The Letter I Should Have Written

*Warning: this post is going to be very, very long.  Think War & Peace, but with fewer Russians.*

I woke to the unmistakable sounds of someone trying to navigate an unfamiliar kitchen.  I opened my eyes, allowed the blanket over my head to filter the early morning sunlight until my eyes adjusted.  I stretched out across the mattress, which had been dragged onto the living room floor in the wee hours earlier, pulled the covers from my face and greeted Russell.

"Good morning, sunshine.  What're you doing?"

"Hey.  I'm making pancakes.  I stole some mix from my brother's cupboard."

Most of my friends and roommates were unconvinced when I told them there was nothing more than friendship between Russell and me.  They didn't believe that this boy who made the two-hour drive on the pretense of visiting his brother only to spend all weekend with me, this boy whose hand I held while we walked, this boy whose arms I fell asleep in during late-night movies, was just a friend.

When I moved out to college, he still had a year of high school left to finish.  By sheer coincidence, his older brother not only attended my same school but lived in my same apartment building.  This lucky little twist of fate saved our friendship from the disease of distance, temporarily.  Russell's mother was more than happy to allow her 17-year-old son to spend weekends with his college-bound brother; she would have been less thrilled if she knew that Russell was really coming down to see me.

And so he came - not often, but a few times that we made count.  Toward the end of my freshman year, as his high school graduation was approaching, the visits stopped.  His phone calls became less frequent.  I attributed this to the fact that we were both busy, and didn't put forth much effort into maintaining contact with him.

I returned home for the summer to work, but it wasn't until just before I went back to school that I saw Russell.  We were stopped at the same intersection, about halfway between his house and mine.  We smiled and waved and blew kisses, and when the light turned green we drove off in opposite directions.

A month or so later, in September, I went to his brother's missionary farewell.  Russell and I chatted in the church foyer for a long while. He mentioned he was dating someone he had recently met through a mutual friend, and that it was going well.  I, of course, begged for details, but he wouldn't give me any.  The sidelong glances he kept making at the group of girls standing on the other side of the foyer stopped me from pressing it any further - I figured he wasn't eager for his brother's gossipy friends to share details of his private life with any members of his family.

We exchanged new phone numbers and emails and promised each other we would be better about staying in touch.  For the next few weeks, we kept that promise.

Then, in early October, I got an email from him which read:
Say you have something you want to tell someone..but you are afraid it will ruin your friendship with this person, because it goes against their belief system..do you tell this person anyway or do you just play it safe and not tell this person?
Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of my exact response, but I told him that if that someone was a real friend, the friendship wouldn't be ruined just because they don't have the same beliefs as you.

My assumption was that Russell was afraid to tell me he didn't believe in the church anymore.  I knew that he wasn't planning to serve a mission, and he had been struggling with the church for a while.  I also knew that he knew I had been spending the last several months playing SuperMormon, first trying to build up my testimony in preparation for The Boy to return from his mission, and then in an attempt to find comfort for my broken heart (a little more about that here).  I figured he was afraid I would reject him - or worse, preach to him.  I would never do that.  Even at my most Mormon, I held rigidly to the idea that there were lots of different ways to be happy, and that everyone must find their own.

The next night, he called.

"I need to tell you something," Russell said.

"So tell me."

"It's... okay.  Remember when I told you I was dating somebody?"

"Yes. What's her name, anyway?  You never told me her name."

He paused.  "I can't tell you.  You have to guess."

"Why can't you tell me?"

"I just can't."

I had been playing a rather loud and obnoxious board game with my roommates when he called, and it had put me in something of a silly mood - I was too worked up to hear the tone in his voice.

"Okay, at least tell me what it starts with."


I began running through all the S names I could think of.  Stacy, Sarah, Sharon, Samantha, Sandra.  I guessed ten names, twenty, thirty, and he said no every time.  I began to get frustrated with him.

"Is it some really obscure name that I'll never get in a million years?"

"No, it's actually quite common."

And then I knew.  In an instant, I went from not knowing to knowing; an instant more and I went from knowing to knowing that I had always known.  I grabbed a blanket from the couch, wrapped it around my shoulders, and took the phone outside with me.  Now that I was away from my roommates' giggles and squeals and chatter, I could hear the pain in Russell's silence.  I took a deep breath.

"Russ, tell me."

"I can't."

"Tell me."

"I'm afraid to."


"I don't want you to hang up on me."

"I'm not going to hang up on you.  Just tell me."

"You already know."

The next name I guessed was the correct one.


We talked for a few minutes more.  I asked questions - how he and Steve had met, how his parents had reacted, if he had told anyone else.  At the end of the conversation, he thanked me for not hanging up on him.  I told him I loved him.

Then I went inside, collapsed in my bed and wept.

My roommate came in and brushed my hair out of my face while I cried.  "He's gay!" was all I could get out before my words were broken by sobs.  I spent the next day in on autopilot.  I got up, got ready, walked to my biology class, but my mind was on Russell.  I was devastated for my friend.  I knew he had been miserable and depressed and unable to make his life make sense for years, and all I could think about was how being gay would make that even worse.

I had known a few gay people before, in high school, but I wasn't particularly close to any of them.  Russell was the first person I truly loved who was gay.  I had been taught that being gay was a choice, and that it was the wrong choice for anyone who wanted to be happy in the long run.  I couldn't bear the thought of my friend being miserable forever.

I couldn't focus on anything, so I skipped my last class and went to the library to send Russell an email.  I wish so much that I had saved it, so I could look back now and see exactly what I said to him.  I know the gist of it.  I know I told him that gay or straight, he was still my friend and I still loved him.  I know I told him I would never hang up on him.

And I know I told him that even though I didn't understand or agree with his choices, I would support him in whatever he did if he thought it would make him happy.

I am so ashamed of that last part now.

Russell and I kept in touch for another year or so.  He even came down to visit me again.  But the next autumn I moved to Virginia, and he to Arizona, and except for an occasional facebook chat we haven't really spoken since.

Five years after Russell came out to me, a coworker who is a bishop for his LDS ward mentioned that he had received instructions from church headquarters to urge his ward to give of their time and money to fight for California's Proposition 8.  He asked if the letter had been read at my own ward meetings.  It hadn't, and I expressed disbelief that such instructions would come from the first presidency.  I said it was probably some overzealous stake president or area authority who had taken it upon themselves to lead such a charge; surely the church wasn't willing to abandon its politically neutral ground over some state proposal.

Over the next few days, as I began to learn just how willing the church actually was, I was sickened.  I was furious.  I went to church the next Sunday, overheard people talking about Prop 8, and felt nauseous.  I spent Sunday School scribbling in a notebook, trying to sort out the thoughts running around my head.  I had spent the last couple of years doing everything in my power to gain a testimony of the church.  I felt so guilty that I didn't believe, so I had committed myself to reading my scriptures daily, praying daily, taking Institute classes, going to all of my church meetings (even dreaded Relief Society).  I had been working so hard, and not gotten any results.  And now this.  Now the church was doing something that I knew - I knew, like I had never been able to know anything about the church before - I knew deep down that it was morally wrong.  Despicable. Abhorrent.

How was I supposed to gain a testimony of the gospel when the men running the church were so clearly leading it away from the teachings of a loving God?  An institute teacher once told me that the difference between the practices and procedures of the church and its doctrine was that procedures change based on circumstance.  But this blatant suppression of gay rights wasn't being done in the name of procedure - it was being done in the name of doctrine.

I thought a lot about Russell at that time.  It had been a few years since we had last spoken, but I couldn't imagine looking him in the eye and telling him I thought he was less than anybody else.  I couldn't imagine telling him he didn't have the right to be who he was, and to love who he loved, and to marry who he chose.  The church's position, and the way it was enforcing that position, was just plain immoral.

My personal moral code was telling me one thing - my church was telling me another.

I wanted so badly to believe in the church.  I wanted to be able to bear my testimony, to say that I knew it was true.  I wanted to be able to pray in front of other people without feeling like a fraud.  I hadn't been able to do that for as long as I could remember; I felt I shouldn't be praying on behalf of other people when I wasn't even sure there was anyone to pray to.

And then I knew.  In an instant, I went from not knowing to knowing; an instant more and I went from knowing to knowing that I had always known.  I knew that if God was who the Mormon church said he was, I wanted nothing to do with him.  I knew that I didn't believe the church was true.  And I knew that because I didn't believe in it, I shouldn't judge myself by its standards anymore.  The church needed me to have a testimony of its supposed truthfulness - I didn't.

How had I not seen this before?  Why had I told myself for all those years that even thought I didn't believe the church was true, I should assume it was anyway and live accordingly?

The weight was lifted from my shoulders immediately.  In a single moment, I had transformed into someone who was okay with the fact that she didn't believe in the church she was raised in, and who realized that she was a good person after all, and who knew that she wouldn't have to spend another day fighting what she knew in her soul to be right.

