My Long Journey Out Becomes an Excellent Adventure (Part III)
Today, I finish my deconversion story. I’d love to hear your comments or your own story in the comments below..
It took until my son was two to earn my doctorate. Jobs in academia are hard to come by, but I did receive a job offer at Auburn University in Alabama, so there we moved. As is probably unsurprising, the Mormon church in Alabama is more conservative than it is in California. While being a Mormon feminist had been difficult in California, it was close to impossible in Alabama. Conservative gender roles were emphasized constantly, and I continually felt the need to justify my career. I hated to go to church and felt angry and literally sick afterwards. I started having breathing difficulties at church and needed hours long naps afterwards to recover. It was unsustainable. After a few years in Alabama, I stopped attending church.
But even then, Jane’s eyes were boring into me from heaven, reminding me of everything she’d sacrificed and endured for the church. Here I was not being able to endure a little (well a lot) of sexism at church while she had endured a 1000 mile walk on a ration of 3 tablespoons of flour a day, what kind of weak, faithless loser was I. None of my siblings seemed to have any problems with the church, so why did I have so many doubts? What was wrong with me that I would simply throw away what Jane had sacrificed everything for? Despite the enormous guilt I felt, I could not stomach attending church, but because of Jane, I also couldn’t admit my reasons for doing so. I blamed it on my asthma and the carpeted walls at the church that harbored so much dust that I was allergic to. While it may have been the true that asthma and dust was partially responsible for my breathing difficulties at church, I think most of it was psychosomatic. Being inside that building was so suffocating, I literally couldn’t breathe freely.
I used this excuse with other church members, with my husband, and with my son. I didn’t want my son to doubt the church just because mommy didn’t attend. I couldn’t stop believing that taking him away from the church would be taking him away from salvation, something I loved him far too much to consider. I just needed to be patient. Things would change, and I could happily go back to church. I just needed to wait a little bit longer.
I continued in this limbo status until my son was about 14. At that age, he started objecting to going to church himself and especially resisted attending the early morning seminar that Mormon teens start attending in the 9th grade. At that point, I worried that my lack of faithfulness was endangering my son’s salvation, so I tried going back for his sake. However, that was too little and far too late to save my son’s faith. My own doubts had stopped me from indoctrinating him in the way that so many Mormon parents do their children. My biggest fear when he was little wasn’t that he would leave the church, but that he’d become like the condescending Mormon men I despised. Instead of indoctrinating him in Mormonism, I stressed feminism, equality, acceptance and other liberal values at odds with the church’s teachings. I always discussed morality from a secular humanist, rather than Mormon, perspective. If he took a toy from another child, I didn’t berate him for stealing because the Bible said stealing was a sin. Instead, I asked him if he liked it when other children took things from him. When he admitted he didn’t, I told him we shouldn’t do to other people what we don’t like done to ourselves. With that background, his atheist best friends had an easy time convincing him that the values he held were at odds with what he was taught at church.
On top of that, my nieces were reaching their 20s and saw them being channeled into the same restrictive roles that I had fought so hard against when I was their age. The Church wasn’t going to change because it wasn’t true. Jane had sacrificed everything for a lie. She left her country to follow a con-man out into the desert. She was no hero to be admired. She was a victim to be pitied. The Church didn’t save people. It did incredible harm to them. I was finally ready to allow it to do no more harm to me. I embraced the label “ex-mo” and have never looked back.
Now, my moral code is best summed by Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure.
- Be excellent to each other.
- Party on, dude!
Treat others with kindness and compassion and embrace the joy of living. This life is all we have. Make it a life worth living.
If you have any questions about Mormonism or would like to suggest a topic for a future post, please leave it in the comments. Also, please do me a favor. If you are enjoying this series, please hit the like button.