The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

 - The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

I Hate to Say It, but I Owe Dr. Laura

pandora's box
by Miss O

My feminist mindset ironically began one day while listening to Dr. Laura (I know, barf, I used to eat up every shaming word she spewed). A caller had called in about “duty sex,” and how her sexual relationship with her husband was not fulfilling — she just lies there to get it over with. This caller’s grief resonated with me. I had been married to my husband (high school sweethearts and both ill equipped in the intimacy department) for 12 years at this point and I could have been this caller. My head was nodding in an “I feel ya, sistah” sort of way, and I listened closely to what the wise old doctor would prescribe.

Dr. Laura’s advice was simple: if the caller was going to participate in the act of love-making with her spouse, then she should enjoy it too. She asked the caller why it is that we do it for the man’s pleasure only? If we are married and obviously going to be having intercourse, we women can certainly indulge ourselves in the act as well.

Now for the record, and I feel the need to specify this, Dr. Laura is hands down the epitome of female-shaming and after leaving the Church, I used to yell at my radio when she was on. But this piece of advice from her was life-changing for me. Instantly, I realized that I am a woman with a body that has sexual desires that I had not been acknowledging. My desires had been masked and shut down through many years of shame. I had no sexual identity of my own; duty sex was on the weekly list of wifely chores and God knew I wanted a gold star next to each finished chore.

I had no idea what it looked like to be a sexual being without shame or a submissive, timid approach. Sex was empty and time could always be spent doing more important things like balancing my check book or scheduling next week’s events. But now it could be different. I began to approach sex with the intent of finding out how much physical pleasure I could get out of it. I admit, at first it felt selfish, but if Dr. Laura prescribed it then I was willing to try it. I gave myself permission to lose myself in the pure, clean energy of sexual pleasures. It was uncharted territory that I discovered upon the terrain of my body that I never felt before – I didn’t even dare to look. I realized my own desires, once they peeked out from behind the rock they’d been shoved under, had just as much validity as a man’s.

My body began to sync with my mind and my heart. I realized that pleasure was mine to own and explore; it was not something to hide from myself or something to give the ownership of away to my husband or Church. The damage of the years in the Church was not easily overcome in one night – although once I allowed myself to be curious enough to get lost in pure, personal ecstasy, a whole new world opened up for me. I am beautiful, powerful and I love my feminine beauty – whatever it looks like today.

Women’s (and men’s) sexuality has been owned by the Church and governed by God since the early years in the Church. To find out, through personal bravery, that I actually owned my body was the pivotal point in changing my mindset. I began to build resilience to the shame all around me, especially from those in the Church. I later found that this resilience was the key to arming myself against the cultural stigmas. It was a path I was going alone, that was very clear.

I began to see the women in my family and close friends in the Church as imprisoned. Our bodies were locked behind the bars of patriarchy. Those bars were outwardly noticeable – long skirts, covered cleavage, no sign of shoulders, and frumpy styles. Where was the beauty in our sexuality? Are we too busy mothering our litter of children to put ourselves on the front burner? Is that selfish of us?

When you get a small enough group of LDS women together who feel safe to open up you find that you are not alone. This was the second step in realizing I was on the right track. I shared my new views and watched as the muscles in the faces of my friends and family responded as if I was speaking Chinese. I felt like a missionary in a foreign land preaching the Book of Female Ecstasy. Yes it can be yours, for free! Really free, you don’t have to pay 10% of your income to enter the Euphoria Kingdom.

This breakthrough trickled down to other things in my life. I began to realize that my whole life was set up around men. The duties listed under my responsibilities just because I have a uterus, the things required of me just because I am not a man, and the reality that our culture (in the Church) made it clear to me that no matter what or how hard I try I am not, and never will be, equal to men in God’s eyes.

This caused a revolt in my soul. I began to speak up to my friends and family and become the voice of advocacy for the oppressed women in my family – my sisters, my sisters-in-law, my mother-in-law. Even though it may have resonated, we each have to take that first step of allowing ourselves to see things outside of the bars. Some of them did, most of them did not. My husband was told to get his wife in check, my sisters-in-law frowned upon my disinterest in submitting at family get-togethers where all the women serve the men while they sit on their priesthood asses. I began to see just how much my new Self did not fit within the prison walls anymore. This was the beginning of the end of my marriage. My ex-husband always appreciated my bold personality but so long as it stayed within the lines. This did not work for me and who I really am. I was now awake and nothing was going to put me back asleep.

Although my awakening was caused by one of the biggest public anti-feminists, I am grateful at one time, during her younger years when she was a feminist, she found the power of her personal sexuality and shared it that day. I love that I can pinpoint the moment: it’s burned into my memory – driving in my Volkswagen down Madison Avenue just as I passed the local high school when the advice on the radio hit me to my core. It unlocked what my family viewed as a Pandora’s Box and I will be forever grateful.

Setting the Record Straight

Warren Barnes Smith

by Scarlet A

The dirty little secret of the women of my mother’s bloodline is that Patriarchal Blessings were viewed with deep suspicion and to be taken with a grain of salt. We kept this fact secret by either not receiving them as my grandmother had opted, or simply refusing to discuss something “so sacred” in a light-hearted matter. It was spin. It was a smokescreen. There is a story behind it.

My great, great grandfather, Warren Barnes Smith, was a patriarch and a well-known one at that, being the son of Amanda Barnes Smith—survivor of Haun’s Mill, who splinted her son’s hip with an alder branch, secretary of the First Board of the Relief Society and a woman who was sealed with her children to Joseph Smith.

In church lore, church history, and the two-and-a-half-minute talk circuit, Warren was a saint, a generous man who turned no one away and whose divorced wife still laundered his shirts from a sense of devotion to her temple sealing despite a civil divorce. But Warren had a dirty, little secret: He broke his wife’s heart, abandoned his children and contributed precious little to their daily needs after his uppity wife left him.

My great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Echo Mercer, his first wife, divorced him. The stories handed down from my grandmother say that she loved him deeply, sacrificed for him, waited for him while he went on a mission and bore him seven children. She endured the second wife—even grew to love her and her children—but was heartbroken when he began courting a third. Such behavior has made three generations of women in my mother’s line question where the line lay between adultery and a covenant even in the murky and nebulous boundaries of plural marriage. Her heart couldn’t bear sharing him anymore. She had a revelation of her own: Polygamy was hell on a woman in love.

She divorced him—and yes, a true civil divorce—and she remarried. She did his laundry not out of a sense of devotion—as the revisionists insist—but because she was desperately trying to survive and raise her children. So she took in laundry, delivered by the dutiful children of the other wives, to rub in her poverty and divine punishment for divorcing a holy man.

