A Note to Our LDS Family and Friends

– Guest post today from Desire Truth, I hope you enjoy her perspective as much as I did!

In the LDS church, certain assumptions are commonly made about people who leave the church, especially if they were very faithful believers prior to making the decision to leave. Some of these assumptions include being offended at people in the church, desiring to “sin” and leaving so that we don’t feel guilty for doing it, or that we simply don’t understand the doctrine well enough or we would stay. Honestly, every single one of these assumptions is incredibly insulting to our intelligence and decision-making capabilities. Please give us more credit than that. For those of you who are still faithful and believing, there are some things that those of us who have left need you to know and try to understand, and we would still appreciate your support, friendship, and love. In general, most of us respect your decision for yourself to remain in the church, even if we do not agree with it. We ask for the same respect from you.

One of the primary issues with this expectation of respect from the active believer is that believers actually must go against their own church doctrine, in one way at least, to truly be okay with this concept. On the one hand, you have the teaching that the LDS church is the one true church on the earth, that it is restored by God himself and that every single individual who has ever lived, does live, or will ever live on the earth must choose this religion and be baptized either during this or the next life in order to achieve the highest of blessings that God has for his children in the next life. On the other hand, there is the concept of agency. So while an ex-Mormon can look at a believing, active Mormon and think and actually believe, “Hey, they are making the right choice for them. That’s totally okay with me,” the active, believing Mormon cannot look at an ex-Mormon without thinking, in some part of their mind, “It is so sad. They are making the wrong choice because this church is the only true church. I can respect them for their right to agency, but I am still going to know (think) that they are wrong in that decision, no matter what the reasons for that decision.”

Then when a believer asks a friend or family member who has left for the reasons that they left, but is not okay with listening to anything negative about the church, they are not really asking for answers. All they are doing is searching for confirmation that their own biases and assumptions about people who leave are correct. Then when that person who leaves tells them, “I did not leave the church for its positive aspects, I left it for the negative things I found out about the church,” that believing member can justify their preset biases.

Fortunately, not all church members do this. To those of you who have stuck with your friends or family even after they leave the church, whether or not they are public about their dissent and problems with it, we sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Leaving the church that many of us were raised in and that was such a massive part of our identity is difficult and heart-wrenching. We have to completely redo ourselves from the ground up in terms of belief, practices, identity, and moral standards. Please know that we did not make this decision lightly, nor was it the easy way out. The very real potential of being shunned and at times, outright disowned, by family and friends is daunting. The church is very exclusive in many ways, and the leaders of the LDS faith continually urge members to attempt to befriend, with the hopes of converting, people they know or meet who are not members of the LDS church. Moreover, upwards of 80,000 missionaries are sent out nearly worldwide continually to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in this pursuit. Please do not attempt to silence us in our need to discuss the church, in both its good and bad lights, if you continue to support and participate in these practices of member missionary work as well as worldwide proselytizing attempts.

As a good friend of mine said recently:

“Just as you would never tell a freed slave not to discuss their difficulties as a slave, or tell a freed prisoner not to discuss the condition of the prison, or tell a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship not to discuss her abuse, or a tell a returning astronaut not to talk about space, do not tell a person leaving a life encompassing religion to just move on and not talk about their experiences within the religion. To do so is asking them to deny and hide a fundamental piece of their story.”

Now to address some of the misconceptions often perpetuated about those of us who leave. As someone who grew up in the church, and who has come into contact with thousands of ex-Mormons, the following are generally true of nearly all of us, though each of us has a different reason or combination of reasons that ultimately caused us to decide the church was not for us. These are what we really need you, as our family and friends, to try to understand.

