Friday, November 20, 2015

Take This Church and Shove It

Last weekend over a thousand Mormons gathered near Salt Lake's Temple Square to submit their resignations from the LDS Church. It was the latest in a series of reactions to the LDS Church decision to refuse infant blessings and baptisms to the children of gay parents. Read more here.

For the benefit of my gentle readers who are not blessed to have been members of the one and only true church, a Mormon's decision between formally resigning vs. playing permanent hooky is a tricky one. Both options have their challenges.

LDS Inc. requires the resigning member to write the local bishop who may impose all kinds of pressure on the resignee before eventually passing his/her request on to the stake president who, in his own time, forwards the resignation to church headquarters. On the other hand, lapsed Mormons who remain on the church roles may expect to be contacted once, twice, even multiple times a year by eager beavers hoping to reactivate them - and for the rest of their lives, no matter how many times they move.

Evidently the group who protested last Saturday had the help of an attorney who was able to bypass the local bishops and stake presidents and deliver the resignations directly to the LDS Church Office Building. I find this all very confusing, probably because I haven't invested the time to study the matter. But I was under the impression that it had finally been established that once a person submitted a resignation from the church, he/she was out, at least from a legal perspective.

Just like once a person resigns from his/her job, he/she may pack up and walk out. The primary difference being, when a person quits a job, he or she usually gives a couple weeks notice, in the spirit of professionalism and good will toward the employer.

When a person quits LDS Inc. it's usually in the spirit of, "Take this church and shove it."

It's been 15 years since Mark and I formally resigned our membership in the LDS Church. When we quit attending in the 1990's there was no formal resignation process. At least not to our knowledge. If you wanted off the roles you had to be excommunicated, meaning you had to commit a grievous sin like murder or rape or child molestation. Or, even worse, have gay sex or write a factual book about Mormon history.

Later, when we became aware of the resignation process, we hesitated to make the step, simply because it seemed like too many hoops to jump through. And, lord knows, we'd already jumped though our share of hoops for the Mormons. Instead we asked to be "no contacts." "No contact" was supposed to mean that we stayed on the roles but the ward members were respectfully advised not to contact us. What it actually meant was that we stayed on the roles and the current ward leadership didn't contact us. Then the leadership changed and it was open season all over again.

Our last "contact" came from an Elders Quorum President who called after 10 p.m. on a weeknight to ask if we had a pickup truck.

The next morning we caved and composed our resignation letters. They were concise and professional, following a form we'd found on the Internet, and included no specific complaints or criticism, only our wish to be removed from the records of the church.

Our simple request set off a mind-numbingly frustrating back and forth that lasted a full 14 weeks until we were finally off the roles. The highlight was a letter from our bishop that juxtaposed his slant on our opinions, character and family against that of his own.

Descriptives used when addressing us:
  • ill-conceived
  • most serious action
  • sincere regret
  • distorted, uneducated and subservient
  • completely disagree
  • numerous examples to the contrary
  • cutting yourself off
  • reap a whirlwind from this unfortunate action
  • erroneously take umbrage
  • matters of spiritual life and death
  • a tragic mistake
Descriptives used in addressing his family (which we could be like if only we were righteous):
  • strength of character
  • poise
  • worldly and educational accomplishment
  • spiritual strength
  • phenomenal successes
  • unusual and continuing successes
  • moral and ethical compasses
Tonight Mark and I will raise our Friday night cocktails to toast the over 1,000 brand new official Ex-Mormons who didn't have to endure all this s**t.

If we had it to do over again, I think our resignation letter might go something like this:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Time to Leave the Table

Yesterday the LDS Church changed its policy to exclude children of same-sex parents from membership until/unless they become legal adults, move out of the house, and disavow their gay parents' relationship.

Read more here.

Perhaps in the coming days I will find a way to satirize this astounding act of bigotry. But right now all I feel is sadness. My heart goes out to the loving LDS families and individuals who will suffer because of this. But here's the thing:

You don't need to. You CAN leave!

I'm sorry to say this to my believing readers, I know it's not what you want to hear. But, in my opinion, any organization, religious or otherwise, that requires its members to shun their parents is nothing more than a cult. 

