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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Personal opinions on a variety of topics.

Tracked Down! Families in Mormonism

Posted by nebula0 on October 29, 2009

So after having moved after having not been to church for over a year, I admit I had great hopes that we’d fly under the radar and never be tracked down by what is supposed to be our new local ward.  Most of our Mormon friends dropped out of the picture after we stopped showing up for sacrament meetings, so I reasoned that there would be no reason for our new address to enter the picture.  However it was only a week ago that an older gentleman came to our door and introduced himself as a neighbor ‘in our ward’ with, of course, an invitation to church.

What surprised me was not so much that our address eventually did get out, but my reaction to the visit.  I was deeply disturbed.  I realized that Mormonism threatened, at least in my own mind, our family harmony.  I am completely non-Mormon, I don’t even really think of myself as ‘ex’ Mormon.  I don’t feel related to Mormonism at all, good or bad.  However, my spouse considers himself a jack Mormon, even though he doesn’t accept its basic truth claims.  He feels some kind of cultural connection, as if he was born a Jew who disbelieves that Moses was a prophet.  It is for that reason I don’t want Mormonism an issue in our lives, I don’t want it brought up, I don’t want anyone thinking about it in our family.  We have such a happy, close family life and I am so pleased not to raise our children in the church, or any church for that matter, I don’t want this happy family ship perturbed.

If you are familiar with Mormonism you might find my sentiments ironic.  After all, isn’t Mormonism a bastion of happy, close families?  It really only works if all the members of the family are also active Mormons.  Only active Mormon couples can be sealed for ‘time and all eternity’ in the temples, and thus have their children ‘born in the covenant’ and thus sealed to them for ‘time and all eternity’.  And those promises are bound up with individual obedience to Mormonism’s gospel message.  So it is having one spouse an active Mormon and another not, or even worse, one who is non Mormon, is bound to cause stress on the marriage. 

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a Mormon issue- interreligious marriages in general cause stress if one member of the marriage is committed to a religion.  But, Mormonism creates a unique stressor by stressing so much family unity, in the church.  In fact, a defective spouse can threaten the eternal possibility of the other.  It is a couple that is exalted to godhood through obedience to the (Mormon) gospel, not individuals.

Since nothing has come of the visit of the well intentioned older gentleman to our house, I have relaxed again.  But the episode has reaffirmed to me how far I have come in the matter of a couple of years in how I understand the very core of my identity.


Posted in My Experiences, Reflections | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Why would anyone leave the one true church on the face of the planet?

Posted by nebula0 on November 21, 2008

In light of the debate going on in my “Should I Write the Letter” post I’ve decided to draw this issue out to a new post entirely.  Why would anyone leave Mormonism?  Let me preface this with the fact that hit happens quite often and with so many ex Mormons running around out there there is bound to be a lot of reasons.  Here are some I can think of:

Ones the Mormons tend to emphasize:

– Some kind of bad experience with a member.  Sure, this happens.  Someone treats someone badly and the person becomes bitter and decides to leave Mormonism altogether.

– Inability or unwillingness to obey the Mormon commandments.  I suppose this happens as well but I have yet to actually see it in action.  My guess is that this might be common with Born in the Covenant kids who never believed much to begin with.  Does that really count as apostasy?

– Getting hit up by anti Mormon lies.  It’s true, Mormonism does a bad job of teaching its new members and  then the leadership wonders why it is that so many Mormons are susceptible to “anti Mormon lies”.  I agree, a lot of what is out there does consist of lies, or at least gross exaggerations, but there is usually a kernel of truth to almost all of these anti Mormon ‘lies’ that might cause a Mormon legitimate pause.  I agree, some Mormons jump off the bandwagon rather quickly when they find out that the church history as taught by the Church History Institute manual isn’t exactly, dare I say, honest itself, without bothering to get into scholarly works on the topic to get a balanced understanding.

– Simple obstinance when it comes to obeying the priesthood hierarchy.  This may be legitimate concern for abuse of power or a flat out unwillingness to accept spiritual authority (which may have legitimate theological reasons for future Protestants).