  1. Far from leaving hastily or quickly, or from being offended, please understand that the majority of us took time and some serious effort to research the church, from many sources including church published references, before we decided to take this leap. We did not make this decision in haste, nor without also looking at what the church and its supporters (including well-studied apologetics) had to say regarding the most controversial and troubling issues. In general, we did not consult only “anti” literature. We consulted many sources, both supportive and non-supportive, scientific and otherwise, before making our decision. Just as you would not submit a serious research paper for a college assignment that only had one source and supported a single view of the topic, we did not take that approach in our research efforts. I do have a question for those who believe. What do you define as “anti” literature? Is it a scientific article debunking something commonly taught at church? Is it evidence by secular professionals, with no stake in the church, that show how the origins of certain things is entirely different than what prophets have taught? Is it evidence-based research compiled by ex-Mormons who use church sources to show that practices that are no longer done were once called doctrine over the pulpit at conferences by multiple general authorities? Is it direct quotes from previous prophets that contain doctrines, defined as such, that are now completely buried, and most of them unknown by current church members? Or Is it simply anything that shows the church to currently have, or that it has had, negative aspects or results from its practices or doctrines? Please respond in the comments if you can clarify.

 

  1. For most of us, our intent is not to drag you down. I have heard that very phrase, or ones similar to it, from more than one person. First, “don’t drag me down with you” implies that you are at a higher or better level of being than I am. It is insulting and presumptuous. The irony is that many of us can tell a believer over and over how much happier and at peace we are, and most of them won’t really believe us, even if they pretend to be okay with it. The reason for that comes from your very own scriptures: “Behold I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” 1 So even if we have a fantastic life, things are going well for us, and we are generally happy and at peace, many of you do not see it that way. You truly believe that because we are not faithful to the church, that we are somehow secretly miserable and are just hiding it. You also assume, as the scriptures say, that we will all be judged. So perhaps you can make peace with it now that we seem to be happier, but you may still fully expect us to be chastised and punished in the next life. Alma 41:3, “And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works;” and then in verse 8 of the same chapter, “Now, the decrees of God are unalterable.” Your very own church’s canon of scripture condemns us for making what we see to be the right choice for us. Those of you who can rise above this and be sincere in your love and support of us, especially when we are doing nothing to intentionally harm other people, we greatly appreciate. Yet you still believe that God will ultimately punish us for making this decision if we do not go back to church at some point. I would hope sincerely that those who believe can at least put this aside enough to love and support friends and family who leave. More about what we really need from you soon.

 

  1. Thirdly and finally in terms of misconceptions, those of us who have been church members for any length of time, especially those who were born and raised in the church from infancy on, are fully aware of what we are “giving up” in terms of blessings, both those that are considered earthly blessings and those that the church teaches will be the blessings in the next life for those who stay the course. There is a fundamental issue here that we would like you to try to understand. We do not believe this anymore. While not believing does not make it untrue, I would argue in return that believing does not make it true. The simple fact of this matter is that not a single one of us know absolutely what comes after death. There are stories of NDEs (Near Death Experiences), but they vary somewhat and can also be explained by scientific principles. My intent is not to discount those experiences, but to simply state that we do not know of a certainty that there really is a next life for us after we die. Please do not tell us that you do know these things. Believing does not equal knowing. Regarding current blessings and trials, or positive and negative circumstances and events in a person’s life, you can point to individual people and claim they are blessed or are having trials at any point in their life. But the simple matter of this is that life is often messy. We do not understand the whys of everything. We do not know why a particular individual can smoke for their entire adult life and live to a ripe old age, and on the other hand, an innocent child can contract cancer and pass away from it. Church members are no more exempt in general from problems in life than those who are not church members. Please understand that a few of the claims and common things we hear related to this are incredibly offensive. They include statements such as the following:

 

    • “I can see a darkness now in your eyes/countenance.”
    • “Satan has a hold of your heart because you have made the wrong choices.”
    • “I cannot believe that you would hurt your parents/family by leaving the church you were raised in.” (The intent is not to hurt family. The purpose of leaving is to find our OWN happiness. We are not responsible for your happiness, just as you are not responsible for ours. Please understand this. In general, we do not blame parents and family for their teachings; most of the time, they were teaching what they knew and believed, and we can see and appreciate that.)
    • “You aren’t REALLY happy, you are just trying to convince me/yourself that you are.” (No one gets to judge a person’s happiness level but that person. This is both insulting and demeaning to say to any person.)
    • “You just don’t understand the doctrine, and that’s why you left.” (Try us. See if we can’t point out the doctrine just as well as you can, and you may see that a lot of the time, leaving has caused us to do much more research into the church than ever before, along with concentrated prayer and scripture study because it’s what has been taught to us that will give us the answers that we wanted. We are often extremely knowledgeable and well-versed in both current and historical claims, practices, and events in the church.)