Singer and civil rights activist, Nina Simone, said, "You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served."

To my liberal Mormon friends:
  With all due respect - and I do respect you - I think it's time you left the table.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Kerfuffle Over a Cup of Coffee

This past Sunday a film student interviewed Mark and I for a documentary that he and an ex-Mormon classmate are making about people who've left the LDS Church. Since we've been out of the faith a couple of decades now, the return to the early steps in our exit process was an interesting emotional journey for us both. Suffice to say, we've come a long way since then.

One of the questions the young man asked was, "How did your Mormon friends react when you left the church?" As I wrote in my last post, most of my Mormon "friends" weren't actually friends but, rather, women I was assigned to work with.

I told him that my old LDS friends - people from high school and college with whom I'd cultivated genuine friendships - continued, for the most part, to be my friends. But the people I had been currently attending church with broke ties with me. Only not at first. At first, these assigned friends claimed they'd stick by my side "no matter what." Then, when reality seeped in and they finally acknowledged that I was never coming back to church, they unceremoniously dumped me.

This conjured a memory, one I hadn't thought of in years. Not long after I'd quit the church, I was in my local McDonald's buying coffee before work. One of my Mormon "friends" spied me from somewhere inside the restaurant, chased me out to my car, and then breathlessly confronted me with:
"I can accept that you no longer go to church. But I never thought you'd drink COFFEE!" 
For a few long seconds she leered at me in absolute revulsion, as if she'd just caught me exposing myself to a child or torturing a puppy with a lit cigar. Then she stormed off, never to see or speak to me again.

While amusing now, at the time this encounter was painful. It's tough to lose your friends, even tougher to acknowledge that they were never your friends in the first place. Since when does a friend dump you over a cup of coffee?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden:
"Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."
From where I sit today, the window is securely shut. I can laugh and roll my eyes over the absurd recollections from my Mormon past. But I will never forget the pain I felt back then.

When I meet people who've recently left Mormonism and are struggling to make peace with the believers in their lives, I can truly empathize. I can't reassure them that their LDS loved ones will support their new life choices, because, in all honesty, I know that's probably not going to happen.

But I can tell them about the bat-sh@#t crazy woman who flipped out when she saw me with a cup of coffee - and otherwise do my best to make them laugh. I can tell them that the cold wind will abate, the window will gradually close, and that, before long, they'll be laughing about a lot of things.

I also tell them that writing a funny blog really helps. Or producing a documentary. I hope those kids get an A+ on their assignment.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Real Friends in the Real World

As a Mormon I was taught to avoid The Real World. It was an evil, cold, miserable place. The Church, by contrast, was loving and gentle and good - a haven of camaraderie and friendship, the only destination where men and women could find true happiness.

Only, I wasn't happy. A lot of the things I heard in church weren't loving, gentle, or good. As for friendship, all those church assignments left little time for socializing. My only friends were a couple of women who were assigned to come around and "teach" me every month. Half the time they were women I had little in common with. On the occasions I was given somebody that might grow into a friend, she was shifted to a new assignment before anything developed. With the LDS Church arranging my social life, I felt as though I was constantly following a script. Like an actress in a cheesy sitcom or creepy promotional film.

For me, there was no happiness in that Fake World.

Thank heavens I'm now a member of the Real World!

I like to say that the best thing about being a Mormon is becoming an ExMormon. It's a great community of accepting free thinkers - a place where I've found lots of real friends, not fake ones. And we've plenty of time to socialize! Take the past few weeks, for example.

First Eric and Ali flew down from Oregon. We met them, along with Steve and Sarah, at the Barrel to Bottle event in Half Moon Bay.

