Chapel of Pain

Beginnings and Ends

We bury her tomorrow. My mother. She had been sick for a while, but after a debilitating month she finally let go.

After the initial shock of her passing, I have to admit I felt only relief and release. Her torment, that she had both suffered and created, was finally over. The fear and apprehension I felt every time I spoke with her, her projection of guilt and shame over my ‘apostasy’, her deep-seated need for comforting lies about her as a mother … and overshadowing it all, her enduring abusive behavior. It all died with her and I finally felt free.

Yet now as the funeral approaches, I’m experiencing a growing sense of dread. In part because of the platitudes I expect to hear about my mother, ‘the angel’. In part because of the mormon service my family is planning. And in part because it will be held in the LDS chapel where I suffered so much as a child.

Dark clouds of trouble hanging o'er us - an LDS chapel overshadowed with foreboding clouds
Look, see yonder… dark clouds of foreboding

Buildings and Tearing Down

Attending her funeral in that chapel won’t be easy. Some may see it as a house of peace, but for me it was a house of pain. So many conflicts. So much torment. So many memories. It may seem strange to think how strongly they still affect on me 30 years later, but I suppose that’s why they call them formative years. It was traumatic at the time and it remains difficult to process today, especially at the thought of going back.

I have vivid memories of that chapel. So much of who I am was formed there during the bubbling cauldron of my adolescence.

That was where my father forced me to get baptized when I turned 8. I told him that I didn’t believe and didn’t want to make that commitment, but he said my testimony would come after my act of faith and he set the date. When it was over, I couldn’t stop crying from the font to the confirmation. Because I had just made lifelong covenants to a church I didn’t believe in, and I took that seriously.

So you see, that chapel was where I learned to doubt myself, where I learned that those who can’t feel a testimony of mormon truth must be blinded by sin or pride. And that if I couldn’t believe, then I must be sinful … my thoughts and feelings unreliable. And if so, I was better off trusting my leaders instead of myself, even when it didn’t make any sense.

That chapel was where I learned that only mormon kids were worthy of being friends with. That I was to live in the world, but not of the world. And to avoid the world, the people in it and their beliefs at all costs, associating only with mormons whenever possible … because mormons were safe and the world was dangerous.

– But ironically, that was where I was bullied and beat up by the ‘moral and worthy’ mormon boys at church. I was so excited to learn how to camp and earn merit badges with the scouts, but they only wanted to play sports on scouting night. I was asthmatic and didn’t know how to play, so they used me as a tackle dummy and laughed when I lay on the ground and couldn’t breathe. And when I tried to quit, I got in trouble for not being a team player.

– Where the bishop interrogated me in detail about my worthiness. And publicly humiliated me by not letting me pass the sacrament. Why? Because touching myself was the only way to get rid of my morning erections so I could get dressed for school. I tried everything … wearing tight clothes to bed, tying it off with rubber bands or string, self-inflicted pain, icy cold showers, scalding hot water … but nothing worked. The only way to get dressed was to ‘commit a sin’. I felt so horrible about myself that I even tried to follow the Bible’s advice and ‘cut off the hand that offended me’. But the attempt was so painful I couldn’t go through with it, leaving me feeling even more guilty about my lack of resolve as I cleaned up the bloody mess and painfully tried to heal. At church, the other boys laughed and joked about touching themselves, and obviously never told the bishop. I saw them rewarded for lying about something normal, while I was punished and shamed for being honest.

– Where I was forced to attend Youth Conference, where we were lectured about the evils of science, the lies of the world, the temptations of movies and music, and the sins of desire and sexual attraction. They taught us never to touch or fantasize about the opposite sex. And that god would judge us for eternity over every thought and feeling that crossed our adolescent minds.

– Where I was forced to attend church dances, even though looking at girls with desire was apparently a sin next to murder. And touching them with desire would lead to my damnation. But I found out the hard way that declining to attend dances (even with the pure intent of avoiding sin) was also wrong, and would get me in trouble with my parents and church leaders. I guess the only thing worse than touching a girl is acting like you don’t want to touch girls.