Reasons that may disquiet true believing Mormons:

– Theological disagreement.  Since Mormonism is believed by true believing Mormons to be the one true church on the face of the planet, this may be literally impossible for some to truly understand this motive.   All that I can really do is say- it’s true, some people have legitimate, deep, theological disagreements with Mormonism that have developed.

– Those anti-Mormon lies again, but this time I talk about those Mormons who took the time to carefully assess the arguments in question and came to the conclusion that the Mormon side of things just isn’t right.  One easy example of this is the historicity of the Book of Abraham.

– Social reasons, such as, not giving the blacks the priesthood until 1978 combined with the once widespread belief of the inferiority of the spirituality of blacks; or not giving the priesthood to women, or…  People in this category often have a difficult relationship with the LDS church as they often still in a core way see themselves as Mormons but unable to fully connect with the Mormon community.

What was it for me, you may wonder?  While I had reservations about issues such as the historicity of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham, concerns about Joseph Smith’s power trip by the end of his life, concerns about flat out racism in the church, concerns about the role of women… you name it… I still considered myself a Mormon in a basic way and retained some amount of activity.  It was a deep theological disagreement which severed me from Mormonism forever.

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Should I Write the Letter?

Posted by nebula0 on November 19, 2008

I’m beginning to think that the time may come that I may actually write The Exit Letter to my Stake President.  The reason I’m contemplating this turn of events is because I’m also considering “joining” (I’m already a Catholic according to Catholics by virtue of my infant baptism) Catholicism.  It seems appropriate to combine a step like that with an official declaration of my leaving Mormonism.  I don’t feel like I need to make a point or give my former Mormonism the finger or anything like that, in fact, I’m feeling more positive about Mormonism than I have in a couple of years.  At this point I could easily attend a Sacrament meeting with my spouse oh, say, monthly without getting that inner cringing feeling, because I would not equivocate if people asked about my religious status.  I would tell them non Mormon and leave it there.  I’d let them try to convert me with polite quietness on my part.  I wouldn’t try to prove anything.  So I would write the letter to further solidify that position of pleasant neutrality and cut off any remaining reason for which I would have to explain my situation as an ex Mormon.  I want to be simply a ‘non’ Mormon who happens to know a lot about Mormonism and disagrees with the theology.  That’s how I feel these days.

Then again, if writing a letter works against that purpose for an unforseen reason I would want to know that.  I have no desire to cause problems for my family-in-law who are all active Mormons.  They know at the very least I’m an inactive coffee and alcohol drinker and are polite enough not to ask why.  If they did I’m fairly sure I would be nonchalant about it and unless they were interested in a serious discussion quickly move the topic.

So to write the letter or not.  For the first time since declaring myself an ex Mormon I’ve felt the impulse the past month or so to write the letter.  If I do it, it won’t be for many months still.

Posted in My Experiences, Reflections | Tagged: , , , | 49 Comments »

Family Togetherness

Posted by nebula0 on November 7, 2008

I must critique my former brother and sisters in the Mormon faith (perhaps my cousins through my family ties?).  Over the course of my time in Mormonism I began to pick up on a grand underlying assumption about the world: those outside of Mormonism are not truly happy.  More specifically: those outside of The Gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have truly happy families.  It is this assumption which has allowed the LDS church to see itself as the protector of family values against those cultural mutants, the homosexuals, who would pervert, because the Gentiles (now the ‘non members’)  cannot truly fathom the consequences of the battle which is raging.  This attitude underlies many assumptions about the state of the mission field- dysfunctional families, single mothers, divorces, drugs, premarital sex prevails.  Mormons see themselves as sheltered by wise leaders instituting programs such as Family Home Evening, preaching eternal families and issuing the Proclamation on the Family defining the roles of the traditional family.  All this translates into very real attitudes by Mormons that I encountered, until finally offended.

I wasn’t raised with any religious belief.  Period.  We didn’t talk about God.  I never saw my parents pray.  We didn’t attend church.  The only times I attended church as a child were if my grandparents lured me to mass with promises of candy and toys and that was a rare event.  Take a moment, my Mormon readers, and imagine what my upbringing might have been like.  Be honest, as honest as possible.  Are my parents divorced?  Did I experiment with drugs?  Did I experiment with sex?  How about my siblings?  Did we have terrible fights? 

