Friday, March 07, 2008

Hypocracy and the Holier-Than-Thou Attitudes of LDS Members

I've lived it. I was one of the most valiant members of my ward when I decided to leave the church. I made many changes to my life in order to obtain the golden carrot of celestial bliss. I paid my tithing, upheld my callings, attended many leadership meetings, fulfilled the requirements of receiving a temple recommend, and I had the approval of my other LDS family members. All of it began to crumble in the year after my temple marriage had finally been accomplished.

I was sealed in the Winter Quarters Temple, near Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday, October 13th, 2001. It was the ward's assigned temple weekend, so I felt enormous pressure to be ready by that date. So I plowed ahead with it, not sure I liked the idea of being married on a traditionally bad omen-bad luck day, but bowing to the pressure of my bishop. The day I was sealed was the day I went through the endowment ceremony, and we got to sit in the Celestial Room for all of 15 minutes afterward. I was one of 5 brides going through that day, so I had to wait my turn for the sealing portion. My dress was customized to be temple-ready, so I didn't have to cover it up (except for having to wear the green apron). I was so giddy that I actually blurted out my "new name" (Rachel) to my LDS family who had gone through the session with me, not realizing that they had received the same name on behalf of the dead ancestors they had gone proxy for.

At the time of my marriage, I was in constant battle with my husband's ex-wife, who was no saint by any means, and often spread rumors about me and my children throughout the small community of 700 people. She and my husband had a very public drawn out divorce when it was discovered that she had been carrying on an affair with a co-worker for two years. None of that had ANYTHING to do with me. I didn't know her from a hole in the wall. But as soon as I arrived on the scene with "her husband", she fought me tooth and nail every chance she got. She still carried on with the man she left my husband for, (and eventually married him), but it was extremely difficult to hold my head up in the community after she got done trashing me by her rumor mongering. It didn't help that she was also the girl's softball coach, so my girls had to drop softball because she was so cruel to them. It didn't help that she was the girl-scout leader, so that my girls had to drop that too. Her boyfriend was the boy's baseball coach and the boy scout leader, as well as one of the school board members, and best friends with the elementary school principal. So, my sons were unable to join anything either. This woman made my life hell for over 4 years, with the final culmination of an accusation that my oldest son was molesting her son, and seeking a restraining order against any visitation rights unless my son was not present. Which she got. Without so much as one visit from a social worker, or any doctor's examination, my son was branded a deviant, and she was seen as the brave victim. Only my son hadn't been living with me at the time, he had been living with his father for 7 months at the time of this decision. But, I had another son, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the accusations swept towards him. So, I did the only thing I could do to preserve my sanity. I left my husband of four years behind, and started over in my own home town, where her influence and lies could never reach us.

During this time of tremendous stress and anger towards my husband's ex wife and her web of lies, I was a Holier-Than-Thou Mormon. I believed with 'every fiber of my being' (yada-yada), that I was better than her. I believed that being Mormon made me more blessed, more chosen, more spiritual and more worthy than her, and it was my only defense against her. So, I used it. We fought constantly about being able to take her children to church. Sometimes she would show up right after boring SM to take the children to lunch or the park and they would happily go with her, even though it was my husband's legal visitation time. She undermined my position many times by taking over control of the children at any public event we attended. If we took them to the store, she would show up and take them around the store with her, where we would either have to force the children to come with us, or make some sort of arrangement for her to bring them back. I had to stop letting her children travel with me anywhere because if we met up with their mother, she would just whisk them away and I would have to come home and explain to my husband that his ex wife had the kids again. She would sit with us in the stands at games, music concerts, any possible public events, and would have her boyfriend come right along and sit there too, with their kids right there between them. I might as well have been invisible. But I still felt superior to her, through it all. She was only a Catholic, after all, and a beer drinker, smoker, and a party girl, not to mention an adulterer. But somehow, I ended up with the reputation she deserved. I completely withdrew from participation in the community and instead, I substituted all things Mormon, so my kids and I could have a place of respite away from the constant chaos.

She, of course, blocked our efforts to have the children baptized. She waited until the day before to send a letter to the bishop, threatening legal action if he went through with it, and petitioned the court for sole custody because of our involvement in the church. She was a one woman campaign against the Mormon cult, and soon had the entire small community we lived in completely against us for wanting to baptize her children as Mormon. She became white and pure almost overnight, joining a popular community church and attending regularly, even planning her lavish wedding there. And, of course, her children would rather go to the fun church with all their friends than to the Mormon church 30 miles away. All this hateful and spiteful behavior only strengthened my belief that I was morally and spiritually superior to her, and I proclaimed it from the pulpit whenever I had the chance.

I have had five years now, away from her, away from my weak ex-husband, away from that small town of 700 people who never knew what became of me. The bitterness and anger that consumed me has completely abated. I have no reasons to fight her and no interaction with her world.

