Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pioneer, 2.0

I wrote a post this week about courage, comparing my bravery in leaving the church to that of my pioneer forebears who crossed the plains on foot.

Today I listened to a Mormon Stories podcast, and I'd like to amend my previous definition of courage.

Laurie Lee Hall  ( was a convert to the church. She served a mission, then married her best friend in the temple. Eventually, Laurie became the chief architect for the church's temples. She was called to be a bishop, then a stake president, serving for 8 years.

At the time, Laurie was a man. A man who, since she was a child, knew her true gender was female.

Laurie lived with this secret knowledge until well into her fifties. She suffered greatly for her gender dysphoria, unable to be true to who she knew she was, unable to be at peace in a man's body. She struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts until she knew she could take no more, and must become on the outside the woman she knew herself to be on the inside.

I cannot imagine the courage it took to reveal her true gender to her wife, and then her children. And then her church congregation.

As I watched Laurie tearfully describe her journey, articulating with eloquence the difficulties she faced in becoming the woman she was always meant to be, my heart was touched by her courage. I cried with her as she chronicled her release as stake president, and then her excommunication from the church to which she had devoted her life. She is still a believer in that church. She testified of God's love, and, listening to her, I felt my own heart stir. I was not converted by her testimony,  but I knew that she, with her great faith, still believed in that God, and she believed that He had not forgotten her.

This woman, Laurie Lee Hall, is a pioneer. A courageous, brave, beautiful pioneer.

Thank you, Laurie, for being brave enough to share your story with the world. And thank you for having the courage to live that story out loud.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


I come from Mormon pioneer stock, on both sides of my family tree. Pioneer stories are woven into the fabric of my childhood. Our parents loved to regale us with tales of bravery and courage exhibited by those who abandoned hearth and home in pursuit of religious freedom.

I wasn’t a fan of such stories as a youth. I always felt that I didn’t measure up in some crucial way. I didn’t load my belongings into a handcart and pull it across the plains; any complaint of mine seemed trivial in comparison.

“Pioneer children sang as they walked”…. singing this song in primary didn’t make me admire those legendary children who didn’t complain and whine as they left bloody footprints on the trail. Rather, I felt resentment that their example was being held up as the epitome of faithful childhood. I mean, come on! Any ancestor of mine had to have bitched and moaned and, to use their vernacular, murmured.  Any singing was under duress. I can imagine my pioneer great-great-great-great-great grandmother hissing to her young daughter as they walked beside the wagon, telling her to “Buck up, buttercup! Your ancestors braved worse than you are being called to bear! Stop that whining before I give you something to really cry about! Here comes Brother Brigham… act happy!!”  

Replace “Brother Brigham” with “the bishop”, and you have my childhood in a pew.

Several years ago, when I was mostly a believer, I took my own young family to Nauvoo, the birthplace of these tales of courage and perseverance. We walked through the restored town, eventually wandering down the road that led to the great Mississippi. We paused at the spot from which these brave pioneers launched the ferry that took them across the icy river, seeking refuge from the mobocrats who sought their destruction. I watched my own small daughter play at the water’s edge, and felt, for just a moment, what my ancestor must have felt as she contemplated the journey ahead. What lay behind, clouded in controversy from my vantage point today, spurred this faithful mother to take her young family, including a newborn, into an unknown wilderness. She believed strongly in the doctrine as she had learned it, and fervently wished for nothing more than the space in which to live the principles of the gospel she loved. She did it for her little ones, those to whom she wished to impart her faith and love for this church to which she had converted, leaving her own family and loved ones behind.

I don’t know all the particulars of the life she was leaving, but I imagine her own family, her parents and siblings, did not understand her new faith, and grieved her departure from the beliefs and practices with which she had been raised. Her happiness was their sorrow.

I have grown up under the shadow of this great sacrifice, and have often felt inadequate in the face of their bravery. My ancestors squared their shoulders and said goodbye to all they knew as they faced a frightening and unknown world. I have been admonished time and again to follow their lead and face my future with dauntless determination, “with faith in every footstep”, honoring their sacrifice by holding fast to the tenets of that same faith.

My own journey hasn’t been laced with the hardships of a trek across a hostile wilderness, but I, too, am a pioneer. I have had to square my shoulders and face my loved ones with the news that I have abandoned their faith, and am striking out on my own.

My parents had (and have) a rock-solid faith in Mormonism. They raised us with hope that we would follow their example. That I managed to do so for almost 50 years is a testament to the strength of their faith. But for most of those 50 years, I struggled with doubt. I always managed to come back to faith in the gospel, in part because I couldn’t bear to disappoint my parents. I knew they would feel like failures if I rejected what was most precious to them. But, ultimately, it came down to integrity. I could not continue to profess a belief in that which I did not believe to be true.

It took me three years to get the courage to face my mother with my disbelief. Looking into her eyes and telling her that I did not believe in the church, and no longer considered myself to be religious, was the single most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Seeing the pain in her eyes, and hearing the grief in her voice, knowing that I was the cause of her distress, is a torment I hope to never have to repeat in this lifetime.

Think that didn’t take courage?

I didn’t walk for miles across the wilderness, and I didn’t struggle to provide food and shelter for my little ones in hostile territory, and I didn’t leave my loved ones in shallow graves alongside the trail, but I do know what it is to strike out into unknown territory. I do know the pain of disavowing the faith of my fathers. I do know what it feels like to break my mother’s heart by rejecting that which was most precious to her.

I can see the hubris in comparing myself to the much venerated pioneers of yore, but, in the words of Coco Chanel, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

I am thinking for myself, aloud, and while it has brought me to a place of peace, and, dare I say, happiness, I know that my joy is my mother’s sorrow. I don’t take her grief lightly, but I am, as my pioneer forebears, willing to risk pain in pursuit of truth.

I am following in the footsteps of my courageous ancestor, honoring her quest for the right to live according to the dictates of her own conscience.

I, too, am a pioneer.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


My second daughter is getting married this year. She’s 25, and positively giddy. She and her fiancé have known each other for several years, and have been living together for almost two years, so they’re probably about as ready as two people can be.

However, as I watched her face yesterday, as she and her intended picked out wedding invitations, I was struck with a sense of foreboding, and I wanted to protect her from the downfall. Because, let’s face it, one’s coming.

She’s seen a lot of life in her 25 years, from cancer to an abusive boyfriend, so she is well aware that life is unpredictable, and sometimes shitty. She has learned to navigate some pretty big stuff, more than most at her tender age. But I fear she believes the worst is behind her. I fear she thinks she has found her prince, and together they will ride off into the sunset, and life will be grand from here on out.

And the simple fact is that it won’t.

Because life is shitty sometimes.

To quote The Man in Black, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Life is shitty sometimes.

I’ve been married for 28 years, half my life. And as marriages go, mine is pretty good. ‘Course, I married a pretty great guy, one who thinks he was lucky to marry me. Not sure how that happened, but I’m one of the lucky ones. Seems to be an exception to the rule.

Long marriages seem to be rare these days, at least among those of my generation. As I consider the institution of marriage the way modern America practices it, I’m beginning to wonder if we are suited to monogamy. I’ve watched many of my friends’ marriages implode, for multiple reasons from financial distress to sexual improprieties to irreconcilable differences, and I find myself wondering how my own spouse and I have managed to get this far. Not sure it is any more complicated than dumb luck. And a guy who is content with what life has handed him: me.

I’ve watched one friend cope after losing her husband to cancer. She had recently given birth to their third child when he was diagnosed, and within a year, he was dead. So, through no fault of her own, her marriage ended, and she was single. I’m not implying that divorcees are at fault when their own marriages end; I’m just pointing out that any relationship, no matter how good, can, and will, end.

Another friend lost her husband last week to a car accident, an unpredictable and devastating event, leaving her with two young children to raise alone.

Whether through death or divorce, eventually everyone leaves. If my daughter lives long enough, she will end up alone. And either way, whether by death or divorce, her heart will be broken.