Since leaving the church and resetting my life two years ago, I have made lots of new friends, several of whom happen to be gay.  But, when telling stories about them to others, I rarely use the word gay to describe any of them.  I say funny, or unreasonably intelligent, or witty, or sweet.  My friends are smart, beautiful, hilarious, warm, drunkards who are usually happy and always wonderful, and some of them just happen to be gay.  I don't know how all of them view themselves, but in my eyes none of my friends are gay first.  Being gay is just one small part of all the of qualities they possess, and whether they are gay, straight, or bisexual they're still them.  They're still my friends. I look at them and I see just how closed-minded I was with Russell.

I know I could have been a lot worse.  I could have rejected him, scorned him, ended our friendship.  I could have hung up on him, permanently.  I could have treated him the way his parents did in the weeks and months after he came out - cold, cruel, and punishing.

I didn't do these things.  I stayed friends with him.  We still emailed, we still called, we still visited.  He dropped by unexpectedly on Christmas to bring me a present - a bouquet of chocolate kiss roses he had made for me.  Our eventual drift apart was natural, caused entirely by the fact that we were both growing up and beginning our adult lives.  I've never stopped loving my friend.  I never will.

But knowing that I told him I loved him despite "disagreeing with the choices he was making" haunts me.  How could I have allowed a single attribute to void out all of the other marvelous traits he had?  Why did I instantly assume that he was dooming himself to a life of misery?  Why couldn't I see that by coming out, he was allowing himself to finally be exactly who he was, and to finally be happy?

In the LDS church's semi-annual general conference this past weekend, Boyd K Packer gave a sermon with a hateful, vile message.  He, speaking as a prophet of God, told the Mormon population and the world that homosexuality can be "corrected."  Because of my experience with Russell, and because Prop 8 was the driving force that finally caused me to objectively examine my membership in the church, I have a severely tender spot when it comes to the LDS church discussing homosexuality.

Mr Packer, you are an arrogant, spiteful, and irresponsible man.  How dare you yet again stand at the pulpit and spew poisonous comments directed at the LGBT community.  How dare you tell an entire population of people that you know them better than they know themselves.  How dare you treat people you don't even know with such blatant disrespect.  How dare you.

I can't help but worry about how Packer's words will damage thousands of people.  Not only will gay people be afraid to embrace who they really are for fear of being punished by God, but how many parents and siblings and teachers and friends will use these words as justification to reject their loved ones?  How many people will say things they regret to gay friends, because the prophets tell them that these friends are simply making poor decisions?  How many people will, years later, still regret responding to a friend's coming-out by telling them they love them despite "disagreeing with the choices" they are making?

I wish I could go back in time and rewrite that email to Russell.  I wish I could be there for him the way I should have been.  Unfortunately, I can't.  What's done is done, and I can't change it.  If I could, it would say simply this:
Dear Russ,

I love you, now and always.



All A Twitter

I'm one of those Twitter people.

Not just someone who has an account and occasionally posts about the delicious new lunch place I found or the cute guy I almost ran over with my car.  No.  I tweet.

I'm a tweeter.

When you're a tweeter, Twitter almost becomes a way to verbalize your inner monologue.  When happy or sad or humorous or surprising things happen, a tweeter's instinct is to let their followers know about it.  Ace a test?  We tweet it.  Bump our heads?  We tweet it.  Overhear something inappropriate at in the office?  You bet your ass we tweet it.  True addicts feel helpless when they can't get a signal out to share a funny thought that just popped into their head.

Case in point: 8 minutes ago, one of my twitter friends from South Africa posted that he had just learned his uncle had passed away.  I've never met this man in person, but because he is a tweeter I can say with some confidence that his tweet went out within minutes of hearing the news.  In a way that non-tweeters can never understand, this announcement sent into the Great Internet Void was an important part of this friend's coping process.  He needed to tell somebody, he needed someone to know he was hurting and he needed someone to respond with comforting words, and Twitter is a highly effective way of doing all of those things.

This weekend is the LDS church's General Conference.  I live in downtown Salt Lake, and I am eagerly anticipating escaping to friends' homes in the suburbs for the weekend, because the influx of out-of-town Mormons swarming around downtown makes traffic a nightmare.  Tens of thousands of Mormons flock to Salt Lake for the semi-annual conference, and anyone who ventures downtown is sure to spot crowds of clean-cut people in their Sunday best.

Earlier today, an employee for the ABC Salt Lake area affiliate who had access to the station's twitter account, @ktvx, posted a tweet which read:
I'm downtown eating. Surrounded by Mormons and repressed sexual energy.
By any logical assumption, the KTVX employee responsible for the tweet likely intended it to go out on his/her personal account but used the tv station's account by mistake.  It happens, particularly when using a mobile app that allows for multiple logins.  I have several different accounts myself, and have posted to the wrong one by mistake several times.  The tweet was almost immediately deleted, but not before a few people saw it.  Just a few hours later, according to Sean Means of the Salt Lake Tribune's Culture Vulture blog, the employee tendered their resignation.

Whether this was a forced resignation or entirely the idea of the employee, I don't know.  But either way, the reason behind it is the same.  Someone is now unemployed because Mormons are a) easily offended, and b) a huge part of the local population and economy.

One of these two things happened: either the (now former) KTVX employee realized they were guilty of Second-Degree Mormon Bashing (which I believe is considered light treason in Utah courts, but I'll have to check with my lawyer friend to be sure) and quit to help the station save face, or KTVX pressured the employee to resign to help the station save face.

For the sake of argument, let's assume it's the second scenario.

Because I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

As a culture, Mormons are taught that they are better than everyone else.  They backtrack and double-talk, quoting scriptures such as "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" to prove that they value all men equally, but the facts remain.  Mormon theology teaches that they are special, a "peculiar people," the only ones on the planet blessed with God's true gospel.  They praise themselves on living "in the world, but not of the world."  They even believe that the reason why they get to be Mormons in this mortal life is because they were better than everyone else in the pre-existence.

A big part of Mormon culture that both feeds and feeds from this superiority complex is the idea that because they are at the top of the totem pole, literally everyone and everything else on the planet is being utilized by Satan to take them down.  I once had a seminary lesson in my teenage years where the teacher explained that one of Satan's most cunning tricks was using good people, like the then-recently deceased Mother Teresa, to make us think that it was possible to get to heaven without following the true Gospel.



He then assured us that Satan's plan was sure to backfire, though, because she was such a good person she was sure to embrace the church in the afterlife.  But he warned us not to let that deceive us - because we knew the Gospel in this life, if we rejected it and just lived like good people but didn't keep all of the LDS covenants, we would perish.

This absolute paranoia, the fear that everything good or bad in the world is after your immortal soul, has created a hyper-sensitivity to criticism in Mormon culture.  Any time Mormons or their church are criticized in the media, flags go up.  Mormons accuse the critic of being disrespectful of their beliefs, a bitter anti-Mormon who doesn't care for truth, an obvious sinner who cannot understand the happiness the gospel brings them.  It is a Mormon's godly duty to pass judgement on others, but don't you dare pass any judgement on them.

Don't believe me?  Go find any news article, from any local or national source, online that gives less than a glowing endorsement of Mormons in any way, and read the comment boards.  You may need a stiff drink first.

Associating Mormons with sex is just about the worst offense you can make.  Inferring that Mormons have repressed sexual energy is pretty much like calling them wild animals who think about having filthy pig sex all day long.  You're sick.  You're perverted.  Mormons are a clean and healthy people who truly show love for each other by not having or talking about sex unless they're married.  And even then...

So, rather than face sure criticism from the local Mormon community for tweeting such offensive content - practically HATE SPEECH, isn't it? - KTVX fired the employee responsible for simply being logged on to the wrong account at the wrong time.

Shame on you, KTVX.  Shame on you for finding a punishment that fits the crime - like, say, a verbal warning.  Shame on you for not simply standing up and saying, "Sorry, we made a mistake. Our bad. Didn't mean to offend anyone. Won't happen again."

That's short enough that you could even tweet it.


A Call to Arms for America


I just found out (thanks to Google maps) that there is not one, but TWO Catholic cathedrals within a two-and-a-half block radius of the former site of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City!  One of them is directly across the street - you can see it from almost anywhere within the memorial park!  Turn around, look down the block and past some trees, and there's the other one!  TWO Catholic cathedrals casting shadows on the memories of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

How can we, as Americans, stand for this?

Weren't our hearts stabbed clear through on April 19, 1995, when we turned on our televisions and saw horrifying images of twisted steel and shattered concrete?  Didn't we cry and mourn for the 168 victims and their families?  Didn't we shudder in horror at the sight of the burnt and mangled toys from the daycare center where 19 innocent children were killed?

And yet somehow we must have forgotten our duty to honor and respect those that died that day, our brothers and sisters and fellow Americans.  Maybe it just didn't feel real enough.  Something failed to ignite our righteous anger.  Otherwise we would never have allowed two cathedrals to stand so near to an open wound.