The whole time I fought this battle of wills, I had the passion and desire to prove myself worthy beyond a doubt. I wanted every possible blessing as proof of my righteousness and my status as an LDS faithful member, as opposed to the adulterous, slanderous, Catholic demon-spawn. It was a race, to be sure, and I got plenty of sympathy from my fellow members. When I dared to question the church's policy against baptizing my husband's children, I started to doubt. When I was finally confronted with the church's policy that my children could not be sealed to me and my new husband without consent from their father, I doubted even more. What was I striving to accomplish, if I couldn't have my children sealed to me, and my husband couldn't have his children sealed to him, then what purpose did the church serve in our lives? It slowly became clear to me that my involvement with the church was the tool that she used to destroy my marriage. Our ultimate goal of family unity would never be realized. And no one on the earth could override "God's restored plan".

Over the past four years since I have left the church, I have tried to explain to other LDS members that I left when I realized that I can't have what they have. And I've even tried to talk with my former friend "Mary", that even she cannot obtain it, according to the standards and procedures that are currently in place. Being married to a never-gonna-be Mo is preventing her from being sealed to her children. The fact that five out of six of her children have left will prevent her from obtaining the promise of being sealed to her family. And who do you think she blames for this? That's right, the rebellious children, the hard-hearted spouse, and her own failure to provide the example they all desperately needed as they were growing up. She blames HERSELF. And is is sad and wrong, and completely despicable that she feels this way because some "loving" church has conditioned her to take responsibility for the division of her family, when all they have to do to fix it is come off their lofty heights of self-righteous divinity, and allow families to be ceremoniously bound whether or not they are members of the church. But, that takes away the only thing of value that the temple brings to the church. It is a control mechanism. Members live in fear of having to sit outside at a family wedding. Thousands of members suddenly start to pay tithing or attend meetings a month or so before a big family event, knowing that if they fail to do so, they will not regain or renew their temple recommend, and will be excluded from the wedding. To allow people in without the TR removes this fear and destroys the effectiveness of the control mechanism. And, the whole reason that couples chose to be married in the temple, away from those who cannot enter, is because the church has a policy of forcing a one-year waiting period between civil marriage and sealing if it is not performed in the temple. This one-year wait period is waived in countries that require marriages to be performed by magistrates, or in public places, and in these cases the couple can go to the temple immediately afterward to be sealed. So, what purpose does the one-year waiting period really serve?

It's a fear button. It's power and control. They use it to coerce and manipulate couples into choosing the temple marriage and excluding those who choose to be rebellious, or those who won't convert to LDS. They will paint a picture of pain, despair, and possible tragedy for the entire year of waiting, and convince the couple that they will be blessed more and strengthened more if they commit to the temple above their own desires. The couple sacrifices family relationships from the very beginning of their marriage by choosing this path, and it often becomes a very painful thorn in the side for non-member family and friends who are excluded merely because they aren't members of the same club.

I waited the year because my husband had converted for me, and had to wait a year from his baptism to attend the temple. But, they kept him busy remaining worthy to baptize his oldest daughter (by a different mother) and to pass the sacrament every Sunday (provided he remembered to wear a white shirt and tie). I was never told that it would be next to impossible to have my children sealed to me without first gaining written permission from both fathers, (one a lax inactive member, the other completely gone from the picture). I felt SO deceived when they finally revealed to me that I could not make my family eternal until they each reached the age of consent and individually decided to link themselves to me and my new husband. So, ultimately, it would rest on my shoulders to ensure that my children would be raised to believe all of this was necessary, and to compel them somehow into thinking it was the most important covenant they could make (aside from marrying in the temple on their own), and that this would be the only way I could obtain Celestial glory with them. I would have to assist the church in convincing them that this would be the only way we could partake of "God's restored plan". If they refused to join with me when they turned of legal age, it would all fall back on me and my failure to remain with their natural father, and somehow compel everyone to remain together in that original family unit. They learned to hate my husband and his ex wife over the four years we were part of that world, so what would compel them to want to be with him as the leader of our Celestial family in the hereafter? Not high on my list either, as it turns out.

