My Journey to Atheism (Part Four)
My mom’s mental recovery from the abuse suffered at the hands of my ex-stepfather allowed me to finally break down the mental walls I had built in order to protect myself. I was in middle school, which is an already difficult phase in adolescent development, and had just began the Young Women’s program at church. My depression was overwhelming and I received next to no relief.
Honestly, the only place I felt safe was among my non-Mormon friends, something extremely frowned upon by the church. After all, if you’re friends with someone outside of the church, you may be tempted to do awful, evil things that all non-Mormons do. Heck, you might even eventually be tempted to marry outside of the church and that would be awful.
Church was hell. I had always been a tomboy and to be frank, the LDS church really doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for that. I was taught that my goal in life was to marry and be a mom. I couldn’t hold the priesthood (the supposed magic powers that Christ had) because I wasn’t a boy, but hey, I could have kids and that was AS special, if not more special. But there was a big problem. I didn’t want kids. I had just spent the last three years taking care of my little sister and now ex-stepbrother. I had lost three years of my childhood and was losing years of my adolescence because of the massive weight of the depression I was suffering.
Towards the end of my years in middle school, I made a suicide attempt. However, I was unsuccessful and finally began to receive the mental help I so desperately needed. My therapist saved me from myself and stirred an interest in psychology in me. He often told me that he thought I would make a fabulous psychologist, although I’m not sure if he told me that honestly or to keep me talking.
I regained my natural confidence and began to recover mentally from the abuse I had suffered too.
Then high school hit. For those of you that aren’t Mormon, there is an important change to note here. In high school, if you don’t live in Utah or Idaho where scripture study can be taken during the school day (don’t even get me started on the issue of separation of church and State in those areas), you take seminary in the morning. At 6:00 in the morning. As a teenager. Every single school day.
Religious exposure goes through the roof during high school. On Sundays you go to three hours of church. Once a month you go to a fireside, or other religious meeting with speakers and whatnot, for another hour or so. Each week day, during the school year, you attend seminary for an hour. Wednesdays you attend a youth activity. And finally on at least one Saturday a month, you attend a youth dance. Speckled throughout there are various youth activities or meetings.
Unfortunately, I did not fit in. I was a tomboy, I didn’t want kids, I hated church, I hated seminary (I STILL hate mornings, thank you for ruining that for me seminary), I hated the girls I had to hang out with, I hated it all. I had all of two friends at church: one girl who was a year younger than me and also a tomboy and one boy who I had grown up with. That was it. And even then, they never really understood me because they both fit in with the Mormon sub-culture. Both had no more desire than to grow up, get married, have kids, and be a permanently boring Mormon family. I wanted a career, an education, maybe a husband, and a house filled with animals. I didn’t want kids and I didn’t want to have a family. I wanted to travel, to be successful in my chosen career, and enjoy the awesomeness that was life.
It didn’t help that I was from a single parent family. After all, the church is very focused on “families,” although I could argue that in essence, all they are interested in is pure Mormon nuclear family structures. Many of the lessons taught were very insensitive towards me and my sister who both didn’t fit in already with the culture.
My first problem with church doctrine came after I had an open conversation with my friends at school about homosexuality. The church was very clear on their opinion, at the time. They believed homosexuality was a choice and it went against the very purpose of life. It was a sin, it was evil, but hey, at least they still “loved” the members. Love the sinner, not he sin right? (Just condemn them at every move….)
After talking to my friends, I knew without a doubt that homosexuality was not a choice. How could it be? The pain they expressed was palatable. How could the church condemn people who hadn’t chosen to be gay to a life of loneliness and self-hatred? It was wrong and I knew it. It was the first time I had ever admitted to myself that the church could even BE wrong about something. Little did I know that my testimony (or belief in the truthfulness of the church) would eventually fracture and crumble under the weight of doubt.
The next update will finish off the cognitive problems associated with the church during my high school years and begin the actual journey away from the religion of my birth.
My Journey to Atheism (Part Three)
Life with my grandparents was difficult. My mom had returned to school in order to obtain an AA, as she had dropped out of school in order to become a full-time mom as urged by the LDS prophet. After she graduated with her AA, she began working full-time.
Less than a year and a half after my parents divorced, my mom remarried. She, and my step-dad, had been set up by the bishop of my mom’s local ward. (The bishop is basically at the same level as a local pastor in other Christian churches.) They eloped to New Zealand and honeymooned in Fuji.
Blending a family is never easy, but as far as difficult situations go, things started smoothly. My sister and I gained three step-siblings: a brother around five years older than me, a sister around four years older than me, and a brother around three years younger than me. My step-sister M was not around much due to her medical condition. However, the rest of the step family got along fairly well.
The first year of the marriage was normal. At the end of the year, I received a surprise phone call from my dad. The exact conversation was:
“I’m getting married!!!”
