Three Days To Leave After 18 Years – Temple Recommend Carrying Mormons With Tithing Paid In Advance!
I was christened into the Church of England (now the Anglican or Episcopalian Church) when I was an infant and there ended my contact with Christianity until I was about 9 years old. When I started year four in my primary (elementary) school we underwent a compulsory 30 minutes per week of Religious Education Studies during which time we learned how to sing ‘The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rocks” and very little else. When I commenced High School (Year 7), the obligatory RE ended and so did my contact with Christianity – not much of a grounding.
I was an unusual child. I was a victim of child abuse from a brother ten tears older than myself up until about age 10. While I guess that is not unusual in this day and age – the result was. I became desperately seeking of a means of withdrawal and approval and I achieved this through my studies. I was an extremely bright child academically but terrified of doing anything ‘wrong’ that might draw unwanted attention to myself. As a result I appeared to be a model student – intelligent, quiet, hard-working etc. So my school advanced me through my grades faster than usual. The result being I was studying with children in elementary school that were two years older than I was. Socially this did nothing to improve my self-image as they tended to shun me and I had no self-confidence anyway. When I reached High School I suddenly found myself popular and was beginning to develop some self-esteem when my parents moved interstate for work reasons and I had to start making friends all over again despite my painful shyness. Why is this important? Well the result was that in 1981 I was a 12-yearold in a new town with no friends and no self worth. My mental age was about 15 and I had no biblical knowledge. Then two gorgeous 19 year olds knocked on the door – missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
They asked my mother if we wanted to hear a series of discussions. My younger brother and I were stunned to hear her reply that she had been a Mormon since she was 19 years old but had become inactive when they emigrated to Australia some years before I was born. So my brother and I received the discussions and my mother reactivated. My father believes in Charles Darwin and not much else so he just shrugged his shoulders, went about his life and let us live ours. Well the missionaries paid us heaps of attention, one of them (the one I had a huge adolescent crush on) even taught me how to cook Mexican food. I was in seventh heaven. Of course they invited us to church and we were ‘fellowshipped’ something I lapped up like a cat with cream. By the time ‘my’ elder got around to asking me to be baptized I would have gone with him to the moon and back if he had of asked.
We set the baptism date for March 1981. Two days before the baptism I found out that ‘my’ elder was being transferred and wouldn’t be able to baptize me. I almost backed out but was terrified that if I did everyone would realize that I had a huge ‘crush’ on him. So I went ahead with it. I remember on the drive home afterwards trying to convince myself that I felt a wonderful clean feeling that I had been told about. Considering it was summer in the tropics it wasn’t hard to find a cold dip cleansing.
Well I stuck it out for a couple of years – reciting the lessons, having my patriachal blessing, trying to convert everyone I knew, reading scripture constantly etc etc. Then I rebelled with my best friend from church. I admitted to her one day that I had no real ‘testimony’. I expected a lightening bolt – either from her or from above. She burst into tears and said she felt the same way and was so relieved I understood. We made the decision to confront our parents and compare notes the following Sunday. My father just shrugged and said basically it’s your life do as you wish. My mother was unhappy and tried to encourage me to go back. My younger brother took the opportunity to get out as well and it wasn’t long afterwards that my mother became inactive. My friend – well her parents forced her to attend an LDS College in the hope that being surrounded by Mormons would encourage her back. She saved enough money to fly back to Australia and got a job independent of her parents at the first opportunity.
I remained inactive for several years although I believed in the doctrines of the church – I just felt I couldn’t live up to the expectations. I had my first serious boyfriend in senior college and one thing led to another and after dating for about a year we both got carried away one night and we slept together. Mormonism teaches young women that we are better to die fighting than to lose our virginity and the guilt led my to the brink of suicide. I stood on the edge of a railway platform waiting for the express train to come through. Just as I was about to jump someone behind me instinctively knew what I was going to do and pulled me away. The next few years passed in a blur of alcoholism, smoking and general self-destruction. Sometime during this period I obtained a husband (not my original boyfriend and a Roman Catholic). A year after we were married I collapsed at work while vomiting blood and was taken to hospital. Tests showed bleeding duodenal ulcers caused by stress and alcohol poisoning. That was my warning. I was 21 years old.