After all, Timothy McVeigh was Catholic.

True, he wasn't a practicing Catholic at the time of the bombing.  But he was raised Catholic, and the things he learned in childhood were still a part of his belief structure and questionable moral fiber for the rest of his life, as he explained in an interview to Time Magazine in 2001:
I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic. Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs. I do believe in a God.
If only we had stood up then!  If only we had demanded that the cathedrals be torn to the ground, so as to not taint the memory of the bombing victims!  How much pain could we have saved the loved ones of those victims?  How much pain could we have saved America?

The Catholic church has had its share of bad press in the last few years, what with all the child molesting and everything (Fun fact! John Wayne Gacy was Catholic).  Clearly, the Catholic church is a breeding ground for terrorism and must be sent a clear and direct message.  I call for my fellow Americans to join me in protesting the continued existence of these Cathedrals of Terror!

Wait, that doesn't seem grave enough.  Hmmm.... how about the Monstrous Cathedrals of Evil Terror and Also Molesting Children and Kicking Puppies?

Ooh, that's good.

As I don't live anywhere near Oklahoma City, I'm going to have to rely on support from all 11 readers of this blog to do the actual protesting for me.  But I'd be happy to help you come up with some kickass picket slogans.  I'm really good at that.  "MCoETaAMCaKP Are Monuments to Terrorism!" "This is America! Go Back to the Vatican!" "Obama = Kenyan Puppy Kicker!" "Terrorists Don't Deserve Churches!" "God Hates Fags!"

We simply cannot allow this to continue!  Have we no pride, no patriotism?

And it can't stop in Oklahoma City, fellow Americans.  We also have a civic duty to protest the Lutheran church around the corner from Columbine High School, to show that we condemn the actions of Dylan Klebold and other potential Lutheran terrorists like him!

But wait.  Let's be clear here.  I am not targeting religion.  After all, America was founded on the belief that we should be free to practice whatever religion we choose.  I don't have a problem with the Catholic religion, or the Lutheran religion.  I have a problem with their obvious ties to terrorist splinter groups which are completely indiscernable from the religions themselves.

There's a huge difference.

But lest there are still a few anti-American left-wing tree-hugging communists out there who believe that this is nothing more than a vicious attack on any specific religions or practitioners thereof, allow me to continue.  The next step in preserving the fragile heart and tender feelings of America is to get rid of all the sushi restaurants around Pearl Harbor.

Do you have any idea how many there are?  It's like, you're there, looking through the hauntingly blue water at the USS Arizona, choking up a bit as you think of all the thousands of soldiers and citizens that were viciously and brutally attacked that morning, and the whole time there are a half a dozen sushi joints right across the bay watching you mourn and rubbing your face in it!  "Ha ha ha!" they say.

Or rather, "は は は!"

"We totally attacked you without warning on that infamous day!  Now come inside and enjoy some delicious sashimi OR WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!"

Do we really want to wait for that to happen, America?  Do we really want another Catholic to bomb downtown Oklahoma City?  Do we want another Lutheran high schooler to turn a gun on his classmates in Littleton?  Do we want the Japanese to attack our warships stationed at Pearl Harbor?  After all, history repeats itself.  And by allowing these monuments to terrorist organizations to stand so close to places so deeply effected by their terrorist actions, we are simply inviting them to attack again.  We are saying we didn't think it was that big of a deal, and that all of those lives lost really don't mean anything to us.

We need to send a clear message to these terrorists: You Don't Mess with America, Texas or Otherwise.  Tear down the cathedrals!  Tear down the churches!  Tear down the sushi restaurants!

Otherwise, how far will it go?  What's next, America?  An Islamic cultural center two blocks away from where the World Trade Center used to stand?

That'd be just plain un-American.


Dear Friend,

We both know that there was a time, early on, when we didn't exactly get along.  I resented you for disrupting my easy life with your myriad of personal problems, and you resented me for not showing you more patience and understanding.  Slowly, over time and distance, we began to build a mutual understanding of each other.  We were able to look beyond our differences.  We found more and more reasons to tolerate each other, then respect each other, and eventually like each other.

Eventually you became a fixture in my life - albeit something of a background fixture.  Metaphorically, you were like a painting hanging on my wall.  I'm always vaguely aware of you, and often think of you, but rarely take the time to stop and really look closely.

Although we travel in different social circles, live miles apart, and rarely see each other anymore, I still consider you an important person in my life, and a great friend.

Which is why I have to tell you this:

Please stop with this nonsense.  It's killing you.

You have been through more in the past few years than anyone should have to.  I cannot imagine being in your place - I doubt I would have handled it with the grace that you did.  You have proven yourself to be a strong, brave, intelligent, loving woman.  You have taken a hell of a beating from life, only to stand up and wait for more.  Life didn't keep you waiting long.

You have asked aloud many times, "Why me?  Why is all this happening to me?"  You always come around to the same answer.  You say that your struggles are from God.  You say God is testing you.  You say God is putting you through this for reasons you don't understand now, but that will be made clear to you in the eternities.

You say that it brings you comfort, knowing that God has a hand in all this shit you've gone through.  But it doesn't.  Every time you claim that you're finding peace through relying on God, you are lying.  After seven years of knowing you, of reading your creative stories and your poems and your blog, I've learned how to read between the lines.  I can interpret your tone.

Your God is a fucking asshole.  And you know it.

You don't find any peace in God.  You only find familiarity.  You don't know what else to think.  You insist on serving a God you resent because you think that eventually, if you're patient and long-suffering, that God will relieve of you of your pain.  You will spend your whole goddamn life waiting.

God did not make you sick.  God did not take your children.  Thinking he did, thinking there is someone up in the sky who has made things wrong and is just taking his sweet time before making things right is completely destroying your sense of self-worth.

You are worth so much more than the God you believe in will ever let you be.

You say that you need to rely on God until you can believe in yourself again.  That makes absolutely no sense.  YOU are here.  YOU have proven yourself to be an incredible woman, with incredible attributes.  You have so many friends and loved ones who admire and look up to you.  YOU.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with God.

Please, PLEASE, believe in yourself!  Believe that you have what it takes to power through everything life throws at you!  You absolutely can.  You have before.  You will again.  Every time you rely on God to make you stronger, you are actually weakening yourself.  You cannot curl up in a ball and ride out the storm because you want to believe that at the end of it all God will make it up to you.

This is it.  This is the only life you get. Don't waste it.  Don't waste away.

I hate that you have had to go through these things.  But it hurts more to see you falling apart and just waiting for some mystical God to put you back together.  It's not going to happen.  Eventually you will put yourself together again, because that great source of strength and power that you so desperately seek is within you.

It's hard for me to understand how you could possibly believe in God.  It was difficult enough for me, who has never been through anything remotely comparable to you, to tell myself I believed in God.  How can you claim to believe that someone who would torture you for years without relief or explanation is any kind of perfect being?

Your God is a complete hypocrite who dishes out punishments and rewards on a whim.  The idea that there is some afterlife where everything will sort itself out is absurd, particularly in Mormonism.  You believe that if you handle this shitstorm of life to God's liking, he will give you the EXACT SAME REWARD as people who simply coasted through life with very few struggles and trials.  Your God is unfair and highly immoral.  And yet you allow yourself to wallow in self-doubt.  Deep down, even though you say you know God is just giving you trials because he knows you're strong enough to handle it, part of you wonders if it's some sort of punishment for sins you didn't know you committed.

I generally don't have a problem with the fact that many of my loved ones believe in God.  That's their prerogative, just as it is mine to be an atheist.  I truly believe that if having faith in something helps you to become the best version of yourself, then it's good for you.  I don't think that a belief in God is always a crutch - sometimes that's just the best way people can find to explain all the wonderful and terrible unknowables of life.  But in your case, I honestly wish you would let go of that belief.  I fear that you will focus so much on the unknown reward you believe God has in store for you that you will neglect to seek out happiness and beauty in this life.  You are going to miss out on so much because you have decided to wait for God to make everything right rather than focus on the things that are already right.

I firmly believe that you will find great joy in your life.  Unfortunately, when you do, you will tell yourself that the God who has for so long been so cruel to you has suddenly decided that you deserve a break.  You won't credit yourself with becoming stronger, you will credit God.  You won't credit yourself with finding ways to be happier, you will credit God.  You are denying yourself the opportunity to know how amazing you truly are.

I would never wish the things you have been through upon my worst enemy.  There are not enough words to tell you how impressed I am with the way you have conquered your life.  It breaks my heart to watch you deny your own accomplishments, your own strengths, and instead give the credit to a supposed God who you believe is the reason you've suffered in the first place.

Please, friend.  Please know that you are so much better than your God makes you feel.  Please know that you are a truly beautiful person.  Please know that there is so much to this short life that you should embrace and enjoy.

You can't wait forever for a God who doesn't exist to make you happy.  You are more than capable of doing that yourself.