We love you, our friends and family. It is true that I would love to see people leave a church that I find incredibly harmful to people who do not fit its very narrow mold. However, even with that sentiment, I am completely willing to respect your decision to remain in the church. Please respect the decision that I, and other ex-Mormons, have made to leave. Whether or not you understand it, know that we made the right decision for us. Please understand that we see things from a different perspective now, but that we understand your perspective. We were there. Many of us were very ardent in our defense of issues that we saw people bring up with the church. We know the church’s answers for all of the issues that plagued us before we decided to discard it as all together more harmful than good, and simply false.

path to believe

As another wise friend stated:

“I want to tell [active LDS members] my beliefs in no way threaten yours. I am not attacking you as a person because you believe. I am discussing why my feelings have changed.” – Alice Maxwell

Finally, please try to understand that we simply want your love and support, your true friendship. We know the church keeps you busy. Please be a friend to us. Please don’t be scared that our apostasy will somehow rub off on you. If you have questions, please ask us. And most of all, please understand that we have and are still going through some serious emotional trauma in leaving the church. Especially for those of us who were born and raised in the church, or born and raised into other fundamental or Christian-based religions and then converted to Mormonism, there is a lot of learning we still have to do, a full remaking of who we are, and finding ourselves outside of the religion(s) that were all encompassing for so much of our lives. If we speak out in hurtful tones about the church, it is because the church’s practices and doctrines hurt us or others that we know. We have ultimately decided that there is enough negative in the church and we do not want to be affiliated with it any longer. Please be patient with us. Understand we are not directly attacking you. We have serious problems with being lied to by trusted leaders throughout our life and at times, that anger and sense of betrayal can spill over into our tone and comments. Ultimately, we simply want to try to be loved and understood. As Mormons, do you not want the same thing? Does it not bother you when people have misconceptions about the church or its members, and do you not work to correct those? Do you appreciate it when people tell you to be silent about your faith or beliefs? If not, please do not ask it of us. We want to bridge that gap, but in general, we are unwilling to risk the happiness and peace we have found in leaving the church to come back to the church itself. Please do not require that of us in order to still love and spend time with us. Love should triumph over all.

 

love is my religion

  1. Alma 41:10, Book of Mormon

The Parable of the Leprechaun Test

10 TRAITS OF THE LEPRECHAUN

If you read through this list and find that most or all of these traits parallel your own, then there is a good chance that you (or at the very least: your ancestors) may be an honest to god Leprechaun.  May the Luck of the Emerald Isle be with ye.

  1. Leprechauns have a propensity towards all things golden.  If someone handed you a golden coin, told you to keep it and you experience feelings of happiness because of their golden gift…then you may be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns are fond of the color green.  Look around you now.  Can you see the color green, if you can then you may have been drawn to that location by the alluring tendrils of that object’s emerald aura, and …you might be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns wear a wide range of clothing during their lifespan (favoring naturally the color green, but their wardrobe is not exclusive.)  Thinking back over your life, consider whether the type, color or size of your clothing has ever changed over the years.  More especially try to identify if at any point you may have worn clothing that could now be considered “tiny.”  If you can…then you may be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns are drawn inexplicably to rainbows, and all things refracted.  If you have ever looked up to the skies and seen a rainbow without it being pointed out to you…then you might be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns become increasingly protective of their stash of gold the larger it becomes, often hiding it in holes, hollow trees, and vaults.  If you have ever stored your money for safe keeping ( say for example in a bank or a sock drawer)…then you may be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns come out of the womb with little bowler hats on their newly born heads.  They are crazy about hats.  If you have ever worn a hot, noticed other people wearing hats, or even thought about hats (particularly bowler hats)…then you might be a leprechaun.

 

7. Leprechauns favor beef and mead not only at feast time, but also during lunch and supper.  Less well known, however, is their love of bread.  Ever had a sandwich?  A roll?  Pizza, tortilla, mini loaf, pita, flat bread? A hamburger, breadstick, a  cinnamon roll?  Ever had a piece of toast?  Chances are…you may be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns are constantly aware of their surroundings, they vigilantly observe all of the sights and sounds around them, wary to be caught .  If you have eyes or ears, or have ever played a game of tag…then you might be a leprechaun.