I named my youngest daughter after Elizabeth Echo Mercer because she lived by the courage of her own conviction and staood against the wrongs she believed inherent in her society and managed to live life on her own terms in the Mormon-dominated corner of the American West of the mid-1800s.

Warren’s daughter, Florence, was my grandmother’s mother, needed shoes for her daughter, my grandmother, Helen. Together they went to the General Store in American Fork, owned by Warren Barnes Smith. When my grandmother told the story, she said she was looking forward to seeing her grandfather, a respected citizen and renowned member of the church. His reputation loomed larger than life and he would help her get new shoes, without holes and without having them handed down from her two older sisters. Upon arriving, grandma—who was no older than eight—and her mother approached the counter. Her mother said, “Hello father, I needed some new shoes for Helen and I was hoping you could help.”

“Who are you?” he replied.

“Dad, don’t you recognize me?”

“Who are you?”

“Dad, it’s me, Florence! This is my daughter, Helen.”

“Oh. You’re Elizabeth’s.”

Grandma didn’t get new shoes that day.

Years later, in the late 1920s, Warren Barnes Smith came to my grandmother’s high school in Lehi, Utah to give Patriarchal Blessings. The teacher knew that Helen was the granddaughter of Warren Barnes Smith, and announced it. Not that he needed to, everyone seemed to know it anyway—everyone but Warren Barnes Smith himself.

As the day of the blessings approached, Grandma would remember thinking, “maybe he would drop by and mention how special it would be to bless his own granddaughter.” Surely, if he didn’t recognize her when he was working his secular job, being in communion with the Holy Ghost to give such vaunted blessings would prompt his heart to know who she was, recognize her, and greet her. When the day came, it was obvious he didn’t know who she was. He hadn’t acknowledged her, her mother or said anything at all. “I was angry and hurt,” she told us. “I felt humiliated that he wouldn’t even acknowledge us or even be kind to us, and yet I was so special because I was his granddaughter. A granddaughter he wouldn’t acknowledge or even recognize.” She refused a Patriarchal Blessing from her own grandfather and went home instead of attending seminary.

The snub was noticed although it had to be brought to the attention of Patriarch Smith. She wasn’t punished at home. Not by her mother and not by her father. In fact, they supported her decision. It was the gutsiest damn thing my meek grandmother did in her entire man-serving, Mormon-fearing, keep-the-social-order-together-at–all-costs life! I remember her saying, near the end of her life: “If he didn’t recognize me, if the Spirit didn’t move him to know his own granddaughter, why would I believe he was inspired to tell me anything?” She queried. “I thought to hell with him.”

She never regretted it. She was proud that she had, in a small way, exposed his cruelty, injustice, insensitivity and charlatanism. I heard the story from her own lips, the excitement and the disappointment—the heartache still present half a century later. I heard her discuss it with her sisters, my sisters and my own mother, who held him in equal contempt. In fact, my grandmother never spoke ill of anyone and didn’t allow it of her children or grandchildren. We were reminded of what Thumper’s mother told the mouthy bunny in Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Her favorite hymn was “Let Us All Speak Kind Words to Each Other,” nonetheless; I still remember her referring to her grandfather unabashedly as “that old son of a bitch,” not as a curse, but as a mere description of his character.

Google Warren Barnes Smith and you’ll hear that his granddaughter who refused his Patriarchal Blessing later regretted the decision. Sit in Sacrament Meeting and Primary long enough his name will be mentioned vis-à-vis Patriarchal Blessings and the power of prayer—you might just hear how my grandmother, on her deathbed prayed for forgiveness and spoke of regret about not having her Patirarchal Blessing bestowed upon her by her own grandfather.

For the record: My grandmother died calling out for my grandfather, an apostate who drank to soothe his own pain growing up a sensitive child in a mind-controlling cult. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet and hold with great suspicion and skepticism any inspirational talk ending with the phrase: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Patriarchal Blessing Mad Libs!

MadLibsIT

by Donna Banta

Brother/Sister        your name       , according to your request, I lay my     body part     upon your       body part      and through the power of the   adjective        male celebrity          give unto you your Patriarchal Blessing.

You are of the House of ­     Hogwarts sorting hat assignment     through the loins of   Clue game character  and shall enjoy the      plural noun     of that lineage which has the assignment of     bodily function ending in –ing      here on the     piece of furniture  .

Soon you will marry. Choose a/an    Crayola crayon hue         fruit or vegetable     who will remain faithful to his/her      article of clothing      and help you to      math function   and      bodily function     all over the     piece of furniture    . You will find     emotion ending in –ness      in serving in the Church, especially in the      adjective             possessive/plural farm animal        organization.

I       verb      you up to come forth in the       ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.)      adjective             Marvel Comics noise      to receive a/an       Clue game murder weapon      in the      Clue game room       . You will enjoy a/an       adjective       life of        household chore ending in –ing         in these      adjective      days, and will perform a/an      adjective             dance step       that will help to usher in the return of       your favorite Beatle­­­      .

In the name of ­­        person in the room      , Amen.

Paul Dunn and my Patriarchal Blessing

Paul_H._Dunn

by Kay Lay Ale

In the early ‘80s I was sitting at a devotional at Ricks College (it would be a few years before the name change to BYU-I). The guest speaker we were anticipating was Paul H. Dunn. It would also be a few years before the scandal broke involving his lies about his baseball and war years. For the moment, we all idolized the church leaders like rock stars. I do not remember what the subject of Paul Dunn’s speech was that day, but I remember clearly his comments about Patriarchal Blessings. He said that he had read hundreds of them and no matter how specific they were, it was his opinion that Jesus’s second coming was not going to be in our lifetime! So his advice to us was: finish your educations, buy life insurance, plan your career paths, and live your lives.

I was stunned! My Patriarchal Blessing was very specific about witnessing The Resurrection. Maybe he would change his mind if he read mine. How could this discrepancy exist between the inspiration and Priesthood-inspired discernment of two men chosen by Heavenly Father to prognosticate the derring-do of the “latter days.” My roommate helped me approach the podium as the crowd thronged around him. I tried to get his attention, but to no avail. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. He did give a caveat that his statements were his own opinion, but he was an apostle, after all. Certainly he had some special insight into God’s mind, didn’t he?

I went back to my apartment and read the specific passage in the Patriarchal Blessing again:
I bless you that your days shall be long upon this earth and you shall enjoy health and strength Through your righteousness you shall have that rare opportunity to be in the flesh when the Savior comes for the second time, and you shall be caught up in that great throng of righteousness, and the Savior will even embrace you and express His love for you.