– Where I was taught about the blessings of eternal sex in the celestial kingdom. I remember the married man standing in front of the class, telling us all that sex was worth the wait and how he wanted to stay worthy and enjoy it in heaven forever. Which was in stark contrast to his declarations of the evils of masturbation, sex and fantasy from just a few moments before. I was literally being taught that even though sex was good and I should want it, that any desire for it would lead to my damnation.

After these experiences and many more, I grew to hate that building and the faith it represented. To hate the lies my church leaders taught me, the no-win situations they put me in, and the physical and emotional abuse they both inflicted on me and forced me to endure within its walls.

And now my family wants to celebrate my abusive mother’s life in that house of lies and pain.

The moon casts eerie light on the ruins of a chapel on the plains.
The paths of my memory lead to the crumbling walls of a broken childhood.

Out of the Frying Pan

The closer I get to the funeral, the less I want to go. I don’t even want to get on the plane, much less step foot in that building. I feel sick, paralyzed. My wife had to buy the plane tickets, and I’ve been so upset I had to call in sick every day this week.

Some mormons would say my negative feelings prove that ‘apostates’ are filled with the spirit of the devil … or that a sinner has innate intolerance for the holy ghost … or that an ungrateful son will always be selfish toward his mother. But no, this is what happens after 27 years of abuse at the hands of a church.

To dismiss me as an ungrateful, angry apostate is to ignore the 20 years that I devoted to the LDS church after my baptism. Submitting myself to the mormon faith I had no testimony of. Believing that my thoughts must be wrong because everyone I loved and trusted told me so. Studying, fasting, praying … hoping for a long-awaited testimony with each act of faith. But receiving nothing in return but emotional and religious abuse, a near death experience from arsenic poisoning on my mission, and years of subsequent nerve pain that the LDS church covered up, blamed on imaginary sins, and threatened me to keep secret.

So when I say it will be difficult for me to sit through my mother’s funeral in that chapel, I’m not talking about a little boredom or discomfort.

I’m talking about going to dinner with your rapist and having to pick up the check. Or holding your child’s birthday party in your pedophile uncle’s back yard and having to smile and introduce him to all the kids. Or openly crossing enemy lines after escaping a POW camp where you were tortured and almost killed.

To go to my mother’s funeral, I will have to walk back into the house of pain where I suffered decades of emotional and religious abuse that I’ve worked so hard to leave behind.

Right through the front door. Tomorrow. 

I’m scared. 

Truth must be a disease 

So I just read this article. It’s a commentary on the efforts of spiritual inoculation of the LDS faith by the wife of Brian Hales, a more prominent church apologist that has even been touched by the Fridge in a small way causing him to comment on one of the posts here. (One can only hope that this small touch might lead him to opening the door and seeing the light!)

The gist of her post (other than a soft sell of her book) seems to be an effort to explain in a faith promoting way (also know as apologetic) the current efforts of the church to inoculate its members by carefully revealing disturbing facts of its history.

The timing of this reading must have been a sign from the Fridge, because at this point thanks to the bite of a rabid bat I’m intimately familiar with the medical process of inoculation.

It’s basically works like this; you give your body a weaker, not as powerful form of the virus you want to protect against. Your body encountering that form then gets a little time to build up its disease fighting armory with weapons specifically designed to counter the attack of said virus. Later when the bad stuff is encountered again your immune system is firing on all cylinders and doesn’t give the disease a corner to sit in thus wiping it out before it can do any damage.

This process of inoculation can even work post infection in some cases if you are quick enough. One such case being the bite of a rabid animal. A fact I’m personally very happy with so as to not go the way of old yeller at this point in my life.

The way the LDS faith is exposing some of the disturbing facts of church history with things like these essays weakening the impact by not telling every difficult issue, and coming up with plausible explanations for the ones that are revealed makes inoculation an apt analogy. The faith destroying virus is most definitely weakened by this approach and when the faithful later  encounters an apostate that says, ’14 year old brides too me just seems wrong!’ The believer can say, ‘yeah I know she was nearly 15, it bothers me too a little, but God is mysterious so I just shelve it and have faith!’  Does inoculation work? Absolutely, on this point I agree with the article.