And what if her marriage doesn’t end by disaster? Does that mean she’ll always feel what she feels today? I predict, based on experience, that the day will come when she will look at him with annoyance rather than tenderness, wondering if he has to breathe so loud, and if he could possibly do it in another room. Yes, I know that beneath the annoyance will be gratitude that he is still breathing at all, but come on, what spouse hasn’t felt just a titch of irritation from time to time at the sound of his/her beloved’s bodily functions?

And then there is the reality that people change. The man she is marrying this year may not be the same man 10, 15, 20 years down the road. Ask my husband. He is married to a completely different woman than the one he vowed to love 28 years ago. If he had known then what he knows now, would he have gone through with it? He says yes, but I wonder. I didn't intend to change. I was asked, back in 1987, by a man I thought I loved, if I thought I would always be a Mormon, and I replied that yes, of course, I would always be a Mormon. That was a deal-breaker for him. He wasn't looking for a Mormon, so we went our separate ways. My husband, on the other hand, was looking for a Mormon, and he believed he found one. Neither of us saw the change coming. Neither of us anticipated that someday I would no longer be a Mormon. For some people, as for my former crush, a difference in religion is a deal-breaker. I got lucky, and I happened to marry a man who was able to roll with the change, but it could so easily have ended differently, as it has for many of my friends whose spouses could not accept a change in religious beliefs.

People change. And not always for the better.

How do I prepare her for that? How do I inoculate her against the agony of heartbreak, or the tedium of boredom, or plain old discontent? Or change? What if her atheist fiance finds the allure of religion irresistible? Would that be a deal-breaker? 

As I looked at her glowing face yesterday, and contemplated how I could protect her from the pain of living, I realized the futility of my desire. Because the fact is, life is shitty sometimes.

I wanted to urge her to savor this moment, this brief flash of insane happiness, and to relish the feeling of being with the one you love, and loving the one you’re with. I wanted to warn her of the capriciousness of life, and the way it can change in an instant, leaving her with empty hands and a broken heart and a dreary future without the one she thinks she can’t live without.

Of course, I didn’t tell her any of that. I allowed her to have her moment of joy. I looked on as she stared into her person’s eyes, and they shared a tender kiss, and I rejoiced that she gets to have this moment, no matter how brief.

And I wished that, more than anything, I could give her resilience. And strength. Because her life will change, again, and it will bring pain, and heartache, and leave her breathless with grief. And the only way to cope with all of that is to be resilient. To roll with the punches. To be flexible enough that the big hurts that break her heart will not kill her spirit and leave her irreparably broken. To know that, as Celine so eloquently trilled, her heart will go on. And so must she, in the face of unbearable pain and sorrow. Or unbelievable boredom and annoyance.

I hope my daughter will never know grief and pain, that she and the love of her life will have a long and happy marriage, that life’s shit won’t touch her. But I know, in spite of my hope, that it will.

Because life is shitty sometimes. And it will be alternately shitty and awesome until she dies. That’s life.

Roll with it, little one. Be resilient.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For shame....

Remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. (Margaret Mead.)

There’s a post making the rounds this week addressing that ridiculous adage we post-Mormons often hear (and hate) about leaving the church but not leaving it alone. The intended audience of the post is the believing family and friends left behind, those most apt to utter the aforementioned words. The author eloquently describes the place our belief had in our lives, and the difficulty we face when we come to the realization that we no longer hold those beliefs to be true, and attempt to navigate the rocky post-Mormon road.

I’m hopeful that the author's words will reach those of my family members and friends who have struggled to understand why I can’t leave the church alone, and will perhaps understand me a little better.

However, in my life, the people who most often lob that accusation my way are those who are traveling this post-Mormon road alongside me.

As a newbie on this journey, several years ago, I found a community of like-minded souls through Facebook, and they quickly became my tribe. We found solace in one another’s stories, and looked for opportunities to gather together and vent our grievances.

On one such occasion, I had brought along a new friend, who had also recently left the church. She in turn brought one of her friends, who had been out of the church for a few years by this time. We met up in a bar, and the topic of the majority of the conversations that took place that night centered on the discoveries we had each made of the untruths and deceptions of the church we had left behind. Anyone who has been down this path understands the solidarity of hearing one’s own experiences echoed in the stories of others in similar circumstances. It was camaraderie in the truest sense of the word.

As we left that night, my two friends turned to me and expressed their dismay that the entire evening had been about Mormonism. Didn’t we have anything else to talk about? Why couldn’t we leave it alone now that we had left it?

Sound familiar?

I’ve been in many Facebook groups over the years, a few of which have been formed based on our common past as Mormons, whether as feminist Mormons, or former believers married to believers, or women of a certain age who have found themselves attempting to navigate the minefield of post-Mormonism in middle-age. Almost invariably, someone will post a request that Mormon-themed posts be limited, as we have much better things to talk about than our post-Mormon angst. We need to leave it behind us, not drag it into our present and continue to hash and rehash our experiences. Why can’t we leave it alone now that we have left it?

Again, very familiar verbage.

I read a post recently on Reddit about navigating the anger phase of post-Mormon recovery. One responder commented on his wife’s ease with which she left the church, once she discovered that it wasn’t true. He had been out of the church himself for several years by this time, and had been gently attempting to introduce her to some of the whitewashing in the church’s history, with limited success. She stumbled across the CES letter, and for her, that was it. The church wasn’t true, and she was done. No angry phase, no mourning what she had lost. She was just done, and she moved on. He said of her that “she is the mentally healthiest ex-Mormon I know.”

Maybe this isn’t so much good mental health as it is a personality trait. Maybe she isn’t a person who feels the need to process difficult emotions verbally, including those that generally surface when leaving an all-encompassing religion such as Mormonism.

I have no idea how she came to her “mentally healthy” state, but I resent the implication that those of us who have had to wade through a lot of post-Mormon angsty shit are mentally unhealthy.

The past few years have taught me many things about myself, one of which is that I have a slow burn, but once my tipping point is reached, I grieve hard. When I realized the church wasn’t true, I didn’t think anything in my life would change. I figured that I would keep attending church as I had for most of my 50+ years, that I would continue wearing garments, that I would continue paying tithing, that I would continue to abide by the Word of Wisdom (as understood in the temple recommend interview). I couldn’t envision a different life for myself at that time.

However, as I began a closer study of this religion I’d been following, and discovered the many obfuscations and outright deceptions, I started to feel angry. As I said, it was a slow burn. But once I acknowledged my anger, and allowed myself to look deeper at the reasons for it, there was much fuel for this fire. And I couldn’t contain it.

I found myself seeking out like-minded souls with whom to process my feelings of grief and rage. Leaving Mormonism is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and had I tried to keep it all inside, I imagine it would have consumed me.

I feel very fortunate to have found people who were also attempting to navigate this path, and to have had opportunities to share what I was thinking and feeling with them.

My husband’s uncle, who had been excommunicated in the 1980s for heresy, was the first person I encountered as I started down this rocky path who I knew would understand the difficult position I was in. He gave me the space to verbalize, for the first time, that I didn’t believe the church was true. And he welcomed my questions and concerns, and acknowledged my anger. He will always by one of my heroes for his ability to help me process my own anger without going up in flames alongside me. I am incredibly grateful that he didn’t shame me for my anger, nor tell me it was inappropriate or unhealthy. He helped me direct it toward its rightful target, and pointed me toward useful information as I sought answers to my many questions. Thank you, Uncle Denny.

Next came John Dehlin, of Mormonstories fame. Back in 2010, before Facebook had really taken off, John was heavily involved in such internet sites as and I first discovered him through an article, ironically, in the Deseret News, talking about his work helping people who had come to the realization that the church wasn't true, but for various reasons needed to figure out how to stay in and be healthy. Through John, I joined an online ‘ward’, where I found the support I needed as I attempted to figure out the healthiest path for me. I wasn’t sure how to stay, but because of my believing husband (and other family members), I wasn’t sure I could go. John provided the perfect venue at the perfect time where I found others who ‘got’ it. I got to be as angry as I needed to be, and no one in that group ever shamed me for it. Thank you, John.