As I’m sure you could guess by my above line of questioning, my family life was and is unusually happy.  I say all this as a tribute to my parents.  I never saw my parents fight, and I didn’t fight with them.  I never tried drugs despite the temptation and I said my wedding vows as a virgin.  I got good grades, as did my siblings, and I’m the owner of a BS and an MA.  I still talk to my parents frequently and enjoy seeing them.  And all of this was accomplished without Family Home Evening, without family prayer, without church attendance.  This was accomplished because I knew my parents loved and cared about me unselfishly, not only because they said so, but because they proved it through their actions, over and over again.

I write this to honor my parents, above all and to warn Mormons against the too easy temptation to assume that the safety nets of the LDS church provide the happiest possible families.  There are happy families everywhere, without any church.  I do not think the LDS church can claim a corner on the market of families.  Mormon readers, if this idea threatens you, perhaps you ought to reassess what your faith is all about.  If anything I hope this post causes my Mormon readers to think twice before carelessly making statements about who families that do not accept Mormon values are not truly, really happy lest you offend someone with non Mormon, non religious parents (or those parents themselves).

I also offer the thought that just as Mormonism can provide a focus by which families can cohere, the cleaving goes both ways.  Families can be together forever, but only if all the family members are worthy members of the LDS church.  If individual conscience leads a child to another path, the vision of that family unity is fragile and can be easily shattered.  How many of you have sat through a Fast and Testimony meeting to this effect, some family member out of the LDS church, a mother in tears that her vision of family unity could so easily be broken?  If family togetherness and wholeness is so predicated on something as stringent as activity in the LDS church, perhaps that togetherness is a superficial illusion.  I call Mormons everywhere to expand and deepen their conceptions of what a happy family looks like.

Posted in Controversial Topics, Reflections | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When to call it quits… and when to stick around

Posted by nebula0 on November 1, 2008

Since I’ve dropped my Mormon identity, I’ve gone through a lot of moods.  Sometimes I have been close to anti-Mormonism, feeling within me a burning resentment of the religion I once embraced.  I’ve gone through nostalgia and moments that I longed to be back but knowing it cannot be.  I suppose it’s that way with every major break up.  Now I’ve moved on to the stage that I’m ready to court new suitors and feel that I can honestly be friends with my ex.  So what advice would I give to someone considering breaking up?

1.  Assess your differences.  Make a list of the things that are driving a wedge between you and Mormonism, item by item.

2.  Rate the importance of each item to you.  Which ones are mere annoyances (such as, boring sacrament meetings) and which ones are potential deal breakers, and which ones somewhere inbetween?

3.  Ignore the annoyances, for now.  Make a new list, this time, only with potential deal breakers.  No matter how you live or who you live with, there will be annoyances.  You can manage those. 

4.  Assess the deal breaking items, are they really deal breakers?  For instance, say that you put down “women in the priesthood” as one of those items.  Even if women never get the priesthood, do you still accept the priesthood authority in the LDS church as valid?  If you do, this is not really a deal breaking item for you.  On the other hand, if you believe that unless women get the priesthood, the priesthood authority of the LDS church is invalidated or incomplete, this is a potential deal breaker.

5.  Try to be as honest as possible.  This is tougher than it sounds.  When you have LDS family and friends, when you’ve learned Mormon lingo and ways of life, you may be tempted to try to brush deal breaking issues under the rug.  It won’t work.  Life is way too short to live a lie.  You may find that you realize that you need to break up with Mormonism late in life, after you have established your children and grandchildren as Mormons.  You may not want to officially, publically leave.  That’s okay.  Do what you can to explore your options and deepen an authentic relationship with God.

In short, don’t expect Mormonism to be perfect.  It’s a church run by humans on every level, fallible people.  If you are honest, there are going to be things that you dislike, even dislike strongly, but being annoyed at Home Teaching is not a reason to call it quits- unless you didn’t really believe in the first place.  If you believe that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and the Son that day in the grove of trees, if you believe that the LDS church is the restored church of Christ, then the LDS church is where you belong, with its blemishes, boring Sacrament Meetings, and all.  If you doubt those grounding principles, then no matter how much you may like and enjoy other aspects of Mormonism, for your own sanity and growth, you may need to disassociate, even if not publicly.