As I read it again, I wondered how could it not be a literal meaning of the last days and me being on the Earth, in the flesh when Jesus would arrive in the second coming? As the years passed, and I lived my life, my Patriarchal Blessing played a pivotal role in the decisions that I made. I enrolled in nursing classes, even though I found blood repugnant because of these promised blessings:
Then the Lord desires to use you as an angel of mercy, for you shall literally be called to go to even distant lands to administer to the sick and afflicted, to raise up the downtrodden, and to bless those who are less fortunate than you.

I dropped out of the pre-nursing course work because of my revulsion to blood. I was ambivalent to getting married, but because my Patriarchal Blessing told me it was my destiny, (and because of family and church pressure) I decided to find a worthy elder. I dated, prayed about who fit the description in my blessing, my prayer was answered, and I got married. I did not desire motherhood or having children, but found myself pregnant and gave birth to three children, even though I did not desire this path for myself.

You are a beautiful young girl. You are just progressing in that stage of life where many wonderful things are about to happen to you, and you shall see many choice events come into your life, because of your righteousness and many beautiful things shall happen.

Throughout my 20s and 30s, I looked to my blessing as a guide to make decisions and to guide me. I desired a career, not only because it is in my nature to want to work, but because it seemed that my Patriarchal Blessing could not be fulfilled unless I had one. My husband was adamant that I remain a stay-at-home mom. I desired to have the type of relationship with my husband that the Patriarch spoke of in my blessing. My husband was emotionally distant. I read books on how to bridge the gap, I kept a clean home, had meals ready on time, wore sexy lingerie, planned date nights and vacations. The more I did, the more distant he grew. I begged him to talk to me, to tell me what I could do to bring him closer. He walked out of the room each time I brought up the subject. The distance between us grew. I became more desperate, frustrated, alone and hopeless. What was worse, other symptoms of emotional abuse popped up. It flew in the face of what my blessing promised: and great shall be the work that you shall accomplish on this earth, and great shall be the union that you shall have with the young man that is preparing himself.

I’d had many prayers answered, my prayer about whom to marry. I had prayed about what to do with my life when I was 19 and received an answer to go on a mission. I had, on several occasions, felt an intuition to be called to a certain place on my mission and that I would know for certain, what I should do and would be led by The Holy Spirit and have the opportunity to speak and commune with angels—literally.

Even after my mission as a wife, I felt lost and alone. I wasn’t fulfilling the obligation to be an angel of mercy. I didn’t have any bond with my husband, let alone a great one. I certainly hadn’t seen any angels. Members believe that within the church, if you are righteous, then you will be blessed…if you are not blessed, then you aren’t trying hard enough. If things remain bad after you try hard, then it is God’s will…I wondered how it could be God’s will that the promises of my Patriarchal Blessing were broken. Since I was not receiving the blessings promised me, I continued to look at what I was doing wrong that was keeping me from receiving these blessings. I doubled down on my prayers, on being dedicated to my church callings, on holding Family Home Evenings, on everything I could possibly think of that I was not doing well enough. No matter how faithful I was, the blessings just were not coming to fruition. No matter how faithful and dedicated I was, God was not blessing me.
I began to have doubt in blessings.

I thought back to Paul Dunn and wondered why he said what he said. I had no insight into what he said, but as I sat in my state of cognitive dissonance, I wondered why God would tell me to marry the man I did, tell me he was preparing himself for me, that he was a fine young man, then allow him to emotionally abuse me and distance himself from me? Why would God not listen to my earnest prayers and give me the blessing he promised me? Why would God not bring to pass the blessings in my marriage and in the church that he had promised me? I wasn’t perfect, but if perfection is the standard for receiving blessings, then we have all been set up for failure as his children and none of us is worthy. What then was the point of any of this? If I was supposed to learn a lesson, then what was it?

I began to question all spiritual answers…where would this path eventually lead? Was this the end of my faith in the Mormon church and the end of my marriage? It was.

When I left the church, this was the only path that with which I was at peace. I had stopped attending church, stopped believing in the infallibility of its leaders, stopped paying tithing even, but what about the time I prayed about marrying my husband and was told to marry him? When I was separated from my husband, I prayed and asked what I should do and the answer I got was that the path I was on was the path best for me. How could that be? I knew I had received an answer to marry him, then how could I now be receiving an answer to divorce him? If he wasn’t the man I should have married in the first place, then why didn’t I receive that answer 20 years beforehand?

As I searched for an answer to my question, I found it to be so simple, I don’t know why I couldn’t see it before—the answer had been inside me all along. Our brains have an amazing capacity to give us the answers we are looking for at the time we need it. It makes perfect sense now. I wish I had understood this sooner. Each time I prayed, the answer I received, was the answer that I really wanted to hear at the time, or at least best fit the situation.

I had an intuition about my personality and the direction I wanted my life to take, but instead of relying on my own judgment at each new fork in the road, I abandoned my decision making to another authority or power…I had let the Patriarchal Blessing dictate the direction of my life rather than allowing myself to determine my own path.

I Was Just a Girl Who Couldn’t Say No

JUST SAY NO

by Morgana

I should have said no to that calling. That much is obvious in retrospect, but at the time, saying no didn’t seem like an option.

How could it have? Every year since birth, I’ve heard someone from the pulpit give THAT talk. You know the one—where the guilt is laid thick if you happen to not totally, completely and superlatively (what’s the word now? Let’s say it all together) MAGNIFY your calling. Actually turning down an opportunity to serve the Lord is presented as abhorrent an act as robbing an orphan.

So when the Second Counselor extended to me the calling of CTR6 teacher, I accepted it, with serious reservations. I even jokingly questioned from which source the Bishop had received his inspiration. It was the third time in seven years that I would serve in Junior Primary, during which time I had also worked as a preschool teacher. I had three kids of my own at home to boot, including a special needs child and an active toddler. I was burned out.

I was also hiding a shameful little secret—well, shameful for a Striving-to-Be-Valiant Sister in Zion, anyway. I was coming to understand that I didn’t really like other people’s children. It was a slow and hard realization, but there it was.

But, I figured, the Lord wanted me in this calling at this time. There was something I could learn, or someone I could help by fulfilling it to the best of my ability. And fulfill it I did. I worked diligently on my lessons, created fun activities that invited the Spirit, and made cookies and a little card for each child’s birthday. I prayed that I would learn to love the kids and to enjoy teaching them. I even fasted toward that end a couple of times.

I know it sounds ridiculous. They were just kids! For a mere two hours on Sunday! They were all cute and sweet, with the average amount of wiggles and giggles. Yes, one of them had Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) just like my son. But I should know how to handle that, right? Right??? (Hint: although it would seem like a natural fit, do not call parents who are dealing with a special needs child to be in charge of another child with those same needs. We are exhausted, and need the break.) In truth, my class overwhelmed me, and in spite of the prayers, every new Sunday would fill me with increasing dread.