 

  1. Leprechauns, when properly trained, can be powerful wielders of magical and arcane powers.  If you have ever hoped in, waited for gifts from, or told your children stories about magical creatures, people or objects…then you may be a leprechaun.

 

And the final and greatest measure of whether you may be a Leprechaun:

 

10.  Leprechauns are real.  If you are real…then, hot damn, you might be a leprechaun.

 

I hope this list helps all those of you who may have gone through life up until now uncertain of your mystical heritage.  And to all of my new Leprechaun kin I say:  “Heya!  What’s the craic?  And Welcome to the clan!”

Leaving Gilligan’s Island

People do not knowingly join “cults” that will ultimately destroy and kill them. People join self-help groups, churches, political movements, college campus dinner socials, and the like, in an effort to be a part of something larger than themselves. It is mostly the innocent and naive who find themselves entrapped. In their openhearted endeavor to find meaning in their lives, they walk blindly into the promise of ultimate answers and a higher purpose. It is usually only gradually that a group turns into or reveals itself as a cult, becomes malignant, but by then it is often too late. When your own thoughts are forbidden, when your questions are not allowed and our doubts are punished, when contacts with friendships outside of the organization are censored, we are being abused, for the ends never justify the means.

When our heart aches knowing we have made friendships and secret attachments that will be forever forbidden if we leave, we are in danger. When we consider staying in a group because we cannot bear the loss, disappointment and sorrow our leaving will cause for ourselves and those we have come to love, we are in a cult… If there is any lesson to be learned it is that an ideal can never be brought about by fear, abuse, and the threat of retribution. When family and friends are used as a weapon in order to force us to stay in an organization, something has gone terribly wrong. “― Deborah Layton, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple

Some of the 912 dead in Jonestown Guyana

Family Reunions seem to send me into a tailspin every year and then I have some recovery months where I almost forget the nauseating pain that inevitably comes with trying to interact appropriately with my LDS family. When I leave any LDS gathering  I get the impression of leaving the Twilight Zone with the music of Deliverance in the background and the cast of Gilligan’s Island, all fading into the 1960s.

When I was a young girl we did not own a working television for most of my youth. I had heard a lot of hub bub about the television series Gilligan’s Island, but hadn’t yet seen it. So in second grade I determined to do what it took to see the show. I pretended to fancy the perpetual nose miner kid from up the road and eventually he invited me over after school. Sure enough Gilligan’s Island was on, only by this time it was in re-runs. I saw an episode where Gilligan tries to fly off the island with some palm tree fronds and the Skipper ends up swatting him with his hat. The other characters play their typical lines and roles and it was funny, the first time. A week or so later I decided to see it again and after working my feminine wiles on the nose miner he invited me over again. Sure enough, it was a re-run of the re-run that I’d already seen but I didn’t know about re-runs so thought that that one episode was what the whole show was, day after day, week after week, year after year. Even in second grade I could deduce that the fans of Gilligan’s Island were complete idiots and that Gilligan and friends would never possess the collective intellect to escape the island.

Gilligans_island_small

By the time I was thirteen I’d been to the LDS church enough that it was obvious every episode was a re-run of a re-run and I knew that the funky band of buffoons would never get off the island. If there was anything that didn’t fit or make the island look like paradise they would put it under a big smelly rug and place a table and lamp on top and we’d all pretend there was nothing nasty to smell or see oozing out from underneath the rug. It became an exercise in survival and I found some solace in the silliness of the characters and foolish simplistic plots. It got weirder when I became an adult and got roped into the temple experience and then a lifetime of mindless busy work while my kids were little kept me from really examining the plotless writing, the shallow characters, the trite lines and predictable scenarios year after year. I just went along and when I’d find some garbage I’d tuck it under the rug with the other refuse and skeletons and wretched shameful detritus of the islanders.

By the time I was in my 30’s I had outgrown the church and was feeling the suffocation of going along, saying the same lines, wearing the Mary Ann costume, baking pies, never having good sex, and pretending the Professor was interesting or powerful. Besides, Gilligan and The Skipper were always bungling things up and that damn Ginger was always getting all the attention with her bodacious ta tas. The Howells were completely useless.

