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.


Habla Espanol

I've always wanted to learn another language.

For years I lied to myself (and others) and said that I just didn't have much of an aptitude for it.  But I no longer believe that's true.  I took French in the 8th grade and still remember enough that I just scored an 80% on the online French grammar test I took.


I took this class thirteen years ago, for one school year - during half of which Mme. Trelease was out on maternity leave and we had a substitute.  So clearly my powers of retention are greater than a goldfish.

So then why do I not know how to speak French?  Or Japanese, which I took for two years in high school and another in college?  Why am I only marginally able to communicate in ASL despite four semesters of it?

I'll tell you why.

Because I am lazy.



A few years ago I was living in an apartment and befriended some of the boys who lived downstairs.  They all spoke Spanish, and often used it when talking to each other.

One day I was down there when one of the roommates, Chad, stormed in.  His usually cheerful disposition was hidden beneath a dark cloud of seething rage.  One of the other roommates noticed, and carefully phrased a question so as to not upset him further.


Chad opened his mouth to spout off something when he noticed me sitting on the couch.  He clamped his jaw shut and muttered, "Nothing."

"Dude.  What?"

With a long glance in my direction while he decided whether or not I should be privy to this information, Chad took a deep breath.

"Bienvenidos y rojor el taquitos rancheros de que pasa Casey un ustados unidos chica de frijoles y pollo mos caliente!" he said.

Or something like that.

I had no idea what he was saying.  But I did distinctly hear the words "Casey" and "chica."  And I, being well aware of the drama going on between our other neighbor Casey, Casey's girlfriend, and Chad, was able to figure out the basics.

Chad's roommates switched into "comforting bro mode."


"Get over it," I chimed in.  "Casey's just a jackass and not worth your trouble."

Jaws dropped and eyes leapt to me.  The boys were aghast, as if I'd somehow stumbled into their secret world.  "You understood me?" Chad asked.

"Yes, Chad, I speak Spanish."

(p.s. No, I don't.)

For several months, however, I was able to deceive all of them into thinking I was fluent in Spanish without every speaking a word of it.  Every time they started having a conversation in Spanish, I'd nod my head or laugh along or roll my eyes and they thought I knew what they were talking about.

I don't understand Spanish, but I do understand body cues.

Also, I'm really good at lying.

I don't really know why I get such satisfaction out of knowing I pulled off a good lie.  But I do.  And I've managed some winners in the past.  But this blog is all about the truth, so whenever I tell a story about a lie I told I'll label it "Less Than True."

So now you know.

Glad we got that out of the way.