Facebook groups became a thing sometime around 2010-11, and I joined several that were Mormon-themed, such as Feminist Mormon Housewives, and Mormonstories, which led to other groups targeted more to those who had decided to leave the church behind. I cannot express fervently enough my gratitude for these groups, and the people I met there. I was given the opportunity to express my anger, rage, frustration, grief, disappointment, outrage, disillusionment, resentment,  and every other negative emotion that arose as I walked away from the religion of my birth. Anger is a natural reaction to pain, and leaving Mormonism was fraught with painful experiences. Having a space to navigate all those emotions proved invaluable on my journey away from religion. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.

Expressing anger isn’t inherently unhealthy. Getting stuck in the anger phase, maybe. But talking about it with others who understood, and could relate, helped move me through the stages of grief. My journey hasn’t proceeded in a linear fashion, and I’ve cycled in and out of grief, rage, and even depression, multiple times. But as time has gone on, and I’ve hashed and rehashed my experiences with my new-found friends and soul-mates, I’ve come to acceptance, and a measure of peace.

My post-Mormon journey hasn’t been smooth sailing, but I am better for having walked this path. And I’m grateful for those who have walked with and beside me, holding space for my anger, without an added measure of shame.

I am Myrtlejoy, and, with a little help from my friends, I am the mentally healthiest ex-Mormon I know!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

It’s been almost eight years since I left the church. I’ve processed a lot of emotions in those years, cycling in and out of grief, anger, sadness, and even, as unbelievable as it may seem, elation. That’s life, I guess.

Through it all, my husband has maintained his rock solid belief that this church is true. More specifically, that the gospel at its core is true, and that the church is the imperfect chosen vehicle to carry that gospel to all the earth. He believes that he has been “given to know”, and there is nothing, according to him, that can shake his testimony.

I’ve come to accept this about him, mostly, and have never attempted to sway his opinion. He knows that I know more than he does about the founding days of the church, and the prophet of the restoration. We’ve had many conversations about old Joe, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my husband will never see him as anything but a divinely chosen prophet, seer, and revelator. He isn’t interested in hearing the more salacious details of Joe’s polygamous ways in Nauvoo, and we’ve managed to make peace over the issue.

Most days, I’m okay with this. It is what it is.

Every now and then, though, I find myself circling back around to anger.

One evening last week, after a busy weekend at work, I was perusing the interwebz looking for a podcast to occupy my time. I have enjoyed Lindsay Hansen Park’s “Year of Polygamy” series, but I haven’t listened to all 100+ episodes. I know enough of the history that I am able to keep up without the necessity of listening to each and every episode in order. I find the history she covers fascinating, and most of the time, I am able to absorb the details without getting enmeshed in the emotions.

Last Sunday night, I selected a 2-parter on Emma Smith, Joe’s publicly acknowledged wife. I know this stuff; I read “Mormon Enigma” when it was first published back in the 1980s. I’ve read Todd Compton’s “In Sacred Loneliness”, more than once. I’ve read Bushman’s tome, “Rough Stone Rolling”, and Richard S. Van Wagoner’s “Mormon Polygamy: A History”. I don’t think there is anything I haven’t read or heard on the subject. I had probably already listened to this particular podcast. I know this stuff.

However, for some reason, listening again triggered something in me, and I felt the anger flare up, and a burning, irrational (or not) hatred of all things polygamous and Mormon.

I looked across the room at my oblivious husband, blissfully unaware that his spouse was in that moment attempting to destroy him with her eyes.

He wasn’t ever in any real danger. I know I can’t destroy people with my eyes. Yet.

But, oh my god. If he could have read my mind, he would probably have run. Or at least ducked.

How can a person hold two completely opposing beliefs in their brain and maintain sanity?

How can my husband believe Joseph Smith to be a divinely appointed prophet of the restoration, worthy of reverent worship, while also knowing that he was a lying, cheating, husband to Emma?

The story that triggered this emotion detailed the marriage of Joseph to the Partridge sisters, Emily and Eliza. They were young women who had been living in the Smith’s home for a couple of years as helpers to Emma. Unbeknownst to Emma, they had agreed to become celestial, plural wives to Joseph early in 1943. They were living with Emma, presumably helping care for her children and assisting with the housework, and sleeping with her husband. Under her watchful, though oblivious, eye.

By all accounts, Emily and Eliza believed celestial marriage to be a commandment from God, and they had agreed to join Joseph in holy matrimony as his wives in name and deed. At the time of the first marriage ceremony, Emma was unaware of the arrangement.

Within a couple of months of the secret marriage, Joseph had managed to convince Emma that celestial marriage was a divine principle, and she agreed to get on board, with the condition that she choose Joseph’s future wives. She chose the Partridge sisters, unaware that they had already been joined to her husband as his spiritual wives.

This second marriage was performed with Emma as a witness.

Emma, beloved wife of Joseph, stood by and watched as he took the two young sisters as brides, for time and eternity. I cannot imagine the heartache she must have felt in that moment.

Rumors had been swirling around Nauvoo for some time about Joe’s spiritual wifery. Emma countered the rumors whenever and wherever she could, insisting that her husband was not involved in such debauchery as plural marriage. Coming to understand the full extent of his involvement, as the author of the principle and an eager participant, must have rent her heart in two. And to be a witness herself? She has earned for herself an exalted place in the eternities. If such a place exists.

As I contemplated this story, and my husband’s unwavering testimony of Joseph Smith the prophet, I felt a distinct sense of cognitive dissonance on his behalf. And rage. And sorrow. I can’t believe he didn’t feel the force of my glare across the room and wither under its heat. But he didn’t. He was engrossed in the Sunday afternoon NASCAR race with our son, and remained unmindful of my distress.

I mulled this over for the next few days, and considered how the conversation might have gone had I confronted him in the heat of the moment. Not well, I imagine. Much like other conversations we’ve had about old Joe. “This isn’t just church history, it’s family history (he is a direct descendent of Hyrum Smith), and there isn’t anything you can tell me that I don’t already know.” Yeah, we’ve been down this particular road before, without resolution.  And I really can leave it alone, letting him believe what he believes. He affords me the same respect, and our truce has been, for the most part, peaceful.

But I really don’t get it. I don’t.

A few days later, I ran into an old friend from my church-going days. She has remained a faithful friend, unafraid to be infected by my apostasy, and I feel comfortable having almost any conversation with her. Our meeting seemed providential, and I took advantage of the opportunity to question a true believer about Joe’s divine calling as prophet, and his penchant for plural marriage.

My friend is so awesome. She truly is. She listened thoughtfully as I explained my dilemma, and considered her response carefully. I could tell she took my question seriously, but didn’t take it as an opportunity to bear her testimony. I appreciate this more than she can know.

My friend responded first by telling me that while she is aware of the complicated history of the church, and Joseph Smith, she has chosen to err on the side of believing in his prophetic calling because she sees the fruits of her belief as overwhelmingly positive. (I am paraphrasing, as I didn’t record our conversation, and I don’t have a photographic memory! My apologies if I got anything wrong.)

She then referenced the founding fathers of our nation. She is a history buff, and knows the salacious details of their very flawed stories, but finds much to revere and respect in the fruits of their actions, so she is able to look past their character flaws and appreciate their accomplishments. She does the same with Joseph Smith. She sees the good that comes to her life by believing in the church, and living the principles of the gospel, and is able to put the rest aside. It isn’t so much that she sees the issues as inconsequential, but that her testimony of Joseph Smith and the church he founded is a net positive for herself and her family.

I respect the position she has chosen to take, and I admire her ability to see the good while acknowledging the negative aspects of church history. I don’t understand it, but I respect it. And I’m very grateful that she would freely share her feelings with me without being threatened by my questions. She is an exemplary Mormon, and I love her, in spite of her religious leanings…. (insert smiley face emoticon….:)

Still, I don’t get it. I look over at my husband, choosing to believe in Joseph Smith the prophet, in spite of Joseph Smith the polygamist (and cheating liar), and I don’t get it.

Which I guess explains why I’m out, and he stays in. He doesn’t need it to make sense. He doesn’t require his prophet to be without flaws. And I don’t either, necessarily. I just don’t consider marrying multiple women without his wife’s consent to be a character flaw. It’s a flaming red flag, and all the evidence I need that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. In my humble opinion, his deeds were not godly, and could not possibly be sanctioned by any supreme being worthy of worship.

