A Quiver-full of Misery

Quiver

My Facebook feed has been inundated of late with commentary about the Duggar family.1 Their fame has rubbed me the wrong way since the moment I first heard about them, and I have never watched an episode of their show. I never thought about why I have such an aversion to their lifestyle until it suddenly hit me in the middle of the night last night. The fact that anyone would glorify this type of lifestyle has angered me ever since I first heard of the show. Let me tell you the real facts about being from a very large family.

I was the oldest of 11 children, raised in the Mormon religion. My parents were promised, when they married in the LA temple in 1967 that if they did not limit the number of children born to them, that my mother would live to see them all raised. My parents interpreted this promise to mean that they should never prevent pregnancy. We heard this story over and over growing up, and we were taught that we should follow the same admonition.

Living conditions were mostly horrific during the years I lived at home. As early as I can remember, we lived in situations that ranged from less than ideal to nearly unbearable. The first home I can remember was a two bedroom mobile home with a cinder block room added on. The kitchen was torn out, and never got remodeled, so we cooked in an electric skillet and did dishes in the bathtub. We didn’t have beds, so all of us kids, 7 in all by the time we moved, slept on the floor with blankets. Rarely did we live in a “regular” home with running water and electricity, bedrooms with beds for everyone, and furniture. I envied people who did.

Other conditions included living in a motorhome on 20 acres of unimproved cactus in the Arizona desert. While we lived there, we had to haul water and use a generator for electricity. I was 11 years old by this time, we had 7 children, and the 8th child was born 9 weeks early via emergency C-section, prompting the relocation of our motorhome to my grandparents’ house. By the time I was 12, we had moved back onto the property, but this time into a 3 bedroom mobile home, still no running water or electricity. We showered at another family’s house once a week.

In 8th grade, my counselor at school, likely noticing my body odor, asked me if I had regular access to showers. I lied and said that I did. I was ashamed of the way that we lived. The other girls at school invited each other over, curled their hair, read teen magazines, began wearing makeup, talked about boys, movies, music, and things that I had no knowledge of. I spent my days riding the bus 90 minutes each way to school, taking care of my siblings, sitting for hours in laundromats washing the family’s laundry, cooking meals, cleaning, and heating water in a pot on the gas stove in order to wash dishes. Many, many times I simply wished to disappear, and I was constantly, overwhelmingly sad.

In addition to our living conditions, my parents were angry people. Angry with each other, and angry with us. We were beaten, overworked, and even starved. Food was withheld as punishment for not doing chores or other misbehavior. Being the oldest, and a little more prudent than my siblings, I learned to largely cooperate within the system, so I avoided much of the harsh punishment. My rebellious younger brothers were not so lucky. They were frequently given only “one small serving” of food for dinner, and then sent to bed. It was usually left to me to administer the food portions, as I performed a significant portion of the food preparation by my early teen years. I hated having to do this, but heaven forbid I disagree with my mother. I dished up the servings, she approved them, and they ate. This lead to a great deal of food stealing and hoarding behavior in my younger siblings.

I was often left to babysit and care for most of my siblings. By the time I was 12, I would be left to care for 7 children on my own, while my parents went to town to attend the temple, go shopping, or run other errands. Of course my brothers and sisters didn’t behave for me. It was rather like trying to get a group of 7 kittens to sit quietly in a row and stop destroying the house. They mostly ran like a pack of wild dogs, leaving me frustrated and incapable. Inevitably, I would be punished upon my parents’ return because the house was a mess, the dishes weren’t done, and everyone had run amok. It was a no win situation.

I could write books and books about the reality of growing up in a family with too many children. I love all of my siblings. I’m not close to many of them, but neither would I begrudge them the right to be alive, but that doesn’t change the fact that my parents had way more children than they could possibly care for. I have observed many large families over the years, and it is rare to see one that functions well. Most of the time, the older children end up being faux parents before they have even reached their teen years. The kids end up being part of a pack instead of being loved and nurtured as individuals. Life is served up on a bulk basis. The mother is usually a SAHM, overworked, exhausted, constantly worried about money, and stressed. There is never enough of anything. All of us kids suffer, sometimes to the point of extreme dysfunction as adults, as a result of the life we lived as children.