All my love,



To Those Who Left Comments on My Exit Letter

Dear Friends,

When I first started writing this blog, I felt the need to refrain from posting too often about my experience leaving the church.  When I finally realized how cathartic (and healthy) it could be to write my feelings down, I was so emotionally weighed down by the realization of the lies I was discovering that I doubted I would ever be able to say enough.

My exit letter changed that.

As I mentioned in the post containing my letter, I first went through several boring drafts.  I was less than satisfied with them.  I literally spent hours writing and re-writing a single sentence, trying to make it as powerful and succinct as I could possibly make it while maintaining a kind of cold distance that I thought was necessary for this type of letter.

When I finally wrote the version that I mailed to church headquarters last March, I did it in a single pass. I gave it little more than a brief proofreading (which you can tell if you read it closely enough) before printing out two copies.  I spent so little time on it, in fact, that I mixed up parts of my old and new address on the return and didn't notice until I was at the post office.  I scratched it out and hand-wrote the correct numbers.  It was the easiest letter I have ever written, because I had reached a point where I stopped caring completely about how it would be received.  I said exactly what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and I refused to be apologetic about it.

Writing that letter did more than just close the book on my membership with the LDS church.  It closed the book on my relationship with the church.  Although it didn't mention many of the facts I had discovered or explain the emotions I had felt, it somehow felt complete.  Since writing that letter, I've struggled to think of things to say about mormonism that could be turned into posts on this blog.  But the fact of the matter is, once I wrote that letter I simply stopped caring.  I stopped letting it bother me.  I stopped letting it effect me.  I stopped letting the struggles of my past dictate my attitude in the present and the future.

Earlier tonight, a friend mentioned to me that he still receives emails informing him that there have been follow-up comments on that post (something I had never set up to receive myself).  I hadn't visited this blog in a while and decided to take a look for myself.  I expected two or three comments.  I found over forty.

Dear readers, I am overwhelmed.  I have such deep gratitude and appreciation for all of you who have taken the time to share with me your support, your congratulations, and your proposals of marriage.

I'm particularly thankful for those.

It is such a humbling thing, to discover that a deeply personal manifesto of sorts would ring true with so many people, most of them strangers.  I realize that to many of you, forty comments means very little.  Some of you probably receive that many and more on a weekly or even daily basis.  But I have authored several blogs over the years, and have never had that kind of response.

I was so touched, in fact, that although it's just after 1:00 a.m., and I'm finding it difficult to remember how many beers I had tonight, I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I had drafted a thank-you to all those who have read my exit letter, whether they left a comment or not.

To those who said it inspired them to write (or re-write) their own letter of resignation, thank you and best of luck!  To those who said it made them laugh, thank you and you brought a huge smile to my face!  To those who asked me to marry them, thank you and I can easily be wooed with red velvet cupcakes.





A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend about some local politics.  She's Mormon, but considers herself a feminist and definitely leans liberal.  We were discussing a proposed bill that would criminalize women for having miscarriages if they engaged in 'reckless' behavior, and the conversation soon turned to sex education (or the complete lack thereof) in Utah.

She often complains about how, as a high school health teacher, she has to navigate the murky waters of the Utah education system, specifically regarding sex ed.  She wants to be able to give her students appropriate and accurate information, but is forbidden from doing so.  "The crazies say that teaching about how to have safe sex just encourages kids to have sex," she says.  "The people that argue against it aren't educated on what is actually taught in schools.  They say they want to talk to their kids themselves, but they don't!  They're embarrassed or don't know anything themselves."

From here our conversation progressed to the Mormon church's often twisted views on sex, not only regarding teenagers but also between married couples.  She told me how bothered she was by a friend's husband who "doesn't believe in birth control."

Then she got kind of quiet, contemplative.  She took a breath and asked, "Did you know that Joseph Smith had twenty-nine wives?"

"Yes," I replied.

"And did you know that eight of them were married to other men?" she asked.


"Four were married to men who were in church leadership."

"I know."

"This really upsets me," she confessed.  "The whole principle of polygamy is based on getting to the highest level of heaven.  Those four women could have gotten there without Joseph."

I took a deep breath.  My mind was going about a million miles a minute.  Yes! She's finally waking up! I thought.  She's finally realizing the church has been lying about its own history!  It's only a matter of time before she realizes it's complete bullshit!  I racked my brain for information I could use to help her see the truth.  I mentally organized quotes from church leaders, articles citing DNA evidence, the publication dates of the various accounts of the First Vision.  I had always thought that she was far too logical and analytical to continue swallowing everything the church was feeding her without questioning it.  By the same reasoning, she would not simply accept anything I told her if I didn't have the sources to back it up.

At the same time I was trying to keep myself in check.  I knew that if I were to start barraging her with information that disproved the church's claims she would do what she had been trained to do since Primary - retreat as quickly as she could, and turn to her "testimony" to help quiet any nagging doubts.  I had to let her come to me, to ask me questions, to decide for herself that she was ready for the answers.  So I picked my next words carefully.

"Well," I began, "I guess it all comes down to whether or not you believe that it actually is a principle to get to heaven or if Joseph Smith was just acting on his own desires."

"The more I learn about the early Mormons the more ashamed I am," she blurted out.

I nodded.  I understood exactly what she meant.  "Personally, I find Joseph's sexcapades one of the least troubling things about Mormon history."

"The teaching of blood atonment, and confessing your sins in front of everyone?  That's not okay," she said.  "I was always taught that polygamy was because there were a lot of single women that needed a man.  But that's not true.  There were three times more single men that women in Utah.  I also have a huge problem with the lower status of women.  HUGE."

At this point I couldn't resist anymore.  "What it really came down to for me was that I realized the church was asking its members to approach it completely backwards.  In the real world, it would be 'is the church true?' and then you read the scriptures and study the doctrine and figure it out.  But in Mormondom, the church tells you, 'The Church Is True! And anything that contradicts that or disproves that is the devil.'  Their logic is that because the church is true, only the church's version of history is true. Because the church's version of history supports its truthiness, then that must mean that it's true."

I was so excited to finally be having this conversation with my friend.  She knew that I was no longer attending church, but we both had politely ignored the topic with each other to avoid getting in any kind of argument.  She is not the type of in-your-face Mormon that is difficult to be around, and she never felt threatened by my apostate status.  We both strongly believe in "live and let live."  So I was thrilled that she was examining the church on her own, and that she had felt comfortable enough to discuss it with me.

In my fantasy world, I imagined that my friend and I would continue this conversation over the next few days or weeks, and that I would be able to help her step out of her world of Mormonism and into the light.  Reality, however, did not match up.  I suggested that she take some time to do a little thinking and research, and that I would do the same, and that we get together for dinner the next day, both better prepared for the conversation.  She initially agreed, but ended up cancelling our plans last minute.  We rescheduled, and she cancelled again.  A few times I have tried to subtly bring up Mormonism in conversation so we could segue into it, but she knew what I was doing and refused to take the bait.

Part of me wants to grab her by the neck and shake her, remind her that she was harboring serious doubts only a few weeks ago and that it's not healthy for her to just suppress those without really examining them.  But part of me knows that leaving Mormonism is a personal journey, and one my friend will have to take almost entirely on her own.  I hope that eventually she won't be willing to ignore those first pangs of doubt anymore.  I hope she will be anxious to talk again, and that she knows that I'll be here to listen to her.

But until then I just have to wait.


And not push her.

Even though I really want to.



My Exit Letter

Member Records
50 E North Temple, Room 1372
SLC UT 84150-5310

Dear New Friend / LDS Church Employee,

Congratulations! You are the first one at church headquarters to find out that I'm officially resigning from the Mormon church.

Innit that special? Now, I understand if you feel the need to stop reading right now and gloat to your coworkers. I know the urge to jump up on the desk and do a happy dance is overwhelming. Don't hold back on my account. That guy over there, to your left? The one in the ugly tie? I wouldn't blame you one bit if you were to go rub his face in the fact that YOU were the one that got my resignation letter, and not HIM. Go ahead, do it. Literally rub this letter in his face. He deserves it.

I know what you're thinking. "It's like she's inside my head!" And the fact of the matter is, I bet you are pretty happy to be reading this letter. My assumption is that you are one of the church employees who processes a fair chunk of the resignation letters that come in. I also assume (having read several other people's letters myself) that most of them are either very dry and boring, or very angry. But aren't you the lucky one, because my letter is neither dry, nor boring, nor angry!

Slightly sarcastic, maybe.

But only just.

You see, when I first drafted my resignation letter from the Mormon church, I did it much the same way as many of my friends and acquaintances had done. I received advice from several sources that the church was able to process resignations more quickly and efficiently if the letter was formal, straightforward, and professional. So in my first draft I was very formal, straightforward, and professional. "To Whom It May Concern," it began. "I am writing to notify you of my resignation of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," it said. "I request that I not be contacted in any way, except as confirmation that my request has been fulfilled," it ended. After all, the LDS church is essentially a business, and so a business letter would be appropriate.

But then I got to thinking.