I tried to convince my family that there was something far off in the mist away from the island that looked really promising and if we could just brave the unknown a bit we could see if there was more to life than an artificial desolate island with very limited intellectual food. I wanted a better show but everyone around me, including my own children liked Gilligan’s Island and if I was going to leave the island it would have to be without them. I knew I would miss them terribly but I wanted to see what was on the horizon much more than the deadening security I felt by remaining on the island.

The only stuff I had to craft a raft from was a bunch of crappy wire hang-ups that were constantly getting all bunched up together and poking me in the ribs. So sadly waving goodbye to them I pushed off on my own. Sure enough, waves of poverty, loneliness, and fear washed over me and threatened to drown me but eventually I hit calm waters and began to paddle my way through the doldrums with the jawbone of a thesaurus I’d found floating nearby. I paddled and paddled and eventually the misty shadow on the horizon became more defined and interesting.

CastAway_raft_small

I could see that it was a huge colorful rich and wonderful world, but there would be perils and danger and cruelty and unpredictable things if I decided to land on those wide shores. I missed my family and what I’d known but the promise of the rest of the world and what it offered seemed so much more interesting and a place where I could truly become a whole new character. I took off the Mary Ann apron and found the costume of a liberal bohemian, complete with Birkenstocks, an oily paintbrush and gardening shears.

I tiptoed onto the big mainland, tepid, and afraid, and completely inexperienced with what it offered. I floundered and failed and made all the mistakes the characters on GI told me I would if I left the island. I was a cautionary tale for sure. But then I started to learn, to grow, to blossom and eventually to find that the mainland was actually a wonderful and continually fascinating place that could give me everything I’d ever imagined and more. I found true love. I found art, and history, and literature, and creativity around every corner. I found interesting people and beautiful architecture and places to go that I’d always been told were bad, scary and evil, but really were quite wonderful. I ate new food, saw new movies, listened to new music, met new friends and learned many new things.

Metropolitan museum of art

I still missed my family so much. I wanted them to know all the amazing things that abound on the mainland so I loaded my pockets with trinkets and images and got back on my raft of hang-ups and took my jawbone of a thesaurus and paddled way back across the doldrums and wild waves and through the mine laden island coast and came back to Gilligan’s Island. I showed all my trinkets and images and tried to regale my family with the wonders of what I’d seen and learned.

They shunned me, chastised me, marginalized me. They denied that my trinkets were evidence of a wonderful world outside the island. They chastised me for wanting to know more, for wondering, for questioning, for seeking. My mothering instincts and gifts became suspect. They pulled my children away from my influence and warned them of the evils of my trinkets and knowledge. Eventually they told me that if I wanted to stay on Gilligan’s Island I would have to pretend that I’d never seen anything new, learned anything, or been anywhere but on the island. If I couldn’t praise the island and the Professor and various silly characters and say my lines, wear my Mary Ann costume and just bake pies then I would have to leave.

I had to escape the island and go back to the mainland and again I found even more amazing trinkets and knowledge. I thought surely these would be enough to prove that there was more in the world and so after some time I rowed back to the island. This time they saw me coming and built a wall, laced the perimeter with hair trigger land mines and placed guards at the top of the wall. I could look through the gate and see my children and grandchildren and they could come to the gate and touch my fingers, but I could not embrace them without the guards shoving a sharp spear between us. I was not allowed to give them any of the gifts I’d brought. Eventually after days of trying different ways of presenting the gifts I knew that I had to leave again. I shoved off this time, sad that they would never leave the island and eventually they would be eaten by cannibals.

Easter Island

Maybe soon I can swim and make it without the raft of old rusty twisted hang-ups. I will keep the jawbone of a thesaurus. It’s served me well.

Malted Egg Meltdown-continued

I hadn’t done any Easter shopping for my other two young children so my mom and I went out to try to get some treats and toys for the kids for their baskets. Everything was picked over and I couldn’t find malted eggs. I don’t know why malted eggs are such an important tradition except that when I was a kid we would use the waxy coating to make pastel pink and blue and white lipstick and then threaten to kiss our brothers and they’d run scared. I don’t even like the taste of malted eggs but it was tradition so we went to three stores trying to get them. In the end we settled for jelly beans and Starbursts and some chocolate bunnies. It’s embarrassing now to think that I spent such precious hours prior to her death rushing through dollar stores to find cheap candy that I don’t even like in order to fulfill an artificial expectation of an artificial tradition.