In conclusion, DH and I will have to continue to agree to disagree. But, for the record, he’s wrong, and I’m right.

Just don’t try to tell him that. He won’t get it. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Great Expectations

“As hard as you think it’s going to be, you wind up wishing it was that easy.” Emma Horton, on her death bed, to her husband, Flap, who has just confidently asserted that he will carry on raising their children after she is gone. (Terms of Endearment)

I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day.

I love being a mother, and I love my children. I am extraordinarily grateful that I was able to participate in the creation of their lives. Bearing and raising children is a gift from the universe that I honor and respect.

That being said, I am not a fan of Mother’s Day.

As a teenager, I remember on one occasion telling my mother that I couldn’t wait until I had children of my own, because I was sure I’d do a better job than she was doing. The naivete is astounding, isn’t it?

Growing up, I always thought I’d be a mother, and I always believed I’d be good at it. I didn’t feel that I had many gifts and talents, but for some reason, I always believed in my ability to parent when the time came.

I had my first child shortly before turning 30. I had been a pediatric nurse for several years by this time, and I was comfortable around infants and children. And yet, when my own baby was less than a week old, I tearfully begged my mother not to leave me alone with her because I WASN’T READY TO BE A MOTHER.

The reality of actually being someone’s mother was far more terrifying than I had anticipated, and my confidence fled.

The 27 years since that day have taught me that I was right to be afraid. The job has challenged me in ways I never imagined possible.

If someone compliments my skills as a nurse, I proudly accept their praise without pause. If someone tells me I’m a good wife, I agree and smile.

If someone tells me I am a good mother, I hem and haw and stammer as I attempt to brush off the compliment.

Why, I wonder?

I think the answer lies in expectations. (Which, according to Anne Lamott, are “resentments under construction.”)

Way back in my youth, when I imagined myself as a mom, I pictured a passel of mini-me’s running around at my feet, pausing to gaze at me in adoration, listening raptly as I read to them, or instructed them, or scolded them. I pictured myself patiently explaining the reasons for my discipline, which would always be received with gratitude. I imagined them coming home to me after school and telling me of their day while eating the cookies I had baked with love and drinking the milk I had freshly drawn from the cow in our backyard.

Really! Ok, not really. I never wanted a cow in my backyard.

But the rest? Yes, I was that naïve.

What I neglected to factor in was the personalities of the littles I was imagining in my future.

Our kids come “with their bags packed” (thanks, Ann Cannon). Their personalities are hard-wired from conception. They are not blank slates waiting for us to imprint our wishes and desires on them. Nor are they miniature replicas of us, their parents, authors of their creation.

Each of my kids is a unique being, with his or her own individual predisposing traits and characteristics. I should have anticipated that, right? But I was completely unprepared for how very different they would be. From me, from their dad, and from each other.

Kids come with their own agendas, but not their own instruction manuals. Dammit.

A wise therapist once told me, as I lamented the trials and travails of parenting, that I should bring my best self to the task, and if that wasn’t good enough for my kids, it became their problem.

This is a great philosophy, in theory. In practice, not so much.

Because even when I know I have brought my best self (and on occasion, I have), and my children are still not happy, I can’t be happy. I can’t let it be their problem alone.

Because I am their mother, and their happiness is my responsibility.

Or so I’ve been told.  By my culture, my church, my peers. And my children.

If my children aren’t happy, or successful, I am to blame. It’s on me.

And no matter how many times I tell myself that they are the authors of their own destinies, that they alone are responsible for their own happiness, I don’t believe it.

The conditioning runs deep.

So I dislike Mother’s Day because it serves to highlight the expectations I had of motherhood that have turned to disappointment.

It brings into harsh relief the times I feel I have failed my children.

And no matter how much Hallmark wants me to believe otherwise, the voice inside my head won’t let me accept any credit for how great my kids actually are. Only the blame for their failures.

As a youth, I imagined motherhood would come easily to me. As a new mom, holding my firstborn and tearfully begging my own mother not to leave me alone, I knew the job would be difficult. As a veteran mother, I now wish it was only as hard as I had then imagined it would be.

Incidentally, my own mother did not leave me alone that day. She may have left me physically, but emotionally, mentally, and in all other ways, she has been beside me every step of the way, encouraging me and cheering me on. If I have had any success at all, it has been because my mother held me up, and showed me the way.

Maybe, someday, my own children will say the same of me. 

Friday, May 5, 2017


My dad received a scary medical diagnosis this week. My wonderful, loving father, who is 82.

When my mom called to tell me, I could hardly comprehend her words. My dad has been my hero all my life, and I can’t imagine a world without him in it. I’ve been the luckiest of daughters to have him for a father.

The phone call took place in the evening, the night before I was to work an early shift at the hospital. I have to rise at 4:00 AM to be at the hospital by 5, which for a former night owl is painful. I went to bed soon after the call, and as I attempted to settle myself for the night, thoughts of my dad’s demise kept creeping in and disturbing my peace. I finally drifted off into dreamland, but slept fitfully, waking at 2:45 AM, planning his funeral.

I work on a unit which cares for post-surgical patients, many of whom share my father’s diagnosis. As luck would have it (or as I like to call it, serendipity), one of our newest, and brightest, surgeons walked onto the unit just as I was telling a coworker of my fears for my dad’s imminent departure from mortality.

I asked the surgeon for a moment of his time, and told him of my father’s diagnosis. His words brought immediate relief, and hope.

He explained to me the various ways the diagnosis could be interpreted, depending on the particulars of the biopsy results, and the treatment options available. He described the medical interventions that could be considered should further testing prove the situation to be more dire than we know at present, and provided me with information that calmed my fears, and eased my mind.

After our conversation, I called my mother to tell her what I had learned. She shared my relief to hear that this diagnosis was not a death sentence for my father.

At the conclusion of our previous conversation, when she had first shared the bad news, she told me that the family would be fasting together this Sunday. She said that she knew I no longer participated in religious practices like fasting, but she didn’t want me to feel left out. She seemed tentative and unsure, as if she feared that I would mock a revered religious rite.

I told her that while she was correct that I no longer believed in fasting as a manipulative attempt to force God’s hand and influence the outcome, I do believe in fasting as a unifying practice that connects families and friends in solidarity and love. I just don’t think going without food for a prescribed number of hours will get God’s attention and ensure that my dad’s life will be spared. (I didn’t use these exact words, as I am sensitive to my mother’s sacred beliefs and do not intend to mock them.)

To be fair, my mother doesn’t believe her fasting and prayers will guarantee a desired outcome, but she will admit, if I were to press the issue, that she is hoping to impress upon God her devotion and obedience in exchange for a blessing of health, thereby obtaining for her husband a miraculous cure.

My issue with fasting, with the intent of procuring a blessing of health and/or happiness, is that I can’t believe in a Supreme Being who would reward only those who denied themselves food and drink and prostrated themselves in humble supplication. After all, the scriptures tell us that rain falls upon the just and the unjust. As do good health and long lives.

And we all know good souls who were pure in heart who did not survive a scary medical diagnosis. My mother-in-law is a case in point. No one better ever walked the earth. Her life was taken by cancer, in spite of fervent fasting and urgent pleas begging to spare her life. And in the end, no one blamed God for not answering those particular prayers. Rather, he was thanked and given credit for having provided life lessons.

Isn’t that the way it goes? Prayers are answered in the affirmative and our loved ones live, and we thank God. Prayers are not answered the way we would like them to be, and our loved ones die, and we thank God. God never loses.

You know what I do believe in? Science. And medicine. Doctors who spend years learning about the human body and its processes, and then spend years using that learning to save and improve lives.

I know my parents also believe in science and medicine, or they would have spurned modern medicine and gone straight to prayer and fasting. There are those amongst the religious who do so, generally at their peril.

But you know what really irks me? In the end, no matter which direction this diagnosis goes, God will be the one who gets all the credit. God will be thanked for sparing my father’s life, if he does survive this. God will be praised for stepping up and granting my family’s petition that my dad be healed. And if he isn’t healed, and this is the end for him? God will also be praised. Like I said, God never loses.