For 25 years, the Mormon church tried to get me to be a sheep. They weren't even subtle about it. They actually used the word “sheep.” I was told in countless lessons from Primary through Relief Society that I was a sheep, and that I had to follow the shepherd just like everyone else. "Conform!" they said. "Bah!" I replied. "Do everything we say, even when it's morally reprehensible!" they commanded. "Ba-wait, what?" I replied. "DO IT! OBEY! OBEY OR GO TO HELL!" they shouted. "Beh," I half-heartedly muttered.

Now that I'm rid of LDSism, why should I continue to do things the way the church expects me to? Writing this letter is my final act as a 'member' of your church - why not go out with a "bang!" instead of a "bah"? Why not write a letter that is uniquely and unquestionably me?

I know some people who, even though they have left the church themselves and despise its commandments to conform, would frown upon this. This is because some of them, after sending a letter announcing their own resignation, received notice from the church that they were subject to one of your "love courts" (which sounds like a great name for an 80s prime-time sitcom, if you ask me) or even excommunication. A church to which they didn't even belong was threatening them with disciplinary action. To which I say, what the fuck?

What? The? Fuck?

Now, look. I thought we were friends. You wouldn't try to pull something like that on me, now would you? Because after all, you and I both know that simply by your receipt of this letter I am no longer a member of your church. I know the church hates to relinquish power more than anything. But don't be absurd. I don't have to answer to any of your priesthood leaders for my actions. The church has absolutely no jurisdiction over me. So don't try to Bogart my decision. It makes you sound like a kid in junior high who just got dumped. "No, dude, she didn't break up with me. I broke up with her, right after she told me she wanted to break up!"


I totally broke up with you, and we both know it.

And I know the church well enough to know that even if it is willing to admit that, it will still try to place blame for our falling-out on me. "Yeah, she resigned her membership, but it's because she (select answer from list below)...
  • is too proud.
  • is too stubborn.
  • just really loves sinning.
  • was influenced by Satan.
  • was too easily offended by something somebody in Relief Society said about her.
  • thinks she's some kind of intellectual.
  • all of the above."

 The church would never, EVER find fault with itself. After all, the church is perfect. The church is true. The church is unchanging and unrelenting. Isn't that what you keep telling yourself, every time something happens that the church's doctrine/PR team can't explain? "Well, I don't understand the meaning behind this, but the church is true so it must be for my own good."

Do you not see the fallacy behind that line of reasoning? Now, seriously. Don't get your garments in a twist. I'm asking you as a friend.

We are friends, aren't we?


Now, friend, let me ask you something. Let's pretend that you're that kid in junior high again, only this time you're really really good at science class. You're a science nerd. Which is probably why I dumped you. Anywho, you're sitting in science class and the teacher asks if anyone can tell her the steps of the scientific method. Your nerdy little hand shoots up in the air and you recite, "Ask a question. Research the question. Form a hypothesis. Test your hypothesis. Analyse the results. If the hypothesis doesn't answer the question, start over." Well done! The teacher then gives you a silver star (it would have been gold if you had waited for her to call on you before blurting out your answer).

Now let's compare that with what the LDS church tells people to do.

In the logical world, the first step is the ask a question. In the Mormon world, the first step is to give you the answer. That is what we like to call "backward." Here, I've made a little chart for you to help you understand. I thought that as a science nerd, you'd like a good chart.

Admit it, you liked my chart.

You're thinking about cutting it out and taping it to your wall.

"See this?" you'll say to passersby, pointing to the chart. "This is why all those ex-mormons are wrong. They all think they're scientists!" The passersby will laugh as you take a sip of your caffeine-free Diet Coke, reveling in the attention. "Don't they know the difference between science and faith? God is the greatest scientist of all! Guffaw!"

See, bud, you're missing the point. Yes, it's called the "scientific method." But that doesn't mean that this is a science vs faith debate. I have no problem with faith. What I have a problem with is the LDS church's utter refusal to let its members figure out for themselves whether or not that faith is worth having. What I have a problem with is the church's emotional abuse of members who have the audacity to question anything they're told, and not just blindly accept the teachings of church leaders. What I have a problem with is the church saying that anyone who doesn't have a firm testimony in all of its bullshit must be doing something wrong.

So look, it's been fun and all. We had a good run. I'll never forget all the times the church bought me hot chocolate and donuts at Mutual activities. That was awesome. But the fact of the matter is, I've moved on. I've outgrown the church. I'm a lot happier without it, and I suspect that it's breathing a sigh of relief that I'm finally gone.

Best of luck to you, new friend / LDS church employee. I wish you nothing but happiness.

Now wasn’t this the best resignation letter you’ve ever read? Please feel free to share it with anyone who you think would enjoy it as much as you did. Just keep an out eye for that guy with the ugly tie. He's coveting your chart.

Also your wife.



p.s. Just to be sure we're clear, I am officially resigning my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints effective immediately. I request no contact from this point forward, except to acknowledge that my request has been processed and my name removed from church records. I expect this acknowledgement within 30 days of receipt of this letter. Cheers!


Valentine's Shmalentine's.

Mrs G told us to split up into three groups.  "You guys have one hour," she said.  "In your group, come up with a creative way to present the idea of Valentine's Day to the rest of us."

I was group up with Kam, Rika, and Amanda.  As the lone male in our group, Kam instantly came up with an idea.

"Let's have a foursome."


"Not like a real foursome.  Like, a foursome of rhetoric."

He grabbed a pen and started jotting down notes while the other girls and I read over his shoulder.  "It's Valentine's, and as you see, the thing these ladies love is me..." it began.  What formed over the next twenty minutes was basically an ode to Kam's own awesome masculinity.  The other girls and I were each given a couple of lines to recite, and with a half-hour left to go we finished planning our presentation and just started chatting.

The clock ticked by, and eventually Mrs G asked another group to start.  I'm sure they did something amusing, but I can't remember what it is.  The second group was likewise forgettable.  As they were finishing up, though, I looked around and realized Kam wasn't in the room.

Mrs G called our group up.  "We need just a minute, I think Kam's in the bathroom," I said.

"No, I'm here, go ahead and start," came a muffled voice.  All eyes turned toward a large orange cabinet in the back of the room, one that normally housed textbooks but was presently empty except, apparently, for Kam.

"Kam, what are you doing?"

"Trust me, just go up front and I'll join you.  It'll be awesome."

With confused looks at each other, the other girls and I took our places at the front of the classroom.  Everyone else looked just as perplexed as I felt as I said my first line.  "What's the matter, Amanda?"

"Oh, it's Valentine's Day," she moaned.  "I hate Valentine's Day."

"Me, too," chimed in Rika.  "If only I had the perfect boyfriend."

*Dramatic collective sigh.*

"It's Valentine's, and as you see," came Kam's muffled voice from the cabinet, "the thing these ladies love-"

The cabinet door swung open and Kam stepped out, looking quite dashing in a red tie.

Also his tighty-whities.

Also one sock.

Three guesses where the other sock was.

"- is me."

He sashayed up to the front of the room, whipped around, and just took a moment to let us all admire him and his near-nakedness.  Then we finished the poem, the three girls taking turns stroking various parts of Kam's body as he rhymed about how perfect he was.

We were Vanna White, and his body was covered in vowels.

This was hardly the first time Kam had stripped down during class, and it wouldn't be the last.  But it was by far the funniest.

A few years later, up at the U, I decided to pop into the food court between classes for quick bite.  It was lunchtime, and the room was crowded.  I finally spotted what appeared to be an empty table next to a pillar, but as I walked around to it I realized there was some guy sitting there.

Too tired and hungry to search for an alternative, I boldy (for me) asked if I could take the empty seat across from him.  He said sure.  He continued eating and reading his book, and I started on my sandwich.  About three minutes later we both realized that we were sitting across from someone we knew.


"I thought that was you, but I didn't think you recognized me!"

We got to chatting, catching up on the highlights of each other's lives since we parted in high school.  We shared a few laughs, reminisced a bit, had some fun.  He flattered me by saying he still occasionally thought about some story I had written back in our LitMag days, and I told him that every now and then a poem he wrote called "Chair" would pop into my head and make me chuckle.

It was a good time, and highly unfortunate that we each had to rush out to our respective classes after only about a half-hour.  We said good-bye without making false promises that we would get together soon, because I think we both knew our impromptu lunch date was a chance encounter that wasn't likely to repeat.

It wasn't until I was walking to class later that I realized it was Valentine's Day.



My dad is a notorious teaser.  In my younger days, he would spin yarns to wrap around my siblings and I, and would never back down when we insisted that he was lying.  It seemed like he simply derived great pleasure out of tormenting his children, seeing us squirm uncomfortably as we tried to reconcile our my-dad-is-a-superhero instincts with our my-dad-is-a-liar reality.

"See this scar?" he'd say, pointing to a thick strip of shiny pink on his chest.  "That's from when I was out in the woods with my dad and I got attacked by a werewolf.  I used to have an 'outie' belly button, too, but the werewolf bit it off."