And then one Sunday, it happened. I was in the library, requesting copies for my lesson. The white-haired librarian asked me how many I wanted, and I froze up. I could not answer. The librarian appeared a little alarmed. I began to hyperventilate, and then my husband walked in. He put an arm around my shoulder, and I began to sob.

It was before the second bell, so the library was full, as were the halls. People were staring. I was beyond mortified. Here I was, trying so hard to make this calling work, yet having a mental breakdown in front of my fellow ward members. To appear as anything less than competent, cheerful, and willing to serve is not the Mormon way.

The Primary President approached me. We had a long talk and she asked if I would like to be released from my calling. I said yes, but not without a lot of guilt. I could not figure out why the Lord would call me to something that would end in what felt like abject failure and humiliation.

I began to ponder if the calling had been inspired at all. Something the Primary President said didn’t sit well with me: I had been called because I had known experience with kids and with PDD. It had been an intellectual decision, not a spiritual one. The Lord had had nothing to do with it. And with that realization, came another one: I could have said no.

Saying “no” in the Mormon culture is extremely difficult. Lessons, talks, special firesides all point to the wonderful blessings we’ll receive if we do ALL that the Lord requires of us. Hell, the whole temple experience is a lesson in never saying no. We covenant with God (with angels as witnesses!) to give all of ourselves, even our very lives, to the building up of the Kingdom. Now that I’m out of that culture, it seems so bizarre—so obviously cult-like and disturbing. But when you’re in it, the pressure is very real. It’s no wonder that “no” is a word that’s rarely heard.

But the reality is sometimes “no” is the best answer. We are never, ever taught that. It’s particularly hard for Mormon women, who have been conditioned to believe their work is “the errand of angels.” I’ve pinpointed three responses we Sisters make when the answer should be “no.”

1) We say “yes.” Then we take on the calling, stress out, fast and pray for strength, but end up exhausted and even sick. (See above story…)

2) We say “yes.” Then we grumble and complain at the audacity of so-and-so to even ask that of us—because, you know, once asked we can’t possibly refuse. That would be un-Christ like.

3) We actually say “no.” Wait, that’s not true. We say, “I’m so, so sorry, but I just can’t.” Then we launch into a fifteen minute explanation of how we’ll be in flight to Timbuktu at the time to help our mother deliver her 14th baby, or at the hospital donating our kidneys; but if no one else can step in, then yes, please call us and we’ll email the exquisitely cute RS birthday invitations from the airport, or create the origami representation of each temple from our hospital bed.

There are many problems with this inability to draw proper boundaries and learn to take care of ourselves. One problem is undue judgment of those who actually *gasp* say no. Another problem is undue judgment of those who say yes, but really and truly should have said no. I’ve been privy to the conversations: the criticisms that are heaped on women who appear to be performing less than their best can be frightful and cutting. I think this was another reason for my panic attack in the library, AND my subsequent shame.

Another problem, and this is widespread, is that if we are taught to never say no and to constantly give, give, give of ourselves, this bleeds over into other aspects of our lives.

On my mission, I had a district leader who was wild and rebellious. But he was charming and funny, too. I wanted him to approve of me, regardless of how much he flouted the rules and confused me by his utter lack of conviction. We became friends, and I never reprimanded or guilt-tripped him, something he came to confuse with acceptance of his behavior.

One day, he approached me about going to the beach with him—a topless beach. He would arrange a split for me so that I’d be companions for the day with a known rebellious sister missionary. I’m not sure this is what the Church has in mind when it asks us to follow our leaders.

I look back on the occasion and shake my head at my former prudish self, but at the time I was horrified. But I didn’t say no. I rarely said no. That was not my M.O. I said yes, even when I was deeply uncomfortable with the proposition, and then internally panicked.

As it so happened, the mission president found out about the plan and put the kibosh on it. I considered it a blessing from God, but what it represented was a lost opportunity for me to learn to stand my ground.

I still have difficulty with that, but I’m learning. I’m learning to respect other people’s boundaries as well, another thing rarely taught in our weekly lessons. And by rarely I mean never, which brings up an interesting observation: something that only struck me as obvious recently. When you get a group of ex-Mormons together, with many experimenting with newfound freedoms and most raised neither to say no nor to take no for an answer, it becomes a tinderbox waiting to catch fire. So fellow ex-Mormons, go easy on each other. Respect delineated boundaries! And remember: It’s okay to say no!

Bringing Them Back to the Fold

Sheep in a fold

by Pink Hedgehog

It seems that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been– unwisely–asking Google all kinds of embarrassing questions about the Church, and leaving it in great numbers, or so ex-Mormons are claiming.   I’ve seen many people who say they left the Church because they discovered the Mormon Church “is not true.”  I think this is a smokescreen, and I decided to write a “how-to” manual to bring these members back to the fold.  If you follow my instructions carefully, you will surely bring your friends and family back to activity and full faithfulness.

John Dehlin came up with five “myths” about why people are leaving the Church.  I propose that these are not myths, but are, in fact, the real reasons that people are leaving the Church.  The reasons are as follows:

1.  They were offended by someone
2.  They desired to sin
3.  They never had a testimony to begin with
4.  They were lazy….or stopped praying and reading the scriptures
5.  They studied anti-Mormon literature

Now that you understand the five “myths,” I will help you to determine how best to help your loved ones to return to the fold.

1. Was a family in your ward offended?  The easiest way to find out if a family in your ward left the Church because someone offended them is to show up unannounced at their front door and simply ask them.  It’s best to choose a time in the evening when they are sure to be home, like when the family is trying to get the children in bed.   After a bit of chit chat, just get right to the heart of the matter.  Tell your friends that you know they have a testimony of the Lord’s church, and that they should not put their eternal salvation in jeopardy by taking offense and walking away from the church.  Help them to find forgiveness in their hearts by sharing a few scriptures with them and bearing your testimony.  It will help to soften their hearts and show them the error of their ways.

2.  Do you think your sister left the church because she wanted to sin?  In this case, you should attempt to discover exactly which sins she has been committing.  When you visit her home, check the refrigerator for the presence of alcohol.  Is she wearing immodest clothing?  Do you suspect she is committing adultery or some other sexual sin?  Any of these things can lead someone away from the church.  If you can determine the source of the sin, you have the best chance of bringing your sister back.  In some cases, you may want to stage an intervention, especially in the instance of substance use, such as alcohol.  In all cases, it is best to confront those who are sinning with the consequences of their bad choices.  The church offers many programs to recover from sin, repent, and return to full fellowship.  You can suggest some of these ideas, after consulting with your bishop.  Always keep a prayer in your heart, and make sure to bear your testimony often about the power of the atonement.