My sister and I were completely unaware that my dad was even dating seriously. We had to be reminded that we had met our future step-mother at a rodeo. Thinking back on it now, I remember. I thought she wore too much makeup and was annoying. When my dad asked what I thought about her, I politely told him that she was fine. This came back to bite me in the ass much later. Of course, at this time, both my sister and I were unaware that my dad was bi-sexual. Nor did we know why my parents had divorced in the first place. Both of us still held secret hopes that our parents would reunite. As an adult, looking at the situation I find it dually sad; not only had my parents divorced because my dad had repressed his sexual orientation, he had married another woman who was homophobic, thus repressing his sexual orientation yet again.
The wedding pictures are strikingly sad; my sister and I are not smiling in any of them.
After they married, we continued to visit our dad twice a year as usual, once around Christmas or New Year’s and once during the summer. However, our visits began to change drastically. Instead of camping, hiking, and spending time with my dad’s family we spent more time at home and with my step-mom’s family. Our relationship with our dad began to deteriorate and we began to dread visiting.
Things with my mom’s marriage also began to go downhill. My step-father became extremely psychologically and emotionally abusive towards my mom, my sister, and me. They fought constantly and the threat of violence was consistently in the air.
My most vivid memory of the three years they were married is of me sitting on the garage step with my sister and step-brother sobbing uncontrollably into my lap. In the background, the two of them fought loudly. He threw the mayonnaise jar and it shattered.
Most of the time, we escaped to the neighbor’s house. We had friends who lived next door that were around the same age as both me and my younger siblings.
The abuse grew consistently worse and my mom’s mental state deteriorated significantly. The marriage had been hasty, essentially a rebound. The fact that this too was going down the drain destroyed my mom. She became mentally unable to take care of me, my sister, and my younger step-brother. As a result, I took over the parenting role. I repressed all of my own feelings on the situation in order to survive.
After three years, my mom “woke” up from her numb, emotional state. She asked for a divorce. Things turned very nasty. He threatened to throw our animals out on the street. He spread lies to his kids about both my mom, my sister, and me. They refused to talk to her, despite the otherwise positive relationship between step-mom and step-kids.
We moved back in with my grandparents again.
Part four will be posted early next week. As an early preview, I will be discussing my first mental steps to atheism and how my childhood and background affected my cognitive changes.
Journey to Atheism (Part Two)
The first part of this post can be seen here.
I’ll start off right where we left off. My mom and dad met at Rick’s College, which is now known as BYU-Idaho. They dated for a short period of time before falling in love. However, it was not love that drove them to get married so quickly. Like all relationships, after dating for a period of time, things began to heat up between my parents.
It’s important to note that in the LDS church you are allowed to do no more than kiss. In fact, even french kissing is extremely frowned upon and many members choose to wait for their first kiss until after they are married.
Since my dad was a returned missionary, he felt particularly pressured to maintain the chastity standards set by the church. So, one night after things started to move in the “wrong” direction, my father laid down an ultimatum; either my mom and dad would get married, or they needed to end their relationship. My mom’s decision to say yes stemmed mostly to the fact that living with my ultra-Mormon grandma was to be avoided at all costs; marrying my dad meant she would not have to live with her again. (Of course, this becomes quite ironic later in the story, but for now it’s important to note that she made the decision, in part, to avoid living with my grandma again.) Within months, they were married in the Oakland temple.
Within the year, my mom received surprise news while attempting to refill her birth control; she was pregnant with me. At the young age of twenty, my she became a mother.
After becoming a mom, she decided that it was important for her to follow the counsel of the current prophet and become a stay-at-home mom. She quit school, found a job managing apartments that they lived in, and focused on putting my dad through physical therapy school and raising me.
Unfortunately, my mom became a victim or postpartum depression. She lost her interest in all of her favorite activities, including sex. She struggled raising me, let alone attempt to be a wife to someone in school and working grave night shifts as a security guard. Their relationship suffered greatly. During this time, my father began to explore very repressed feelings. My mom’s struggle pushed him over the edge and instead of seeking help for their relationship, he faltered.
This would be fairly typical, except my father is bi-sexual and had known so since a young age. Unfortunately, he deeply repressed this and used my mom’s depression as an excuse to begin experimenting with twenty years worth of repressed feelings. My father cheated on my mom with over hundreds, yes you did read that right, of strange men. This went on for nearly three years.
Finally, he realizes that his marriage was over. However, he did not want me to be alone after they divorced. Without discussing anything with my mom in regards to the extra-marital affairs, my mom became pregnant with my sister. Months after her birth, they separated.
My sister and my mom were tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Thankfully, they both were given clean bill of health. My mom, still very religious at this time, told my dad that he had one year. During that year, she hoped he would come to grips with what he had done and they could continue to work on their marriage.