In the LDS church, there was a massive focus in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s on having large numbers of children. Many people were given these manipulative sorts of promises when they were married, or chastised by their bishops for putting off having children. Did anyone, ever, teach my parents to be prudent before having another child. Were they taught to consider whether they had adequate resources to provide clothing food, shelter, and beds for their children? Did anyone teach them how much time children require? No. My mother was afraid to die, so they just kept having babies, even if they couldn’t even give us a decent home with running water and electricity, or adequate supervision and love.

The Duggars and the whole “quiverfull” movement places a great deal of emphasis on having large numbers of children, without the focus on actually caring for each of those children with enough time, attention, love, and providing for their physical needs, not to mention the health and wellbeing of the mother giving birth to all of those children, as well as the mental and emotional needs of everyone in the family. It is fundamentally wrong to tell people that they are doing a disservice to God if they do not create as many children as is physically possible. To do so is to give no thought at all to the kind of life to which you are sentencing those children. The focus on having lots of kids in order to make more Mormons, more Christians, or more Muslims sets up a system of negligent parenting before you even get started. I know, I lived it.

  1. Please note, this is a guest post from a Disciple of Chill that asked to remain anonymous. It often helps to tell your story and write things down as a part of the healing process once you realize the religion you committed so much to was a sham. Want to know what’s also sad? This is the second time I have heard such a heart breaking story of this type. I also know of a similar case in my own extend family as well. If there are any of you out there that didn’t have the optimum Saturday’s warrior experience, I bless you by the Power of Cool that you too may bind up those wounds and allow them to fade into scars of the past keeping them only as a memory to guide your own posterity to a more successful future! I bless you will turn your quiver full of misery into one full of strength as she has to face the challenge of standing for truth despite the fear of being branded an apostate and a heathen. In the name of Frozen Ice. Amen.

Counting the Hits, Ignoring the Misses

Two things tonight hit my news feed at nearly the same time. The juxtaposition of them was clearly a sign of the Fridge. When these signs appear I know the tall cool one is whispering truths into my soul because I’m inspired to write.

The first that caught my attention was the post of a neighbor who is really a pretty kind person. He had recently taken to bearing his testimony on my apostate wall repeatedly as I metaphorically stood there like Samuel the Lamanite declaring the sins of omission and deception of my birth religion.

The fact he and I exchanged much open dialog about truth and our own measure of such is surely why this post of his popped up. He praised the Lord because there was a really late snow this year and despite that cold weather his peach trees are blossoming. To him it was a ‘miracle.‘ His prayers were answered because his peaches were saved.

The other post that I saw when I scrolled down was this news story. Here, on the same day my friend had noticed his peach blossoms a shooter went nuts near an LDS stake center resulting in the injury of a pregnant woman inside.

Now I’m 100% sure there are people that were in that stake center that feel it is a miracle they survived. When we get what we want, or we avoid suffering it is a very natural response to feel blessed and lucky. I’m not discounting that feeling at all. I think it is wonderful to be amazed at peach blossoms and happy that these trees will bear fruit after putting in all that effort bring them up.

But my new perspective in life cues onto something that seems much more obvious to me now. What about the pregnant mom that was shot? Where is her blessing? Was God too busy blossoming peaches in an answer to my friends prayer to tweak a bullet off its path or maybe just soften the heart of the shooter and stop his rampage that caused so much suffering in one of his chapels? Something you realize when you start critically evaluating your beliefs is you tend to count the ‘hits’ and ignore the ‘misses’.