That night I slept for about five hours and then helped the nurse give Jasmine a bath and change her into clean warm jammies. Mom helped get the kids ready for church and my ex took them to our ward Easter meetings.

I held Jasmine for a while and noticed that her skin seemed cool and she was quite weak. We put her heart monitor on and she reached up to me with her tiny arms and then her eyes rolled back in her head and I knew at that moment that she was dying. I screamed and the nurse and my mom started to give her CPR. The ambulance came in just four minutes and I climbed in the back with the paramedics while they tried to get a device into her tiny throat. They didn’t have one small enough and so just kept trying to breathe life into her as we careened through town to the highway.

They were doing major construction on the two lane highway and had cut the road deeply on both sides and were only allowing single lanes of cars to go through the 1 mile construction section. Sirens blaring and no where for cars to move out of the way made for a surreal waiting game as our line snaked slowly through the construction. Finally we were at the hospital and they rushed her into the emergency room.

My mom went to the church and picked up Doug1 and the kids and brought them to the hospital but by then they’d been working on Jasmine for 1/2 hr.. I went into the emergency room and demanded that the paramedics and nurses STOP. “JUST STOP! IT’S ENOUGH! LET HER GO!” I demanded. But Doug was not ready yet and told them that I was just too emotional and to keep trying. He and another LDS man who had arrived reached in and gave her a blessing and Doug commanded God to restore her health by the power of his holy priesthood. After 45 minutes of intense effort they finally had her hooked up to a breathing machine and they decided to life flight her back to Cedars Sinai where there were more skilled doctors. I think they just didn’t want her death on their books.

So we drove the 90 miles to Beverly Hills and discussed the situation with the doctors. They told us that all her vital organs were shutting down and that they could keep working on her but the odds were not good. They told us that we needed to make a decision very soon if they were going to keep trying heroic measures to extend her life. We asked them to leave us alone in the room while we made that decision.

I begged Doug to let her go and he reminded me that he was the one holding the keys of the Priesthood and he was the one closer to God and his will. He reminded me that I was too cynical, too full of doubt and not tuning into the blessings that God had for us. I got on my knees and begged him to let her go and after 1/2 hr. the doctors knocked on the door and told us that we had to decide now. Finally Doug relented and said, “Let this be on YOUR head”.

I walked into the ICU and the nurses guided me as I removed the tubes and needles stuck in her spent little body. They weren’t allowed to remove them due to California law but I could. It was so strange, so surreal and the smells and sounds were like something out of a science fiction story.

Finally she was free of the artificial anchors and I held her as she gasped and the air that had been forced into her escaped. In that nanosecond I feared that I had made a mistake and that she was actually still trying to live, but the nurses explained that it was normal and how the body released all that was forced inside during those traumatic hours before her death.

Mom, Doug, and I took turns holding her until rigormortis set in about 20 minutes later and her arms and legs started to splay out and her body stiffened. We had them put her in the morgue and then we came home to our two kids and hugged them close. The lemon and orange trees were blossoming and the air smelled so sweet. We had a Jasmine vine climbing up the front porch and it too was heady with intoxicating sweet blossoms. Finally there was peace. Easter should be about Peace.

eggs meme

  1. The name has been changed to prevent you from finding this guy and kicking the crap out of him for the guilt trip he put his wife on.
    -profet/editor

Malted Egg Meltdown- Easter Unplugged

My Visiting Teacher brought a little card and some malted Easter egg candies by and reminded me that Jesus still loves me even though I don’t go to church anymore. I thanked her and gave her a hug and she left. I am not offended that my LDS neighbors still try to get me to go to church or that they believe that their message will one day change my beliefs. It’s not that big a deal anymore and I just thank them and go on with my life, mind my own business, and try to be a good person and good neighbor in spite of my lack of belief in God. I think if Jesus had existed he’d probably consider me a decent example of his best teachings and be ok with who I am. I’d be proud to be considered Christlike but have no desire to be associated with most Christians.