I left my husband, returned to University where I finished a 3-year degree in 18 months and got myself a good job with the Government. I also married a great man who has put up with me and supported me through everything that followed and still loves me. We married in December 1993 after an 8-month engagement and our first child unexpectedly arrived in 1994. The birth was high risk and difficult and I was completely exhausted afterwards so you can imagine my amazement when a visitor walked into the room and addressed me as ‘sister’ and told me that divine inspiration had led her to me. I suspect it was more likely the ‘LDS’ on my hospital records sheet.
Well that was the start of the ‘reactivation’ campaign. We had sisters, missionaries, home teachers all of a sudden on our doorstep. I had taken 6 months maternity leave to be with my daughter and all of a sudden I found the change and lack of adult conversation difficult to cope with. I actually got on well with a few of the members so I started socializing a little with them without becoming involved in church activities. Slowly I became more involved and after 6 months I reactivated into the church. Our daughter had been Christened Anglican because it was my husband’s religion and I now had her blessed by a work colleague. My husband attended the blessing but regarded the religion as some sort of strange cult. Of course I was trained well enough to take offense at that and to put some real work into convincing him otherwise. The change for him must have been tremendous. In the space of a few months I turned from a highly educated, very interesting companion to a domesticated mental vacuum that was only interested in cooking beautiful meals for him and covering the walls in handicrafts. I also insisted that he was the head of the household and had to make all the decisions regarding EVERYTHING. Then like a good dutiful Mormon I began to put the pressure on him to become a member. In the end her received the discussions and was ‘converted’. It wasn’t until we were both out of the church that he confessed he had done this in order to save our marriage and keep his child.
I threw myself heart and soul into Mormonism. I hassled friends about the discussions, I took on five callings all at once – one of them a presidency calling, as well as maintaining my visiting teaching status and popping out another child 15 months after the first one. I remember being released from my calling as a primary teacher because I had hyperemesis (chronic morning sickness so severe it can threaten the life of mother and child) and then the ‘inspired’ Bishop calling me to work with the nursery children instead. My son was born on the 20th of December and on the 7th of January I was standing in sacrament giving a talk with my baby crying in the front row and milk flooding down my chest. (I was told off for rushing the talk!). My husband was the Ward miracle conversion and was continually shown off by the Ward. He was called to Primary to teach the 11-year-old boys to set an example for them. After his baptism I had expected him to become the perfect Mormon father and husband and rule our house, run family home evenings etc etc. This didn’t happen and it drove a real wedge between us. Our marriage grew progressively worse. I expected us to fit the Mormon mold and he wanted the woman he married back.
After he had been a member for a year the Bishop gave us the usual talk about going to the temple. Only problem was our tithing wasn’t up to date. I had no income, my husband was paying 33% of his income to his previous wife for child maintenance and his ex-wife had us in a court case trying to prevent their daughter from having anything to do with the LDS church. This was costing us thousands. I had a clean credit card with a limit of 5,000 dollars on it so the Bishop decided we should pay our tithing using a cash advance (that is go into debt) so that he could sign our temple recommends. This done we went to the temple and took out our endowments and were sealed as a family. As we went through the temple ceremonies after the blood atonement was taken out it was not as terrifying as many people have found it but very weird. I nearly killed myself laughing when I saw the men in their little caps looking like rows of shower caps. When I gave my husband my temple name, Lois, he started humming the theme to ‘Superman’ and we both cracked up. His name was Job (of course I didn’t find out until after we had left the church) and he says now that it is appropriate because I put him through the trials of Job.
Over the following years we both held positions in Presidencies with my husband holding the position of Ward Executive Secretary several times and myself Primary President. I had several miscarriages whilst I was in the church and was told that these were blessings from the Lord because He knew that I didn’t have the time to raise any more children immediately (I lost twins when I had a three and two year old already) and He was storing them up for me to raise after I died.
HOW WE LEFT
Over the years I had truthfully had no problems believing the doctrines of the church and the church propaganda. I found stories of the pioneers uplifting and sometimes longed to have been one of them. The only doctrine I ever had difficulties with was that one day I could become like God. I always used to feel that if I could be honored enough to wash the Lord’s feet I would be happy, that to think I could be like Him was blasphemous. I was just told that it would all be clear to me one day – I just couldn’t conceive the idea because I was not yet worthy enough.