Know who should get the credit? The doctors who diagnose him, and operate on him, and provide radiation treatment, and prescribe life-saving medication. The nurses who provide gentle and compassionate care as he recuperates. The ancillary services who are there to draw labs and clean rooms and take x-rays. All of those people who work so diligently to share with my dad their skills and knowledge so that he might go on to live many more years with the family who loves him.

The family who will credit God with my father’s survival, should he outlive this scary diagnosis.

I know my mother will find comfort through prayer and fasting with her family. I found comfort in the words of a knowledgeable and skilled surgeon. I guess I am putting my faith in the arms of flesh, since those arms have held many lives in their hands, and come out victorious. I’m hoping for a similar outcome for my dad.

As much as I believe in love, and family, and connection, I also believe in the power of science, and the dedication of those willing to sacrifice years in the pursuit of life-saving knowledge and skills.

And if the outcome isn’t what I hope for? I will thank the medical community for their efforts, and I will be grateful for the years I did have with my beloved dad.

And I will thank my beloved dad for being my dad.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Some people never learn....

Know what's the most Mormon thing you can do?

Allow someone else to control the narrative.

Let someone else tell you who you can be friends with, and who you can talk to.

Refuse to follow the evidence and see where the truth lies.

Cling so tight to your confirmation bias that you vilify the wrong person.

Turn your back on people you once loved because they weren't afraid to call the emperor naked.

That's the most Mormon thing you can do.

Friday, April 21, 2017


“.... whoa whoa whoa feelings….”

Feelings matter.

I read a facebook comment today testifying of the Book of Mormon, stating, “I feel the spirit touch my soul when I read it. It tells me that what I’m reading really happened.”

Feelings matter.

But they don’t verify truth.

As a former Mormon, I have spent a lot of time contemplating feelings. ‘The Spirit’ is much mocked amongst my peers on the fringes of Mormonism. We don’t like to admit that we are guided by feelings, or ‘The Spirit’, but rather by fact, and reason, and logic. Those things matter too, maybe as much or more so than feelings.

But, feelings matter.

For years, I had a gut feeling that the church was not true. I ignored it, preferring to put my faith in the feelings of my beloved parents that the church was true. With a capital T. I couldn’t let myself go there. I couldn’t allow my brain to consider the implications inherent in acknowledging my own feelings. To do so meant giving room to the doubts that threatened to tear my world apart, and I had no idea what my new reality would look like. I couldn’t envision a life without the church.

Now? I feel peace, and wonder, and awe. Making space for my feelings opened me up to so many new possibilities. I regret that I didn’t listen to my feelings sooner. Decades of doubt buried deep makes for quite a mess.

I had a feeling that I should marry Boston Bob. Boston Bob did not share my feeling. Had I persisted and pursued Boston Bob based on my feeling, Boston Bob might have had a feeling that I should be arrested and charged with stalking. He wouldn’t have been wrong to pursue that feeling.

When my now beloved spouse asked me to marry him, I had a feeling that I should say yes. It was perhaps the strongest feeling I’ve ever had that I should do any one thing, and, in this particular case, my feeling led to 28 years of wedded bliss. For me. I cannot speak for my beloved. Though I suspect he shares my feelings, based on his actions.

Upon the birth of my third child, I had a feeling that I should have a fourth. I resisted this feeling, as I had no desire to repeat pregnancy at my advanced age. But the feeling was persistent, and, eventually, we had that fourth child. She is a delightful addition to our family, and I’m so grateful that I gave heed to that feeling.

However, I have many friends who have had similar feelings that another child awaited their family, and those feelings did not lead to another child. As they have shared their stories with me, I feel their grief that what they most hoped for and dreamed of did not come to pass, in spite of their feelings that it would.

Feelings matter. But they don’t verify truth.

I know many people, good and honest people, who testify that they know the church is true. Their feelings are so strong they resemble knowledge. I also know many people who have testified that the church was true, only to realize later that it wasn’t.

Feelings do not verify truth.

Feelings can point us in the right direction and help us find truth. And, sometimes, in the absence of truth, feelings can lead us to that which is good. Or so I’ve heard. I know many people who have doubts about the truthfulness of the church, but stay because they believe it is good. I don’t subscribe to this philosophy myself. I don’t believe good can exist in the absence of truth. My feelings tell me so.

Growing up, whenever I was presented with a choice in life, my father would ask, “What does your gut tell you?” Often, if I would stop and listen to my gut, my feelings, I would find the answer I was looking for. But not always. Remember Boston Bob? My gut told me he was ‘the one’. He told me he wasn’t. My feelings couldn’t change that fact. However, the experience did teach me to scrutinize my feelings a little closer. Had I done so then, perhaps I would have realized that BB and I were not a good fit, and my feeling was nothing more than desire masquerading as ‘the spirit’ testifying that I had found ‘the one’. I was attracted to BB, I liked spending time with BB, and I thought he would make a good celestial spouse. When I told God all of this, in fervent prayer, he confirmed my feeling with a testimony that BB was ‘the one’. Looking back, knowing what I know now, BB and I would have been a disaster. My beloved, ‘the one’, was, and is, the right fit for me. My feelings, combined with our shared history of wedded bliss, provide all the confirmation I need.

Feelings matter. I pay attention to my feelings, and I examine them closely for nuggets of truth. I trust my feelings, because they have often led me to good things. Like my beloved spouse, and my delightful child.

But, they do not verify truth.

Boston Bob did not want to marry me, and the church is not true.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


It’s Easter this week. Religious holidays have presented a bit of a conundrum for me since my faith collapsed.

Actually, Easter has always puzzled me. What do a giant Easter bunny and Peeps have to do with the resurrection of a savior of mankind?

As it turns out, very little.

Easter, like most Christian holidays, has its origins in paganism. It marked the end of the cold winter season and the beginning of new life, as evidenced by leafy buds on trees and tulips poking their heads up out of the ground. How the bunny got involved depends on what source you consult. Suffice it to say, the Christian celebration of Easter is an amalgamation of legends and stories culminating in hunting for colored eggs and eating lots of jelly beans. Or something to that effect. Oh, and then also going to church and thinking about Jesus. In new clothes.(I'm wearing the new clothes. Not Jesus. Though, come to think of it, his attire probably was new. Or refurbished. Okay, now I'm wandering into blasphemous territory. Sorry.)

In my household growing up, my parents separated the secular from the religious by giving us Easter baskets on Saturday morning, leaving Sunday free for worship. My mother never told us that our baskets full of candy and trinkets came from a giant bunny; she didn’t want us to be confused when it came to Jesus and his sacrifice. As it turns out, her lack of context left me befuddled anyway. I never could figure out how it was all related. I just knew that we colored boiled eggs on Friday, got a basket of goodies on Saturday and had an Easter Egg hunt in the backyard, then went to church on Sunday morning wearing a new dress. I was expected to sit still in that new dress, hyped up on fake chocolate Easter eggs, and think about how Jesus died on a cross. For me. So I could go live with Heavenly Father again.

As you can clearly see, religious worship never really took with me.

Mormons sort of bastardized the entire Easter celebration and the Lenten season. Lent, from my limited understanding, is a time of personal sacrifice. As a Mormon, I was not taught in the ways of Lent, and I never knew anyone who practiced it religiously, pun intended, but I knew many people who trivialized the concept by giving up such things as Diet Coke or sugar.

I decided this year that I wanted to understand Lent from a religious perspective, so I accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a Lenten service at a nearby church.

I felt like a voyeur.

As I listened to the pastors recite scriptures, and the congregation respond out loud by repeating particular phrases, I searched my heart for any feeling that could be interpreted as the spirit. And I felt none. Nothing. I was void of anything remotely resembling a spiritual experience.

There was nothing familiar about the setting or the proceedings. Even the hymns were different from those I’d heard as a Mormon. The people were dressed casually, and the room looked like any other community gathering spot. It was completely unlike any church service I had experienced growing up.

I wasn’t exposed to different religious traditions by my parents. They believed Mormonism was True, with a capital T, and saw no need to branch out. I do not blame them for this. They had all they needed, and they believed they were leading their family back to God via the LDS church; what would have been the point of attending other religions?