It is something that a gambler does that keeps him at the table addicted to the game. He can be loosing money steady on average all night long, but all those losses are not near as big a deal as that win once in a while that makes him happy to be there. Because the ‘hit’ feels so good. The ‘misses’ become meaningless. When it comes to misses turns out God is loaded with them on his resume. For all his omnipotence and willingness to help along a peach blossom and even occasionally cure cancer. Not ever once has he grown back the limb of an amputee. Talk about a big miss. Either amputees must be beyond his power to help or they all must have done some sort of awful thing to piss off the divine being so much that he would ignore them as a whole subset of humanity.

When you think about it. It’s almost as if there really is nothing at play but random chance with our own biases chalking up everything good to the person we believe embodies the principle of goodness…. Or maybe some people like my zealous friend got such a great in with the guy upstairs that he keeps him busy finding car keys and making popcorn pop on apricot trees that he has no time left for people that could really use a little divine intervention.

Maybe we should start a movement and ask everyone to pray to the Fridge to counter the possibility God is just too busy with all the mediocre requests us humans make daily. Because according to the Book of Freon. (Book of Jeff chapter 1:2-3) this is exactly what the Fridge excels at. If the Fridge took care of all this nitty gritty untestable baloney then that would free up all these other deities men worship to go after the big stuff. You know like maybe softening the hearts of ISIL so they don’t take over the planet or toning down an earthquake here and there enough to save a few lives…

So next time your buddy talks about how his prayers were answered when he found 5$ laying in the road to buy him a soda when left his wallet loaded with 100$ bills in it at home, ask him to lay off the requests long enough others can get help finding food to ward off starvation. And if he really, really needs to pray. Suggest he try the Fridge. I promise you it’s every bit as good at getting a hit so long as you ignore the misses.popcorn tree

Because I Said So….The Dangers of Unquestioning Obedience

So I recently read a couple of blog posts that triggered some memories of my LDS mission.

When I was in the MTC, I remember teachers there repeatedly impressing on my 19 year old mind that once I was in the mission field as far as I was concerned the mission president was God to me. It was repeated over and over again that we were to never ever question the presidents directions. The best missionary would immediately do exactly what they were told to by this man.

The first time I heard that I remember personally balking at that suggestion, I asked are you serious? Maybe I have always had a rebellious nature I suppose, after all there was that conversation with my president where he warned me to stop ‘kicking against the pricks.’

Several times I doubled down on my obedience efforts, but to be honest I have always felt the call of being a leader not a follower. It is who I am. To follow, especially blindly, in my mind is not a good thing.

Think about it. Do you think the ISIS dudes chopping off heads of christians question their leader? Do you think that the guys flying jets into the two towers stopped to think, ‘what if the leader is wrong?’ Should people that follow Warren Jeffs or Marshall Applewhite be willing to question their leaders?

If you give it even a modicum of thought, you quickly realize that the answer should be a resounding no!

So when I recently read this post by a mission president it brought back all those memories of the mission field and the demands of exact unquestioning obedience.

This mindless compliance is a characteristic sign of a cult. (Here are a few other signs you ought to take a look at as well.) I personally was raised with the mantra ‘follow the brethren.’ Do what they say even if you disagree was the watchword in our home. The rationalization went something like this. ‘Even if they lead you astray, God won’t hold it against you.’ Plus scriptures say1 they will never lead us astray. So unquestioning obedience is repeatedly celebrated in the church. It is reinforced with temple covenants as well. One can be sure that the Law of Vengeance covenant help lead to the unquestioning obedience that resulted in the mountain meadows massacre. Of course that oath is now gone from the proceeds, but the very first covenant you make in the temple today is the Law of Obedience. As a group everyone vows to obey it.

We humans respond to authoritarian pressure2 to comply. This psychological effect has been confirmed by experiment.