3.  Maybe your friend never had a testimony to begin with.  If you suspect this is the case, it is important to intercede–and quickly, before the spirit leaves her home entirely.  I highly recommend that you bake treats and deliver them at least weekly, and make sure to include spiritual thoughts or scriptures on handmade greeting cards with each delivery of baked goods.  You may wish to enlist the aid of your friend’s visiting teachers, home teachers, and some of the other sisters in the ward.   It may take some months to accomplish, but if you endure, you can be assured that your friend will soften her heart.  In addition to treats, you can offer to read scriptures with her daily, and have Gospel discussions about faith-promoting topics.  Avoid any debate on the more difficult issues in church history because those topics were invented by Satan to damage testimonies and drive away the spirit.  If you start to get a bad feeling about any of the things your friend is saying, you will know that Satan is present and attempting to deceive you.  People who never had a testimony are desperate for opportunities to feel the spirit.

4. Do you suspect that your husband lost his testimony because he became lazy and stopped reading his scriptures and praying?  To help someone in this situation, I suggest you create a chart to keep track of scripture study and prayer.  In the case of your spouse, you can actually supervise his spiritual activities on a daily basis.  If you are helping a friend, you can deliver a new chart each week, along with a treat.  Be sure to include quotes about the power of prayer and scripture study.   Tell your friend that you will bring a new chart each week, and check in to see how her progress is going.  Use encouragement and positive reinforcement to facilitate the behaviors necessary to gain a Testimony.  Do not become frustrated if those you are trying to help do not respond, simply keep up your own scripture study and prayer, continue delivering the charts with treats, and don’t give up.

5. Do you think your relatives have been studying anti-Mormon literature?  This last category is very tricky to deal with.  You will need to avoid allowing your relatives to expose you to any of Satan’s tricks.  It is important to show your relatives where they went wrong, and to help them rebuild their testimonies, while preserving your own testimony.  It is common knowledge that all truth can be found on lds.org.  You have no need to seek anywhere else for answers to life’s most troubling questions.  Your relatives may attempt to lead you away from the church, but do not be fooled.  If you receive an email containing uncomfortable information, simply do not read it.  Skim your eyes over the text to pick out some keywords, then look up those topics on lds.org and send your relatives links to your faith-promoting material.  As always, it’s the perfect opportunity to bear strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, the Book of Mormon, and the atonement of Christ.

If you are unsure which of the above reasons caused your loved ones to stop attending church, the best course of action is to make sure they know you love them and that you have a testimony.  Pop over regularly without calling, bring casseroles, home canned goods, produce from your garden, jam, home baked bread, and other treats.  Never miss an opportunity to bear your testimony, or to leave them with a nugget of truth.  Eventually this will cause the hearts of those you care about to be softened and receptive to the spirit.  It is your duty as one who understands the fullness of the gospel to share that knowledge with those around you, especially those who have wandered from the straight and narrow path and become lost.

I know these things to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

Invasion

facebook business

by Kay lay ale

What an interesting week. It started out with me learning that the Mormon Church is changing the way it is doing missionary work. They are asking their missionaries (and since every member’s a missionary- are they extending this invitation to all of our Mormon family and friends as well?) to proselytize on Facebook. Is it just me and others who DO NOT want our private space invaded seeing this as a boundary issue?

I write my own blog. Nobody really pays much attention to it, which is fine by me; it allows me to say what is on my mind without having to worry about offending anyone. Then a few days ago, I posted a piece that was well-written and -researched, with LDS Church sources cited only. I received three messages, each one escalating in intensity.  Here is the last message:

Wow. Many of these things are the exact opposite of what the LDS Church teaches! Please stop spreading false rumors about my faith.

On Pinterest, another woman is offended that I linked an article that quotes one of the Mormon Church leaders telling the women of the Church they have no need to fight for their rights. She also informs me that “homosexuality is harmful and evil.”

An old mission companion, whom I’ve been Facebook friends with for a long time, just noticed that I support gay rights when I made a comment about it on MY Facebook page. She asked me about my standing in the church. For the first time, I decided to tell my entire story to my Mormon family and friends. It was heart-wrenching, full of pain, sorrow, fear, suffering, lots of study and soul searching, yet I make it clear I am not lost and do not need saving. She told me she understood, even though she was shocked. Then two days later, I get a private message from her, calling me back to the Church, saying I am lost and she wants to bring me back to the Church. We exchange a few messages in private, but when I tell her how I found out about polyandry and link her to the Church’s own websites, she calls me to repentance. Sigh. This brings back so many memories.

When I first left the church, I did so quietly with no fanfare. I did not tell my family or friends; I just stopped attending. When I was able to get my feet under me, I informed my family and friends. I let them know I left for personal reasons and not to sin or because I was offended. I told them I was happy and that it was a good decision for me. It didn’t take them long to cross over boundaries and tell me how wrong I was. I had one brother tell me I was full of anger, and that I couldn’t trust in my own reasoning, and I should lean on his greater reason and intellect. I then had another brother tell me that I couldn’t possibly be happy without the Church in my life; that I would never be happy until I repented and came back to the Church. He then sent me a link to a General Conference talk on repentance.

My children left with me. I have one daughter who is an advocate for women’s rights, working on her bachelor’s degree; she has several piercings, tattoos and multiple hair color changes. She also happens to be bi-sexual. My family does not accept her on any level. They have not invited her to family functions, included her in family mass emails, or friended her on Facebook. After one visit, her grandfather called her up and told her she would be more beautiful without the piercings. Here is a beautiful woman, advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. She is passionate about making positive change in the world, and my family only cares about her outward appearance? That she must conform to some set standard in order to be accepted? The ultimate boundary crossing is telling someone else, either overtly or covertly, that she is not acceptable because her appearance does not conform to your views.

Many ex-Mormons are so often leveled with the criticism, “You can leave the Church, but you can’t leave it alone.” Does is ever occur to Mormons that they can’t leave US alone? In each one of the examples, I was in my own private space. I had an article pinned to my Pinterest board, I wrote on my blog, I wrote on my Facebook wall, I was minding my own business with my family. Each and every time, I had Mormons invade my personal space to tell me how wrong I am to express myself—to voice my opinion. They feel no violation has taken place to call me to repentance, to tell me whether I am happy or not, to determine what Church I should or should not belong to, yet how would they feel if the same was done to them? We can’t leave you alone? How about you try to leave us alone?

Randy’s Boundary Tips!

Mountain of the Lord's House

by Donna Banta

As a public service to women everywhere, the Ex-Mormon Mavens offer you another gem from the popular program:

GET A LIFE!