She attended and pled with the church disciplinary court for my dad. She begged them not to revoke his membership, and as a result of her testimony in this religious law of court, he was simply disfellowshipped. (In essence, disfellowshipping means that a member is restricted from certain church activities including, but not limited to: receiving the sacrament, using the priesthood, attending church meetings and functions, going to the temple, and essentially, becoming a social outcast.) The church court also mandated that he attend reperative “therapy.” I have been unsuccessful in discovering what type of reperative “therapy” they used, but I strongly suspect that he may have been a participant in the Evergreen program at BYU as he was in the right area during the time that this program operated. (I strongly suggest you check the Evergreen program out; it is horrible.)
However, after a year, it became aparent to my mom that the marriage was over and our move back to California was permanent. She flew to Salt Lake City where my godmother held her hand as they divorced. Unfortunately, because my mom had no college education and practically no work experience, this meant that my sister, my mom, and I had to move in with my grandparents, something that had driven my mom to marry in the first place.
My dad remained in Utah because he felt that, “California would be too much of a temptation for him.”
I will continue the story of my journey to atheism in an upcoming entry. Coming up is an explanation of the psychological and mental abuse of my step-father, the remarriage of my bi-sexual dad, and the beginning of my rational thoughts as a child.
Journey to Atheism (Part 1)
My journey to atheism is rather unique, as I was raised Mormon. The LDS religion is life-encompassing, so a lot of my journey to atheism has to do with my journey out of the LDS church.
I was born into the church as a 5th generation member. My family took great pride in our ancestor’s conversion story as it includes pioneer stories, something greatly respected in the LDS church. My great-grandmother, her mom, and her brother were converted to the Mormon church a couple of years after my great-great-grandfather’s tragic death. (He fell from a building on his job and suffered greatly until he passed a few days later.) The missionaries, I believe, took advantage of the fact that my ancestors were mourning. After they converted, they decided that it was important for them to join the saints in Utah. My ancestors sailed across the ocean before making the trek to Utah where they settled permanently.
The story of my father’s side is a little less clear and I’m uncertain how far back in our ancestry the religion goes. However, I do know that my great-grandparents were Mormon and nearly every family member has been since.
My mom’s side of the family is unusually small for a Mormon family. My grandparents only had three children, but the lack of children is partially due to my grandma’s difficulty conceiving; this is something that she struggled with her whole life, causing her to deal with a lot of depression. The oldest, my uncle R we will call him, only recently got married in his late forties and never had children. My uncle J, on the other hand, married at a fairly normal age (for even non-religious folks), but divorced. My uncle J has always been the “black sheep” of the family, and is really the first member I can identify who became inactive in the church. He drinks, smoked, and even drinks the Mormon forbidden coffee. His wife was not a member and was a truly lovely person. Unfortunately, the divorced, mainly, due to his health conditions and his world view based on this particular condition.
My mom is truly the only individual who followed the standard Mormon life plan. She attended Rick’s College in Idaho, now known as BYU-Idaho, married my Dad at nineteen, had me at twenty, and dropped out of school to become a full time mom. Her story is important to my story and will be explained more in detail.
On my dad’s side of the family, we have a much more standard Mormon family. My grandparent married young and had six children. Each of my aunts and uncles on that side of the family is heavily involved in the church and all of them followed the “prophet’s” advice to multiply and replenish the earth. I have well over 30 cousins. Since many of them have become adults, married, and have children of their own now, the size of my extended family has blown into comedic proportions. We easily have over 50 members at our family reunions and send out quarterly family newsletters so we can keep up on the numerous lives involved in my family structure.
My dad also followed the standard Mormon life plan. My dad served a full time, two year mission attempting to convert people to Mormonism in Germany. He then also attended Rick’s College where he met my mom.
With an extended family background set up, I will end this particular portion of my journey to atheism here. I plan to continue the story of my religious journey by providing details of my close family’s experiences with the church next week. As a teaser, I will explain now that I am not lying or exaggerating about anything being posted here. However, that being said it will seem very Jerry Springer like.
My Shepherd has bad anxiety too! My vet suggested I get him a doggie backpack when we go for hikes and tell him when you put it on "let's go to work". It's supposed to help cope with the anxiety because it gives him a sense of purpose- shepherds want a job to do. It was the best 30 bucks I've spent in a long time and plus he carries my keys, water and iphone while we walk. Win, Win!by buggirl
She actually already has a backpack! She carries it to the dog park every day. She definitely loves having jobs around the house too. She opens our packages, closes ca
The vet suggested we try putting her on anti-anxiety medication. I hope it helps.
Like mother, like dog…
Abbey was diagnosed with anxiety today.
I hope I didn’t cause it =/
You complain and blow up in my face that I’m not involving you in the wedding planning, but you’re so “busy” that you can’t come pick out my veil or headpiece with me.
You know what? I’m done.