Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Thing

First of all, if you would still like to ask me questions, please feel free to. The original post is here:

Thanks FFG for your question. You asked if I could pinpoint one of the things that caused me to question mormonism.

Looking back on it, I think it was a culmination of things. A combination of many things - I could talk about everything in several long, drawn out posts (which I'm not going to go into). I do know, from the many exit stories that I've read from former mormons, I was/am not unique. (At one point, this was a little shocking for me, because I assumed that no one left the mormon church. Naive, I know).

I will say, I was at one point, very mormon. My parents both graduated from BYU, married in the temple. On one side of the family, there have been mormons since the 1830s (and yes, some of those ancestors were also polygamists). So I have a long history with the mormon church.

The one thing I will point to is my own happiness. There was a point in high school where I was spending over 15 - 20 hours per week doing mormon related stuff. 3 hours for church on Sunday, early morning seminary before high school each weekday, 2 to 3 hour sports practice and church activity one night a week. And games on Saturday. This is not including any of the random monthly stuff - bishop's youth discussion, dances, temple trips, etc.

And I was in high school. Going through all the insanity that high school brings. I was fainting in choir - because I was tired (and, I found out later, anemic). I would sleep through chemistry - again, to tired to concentrate. Because, of course, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to drive 15 minutes to a church building to have an hour of church/scripture/bible study was more important than my school work.

This may sound like I'm complaining, which is not my intention. I'm just trying to explain what I experienced and my perspective. Just because it was my experience, doesn't make it everyone else's.

I didn't have time for myself, if I even knew what that meant at that age. All I remembered was that Saturdays were crazy. We would drive a half hour to get to the basketball game - then rush home to get to a babysitting job. I was also the oldest child for a large family, which meant that things were even more hectic.

My family was also not terribly functional - which I won't go into great detail about. I will say, instead of getting treatment for mental illness - my parents were counseled to pray more and read their scriptures. There was also a great deal of stigma within the mormon community to go to therapy, whether real or imagined.

I had been told, in all these various church meetings, that I was unique "select" for being born and raised mormon. That I was promised happiness if I lived the mormon way, attended all my activities, studied all the mormon scriptures, etc. And, if I didn't live the mormon way, didn't study - if it didn't make sense, it was my fault.

Mormonism wasn't to blame. If I wasn't happy, it was on me. It's an impossible situation to put a person into.

So here I was investing all this time, trying to make it work. Trying to enjoy hanging out with people who didn't like me, didn't like my parents. Everything was this enormous competition, who could be more righteous while still pushing the envelope. Who could have the nicest clothes, say the best things. And no matter what I did, I would never measure up, because it was just not possible. The cards were clearly stacked against me.

I'm an observer. And I started watching, closely, just what I had in store for me as an active LDS woman. There is/was one real option for mormon women - wife and motherhood. And I would watch how frazzled my own mom was - chasing after so many children. And other women too. They would profess to be very happy in the gospel,
happy being moms and staying home (having little to no control over anything) but all I knew was that this was not something I was interested in. Nagging my husband to get promoted so we would have more money. Starting a family young.

Contrast that to being one of a handful of LDS kids in a large suburban high school. I could see so many different ways of living - of being a successful, happy adult (that did not include being mormon). I could admit that there were lots of happy people who weren't mormon. And they didn't seem to be deluded or "dark" (spiritually unhappy). They were other focused. They wanted to be good people, good citizens. They just weren't mormon.

It was a rough time.

So - like I mentioned originally, I can go off on this for days and hours. There were a host of other doctrinal issues that I might talk about. Mormonism implies that there is one path to happiness, one way to be happy.

Everything is a stepping stone, baptism, mission, marriage in the temple, children, etc. So many people don't fall into those categories.

I have learned (over the years) to live and let live - if people want to follow mormonism and believe what they want to believe - I respect that. The mormon church gave me unreasonable expectations that I did not fit. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was expected to give and give without ever getting anything back for myself (aside from empty platitudes). In the end, relationships like that can't work. It's not about only doing things that make me happy, it's not about running when the going gets tough. It's about facing up to reality - about fishing or cutting bait. I decided to be responsible for my own happiness and determine that for myself.


laura said...

That's so interesting--I'm not sure I ever knew how involved you were in the church. I think a good bit about what it is that we're raised with, and I'm sort of stunned by people who were raised and trained in a way that they later left. I've never really had to do that, and I think it must take a lot of courage.

Aerin said...

Thanks Laura. I was very mormon. I tried to not talk about it a lot or focus on it. I still rarely talk about it at work, I'll say I was raised in a very religious family and leave it at that.

For a long time, as a teenager, I really had a double life of sorts. My mormon life and my life outside mormonism. I think many mormons end up this way outside of the Utah/Idaho/Alberta area.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Good answer. It is so true. The "church" certainly can suck the life out of you. Now, that I am back where I went to high school, I spend time with several of my mormon friends. I was raised in an extremely religious household, but I still can't believe just how much time my friends give to activities and such. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

flygirl said...

Your story sounds a lot like mine. I'm glad you seem to have found more happiness as well.