So, as I sat through the unfamiliar service, I was mystified. I looked around me at the congregation gathered to worship their savior. I wondered at the devotion that had led them to seek salvation at the hands of a jealous god, and I searched their faces carefully for some clue to their dedication.

I listened to their hymns, and wondered why my heart remained still. Am I missing the devotion gene? How did reverence for sacred things so completely pass me by? Why is my heart not fertile ground for the seed of faith?

What is the difference between me, an agnostic borderline atheist who cannot decide if a supreme being exists and cares about humanity, and an adherent of Christianity? What is it that leads worshipers to seek a savior, and to mark their faces with ashes as a sign of their devotion and penitence? Or to don sacred, holy underwear? To tithe their ten percent? To sacrifice half their weekend in pursuit of connection with divinity?

Honestly, I have no answers. All I know is that the service left me cold and wanting. I felt nothing more than admiration for those who are willing and able to set aside worldly things with softened hearts and allow the spirit of god to take root. I often wish I could be one of them.

But the feeling passes quickly as I contemplate the Mexican food my friend promised me in exchange for my presence beside her as she worshiped.

I guess that makes me an adherent of gastrolatry. I worship food. I can work with this. Granted, it costs more than ten percent of my income, but the rewards are immediate, and filling. Pass the salsa. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Self

A Pole, a Jew, and Mormon walked into a bar. It’s not a joke. It was girl’s night out.

I spent last evening with 2 very dear friends, whom I met as Shakespeare moms when our kids participated in Logan Youth Shakespeare. We have bonded over parenting woes, marital issues, self-esteem challenges, and the changes that come with a journey through mortality.

Last night, as we visited and commiserated, one theme emerged from the detritus of our conversation.

In order to be the best mom, the best wife, the best person, we need to be our best self.

And how do we accomplish that?

We spent over three hours hashing out the concept of loving oneself, throwing around ideas like setting intentions, expressing gratitude, and listing, daily, three things to like about oneself. That last one is every bit as hard as it seems.

Why? Why is it so hard to see the good in ourselves? Why do we struggle to like who we see in the mirror? Where did this internal, infernal, negative self-dialogue originate?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but a likely culprit is the societal expectation that to avoid conceit, we must practice humility. I just think we’ve Inigo Montoya’d humility….. it doesn’t mean what we think it means.

The hard truth is that if I had a friend who talked to me the way I sometimes talk to myself, I would detach from that friend. Sayanara, frenemy.

And if I treated my children the way I occasionally treat myself, the authorities would be notified. With good reason.

And here’s another hard truth: every relationship we have, every single one, will eventually end. Every person who loves us will eventually leave us. Sometimes it is through choice, as friendships naturally fade and affection dies. Or geography intervenes. Or offense occurs and separation becomes necessary.

Sometimes it is through death, as these mortal bodies do tend to wear out and quit on us. Through no fault of our own, in the end, it all ends. We all die, every last one of us. Which is the ultimate separation. No matter what you believe about life after death, the death of a loved one will mean at least a temporary separation, and it hurts. But it is inevitable. We all die.

There is, however, one relationship that endures to the end. One exception to the rule that all relationships must end. One person who will be with us ‘til the bitter end. One person who will stay beside us through thick and thin, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

I am, of course, speaking of the self.

I grew up with the notion that to be self-centered was wicked and sinful. I was taught, by my religious community, that to truly become divine, I must deny the self, and focus my efforts on others.

I do see beauty in this concept of self-denial and unselfish service, but I also believe that the concept of being self-centered has been given a bad rap. An undeserved one.

How can we be anything but self-centered? Who are we if not our ‘self’? If we have no center, we have no soul, and no well from which to draw when serving others.

To be self-centered is to be grounded. It allows us to serve from a place of love, stability, security. If our goal is to serve and love others, wouldn’t it be prudent to begin with ourselves? To be ‘self’ centered?

Years ago, when I first started to practice yoga, I took my mat into my quiet front room where I could be undisturbed. As I finished and settled into prayer pose, I looked up at the wall in front of me and took in the picture of Jesus hanging there, and the plaque next to it. “Be still and know that I AM”. The words struck me as never before.

Be still, and know that I am.

I am.

I exist, I am real, I am here.

I am, and that is all that I know. All that I have in this life that is a sure thing, all that I can know, is that I AM.
All my preconceived notions about the meaning of life faded away, and I knew, in that moment, that what really mattered, what really matters, is that I AM.

Religion tells us that the purpose of life is to focus on others. Pop culture tells us that to be fulfilled we should focus on ourselves.

I think we need to land somewhere in the middle, and begin by nurturing the most important relationship any of us will ever have. Maybe by strengthening our ‘self’, we will be able to offer love, comfort, and safety to others, and live a fulfilling life, with purpose and intention.

How to best strengthen that ‘self’? That’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, go look in the mirror and tell your self that she’s (or he’s) amazing!

(I know, it feels weird, hippy-dippy and new-agey, strange on every level! Do it anyway! Your self will thank you!)

Monday, March 20, 2017


We celebrated our 28th anniversary this week.

We got married on St. Patrick’s Day, 1989. The holiday itself wasn’t on our radar at the time. As Mormons, St. Patrick doesn’t have much of a place in our traditions. We don’t worship saints, and we don’t drink beer, green or otherwise.

However, the day did prove to be fortuitous. We got lucky. (Not like that!) (Okay, yes, like that…. but this is not that kind of a blog...)

We each have come to the conclusion that we are lucky to have the other. There can be no better conclusion for spouses, in my opinion.

A couple of days before our anniversary, our son asked if we planned to celebrate. It was a fair question, considering the epic battle he had witnessed the day before. We’ve had our share of arguments, like any married couple, but that one felt bigger, and the atmosphere in our home reflected it.

We responded to our son that of course we were going to celebrate! 28 years of marriage deserves to be recognized, and celebrated. Even if the celebrants are locked in battle over the current state of affairs. Marriage, we told our son, is like that. Ups and downs have figured prominently in our journey. Fortunately, for us, more ups than downs.

As related in a previous post, there happened to be a pretty big elephant in our room. Church, and the attendance thereof.

Daron had admitted to me that he didn’t like attending alone. And since I dislike attending at all, we had reached an impasse. There seemed to be no way forward that would satisfy the both of us.

As we embarked on our anniversary celebration, with our previous conversation still hanging heavy in the air, the atmosphere was slightly tense. But, my husband, being a man (and yes, this seems to be a male trait), was able to set it aside in the interest of an evening away from the stresses of home and family. Basically, he was looking forward to gettin’ some.

We had chosen to spend the night at a local inn. Just being away for a night is cause for celebration. We really do enjoy one another’s company, more so when away from our own cluttered environment and needy children.

As the evening progressed, our conversation turned to the event 28 years ago that had changed both our lives. For good, I might add.

He asked what I remembered most about the day. My clearest recollection is feeling cherished by him as we proceeded through the ceremony in the temple. He was attentive and chivalrous, making me feel adored.

I asked what he remembered most. He responded, “Driving to dinner after the ceremony and watching you take off your girdle in the front seat of the car. No woman had ever removed a piece of clothing in my car before.”

Okay, then.

He then asked if I had any regrets. I gave his question the thoughtful consideration it deserved, and answered, honestly, “No, no regrets. None.”

(Except for that girdle. I regret that. Haven’t worn one since.)

What about him, I asked? Regrets?

No, he replied. Not one.

Really? I responded. None? You don’t regret marrying someone who started out Mormon, and ended up a happy agnostic atheist?

No, he said. I love the woman you have become as much as I loved the woman I married. More, even.

Wow. In that moment, it became even more clear to me how lucky I am to be married to him.

He does not tolerate the changes in me; he celebrates them. He celebrates me. He loves me, all the parts of me.

How can I, then, not rejoice in all the parts of him? He is religious, to the core. He has a strong testimony that the Mormon church is The Church of Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He is not timid in his expression of his faith, and he does not hesitate to share what he believes he knows to be true when the opportunity presents itself.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change that about him either. It is part of what makes him who he is. His testimony centers him, and helps form the core of strength that defines him. Without his belief in the gospel, and Jesus, who would he be? Of course, there is no way to know, but I will happily accept his faith as an integral and essential part of his being, because I love that being with all my heart and soul.

