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.


Sean said...

When I left the Mormon church, I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those "bitter ex-mormons" everyone talked about. I think I lasted about a year, too, before I wrote a pair of blog posts about my rage at the various things I was discovering about the church I grew up in.

It comes and goes for me. Right now I have another blog post percolating inside me about how betrayed I feel by my Mormon upbringing, and especially by my parents and youth leaders who were supposed to be looking out for me.

I hope someday I'll be over it, but hey. Being Mormon is a BIG THING. If it ever happens, I figure it'll take a while.

xJane said...

Thank you for this, Kristen. Although my stomach turns at your story, I know it's very close to my own and all of the rest of us who live in a patriarchal society or, worse, a patriarchal religion. Thank you for saying this.

Matt said...

This is oh so two years since you've written anything on your blog, but things not working out with that boy sounds like one of the best things that ever happened to you.