Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Did you see what all this Mormon talk did to my ads? Dear God...

Brooks commented on the last post:

Mormons kind of creep me out.

Ha! As well they should.

No, seriously, Mormons - and this is not my independent opinion, but also that of several friends who have spent significant time out on the left coast - are some of the friendliest, nicest, most sincere people around. The nicest people to be found who also consider caffeine consumption to be a sin to be reckoned with.

Ex-Mormons will tell you how creepy they are. Born agains will tell you they worship the devil. I'll tell you I'm an atheist, but it's not because of them (I blame the liberal arts degree in philosophy. It'd be tough to make it through as a believer unless one had a serious stranglehold on one's faith which, needless to say, I did not.)

I've also noticed a big ex-Mormon presence in the blogosphere lately. Dooce, of couse, and her fine husband Blurbomat; I've heard This Fish is on the same page; hell, even Tony Pierce is talking about his friend's motorcycle riding ex-Mormon roomate.

I have to qualify my Mormon experience by saying that we were East cost Mormons, part of a congregation full of converts, as opposed to West coast Mormons, for whom belief in the Book of Mormon and the imbibing of Sprite and 7-Up with every meal is akin to a genetic code. East coast Mormons are like garden variety Sunni Muslims; West coast Mormons are more Wahabi jihadists with blond hair and a smile.

So, I started seeing through the "a woman's place is to make a comfortable home and to stand by the decisions of the head of the family (preferably while happily married and pumping out babies by, say, 25)" and the tithes as extortion (you're supposed to give 10% of all your income to the church, much like a collection plate. Only you have to put it in a little envelope with your name on it and if the Bishop notices yours has been a little light lately, well, no youth Temple trip for you!) at a relatively early age.

The political agenda kind of bothered me, too; as I said, we were converts, and my parents were good old fashioned New England liberal academics. They had me pretty indoctrinated at an early age -- I could recognize Jimmy Carter by sight in 1977, when I was, what, three? It stands to reason that a church so enamored of family values, pioneer spirit and apple pie at the pot luck dinner would have a natural affinity for the Republican party, but to spend the tithe money on lobbyists to block gay marriage in Hawaii? (For one - and that was a long time ago. But it bothered me that my personal income was going that way.) I distinctly remember one afternoon at church ( and let me tell you, you spent ALLLLL afternoon in Church - being Mormon takes a serious time commitment) listening to one very sweet lady's testimony on how we were all so lucky to have such a great man of God leading us, President Ronald Reagan. I was very confused. Around our house, Reagan was Satan himself.

That wasn't all of it. I was the smart kid that tried to get something out of Sunday school, rather than sneaking in to the woods at the back of the building and smoking cigarettes. I got pissed off when adults who were supposed to be teaching me the basic tenets of our mutual faith couldn't come up with answers to my most basic questions, and then shushed me with "It's a matter of faith. Maybe you need to work on your faith." Faith, my ass. I really wanted to feel something; for a time, I convinced myself that I did. But that faded, and I started to pretend I was sick on Sundays, and then to openly declare that I didn't believe anymore and was no longer going to attend church marathon. That was around 13 or 14. Caffeine soon followed. Ah, caffeine, you bastard gateway drug.

So, the kicker? The nail in the coffin kicker? My dad's excommunication from the Mormon church.

As I said, I ceased Mormon activity at around 13 or 14. Meanwhile, my father was asked to serve as Bishop of our congregation. The Mormons have a weird process for their clergy: the higher ups pray to God, asking who would make a good Bishop or Church Librarian or what have you. Once they have a decision, they ask, and you don't decline, because who are YOU to question GOD? Aside from your free time, it doesn't affect your life - Bishops can have a family, and so forth; in fact, a family (a LARGE family) is almost a prerequisite. They asked my dad. He accepted.

Only, thing was, my dad was a closeted gay man. A gay American, if you will. So God made a dilly of a pickle out of that one. And as the years passed, my dad finally concluded that he couldn't do it anymore. He couldn't be married (at least not to a heterosexual woman) he couldn't keepn pretending, and he certainly couldn't be Bishop of a congregation that hated his very kind. So, my courageous badass dad pulled a McGreevey on the whole chapel one Sunday afternoon, and he never went back.

(Aside: a few years later, I found myself in a psychiatric ward for a week [if you want to know why, see this post]with a fully believeing, yet gay, young Mormon. I think my dad was able to help him out a lot - every time he visited me in the hospital, he wound up talking to this kid for the whole time. In a good way. My dad's so cool.)