My leaving the church didn’t destroy our marriage. I believe, in retrospect, it strengthened it. We each had to figure out who we were in relationship to the divine, without leaning on the other. Because in the end, a testimony is deeply personal, and the acquiring of one is accomplished through solitary introspection. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, reliant upon the testimony of one’s mate.

Daron doesn’t like going to church alone, but he does it. When I stopped going, he was forced to figure out what mattered to him, and he had to come to the conclusion, on his own, that he would prefer to go alone than not go at all.

So is it sad that we don’t share a faith in God? A little, maybe.

But I find joy in our journey through and beyond my faith transition, because we have each arrived at a place of peace with regards to God’s existence.

Daron continues going to church, alone, because he believes in it.

I continue not going to church, at all, because I don’t believe in it.

And we continue to love and support one another on our chosen paths.

As he prepared to leave the house for church this afternoon, I looked at him in his suit and tie, and I felt lucky.

I am lucky to be married to a man who loves God, and me. There is room for us both. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I can’t control my brain, my thoughts. They keep returning to ruminate over stupid conversations that happened, and those that didn’t. What I should have done, what I should have left undone.

Since I can’t control my thoughts, I have turned to my surroundings, thinking that maybe by bringing order to my environment, I can bring order to my mind.

Also, I am married to a hoarder-wanna-be. Just one of several glaring differences in our chosen lifestyles.

I have been attempting to unclutter our house, starting with the closets down the hall. I have managed to wrestle a bit of order out of the chaos, but it is introducing more chaos into my marriage.

Yesterday, as I started on the kitchen cupboards, my husband walked into the room and stared in horror at the box of castoffs I had collected. His reaction was anticipated, which is why I’ve been performing my cleaning covertly, while he is out of the house. Unfortunately for me, his schedule is rather unpredictable, and he is apt to return at inopportune moments and catch me in the act. As he did yesterday.

I will admit my approach wasn’t perhaps the best. No one reacts well to being called on their bad habits. And keeping anything and everything, in the event that it might be needed some day, is a bad habit. In my eyes, anyway. Not so much in his. But the way I’ve pointed it out cannot be interpreted by him as anything but adversarial.

So yesterday. He stormed across the room and took a look at what I had removed from a cupboard. A cupboard, I might add, that is inconveniently located, and doesn’t store anything of importance. In my humble opinion. He, however, must have felt that his very way of life was under attack, because he grabbed a couple of items I had set aside for donation, clutched them to his breast, and proclaimed them worthy to remain in our possession.

I reacted… overreacted… by bursting into tears and calling him a hoarder.

Bad move.

Our conversation quickly devolved into a heated argument about clutter versus order. Neither of us took the high road, unfortunately. All of this in front of the two kids who currently reside with us.

I’m not proud.

But still kinda mad.

I retreated to our bedroom, asking him to follow, hoping to continue our conversation away from tender ears prone to catastrophizing any and every argument into a sure sign of impending divorce.

Hubby headed out to the garage. I assumed he had no interest in conversing with a hysterical, screaming banshee wife, so I locked the bedroom door, as a show of maturity, climbed onto the bed, and bawled my eyes out.

When he came to the bedroom door, as I figured he would, and found it locked, he picked up the bobby pin kept on the table in the hall (intended for just such a purpose, though usually used to unlock the teenager’s door when she thinks she can keep us out), unlocked the door, and let himself in.

True to his nature, he was calm and controlled. Gah. Doesn’t actually help calm me down. Maybe that’s why he does it. He knows it serves to further rile me up and encourage histrionics. I’m pretty predictable that way.

I found myself attempting to explain to him what clutter does to my mind and spirit. How it further deepens the depression that has taken root this year and resists all attempts to remove it. How much I crave an orderly environment, and how much I enjoy removing what seems to be useless crap.

I guess my raging tears didn’t do much to further communication. He didn’t seem to be moved. Though he did remain calm.

He said he was offended at my assumption that if I left, or died, our house would be profiled on an episode of Hoarders inside of a week. He said it reminded him of another assumption I had made, earlier in our married life, that hadn’t proved true.

Many years ago, while raising our young children, we had been a pretty typical Mormon family. I was the one mostly invested in our eternal salvation, or so it seemed, and I felt like I was single-handedly dragging my family to the celestial kingdom. Whenever I was sick, or had to work, my husband did not fight the good fight and take our children to church, prompting me to assert that if I were to die, I was sure my children would never again darken the doorway of a chapel.

He has thrown this particular assumption in my face from time to time in the ensuing years, because as fate would have it, I have been the one who has refused to darken the doorway of a chapel. For reasons too many to enumerate here, I am done with church, and my children have followed suit. My husband, the man I claimed would not make the effort to ensure their continued involvement in the activity most likely to lead them to salvation, is the only one who continues to attend faithfully.

He is a true-blue believer, one who has been “gifted to know”.

I am a die-hard unbeliever, one who has been gifted with skepticism. And I can no longer support an institution that purports to be the “one true church” while ignoring the skeletons in its closet, and continues to treat those who don’t fit the box as pariahs, unfit for the kingdom of god. (My story, my perspective, get over it.)

I asked him, yesterday, in the heat of battle, why he hadn’t bothered to take our kids to church when they were young if I couldn’t go, and he responded, “Because I hate going to church alone.”

And there it was.

The words hung heavy in the air, giving meaning to the phrase “pregnant pause”.

The elephant in the room had been identified.

He hates going to church alone. And I hate going to church. Period. Full stop.

We are at an impasse.

After all these years of battling our religious divide, it comes down to this.

If I go to church with him so he doesn’t have to go alone, I am unhappy.

If I don’t go to church with him and he goes alone, he is unhappy.

There are no winners here. No solution or compromise that suits us both.

I have no idea how to fix this. It won’t be as easy as lugging a carload of junk to the dump and then explaining why he can’t find his “good can with a lid that fits”.

I wonder if I can donate Jesus to “Somebody’s Attic”?

Nah. My husband would just go buy him back.

Sigh. It is what it bloody is.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Doubt, the true path to enlightenment

"Doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith." These words, uttered by a man believed to be an apostle of God, have become an oft repeated mantra by those who stand in judgement of unbelievers. These words come with an arrogant assumption that the doubter has given in to the temptation to let go of faith as easily as one lets go of a belief in Santa Claus.  In reality, it felt more like letting go of my mom's hand the first time I crossed the street alone. The fear and trepidation I felt at stepping away from the security of my mother's side mirrors the fear I felt when I stepped away from the security of the faith traditions I had been raised in.

I doubted my doubts long before it was cool. For forty nine long years, I doubted my doubts. And I doubted myself. But I would not allow myself to doubt my faith, because to doubt my faith meant doubting all those around me who were faithful, and faith-filled. People I loved and idolized. My parents. My church teachers and leaders. The prophets and apostles I'd been taught to revere as one revered God, and to accept their word as God's word. And when they told me that the church was True, the living embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the only way to return to the loving creator of my soul, I believed them. I did not doubt them. I believed that they knew something I did not, and I put my faith in their faith.

I can remember, as a child, looking around me at my fellow worshippers in wonderment as they took the sacrament. I was puzzled at the solemnity of the prayers and the ritual, but I partook alongside my loved ones, even though my understanding was limited. And as I grew and matured, I expected my understanding to grow as well, only it never really did. I could not grasp the concept of partaking of the flesh and blood of a savior in the belief that it would somehow bring me closer to him, and make me more like him, and atone for sins I wasn't even aware I had committed. I gave it my best effort, I really did. I attended sacrament meeting faithfully, taking the sacrament, listening intently to the prayers, pondering the meaning of the words and the emblems. Struggling to control my monkey brain and keep it focused on Jesus and his teachings and example. In retrospect, I was learning to do little more than meditate, which I now find to be a highly valuable practice. True worship eluded me, though not for lack of trying. But I did not doubt that my parents worshiped the Savior. So I tucked my own doubts away, and put my faith in their faith.