But for a moment ask yourself what are we being inoculated against? That’s really simple, it’s the truth.

Let me explain… on second thought, even better would be to let another church apologist, Richard Bushman explain:

“I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained.”

It turns the way things all went down in the churches past weren’t actually the way you were taught they did in Sunday school. The dominant narrative pushed in all those lesson manuals just wasn’t factual.

Laura even admits to in her article, she just doesn’t come right out and say it wasn’t true like Bushman did:

“But such veneration can quickly turn into confusion if one encounters strident voices that challenge the traditional account through the use of accurate, but previously unknown, details.”

If a person learns a new fact (that is accurate) and that contradicts previous understanding, this makes the previous knowledge false. It really is that simple.

So is the next thing that happens to the believer according to the post is as follows:

“At that point, fear and feelings of betrayal may emerge as religious convictions are re-examined. In extreme cases, the mind becomes jumbled; long-established beliefs battle against this new influx of information.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance.”

Look up cognitive dissonance, it always occurs when we discover what we thought was true… well isn’t. When our deeply held convictions run into facts that would make them false it’s fundamentally upsetting. This is why often when people experiencing cognitive dissonance will react with a fight or flight reflex. It’s an emotional reaction, not a logical one.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when facts contradict our beliefs. It happens when truth comes in, smacks us up the side of the head, and forces us to consider what we felt deep inside was true really is quite possibly complete fiction. It’s a common topic on the Fridge this dissonance thing. In fact it is crucial to understanding how you could have been bamboozled for so long.

There are several ways to resolve the feeling of cognitive dissonance; after lots of Googling you will realize they are all some variation of these three suggestions:

  1. Rationalize current beliefs and minimize importance of new information by reframing it.
  2. Ignore or avoid the new information, dismiss it as irrelevant or simply false.
  3. Accept the new information even if it means changing actions or beliefs

Now Mrs. Hales would have you believe that leaving the church is an easy shortcut to resolving the cognitive dissonance of discovering things like Joseph Smith marrying 14 year old girls and other men’s wives, things like how he started a fraudulent bank, or the multiple stories he told of the first vision that wasn’t even written down till 12 years after the fact or even a core teaching till 1856… Maybe your dissonance came from discovering the real translation of the papyri of the Book of Abraham isn’t remotely at all like the stuff Joseph Smith purported to translate. You might be upset by the discovery that the Book of Mormon is full of anachronisms belaying its validity as a history of American Indians. Your dissonance might come from things like the way blacks were treated by people claiming to know the mind of God and you have a really hard time thinking a loving father in heaven is racist or the opposition conclusion that his prophets did in fact lead the church astray on that one. You might bristle discovering before getting Martin Harris to fund the BoM that Joe previously made a living as a ‘glass looker’ a job that today we’d call ‘con man.’ These are only a few of the “accurate but previously unknown details” You might have run into that you need to be inoculated against.

If you look carefully she suggests a way to resolve the dissonance. It’s in her words,“all in the delivery.” In other words her solution is reframing the information in a way that doesn’t bug you anymore. If it is really difficult the suggestion you can glean is to just call it unanswerable and set the whole question aside (on a metaphorical shelf if you will) and just have faith. These are apparently the hard thing to do being items 1 and 2 on the list above while walking away and dealing with the loss of belief is presumably pretty easy according to her.

Personally for me walking away turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done and continues to create conflict in my life. This is because apostates are framed as angry and broken by the faith they reject. It would have been far, far easier socially to just keep on towing the line and staying the course. In fact, here are 5 reasons you will wish you never left the church, please make absolutely sure integrity and truth is worth it to you before you go looking for it is all I can say. While I was able to keep my integrity social relationships that have anything related to the religion have suffered. In some cases irreparably. So on this point I completely disagree with the idea that leaving the faith is the easy way to resolve your dissonance. Maybe and example commonly found in psychology articles on the topic is worth looking at.