So here is the issue. We realize we should think about what our leaders tell us to do, but often due to our own psychological pitfalls we often do not. Even now, years past my own disaffection with religion, I often have the ‘rote response’ my church taught me on a topic pop to the surface automatically. I find myself going. ‘Wait a minute… do I really still think that way?’ This leads to lots of introspection and quite a few posts on the Fridge. 🙂

As parents we often don’t bother to explain to our children the reason behind a particular rule or request we make of them. When we were kids that annoyed us because we naturally want to know the why of things. Usually (baring you are a sadistic parent) there are good reasons behind our commands. Often to not tell our kids why is just a lazy response and we say ‘because I said so!’ And in that moment we teach our kids that unquestioning obedience is expected. Maybe that isn’t such a good thing. Maybe we need to stop celebrating the fact Abraham was willing to tie his kid to an alter and slit his throat with a knife. Why? Do you ask? Well here is one reason:

sacrifice death jpg

This guy was sure he heard God’s voice and decided to follow it without question. Unfortunately an angel didn’t show up to stay his hand. You might say he followed this council to a ‘T’.

Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction—whether it be recorded scripture, the words of modern prophets, or direct inspiration through the Holy Ghost—to be worthy of obedience.[2. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/07/believe-all-things?lang=eng]

I hope you are beginning to see the the problem with ‘because I said so’ being taken as a legitimate argument. It simply isn’t. Not at all. It will always lead to mistakes that we humans regret. It is time we always ask why! It is time we tell our kids to not be afraid to ask why! My dear Frigidarians, I implore you to question your leaders, question yourself. Think about your own thinking and then decide a course of action. Please do this. But for Chill’s sake please don’t do it because I said so!

 

Sealed as a Slave, the Disrespect of Jane Manning

Mormon news feeds everywhere have been posting their pride of the newest LDS temple located in Payson, Utah. A great and spacious building according to Deseret News in their announcement. Ok they didn’t use exactly the words great and spacious. ‘Massive’ and ‘sweeping’ were the synonyms specifically used in the article. But trust me the irony of the church being so proud of this beautiful building and calling for everyone to come see it is not lost on a student of the Book of Mormon. 1 But I digress. This article isn’t about the elaborate spare no expense efforts of building huge ornate structures that require you pay2 the church just to get in them. It is about one person in particular and the price she paid.

Her name was Jane Elizabeth Manning. Her picture now hangs in the Payson temple. Since the First Presidency approves all art work in the temples, you can be sure they meant for it to be there. The question is why? Is it because she was such a faithful person? Or is there a need the leaders feel to scrub their racist history and say, ‘here see how much we love black people!’

Turns out there is an article on LDS org about this woman and her life. While reading through it, this bit jumped out at me and I suspected there was a ‘rest of the story.’3

“Jane remained part of the Smith household for several months. While there, she enjoyed the association of Joseph and Emma’s family and visited often with the Prophet’s mother, Lucy. Eventually Jane became friends with other members of the household such as Sarah and Maria Lawrence and Eliza and Emily Partridge.”

How did I know? Well having studied a lot about the women around Joe Smith, I knew Jane’s friends had a back story that was being glossed over here. In Emily’s own words:

“He taught me this principle of plural marriage…but we called it celestial marriage…”

Yep, the Partridge sisters were polygamous wives of Joe! You know that stuff good members are supposed to avoid speculation about. If you are a believing member reading this, here is another tidbit you should do your best to not think about. The Lawrence sisters were also wives of the prophet. In fact when William Law made all that plural marriage stuff public, there was a lawsuit he initiated at the time using Maria Lawrence as proof that Joe was living in adultery. Polygamy was against the law at the time in the US. And it still is. You see why my bullshit detector was going full tilt when I read these names? I was sure this was more of the careful wording4 that the church admittedly practices when it comes to disclosing church history. Because you know, they can’t be bothered to actually admit they were wrong and simply apologize.5

After some googling I turned up a few articles about Jane. In the first one, I found out that Jane was the Kate Kelly of her time, she just didn’t get a group of people to follow her. (Which is probably the reason she wasn’t excommunicated.) Back then it was far easier to get a personal sit-down with top church leaders than it is today. And don’t forget this woman had been part of Joe and Emma’s household. Emma even proposed adoption to her. You have to wonder at the rate Joe collected wives in his household during this time if other proposals might have occurred and been shut down. But on to her story.