I remember, as a teenager, beginning to contemplate the meaning of forever. I pondered deeply the promise of celestial glory, and I came to the conclusion that I was not then, nor would most likely ever be, a good candidate for the highest kingdom in the eternities. I doubted my innate faithfulness and goodness, and I doubted that I had what it took to rise above my earthly frailties and assume a heavenly mantle. I was convinced that I would be relegated to a lesser kingdom, but I made my peace with it. I figured that I would still be able to see those loved ones who did make it to the celestial kingdom and were interested in visiting me, and this provided enough comfort for me to shelve my doubt about my own eternal salvation. My mom and dad had faith that we would all be together as a family in the eternities, so I put my faith in their faith.

I remember, as a young adult, moving out into the world, struggling to understand how Mormonism fit into the big picture. I was meeting people who had never encountered Mormons, some of whom were not involved with any religious tradition, and I was coming to understand that Mormonism did not encompass all that was good and right in the world. I was seeing that there were many ways to be moral and ethical, that compassion was in abundance among non-believers, that goodness far exceeded the Mormon paradigm. How could we be a chosen people, sent here to good Mormon families because of our righteousness in the pre-earth life, meant to take the gospel to all the world, somehow superior to those born without its light, when all around me I saw people who were good on a level that I could barely comprehend? People who were good for goodness' sake. People who cared deeply about their loved ones, and their communities. People who were religious, and people who were not. There didn't seem to be a single factor that defined humanity in a way that made sense through my Mormon lens. But my parents believed that Mormonism defined our existence, so I put my faith in their faith, and shelved my doubts. Again.

I remember in my mid twenties, as I confronted difficult church history, beginning to doubt the divine origin of the church I'd been raised to believe was restored by God through the prophet Joseph Smith. I was uncomfortable with the premise of polygamy as a mandate from a loving heavenly father, and I struggled to understand how a prophet of God could be misled into taking brides for himself who belonged to another. How he could lie to the wife he claimed to love, and the public he claimed to lead. I found it difficult to reconcile what I had learned about the man revered by many as prophet, seer, and revelator, and I began to doubt that the church was indeed of God, as I'd been taught by my faithful parents. I studied and prayed, and even visited Nauvoo in search of answers, but ultimately, I had to put my doubts to rest, as the conclusion that the church might not be true was too heavy to bear. Once again, I put my faith in my parent's faith. And it was enough. For a time.

I remember as a young mother, with two young daughters, coming face to face with debilitating doubt masquerading as depression. I had recently quit working as a nurse so that I could fulfill my divine destiny as a mother in Zion, and I found myself facing a future that was supposed to bring me joy, but instead brought despair. I was doing as I had been taught, dedicating myself full time to the family I had helped bring into the world, and I was puzzled at the feelings that flooded my soul. I could not comprehend an eternity of motherhood, particularly silent motherhood. I could not see happiness or fulfillment in the idea that I would, along with my eternal spouse, procreate an immeasurable number of spirits who would inhabit the world we would create for them, only to be relegated to the sidelines as too sacred to interact with my offspring. I faced, for the first time, a bleak future that offered no joy, no satisfaction. Only loneliness on a scale I had never experienced. I remember that summer as one with no light or color. Only shadows, bringing with them despondency. I struggled to remain faithful and to remember that I was a beloved daughter of a loving heavenly father, but I could not feel his love. I only felt shame for doubting that love, and for doubting my eternal destiny, and for desiring something more than to be my children's mother. I sought counseling, and eventually anti-depressant medication and, after many long months, I once again began to experience joy and happiness. And those doubts were shelved along with all the rest, because to allow myself to confront an eternity devoid of joy was to doubt the promises of eternal happiness the church, and my believing loved ones, offered me. I put my faith in my loved ones' faith, as I had so many times before, and I continued to persevere as an active Mormon.

Fast forward a few years. Another child had been added to the family, and I was busily raising my children in the church, attending faithfully, magnifying my callings, going to the temple, reading the scriptures, encouraging family home evening and daily prayers together. In short, I was doing all I could to live the gospel as I understood it. And yet, doubt continued to raise its ugly head on regular occasions.

One Sunday, I happened to stumble across a scripture that suggested that we are each, as children of heavenly parents, recipients of spiritual gifts. "To some is given one, to some is given another.... and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God." D&C 46:11-12.  I knew I did not have the 'gift to know', as my husband did. He never questioned, he never doubted. He just knew. I had been jealous of his gift, and wished I had it for myself, as I was tired of the endless questioning and doubting. I had spent my life questioning, wondering, doubting, and I wanted to 'know'. I wanted his gift. Then I read on: "To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." v.14. And I decided that I could have that gift. I could believe the words of my husband who 'knew'. I made up my mind right then and there that I would doubt no more, but would believe, with every fiber of my being, that Daron 'knew', and that would be enough for this life. 'Knowing' would come in time, I was sure. Maybe not until the next life, but I was content to believe that he 'knew'. And I was determined to put all my doubts behind me, to plague me no more. I would believe.

And for ten years, I did. I pushed any and all doubts to the deepest, darkest corners of my mind, and I believed. And I acted on those beliefs by being the most faithful Mormon I could imagine. I was 'all in', in every way. I could list the various ways I acted on my faith, but suffice it to say, I did all that I could, and all that I believed I should, in my pursuit of a testimony of the truthfulness of the church. I had based my testimony on the testimonies of my loved ones. I had believed their words and put my faith in their faith, and now was the time to gain my own testimony, to stand on my own strength, and to 'know' for myself. My intent felt pure, and my desire felt strong. And I began to think that maybe I had defeated doubt for good, and was coming to 'know'.

And then, like a bad penny, doubt reappeared. I can't remember the exact catalyst, but I do remember my growing concern that what I had held to for so long, what I had pleaded with God to preserve, my faith in him and his church, was slipping away. I remember the feeling of bewilderment that I should find myself in such a place yet again. I remember feeling abandoned by the spirit. I remember begging God to keep me close, to seal me to him, to not let me wander. And I remember the fear I felt as I drifted further and further away from certainty.

And I remember the day I allowed myself to turn the Mormon truth paradigm on its head, and ask myself the question that I had avoided for so many years: Is the church true?

I had believed for so long that it was, and that any doubts I had entertained were evidence of my inadequacies. The church was true; I was not okay. And when I had prayed to know if the church was true, I did not actually pray with any real intent. I did not really want to know if the church wasn't true, because the implications of that were too dire to contemplate.

If the church wasn't true, all of these people I loved and trusted were wrong, and the paradigm upon which I had based my entire life was faulty.

If the church wasn't true, how was I to explain the mysteries of the universe? If the church wasn't true, how could I answer the 'big' questions (why were we here, where did we come from, where were we going....)?

If the church wasn't true, what was?

But, conversely, if the church wasn't true, I was okay. If the church wasn't true, I no longer had to wrestle with my doubts. If the church wasn't true, I no longer had to squeeze myself into a box that didn't fit.

And in that moment, I felt a surge of peace flow through me like an ocean breeze. All of my doubts, all of my anxieties, all of my insecurities faded away, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the church was not true. And I was okay.

When did doubt become such a dirty word anyway? I was accused once of "choosing doubt as a philosophy of life, which is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation". What's wrong with using doubt as a vehicle to get us where we belong?

My doubts lurked and lingered for many years, on occasion frantically trying to get my attention, at other times content to lie dormant. But never for long. They'd rear their heads at pretty regular intervals throughout my life, signaling the need to check my progress, prompting me to assess my direction. And then retreating once again, to lie in wait. Until they could wait no more. Until the day I had to acknowledge that my doubts, my feelings, were trying to tell me something of great import.

The person I had always been told to be, the Mormon, was not the person I was meant to be. I am no longer a Mormon, and I am not religious. And I am blissfully, giddily, content to be what I am.

Without my doubts lighting the way, I would still be attempting to stuff myself into that box, and I would still be wrestling with inadequacy and insecurity.

I doubted my doubts. I doubted my doubts until they could be denied no longer, and then I doubted my faith. And what I discovered is that the faith of my fathers, and mothers, was not my faith, and that it was okay to let it go. Just like my belief in Santa Claus.