A person has been a smoker for 20 years. He finds out that there are real scientific studies that smoking is bad for his health, in fact that it will even lead to early death. This is new information to him is disconcerting because he loves smoking, it makes him feel good and calms his nerves. Which is the easiest path? Is it to say that smoking keeps him skinny and that being fat shortens his life too? Or is it harder to change your belief and give up the tobacco and follow where the evidence leads?

I know I was addicted to the faith, I loved the spiritual connection I felt at church, the social interaction and topics to discuss with my peers. I also loved a lot of the doctrine as well and some days I miss the sense of purpose it gave me. I still at times really, really wish it were all true. But as they say if wishes were fishes we’d all be eating sushi all the time. Facts just simply aren’t changed by a wish. Truth just is.

Like I said at the beginning getting vaccinated is an apt analogy, these facts that bother you, these truths are so disturbing that your faith will crumble like a brain succumbing to a virus. They are what requires spiritual inoculation. Because a full dose of the truth is well… like a disease… it gets in your head and is sure to make you doubt and doubting is something only the spiritually sick ever do. So if you don’t want to be sick, you’d better go read the essays right now and get your dose of the truth vaccine!

 

But Polygamy was a Commandment!

Last post we discussed the normality of young brides and polygamous unions in the 19th century. Once the difficulty of lying about it is pointed out to the Mormon faithful most will retreat to the final bastion of all religious when pressed with assessing their faiths morality. They will say something like, ‘it was a commandment’ justifying it because God said so.

In fact apologists are fond of pointing out this quote from Joe the prophet himself implying this defense:

That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. – Official History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.134-136

When you think of Abraham and Issac or and how God flooded the whole planet killing babies, this sort of makes sense. The believer tells himself, ‘sometimes God does stuff I’m just too stupid to understand.’ And that makes it ok to shelve the thoughts that are causing cognitive dissonance.

In fact when your own spiritual feelings are screaming wrong, wrong, wrong to you, what is the counsel of LDS leaders? Just shelve it. 1

Wait a minute! Wut? Aren’t those very feelings the ones we are supposed to use to find truth? Apparently not if they are telling you the LDS church isn’t the #onetruechurchonthefaceoftheearth

Convenient isn’t it?

But moving on. I think there is some merit to revealing exactly the situation in which Joseph Smith said these words.


You see Joe was trying to get Nancy Rigdon to be yet another of his wives and she was not at all interested in the idea. In fact it lead to a blow up over the whole situation where Nancy said:

“if she ever got married she would marry a single man or none at all.” Grabbing her bonnet, she ordered the door opened or she would “raise the neighbors.” She then stormed out of the Hyde-Richards residence. (Sidney Rigdon Biography by Richard S. Van Wagoner, p.295)

So did you know that it was specifically to get under the skirts of a reluctant woman in Nauvoo that the idea of God commanded, it so it must be ok was such a core teaching?

Eh, maybe now that I think about it that is the underlying assumption right? So what is different between Joe and Warren then?

  • They both pushed young girls into doing things that are abhorrent to most people then and now.
  • They both assured their victims or faithful (depending on your perspective of the whole deal) that God said to do it and that was why these young teen girls should submit to their leaders and do as they were told.

Imagine for a minute that you were a bride of Warren Jeffs. Imagine if your family and church leaders all pressured you to do this thing that felt so wrong. Imagine then if you were told not to doubt the leadership of Warren the prophet. To stay in the boat. That if you bail on this religion that you are risking eternity with your family and that you’d never see them again. That if you stood up and said no, this isn’t right you were a taffy puller and not capable of commitment.

Can you see how hard it would be to leave the FLDS faith? Can you see how even today there are followers that are so sure they are doing what God wants (even if in their heart they find it abhorrent) that they still comply?

If so you can see exactly how religion can mislead you. It promises amazing things for compliance and terrible consequences for not doing EXACTLY what you are told no matter how bad it feels.

The hardest question to ask though is this:  What if is has already happened to me?