"Nu-uh, Dad!  Quit teasing!"

"I'm McGyver," he'd insist every week as my family gathered around the TV.  "It's based on my life.  Back before I met your mom I was a secret agent."

"Nu-uh!  You were not!  Mom, make Dad stop teasing!"

No matter how much we protested, no matter how loudly we groaned, he never changed his stories.  He got such a kick out of us becoming frustrated or angry with him.  When we would admonish him for lying, his response was always the same.  "I'm bigger than you, I'm stronger than you, and goshdarn it, I'm better-looking than you, too."

When I was a teenager, I loathed my father for being a self-described Jack-Mormon.  I was trying so hard to believe in the church myself, and I was certain he was feeding me doubts just to torment me.

One morning before church, he pulled out a little laminated card from his scripture case and showed it to me.  It was a chart documenting all the discrepencies between his pre-1981 edition of the Book of Mormon and my own set.  He had made it himself.

Another time he tried to explain the Adam-God doctrine to me.  "Brigham Young taught it," he told me.


"He did," he insisted.  "Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but the church doesn't teach it anymore.  Now they say that he never taught that at all."

"Yeah, sure Dad, and you're McGyver."

For many years beyond teenagerhood, when I was still trying so hard to become someone I wasn't, I carried resentment for my dad.  All those times I read the Book of Mormon and felt nothing, all those times I prayed and felt nothing, all those times I listened to other people gush about how they could "feel the spirit" in the room with us and I felt nothing, a part of me blamed Dad for planting those seeds of doubt.  If he wasn't so stubborn, if he would just be a good card-carrying priesthood holder like he was supposed to be, then I would surely have a testimony!  I would surely stop feeling so worthless and guilty and evil for not having enough faith.

I would see the relationships my friends had with their fathers, and compared to my own it seemed like something straight out of Full House.  Their dads were so protective of them, their dads doted on them, their dads were like knights in shining armor who wanting nothing more than to pamper their little princesses.

My dad, on the other hand, was not what I would call doting.  He would never dream of letting me win if we played a game together.  He didn't believe in letting me have my own way just because I'd pout at him.  He'd rarely ask me questions about my feelings, and opted instead to spend dinnertimes handing out 'quizzes', drilling me with math and physics and logic questions until I refused to play anymore.

For years I harbored the thought that my dad didn't really care about me.  It seemed so unfair to me that he would purposely feed me 'anti-Mormon' thoughts when I was trying so hard to develop a testimony.  I wanted to believe that he was just falling back on his habits of feeding me little lies until I snapped and got angry.  I wanted to believe that he was just argumentative by nature, and wanted to get me riled up so he could have someone to fight with.

When I was young, it simply seemed like he just enjoyed seeing his children suffer.  Looking back now, I know that what he was really doing was teaching us to think for ourselves, to look at things objectively, to not just accept anything one-sided without examining the other possibilities.  He was teaching me to be skeptical and critical and to make informed decisions.  He was teaching me to use my brain.

Maybe not during the "I was attacked by a werewolf" game.  That one was just mean.

My dad and I have never really sat down and talked about my leaving the church.  He's made a couple of comments, asked a couple of questions ("So what do you do on Sundays now?"), but hasn't ever questioned my motives for leaving.  So I can't really say for sure that I think he's proud of me for apostasizing.

But I do think that he would be proud of me for not accepting the church at face value.  I'd like to think he's proud of me for taking the time to look at both sides of the church, and deciding for myself whether or not I think it's true.  If I had stayed in the church, I think he'd feel better knowing that I was doing so because I'd investigated it thoroughly and decided that I did in fact believe in it.

My dad taught me that what I think and how I feel matters more than how everyone else is telling me to think and feel.  He taught me that my doubts, my fears, and my insecurities matter, and that they shouldn't just be brushed under the rug.  In a church that commands uniformity of thoughts, morals, and beliefs, he taught me that my own opinions were just as valuable as anything an "inspired leader" told me.

And I'll take that over him letting me win a game of Crazy 8s any day.



Several weeks ago I was chatting with a coworker who is also an exmo.  Somehow or other the church came up in our conversation.  Another coworker approached and asked what we were talking about.


"Oh, you mean that cult?" he responded bitterly.

For some reason, it always bothered me when people described Mormonism as a cult.  Thanks to television, the word "cult" always brings to mind people chanting in unison and putting on weird robes and drinking poisoned KoolAid so they can ride a comet to Heaven.

I have a lot of loved ones who are members of the church, and will likely always be, and the idea of them choosing to be nothing more than brainwashed drones is hard for me to take.  Part of me clings to the idea that, as misguided as the church is, most people in it are just trying to find a way to make sense of all the messed up things in the world.  That's the way I feel about all religion - even if there isn't a speck of truth to it.  If believing in something helps you to become the best version of yourself and feel happy, more power to you.

So even though there are a lot of things wrong with the LDS church, a lot of practices and policies that need to be changed or dropped, I still don't want to consider it a cult.

I mean, it's not like Scientology.

I don't understand how someone who isn't completely unhinged could consider joining Scientology.  Anyone with an internet connection can quickly and easily find out what they don't tell you at their introductory meetings.  Like how Scientologists actually teach that our souls are space aliens.


They say that an immortal race of space aliens were sent to Earth by their leader and now inhabit our bodies.  Only they've forgotten that they're actually space aliens, and think they're just humans.  So the whole point of Scientology is to help people realize that their space alien souls are divine and can maybe one day return to their home planet to live with their leader, Xenu, and



Mormons believe that their spirits are immortal, and that before Earth was created, we all lived on a distant planet called Kolob with Daddy God.  He sends our immortal spirits down to Earth to inhabit 'tabernacles of clay', mortal bodies.  Of course, along the way, we forget that we're actually spirit children of Daddy God, and we need the Mormon church and its teachings to help show us that we are divine and can maybe one day return to Kolob to live with Daddy God.



Daddy God.

Well, at least the Mormon church doesn't hide some of its most controversial teachings from its members until they've proven themselves 'worthy' by paying a certain amount of dues to the church, and....


Okay, so, maybe Mormonism is a lot like Scientology.  But still, the word "cult" is a little harsh.  I mean, it's not like they hold super secret ceremonies where they chant in unison and wear... weird.... robes....


They definitely don't drink KoolAid, though.  You can't have a cult without KoolAid!

Although as a Mormon, I always wondered how we were supposed to get from Kolob to Earth and back again.  Do you think we'd ride a comet?

I guess that leaves just one question.

L Ron Hubbard: Great Mormon, or GREATEST Mormon?



Yesterday I followed a twitter link to a post on this lovely blog.  A couple of hours later I realized that this seemingly innocuous little click of the mouse had led me into dozens and dozens of links to dozens and dozens of exmo articles.  Without even realizing it I was winding up and down and around the world of exmo blogs, forums, and essays.

This is what always happens when I read an exmo article.  Once I start I just can't stop.  I can't help myself.

It's a weakness of mine.

I knew this weakness, recognized my tendencies to become obsessive and angry and bitter when I allow myself to read too much of anything I feel passionately about, when I left the church over a year ago.  And so, shortly after I made the decision to leave, I told myself I wouldn't read any of it for several months.  I wanted to leave the church for the right reasons - not because I was angry, but because it was the right thing to do.

Even now, I try not to let myself become too immersed in it.  I don't want to be one of those people who are chronically bitter about the church.  After all, a lot of the people I love are involved in it, and even though I disagree with them I don't want them to feel like I'm constantly attacking what they choose to believe.

When I started this blog, I originally intended for it to chronicle my experiences as a Mormon.  But I quickly backed off from that.  Part of me just thinks my particular story leaving the Mormon church is not all that interesting.  Part of me was afraid that if I spent too much time focused on that part of my life that I'd chosen to abandon, I'd be unable to keep my mouth shut when family, friends, and coworkers started blurting out things about their church.

But maybe I shouldn't be keeping my mouth shut.

The trail of articles I started following yesterday led me to a discussion forum about the role of women in the LDS church.  I had always thought Mormon doctrine was sexist, but I also thought I was above most of its prejudicial influence.  After all, I had always valued education.  My mother has always worked, not necessarily because she had to to support the family, but because she enjoys it.  I had never thought anything was wrong with a woman in the church aspiring to have a career.

But still, reading these articles gave me a lot to think about.  And then suddenly I had an epiphany.

During my freshman year of college, I was spending the majority of my time among a tight-knit group of fresh-faced young Mo's who all just seemed to get the church so much more easily than I did.  They all raved about their Institute classes - I dropped out of mine.  They all seemed so happy - I was a miserable shell of a human being, all smiles on the outside but tearing myself apart inside.

As the end of the school year approached, I decided that it was about time I try to become more like my peers.  I was going to focus, to study, to pray.  I was going to become more spiritually in-tune.  I was going to change who I was and be who I thought I wanted to be.