From BYU television 

Sister Bailey: Good morning, I’m Karen Bailey, hostess of GET A LIFE! from BYU television. Our first guest is the popular LDS event planner, Randy Johnson, author of Queen for an Eternity. Welcome back to our show, Brother Johnson.

Brother Johnson: Oh my heck, Karen, thank you for having me again.

Bailey: Now, Brother Johnson, you are a confirmed bachelor, correct?

Johnson: (nods eagerly) Absolutely, Karen.

Bailey: Nevertheless, you are an expert on all things bridal. How is that?

Johnson: I’m an incurable romantic, Karen. A temple marriage is the dream of every good Mormon girl. Nobody knows that better than I do.

Bailey: Fabulous. Today you want to talk to our viewers about the chapter in your book, Queen for an Eternity, that discusses boundaries. That’s a term I’m not familiar with.

Johnson: (sighs and shakes his head) Nor was I, Karen. Didn’t have them in my day. But modern LDS brides are calling the temple endowment experience a violation of their personal boundaries, beginning with the recommend interview.

Bailey: How on Earth is an interview with the bishop a boundary issue?

Johnson: A growing number of sisters complain that they are uncomfortable sitting alone in a room with a man whom they barely know and discussing kissing, fondling, intercourse, orgasms, erections, and masturbation.

Bailey: Goodness me! I’d think they’d be grateful for the opportunity.

Johnson: Same here, Karen. I love to discuss intimate matters with the bishop. In fact, I’m still confused about an experience I had recently. Instead of inviting me into his office, the bishop slapped a new recommend in my hand and then hurried out of the building. I don’t know why he did that. And he hasn’t returned my calls.

Bailey: There, there, Brother Johnson. I hope you haven’t allowed yourself to take offense.

Johnson: Heavens no, Karen, I’d never fall into that trap—and that’s what I tell my new brides. Rather than be offended, I advise them to remember that the bishop must have a detailed account of their sexual activity because he has been called of God to protect and preserve their moral dignity.

Bailey: So it eases a young bride’s mind to know it’s for her own good.

Johnson: Usually. If it doesn’t, I tell her to take my example and just have fun with it. After all, she can’t fight the bishop off, so why not . . . you know . . .

Bailey: Just lay back and enjoy it?

Johnson: Exactly, Karen. The same logic applies to brides who are wary of being washed and anointed in the temple.

Bailey:  Luckily the washing and anointing is not what it used to be.

Johnson: I make a point of that in my book. Nowadays all a girl has to do is imagine that an old lady is dabbing oil on her breasts. It’s so much easier, not to mention less greasy. I encourage my girls to think about that. If that doesn’t work, I tell them to think about baseball.

Bailey: I suppose if she’s really nervous, a young bride could imagine that everyone is in her underwear.

Johnson: Good thinking, Karen, and once she’s washed and anointed, she’ll know exactly what that looks like. As a matter of fact, that’s the trick I use to get through General Conference.

Bailey: Okay, I can see now why some sisters might misinterpret the bishop’s interview as well as the washing and anointing as a slight invasion of personal boundaries, but what on Earth could possibly be misconstrued as offensive about the endowment session?

Johnson: (makes a broad sweep with his hand) Well, a lot of new brides have a thing about taking oaths, especially the one about dedicating all of their time, talent, and resources to the LDS Church. But when that comes up, I just have to say, “Girlfriends, get over it!” ‘Cause, you know, that’s never going to change.

Bailey: (shakes her head) Never.

Johnson: But some feel violated when donning the robes of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood for the first time. You know how it is, Karen, everyone but the bride has been through the temple before. The entire roomful of patrons slide in and out of their clothing like a G-rated version of the Chippendale dancers, and then turn to gawk at the poor clumsy bride. Some girls find that offensive.

Bailey: Are these girls converts?

Johnson: No, most of them are true-blue, born-in-the covenant. It’s a problem that goes to the grass roots. But given the secrecy that surrounds the temple, I have long been at a loss to suggest an activity that might prepare a girl to complete this task in a timely manner. Then, last month when I was on a cross-country flight from Salt Lake to Boise, I had an epiphany while watching the safety demonstration. The flight attendant, Phred, was incredibly friendly. He agreed to help me with a little play-acting. I was the new bride and he was the bossy voice that booms from the speaker during the temple session.

Bailey: We have video of your performance here.

 _______________

—Cut to video of the aircraft interior. Phred is standing next to Johnson’s seat on the plane.

Phred: Sister Johnson, put on your airline blanket.

—Johnson takes the blanket from the armrest and ties it around his waist.

Phred: Sister Johnson, remove your blanket and take off your shoes. Put your life vest on backwards, tie your oxygen mask around your waist in the back, put your blanket back on, open your in-flight magazine to page 16 and stick it on your head, then put your shoes on.

—A timer appears at the top of the screen. Johnson deftly completes all of Phred’s instructions. The timer stops at 47 seconds. Johnson sits down. The timer disappears.

Phred: Okay, Sister Johnson, now I want you to take it all off, your shoes, blanket, mask, vest, and magazine. Then put your life vest on in the right position, tie your oxygen mask around your waist in the front, put your blanket back on, turn your magazine to page forty and stick it on your head, then put on your shoes.

—The timer reappears. Johnson flawlessly completes the regimen. The timer stops at 43 seconds. Johnson sits down. A sudden burst of turbulence sends Phred careening atop Johnson. Johnson’s life vest inflates. The screen goes black.

 _______________

Johnson: (blushes) Oops, I didn’t mean to include that last part. But don’t worry, that probably won’t happen in the temple.

Bailey: I have been talking with LDS event planner, Randy Johnson. To order his book, or reserve seats on his “Cross Country Temple Preparation Flight,” visit his website at therandyjohnson[dot]com. (holds up a copy of Queen for an Eternity) That’s a lovely picture of you on the cover Brother Johnson.

Johnson: Why, thank you, Karen.

The Vile Harridan Probes Her Heart

by Scarlet A

In high school, I was a loner. In conservative Davis County Utah, I stood out like an Alpha Bitch in a prairie-dog town. Not completely by choice, but certainly because I had chosen to be an inactive Mormon and to speak my mind about socially liberal politics and refused to remain silent about certain horrors that had befallen my autistic brother in a state-run institution.  But, if there is one extracurricular activity for a smart, independent, articulate teen girl, it’s the speech and debate team. We were encouraged to take “unique” and contrary stands on political issues for the sake of the argument and to truly learn and appreciate the art and science of heuristics.

Once I had proved my chops as a mere sophomore, by winning the school oratory contest—the first sophomore to do it at the ultra-competitive Bountiful High School—I was immediately placed on the competitive team and spent Saturdays, weekends and even time after school sharpening my tongue, critical thinking skills and the art of verbal evisceration.