  1. Did you catch that even GA Turley tried to claim it was ‘normal’ for a 14 year old to get married implying a poly marriage to a 37 year old man was ‘you know what they did back then’ and one of the swedes called him out on that poor comparison?

If Polygamy Was Normal, Why Lie About It?

One apologetic response you are guaranteed to get if you bring up Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the 14 year old girls1 he wed is this idea that getting married at that age was normal for the time. I get that this is very commonly taught in the hallways of church as a way to help members shelve their doubts and just keep on believing. But was it really normal?

This justification even made it into the hard to find LDS essay on the topic that seemed to be very carefully worded in an effort to keep people in the boat after finding all this stuff out. After all it did mention that getting married at ‘almost 15’ years old wasn’t illegal at the time. But that really isn’t the whole story is it? Helen Mar honestly wasn’t keen at all on the idea of marring a 37 year old guy as his 20th plus bride. But that alone doesn’t make it abnormal nor illegal. I mean sure a girl could legally get married at age 14, but it it turns out it was in fact completely illegal to do it as a polygamous bride. 2

Which is probably why Joe the prophet lied about it to over 300 recent converts that had just showed up in town and heard the rumors of polygamy that would soon make the first and only printing of the Nauvoo Expositor’s paper. Only printing because surprise, surprise the press would soon be ordered destroyed as a public nuisance by the Mayor of Nauvoo, also known as Joseph Smith, self proclaimed prophet of God.

Don’t believe me? Go read about it for yourself in the LDS history books here.3 The prophet clearly indicated he had only one wife to this group of saints and carefully worded it might be it, was as least as deceitful as Bill Clinton’s claim he didn’t have sexual intercourse with Monica.

 

So even if you ignore census evidence that shows this age of marriage wasn’t at all normal. The most obvious and least asked question in this profet’s opinion is simply this:

If it was normal for the time and place for a 37 year old man to wed a 14 year old girl…. Then why did Joseph lie about it?

  1. Yes there was more than one! Google it if you need to find out more!
  2. Sneaky how they used the word illegal to imply it was normal for the time wasn’t it?
  3. For more on the destroying the press you can start here and then do some googling on your own. See if you can discover how that act led directly to his arrest and incarceration before he was killed.

The Shame of Being Good Looking

Elder Bendar of my old faith recently helped me realize why I have struggled so much with the LDS faith. He pointed out the difficulties of homosexual members that don’t actually exist in the church and compared them to something I immediately connected with. The difficulties of being ridiculously good looking! In case you missed it. This is what he said:

“Would it be a challenge to be very beautiful or very handsome, and in the world in which we live, never develop deep character because we are able to open doors and have success just because of our physical appearance? And we become shallow and superficial in many aspects of our lives.”

Knowing that my good looks have made it hard for me to look myself in the mirror every morning has really helped me a lot. I can get up now and feel completely accepted by those lucky plain people by knowing just like those with same sex attraction that I too have a place in the church!

Today I realized that just like people with different color skin, that my beautiful face doesn’t define me. In the way LDS black people of old weren’t really born that way but given a trial to overcome as they endevored to make their skins white. I only need to make continuous effort each day to overcome my tendancy to be so good looking.  

I now know if I simply endure this inborn attractiveness to the end and strive to be plain and unbecoming that I too can be worthy of all God has to offer! 

This is such a comforting thought. It reminds me of when I was young and jealous of the burden my Lamanite brethren had to bear and how prophets promised them they would be blessed for their trials:

“The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised (2 Ne. 30:6). In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.”

The prophet Kimball was so right! There were no ‘black’ people in the church! Only various shades of God’s children striving to be white!!

The truth that those that are gay will one day be made straight as modern day prophets like Bednar have so recently promised gives me hope that this difficult curse of handsomeness I have been blessed to bear in this life will be eventually removed as I find my place amongst God’s homely chosen ones. 

Thank Fridge.

  

More Problems with Polygamy and Children of Homosexuals

Joseph Smith once said:

“Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive…”1

Of course these days gay peoples kids don’t seem to get the same liberal considerations that the prophet Joe was talking about when he penned the above words in a letter to Nancy Rigdon in his effort to convince her to be his plural wife after she refused. I have seen a part of this same letter quoted by believers in the wake of this policy to restrict children from joining the church.