Then there is "Sally", the last remaining LDS member of her family. Somehow, she managed to obtain what I could never have. Somehow, through lots of legal wranglings, her husband adopted her kids, she overcame the stumbling blocks of a previous sealing to undo (by which she had to revisit every past sin resolved over a 10 year span, even the ones she had been previously forgiven for, and were supposedly forgotten) relive the circumstances of her own dis-fellowship-ment 10 years prior (even though she had been forgiven, and went through a year of scrutiny and goal-setting). She now has the 'assurance' that her family will be together forever. But, at what cost did she obtain this? Several times she had to confess her deepest, darkest sins, reveal very personal painful information and experiences, and run through the gauntlet of supervision, confession, and judgment by men who were strangers to her in any other capacity, and she had to submit herself again and again as a child begging for forgiveness, love and attention. And when she was just about at her lowest point, they finally grant her their "permission" to obtain the promise of the golden carrot. And she was THRILLED to have been given this chance. Does that sound Christlike? Because of all the agony she went through, the pain and torture of not being good enough, of having to constantly prove herself worthy, of having to jump through whatever flaming hoops that they laid out for her, without complaint or murmuring, she has paid a very high price for her salvation, and NOTHING is going to convince her that it was all for nothing. Her heart and soul will not allow her to even entertain the thought that she was deceived by those who claimed to have loved her the most, even though they treated her worse than anyone in her natural family would have dreamed. She is bound to them eternally because love is only demonstrated by how much they punish you for falling away. Acceptance in the fold is based upon the level of conformity you can obtain and how much you can impress the current bishop.

"Sally" and "Mary" are not perfect, and neither was I when I was Mormon. I cursed. I drank Iced tea. I played cards. I yelled at my kids. I said unkind things about others. I skipped church occasionally, and I sometimes didn't bother preparing a lesson for Sunday School. But when Sunday rolled around, I was the perfect hypocrite. I personified everything good and holy about a Celestial Family. We collectively brought nine children with us to church, and on those days, we were the best example of large Mormon families who make the gospel work in their lives. We were shining stars. I would wear myself completely thin every Sunday morning, making sure six girls had their hair clean, dresses neat, and tights with proper shoes worn. I ironed shirts for three boys and my husband, and still managed to look like it was the most effortless thing in the world. I remember being teased that I would eventually be the bishop's wife someday, because my life was so put together. (on the outside). When I got home, I literally fell apart every time. It was exhausting to work so hard on being so fake. Now, I do just exactly what I damn well please on Sunday, just like any other day. No lesson plans, no spending my own money on class materials, no stress, no uncomfortable garments and proper long dresses. I am exactly the same on the outside as I am inside. As for "Sally" and "Mary", they still tread the Mormon Hampster Wheel. A different persona exists for those they see at church, and for those they deal with at home.

I've taken the time to ask them what compels them to remain part of a church that is so bent on excluding those who don't adopt their specific beliefs. I've asked how God could possibly be so narrow in his acceptance, and why his one true church is so hard to believe in. Of course the answer is that they simply choose to believe it, and anyone else can simply choose to believe it just as simply and easily as they have, and then everyone could share in God's blessings. They really do think it's just a matter of choosing to believe it, and poof! You're in. The fact that 98.3% of the world needs more evidence to go on, just serves as proof of their own rebellious nature, and by extension, also serves as proof of how valiant and special those who choose to believe really are. My problem (as it has been explained to me numerous times) is that I choose to allow my own understanding to interfere with God's lesson plans, and I have rejected the messages simply because of the method by which they are dispensed. Take for example, the character of Joseph Smith. It can be said that he was a glass looker, treasure digger, and vagabond of sorts. But I shouldn't ignore the message contained in the Book of Mormon, just because the source of it is of questionable moral character. Nor should I dismiss it because of similarities to other texts and ideas by other authors at the time. And I shouldn't put away the basis of the Mormon belief system because it uses rituals and borrows concepts from other organizations. And it's not supposed to be judged by wordly thoughts or using logical reasoning. It's supposed to be a process of conversion that can only come from humble submission to the spirit, and the acknowledgment of the good uplifting feelings one has when surrounded by others of similar conviction.

Well, looks like I'm never going back. I don't know how to cut my brain out of my head and live off of feelings alone. And I just don't know how one could possibly claim to know everything about the church, just as I have learned, and still be able to maintain the fundamental beliefs that make a Mormon. Surely one would grow and change and perceive the world differently as each piece is revealed and put in its place within the scheme. It makes me feel as if I'm being lied to again. I can't come to the conclusion that it's still a true copy of the original church of Christ. I can't make the connection between the God of the bible, and the one portrayed in Mormonism. I can't accept the there are living prophets on the earth that have special powers and keys to holy priesthood powers if they are never going to exercise them out in the open for everyone to witness. I can't follow the lead of a man who is proclaimed to be a living prophet if he never makes good on that claim, either by making a prophecy of some kind (which his title implies) or by using his priesthood authority to bind or control some other evil aspect of this life, like famine or disease. That's a prophet in the biblical sense, and I don't know why it would be any different in this life, if the church wants to make the claim that all the keys have been restored. We should be living in a marvelous and wonderous age, if it were true. But, all I can see is 15 old, white men, each in control of some aspect of the church business, and all grouped together for a common goal, maintaining the base and keeping those tithing dollars coming in every month.

Can anyone tell me why it's worth it to remain in the church, even when most of your family has left it? What's in it for you? Can you honestly say that you know you're going to the CK and that all your sacrifice in this life will actually be doing some good for you in the next one?

Here's the most important question: If the church was not true, would you want to know?