I tossed the card into a round filing cabinet by my chair and stared at the malted eggs. Suddenly the memories washed over me and I was overcome with emotion. Who knew malted eggs could be such a pungent reminder of the true meaning of Easter? So much time has gone by that when I allow myself to recall the experience it almost feels like a scene from a movie I watched rather than something I went through. The memories go into a box and the box gets buried in the back of the closet and I try to not even notice its there. And then something will trigger the memories. This morning it was malted Easter eggs and suddenly I found myself sobbing big huge gasps of sadness.

eggs meme

Twenty four years ago on Easter Sunday I killed my daughter. She was already mostly dead but I pulled the plug, so to speak. You don’t really just pull a plug. There are tubes and needles and bandages to remove and blood and iodine and lots of smelly fluids, then some gasping and strange little quaking movements as the air is leaving the body. And then it’s done.

She was born on January 4th with some pretty severe genetic defects and right away I knew something was wrong because her first cry was odd, almost under water sounding. I’d had an emergency C-section and they wouldn’t let me off the operating table to see her or have any interaction the first hour of her difficult life. It made me nearly crazy to not know what was going on but my husband (now ex) was making all the decisions while I was recovering from a very botched anesthesia and C-section surgery.

Her first two weeks were harrowing and she came close to death numerous times. I got to see her when she was a week old but she was already flayed out with tubes and needles and Phenobarbital as they worked to fix the many problems. I almost fainted the first time I saw her like that. I didn’t know how anyone could survive all the intrusions and trauma.

Doug (not his real name)  was the Elders Quorum President at the time and was sure that his calling and election had been made sure because the Patriarch who gave him his Patriarchal Blessing promised him that he was destined to walk on the right hand of God, to be a Bishop and a Stake President and more. He was “in the zone” and believed everything out of his mouth was inspired and that he could just say the word and God would fulfill his wishes.

I was not in much of a condition to make any decisions but I kept asking him to be merciful and if Jasmine needed to be allowed to die that he should stop begging the doctors to keep doing such extreme things to keep her alive. He chided me for having little faith. The Doctors at Cedar Sinai in Beverly Hills, Ca were the best of the best. We had Met Life Insurance at the time and they put no limits on the care we could get for our baby. And what a cash cow we proved to be.

Operations, therapies, drugs, stints, feeding tubes, etc. all were employed to keep her alive. Not viable, but alive. She had swallowed muconium (baby poo) during the C-section and it had damaged her lungs. She had been having seizures while I was pregnant with her but I just thought she was an active fetus. She had lost a ton of blood when she had a seizure while they had her on an ECHMO machine to clean the blood going back into her lungs and dislodged the tube going into an artery in her neck. That only exacerbated the brain damage she may have already had.

She had a small hole in her heart and they performed surgery to correct that. She had a cleft in the soft palette in the roof of her mouth that made it difficult for feeding. She had underdeveloped esophageal muscles and would vomit up most anything put in her stomach and so had to have a feeding tube that bypassed all that. She had severely clubbed feet and who knows what else wrong with her. It was determined that she had Trisome 2, a very rare genetic disorder that only 16 people had ever been linked to. Some were semi retarded and lived into adulthood and some had died in infancy. We had no idea what her future would be like.

After three months of all this trauma and travel 90 miles a day to the hospital to see her they finally let us bring her home the day before Easter. I felt like I was in a getaway car leaving a bank robbery as we drove her home. We had a home health nurse to help us with her heart monitor and other gear but she was stabilizing and seemed to be breathing on her own, holding down formula, and even reacting to us a little when we held her. She would follow me with her eyes and smile, but it was most likely just gas. Still, it was almost normal.

(Stay tuned for the rest of this story)

 

Learning Motherhood from Day One: What Children Are Taught in Primary.

As I’ve considered the messages girls and women in the LDS church are forced to digest, I decided to begin at the beginning: Primary. For anyone not familiar with the LDS church, this is the organization that teaches the children ages 18 months to 11 years old.