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.”

Continuing to Nancy in an effort to explain why polygamy is a good thing and not at all as bad as she thinks it is. Joseph wrote:

“…even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.”

This to me is where it gets interesting in regards to the latest policy this church Joseph founded has taken towards gay marriage.2   The main theme in the wake of this exposure of internal bigotry towards people that are attracted the same sex is that the limits placed on children are for the good of the kids. To protect them and all. Even in the latest clarification they have doubled down on this excuse. The reason I call it an excuse is because the only other children that are treated that way are the kids of polygamists. Specifically those apostate polygamists that are awful because they are following the teachings of the original prophet of the church.3 It’s like they are saying:

‘We need to protect those kids from conflicts about religious beliefs, not from atheists or Jehovah’s witnesses, or ever even scientologists. That isn’t enough of a conflict, but polygamy and gay marriage that is pretty bad and requires kids to condemn the lifestyles of their own parents before they are good enough for the LDS faith.’

Don’t take my word for it, look at the policy yourself. 
To me that screams excuse. Especially when the kids are required to disavow their parents gay lifestyle to even be considered for admission into God’s only church. Maybe they really believe in this idea that is it for the kids. Who knows, maybe God did come talk to these guys about the gays just like he told Joe to marry Nancy even though she didn’t want it. I’m sure that kids in general don’t want to disavow their parents love and happiness right? I guess in a way it is like the problem with polygamy that to this day plagues the LDS faith.

You see the fact that no leader ever, ever mentions is they never really stopped believing in polygamy. Not from an eternal perspective anyway. Listen to Elder Oaks describe the relationship he has with his second wife. (And yes, he did get sealed to his first wife in the temple as well.)

Two wives? Eternally? Yep polygamy even if it is not ok while you are alive in the LDS faith is totally ok after you die. Hopefully this brings some perspective to the excuse about protecting the children from gay parents being a parallel to protecting them from polygamous parents. It never was about the polygamy. It is only about the apostate religion that still practices it… um when all the wives are alive as the same time that is. Does this make any sense at all? Is this a big crisis for the current leadership? Yeah it is. Fortunately Dallin has advice for them too.

Does all this dancing around making excuses make sense to you? Is this really how illogical and confusing God’s one true church is? Personally I don’t think so.
And if you are one of the believers that had your shelf seriously rocked by this whole situation. Maybe, just maybe you are beginning to suspect that too.

The real question if you believe that children should not be held accountable for their own choices by a just and loving father in heaven is this. What are you going to do about it? Quietly submit and let the bigotry fester? Or are you going to speak up and take action?

It was interesting for me listing to this talk from Elder Oaks from a totally different perspective than I used to have. He proclaims it is all about timing. I kept thinking about the timing of blacks getting the priesthood and how the entire equal rights moment happened in the LDS faith some twenty years after the fact. Twenty years after rest of the world realized discriminating against people based on the color of their skin was NOT a good thing the leaders of the LDS faith had a revelation to end this demeaning practice. 4 Timing in hindsight it is obvious isn’t it? Too bad there aren’t people that can tell us the future in situations like this right?

Either way I did find a part of the talk in which I agreed 100% with Elder Oaks.

The most important thing in our lives is to do the right thing. Personally I think the golden rule is a good way to figure out what the right thing is. Don’t you?

 

  1.  Official History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.134-136, See also “The Letter of the Prophet, Joseph Smith to Miss Nancy Rigdon,” Joseph Smith Collection, LDS archives
  2. What do you think Joseph would have done about the whole gay thing? My bet is he would have rolled with it and brought it into the faith were he the one at the helm today. It is his nature to absorb the common themes of the day and make them part of the faith.
  3. Yeah I know its confusing, but what are ya gonna do right? Just believe and don’t ask any questions, do as you are told and all will be fine!
  4. Technically the church took till 2013 to actually say that the racist teachings of past church leaders was nothing more than their own bigotry shining through.