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Taking Stock

Posted by nebula0 on October 30, 2008

I can’t remember the exact date that I gave up my Mormon faith for good.  I’m not good at that stuff.  What I do know is that it’s sometime a month or two from now.  So I am reflecting on where to go from here (see the previous post) and what I have learned from my experiences so far.  It’s harder than I thought it would be.  The thing is, I have more baggage from my trip through Mormonism than I wanted to admit to myself.  I harbored some ill feeling about Mormonism and figured I really hadn’t gained much from it.  Have I?  I’m sure I have and don’t even really know.  It forced me to be more social than I otherwise would have.  I met my spouse through being a Mormon, and nothing will take that away.  I got to practice giving speeches.  But what about in a spiritual sort of way?

What I gained most from Mormonism was, and is, a lense through which to focus my spiritual and intellectual curiosity in matters of faith.  I’ve learned the importance of intellect, not just the emotions, when it comes to embracing God- if the intellect isn’t on board, neither is the will, not really. I’ve learned that if I am to really, totally, and with my whole will intellect and otherwise embrace God and a way of approaching him, I am to be thoughtful, I am to be slow, I am not to be pressured.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I allowed myself to be led into Mormonism through eager missionaries and ‘friends’ who abandoned me as soon as my head hit the waters (see my previous posts about why I became a Mormon to see the sort of split mind I developed).  It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, it’s human nature to be excited by new things. I  want to be authentic in my spirituality and know that a group and new things will be a part of that, but they cannot be allowed to direct my path.

So I move forward, slow and steady.  One thing that I have noticed is that my opinion of Mormonism becomes more and more like that of a never-Mormon outsider, someone who can acknowledge the ‘odd’ aspects, the positive aspects, the negative aspects, without personal entanglement.  I suppose that is the strongest sign of my ex-Mormonhood.  I feel no longing, and neither revulsion, for things Mormon.

Posted in My Experiences, Reflections | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

what I believe, what should I believe?

Posted by nebula0 on October 28, 2008

Posted in Reflections, Theological Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

My New Blog

Posted by nebula0 on October 10, 2008

I’ve decided to branch out and created a new blog: http://religionandreality.wordpress.com/.  This way I don’t have to tie everything back to Mormonism in order to write a blog entry, which seems like a healthy move since I’m not actually a Mormon anymore and I should figure out where I personally belong.

I’m definitely continuing on this blog full force as well.  Since I know a lot about Mormonism through personal and scholarly experience, using Mormonism as a point of departure for my thoughts has proven to be a fruitful adventure.  It gives me a specific, detailed, lived framework from which to build.  Nonetheless, I’ve found myself from time to time feeling constrained by the limits of this blog, and for those instances, my new blog will allow me to float free, which will prove to be a release but also a constraint.  Why not have the best of both worlds?

Plans for this blog include continual expansion of the new FAQ page as well as more posts about my experiences.  I also plan on further investigation of the interaction between Mormonism and normative Christianity as I explore exactly how Mormonism (the LDS brand specifically) fits into the bigger picture.  Stay tuned.

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Why Don’t Women Have the Priesthood?

Posted by nebula0 on October 3, 2008

Every active Mormon male, when he turns the wise age of 12, receives the Aaronic priesthood.  At 18, he receives the Melchizedek priesthood.  More than that, if he is going to be involved in local leadership, at some point he will be ordained a high priest.  The priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God, and those with the Aaronic priesthood may pass the sacrament, as 12 year old boys do, while the Melchizedek priesthood is necessary for things like the laying on of hands.  The closest women get to the priesthood is to share in the priesthood of their husbands, and a promise in the temple that they will become priestesses and queens to their husbands.  Or, the argument is made that Motherhood is akin to the priesthood, which on the surface of it makes no sense because Motherhood is akin to Fatherhood, not the priesthood which deals with authority to act in the name of God.  The question should naturally arise: why don’t women have the priesthood?  After all, if Mormon theology is going to be so generous as to allow every gentile and Jew male to become a priest (compared to the Bible, wherein only Israelite males of a particular tribe could become priests) why stop there, why not extend it to women too?