Repeatedly Jane asked for the same blessings of the temple that were granted to the white people of her day and age. And repeatedly she was denied.

From Wilford Woodruff’s Journal6

(218) October 16, 1894: We had meeting [s] with several individuals among the 
rest, Black Jane [who] wanted to know if I would not let her have her 
Endowments in the Temple. This I could not do as it was against the Law of 
God, as Cain killed Abel. All the seed of Cain would have to wait for 
redemption until all the seed that Abel would have had, that may come through other men, can be redeemed.

Sure these days the church disavows anything to do with skin color being a curse. But that is now. This was then. According to the leaders of her time, Jane was cursed. They continued to deny her request for temple endowments because they were confident that God himself had instituted the conditions that had enslaved these people and made them servants of the white man. The original prophet himself in a letter to Oliver Cowdrey used the scriptures of the bible to explain this concept.

So Jane was denied the same blessings given those of a paler complexion. However after these many requests she was eventually allowed to be sealed to Joseph as a servant in the next life. Think about that and look at how Joe viewed servants in the biblical sense in his own letter. Servants to these men were equivalent to slaves to their masters. Sure they admonished the masters to treat them decently (thank Fridge!) but still they were not considered to have any hope of redemption until after all of the white people got their chance. Deny this all you want but the evidence is clear that at the time Jane was denied priesthood temple blessings, the brethren believed it was God’s doctrine and thus church doctrine7 to deny her petition. Jane wasn’t the only person that got slapped down for questioning this stuff. If you haven’t read the letters of Dr Lowry Nelson make sure you do so. Here is a link to them.

Over and over again in church history this race based denial to black people comes up as doctrine condoned by God himself. It’s what the leaders of that day and age declared to be the word of the Lord as given by the mouth of his servants.

These days the church would like to shove that all down the memory hole to be forgotten. They disavow any of this being real, as if it was some sort of grand 100 year running mistake by old prejudiced dudes preaching the philosophies of men instead of what God wanted. This is a disservice to Jane because she believed the racist doctrine they preached to her and her faith still withstood the test of time! It was her faith that the doctrine would eventually change that kept her in the church. The leaders who preached blind obedience to follow the brethren were the ones that were wrong. At least that is what the church is telling us today… Makes you wonder what will be disavowed tomorrow doesn’t it?

Now Jane gets to be the poster child for the all inclusiveness of the church in its latest grand PR effort of building ostentatious temples. Soon to be found even in Haiti, the poorest country in the world. Why dump millions into these great and spacious buildings? Why hang pictures of servants that were sealed to Joe Smith in them?

One reason and one only. Marketing. And that my friends is nothing but disrespect for a woman that showed so much courage to challenge the status quo.   Jane Elizabeth Manning agitated for change. Just like Kate Kelly. But… Since she was quiet about it; since she didn’t start a movement and gain a following, she was turned into … a commercial!

Jane-Elizabeth-Manning

 

 

  1. Lehi’s dream included a great and spacious building that he people partying in are so proud of.   For Irony of irony, I suggest you go check out the fact that Joe Smith Sr recorded pretty much the same dream in 1811… Yep, turns out he told that story over and over to his kids too. Hmm maybe the reason it was in the BoM wasn’t all that miraculous and it was just some filler that Joe Jr needed after losing those first 116 pages.
  2. Technically you pay only after they are dedicated, you have good incentive too. Because if you don’t pay to get in, then your family is kept hostage from you in the afterlife according to LDS doctrine.
  3. nod to Paul Harvey 🙂
  4. Also known as lying… unless you think Bill Clinton was telling the whole truth when he said ‘I did not have sex’…
  5. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the church could actually take the first step of repentance that they demand of all their members?
  6. search the page for ‘Black Jane’ to find the context, Also here is a link to the text of the transcript scans.
  7. The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.
    First Presidency statement, August 17, 1949