And I was going to do it all before the end of May.

Because that's when The Boy was getting home from his mission.

I knew that he would come home on a spiritual high, that he would have learned and grown so much during his two years of service, that I wouldn't stand a chance of being loved by him unless I prepared myself to be worthy of his love.

I wouldn't stand a chance of being loved by him unless I prepared myself to be worthy of his love.

Looking back now, knowing that I truly believed that about myself, makes me physically ill.

I've often postulated that if I had a time machine I would change this decision or that one, I would go back and bet money on this instead of that, or I would have gone here instead of there.  But now, if I had that time machine, all I would want to do is go back 7 years, find my old self in the spot where she used to sit behind the Manti LDS temple to read her scriptures and write in her journal, and shake some goddamn sense into her.

"You never need to 'make yourself worthy' to be loved by someone else!" I'd scream.  "You could never be unworthy of someone!"

Oh, my God.  Who was I kidding?  I wasn't above the sexism of the church - I was perpetuating it!

I had sat through countless lessons in Young Women's and Relief Society where I was told that I needed to "make myself worthy to be taken to the temple" by my future husband.  "Taken to."  Never were we taught that we would "walk alongside" our husbands into the temple, or that we would take them.

Even my patriarchal blessing (a "personalized" life guide given to members that is supposed to help them make decisions later in life) the phrase was there.  "It is important that you spend time with your peers, among whom you will find your eternal companion, and he will desire to take you to the temple of the Lord..." It had been engrained into my mind for twenty years that someday a man would choose me based on my worthiness, that if it turned out I wasn't spiritually worthy for a temple marriage he would be well within his rights to discard me and seek someone else.

Oh, my God.

When things didn't work out with The Boy, I was completely devastated.  I had worked so hard to become more spiritual.  I had prayed, I had read my scriptures, I had studied.  I had even gotten up to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting once because they say that sharing your testimony is the fastest way to help it grow.

Why hadn't he wanted me?  Why wasn't I good enough?  Why wasn't I worthy?

For many, many unhappy years, that's how I saw myself.  I felt so small, so worthless, so unlovable, so insignificant.  I knew that I would never be good enough to find someone who would want me, because no matter how hard I tried I simply could not make the doubts go away.

So now, even though it's been over a year since I left the church, I think I'm only just beginning to realize just how much of an impact it has had on me.  I'm also beginning to realize that it isn't enough simply to stop going to church meetings and stop calling myself a Mormon.  I have to write my experiences down, to detail my accomplishments in breaking the hold the church had on me for so long, even if it's only for myself.

From now on this blog might take on a slightly more exmo slant.  I'm not in the habit of keeping up with current church news, so it won't necessarily be my take on the latest press release or conference talk.  But if you don't want to read about my life as a Mormon and beyond, I understand.

Maybe instead you'd like to read this blog about the progress I'm making on building my time machine.

You Can Pick Your Friends....

I think one of the reasons that I had so many problems being a Mormon from such a young age is that the LDS church is so centered on socializing. From infancy you're taught that you're supposed to have friends that share your beliefs, so the church does everything it can to make sure its members are friends. From the toddlers in Sunbeams class to the cantankerous old bats in Relief Society, there is a constant assault of socials, parties, activities, meetings, and assigned duties designed to force church members into seeing the same faces often enough that familiarity becomes confused with friendship.

It seems harmless on the surface, creating a community that fosters friendships based on deeply-held personal beliefs. But truthfully, it's just the church's way of ensuring that it keeps its numbers up. A large percentage of people go to church meetings simply for the socializing rather than the doctrine. And I suspect a large number attend just so their "friends" won't turn them into the next "reactivation project".

As a teenager, I loathed "Mutual" nights. It often felt like my only options were: A) spend a couple of hours every week with people you hate doing some kind of incredibly stupid activity, or B) rot in Hell for all eternity for skipping a church meeting.

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration.

Some of the activities weren't that stupid.

Like when we went bowling.

But truth be told, I don't really like people. I'm pretty selective about my friends. I'd rather hand-pick a few people that I really get on with then have a large pool of people I can't stand who I just happen to see all the time.

All through my growing-up years, I never kept friends very long. With very few exceptions, one or two years seemed to be the maximum amount of time we'd have before even my closest friends and I drifted apart. The more I've thought about it, the more I realize that the majority of my "friends" were not actually people whose company I sought, but people in whose company I often found myself.

In school, I always had plenty of friends in each of my classes. I'd get along with a lot of people from a lot of different social cliques. I always had someone to eat lunch with and to walk the halls with and to ditch classes with. But I rarely had people that I would hang out with outside of school.

So the weekly Mutual activities which I hated became my primary source of extracurricular socializing. And I resented it. People I avoided the rest of the week, people who avoided me, were suddenly my buddies every Wednesday and Sunday.

Granted, some of those kids I probably could have been friends with in another world.  What I truly resented was knowing that I was expected to be friends with them simply because we were in the same ward.  I was allowed to choose my friends at school, but my friends at church were pre-selected for me based on only age range and local geography.

It's like when mothers arrange playdates for their very small children, except that we were teenagers with minds of our own who didn't base relationships on who had the coolest toys.

And so I didn't get along with a lot of them.  I hated spending time with most of them. But I had to, because I knew that if I didn't I would be labeled one of those "inactive" kids, and that everyone else would bake me cookies and stop by to invite me to come back to Mutual.

Not because they wanted to be friends with me, but because the Prophet told them to be friends with me.

In the last year or so, since denouncing my Mormonity, I've met a lot of people who are outside of the circle I would otherwise be enclosed in. And I'm pleased to say that I've felt like a large percentage of them are people I could potentially be friends with.

That's a big step for me.

The next step will be actually spending time with these newfound friends.


Maybe in another year.


Big Chief

I took a deep breath before opening the door.  I knew that the others were waiting for me, and that the moment I walked over the threshold all eyes would be on me.

I thought I knew how most of them would react, but I wasn't sure.  This could go over badly.

Very badly.

I looked back at Steph and Mindy.  They had ridden in the car with me, and so knew what I was about to tell the others - what I had to tell the others.  With a slight nod Steph assured me that they'd back me up.  With no compelling reason to put it off any longer, I turned the handle and entered my apartment.  Half a dozen people stopped half a dozen coversations and whipped around to face me.


"What happened?"

"You saw what happened.  I got pulled over."  I pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and swung it around so I could sit and face everyone sprawled over the living room couches.  Steph took a seat next to me.  Mindy stayed back, eyes on the floor, and leaned against the wall by the entryway.

"Yeah, but for what?" asked Kiki. "We were in the car right behind you - you'd barely made it out of the parking lot before the cop turned his lights on."

A few hours earlier, the boys had announced that they were making a Denny's run and asked if any of us wanted to come along.  It was well after midnight, and the truck-stop Denny's in Salina, a 45 minute drive away, was the nearest restaurant that would be open that late.  Though most of us weren't big fans of the food, it was something of a tradition to make the long drive through the desert to fill up on rubbery pancakes in the wee hours.

We piled into three separate cars and caravaned through the darkness along the twisting highway, stopping for the occasional herd of deer or sagebrush pile that blocked our path.  The restaurant was mostly empty, except for a few truck drivers and another group of college kids whose evening had thus far progressed much the same as our own.  By the time we finished eating, our guts full of conversation and laughter and imitation maple syrup, our energy levels were shot through the roof.

Later we piled back into our cars to make the long drive home.  Candice led the way, Kiki brought up the rear, and I drove between them.

When the cop pulled me over, Kiki rushed around and up ahead to catch up to Candice so they could pull off to the side and wait for me.  Candice and her companions were too busy rocking out to the music blasting from her car stereos to notice his flashing lights in her rearview for almost two miles, so by the time the other two cars pulled over they were much to far away to see what was happening back at my car.

(Very few of us owned cell phones at the time, and those that did never bothered to bring them on road trips.  There was no reception outside of town until you got all the way north to Nephi.)

As Kiki explained this to me back at the apartment, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a folded half-sheet of paper.

"So after we waited for a while we decided to come back here and wait for you," Kiki finished.  "You took forever.  What happened?  Why'd he pull you over?"

"Well, it wasn't so much because of me," I said, "as it was because of us."

"Us?  Who?"

"Us.  All of us.  Because of the statue."

Next door to Denny's was a Sinclair gas station.  Like so many others, this one featured a six-foot high brontosaurus in the yard.  Part of the Late Night Denny's Run tradition included climbing on this little dinosaur for a picture.

This particular Sinclair station, however, went the extra mile.  In addition to the dinosaur, there was a 14-foot bronze statue of a Native American on a pedastal, wielding a tomahawk and wearing a loincloth.

"No way."

"Yes, way."

"I don't believe you.  He pulled you over because we were climbing on the statue?"

"He pulled me over because he thought I was driving drunk.  He was in the parking lot across the street, saw us all scaling Big Chief, and figured we must all be plastered out of our minds."