Having socially liberal parents (and a father who had ceased to believe in Mormonism early in my life), both of whom were professional educators, we had a healthy respect for the separation of church and state. We were sensitive of this because as Mormons who once lived on a military base, we faced being ostracized and viewed with great suspicion. In that environment, the separation of church and state was a mantle of protection and ensured respect. Thus, keeping religion private was a value we held dear.

I was shocked and a little horrified when before my first debate meet, our coach gathered us into the classroom at a public high school to pray. I gasped, audibly and asked how this was separation of church and state and said I was uncomfortable.  The glares and anger were undeniable.

Praying before a debate tournament apparently was as sacred a covenant as baptism, Temple Covenants, Hindu Brahma bulls, facing Mecca and holy war. I was told I could stand apart from the prayer circle and be silent during the prayer. So I stood with the two openly non-Mormons on a competitive team of approximately 25 and remained silent—standing apart socially, physically, metaphysically, politically and ideologically from the rest.

As the debate season progressed, I was once asked to lead a prayer and declined as I did not believe that prayer was appropriate inside a public school with the approval of the teachers and coaches. While my debate teacher respected the decision and did work to make the non-genuflectors feel a greater sense of camaraderie on the team, I got a lot of flak from other competitors who confronted me plenty about why I wouldn’t pray.

Sasha C once asked if it was true that I was an atheist. At the time, I wasn’t.

Another girl asked if it was true that I had made a pact with Satan to be a successful debater. The response to which was: “Are you on drugs? I can’t be a good debater without selling my soul? Yeah, I made a pact with Satan.” I would later find out that blatant sarcasm isn’t a language the rumor mill speaks.

But the one who stands out was Matt Eyring, the son of Henry B. Eyring. He spoke in absolutes. He was condescending and told me what he thought of my acts of Civil Disobedience. He was a senior, popular, his dad was famous, his grandfather was famous and he knew the subtleties of how to wield peer pressure, particularly against a wayward and “wild girl.” He was also, like his father, very tall and seemed very aware that stature can intimidate in close proximity given his predilection to close the gap of personal space with 5 ft. 2 inch me when we disagreed.

He particularly hated it when I was able to quote Henry David Thoreau and Gandhi from memory about the benefits of standing by one’s principles in the face of adversity. Remember, it was the debate team, we were nothing if not a font of quotes to support any point of view proffered, with an arsenal of equally reactive supporting arguments to slay opponents.

My favorite, and the one which seemed to engender the most ire, was from John Stuart Mill, whom my father made me read the first time I was socially ostracized for not attending church: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

I reminded him that his religious pioneer ancestors were booted out and discriminated against for being different and in the minority. I asked if he was going to take on the role of the oppressor and run me out of Dodge. He relented. It seemed ironic that he would try to socially isolate a loner given that his own grandfather was denied a Nobel Prize for trying to unite science with secular. Why was I a pariah for wanting some Constitutionally protected civil liberties?  We came to a silent agreement that day that I’d avoid him and he’d avoid me. It worked out quite well until the end of the school year.

My parents were out of town during the Speech and Debate Team end-of-year banquet. So, I went with a friend, another non-Mormon. It was fun. I had forged some friendships and some kids’ parents genuinely respected me despite my inactivity in church. Before the banquet, we were mingling and talking and drinking punch, when I felt a strong hand grip my right shoulder and pull me close in one of those Mormon-authority-side-to-side hugs. It was uncomfortable as men never seem to understand that a vice-grip hurts. It was Henry B. Eyring. He started walking me over to a less-crowded area saying he needed to talk to me. In fact, I believe he said “prompted” to talk to me.

I was shocked that the First Counselor of the Presiding Bishopric was strong-arming me at a debate dinner in the school cafeteria. He hunched his shoulders and bowed his head at an awkward angle for his stature to facilitate staring me straight in the eyes. He told me how talented I was and that he had heard how gifted I was at public speaking and in argumentation.

He then turned to face me; his clutch on my shoulder still there and still uncomfortable, was now harnessing my back so I had to face him.

“You need to use your gift for speech for the greater glory of Heavenly Father and not ‘The Adversary.’”

I had been given fatherly talks by Church leaders before, but I had never been accused of consorting with Satan. I was absolutely enraged that a man who was supposed to have superhero abilities in the gift of discernment—who could see through claptrap like Superman could see through walls—was believing idle gossip from bored high school students. At that moment, I didn’t care who he was, he didn’t get to tell me I was evil. I wasn’t. I was an awkward kid who didn’t fit into a conservative Mormon mold.

Who the hell did he think he was? I knew at that moment that prophets were just men and that “priesthood” was just a word.

“And just what is it about my speeches that makes you think I am glorifying Satan? Do you even know what my competitive oratory was about?”

He seemed shocked that I responded with something less than abject, compliant subservience. “Do you know who I am?”

Who didn’t? It had been only a year since the General Conference where he had been called to The Presiding Bishopric. All Bountiful was abuzz about one of its own being on the tenure-track to prophethood.

I was ready at the moment of the paternal quarter-Nelson to cop to being sarcastic, iconoclastic, feminist, outspoken and maybe even snide, but evil? EVIL? Did this man know the volunteer hours I spent in my childhood and adolescence volunteering for autistic people and other disabled people? Did this man know that just one year earlier in junior high I had ended a friendship with someone who made fun of a kid with epilepsy who had a grand mal seizure? Evil?

“Yes I do.” I retorted. “Do you know who I am? Apparently not if you think I am friends with Satan.” I reiterated, “Just how is it you figure, I am doing anything for the greater good of Satan?”

“Young Lady, probe your heart!” He released my shoulder, which remained sore for a day, and he walked away.

“Yeah, I’ll take that into consideration,” I said in a raised voice—unamused, singled-out, bewildered and pissed off.

My heart didn’t need probing. Neither did my upper back or shoulder.

I don’t know of any other Protestant religious leader who would approach, single out and physically separate a girl from an activity at a public school to discuss a religious matter, except perhaps, the villainous preacher in Footloose. I still stand all amazed at the liberties he took with my civil rights, my personal space and the attack on my character.

But in a religion where women’s stature is akin to livestock (any questions about women and livestock? Go re-acquaint yourself with Johnny Lingo, Mahana and an 8-cow wife), an endowed man believes it is not just his right, but his duty to cross every conceivable social boundary to brand a 15-year old girl with a Scarlet Letter and put her on the track to glory without even bothering to nod at her parents.

I learned to embrace my Scarlet Letter that day.  To this day, I embroider it, I emblazon it—resplendent, with clearly defined outlines and borders. If being a brazen, outspoken harridan kept the Holy-Melchizedek-Vulcan neck pinch at bay, then a brazen, outspoken harridan I would be.  I have since learned, harridan is as harridan does and priesthood is as priesthood does!