BYOB - and they fill it!
Then back to our house for another mythic cooking session!
Food is serious business

Eric whipping eggs into a frenzy

Blackjack supervising
Caesar Salad!
Chocolate Souffle - yum!
Then last week Bill and Dana/Insana Dee dropped by our house as part of their West Coast road trip. How lucky are we?!
Dana and I at the Moraga Steps in SF
Of course Dana had to go to the Mission District and buy a Donald Trump piñata!
Dana's just mad about The Donald!
Of course Bill posed with him!
As did Don and Scott!
Then we hooked up with Jerry and Cheryl after the ExMormon gathering at the SF Ferry Building on Sunday. Sadly, our long time watering hole, Sinbad's, is closing down so the city can build another ferry landing.
Jerry and Cheryl with Sinbad
Owner Tom Stinson in a final duel

But we'll find a new watering hole. Because there are still plenty of fun times with good friends ahead. Life is good - when you don't have to fake it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Whew! We're Still Here

As many of you may already know, preparedness shops in Utah have been selling out of their 72-hour kits and freeze-dried food rations in preparation for the apocalypse that was supposed to happen last night.

I don't really have much to say about this, other than to suggest that a 72-hour kit might not be enough to last through an apocalypse. Also to lament that I am not the author of the accompanying best sellers.

But it seemed like waking up this morning to discover that the world hadn't ended was worth a post.

In that spirit, congratulations, Gentle Readers!

Hell, I may even toss some freeze-dried blueberries on my nitrogen-packed cracked wheat this morning.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 2

Continuing from last time, the second half of WHY DON'T YOU GET IT?

Reason #2: Because being Mormon was an integral part of our life experience.

Five years ago I dedicated a post to my husband, Mark. It was a brief bio that outlined his happy Mormon childhood, his fond mission memories, our courtship at BYU, etc. Then I went on to quickly explain why we eventually decided to leave Mormonism.

Minutes after the post published, I received a personal message from an old friend who scolded me for being negative about the church, called me a liar, and suggested that "people like me" should "just leave" and never talk about the church again.

Excuse me? Never talk about this overwhelming experience that dominated our formative years and consumed over two decades of our lives? Forget "why?" - How, exactly, does one do that?

Thanks to a a generous reader, I have an even better example, and with illustrations! (Thanks again, Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are!)

Every American kid who came of age during the 60's and 70's can recall the generational divide over hairstyles, dress, and especially music.

Only, while the "nonmember" kids' parents were hollering at them to "turn off that racket and get a haircut," teenagers in the one and only true church were dragged off to LDS firesides to listen to Lynn Bryson and other self-serving zealots who managed to convince many of them that rock music was devil worship, John Lennon was a wizard, and that the Eagles were practicing human sacrifice!

Understandably terrified, some LDS teens were actually persuaded to turn off some of the best music of the century and listen instead to:
LDS pop-singer Mac Reynolds, aka "The Singing Farmer"


The Mormon alternative to Sly and the Family Stone

or . . . drumroll . . . TA DAH!

The most annoying song ever recorded just became even more annoying.

In response to my recent post about Mormons and '70's rock, a reader wrote:
"I grew up in a small, isolated town in Utah. After the fireside in my stake, I had friends whose parents would only let them listen to compilation tapes of music Lynn Bryson sold to them. When you have a snake oil salesman like that come into town, it just spreads paranoia and fear that can literally last for decades."
Paranoia and fear that lasts literally for decades? ... Feelings? ... The god-d***ed Singing Farmer? Again, forget "why?" - How does one leave that alone?

Listen, Mormons, I'm sorry that you don't like hearing about our less than perfect experiences, but we can't stop talking about them. We couldn't even if we wanted to.

Consider this, my believing friends. Say a successful professional man grew up in a big Mormon family in an all Mormon town in Utah. He's since moved to California and left Mormonism behind. Nevertheless, every once in a while a nosey nonmember asks him, "Where are you from?" Now how would you have him answer?

  • Should he be vague? "Um . . . the mountains."
  • Or paranoid? "Who wants to know?"
  • Should he fake amnesia? "I've forgotten everything that's happened to me before I walked into this bar just now."
  • Should he lie? "I'm from France."
  • Or ... should he own up to it and toe the party line? "I grew up Mormon in Provo, Utah, but I left the church because I was offended. Also because I wanted to hang out in seedy bars with low-lifes like you." 

I'm going to sign off now, and start banging my head on my desk.