When we finally left the church my husband was a counselor in the Elder’s Quorum and I was a counselor in the Young Women’s organization. My calling was in part what resulted in our leaving the church. Our decision to leave was rapid, traumatic and totally unexpected – even to us. To put it in perspective if will describe it as a sort of timeline.
Sunday 9th August 1998 – my family went to church as usual – attended all three session with my husband teaching Elder’s Quorum and myself running the Young Women’s Sacrament service (during which I gave a talk) and then teaching the Young Women. Husband paid $3000 tithing check for tithing in advance. That night I picked up four young women and attended a Ward fireside.
Monday 10th August – Family Home Evening
Tuesday 11th August – Young Women’s Activities
Wednesday 12th August – Husband attended Elder’s Quorum [leadership] Meeting
Thursday 13th August – Youth activity. At this activity the young women expressed to me an interest in several activities – one of which was learning how to access the internet.
Friday 14th August – Youth volleyball
Saturday 15th August – family commitments and my husband prepared his talk for sacrament for the following afternoon.
Sunday 16th August – I sat down at our computer, which had only been recently connected to the Internet and began to look for some interesting, faith-promoting sites for the young women to look at. I didn’t even question that it was my responsibility to make sure they saw nothing they shouldn’t – I was so indoctrinated. However, I was also tired so without thinking instead of typing ‘latter-day saint’ in the search field I typed ‘Mormon’. This brought me many ‘anti-Mormon’ sites. I knew in my conscience that I shouldn’t be reading these sites – that the Bishop, the Church even the Lord wouldn’t approve – but I knew my faith was strong enough for anything I could read – after all it was the true church so what could the ‘anti’s’ say? The first few sites I read talked about blood atonement and Joseph Smith having married women who were already married, Jesus Christ having three wives and other similar garbage. I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face. I felt sorry for these people that they couldn’t even come up with better arguments than these fabrications. Then I came to another site where the same rubbish was spouted but this time the author had added references to church books. I had many of these books so I started to look some of the up to see how he author had managed to twist the words to fit his/her theory. The first one I read was an account in ‘History of the Church’ that showed Joseph Smith had been drinking before he was killed in Carthage – which then went on to say he had shot a the ‘mob’ first. This may not sound like a big deal but it rocked the image of the prophet we had been given, this was a man who wouldn’t even drink alcohol as an anesthetic supposedly. It was also legend that Joseph Smith knew he was to die that day so I questioned that a man who spoke to the Lord on a regular basis, and had been instructed by Him not to drink alcohol, would do so as almost his last act on earth. I cannot begin to describe the shock I felt. I was numbed. I continued to check more references and was horrified by what I found. I was shaken to the core – my beliefs of 18 years were crumbling in minutes. This of course was not the only example of inconsistency – blood atonement, theological impossibilities regarding the Godhead, Joseph Smith’s marriages to women already married (with living husbands) and so forth.
I called my husband to the room and told him I had something I wanted him to read. He pointed out that we didn’t have time as it was time for sacrament and he had to talk. I just gave him one page to read while I got his talk ready for him. He skimmed it – looked at me and asked how I felt about it. I told him I was horrified but that I had checked the reference and it was irrefutable. I told him I couldn’t come to sacrament with him and stayed at home with the children while he gave his talk. Later he was approached by members who congratulated him on his ‘inspirational’ talk – most of which was given while he was thinking of how to get me away from the church now that doubt had crept in. When he came home I was still reading and I had tears pouring down my cheeks. I felt like my world and all I had ever lived for was giving was in minutes.
Monday 17th August – I put my children in kindergarten/preschool today and went home, turned on the computer and started again. By the time my husband came home from work I had an inch of printouts on my desk for him to read. He read about the first three and declared he had enough information not to return. I was worried. It looked like I had been gullible for the last 18 years letting someone else tell me what to believe – I wasn’t going to do it twice.
Tuesday 18th August – Children back to kindy/preschool again today and I hit the internet again. By three o’clock I was physically ill from what I was reading. I cannot begin to describe what it is like to have all your value systems, beliefs etc knocked out from under you so quickly. I only knew I couldn’t face anyone from the church so I bagged up all my Young Women’s material and took it to the Young Women’s President telling her I wanted an immediate release – I could no longer stand in front of the Young Women and tell them the Church was true. I sat in trepidation that night waiting for all hell to descend from the Bishopric but nothing. My husband phoned the Elder’s Quorum President and likewise asked for an immediate release.