Last year my “faith crisis” was in full swing. I strongly doubted the truth claims of the LDS church and was trying to gently let my husband know of my change of heart. I didn’t know how I could tell our children that I no longer believed. And then one Sunday I picked up my four year old daughter from her Sunbeam class and out she came with a white veil in her hair and plastic faux-pearls about her neck. And with a big smile she told me, “I can get married, Mom!” It took everything I had not to show my displeasure. I was taking my children to church in spite of my overwhelming doubt because I thought they’d be learning how to be good people. But I was wrong. They weren’t learning to be kind, or use soft words, or to be nice to animals. My four-year-old baby was learning she needed to get married.

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(This photo was obviously not taken at an LDS church)

Although my daughter’s Primary teacher took some creative license in order to make that day’s lesson fun, a perusal of the church website that night showed me that the lesson was indeed about getting married and why each child would need to get married in order to return to Heavenly Father. Don’t ask me to explain the marriage obsession of Joseph Smith and the church he formed. Since I began to think more critically I have been unable to determine why marriage would be required to enter the kingdom of God. I suppose that’s beside the point and totally my own fault for not having a testimony of the truthiness of eternal marriage.

Looking at the materials available on lds.org I was able to see some of what our children from ages one-and-a-half to eleven are taught about their roles and what they should be thinking about at this stage of life.

From the 2013 Primary Sharing Time Outline:

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Ask a few children to stand and share why they would like to be married in the temple and what they can do now to prepare for that blessing.

Yes, please, children, share why, at the ripe old age of 5, you are thinking about the when’s, where’s, how’s and why’s of marriage. Please tell us, in your own, pre-elementary school words, how you can prepare now to be married. Should you stop picking your nose? Chewing your hair? Hitting your brother when he makes you mad? These are the types of things five-year-olds are working on. How will perfecting these make you a better wife?

From the 2014 Primary Sharing Time Outline:

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Stand by the “mother” and explain that it is the mother’s responsibility to care for and nurture the family. Ask the children for examples of what mothers do to fulfill their roles, and ask the “mother” to pantomime what they describe.

Guess which child is the mother in this photo. She’s obviously the one holding the bowl, because of course she’s in the kitchen making dinner. Heaven forbid that someone hand the “mother” a checkbook, a briefcase, a stethoscope or a lab coat.

Still in the 2014 Sharing Time Outline:

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Explain that Heavenly Father’s commandment for a man and a woman to be married and have a family is just as important today as it was when Adam and Eve were on the earth. Show pictures of families and let the children point out the man, the woman, and the children.

Should we or should we not ignore the fact that the church still uses the Biblical creation myth to teach the proper form a family should take? Fine, we’ll skip that for now. It bothers me greatly that children are encouraged to “apply” the lesson they have learned by looking at pictures of families and pointing out the man, the woman, and the children. Is a woman with no husband but with children not a family? What about a man and woman who can’t have children? Obviously the only type of family that is acceptable to God has two heterosexual parents and multiple children.

From the Primary 3 Manual, Choose the Right B, Lesson 35, titled, “Temples and Eternal Families”:

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The LDS church places a huge amount of emphasis on temple sealings. Children learn early and often that their families can only be together if they are sealed as an eternal family in the temple of the Lord. Which must mean that they are otherwise separated eternally. Sorry kids. We don’t want to hurt your feelings or upset you, but when you die, mommy and daddy won’t be able to see you anymore because your family wasn’t good enough to go to the temple. I wish your parents loved you enough to choose the right so you can be together again. Unfortunately they love sin more.

Let us not forget the messages of the Children’s Songbook.

Families Can Be Together Forever

While I am in my early years

I’ll prepare most carefully

So I can marry in God’s temple

For eternity.

 This is one of the first songs that many primary children learn. Thus begins an early focus on getting married. In the temple. For eternity. Since you’re five, it’s about time you started thinking about marriage. Now, I’d like you to draw a picture of your future spouse. I see, he looks like this, does he?

person

The Family is of God

A father’s place is to preside, provide,

To love and teach the gospel to his children.

A father leads in fam’ly prayer to share

Their love for Father in Heaven.

A mother’s purpose is to care, prepare,

To nurture and to strengthen all her children.

She teaches children to obey, to pray,

To love and serve in the fam’ly.

 

Once again, father provides, mother nurtures. And never the two shall cross.

Next time we’ll take a look at the Young Women’s program, where every Mormon girl learns to either dream of motherhood or wonder if something is wrong with her.