Kiki and the others just stared at me.  I had a history of telling tall tales, and they were all wary of my stories.  None of them were eager to swallow this one, until Lynne spoke up.

"She's telling the truth.  I can tell."

"No, she's not," Kiki said.

"I've lived with her for two years, Kiki.  I know her better than you.  I can tell when she's lying," Lynne insisted.

"I'm not lying to you.  He made me get out of the car and walk the line and everything.  Had to take a breath-a-lizer.  That's why it took so long," I said.

Kiki looked to Steph for confirmation.  She nodded.  He turned to Mindy, who was still staring at the ground, silent.


She didn't say a word, just kind of shrugged.

"They made us all do it," I said quietly.

The others instantly understood.  No wonder Mindy was so quiet - how embarrassing for someone to think that we'd be drinking!  We hardly looked like the kind of people who would drink.  We were good Mormon kids, smart, about to graduate from junior college!  Most of us weren't even of age yet.  For someone to think that we would be so devious as to drink alcohol was insulting.

"But obviously you weren't drunk, so it was fine."


I dropped the folded piece of paper on the tabletop.  Kiki reached out to pick it up.  He opened it carefully and skimmed over it.  I took a deep breath before blurting out the bad news.

"We have to pay a fine.  For disturbing the peace and vandalism."

"WHAT?"  Some of the others leapt from the couches and crowded close to see the ticket in Kiki's hand for themselves.

"Where does it say that?"

"She's lying."

"If she was lying, why'd she get the ticket?"

"I dunno, speeding?"

"We were pulling out of a parking lot; there's no way she could have been speeding."

 I let them all argue for a minute, then decided I had to speak up.  "Guys," I said, "the way I see it we have two options.  We can either fight it or pay it.  But since graduation is in a couple of days, and we'll have to go all the way to Salina to see a judge to fight it, it'd be at least a two hour drive for any of us.  And we don't really have a reason to fight it, as we were climbing on the statue.

"So our other option is to pay it.  Since it's in my name, I'll send the check if everyone just gives me cash for their share."

Everyone nodded in agreement.  Almost.

"I'm not paying anything," Candice said.

"What?  Why not?"

She tossed her hair behind her shoulder and rolled her eyes, as if the answer should be obvious.  "I didn't climb Big Chief."

"Yes you did, we all did!"

"No, I just leaned against the base.  I'm not paying."

"Don't be a jerk."

"I'm not being a jerk!  I'm just not going to pay a fine for climbing on a statue when I didn't do it."

The conversation continued for a while longer.  By now, dawn was approaching and our late night pancake buzz was nearly worn off.  Mindy had long ago slipped off to her room to go to bed, without adding a word to the discussion.  I glanced at Steph.  Through a long yawn she gave me a look that clearly said, "That's enough, do it already."


Once again, all eyes were on me.  I took a deep breath.


"I hate you."

"I knew you were lying," Kiki claimed.

"You lying sack of crap."

I laughed.  "You guys totally fell for it!  Come on, I had to have one last good one before we all graduated and moved away."

"So what'd you get the ticket for?"

"He pulled me over because he thought I'd run the stop sign.  I told him that wasn't me, it was Candice in the car in front of me.  Since our cars are both white and it was dark, he must've gotten mixed up.  But my insurance expired last week, and I don't have the new card.  It was mailed to my parents' house, and since I was going back there in a few days I hadn't bothered to have them forward it to me.  So I got a ticket for not having proof of insurance."

Most of them laughed along with me now.  "Good one."

"I don't know why I ever believe a word you say."

"I really thought you were telling the truth!"

"Well," said Candice, "it's a good thing I wasn't going to pay my part of the fine."



I literally can not count how many times I have been told I am heartless, cold, dead inside, without feeling, soulless, unable to process human emotion, insensitive, detatched, stony, emotionless, indifferent.  This is how people see me, how they explain my stoicism.  This is how they interpret my attempts to be logical and in control of every situation, to keep myself in check so I don't end up saying something I'll regret.  This is what most of my friends and family think of my attempts to keep myself emotionally stable.

It hurts.

They don't know that I cry like a baby whenever I watch Extreme Home Makeover, and they probably wouldn't believe me if I told them.

Bastards.  Vicious bastards.



*WARNING! This blog contains a potentially lethal amount of rambling and probably less than your recommended daily dose of coherence.*

My senior year of high school was almost a complete academic waste.  The thing is, I'm pretty smart.  Smart enough that when we had an assembly my freshman year explaining the new block schedule and what our credit requirements would be, I was able to figure out how many real classes I'd have to take for the next three years so that I could goof off the fourth.

And goof off I did.

I saved up my electives and easy required credits (like 'computers' and 'life skills') so that senior year I didn't have a single math, science, or English class.  Instead I took Cooking 101, Sewing Skills, Intro to Guitar, Weightlifting.  I took a keyboarding class to fulfill my computers requirement, and because I could already type 80+ WPM I finished the entire semester's worth of lessons in the first week, so until graduation sixth period was naptime.

Without doubt, my favorite class that year was LitMag (the literary magazine staff).  It was easily the most work-intensive class I had that year.  I had more assignments in that class in a week than I had in most of all my other classes put together.

But oh my god it was fun.

You know how they say that people are layered, like onions ("And sometimes there's a third, even deeper layer, and that one is the same as the top one.  Like with pie.")?  The old adage is that sometimes you have to peel away these layers to get to the true person underneath.

Sorry, centuries of poetic thought, but I must disagree with you.  I don't believe that inside everyone, deep down, is the core of who they really are.  People aren't onions.  People aren't pie.  People are Voltron from the Power Rangers.

Let me explain.

When the Power Rangers needed to fight a big enemy, they'd all hop in their animal-shaped robots.  And, when the battle got really tough, they'd combine all of their robots together to make Voltron.


Voltron was, in and of itself, one complete entity.  However, it was made up of five different people, all working together to make one whole.

Now, call me a schizophrenic, but I tend to think that rather than having one core "true self" hidden under all these onion pie flavored layers, we have lots of "true selves".  People are far too complex.  I don't think it's possible to ever completely know somebody, not even yourself.  So instead of peeling away the layers as they get to know us, people instead get to know the separate parts of you one by one.

When people express themselves artistically, they have to allow themselves to be somewhat vulnerable.  You have to really feel what you're trying to say, or else it simply isn't going to connect with your audience.  My preferred art form is writing.  Anyone who writes regularly understands that there comes a point where, in order for your writing to actually mean something, you have to expose yourself a little bit.

Because after you get arrested for flashing people in the park, you'll have something highly meaningful to write about.

Har har.

I'm hilarious.

Back on track.

Totally unnecessary picture of a mostly naked Neil Hopkins playing with Voltron.

Part of what was so fun about LitMag was knowing there was a part of me I couldn't hide from the rest of them.  I've never been very at-ease in large groups of people, especially when I barely knew any of them.  But the other kids in LitMag read literally hundreds of pieces I wrote, just as I read theirs.

You can't do that without really getting to know a part of someone.

What I discovered as the school year went on was that the part of me that was in my writing was the very part that I was working so hard to hide from people.  It was the part of me that was dark, and scared, and bitter.  It was the part of me that didn't understand the world around me, the part that would hide in the shadows, away from the things that were, and wait for the things I wanted to be.

And it was such a relief to know that despite the fact that I could so easily tuck it away and out of sight from most people, there were a dozen kids in school whom I barely knew that I could never hide it from.  They weren't disgusted by it, or afraid of it.  They didn't judge me for it.  They embraced it.

They knew I was morbid and twisted and possibly a little crazy, and they accepted it.  And then we would all laugh about it.  I'd let them see the me that I was ashamed of, they'd shrug and say, 'Okay, now let's move on.' 

About twelve years ago I began battling demons that it took me until very recently to face head-on.  I've long been able to credit certain individuals for helping me through tough times - people that I doubt have any idea what an impact they've had on my life.  But until reflecting on it recently, I never realized that the kids in LitMag with me were some of these helpful people, as well.

If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have told you that that part of me would probably be dominant for most of my life.  But the truth is, exposing it didn't make the darkness stronger - it weakened it.  The part of me that still wants to hide in the shadows is still here.  She shows up every now and then, and I let her.  Because in the end, she and I both know that she won't stay long.  Not anymore.

Every now and then I look back on this, and try to remind myself that letting people in can be a good thing.  It's something I'm trying to do more often - opening myself up, not being terrified of what people will think or say when I'm at my most vulnerable.  Writing this blog is kind of a part of that.

I had a blog before that was all about me trying to make people think of me in a certain way.  I was always trying to be funny, always trying to be clever, but I was rarely just being me.  Part of the reason I named this blog "Truth, or Something Like It" is because I wanted to hold myself accountable for telling the truth here.  I wanted to be honest about myself, who I am, what I think, how I feel....

After all, it's just a stupid blog, right?  Nothing to be afraid of.

One more time, just because it's cute.