I have a story I need to tell. A story about My Big Fat Mormon Family. It’s a story so complex, so convoluted, so fucked up, that I don’t even know what the first sentence should be.
I come from a family, well rooted in the Mormon faith. ( I use the term faith very loosely here.) As I grew up, I learned not to ask too many questions, because if you did, and the answers didn’t make sense, were unknown, or were just ridiculous, I was told that what I needed was prayer. And more faith. (Basically, what I needed was a blind belief in a nonsensical fairy tale.)
I am not going to write about church “doctrine” or the details of why I do not hold with the beliefs of the LDS church any more. There are a myriad of blogs and websites to that end, if you are interested. I wasn’t given the chance to know anything different than the fairy tale. I grew up the good girl, and I did what was expected. It was all I knew. I was obedient. I was compliant. I was faithful.
Everything that was expected of me, I did. I went to BYU. I married young, to a man who was wrong for me, because I was afraid of being an old maid. I went to church, and I reproduced. I tried to be a good homemaker, a good wife to a violent and angry man, and a good mother to children I probably shouldn’t have had.
I was rarely happy. I was never me.
If my faithful mother were to read this, she would weep and wonder how she had lost me to the sinful and wicked world. Every so often, she hugs me and whispers in my ear that Heavenly Father misses me. I keep quiet, out of respect for her belief, and out of some misguided desire to avoid conflict.
In my mid-thirties, I went back to college, and I stopped being afraid. Money is power (especially if you do not have it), and once I had my own, I took my children and left my marriage. It took me some time to be brave enough to turn away from the church, not because of belief, but because of fear. The guilt I felt as a mother was deep-rooted, and toxic. Taking on the eternal salvation of myself was easy, but being responsible for my children losing the blessings of the Celestial Kingdom, was another.
After thirty-odd years, I held on so tightly to what I knew, simply because I didn’t know anything else. As I slowly loosened my grip on this idea that the world would end if I said the words out loud, “I don’t believe any of it,” I began to discover who I was. I could make my own decisions. I wasn’t restricted by anyone’s rules or expectations for my life, except my own.
I started to drink coffee. Now don’t laugh, but buying my first coffee maker at the age of 39 was a big fucking deal. It was a symbol to myself, and a sign to my children, that Things Were Different.
That same year, I read my first Mormon history book. One that was not written by a Mormon. I bought cute panties, and bras. I went to the store and to the movies on Sunday! I dated, and eventually, I had sex. With a man who wasn’t my husband. And then I had more sex. With another man who wasn’t my husband. It was scary, and it was new, and it was glorious.
In the middle of all of this self-discovery, I took a good look at the vision of the Big Fat Mormon Family that my mother had worked so hard to maintain. What I saw, were nine brothers and sisters, only three of whom still went to church. I saw my parents, divorced after years of adultery and dishonesty. I saw substance abuse among my siblings, and failed marriage, after failed marriage. The happiest of my siblings were those who had stood up and said, “I don’t believe any of it.”
So I stood up. And I was happy.