I know that's a bit of an exaggeration, but when you consider that they determine what kind of underwear you should wear, even down to how you should wear your fucking bra, it's not much of an exaggeration. I would mention earrings again, but--well, I guess I just did.

And while I might have joined with some knowledge of the church, I still did go into it somewhat ignorant. I did study, but I didn't listen to "the other side" much, mostly because the super anti-brochures and books and movies were ridiculous and rational people tend to not listen to extremists. Which is what they are. I don't care for people who yell.

Also, I was trying to be mature about this. If this is god's church, then y'know, I should suck it up. Do what needs to be done.

You have to understand, also, that soon after I began investigating the church I gave up on my writing, my reading, and even went as far as to burn everything I'd ever written. Things I'd kill for today. My diaries, my poetry, my stories. Gone. Poof. Because they weren't worthy. Because I didn't want to be like Lot's wife and look back. Because I was better and needed a clean slate.

I mean, FUCK. I gave up on my dreams, people. Because they weren't worthy enough. And now I question if I can get them back. How far down have I dug and can I get out? Should I get out? I have kids and a family now--is it selfish of me to do what I need to do to go back to school? People, it's not like Eric will be home full time while I do this. I know it isn't that easy--he killed himself for us, but I feel so overwhelmed. And there are just some things I'll never get back.

In the end, the fact is that I didn't know enough about the church. I wasn't happy. I didn't fit in. I had met a girl I absolutely loved, and while I didn't join because of her, she made me feel awesome. I had spent the last two years estranged from my best friend and now I had a new one. She would've been my friend even if I hadn't joined. I knew that. But still. I'd been thinking about ending my four-year church sabbatical for a few months anyway. And the people I met following her were just as welcoming and fun. And the doctrine they give investigators is pretty awesome. Like skim milk.

I thought "I don't know everything, maybe I should trust in a god who does." I still remember giving the OT another go and thinking "the fuck? oh well. who am I to question god?"

I know.

I've always thought I didn't know everything. It's just a matter of where or in whom I'm willing to put my faith in.

I thought everything was possible. I mean, hell, if Moses talked to a burning bush as I grew up learning and just kinda "knew" to be truth, who was I to say that Joseph Smith didn't speak to God?

I'd always had my little doubts, but they weren't enough. Not until I really acknowledged the sickness that was the church and polygamy. That was the first slam.

But Prop 8 was the knockout punch. EXACTLY because of what I had been taught and felt deeper in my soul than I had ever believed that Joseph Smith was True. I was being silenced. I was being told how to vote. I was being intimidated. People weren't looking me in the eyes anymore. I was unworthy. My testimony wasn't good enough anymore.

Follow the Prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way!

People told me that the Prophet wasn't infallible, duh--but jeebus. When he speaks, the fucking debate is over. I didn't need a leader's quote to know that--which quite a few exist. I'd been in the church long enough to learn and know that the prophet speaks for God, so we should consider his words when spoken officially as God's words. Hell, it's in scripture.

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

- D&C 1:38

But I was beginning to believe God was off his rocker. I was beginning to realize that Hinckley and Monson had no fucking clue what God wanted, let along Brigham Young. Joseph Smith. You can't be a person and a prophet. You just can't. It doesn't make sense. I know what the Bible says, but good hell.

Also, I believed in freedom more than that. I couldn't believe that if I spoke out against the church directly, I could be kicked out. People said "well, it's like a club. You play by its rules or get out."

But this club claimed the power to kick me out of heaven and to keep me from my family eternally. It took a long time for me to get over that, especially because in large part I like what this club teaches about heaven. It's far more inclusive than, say, my father's church.

So I talk about it. I need to talk. It's how I process. I need to go over and try to understand what it was that made me fall in line on so, so, so many different things. Things I normally wouldn't have thought of doing. Fortunately it didn't hurt anyone else (though I wonder sometimes about my kids--I wouldn't give any of them back for ANYTHING, but I do think I had one too many. Another post for another day, if I'm feeling brave), but it was enough to make me think about how easily I can be manipulated, even though I've always prided myself on having a bit of street smarts. Ha.

And that's really the scary part, and it's not without reason to think that the same thing could happen again on either a smaller or larger scale. For anyone.


  1. Awesome post.

    They hold your family hostage. They ask you if you like what you are learning and if it makes you happy. WELL of course you like the idea of living with your family forever. Of course that makes you feel good... Of course the idea of there being a sure fire plan for the next life is hopeful. Most religions do not seem to have such a clear picture of what the next life will be like and here are the Mormons with clear answers.

    Don't beat yourself up too much for having fallen for it. They go right for the jugular when they start promising that you can be with your loved ones forever guaranteed. Just follow these easy steps...

  2. It's funny though, Kiley, because I grew up learning that I could be with my family forever. It really wasn't a big deal to me until I got married and had my own family. But, y'know, other churches teach that you can be with your loved ones. Maybe not married, but together.

    It's the LDS church that says they can take that away, and I think that's the rub.

  3. Great post, Lisa. I joined the LDS Church years ago as a free thinker and still wonder WTF was I thinking. I do remember that back then (in SoCal) my LDS friends and the missionaries pretty much told me anything I wanted to hear. I really had very little knowledge about what I'd gotten into and finding out what the church really was turned out to be a painful process. To this day, regret how stupid I was for joining -- at least life-long members had no other choice. But admitting it was a dumb idea in a way has helped me move on. Sigh. At any rate you're young and out of the church and have time for your dreams. The LDS church is a great thing to write about, and you certainly seem to have found your voice. Hope you can come to the SF Ferry Bldg. sometime soon. If you're not there tomorrow, I will at least be happy to know you're not watching conference!

  4. One more thing. I forgot to mention that I was also stupid in staying in the church for so long when I knew it was the source of my unhappiness. You were smart to get out so much sooner.

  5. kind of freaks me out how much you sound like me. Seriously, down to exact words sometimes. This is exactly the kind of thing I would have written a few years ago.

    I struggle with this more than I could explain. I keep playing it out in my mind and I can't figure it out. I was an atheist before I joined the church. I was crazy with that critical thinking shit.

    Of course, in my case there was a boy involved. Sigh. I was in love with the boy and the boy was very complicated. And so it went.

    But then I was done with the boy and I STAYED. I really believed. So I can't really blame it on him. I wanted to live in Utah and go to BYU(!). I wanted to have kids (which I'd never considered before). I started to think, maybe it's not good for a mother to slice open dead people for a living. So I dropped out of my pre-med program and if I'm completely honest, I've been looking for something ever since that I could love in the same way. Wasting lots of time and money trying to figure it out.

    Part of the problem for me is that I can't pin down where I stop and the Church started. How much of it was my true free will and how much was the Church's brainwashing? Because the Church won't accept any responsibility for the things I gave up and the way I changed. It's all my fault because of that agency shit. But that was NOT ME. I am not that kind of person. And it shows in how horrible a person I was as a member - I was so miserable because it just felt WRONG and THAT was my fault, too, because I wasn't trying hard enough or whatev.

    When I talk about this with my partner, he's immediately like, "You still want to be an M.E.? So do it!" Totally supportive. But it's too late now - it really is. Everything is different.

    And I had this conversation with him, too. Why do I still think about the Church? It's been almost four years. He grew up in it, comes from seven generations on both sides, his relationship with his parents nearly ruptured because of it, but he's just...moved on, whereas I still think about it and talk about it and write about it. And I think a lot of it is that: what is broken in me, or whatever, that could lead me down that path, and keep me on it, when I SO KNEW BETTER? And could it happen again?

    Okay, wow, really long comment. You struck a nerve with this one!