If you are to ask this question, you may run into a couple of answers, the most popular one right now goes like: women are naturally more ‘spiritual’ than men, so men need the priesthood to train them and women don’t.  I hope it is obvious to my readers the condescending nature of this argument.  God picks those most incompetent to run his church, really?

A second argument may talk about women being the heart, and men being the head of the home.  Since families are the basic building block of Mormon society, this argument then extends into the more public sphere of ecclesiastical authority.  Women are there to be emotional and spiritual nurturers, men to be the thinkers and planners.  This, as the argument runs, is because men and women are inherently different and that’s just the way it is.  Perhaps there is truth to this, after all, the brains of men and women are different, as is the basic body shape.  But, studies suggest that if anything while men may be better at reading maps and more interested in abstract math in general, women in general make better managers of people.  Because women are better readers of emotion and better at multitasking, they are the natural managers, not men.  Hence, women should be perfectly suited for leadership in church positions, not men.  You don’t get it, the defender of this argument might say, the differences are beyond scientific inquiry, they are spiritual differences.  Women are supposed to be nurturers of the home, that’s what the prophet says.  Okay, I say, that’s a different argument altogether.

So, onto argument number three.  The prophet says so, therefore God says so, end of story.  Not much to say there.  The prophet also prevented blacks from getting the priesthood until 1987.  Just something to chew on.

Perhaps some of you think that arguing about this topic is making mountains out of molehills.  After all, Mormon men are generally nice to Mormon women.  Their advice is usually at least consulted.  And, if Mormon women are happy, isn’t that enough?  Not really, not if it is really a matter of injustice.  I look at this now as an academic curiosity, an example of gender being theologized and ritualized, but I will tell you that when my infant daughter was born, I was none too happy about bringing her up in a culture in which every 12 year old boy learns about the great responsibilities he will bear with the Aaronic priesthood, while she gets a pat on the head. 

Yes, granted, there are some differences between men and women.  Women are physically smaller and weaker, bear children and have the primary responsibility for care (by nature).  That makes them seek security with their men, and I suppose the priesthood is one way by which women can feel that their men are being kept in check.  But another human need, besides security, is respect.  Both men and women need this– it is a human longing– to be taken seriously and to really matter.  This is why the priesthood for all males in Mormonism is such a draw to so many, but why it is such a travesty for all those girls wondering, in their hearts of hearts, if they are truly as important as their brothers.

Posted in Controversial Topics, Reflections | Tagged: , , , | 20 Comments »

The Strangeness of Mormon Deity

Posted by nebula0 on September 27, 2008

Mormons forget how odd (i.e. very unusual) their theology and ritual is.  That’s to be expected; the longer someone is involved in something, the more normative it becomes.  A case in point is my experience.  The very first Gospel Principles class (the Sunday School class oriented to new members) I attended went over exaltation.  Now, keep in mind that I was familiar with this doctrine before I went to the class, and yet, that didn’t stop my reaction when I heard quotes from the manual about how God was once a man like us on another earth who progressed to godhood.  Hearing this spoken and taken for granted by class members was a truly otherworldly experience.  It is extremely odd.

Even in ancient pagan polytheistic theologies, gods were always different from the mortals.  Gods were immortal, a different sort of species of being than were mere mortal humans.  If mortals were to become at all like the gods, it was because the gods helped them, not because humans were like nascent gods with the difference between the gods and mortals simply being one of time and experience.  Yet, the latter is exactly what Mormonism teaches.  It is alien not only to traditional/orthodox Christianity and Judaism and Islam in that, but also to the kinds of paganism we are familiar with, such as the Greek pantheon.

So it is that Joseph Smith was truly a great innovator.  Combining what he knew about Christianity with an American sense of inherent rights (= eternal intelligences) and equal economic opportunity he opened the pathway for any ordinary Joe to reach the highest heights.  Not even God is beyond this American can-do attitude, as attaining Heavenly Father’s station is the ultimate purpose of the Mormon gospel.

Posted in Reflections, Theological Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »