A former Mormon Woman’s Journey to Self-Discovery




НазваниеA former Mormon Woman’s Journey to Self-Discovery
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FINDING MY OWN VOICE:
A Former Mormon Woman’s Journey to Self-Discovery


by

Diane E. Tingen



"Each of us has to face the matter – either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing."


President Gordon B. Hinckley
General Conference, April 2003








"Well, it's either true or false. If it's false, we're engaged in a great fraud. If it's true, it's the most important thing in the world. Now, that's the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Interview "The Mormons";
PBS Documentary, April 2007




DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to my mother, who passed away when she was only 64 (and I was 25). Naturally, because of her untimely death, I have always felt robbed on an adult relationship with my mother, and I have always wondered how different my life might have been if she had lived longer. She has always been somewhat of an enigma to me, especially now. The woman who I knew as my mother was a very strong, independent woman who always seemed to have it all together. I have always admired those traits, and have always felt that I inherited many of those types of mindsets.

There are so many questions I would like to ask her, especially about the Mormon Church and her conversion at the age of 40. About a year before his death, my father told me that when they were investigating the Mormon Church, my mother had a hard time accepting that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, but that she finally was able to reconcile her feelings and decided to be baptized. I would have liked to have asked her what settled that issue in her mind, and to a certain extent, it still remains questionable to me that she actually ever did. Perhaps she joined the Mormon Church to please my father. I wish I knew her motivation – and perhaps, one day, I will. After all, I still believe in God and an afterlife – those are Christian beliefs, and the Mormons don’t have an exclusive claim on those beliefs.

More than anything, I would like to discuss my exit from the Mormon Church with my mother, and I wonder what her reaction would be to what I have discovered that has negated my beliefs in their doctrines. Perhaps I am being naïve and engaging in wishful thinking, but in my heart, I think she would understand and would celebrate my growth and independent thinking. At least, I hope so…



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 MORMONISM – A CONTROVERSIAL RELIGION 1
(and a repressive way of life, especially for women)

Chapter 2 TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE 16
That was the ultimate question

Chapter 3 THE PRACTICES OF POLYGAMY AND POLYANDRY 21
The Truth behind the Mormon Myths and Folklore

Chapter 4 MORMON TEMPLES – SACRED, SECRET OR WHAT? 64
“And what’s the deal with the weird underwear?”

Chapter 5 THE “FIRST VISION” AND ITS DIFFERING ACCOUNTS 81
So just what are we supposed to believe?

Chapter 6 EXAMINING THE BOOK OF MORMON 94
Violence and Deceit in the Name of God

Chapter 7 BLACKS AND THE PRIESTHOOD 112
Mormon Racism – Historic Facts

Chapter 8 PATRIARCHAL BLESSINGS 132
What a bunch of hooey!!

Chapter 9 THE WORD OF WISDOM 137
The Mormon Health Code – and more controversy

Chapter 10 RESEARCH FROM “UNAUTHORIZED SOURCES” 146
“But it’s all Anti-Mormon propaganda!!”

Chapter 11 IS THE MORMON CHURCH A CULT? 151
All evidence points to “Yes!!”

Chapter 12 GAYS AND LESBIANS – AND THE MORMON CHURCH 172
Dealing with this so-called “heinous sin” a la Mormonism

Chapter 13 SUICIDES OF GAY AND LESBIAN MORMONS 193
Just be celibate – then everything will be okay”

Chapter 14 SEXUAL ISSUES FACED BY MANY MORMONS 201
(including Pornography and Sex Addiction)

Chapter 15 AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE 212
Does the end justify the means?