Wednesday 19th August – By now I was a complete wreck. I alternated between crying, praying, abusing this Mormon God and being terrified that I was condemning my children to an eternity of damnation by questioning the church. Today I found Eric Kettunen’s web site [Recovery from Mormonism]. I began reading the stories of how other’s had coped and what they had experienced. For no other reason than it was a randomly selected number I read Rauni’s story #50. Something about the way she wrote made me feel like this was a lifeline – someone that might understand how I felt. So I emailed her. She wrote back immediately telling me to find out the truth for myself – that was the only way. This immediately made me feel better as she wasn’t just another person telling me what to believe.
Over the next few months Rauni and Dennis corresponded with me frequently – they provided me with endless information when I questioned a specific aspect of Mormonism but more importantly, Rauni was there for me as a moral support in a world that was fast turning upside down. I reached a point where I didn’t even know who God was, if he existed or how many of Him there were. What did I call him now – did he hate me for leaving the Mormons – did he hate me for joining in the first place. Rauni even helped me with the first prayer to the now unknown God. I remember crying in the shower one morning (good place to cry if you don’t want to upset your children) feeling at the end of my tether and just pleading with God that I didn’t know what he wanted me to do. I told Him I loved Him and was grateful for all that He had done for me. I told Him that I desperately wanted to follow Him but I didn’t know how – if He would just show me I would do it. Did He want me to go back to Mormonism or not? I didn’t get an immediate answer but I felt a lot more peaceful – just as well because I had three ‘sisters’ phone me that day to explain to me in great depth what I had cost my family in terms of eternal salvation. When my husband got home he found an emotional wreck. I remember standing there and saying to him that if this is what Mormons were like I would rather spend eternity in Hell than the celestial kingdom – I had my answer and it wasn’t Mormonism. The next time I prayed about the Mormon Church I received a direct answer. I have researched document after document, all issued by the Mormon Church officially. I have checked Mormon sites on the web and never received an answer to the questions, in fact the LDS web site that provides access to the Journal of Discourses has been invaluable in showing me the truth about this organization. (e.g. I do not believe non-whites to be in any way inferior to whites, and I do NOT believe that I would have died had I have married a black – just one of the myriad of weird beliefs found in the Journal of Discourses – along with Joseph Smith being greater than Jesus Christ).
Since then I have had ups and downs. I have relied a lot on Rauni and Dennis and on local and internet support groups such as Mormons in Transition and the Cult Awareness Information Centre in Brisbane, Australia. It has been difficult and traumatic at times, occasionally doubting our decisions, but every time that has happened I have research a little more and reconfirmed the endless lies and conflicts in the doctrine. I have also helped my mother away slowly from the church to the point where she has little contact. My husband and I decided to formally sever our ties with the church although the church was unwilling for this to happen until we threatened the area presidency with a lawsuit (a copy of this letter also went to the Church PR office which may have had some effect). I have no doubt that somewhere we are still on a record or thirty but for now this will do.
Several years ago I defended the Church to my husband when he thought it was a cult. Several weeks ago I found myself defending the deliberate choice of the word ‘cult’ in association with Mormonism to an Anglican Priest. I have come a full circle, I now know a lot more about Mormonism than I ever did as a member and the organization frightens me with it’s money, power and influence. What frightens me the most is its cult-control of it’s members – all you have to do is read some of the letters sent to Eric’s site to see the indoctrination. The organization is trying all it can to integrate itself into Christianity and give the impression that it is family oriented, squeaky clean etc etc. People are becoming accepting of Mormonism and this is something that can never be allowed to happen.
As for me – I am undergoing Alpha (a course designed for people questioning Christianity). I am mostly confused but occasionally have bright flashes of insight that show the problems with Mormon doctrine so clearly. I do believe there is a God, just not the one I had been taught about for 18 years. Even though I know almost nothing and question everything I hear, I now feel I have a relationship with God and it is NOT based on emotive burnings in the bosom or anywhere else!!!