So, a couple of years run under the bridge, and here's 20 year old unwed preganat Katie. The Mormon CIA somehow found out about it and the Relief Society (sort of like the Junior League, but Mormon) started sending me handmade baby quilts and casseroles and doing the whole "take care of your own" thing for which the Mormons are rightly admired. No judgments, no sex out of wedlock adultery lectures, just nice people trying to help out. Mind you, it didn't sway me, but it was sincere and appreciated.

A few more months? My dad received his Mormon divorce papers in the mail. That is, they held a court (do other churches have court? it sounds so sinister...) and decided that all evidence pointed to my dad being an adulterer, and that since that's such a big sin, they were excommunicating him - reserving him a special place in Mormon hell (Mormons don't believe in hell - only "outer darkness".)

Thing is? He never commited adultery. Even when my parents were separated, he never dated or touched another soul, not until the divorce was legally final. And the other thing is? I surely did. I had the homemade baby quilts to prove it.

So I had to conclude that the Mormon version of God doesn't hold women to the the same standard as men, and that the Mormon God gets really pissed when his congregants embarass him by proving that he has pretty bad judgment, at least when it comes to picking Bishops. And that was the end of me ever considering faith in the Mormon God again. Especially when the Mormon God sent out the troops to convince my little brother (but not me or my sister - cause, you know, girls can't turn gay) that he shouldn't talk to our dad anymore because he was obviously one of Satan's minions. That's about the time my brother turned heathen, too.

These days, we're all heathens - even my mom ("you know, the church just doesn't work" Guess she needed to work on her faith, too.) I don't think we're any the worse for it. So don't worry about us. At least, not until judgment day.

11 Comments:

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Audacity said...

So don't worry about us.I will pray for you. Otherwise, the Lord may smite thee!

/end Southern Baptist impersonation

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger Jen(nifer) said...

Aw. Katie. I remember going with you on one of the Mormon youth adventures. ; ) I kept asking why everything was read from *The Book of Mormon* and I think I found a cute guy in a hat to swoon over...or something. I am pretty sure that was when the little burnt sienna citation would stop at your house on Sunday and take thee, on the Sabbath to Perkins for coffee and two eggs and toast. : ) Good times.

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger Brooks said...

Seriously killer post! It helps that my name is the first word. Religion as a youngster was so different for me. We went to a Lutheran church, but one day, just stopped going. To this day, I don't know why.
Brooks Blog

 
At 12:46 AM, Blogger Gladys Cortez said...

Hey, since we all appear to be going to hell, according to our respective religions-of-origin...wanna carpool, anyone?? :)

I was raised Catholic, but I got over it.

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Katie said...

Gladys, I'd carpool to hell with you anytime. :)

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Loved this post! I'm another ex-Mormon on the blogosphere, but I'm more of the West-Coast variety. In fact, since I'm a born & raised Utahn, I'm pretty much the original variety of Ex-Mormons In Mormonland.

Your Dad is a badass. People who stand up for who they are (especially to Mormon clergy) have serious balls, and I have so much respect for them.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Robert said...

"Outer Darkness"? What's that, anything more than 10 miles from Salt Lake City?

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

Regarding your assertion at http://oemperor.blogspot.com/2004/09/since-youve-been-gone-when-i-was-last.html that Mormons are "just not so sexy" - what about 19th century Mormon men?

In my case, I'm a Lutheran. A priest married a nun. The world recoiled.

 
At 4:08 AM, Blogger Buster Van Buren said...

Hey Katie:

I enjoyed this post more than I probably should. Long long ago in a galaxy far away I was a 16 year old boy that was swayed into converting into the Mormon Church. After the "baptism" I was kind of disappointed as I thought I would feel a little holy...Instead I felt mostly wet. I took a field trip to the Washington DC temple, and stood waist deep in water with only my BVD's while my "advisor" stood there in his 1930's style full-body underwear. He told me that one I was a man, that I would have to wear this type of underwear all the time...That alone got me thinking. Eventually caffeine (as in coffee) turned me to the dark side. Aww, shit, this is turning into a long post. I'll do up an article on my website for those who are interested, but anyways....Good Post (Not Sexy, but good nevertheless).

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Joseph Smith, Jr. said...

Interesting blog. Enjoyed reading it.

Sincerely,

Joseph Smith Jr.
articles of faith
http://www.whatismormonism.com

 
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