Chapter 16 DISCUSSION OF MORMON CHURCH STATISTICS 223
Growth and Activity Numbers Examined

Chapter 17 EXIT STORIES WRITTEN BY FORMER MORMONS 230
Gathering Strength and Support from Ex-Mormons

Chapter 18 SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS 242
And so, I have concluded…


CHAPTER 1

MORMONISM – A CONTROVERSIAL RELIGION
(and a repressive way of life, especially for women)

“Do Mormons believe in Christ?”
“Isn’t the Mormon Church a cult?”
"Do Mormons still practice polygamy?”
“Does your father have more than one wife?”
"How many brothers and sisters do you have?"
“What do Mormons do in their Temples?”
“Why do Mormons wear that weird underwear?”
“Do you wear garments under your clothes?”
“Are Mormons racist and prejudiced against Blacks?”
“Why couldn’t Blacks hold the Mormon Priesthood until 1978?”

And so the questions went on and on and on, ad nauseum. There were so many questions, and such confusing and convoluted answers I was “supposed to give” (aka the “Mormon Party Line”) that it was mind-numbing. Until I finally left the Mormon Church in 2004-2005 at age 52, when non-Mormon people found out that I was Mormon, these types of questions usually began. Sometimes I got so tired of the inquiries that I wanted to run and hide, and although I could actually do that to some extent, the fact was that I could not hide from myself or the questions stacking up in my own mind. I never have understood the logic or reasoning behind the "Mormon Party Line," so it was very difficult and disconcerting to be constantly confronted with these queries, especially since the answers I would end up giving sounded so canned and manufactured. They simply didn’t sound like the rational or logical responses I should be giving (or that I preferred to give).

Logical thinking is paramount for an intelligent person, which is what I consider myself to be. But the lack of logic involved in accepting Mormonism as it is demands that a person abandon all rational thought completely. Common sense tells me that the doctrines and teachings of the Mormon Church are not on the “up and up,” that the Mormon Church deals in lies, deceit and manipulation to the extent that its members become sheep and clones – or as people on various PostMormon discussion boards call them, Morgbots.

My own questions not only included the above ones (since I didn’t pretend to know any logical or reasonable “answers,” at least that would be appropriate as far as the Mormons are concerned), but also had some very personal elements – specifically: “Is belonging to the Mormon Church detrimental to my personal development as a woman and an individual?”

The older I got, and the more informed I became, the more I realized that the answer to this question was “Yes, most definitely.” But beyond that, as I became older, and started doing some of my own research into Mormon Church history and teachings, the more I started to doubt that the Mormon Church was actually true. Initially, confronting those issues and realizing the deception and lies handed out by the Mormon Church was very difficult for me. Basically, I felt “caught between a rock and a hard place,” unable to digest and absorb what I had discovered. Of course, I also felt betrayed as well as angry and bitter. After all, I had lived my entire life as a Mormon, trusting what I was told, and believing that the Mormon Church was true. It was not easy for me to face the fact that it is actually filled with lies, deceit and half-truths told by men who have their own agendas, and are not guided by the Almighty God (but rather by the “almighty” dollar).

Before I go any further, I should say that the official name of the Church commonly known as the “Mormon Church” is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (and is also sometimes referred to as the LDS Church). It became known as the Mormon Church because of the Book of Mormon, which was, according to Mormon “folklore,” translated from Gold Plates which were given to Joseph Smith by an Angel to translate. According to what the Mormon Church teaches, the Book of Mormon is a Second Testament of Jesus Christ who appeared to the inhabitants of the North American continent after his crucifixion. Apparently, some “Mormons” take offense at the LDS Church being called the “Mormon Church,” although I’m not sure why. After all, the “Mormon Church” operates a website called www.mormon.org in addition to its other website, www.lds.org, so the term "Mormon" shouldn't offend them entirely.

And now, in 2012, we are constantly bombarded with the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, both by way of billboards (which are all over the place here in Denver) and TV commercials, which run during prime time on network television here in Colorado. Naturally, these billboards and TV commercials irritate me greatly, especially considering the amount of money the Mormon Church is obviously paying to run this media campaign. From what I’ve been able to gather, the billboards began going up a few months prior to the March 2011 opening of the Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon Musical.” I’ve seen pictures of these billboards on Time Square, and of course, this makes me cringe at the thought of what that particular billboard must cost to run and maintain on a month-by-month basis. It also makes me laugh because when I was growing up, and up until very recently, Mormons considered themselves to be a “peculiar” people, and were proud of that designation. At what point did they decide to abandon that designation and work on becoming mainstream? An interesting question.

As a Mormon, I was taught that "Latter-Day Saints" are to be "in the world, but not of the world." That is an extremely unrealistic statement, but so many Mormons take it to heart (as I once did) and shield themselves completely from everything that goes on in the world (which is what I did). But in doing so, and in taking everything at face value, I did not delve into various areas of Church doctrine, its teachings or its history, to my own detriment. In addition, I never researched any other religions, nor did I read any controversial books or any "anti-Mormon" literature. To do so would have gone against everything I had been taught, and I was conditioned (brainwashed) not to read anything of that ilk.

Basically, I was born and raised in the Mormon Church since, when I was 10 months old, my parents were converted to Mormonism. So the “molding process” (and/or brainwashing) began immediately, essentially at the beginning of my life. When I was a child, I "truly believed" everything about Mormonism that was taught to me – blindly. I took everything to heart, and soaked it all up like a sponge. I was, in no uncertain terms, a very successful product of brainwashing. That was true until later on in my life when I started questioning things, which a “Good Mormon Woman” is not supposed to do. No, she is supposed to simply go along with all she is told by the leaders of the Mormon Church, which are, of course, men – and she is taught to “follow her husband in righteousness.” Essentially, the Mormon Church promotes what I call the ”Cookie-Cutter Philosophy” in which “Good Mormon Women” are supposed to be, in essence, identical clones of each other. This is basically what the Mormon Church promotes – NO individuality, NO unique personalities, and NO self-generated or independent thoughts are acceptable for anyone, let alone women. In essence, Mormon women are Stepford Wives if they are living “righteously” (and “following their husbands in righteousness,” a phrase that irritates me to this day).

My life has truly been a journey of finding my own voice. So much of my life has been defined by Mormonism to the point where I had no voice of my own, and essentially no thoughts of my own. Basically, I thought what the Mormon Church told me to think, and I believed what the Mormon Church told me to believe. For a very large part of my life, to think or believe otherwise was not an option for me. For a very long time, I told myself that I was happy being a member of the Mormon Church. When questions would crop up, I would push them down and tell myself that I just needed to have more faith, and that faith would be the key to belief and feeling fulfilled. But in reality, I wasn’t happy being Mormon because it is too illogical and unbelievable, and I started questioning too many things. For me, faith can only take a person so far, and when so many issues crop up and it all contradicts the facts, it’s not called faith anymore; it’s called denial. And denying the truth as I saw it was what I started to feel I would need to do if I were to continue to be Mormon. And you know what they say about denial – it’s not just a river in Egypt…

Also, the “Mormon Way” is simply too confining and restrictive for me. Always feeling like I was being watched and monitored was very debilitating for me. Being constantly riddled with guilt about one thing or another was another byproduct of being Mormon. Also, constantly feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and could never do enough to be good enough was very crippling. How can anyone be happy in a religion if that religion is making them feel so completely inadequate? In my opinion, religion should be a respite and sanctuary for people to ease their minds, but I never felt that way while I was a Mormon.

For many years, well into my 30’s, I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. Being faced with the premise that I was supposed to be a “Good Mormon Woman,” and conform just like every other woman in the Mormon Church, made me very uneasy and anxious. Feeling at ease with myself did not come until many years later after I had finally made the transformation from “good little Mormon girl” to “good Mormon woman” to “confused Mormon woman” and finally to “JUST ME,” a former Mormon woman who is strong, self-sufficient and confident, an individual knows who she is and stays true to her own vision and dreams, not those that anyone else, including any religious organizations, attempts to impose on her.

Over the years, I have come to realize that my life has been a series of experiences, good and bad. Those experiences have either helped me to grow and learn more about myself, or they have torn me down, seemingly obliterating my happiness and will to survive. Of course, we all have things that happen in our lives that do not effect us one way or the other – indifferent experiences. I have had all types of experiences, and although I have lived through some very troubling times, I have also come to realize that it is the bad experiences, and how I process and come to deal with them, that have changed me the most, in some very dramatic ways.

Although I had numerous questions about the Mormon Church for many years, for a very long time I chose not to deal with my questions or the related issues as they would crop up. Instead, like a Mormon clone, I would push them down and tell myself that I just needed to have more faith and simply believe. Doing so worked until I started to acknowledge my own individuality, my right to have questions, and my right to expect understandable answers. But since that attitude is not encouraged in the Mormon Church, and is, in fact, downright frowned upon, I felt very guilty because of those thoughts and feelings. Oh, you can ask questions – but you’re supposed to accept whatever it is you are told. This is the "Mormon party line," as I call it. And once you've been given "the answer," you’re supposed to accept it and not continue to question the issue because if you do, you’re being influenced by Satan.

When I was growing up in the Mormon Church, I used to hear a lot of talk about “Free Agency.” To me, though, the talk about Free Agency is just that – a lot of talk – because when it comes right down to it, the Mormon Church is constantly attempting to take the Free Agency of their members away from them. They may preach the concept, but they don’t really mean it – and in my opinion, they don’t really think that anyone should use their Free Agency to do anything other than what the Mormon Church considers to be appropriate or righteous behavior.

I have a niece who left the Mormon Church several years ago at the age of 27 or so, along with her husband. They were both very active Mormons, both born and raised in the Mormon Church, and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. A few years after their marriage, though, they both (separately) started to question certain things about the Mormon Church. Finally, they both (separately) decided that they did not want to go to the Mormon Church any longer. After their daughter was born, they decided not to have her blessed -- and when she turns 8, they will not have her baptized. I truly admire both of them for being able to "go against the grain," extricating themselves from the Mormon Church early in their lives, in spite of family pressure. My niece is one of 7 children, and all the rest of her siblings are all still active in the Mormon Church, as is my brother (her father) and his wife (her mother). Of course, her parents were (and are) very upset that she has left the Church, and she has told me how for a very long time, there was "an elephant in the room" that no one wanted to acknowledge or discuss. Her husband is from a Utah Mormon family, being the oldest of 4 siblings – and his mother has pioneer heritage. I know it was not easy for either of them to leave the Mormon Church, and that it was likely very painful telling their families, but I admire both of them for being able to do that, making the necessary changes in order to be happy and not bound by Mormon hierarchy, doctrine and teachings – or continue “being Mormon” out of duty, obligation or habit.

The painful part of telling your family is something to which I can completely relate, mainly because it is something I avoided for many years. In fact, I never told my father that I had left the Mormon Church – and he passed away in May 2006. My father was extremely pious and dogmatic about the teachings of the Mormon Church – so much so that (I am told) he even said to my sister-in-law’s non-Mormon sister: “You better join the Mormon Church because if you don’t, you’ll go to Hell.” I was stunned when I heard that he said that. But then, that was my father. He believed everything that the Mormon Church teaches, right down to the most minute detail, and he could be very obnoxious about it.

By way of explanation, a la Mormonism, in one sense, “Hell” refers to Spirit Prison. This is a temporary place for people who either died without knowledge of Mormonism, or knew about “the gospel” but were not obedient. While confined to Spirit Prison, these people will have a chance to repent and be forgiven, being cleansed through the Atonement of Christ. When the resurrection comes, they will be assigned to a particular kingdom of heaven. Those who do not repent and do not accept the Atonement of Christ will have to suffer for their own sins after which when they are resurrected, they will be assigned to the lowest kingdom of heaven.

Mormonism does believe in a place called Outer Darkness, which is closer to the theological definition of Hell. This is Satan’s permanent residing place, and those who have committed the unpardonable sin of speaking against the Holy Ghost (as outlined in Matthew 12:32) will go to Outer Darkness. Rather than actual physical torment, The Book of Mormon explains that “their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone” [2 Nephi 9:17, emphasis added]. In other words, as explained by the Mormon Church, their torture will come from the flame of their conscience which will consume them – and their permanent separation from God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost will cause personal anguish which is their punishment. As Joseph Smith explained, in Outer Darkness, “a man is his own tormentor and his own condemner.” According to Mormonism, the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost can only be committed by those who have become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received the Holy Ghost, gained a perfect knowledge of the gospel, and then rejected it.

So my father’s reference to an actual place called “Hell” is not really accurate. But to him, “Hell” was anything other than the Celestial Kingdom, which all “good Mormons” strive to attain. According to Mormon theology, there are three degrees of glory which are the eternal dwelling places for nearly all who lived on earth at any time during history. These “degrees of glory” are the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom. This description of the Afterlife is based on an alleged vision that Joseph Smith received on February 16, 1832, after which he wrote it down and it became the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. According to these “scriptures,” a few people will not go to any degree of glory, although they will be resurrected, but instead they will eternally reside in a state called Outer Darkness (and the people who will go there will be known as "Sons of Perdition”).

Mormonism teaches that a person’s assignment to a particular “degree of glory” after the resurrection is dependent upon the faith and works which they displayed during their mortal life. Mormons believe that these different “degrees of glory” are what Jesus was referring to when he said, in John 14: 2, "…in my Father's house are many mansions" – and that there are references to these “degrees of glory” in the Bible, where it compares them to the glory of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). On Wikipedia.org, there is a very understandable explanation (in layman’s terms) of the Mormon version of Heaven and Hell, and the “degrees of glory.” And of course, on www.lds.org, which is the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there is the authorized version as sanctioned by the Mormon Church.

In writing this book, I would really like to think that active Mormons could read it and be enlightened. In fact, I wish that when I finish this book that my brother and his wife (and other family members) could read it and we could have a discussion about its contents, exchanging ideas in an intelligent fashion. But unfortunately, I don’t think that scenario is very realistic – and much different circumstances are much more likely. Reading this type of material, which most Mormons classify as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” almost makes their heads explode. They have been so indoctrinated that thinking anything else is against their nature. The brainwashing is so ingrained in most Mormons that they practically close their eyes, cover their ears, and start changing, “La la la, I can’t hear you” in order not to have the deal with any conflicting ideas.

But in thinking more about this, I have come to the sad conclusion that the inability of most Mormons to discuss opposing views may not be their fault. Perhaps due to the structure imposed by the Mormon Church on its members, most of them cannot have a rational discussion about any of its teachings. In order to have a successful exchange of ideas with a person, there must be a sense that regardless of the fact that you don’t agree on the subject at hand, the discussion is being ended with the sense that all parties have agreed to disagree – and there is usually NOT that conclusion to any discussion with most members of the Mormon Church. No, most of them have a need to convince everyone that the Mormon way is the only way – and since I do not agree with that premise anymore, it would probably be an exercise in futility.

I find the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson to be very interesting and extremely applicable to the way Mormons view Mormonism:

“It is with religion as with marriage. A youth marries in haste; afterwards, when his mind is opened to the reason of the conduct of life, he is asked what he thinks of the institution of marriage… ‘I should have much to say,’ he might reply, ‘if the question were open, but I have a wife and children, and all question is closed for me.’

The last statement, that “all question is closed for me,” is the epitome of the way in which many members of the Mormon Church approach their religion. That mindset is the reason that it is almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion with most Mormons about contradictions within the doctrine, sticky issues, and the questions that inevitably arise due to human thought. The fact that the Mormon Church wants their members to abandon all independent thought and simply succumb to whatever is told them by the Prophet or other church leaders is very disturbing to me. But I have to admit that it took me many, many years to finally get to the point where I could vocalize my issues about the Mormon Church and its doctrines – and so I can understand completely where Mormons are coming from. In most cases, a person cannot be brainwashed (or programmed) incessantly for most of their life without it taking hold, making it very hard for them to vocalize or act on their concerns.