I Dared to Set Boundaries: Shame on Me

blue_knockerby Miss O

Sleep-deprived and cooking a meal to feed my hungry offspring, I was also trying to configure a mental schedule of when I’d be able to finish organizing the extra living room that seemed to have become a default storage room for all things miscellaneous.  I was flustered but doing my thang when an unexpected, unannounced guest arrived through the informal side door of our house and right smack dab in the middle of our make shift storage room.

It was my mother- and father-in-law. Bless their hearts, they must have forgotten how to use a phone. No surprise there, as they’ve been doing this our whole marriage. Looks of distaste overcame my mother-in-law’s face as she began to dramatically step through the living room as if she were walking through a marshland avoiding awakening an alligator napping in the midst of the Everglades de Miscellaneous.

As embarrassment took over, I began to feel as if my home was not my sanctuary. Anxiety stirred and took over.  I was no longer a believing Mormon but I was suddenly taken back to the days of the frantic responses to random door knocking via obnoxiously ill-timed visiting teachers. It was as if their monthly assignments to visit me also included reporting results from random home-cleanliness testing.  Short of having to pee in a cup for them, I was always left with a sense of shame, a sense of never measuring up and a bout of anger due to being disrespected.

The rest of world seems to understand appointments and the purpose they serve.  What is the point of having a get together when half of the party isn’t expecting it or prepared? Is this a sick game of one upping each other? Am I on a game show? If this is foreshadowing of how well I will be prepared for the 2nd coming then I’m screwed. I do not pass go and I certainly do not collect my $200.

One of the first things I learned about when leaving the Church was this odd concept called boundaries. I admit that I lived 30 years of my life not knowing that such a thing existed.  After leaving, I read about how the Church as a whole and at the individual level abuse personal boundaries. It was no wonder I experienced such a visceral response to people dropping in unannounced.

So there I was, frantically scrambling to finish up dinner, rein in my anklebiters, and welcome my unwanted guests into my chaotic abyss. I couldn’t close the door to the mess – they had walked right into it and, unlike Jesus, they didn’t knock and wait patiently for me to answer.  I must see about installing a knobless door, I thought.

To make matters worse I have this tenacious need to feed people who visit, yet I hadn’t planned for this and was now desperately trying to find a way to turn a noodle dish into fishes and loaves.  And then it hit me – this is my house!  Just because my mother-in-law does not require the use of her own doorbell and feels it rude to expect manners at her own home does not mean that all homes must abide by this. So I said to myself: “Self, it’s time to try out those boundaries that you’ve been reading about on exmormon forums.”

I collected my thoughts and attempted to get my pounding heart out of my throat. What I wanted to say was, “GET OUT!!!  My house is a mess and I know you’re loving this! Use my front door, not the damned side entrance! And this, here, is a doorbell. USE IT!”  But what came out was, “[MIL], I know that to you it doesn’t matter if people walk into your house unannounced but would you and [FIL] mind calling first so I can make sure we are available to visit with you guys?” I was sure my antiperspirant had either expired or the manufacturer had never met my mother-in-law. Maybe I would write in and suggest a new line called MIL-Proof.

She gave no response but a look of confusion and then I dared to add my current, larger pet peeve: “And would you mind using the front door?  This door enters a room that I’m embarrassed to say isn’t functional right now.” My heart had relocated to my ears now and my vision blackened and tunneled, so I am not able to recall how she responded. I just wanted it over. I had stood up for myself. This was the beginning of Miss O establishing and vocalizing her boundaries. Had I known it would later deem me an even bigger “bitch of the family,” I may not have attempted it – but I’m glad I hadn’t thought yet of the repercussions of a woman scorned and armed with tools of passive aggression.

Later that month I was working in my garden when I received a call from my mother-in-law asking if she and my father-in-law could pick up my oldest to go eat ice cream.  Now that wasn’t that hard, was it? What a beautiful thing, this contraption called a phone and a behavior called respect. I felt great. It appeared that we had safely entered the uncharted waters of respecting boundaries. Thirty minutes later there was a knock on the door.  A knock! Oh how it’s the little things that make life enjoyable and fulfilling. Feeling valued, I opened the door to see my mother-in-law standing there with a stern smile (yes, there’s such a thing). I greeted her and stepped back to welcome her in while I called out for my daughter to finish up and get going. “Oh no, I’ll wait right here outside the front door.” Silence.

Although I thought I had approached this issue very respectfully, I realized my efforts were not filed away in the respect cabinet but in the offended cabinet. Everything I had observed about my mother-in-law’s behavior flashed before my eyes.  Oh my God!!!  Now when she sits around the table with whomever will tolerate her gossip, it is me she is going to be babbling about. Telling her side of things as the martyr always does – turning something small into something newsworthy and heinous.

Would I be in the next month’s ward examiner piece as an example of what losing the Spirit does to one’s ability to interact with others? Would my attempt to declare my humble boundaries be slandered around the table at homemaking night?

Boundaries are frowned upon in the Church culture. They are seen as confrontational and are avoided in fear of being ostracized as punishment for not staying in the fold, for not doing as I’m doing – follow follow me, and other conforming ideas meant to keep the masses from being individuals. Surely asking for a heads up when coming over and not just walking right in seemed liked an uncomplicated request, no?  Leave it to a Mormon woman to teach me a lesson for imposing how I want things in my own home upon her.

After catching my breath from the shock and realization of what she was doing, I said, “Ok,” and walked off leaving her there. I wasn’t going to forfeit my efforts that were about a decade late. I was not going to dance her dance by submitting to her and learning the lessons she gave through passive-aggressive punishments. Boundaries became my new focus – how many more of these have I neglected to implement?

Fast forward to the present, 4 years later, and I have successfully taught my mother-in-law how to treat me (my father-in-law took a lot more effort – that’s a whole other post). I have also learned not to play in any reindeer games with her or any other members whose tool box is lacking anything constructive and only contains a travel-size torture kit labeled with a sharpie: Passive Aggressiveness. We are our only advocates. Combating the culture of our LDS family members often requires setting and sticking to boundaries, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Be strong; stand your ground – your sanity is worth it. It may take a few tries and many tear-filled evenings before you have a breakthrough with your LDS family members. What I now call “telephone first-then please knock” was my first attempt at setting boundaries, and I am happy to report that I have since established many more. Unfortunately in the process I was deemed the uncooperative bitch of the family, but I’ll take it. I’d rather be a bitch and be at peace than conform and be despondent.  Setting boundaries is a tricky thing, but opening your mouth is the first step.  Teach others how to treat you.

x
Share your thoughts with us on Facebook
Ex-Mormon Mavens