On the Internet, there are several websites that deal with issues confronted by Mormons who are questioning the church as well as people who have left the Mormon Church. Naturally, the Mormon Church calls all of this information as “Anti-Mormon propaganda.” That terminology is very disturbing to me, particularly since the Mormon Church basically teaches its members that all negative information about Mormonism should be placed in the category of “Anti-Mormon propaganda.” In my opinion, the use of that phrase is an attempt to control its members and their thinking, blocking them off from anything negative about Mormonism and its teachings. Because of that tactic, and the message to avoid anything outside of Mormon-approved reading materials, members of the Mormon Church actually do avoid anything negative about their religion and cling desperately to the teachings of a church that plays very fast and loose with the truth – a church that tries to whitewash its history – a church that, in my opinion, was made up from the get-go.

Obviously, there are many websites that provide negative information about the Mormon Church – ones that are termed as “Anti-Mormon Propaganda” by practicing Mormons – but for the most part, the websites to which I am referring are simply there to point out problems with the Mormon belief system and provide a supportive forum for people who are contemplating leaving the Mormon Church or who have already left.

In the following chapters about my issues with the Mormon Church, I will be quoting passages from some of these websites – and in order to understand some abbreviations and the “lingo” used on these websites, I am providing the following guide:


ABBREVIATION OR NAME

MEANING

TBM

True Believing Mormon – or True-Blue Mormon

Exmo

Ex Mormon or Former Mormon

Nevermo

Someone who has never been a Mormon

TSCC

The So-Called Church

COJCOLDS

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon Church

FP

First Presidency – includes Church President and 2 counselors

Hinckley
(Gordon B.)

President and Prophet of the LDS Church from 1995 to 2007
(aka Hinckster, Gordy and various other plays on his name).

Monson
(Thomas S.)

Current President and Prophet of LDS Church – 2007 until he dies. In time, I’m sure there will be plays on his name as well.

GA

General Authority (Apostles of the Mormon Church)

Ward

Where Mormons attend Sunday church meetings (as well as other meetings). This is determined by where a person lives.

Bishop

Mormon equivalent of Pastor (though unpaid) – presides over all members of a Ward

Stake

A collection of Wards (usually 7 or 8 Wards to a Stake)

SP

Stake President

Apologetic

Someone who tries explaining the inconsistencies or other problems with the Church in a positive light

BIC

Born In the Covenant (parents had been sealed in the temple prior to your birth)

BoA

Book of Abraham

BoM

Book of Mormon

BYU

Brigham Young University – located in Provo, Utah; aka The Y

CK

Celestial Kingdom, where God lives and all TBMs strive to reach

COB

Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, Utah

D&C

Doctrine & Covenants, considered to be scripture by the MC

Exed

Excommunicated

FP

First Presidency – includes Church President and 2 counselors

JS

Joseph Smith, Founder of the Mormon church as well as its first President and Prophet.

LDS

Latter Day Saints – taken from the official name of the Church.

Mainstreaming

The Mormon Church's changing its own doctrine, practices and image to look more Christian

MC

Mormon Church

Morg

MC acting like a Star Trek Borg Collective, "Mormon Borg"

Morgbot

A Mormon who demonstrates lack of independent thought,
"Mormon Borg Robot"

Profit

Pseudonym for "Prophet” (obviously aimed at “the money”)

RM

Returned Missionary – prime marriage prospect for LDS women

RS

Relief Society – organization for women in the Mormon Church

WoW

Word of Wisdom – Health Code and commandment; outlined in D&C Section 89.

YM

Young Men’s organization

YW

Young Women’s organization
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